WHY WE PLAY CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY
“Cards Against Humanity: a party game for horrible people” really is an awful game. I’ve heard it described as “Apples to Apples, but filthy.” A player draws a card and reads the incomplete sentence found on it. Other players submit cards with their suggestions for filling in the blank. They’re mostly R-rated, or worse. Hilarity ensues.
We love this game. At least, some of us do. Some of us really just love the thrill of playing it with (gasp!) church friends. At (gasp!) church functions.
I’ve been trying to figure out why, and here’s my best guess: Galileo Church doesn’t have a ritual of confession of sins. But humans need to confess their sins, and CAH fills the gap.
In some churches, the people confess their sins every single Sunday. For example, in the Book of Common Prayer, used by several mainline Protestant churches, this ritual is repeated each week:
The Deacon or Celebrant says: Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
(Silence may be kept.)
Minister and People: Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
The Bishop, when present, or the Priest, stands and says: Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.
In Disciples churches like ours, weekly communion can be used as a ritualized confession and absolution. People are regularly asked to think about sins they’ve committed during the communion meditation, and to thank God for forgiveness through Jesus, whom we remember at the Lord’s Table.
But we don’t really do that at Galileo. We could. But our pastor (that’s me) is a little suspect of the power dynamic in such an exchange – making people think about the embarrassingly small and large ways they have not been the persons of God’s imagining, right this minute, as if by thinking about it now we can induce God’s forgiveness in just a second, a transaction that needs our initiative to set it in motion. I don’t believe that. “Forgiven” is a state of being. I’m swimming in it. It has already happened, and it’s happening right now, and it keeps happening. I don’t have to do anything to get it.
(I should say that I grew up in a church where a weekly “invitation” was offered for people to walk to the front of the church and confess their sins out loud. People did it. I did it. It was shaming, and terrifying, and just awful. I could say more about that, but my therapist knows all about it, so I don’t have to.)
So… there’s no point in Galileo’s weekly liturgy where people are explicitly given the opportunity to tell this particular truth about ourselves: that we are broken, that we think ugly thoughts, that we do selfish things, that we ignore all kinds of heartaches that should grab our attention, that we participate in systems that are themselves broken and perpetuating more brokenness. That we are kind of bigoted. And a little bit homophobic. And ridiculously sure that we’re right most of the time. And often jealous. And usually frightened. And daily willing to hurt other people with our words. And rarely willing to take real hits for our beliefs, because most of the time we believe we can’t afford it.
And consequently there’s no point in Galileo’s weekly liturgy where someone says out loud, “It’s okay. You are forgiven. Yes, you. Yes, we’re sure. Thanks be to God.”
And I think that’s why we play Cards Against Humanity with such relish. Because in that game, we are confessing the truth. That we sometimes laugh at people who are different from ourselves. That we know lots of words for sexual (not necessarily sexy) things. That some body parts get us into trouble. That we know way too much about certain celebrities. And when I play my card, and when I win the round so everybody knows it was mine, and they all laugh while I am blushing in triumphant titillation, I feel absolved. I feel like these people of God are saying, “It’s okay. You are forgiven. Yes, you. Yes, we’re sure. Thanks be to God.”
Maybe now I’ve ruined CAH for you? Or maybe now you’ll want to play it more? I don’t know. But if you get a game going, call me up. I’m there – my whole, real, gross, embarrassed, forgiven self.