Glory Be to God on Low....

Theater mask.  National Archeological Museum, Athens, Greece

Theater mask.  National Archeological Museum, Athens, Greece

Here's a little quiz for you to take:

In the Bible, does God ever….

1)  Threaten to puke over a joke about "breaking wind"?

2)  Dress up in woman's clothing, cover with lion skins and brandish a club?

3)  Learn how to row a boat, then complain how it's blistering his bottom as he passes by a bunch of croaking frogs?

4)  Defecate upon himself when someone mentions monsters are coming?

The correct answer to all of the above is of course an absolute "Of course not!" because NOWHERE in the Bible will you find God doing such silly, grotesque, completely "un-God-like" things.

"The Frogs," Drama Tech Theatre  

"The Frogs," Drama Tech Theatre
 

These are, however, things you will find the great Greek god Dionysus doing in Aristophanes' celebrated ancient comic play, The Frogs.  It blows your mind how low-brow this great playwright chooses to portray a god.   Granted, it's all for satiric purposes.  But still, how can a god be portrayed in such offensive fashion?  (Unless, of course, it's on an episode of South Park.)  

The world of comedy is peopled with "low" characters -- either low in station or intelligence.  Slaves and buffoons are comedy's mainstays, and, as Aristophanes makes  queasily clear, not even the otherwise "highest" of characters -- i.e. a male god --  gets a pass.  

It necessarily follows that if we are going to accept the Bible as comedy, we will discover, and let ourselves embrace, a "lowered" God, at least sometimes.  God is often depicted and celebrated as beyond high, as beyond-language perfect.  But, sometimes, even though never losing or threatening to lose control of bodily functions like Dionysus, the Bible tells us God pretty ridiculously loses control….

Angry God, Sistine Chapel  

Angry God, Sistine Chapel
 

In Exodus 33, for example, we witness God having the mother of all meltdowns (except the one that led to the Great Flood which caused Him to need to establish a rainbow in the heavens as a sort of "time out corner.")  In the middle of their long, arduous wilderness journey to the Promise Land, God and Moses are up on Mt. Sinai conferring about how the Temple is to be configured while the Israelites below are getting antsy.  The people decide to melt the Egyptian gold they'd taken as booty, turn it into a golden calf and worship it.  Ooh boy, GOD gets M-A-A-A-D.  And of course He has every right, as this is the most offensive thing His beloved Children could be doing.  (Of course, God could have also realized He and Moses have been up on the mountain a VERY LONG time - there are a gadjllion fancy schmancy details being conveyed…simplicity in Temple design would have perhaps gone a long way in nipping the golden calf problem in the bud.)

In any case, God becomes SO furious over His people's unfaithfulness He decides He must destroy them.  Which, when you think about it, is rather ridiculous, as they are God's only chance for companionship since, according to the Bible, there are no other gods to hang out with.  Moses - a mere mortal - talks God out of it by suggesting He'll look bad to the Egyptians because He initially made all that fuss to save them. Moses calls to God's pride, which, too, is rather goofy because why in the world should the Almighty Creator of the Universe need to worry about saving face?  

As a back-up argument, Moses reminds God about His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of plenteous descendants.  Whaat?  Has God forgotten His covenants?  That's just not something God ever does.   Or maybe, this time, He's that angry.  That old.  That imperfect….

It is perhaps hard to accept a lowered God or the idea that the Bible portrays as much.  Aristophanes lowered Dionysus in order to mock him and encourage the Greeks to turn from their specious traditional religion.

Photo by Travis S.

Photo by Travis S.

However, I think the biblical "lowering" is yet another way the Israelites laugh at themselves and all they did to make their beloved God's life a living hell while out in the desert.  They were sooo bad they drove God to such ridiculous lows.  Thank God Moses was able to pull things out.  Thank God there's grace available to save us all, God included.  

If ever we need to remember the message of amazing grace, here it is.  And rendered here amidst a discussion about gods pooping their pants.  Welcome to the comic universe.