In this multiple award-winning and bestselling diagnosis of the contemporary American spirit, David James Duncan suggests that the de facto political party embodied by the so-called Christian Right has turned worship into a self-righteous betrayal of the words and example of the very Jesus it claims to praise. In a bracing and often hilarious response to this trend, God Laughs & Plays offers churchless sermons, stories, memoir, conversations, and cosmological reflections that scorn riches and embrace the poor; bless peacemakers, not war-makers; celebrate creation, diversity, empathy, playfulness and beauty; and insist that Divine Mystery is indeed mysterious and compassion is literally compassionate. The spiritual kingdom described by Jesus, this unusual book reminds us, is located not "in the Sky" or beyond a disastrous future, but within us, to be sought and embodied in the here and now.
User Ratings and Reviews
5 Stars Too Powerful to Express in Words
I only read this book because David James Duncan is on my list of very favorite authors, I wouldn't otherwise have picked up the book because of the title or subtitle. What a gift it turned out to be! I found it to so powerful that I am unable to describe it in words, I can only feel the concepts as they resonate within me. I will share a sample quote.
"America's spiritual vocabulary-with its huge defining terms such as 'God,' 'soul,' 'sacrifice,' 'mysticism,' 'faith,' 'salvation,' 'grace,' 'redemption'-has been enduring a series of abuses so constricting that the damage may last for centuries. Too many of us have tried to sidestep this damage by simply rejecting the terminology. The defamation of a religious vocabulary cannot be undone by turning away: the harm is undone when we work to reopen each word's true history, nuance, and depth. Holy words need stewardship as surely as do gardens, orchards, or ecosystems. When lovingly tended, such words surround us with spaciousness and mystery the way a sacred grove surrounds us with cathedral light, peace, and oxygenated air. When we merely abandon our holy words, and fail to replace them, we end up living in a spiritual clear-cut."
5 Stars thought provoking
This book is a series of essays and short stories that showcase an excellent writer's passions for nature and the environment, and against fundamentalist religions. It contains the author's first story (written in first grade, with his adult commentary), and perhaps the finest short story I've ever read about how the death of his dog briefly showed him the door to heaven. The essays are a mixture of inclusive spirituality and pro-environment politics. Some will embrace him, and others reject his politics. But read the two short stories if nothing else – pure poetry in prose format.
5 Stars Gore Tex Mystic
I am presently reading Brothers K at long last, and River Why has been my favorite novel since the age of 12. I read "God Laughs and Plays" like a starving man eats a steak. Twenty years after River Why, Duncan, in all his travels, musings, lost fish, lost time, lost loves, general quirkiness, whatever… is still gripped by wonder. Duncan's voice is that of clean water, a child's joy. This is an imperfect book, not every chapter is perfect. But the majority are mind-blowing, challenging, beautiful constructions that are not to be missed. This is a man who in his 50's finds joy in the same places my 4-year old does… in the dirt, wet-wading, being seized by some new incarnation of holiness. This is a dangerous book… Thank God.
5 Stars Critical Thinking in Religion
Too often the thought of critically thinking about religion is equated with blasphemy. David James Duncan provides a healthy environment to think, question and explore the cherished traditions of Christianity and opens the mind to walk in spiritual inquiry inclusive of other religious journeys.
The author successfully portrays his deep desire to know "The God", but isn't limited by the playing field deemed "appropriate" by Evangelical dogma.
If Evangelical dogma is your boundary for spiritual meaning then you might not want to read this book. However, I recommend that you do because you might expand your experience of knowing God, and learn to seek him – life – love – supreme power – more actively and earnestly.
I don't agree with some of his positions, but what makes the book effective is that you know from the beginning of the first chapter that you're not excluded from the exploratory journey of experiencing truth just because you disagree. A novel concept for dogmatic literalists.
5 Stars DJD is my favorite writer…
…and has yet to let me down. With honesty like this, how can he?
This collection is similar along the lines of _My Story…_ but you gotta know that the teachings of Christ and ALL the rest have been hijacked over time to serve the few and to rake in the dough. Duncan does not hold back his punches one bit and in particular explains the hipocracy handily w/ his lively debate with the woman in "Agony & Hilarity." "They" will only defend what they can invent to serve their perspective be it antiabortionism, antihomosexualism or bombing the hell out of indigenous folks who worship Allah (the same God as theirs, by the way). Anyway the example concerns a debate with an animal rights whack-job over catching and releasing fish. Sheesh…Rodney King is very useful here with his plea.
I've read all of Duncan starting with "Why"…have given "Teeth" out as gifts to 20 people and this book is no exception. If you are happy with your church politicizing your religion then read this book (he he)