There wasn’t much laughing at Trump’s inauguration, but then presidential inaugurations are solemn affairs.
After all, the leadership of the Free World is changing hands.
But in this time of great tension for both conservatives and liberals, it might be instructive to recall that God seems to laugh a lot.
The Psalmists say he laughs at world leaders who ignore him or think they will get away with murder. In Psalm 2 God laughs when the kings of the earth conspire to “burst asunder” the restraints of God and his messiah. In Psalm 37 the wicked plot against the righteous, but “the LORD laughs” at them because he knows “their day [of destruction] is coming.” In Psalm 59 David is fleeing Saul, who wants to kill him, and David observes that his enemies think no one will hear their words. “But you will hear them, O LORD; you hold all the nations in derision.”
If God laughs when the nations plot against righteousness, then there must be a lot of laughter in heaven.
Some are now counting it strange that Donald Trump seems not to laugh in public. Others claim Trump does not have a sense of humor, but that Americans usually elect presidents who do. Yet in these last eight years, many have observed that Obama has little or no sense of humor, despite the media roasts when he reads jokes others have written for him.
No one ever said that about Winston Churchill. He and Roosevelt presided over the Free World when it was in greater peril than today. Yet Churchill was a regular source of guffaws.
When Lady Astor at a dinner told him, “Winston, if I were your wife I’d poison your soup,” Churchill replied, “Nancy, if I were your husband I’d drink it.” After he had crossed swords with John Foster Dulles, Churchill called him “the only bull who brings his own china shop with him,” and coined the progression, “dull, duller, Dulles.”
Churchill maintained a long rivalry with Clement Atlee, Labour Party leader who defeated Churchill in the 1945 general election to become Prime Minister. When Atlee went to Moscow and left his fellow Labour politicians behind, Churchill quipped, “When the mouse is gone, the cats will play.” Churchill called Atlee “a sheep in sheep’s clothing” and “a modest man with much to be modest about.”
When a young MP had delivered an emotional appeal for unilateral disarmament and asked Churchill after what he thought, the latter replied, “Why, I thought it was very good. It must have been good, for it contained, so far as I know, all the platitudes known to the human race, with the possible exceptions of ‘Prepare to meet thy God’ and ‘Please adjust your dress before leaving.’”
On Churchill’s seventy-fifth birthday, a photographer said, “I hope, sir, that I will shoot your picture on your hundredth birthday.” The old man replied, “I don’t see why not, young man. You look reasonably fit and healthy.”
As we enter uncharted waters for this country and the world, many of us are nervous. But it is spiritually and perhaps even politically helpful to remember that God is not. For he “is in the heavens and does whatever he pleases” (Ps 115:3).
Gerald McDermott, Anglican Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, is the author of Famous Stutterers, from which part of this was adapted. You can follow him at https://twitter.com/
Photo Credit: Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office to become the nation’s 45th president and commander in chief at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. White House photo.