The God Box – ‘fragile’, ‘this side up’

The way I think about God is that it’s a phenomenological box. Since the beginning of time people have been placing things in different boxes, using language; words. Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening, for instance – was for a long time placed in the box labeled ”God” (‘fragile’ and ‘this side up’ labels optional). With time things started to change, some things were taken out of the box (very very frightening), and people started comparing boxes. ”Ah, so you have this kind of box for this kind of phenomena, interesting, it actually looks a lot like my box … so what does your label say?”. This is the basis of theology and religion. The systematisation of box content. Making sure that people think inside or outside the right boxes. And to the dismay of theologians and clergy, history is absolutely full to the brim with people who are ‘theologically incorrect’, meaning they don’t really care what theologians say should be in what box. We may sometimes flatter ourselves in thinking that this is a new (enlightenment-individualism) phenomena, but I assure you, it is not. Just because people were coerced into going to church, mosque or synagogue, many cared little for what the officials had to say. Mind you, for a long time they said all in latin, which in itself is perhaps a resignation ”I know, people aren’t really listening, so we may as well speak in latin”. This is why scholars of Religious Studies, History of Religion and so forth, locate ”perplexing” mixes and blends of everything from religion and folklore or tribal myths to religion and capitalist hyperindividualism, depending on the setting. Things that should, from a theological standpoint, be entirely at odds with each other. But such is human existence. We don’t really know what to think, and often times we care little for coherence. Some describe this as ‘religious illiteracy’. I think it’s a bad term, because first of all it signals that the theologians way of sorting through his or her boxes is the ‘correct’ order. The theologians cataloguing becomes a blueprint of how things really should be. I think this a dangerous notion of theological endeavours. Secondly, it disregards the notion that people may in fact know what John Milbank, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi or the pope wants them to think. It’s not that they are illiterate. They may very well have read the book. They just have no intention of reading it again. After all, there are more things to do than to read John Milbank.


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