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God Laughs & Plays; Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamentalist Right

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  526 ratings  ·  70 reviews
A national bestseller and winner of the PNBA Book Award and Pushcart Prize, God Laughs & Plays is David James Duncan s (The River Why, The Brothers K) profound, original, and exhilarating tour de force.

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
Paperback, 264 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Triad Books
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Meredith Holley
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: DJD fans
David James Duncan is one of my heroes, both for being a wonderful writer from the Pacific Northwest, and for saying a lot of the things I think way better than I could ever say them. He is a preacher of rivers, which description I think conveys both the lovely things about him and the sometimes irritating things about him. God Laughs Plays is a collection of talks he has given and articles he has written or for which he was interviewed. You can probably gather the basic idea from the title. Dun ...more
P.J. O'Brien
In general, these essays are very good. There were times that Duncan's passion and bitter experiences gave me the sense that he had fallen into the same strident "preaching" that frustrates him about others. It didn't happen often; he is quite reflective, self-aware, and open. But sermons, like other lectures, are a method to impart a particular perspective rather than give all sides.

The book was written decades ago, so in details it often sounds dated. But the overarching themes still hold true
Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in American Christianity
Recommended to Douglas by: a Christian truck driver
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave Brown
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I am not a religious person. I never will be. This book, however, makes sense of the paradox that is Christianity. It spoke to my "shame" that I have as a human being especially concerning the fundamentalist right and my mystical experiences that I hold dear and true that cannot be defined by any order or sect.

The book is filled with story, essay, musings and other writing tidbits that Duncan weaves into a single narrative that seeks to return the word Christian to its rightful place. This, fro
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-changers
A fantastic book, very respectful to christianity while expressing such beauty about the ways we love god or what we perceive as the divine or holy, and while he felt the holy in nature as a child, and I found it as an adult, he writes from his heart to mine. he writes that he cherishes all names for god, all gods from every religion, and every religion, as well as people, trees, rivers, etc. Because his heart is by nature inclusive, and how can he not? amen, my friend.

"[There is a] kind of all-
Deon Stonehouse
Duncan was raised Seventh Day Adventist but he found his cathedral in the wilderness, his spiritual life best served in the rivers, streams and mountains. God Laughs & Plays puts forth the belief that intolerance and loss of personal freedom are being justified in the name of religion. He is deeply offended that so much harm is being done in the name of God. He believes we should all be allowed our personal beliefs, that belief should not be dictated by the government. It is way too easy to ...more
Sep 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Included my favorite piece of Duncan's writing: Wonder, Yogi, Gladly. I heard him read this essay in 1998. I loved it and contacted the person who organized the lecture to tell Duncan how much I enjoyed it. Several weeks later, a hand addressed envelope arrived from Montana containing a copy of the as-yet unpublished essay and the note: "See you in the pages of my next book." I love this guy!
May 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
I think Duncan does a much better job with religious themes in his novels than in his essays. On this mark, I think it's been all downhill for him since The Brothers K, which is simply a masterpiece. Forget this book and read TBK or The River Why, if you haven't read them.
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
Kinda preachy.. liked the bits about finding spirituality in our outdoors. If you're a fisherman you'd love it.
Jonathan Hiskes
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is Duncan at his most frustrated -- an open-hearted nature lover in the darkness of the Bush Era. It's also Duncan at his weeping, laughing, effusive, hilarious A-game.
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ginger, Patti, Matt, Sarah and Matt, Sarah B., Chris, David, Richard, et. al.
Shelves: owned, 5-star-books
So although Duncan is one of my favorite authors (The Brothers K, The River Why both top of my lists), one-third of the way through this collection of essays and speechs I was thinking maybe this was going to be just a "4 star" book - beautifully written, of course, but somewhat uneven, like most collections, and a bit heavy on dissecting organized religion (he was raised a Seventh Day Adventist, but now considers himself just a follower of the lessons of Christ). Then I hit the mid-way point, a ...more
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to get through this. My brother really loves the author's spiritual & environmental other books, and requested this one for a gift. I ended up getting one for myself, too. Though we didn't read it together, it offers us a point of reference to discuss.

The parts I had trouble with were the most topical sections, where there was rage against a previous President and his war in Iraq. I share some of that frustration, but under the current circumstances of our current Presiden
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I actually believe that Jesus died and then came back to life. I always assumed this made me a fundamentalist Christian. However, the kind of fundamentalism that Duncan addresses in this book is much scarier than anything I have encountered at church. Yes, I have been and am recovering from some extreme forms of legalism that aren't part of the message of Jesus. But I maintain hope that most churches in America (protestant or Catholic) are purer than the extreme that Duncan is confronting in thi ...more
Rachel Brummet
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I needed this.

My teacher lent this copy to me when we discovered that we both shared a love for David James Duncan, and I am so thankful that she did. This was spiritually refreshing, and in many ways, it felt like taking medicine for my soul. Though at times I really had to engage my mind in order to comprehend his ideas and set the wheels of my mind into motion, it was worth all of it.

I always assumed that there had to be others who shared ideas in common with me; there are so many people in t
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I would give this 4.5 stars if I could, because the last 20 or 30 pages become just a bit too mystical for me and what I liked most about the earlier parts of the book were Duncan's ability to "get mystical" without losing me. I don't object to the mysticism from an orthodox or theological stance; it's his inability to explain/affect me when he starts getting a bit esoteric at the end that bothered me. Of course, I'm sure one could argue--and Duncan actually does--that it's nearly impossible to ...more
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm working my way through various David James Duncan books, and I believe this is the last of what he has written. It is a series of essays that is not for everybody. I found some very enjoyable (and thought provoking), some not so.

x: God is Unlimited. Thought and language are limited. God is the fathomless but beautiful Mystery Who creates the Universe and you and me, and sustains it and us every instant, and always shall. The instant we define this fathomless Mystery It is no longer fathomles
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Duncan is a fantastic writer. His writings on faith, politics, nature, as well as sprinkling some good nuggets on writing were fun and intriguing. I enjoyed how he unashamedly pointed out how faith and politics are not to be mixed—i.e. that America isn't the salvation of the world. I absolutely loved this!

Though Duncan calls himself an Evangelical Christian, he seems to be so "open" as to include other religions as well—He claims no one has the One God and the True Book. He seems to be burned ou
Jul 13, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Wonder is my second favorite condition to be in, after love -- and I sometimes wonder whether there's even a difference: maybe love is just wonder aimed at a beloved. Wonder is like grace, in that it's not a condition we grasp: wonder grasps us... Like grace, wonder defies rational analysis. Discursive thought can bring nothing to an object of wonder."

This is a collection of essays, speeches, and stories or "Churchless sermons in response to the preachments of the fundamentalist right." To be h
Feb 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
Well, I'm not sure what to tell you.

This is a well-written, and well throught-out book by a man who wants to wrestle Christianity back from the ultra-conservatives and the political right.

His view of the Christian God is right in line for how I like to think of God when I think of God which is, I have to be honest, not all that often. Not exactly. My spirituality is a little hodge-podge.

But! If you are sick of the religion of "Love Thy Neighbor" being co-opted by a bunch of anti-neighbor war-mon
Leroy Seat
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a delightful book, which, unfortunately, I did not read when it was first published. It would have been even more powerful then than now (because GWB is no longer President).

One of my favorite novels is Duncan's The Brothers K (1992), and I have been waiting for him to publish another novel. But he hasn't yet. So I was happy to read this book and have the opportunity to enjoy afresh his writing as well as his worldview.

Duncan ends his book with these words: "If I stake my life on one fie
Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, spiritual strugglers
My review . . . can't do justice to the profound love I have for the message of this book. I'll be revisiting it hopefully for the rest of my life. Check out my quotes section to get an idea of the brilliance of David James Duncan, then do yourself a favor and read this book. Read it in the quiet hours of the morning and before you go to sleep at night. Read it in a forest or a meadow, on a riverbank or a sandy beach. Read it in the middle of a train station bustling with men, women, children an ...more
Sarah Wells
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I consumed this book in slow, delicious portions, happy once again to find a likeminded writer. "Insofar as I believe Jesus is the bee's knees, and insofar as I speak words that could be seen as spreading the spiritual intent of the gospels, I must confess, with fear and trembling, that I am (gulp!) evangelical."

Highly recommend this book for those frustrated by canned Christianity but who still yearn for, seek after, and are shaken by the undeniable presence of holiness within and around each
May 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, society, own
This book of essays by one of my favorite writers is stunning in its directness and simplicity -- he's the master of the metaphor.

"If you were basking in bright sunlight, and a man a quarter-mile away suddenly shouted, 'Hey you! I can see the sun from over here! Stop what you're doing and come over where I am! HURRY! You've GOT to come here! I see the SUN! Come out of your darkness, sinner! Get over to where I am!'"

And that's religion, rather than spirituality. And that's what this book is about
David A-S
Jan 02, 2010 rated it liked it
David James Duncan is one of my favorite contemporary voices. His two novels are the Brothers K and the River Why? This book is a compilation of his essays on faith. It is intended to be both an apologetic and a counter to fundamentalism. He is a wounded child of Seven Day Adventism, who found his way back to faith through nature, mystics, and spiritualists the world over. He is undeniably Christian but scared of the church. There are moments in which you will laugh, go hmm, and go get over it.
Candice Munson
Oct 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with an open mind
I haven't read it all yet (it was due at the library) but I liked it so far! Don't be put off by the title, Christians. Duncan writes about everyone's Own God. And He is out there for all.
Easy to read and you'll want to discuss it. With anyone.

I like this quote:
"...the most valid form of censorship is that practiced by writers upon themselves. Scrupulously revising or destroying all writing that fails to let readers vanish into the life of their language is every author's duty."

Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: all-time-favs
Caveat: not for the conservative or evangelical right, for sure! "You can trust some sages with your heart and mind." Duncan is one of them for me! His independence and willingness to study his own "teachers" and guides instead of being indoctrinated by dogma, doctrine, or by codes of fundamentalism (my background) are heroic and respected by this reviewer/reader. I've loved his (Duncan's)fiction for years. I can say the same for his non-fiction as well. I look forward to rereading this and his ...more
Jun 05, 2008 rated it liked it
I loved The River Why and The Brothers K, and this book is no different in terms of Duncan's perceptive and worldy contemplations of the human spririt and pursuit of meaning. The only difference is this time it's in essay form instead of a novel. While reading this, I do miss Duncan's characters, though I also feel myself conecting directly with the author as he wrestles with the age-old questions surrounding spirituality. Not religious at all...which is why I like it.
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a great collection of sermons and essay. They all contain Duncan's fire, humor and literary prose that captures imagination. Duncan does a good job of broadening our view of who God is. He walks a fine line, but a lot of his boldness is meant to challenge one's thinking. Some stories have no relation to faith, but are great stories that show how great a writer Duncan is.
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: seekers disgruntled by those who are "spokespersons" for God
If you are tired of the Christian Conservatives letting the world know what God likes, you would appreciate the wonderful writings of David James Duncan. He is one of my favorite authors even before reading this book, but this one was timely for me.

Written as individual sermons, each is a nice nugget of contemplation.
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
David James Duncan is just a marvelous writer. His two works of non-fiction are on my permanent shelf and his essays are worth reading. This book looks at the fundamentalist-christian approach with the very jaundiced eye of someone who has been there. His plea to find the incarnated God in creation is exactly right. Funny, thoughtful, holy even.
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makes me want to go fishing 3 14 Nov 05, 2008 07:24PM  
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David James Duncan (born 1952) is an American novelist and essayist, best known for his two bestselling novels, The River Why (1983) and The Brothers K (1992). Both involve fly fishing, baseball, and family.

Both received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers award; The Brothers K was a New York Times Notable Book in 1992 and won a Best Books Award from the American Library Association.

Film adaptation
“The fundamentalists of every faith remain blind to the truth that the “sigh within the prayer is the same in the heart of the Christian, the Muslim, and the Jew.” I have seen this unity with my eyes, heard it with my ears, felt it with all my being.” 15 likes
“The only way I know to pluck from the hearts of enemies their desire to destroy us is to remove from their lives the sense that, for their own physical and spiritual survival, they must.” 8 likes
More quotes…