Scattergories—fun game to play. But it’s also how we promote human flourishing.
Kathy and I like playing games with friends and family. Scattergories is one of them, a creative-thinking category-based game. The objective is to score points by naming objects within a set of categories, given an initial letter, all within a time limit.
Sounds like Genesis, where God creates categories over the course of six days. Why? The Earth is formless and void, a phrase denoting judgment. The planet is chaos. It lacks categories. It is disordered mass—scattered—the result of Lucifer’s rebellion in eternity past. He lost and was cast to the Earth. Satan’s presence is why the Earth is chaotic.
God creates by ordering the disorder (1:3). He does this by naming objects within a set of categories he creates. Genesis One has many categories, such as a “day” being defined by a rotating pattern—“evening, then morning.” God creates additional categories defining gender, marriage, work, and so on. He turns the task of ordering over to Adam, who further orders creation by naming objects within God’s set of categories (2:19-20). It’s not good for Adam to do this alone, so Eve joins the fun.
Then our enemy rears his ugly head. Satan dupes Adam and Eve (Gen.3). They sin and the Earth begins to slouch toward disorder, returning to formless and void.
This is why we have Religious Orders. They reorder disorders such as how we define a “day.” Most folks assume it begins at dawn and ends late at night. That’s backward, which is why so many anxiously scurry about, toiling from dawn to dusk. A day begins at dusk, with rest. We wake halfway through the day, refreshed to do God’s will.
This isn’t esoteric stuff, by the way. In May, the Arizona Court of Appeals defined a “day.” It doesn’t jibe with Genesis, but that’s not surprising since few take Religious Orders seriously these days. I’m not talking robes or Gregorian chants but rather Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Orders designed to help us properly name things.
Naming things is critical. God created by naming. Adam created by naming. Albert Einstein said it’s the most important thing you can do (it’s essential for flourishing). Example: God worked six days, rested on the seventh. We do likewise. The Sabbath is celebration not deprivation. It requires amassing surplus capital from our six days of work—capitalism. This is how we properly name flourishing economics—capitalism, the system that has lifted more people out of poverty than any other.
Today we see increasingly scattered categories. It’s most evident in younger folks. A majority of millennials now reject capitalism. They see it as evil. Sadly, this includes a growing percentage of millennial Christians. They confuse collusive or crony capitalism with “religious” capitalism found in Genesis and established by the early church. We also see scattered categories when it comes to gender and sex. It infects our colleges and universities, including Christian schools, where there is growing sex and gender confusion.
Fewer and fewer Christians seem aware of the categories God established for ordering life. Cultural analysts say most millennials operate within a shrunken set of only three categories: Moralistic. Therapeutic. Deistic. Moralistic is feeling good about yourself, being a nice, non-judging Christian. Church is a “safe” place. Therapeutic is about feeling special. It’s not surrendering, sacrificing, and dying to self. It’s feeling “esteemed” and “affirmed.” Deistic is God on my own terms, so church is on my own terms.
Rod Dreher recognizes this problem. “So many of our churches are meet-up places for Moralistic Therapeutic Deists. Our Christian schools are about preparing middle-class conformists. We live no different from anybody else. Almost all of us Christians—I’m looking in the mirror here—are complicit in this. We have to do better.”
Dreher’s remedy is Religious Orders. For churches seeking to do better—and there are many—the remedy is Order, roundtables guided by sages and prophets, where Christians live in close community, reordering how they perceive God and the gospel. This in turn orders how we understand marriage and business—critical as marriage is the central metaphor for the gospel and work is the main means of gospel propagation.
An effective Religious Order would play out like Scattergories. It’d be a creative-thinking category-based faith community that properly defines God, love, the gospel, sexuality, marriage, capitalism—but within the set of categories God laid out, beginning in Genesis. In this way, these orders would properly promote human flourishing.
If this is still hazy, here’s some good news. There is a Religious Order in your county. I’ll tell you about it next week. Perhaps it will clarify how orders promote human flourishing.
 Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD (Princeton Press, 2010)
 Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press, 2005)
 James Nolan, The Therapeutic State (New York University Press, 1998), 3.