On the Lived Theology Reading List: The Laughter of the Oppressed

The Laughter of the Oppressed: Ethical and Theological Resistance in Wiesel, Morrison, and Endo, by Jacqueline BussieEthical and Theological Resistance in Wiesel, Morrison, and Endo

In The Laughter of the Oppressed: Ethical and Theological Resistance in Wiesel, Morrison, and Endo, author Jacqueline Bussie attempts to tackle the following unanswered questions: What is the theological and ethical significance of the laughter of the oppressed? And what does it mean to laugh at the horrible–to laugh while one suffers? While the majority of ethical philosophical theory and western theology maintains that laughter is nihilistic and irresponsible, especially if occurring within tragic circumstance, Bussie argues that the dominant social location of these theologians and theorists has led to a gap in inquiry, to a failure to consider laughter “from below.”

In this book, Bussie broadens the Judeo-Christian theological lens to examine the multicultural, modern historical fiction of Elie Wiesel, Toni Morrison, and Shusaku Endo as case studies. These authors’ well-respected texts, in dialogue with voices from within and beyond their traditions, help us construct a theology of laughter. The Laughter of the Oppressed not only interrupts the banality of evil and the dualism of faith and doubt, but also deconstructs the dominant consciousness. Such laughter challenges theology to rearticulate the relationships between God and evil, theology and theodicy, theology and language, paradox and faith, tragedy and hope, and oppression and resistance.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

Jacqueline Bussie reads familiar texts with a keen theological eye and provides fresh and innovative insights into these literary classics. With exquisite literary sensibility and bold theological imagination she helps her readers to understand how genuine laughter emerges from the depths of suffering. This is theological writing of the highest order — intelligent, faithful, and deeply moving.” —Ronald F. Thiemann, Bussey Professor of Theology, Harvard Divinity School

“Bussie listens deeply to the voices of people traditionally marginalized to discover how they have given expression to the paradox of ‘colliding narratives’ and responded creatively to tragic suffering…The Laughter of the Oppressed…is indispensable for those concerned with theodicy and the problem of suffering, the theology of the cross, liberation theologies, and the use of fiction as a theological resource.”Karen Teel, Catholic Books Review

“Political jokes arise in dictatorships and their laughter is liberating oppressed and silenced people. They are nothing less than a resonance of the laughing God in heaven. “The Lord shall have them in derision.” (Ps 2,4). The arrogance of power is ridiculous because God is God. I read this fascinating study with growing admiration. It is a masterpiece and a great contribution to every liberating theology.” Jurgen Moltmann

For more information on the publication, click here.

Dr. Jacqueline Bussie is an award-winning author, professor, and theologian. An active servant-leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jacqueline teaches religion, theology and interfaith studies classes at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she also serves as the Director of the Forum on Faith and Life.

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