God Laughs and Plays, Entry #1

0977717003.jpgRecently I was asked to review a new book from author David James Duncan titled “God Laughs & Plays – Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamentalist Right”. I’ve been trying to put into words how I would go about writing my review and it has been a failed effort. This book is one that I’ve connected with at a deep level and my only response is to share some passages of this wonderful book here throughout the rest of this month. I can only hope that if you resonate with the passages I share here, you would be moved to seek out this book for yourself.

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Excerpt from the Author’s Preface – xxv

Evangelism as embodied by Jesus does not remotely suggest the close-minded zeal of proselytizers claiming that only their interpretation of scripture prevents eternal punishments and pays eternal rewards: it implies, on the contrary, the kind of all-embracing love evident in Mother Teresa’s prayer, “May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.” Not just her fellow nuns, Catholics, Calcuttans, potential converts. The whole world.

It gives me great pause to realize that, were such a prayer said by me and answered by God, I would afterward possess a heart so open that even hate-driven zealots would fall inside. There is a self-righteous knot in me that finds zealotry so repugnant it wants to sit on the sidelines with the like-minded, plaster my car with bumper stickers that say MEAN PEOPLE SUCK and NO BILLLIONAIRE LEFT BEHIND and WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?, and leave it at that. But I can’t. My sense of this life as pure gift—my sense of a grace operative in this world despite, and even amid, its hurts and terrors—propels me to allow life to open my heart still wider, even if this openness comes by breaking. For I have seen the whole fall into a few hearts, and nothing has ever struck me as more beautiful.

The whole world, for example, seemed to fall into the heart of Mahatma Gandhi, not only on the day he said, “I am a Christian, I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim, I am a Jew,” but on the day he proved the depth of his declaration when, after receiving two fatal bullets from a fundamentalist zealot, he blessed that sea lot with a namaste before dying. For the fundamentalists of each tradition he names, Gandhi’s fourfold profession of faith is three-fourths heresy. But it is also a statement that makes livable sense of Jesus’s “love thy neighbor as thyself” and, for me personally, a description of spiritual terrain in which I yearn to take up residence. If, because of this yearning, these pages are found offensive by some, how can I not feel honored by that very offense?

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10 thoughts on “God Laughs and Plays, Entry #1

  1. Truly selfless words. I think it takes great strength not to feel a need for people to know we’re ‘right’ about moral issues, or to pursue some form of acknowledgement for our ‘wisdom’.

    This all sounds somewhat agnostic to me though, moving away from a specified faith like it does. And indeed Gandhi’s quote seems to me to question the need for, or accuracy of a single, clearly defined religion.

    However I AM agnostic, so perhaps that influences my interpretation. Seems grounds for potential debate though.

    But I think everyone in the world, absolutely me included, could learn from those sentiments.

  2. What here, and always does, appeal to me most about this exerpt is the author’s honesty. He speaks of himself here, not as one who has it all figured out, not as one who has a to-be-copied equasion or method for imitating Christ. But he speaks out of humility. And this, precisely this attitude, is what moves me and provokes my ear to listen.

    His willingness to adhere to true words, wherever truth may be: in the words of another from a different persuasion; in places that may not be completely sanitized with warm agreement; etc.

    I’m into that.

  3. Zach,
    Let me preface this by saying that this is an honest request for more input from you (understanding our past interactions). How can you jive with this statement and give Christ pride of place as the supreme, true, only Saviour? I’m not advocating prideful evangelists, however God himself is pretty self-centered and exclusive (at least in the Bible). Look forward to hearing your response…

  4. As Duncan so eloquently wrote, Matthew, if you take offense with the passage above, “how can I not feel honored by that very offense?”

    Looking forward to hearing your response to my questions I’ve asked you in my earlier post….

  5. i’ll have to hear more from this book to see what i think. so far, it sounds like it could either be really deconstructive and reconstructive, so to speak, or devastatingly deconstructive (in the most negative sense). i don’t know. i look forward to hearing more from you.

    however, the statement “how can i not feel honored by that very offense” seems like a kind of a cop out from the get go. that way the people who might criticize his writing are essentially having any credibility destroyed from the get go. i’m not a big fan of that. he’s pretty much building a strawman here. but like i said, this book could still be good, i just need to see more from it.

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