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Bob Brown: Why We Stopped Laughing

Not long ago, several family members came to our home for dinner. Four generations of us enjoyed the relaxed after-dinner conversation. As we remained seated around the table, Tripp, our seven-year-old great grandson, said, “Pawpaw, tell us some more family stories.”

I called to mind several old family stories, ones I thought would entertain Tripp. He listened intently, and then he said, “Please tell us some happy ones.” Tripp’s second request, one for a different sort of story, touched my heart. I tried to hide my tears. It saddened me that a seven-year-old child was already searching for happiness.

As I reframed my great grandson’s request for a happy family story, I was witnessing the unblemished truth about the universal longing for happiness or its more enduring state of joy. Without Tripp’s awareness of it, an unrequired need to know at his youthful age, he was addressing the spiritual reality of life. Until one’s spiritual nature and needs are identified by each person, so much time, money, and life itself are wasted searching and yearning for “happiness,” instead of the deeply satisfying, lasting spiritual “joy.”

A lyrical answer to the yearning described above was set to music by Joseph D. Carlson, 1939, soon after his conversion to Christianity: “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, Let Jesus come into your heart…”.

Sources of the Self, The Making of Modern Identity, 1989, by historian Charles Taylor describes “our moral and spiritual intuitions.” Stressing our “spiritual” nature, Taylor discusses “our notions and reactions on such issues as justice and the respect for other people’s life, well-being and dignity.” He also looks at “our sense of what underlies our own dignity, or questions about what makes our lives meaningful and fulfilling.”

Taylor referred to spiritual matters as involving “discriminations of right or wrong, better or worse, higher or lower, which are not rendered valid by our desires, inclinations, or choices, but rather stand independent of these and offer standards by which they can be judged.”

The “standards” to which he refers are assumed to be the judgmental aspects of human nature that, for example, it is wrong or abhorrent to harm or kill others or to take advantage of the helpless among us.

On the other hand, in Strange New World, How Thinkers and Activists Sparked the Sexual Revolution, 2022, Carl Trueman, a theologian, observes that standards have been discarded. Decisive authority today has been granted to “inner feelings.” Trueman observes, and I agree, that “Cultural relativism is the order of the day.” It is challenging to explain how our culture has fundamentally changed in merely two decades.

Thus, we find ourselves in a spiritual civil war, struggling for certainty and peace that only spiritual Truth can eternally secure. What is lacking today is the courage of ordinary Christians to publicly affirm, while it is still permitted, that our standards are derived from covenants between Almighty God and Abraham and with His Son, Jesus Christ, originating and unchanging from thousands of years ago. As Christians we slake our thirst for Christ’s purpose and will in our lives and for the boldness to live a momentously meaningful, joyful Christian life.

The human spirit requires the energy of love. In the same or comparable way that the hemoglobin in red blood cells carries Oxygen throughout the body to sustain the physical life of the body, love keeps the spirit alive. Consider the challenge: to keep the spiritual life healthy, well stocked with its life-giving love in its most fundamental, important, and essential form: treating one another with kindness, dignity, and respect.

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:6, 7.

I discovered God’s incomprehensible love for all His creatures in the Bible. I have been a student of the mind all my life, but what the Bible offers far surpasses the combination of all the books of psychology and psychiatry I have studied. Thus, my justification for advocating kindness, dignity, and respect comes nearly entirely from Scripture.

If you want to laugh, again remember the best laugh, better than a belly-laugh, is a laugh from the soul, always associated with a deep feeling of joy and purity, a profoundly meaningful experience. You will laugh until tears remind you to share the Good News with others, treating them with kindness, dignity, and respect. It will be like the hopefulness expressed in the World War II Song, “When Lights Come on Again All Over The World.”

We stopped laughing when we stopped believing and obeying the incarnate God, Jesus, the Son of God. Hate in any form can spread and destroy. It is not possible to love and hate at the same time, nor it is possible to hate and laugh at the same time.

Let us ask our Creator to remind us we have sound reasons to believe, obey, love, and laugh.

Robert S. Brown Sr.

Robert S. Brown, MD, PHD a retired Psychiatrist, Col (Ret) U.S. Army Medical Corps devoted the last decade of his career to treating soldiers at Fort Lee redeploying from combat. He was a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Education at UVA. His renowned Mental Health course taught the value of exercise for a sound mind.



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