The God Game

People take God very seriously, and I think this is too bad.

The reason I say this is that people are almost always taking their ideas about God very seriously. These ideas are puffed up with names like “orthodoxy” so that they are given special weight in the world of ideas, and they take on a life of their own, as if we’ve somehow caught God’s essence in words and we can now analyze it and discuss it and dissect it.

I think that there should sometimes be great seriousness when one is approaching God. This is the Immutable Creator, the Ground of Being, the Lord of the Universe and all that. Naturally, with such grandiose titles, some respect should be accorded. There is the seriousness that comes when you understand that what you’re dealing with is life itself, the living truth, the font of eternity. If you genuinely feel this way, some seriousness and respect will follow.

What we lack is humility, and we so often lack it to such an amazing degree that we must be staggering along under the weight of our own self-centeredness. It must blind us and bind us and exhaust us. It must be just awful to watch, for those beings who perhaps can see what we’re doing to ourselves. God, for example.

Why do we do it? I think its simple – the real God is scary. We have very impressive words we use about God, but they can never even scratch the surface. The real God makes demands on us that we can’t possibly fulfill. The real God has infinte claims on our lives which we never fulfill. The real God is unknowable (yes, even by theologians). The real God is there to transform us, and we’re not in control of what we are changed into. We are not the boss, and it is terrifying to lose that illusion.

I like the idea of approaching God with a gaming frame of mind. We need to be reminded that the God that our words describe is imaginary. It is a construction of our own egoism and desperation to exert control. It is the product of the desire for scholars to feel like they have special, secret knowledge, and for everyone to feel that God is like a really big uncle who occasionally gets you out of trouble, and inspired this kind of interesting series of scrolls once.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Godly Play at work, but it is a great example of this. It even works really well with adults. It is a good way to open up a Biblical story, with all of the theological overtones, and unpack it, then fiddle with the parts, see how they look in new configurations. I have a hunch that, in playing a game with God in this way, we open ourselves to genuine insights. I think this idea should be expanded. I mean, its not like we’re going to break God by playing. Rather, we might just break our ideas of God, and to me that’s something to be desired. That cracking sound might be an idol collapsing, revealing a bigger truth that it was obscuring all this time.

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