Friday, November 14, 2008

At Play in the Fields of the Lord

Homo Ludens, Harvey Cox named us (or was that an old ad campaign for cough drops? I need to look that up when I get the chance!). He meant what made us similar, what bound us together, was our sense of play, and our need for play. It's almost the start of a theology of play, but he never went very far with it. I'm thinking maybe I should

A theology of play is neither a playful theology nor a religious justification for games. It is a theology in which the nature of God and humanity, and their relationship to one another, is examined and perhaps, explained. In other words, what any sound theology is. And it is playful in the sense that "Waiting for Godot" is comic. So it is not play as frivolity, any more than "Godot" is tragedy as the inexorable fate of misery. Or at least, it shouldn't be.

For example, a theology of play might start with the witticisms of our Lord ("A man lay in a ditch, the victim of robbers; and along came a priest and a rabbi...."), but it would have to encompass Abraham on Moriah (which can be seen through the lens of "game," as any game involves and instructs us in the nature of "trust," of following the rules of the game even if we don't understand them or like them), but you would have to be careful to distinguish that scene from "play." Unless you were willing to understand a whole new meaning to "play...."

And Job; you would have to take in Job as well, along with Jonah, along with Paul and Peter and Elijah and Isaiah and....well, you see, it could get interesting.

And the point of a theology of play? To make life more bearable, else what's the point? "How should we then live?," or "What, then, must we do?", as Billy Kwan framed the question. That is the only question worth asking.

A theology of play might make the answer worth living.

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