Laughter in the Kingdom – Imagine a Carnival (part 2)

Laughter in the Kingdom

Summary below:-

  • Laughter in the Kingdom
  • Book Details
  • Summary from back cover
  • Commendations
  • Book launch

In part 1 of this blog post (yesterday), the theme of the carnival was introduced. One key element in re-imagining ‘Kingdom-living’ for today is the role of laughter. It is a powerful tool in times of oppression, as Carol explains in some further excerpts from chapter 1 of Carnival Kingdom below:-

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“Laughter is important because, like weeping, it is an embodied response; it affirms our material bodies as worthy bearers of both the image and emotions of God. In Pentecostal and Charismatic spirituality, laughter has often been identified as a central feature of the work of the Holy Spirit and often accompanies a deep sense of vision of restoration and joy. Biblical scholar J. William Whedbee, in his fascinating book The Bible and the Comic Vision, uncovers in a number of biblical narratives the presence of subversive laughter which belongs to a ‘special power of comedy’ of the marginalised and oppressed. Furthermore, he notes in particular that recent studies of women reveal that ‘their special kinds of humour and comedy may suggest there is nothing accidental about such notable women of comic wit amongst the stories and poems which are so fundamental to biblical literature.’ This congenial humour of biblical women is both ‘life-giving and life-saving’ precisely because, in ‘standing on the margins of society, women are able to deconstruct the dominant power structures and to recharge the forces of life’.

“There is a thread of laughter which runs through Scripture in the concept of anticipatory rejoicing. In the Psalms, lament in the face of real suffering and injustice is often interposed with the words ‘yet I will rejoice’. Some might regard it as the ‘laughter of madness’, in that there are often no apparent visible reasons for such abandoned rejoicing to the onlooker. Habakkuk takes this ‘mad rejoicing’ into the heartland of injustice and destruction, where fear has ‘crept into his bones’ and there is no immediate prospect of release from oppression and the consequences of injustice”. 

“laughter does not only have an anticipatory function, it also erupts reactively and spontaneously in the material presence of the Kingdom which has come on earth (as it is in heaven). Laughter and rejoicing break out when the hungry are fed, when the blind can see and when the lame can walk again. We laugh when the river of justice waters the dry plain and we can feed our young; we laugh when we enjoy the fruits of our labour in freedom and without undue and unfair cost to others; we laugh when our children are able to mature and flourish and play meaningful roles in society without the pump of selfish, greedy ambition and striving which is so characteristic of the fallen order of things. We laugh, in short, because we have tasted and we have seen that ‘the Lord is good and his mercy endures’ (Psalm 100:5) in the here and now, the material present. We laugh when we have enjoyed the evidence of promises brought to fruition because of the faithful labour of those who have preceded us and who have declared through their lives and their witness (even unto death) that God’s Kingdom will come and His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is the third type of biblical laughter which will endure into eternity.”

In short, the Carnival Kingdom and the Kingdom of God share many similarities – not least is the concept of sharing what we have with each other. This is as true and necessary today as ever, when the temptation in times of austerity is to keep to ourselves the ‘little’ we have:-

“When we consider a world where hunger and starvation remain all too common, where food prices are soaring and where even those in developed nations like the UK are increasingly having to rely on the charity of food banks in order to put food on their tables, the metaphor of the banqueting table of the Carnival Kingdom is a sobering one. It calls us to realise that what blocks the meeting of basic human needs also blocks the coming of the Kingdom. The banquet table reminds us to work for the justice of provision of the material well-being for all of humanity, but it also reminds us to open our lives to the hospitality of the Kingdom, which calls us to share so that those who have little have enough and those who have much, have less; the redistribution economics of the Carnival Kingdom which are a powerful reminder of our ultimate place within the context of a human family of faith.”

Book Details:-

Carnival Kingdom is now available to purchase from our publisher, Wide Margin Books, or from Amazon (in the very near future), or if you are local to Gloucester you can pick a copy up from Redcliffe College. It is available in electronic format too. More info. is available on the facebook page for the book.

It is a collection of writings from 12 different authors from around the world engaging with the concepts of the Medieval Carnival, the Kingdom of God, shalom and justice.

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Summary from the back cover:- 

The first Christians lived out a new social order and envisaged the world anew. Divisions, inequalities and injustices would be overturned as the world would reflect a new kind of reign. In the Kingdom of God, the powerful are brought low, while the oppressed are raised up; the hungry are filled with good things, while the rich are sent empty away; the wolf lives with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the goat; the slave becomes the son, the master is the servant of all and the meek will inherit the earth. This same upside-down Kingdom is echoed in the Carnival festivals of the Medieval era, which both parodied the oppressive structures of their day and dramatically portrayed an alternative reality. In this book, twelve scholars, theologians, and social activists from around the world take up the Carnival’s call for justice and a renewed society, and portray in their own contexts the Kingdom of God coming in justice and fullness of life—the coming of the Carnival Kingdom.

Commendations:- 

“In Carnival Kingdom, an international team of scholars and activists explore a range of contemporary justice issues through the revolutionary lens of biblical images depicting the coming Reign of God—feasting, dancing, laughter, the dismantling of oppressive social hierarchies. This is Christian scholarship as it ought to be: biblically rooted, historically informed, socially engaged, and politically subversive. It deserves a wide readership.” Vinoth Ramachandra, author of Subverting Global Myths and IFES Secretary for Dialogue & Social Engagement.

“This crack team of seasoned Christian activists and academics have provided sparkling images from Lord of the Rings, Martin Luther and even medieval carnivals, which have provided innovative and provocative ways to rethink and reconnect with God’s Kingdom. This book is a fascinating read and will inspire the Church’s imagination for justice.”Dr Krish Kandiah, executive director: churches in mission, Evangelical Alliance UK 

“This is a really excellent book, with fresh insights and creative thinking, all strongly rooted in the missional contexts in which the writers are based.” Ruth Valerio, author of L is for Lifestyle 

“This thoughtful, well-researched book explores the way justice is interwoven with the Kingdom of God and the mission of the Church. Yet it tackles these historical themes in a delightful and imaginative way, opening up vital, contemporary reflections in biblical theology and social analysis. Its reach is global; its concerns multiple; its vision inspirational. It will be a great resource for reflection and Christian action.” Elaine Storkey, president of Tearfund UK, broadcaster, author, and theologian

Book launch

This will take place on Saturday 2nd March at Redcliffe College, Gloucester, between 16:45 and 18:15. The book will be made available at a discounted price. The editors will all be present and will be happy to field questions and chat with you.

We hope Carnival Kingdom will be an inspiration to you and to many. It certainly has been for us as we have worked on the project, contributing, editing and working together, and with others.

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