It has been quite some time since I have shaken my stuff on the dance-floor of a club. This may have more to do with me becoming increasingly more of a dry shite with every passing year of early middle age than it does with any lack of the sheer exuberance and fun of hundreds of shoes stamping the boards to classic tunes. It might have something to do with the smoking ban; with dingy basement nightclubs now stinking of body odour and flatulence, but we use this excuse too often. No, the point is this: Back then it was liberating and natural to be moving and free and outrageously happy. It was part of our youth culture – it was out culture.
Come Sunday morning, or Saturday evening if you were one of those people, church was sinfully boring. It was a few subdued hymns and a homily during the recovery time in the aftermath of the morning after the night before – or preparation time if you were one of those people. Outrageous happiness wasn’t the culture of our church. That sort of craic, as some of the less reconstructed post-colonialists would say, was for the African churches, and not us. In effect this meant that our culture suffered, as it still does, from a serious split personality – that of the fun loving maniac and the dour God-fearing average Mass goer. Our cultural bipolar disorder was contributing to falling church attendance even before Father Ted and all the scandals.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
GALATIANS 5: 22, 23
Actually, when we take the time to read what they’ve been reading to us in church for two millennia, rather than just tune out, we find that the script doesn’t match the performance; Christianity is meant to be a wee bit mental. “There is no law against” love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and self-control. More than this: It isn’t simply the case that we can because there’s no law against it; we should because these are the gifts of the Spirit. Real Christians are joyful, loving, and peaceful creatures and the visible absence of these fruits are a good indicator that we’re looking at people who’ve not gotten the message yet – be happy!
Parish communities and seminaries in particular are environments where by ages old tradition the joy of joylessness is reproduced, under this quasi or faux sense of sacredness wherein seriousness is the order of the day. Of course there are times when we must be deadly serious. There is a season for everything under heaven after all. Yet why shouldn’t we be joyful in the proper seasons? Is it the case that inwardly we have already surrendered to the hopelessness of the world? Have we not truly accepted the message that we have been set free, and that the Gospel of the resurrection has secured freedom for all? Crack a smile for God’s sake – we’re a people of hope.