Playing with Faith. This sounds like the all-too-common axiom of playing with fire doesn’t it? Or don’t play with matches; you’re likely to get burned.
It’s not to be done.
It’s certain to get you into trouble.
Faith hardly seems the stuff of lightness, frivolity, or play of any kind. Here are at least a few of the legitimate reasons why such might be the case:
- Stories of blatant harm; ways in which faith has been used to further less-than desirable causes:
- The Crusades
- Fundamentalism (at it’s worst)
- Stories of subtle harm; ways in which faith has legitimized particular behaviors:
- Silencing of women
- Ignoring issues of justice
- Environmental crises
- We might get it wrong; playing with faith could lead to the above and more:
It’s possible that faith has been taken too seriously.
For many, faith has been required. Part and parcel with most religions, you can’t not have it, display it, or work at it. We must find it, figure it out, and sustain it. To not do so is clearly a sign of our lack of faith, our faithlessness, our unwillingness to try harder, our overwhelming doubt, or our inability to get it right. This is not much fun.
So why not think of faith as play?
Consider faith as the most spontaneous or seemingly-wacky of behaviors. Like skydiving, or marriage, or karaoke. Be wildly curious about time-held beliefs, staid scriptural interpretations, and dogmatic behavioral boundaries. Color outside the lines. Dance with abandon. And boldly, blindly, throw caution to the wind and accept faith as invitation to intimate, honest, vulnerable, and passionate relationship with God. How crazy would this be?!?
Some more play-filled options:
- Let the Garden of Eden be a story that invites play with others, nature, and God.
- Let the Psalms be experienced as glorious songs that allow you to laugh through your tears and dance wildly in the beauty of nearly-naked honesty with God.
- Let the story of Jesus and the woman at the well invite you to banter in no-holds-barred conversation with God, witty repartee, and the total awareness that this Man wants you anything but silenced or shamed.
- Let the book of Revelation stimulate your imagination to rival any fairytale or fantasy, inviting fantastical, playful experiences of unquenchable hope, even in the darkest of times.
This is play for me: to not doctrinally or dogmatically argue any of the above; to not apologize for the application of delight or wonder to any text; to not feel tightly bound, even restrained, by past and predominant interpretations; to not feel my choices compelled by either compliance or contempt; and to anticipate, over and over again, that new and redemptive tellings and hearings can yet have impact, yet bring healing, yet offer hope.
So go on: play…with faith.
Play with confidence. Play with vigor. Play with intensity. Play with abandon. Just play…with faith. You can be fully confident that your seriousness doesn’t summon God any faster, more powerfully, or more miraculously; that your ability and willingness to play might be the very thing that ushers in the God you most long for and maybe even a God who longs to play…with you.