I’m playing with the idea of ‘fun’ again.
I’ve been bouncing around various searches involving ‘Christianity and fun’ or ‘What does the Bible say about fun?’ It’s striking how negatively Christian writers respond to the idea of ‘fun’ in a Christian context. The implication is that of course you can have fun as a Christian. But beware!! Fun, they imply, is code for inappropriate sex, going to parties with people we shouldn’t associate with, drinking more than a thimbleful of booze and unspecified (but all the more lurid for its vagueness) ‘entertainment’. The assumption is that the best thing you can say about fun is that it might not be harmful. On a good day. With a following wind. Many of the sites assume you’re asking this question because you’re a teenager: ‘Can I be a Christian and still have fun?’ Apparently, only young people are interested in fun. But as you mature in the faith, you probably won’t feel the urge to have fun any more anyway, so just hang on in there until you’re a proper grown-up Christian, when it won’t even occur to you to ask the question.
Holiness, imply the writers, excludes fun. So if you have to indulge in ‘entertainment’, hedge it around with safeguards and boundaries to protect yourself, because if you’re even asking the question, the chances are, you’re Prone To Sin. (To be honest, if you read through all the suggested verses, you’d be so inhibited that you wouldn’t be able to have fun if the Archangel Gabriel himself invited you to party.) Risk, creativity, danger, pioneering, adventure, striking out on a different path, being ready to fail, play for play’s sake with no ulterior motive: all these are somehow at best a waste of time, and at worst a surefire path to destruction.
Question: If the Holy Spirit is living in me, isn’t there a tiny chance that, however miserable a sinner I am, my concept of ‘fun’ might align with his more and more as I get older?
Question: if Jesus was only ever solemn and worthy, why did anyone want to follow him, have him at their parties or hang out with him on their days off?
Question: Why are there so many Christians in the sciences, engineering, creative arts, media or fashion industries, where you have to be able to imagine, play and take risks?
Question: Why dolphins? Why murmurations of starlings? Why puppies or indeed any baby animals who ‘waste’ so much vital and hard-won energy in play?
What if we sin by not having fun on this earth? What if being the people of his pasture and the flock of his hand means that our purpose is to relax into the pasture we’ve been placed in and take time to enjoy it? What if it were sinful NOT to enjoy that pasture today: the present moment, the people God sends our way in it, the good things that surround us even in the deeply terrible times? After all, the same psalm (95) reminds us, the depths as well as the heights are God’s. The hands that formed the safe, dry land also made the playful, unpredictable seas. When we rest on that Rock, surely we are in a safe enough place to rest, relax, let go of our defences (for what else is bowing in worship all about?) and enjoy?
In Messy Church, maybe we, like those in the creative industries, have a responsibility to have fun, to be the child in the midst of a sometimes over-pompous church that, in its earnestness, can stifle joy and bring a sense of shame into enjoyment. Maybe making bonkers constructions out of toilet rolls is a way to let go of our over-developed sense of dignity and to worship through the vulnerability of laughter and uselessness. Maybe the daft and purposeless things we do with yoghurt pots (‘All this play is such a waste of time when we could be teaching!’) remind us how inessential we are to God’s loving purposes for his world. Perhaps, we realise to our horror, he can do what he wants in his world without us. Maybe he simply wants us to wander around his pasture and enjoy what we find there, not for any other reason than that he wants us to take pleasure in it. Maybe it’s in that place of enjoyment that we are actually building the kingdom without even knowing it.
What a surprisingly uncomfortable thought.