Don’t Be Silly: No Really, Don’t

Last week, while cooking some Ramen Noodles for my youngest son (my Proverbs 31 food plan for my family in tatters already), I responded to a query from him with the chorus of a Eurythmics song. Actually, the chorus, a verse, and several sweet Annie Lennox moves from the music video I must have seen a zillion times, twenty some years ago. Since the noodles were still soaking in hot water and I was deep into 80s music, I followed up the Eurythmics with the first few lines from “Beat It,” dancing around the kitchen while my son watched astounded at his crazy mom, doing some kind of demented moon walk.



I rarely let loose like this in public—have to keep up my demure Mennonite image—but I love being a little nuts with my kids now and then. Doing so allows them to see another side of me, rather than just the tyrant who bugs them about changing their underwear more than twice a week. Being silly with my kids, wrestling on the floor, even laughing at their poop jokes (when such jokes are truly funny, which is more often than I want to admit): all this makes the more challenging parts of parenting worthwhile, most of the time.


But now I’ve read that godly women do not engage in silliness. According to Visionary Womanhood, which is “All about equipping women with the highest perspective possible down here on planet earth ~ our Creator’s,” I am supposed to refrain from any kind of foolishness, including being silly with my children. That is, I am supposed to refrain if I hope to be a true woman of God.


According to the article, “Silliness and the Christian Woman,” there is some pretty compelling evidence in the Bible that I should cease all my silliness. Apparently, that Peter fellow was especially insistent that people be “sober” in their behavior, praying and watching; only those who are sober are righteous. (Given this interpretation, Peter must have been a real drag at dinner parties.) The article writer, a woman named Jennifer Ross who is prone to foolishness because she likes laughing with her kids (her admission, not mine) describes other verses in the Bible that let us know any only a sober mien is godly. There’s those verses in Proverbs about avoiding foolishness, which leads to a verse in Ephesians about being unwise and foolish, which somehow leads to the verse in Matthew about only those who do the will of God shall find their way to heaven. And, you know, being silly once in awhile = a foolish woman = the slippery slope to hell.


Maybe it’s the comments following Ross’s article that drive me truly batty. Readers are apparently being blessed by Ross’s take on the Bible, admitting the ways they’ve fallen into the temptation of silliness. True confession time, it seems. Well, I’m actually tempted, too: tempted to log on and say “Are you nuts?” or “Talk about silly; lady, you take the cake.” In the least, I’m tempted to point this writer to my friend Howard Macy’s book and blog, Laughing Pilgrims, where he considers not only the humor in Christian living, but also the many places within scripture that are downright funny. But, you know, Howard only has a Ph.D. in religion from Harvard, so he probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


It’s times like this, when I read a cracked interpretation of scripture and discover another prescription about how women are supposed to be (stay sober! No silliness allowed!) that I really want to bang my head on my desk, or maybe curl up underneath it in a fetal position. But then that might seem foolish and, well, I am trying to live the godly life.


Thank goodness, a life filled with laughter and joy and irreverence.Last week, I attended an American/popular culture conference in New Mexico. Kendra and I presented some of our research, to what seemed like moderate success. Five other colleagues also traveled to Albuquerque for the conference, and all presented their writing. As usual, I was impressed with the research my colleagues do, which always seems far and away better than what others are presenting, no matter the topic, no matter the conference. I may just be a little biased, but these events, to which we travel about once a year, always remind that I work with some really impressive scholars.


And also, some really silly people. Because I rarely laugh more hysterically than during the three or four days I spend with these folks. We laugh our way to the airport, through security, and during boarding the plane; we laugh in restaurants and hotel hallways; we laugh in late-night lounges and on street corners. In most cases, we refrain from laughing during research presentations.


Now. These folks are all serious scholars, enviable professors, respected community members. They have each played a prominent role in my faith development, each in his or her own way. But they are not prone to all-the-time seriousness, nor would I want them to be. They delight in being delightful, and in being delighted, and I think surely God has made them this way—in the same sense that God made my sons to laugh at their nutty mom, lip syncing Annie Lenox in the kitchen and laughing, now and then, at a really good poop joke.