By John Pierce

Over the years I’ve not always lived up to my philosophy that the right balance in life is to take the Gospel seriously while not taking oneself too seriously. But I sure try.

That perspective resurfaced when reading a column that was passed on to me by my high school classmate Dr. Doug Gordon, who is on the superb music faculty at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.

In this New York Times piece, author Eric Weiner wrote during the recent Christmas holidays about “the sad state of our national conversation about God.” He wished there were another way. So do I.

“For a nation of talkers and self-confessors, we are terrible when it comes to talking about God,” said Weiner.

The needed voices of the honest seekers and the humble faithful get drowned out by what he calls “true believers” and “angry atheists.” Indeed, that is no way to have a conversation.

Humility is often evidenced by humor. No, not the derisive attempts at ridiculing another faith tradition or getting a laugh at someone else’s expense, but those places where genuine smiles abound and self-depreciating laughter is celebrated as a confession that we are all faulty in our thinking and feeble in our attempts to grasp the fullness of God.

Weiner quotes G. K. Chesterton who said: “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”

He noted that perhaps Americans are enamored of the Dalai Lama because “he laughs, often and well.”

Many would rightly argue that religious faith is a serious matter. But the trouble comes when we take our take on religion too seriously — and overestimate our own abilities, not God’s.

Then we end up with many people, like Weiner, who say they can only find an angry God — or perhaps an absent God — being argued about in the national conversation.

And I like his metaphor of God as not an exclamation point — but rather a semi-colon that connects people to experiences of grace.

It is in those unpredictable, unexplainable experiences of grace that we most often find God. And since such experiences are not of our own making, we have no reason to brag or get defensive.

But we have very good reasons to be grateful, to smile and to perhaps even laugh a bit. And to join the conversation with humility and joy.

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