Nother of Invention

“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!'” (Ezekiel 13:2)

I confess. I’m making this stuff up as I go along. It’s not that I don’t take my responsibility as a religious expert seriously. It’s more that God isn’t always forthcoming with the details and so I end up filling in a lot of the blanks for him. I wouldn’t exactly call it faking. More like covering for an often spotty deity.

Not just anybody can do this. It takes a great deal of creative energy to connect the divine dots. It takes ingenuity. It takes invention. It takes irresponsibility. It takes balls. When you’re dealing with infinite ambiguity, you’ve got to have chutzpah or you’re dead meat. And even then you could be dead meat. God is full of surprises.

It works like this:

You’re minding your own business when you get this inkling. Now, if you’ve had a ton of experience with these things, you can usually tell if the inking is religious or not. If it’s not religious, then you can either ignore it or go for it. If the inkling is religious, then it’s probably not a good idea to ignore it. But that’s where the problems start. Most of the time the religious inkling is just that: an inkling. It’s like a feeling except not emotional. The inkling is a definite something, but what that something is may not be obvious. There are a few options at this point. First, you can quickly scan through the Bible to see if anything jumps out at you. This is what you might call an inkling-fueled reading. You may stumble across a Bible verse that matches up with the inkling. Then, at least, you have words to put to the inkling, which is helpful, though not always. But sometimes the Bible (being a huge book of other ambiguities) is no help at all. It’s then that you have to start filling the gaps. You start with the inkling and launch out from there, adding, like Lego blocks, all kinds of weird stuff you’ve found along the way. They might be words you’ve learned, cool mental images, a song from your iPod, or even some random stuff that has nothing to do with anything.

Once you’ve got all the pieces piled up, you start moving them around to see what looks good. One piece may lead to another or to a dead-end. (Dead ends are a bummer and a waste of a good inkling.) But if you’re good at it, you can put together a cool religious thing. If there are a few parts left over, you can just toss those or save them for any other inklings that come along. (Most of my religious stuff is disposable.) If you’re lucky—and there’s always a bit of luck involved—you may end up with something worthy of the name prophecy. Prophecy is often defined as God speaking directly through a human being, but it’s really more a human being trying to Ghost write for a deity who’s got a lot of things on his plate. God dictates a few notes, then leaves the actual composition process to those who’ve got more time.

The best Ghost writers aren’t afraid to embellish a little. God is a pretty matter-of-fact dude; he generally gets to the point and gets outta there. Leviticus is one exception, but that was probably because Moses, who was kind of new at the job, was too meek and intimidated to be the kind of ruthless editor that God needed. A whole bunch of that stuff should have been cut. Anyway, the raw divine data is rarely usable on its own. This is where the creative impulse comes in. The data need to be shaped, colored, vibed, translated, and effectively delivered. In fact, the end product may be quite different that the original inking. I’m not too humble to boast that most of my stuff doesn’t look at all like what God was probably trying to say, which, in my opinion, is a good thing for him.  He has enough trouble getting people to sign up already. A disjointed bit-torrent of divine revelation would just about kill the project off for good.

When it comes to the prophetic, the average layperson is pretty much oblivious to all the work that goes on behind the scenes. And, the truth be told, the creative effort to come up with what can pass for a God thing is under appreciated even by God. He has such a strong sense of infallibility that he can get a bit touchy about modifications and additions to his initial output. But someday he may recognize just how much he owes me.

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