Amidst blogging about characters, plot devices, and roleplaying, I believe it’s time I answered an important question.
WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN???
Wait. That’s not it. The REAL question is:
Where does my faith fit in with my hobbies?
As some of you are aware, I’m a man of faith (Christian, Methodist, and thankful for it). And while most of you probably just take my personality composition as normal, I felt like going into how my faith relates to my hobbies. Specifically because I want to debunk the notion that, if the internet is to be believed, my faith should be my ONLY hobby other than ruining the fun of others. Never mind the fact that GARY GYGAX, one of the FOUNDING FATHERS of Dungeons & Dragons was apparently a devout Christian himself.
But it’s also a reflection I felt would be interesting given the history between D&D and religion, as well as how I am the way I am. I certainly hope it helps people, whether it’s through understanding me, or picking up something from what I say. But where to begin?
…The beginning, of course. This isn’t one of those weird stories that messes with the structure to throw readers off balance.
MeQuest: The Beginning
First, a bit of background information. As popular media will know, Dungeons & Dragons have had a shaky relationship with conservatives on charges of supposed satanism. Therefore, it was one of the most prominent in a long line of “unChristian” franchises.
Conservative parents worried about this fantasy game in varying degrees, but the trend seemed to be about its depiction of demons. Either they just had a knee-jerk reaction to it, thinking depiction is bad enough as if it was a porn magazine, or they took their reasoning further.
Some worried the game was glorifying demons and satanic ideas. A fair concern if we’re to be free to follow our own morals (like being free to NOT support a cause you don’t believe in), but one which should be backed up by actually understanding what we fear. Others worried (without actually STUDYING the darn things) that it LITERALLY taught kids how to commit murder and summon demons. This is a relative of the notion that people who play violent videogames will become violent themselves.
In any case, it prompted D&D to make some edits and censors, changing around names and the like. This moral policing would send D&D underground for a bit, especially after a few cases where it just so happened that some very disturbed individuals ALSO played the game, but eventually, cooler heads prevailed. The allegations found no connection, and actual studies of the game revealed that no, it wasn’t really satanic. And now, D&D is one of MANY nerd interests now popularly embraced with the likes of Star Wars and anime.
Of course, the whole fiasco (like so many of its kind) prompted an opposing and proportionally disproportionate response from the OTHER side, where now the Liberals, salty and bitter over having to go through all this hell, set THEMSELVES up as the new moral police, except for their values and not those of their parents (“It’s SEXIST! It’s RACIST! It’s not INCLUSIVE enough! There are no TRANS characters!”). But that’s a tale of stupidity which will be extremely redundant and not at all fun to listen to, so it is sufficient to say that stupidity never changes.
MeQuest: The Questening
Like I said, I came late to D&D because I was distracted by videogames and cartoons. However, even back then, my journey as a nerd WAS informed by my faith and my upbringing. It didn’t make me shun and fear the infidel, but it did affect my perspective and attitude towards these things.
First, I should say that I personally believe, through my own feelings and the evidence of the methods and the results, that I was raised VERY well indeed and that my parents were among the wisest and most loving people a child could hope to have. I shall mention the things that they got absolutely right because THAT is what shapes me the most, as opposed to every edgelord out there who goes “My parents were, like, totally lame about this thing, SO I WENT AND DID THE OPPOSITE.” REAL original thought, guys.
My parents were…well, great parents. They were loving and compassionate, encouraging me to grow and learn. They had a firm sense of discipline and morals, of course, but they gave me enough freedom and positivity to grow into my own person. It was essentially a very FIRM structure of morals and rules (follow what we say, trust us to know what’s best, etc.), BUT in a VERY wide space with lots of room (BUT we don’t forbid you from the internet or games, we don’t shut down discussions or questions).
That’s easy enough to praise when I did what they wanted, but equally important is what happened when I did WRONG. If I ever fell off the path, whether by accident or purpose, I wasn’t harshly rebuked or made to feel like a failure. They first and foremost made sure I was OK, assured me they loved me no matter what, and tried to teach me WHY something was wrong so that I would choose not to do it again. Firm but fair disciplinary measures were VERY rare as a result since they focused on rehabilitation.
The result was that instead of fearing or resenting their discipline, I learned to TRUST it because it WAS in my best interests. When they told me I needed to develop good habits like diligence, wisdom, and responsibility, I may have thought it was hard work but I trusted them. Even when we disagreed, it was never a case of being put down by dictators.
They shaped me into someone who CHOSE to embrace faith (go to church, we will do our best to teach, guide and answer you, we hope you accept, but you choose for yourself whether it matches our hopes or not), instead of FORCING it upon me (go to church, ABSOLUTELY follow what we believe). And that gave me the mental framework and understanding to clearly see what I was being taught and whether to accept or reject it. And THAT trust is the foundation of ALL that will come afterwards. Whatever I might say afterwards about our disagreements, THIS is the foundation for it.
So. My parents raised me well (as I tried to explain), and I’m both a devout Christian AND a nerd. What now?
Well, for the most part, my parents were supportive of a lot of my hobbies, and my dad LOVED buying toys and games for his sons. They may not have understood it, but they permitted quite a number of robots, fantasy worlds, and virtual realities. Their only conditions were that we abide by age restrictions at the time, that we not get into anything immoral (gratuitous violence, sex, blasphemy, and/or exploitation), and that we not become OBSESSED with it and spend countless hours on it (heh) to the exclusion of others (well, I try not to ignore the rest of my world). That track record is very important.
That went mostly smoothly until a friend showed me Devil May Cry 3 and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Now, I’d always known my parents were VERY devout in their own ways, and while they were very wise and reasonable, they were also rather wary of anything which seemed satanic. And that game had DEVIL right on the title, so it was a no go.
At first I thought, rather selfishly, “Well, heck, it’s not like the game will make me a SATANIST, right? Surely I can just fib that it’s a play on the phrase devil may care, right?” But when I got over myself, I realised I was considering LYING to my parents. And I realised that while the game itself was merely fictional entertainment that would not make me fall like a paladin breaking his oath, I was most assuredly NOT okay with breaking my own moral code and deceiving my parents. My parents, whom I loved, to whom I readily confessed watching pornography and clogging up our PC with viruses.
So my faith and upbringing is not just a story of my parents telling me what I can’t play. It’s also a story about me deciding by myself what I WON’T do. Some insufferable dolts might speculate that I was brainwashed into feeling this guilt, that I was thought-crimed into behaviour like Pavlov’s dogs, that the TRUE crime was that I had my sense of enjoyment and self-actualisation lobotomised.
My response is: LYING. TO. YOUR. PARENTS. WHO LOVE YOU AND DEMONSTRATE IT.
They never made me feel guilty about the things I enjoyed, even if they set some boundaries. With them, everything was open for discussion. And so, I grew with the freedom to CHOOSE the morals and beliefs they offered, instead of having it FORCED upon me.
MeQuest: Siege Harder
This was one rare episode in a lifetime of good upbringing full of trust and communication (the other was when we returned a strategy game because they saw one playable faction was demons). I would continue to grow, and to navigate how my faith relates to my hobbies.
My year in Australia for studies was a big influence as well; aside from being independent, I was also exposed to varied viewpoints and ideas. And even the non-denominational church I attended taught, in perhaps their very FIRST meeting of the semester, that we shouldn’t fear things that SEEM strange or critical to us. They used a MANGA about Jesus and Buddha sharing an apartment, and said it depicted Christ positively and consistently (vividly recalling His crucifixion, wanting to get involved in the lives of others to help them), calling it a GREAT method to engage others about our faith. That left a big impact on me, and while my mother might be rather cautious about something like that, I thought the message was very true to the spirit of how I was raised. To this day, while I dislike conflict, I do like to think that I welcome discussion.
And now? Well, I’m my own man now (I’M AN ADUUUUULT!), and free to enjoy whatever media I wish, which is certainly respected. But in turn, I respect the teachings and sensibilities of my parents whenever possible and try not to do anything which would spit on their teachings and values.
I may seldom get into franchises, but I have certainly enjoyed works where demonic beings are featured as prominent foes or enemies, and I’ve enjoyed great stories like Hellboy knowing that he’s a demon, but he was raised Catholic and is a great guy. The only limit I set for myself is that it does not glorify evil, and that it does not have a lazy message of “Satan rules, God drools.” So sorry, popular media. No matter how hard you try, I do not see Satan/Lucifer as some sort of romanticised, misunderstood, Byronic paragon crusading for the freedom to freely free our freedoms freely. To me, he’s the HISTORICAL Che Guevara, not the POPULAR Che Guevara. Not someone fighting for our rights, but someone fighting for HIS rights to dictate OUR rights.
I can’t speak for all the other faithful out there. But for my part, my journey has been pretty smooth. I was raised with the wisdom to discern that these were works of fiction, and they didn’t have to conflict with what I believed. And even if they seemed to threaten or attack it, I didn’t have to get reactive and post a tirade. I could just shrug, say “Well, that doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy at all” and move on to playing a paladin smiting a demon. I was secure enough in my own faith that for me, it’s not a matter of seeing something which might shake my foundations and change me…it was a matter of seeing it as a person.
And depending on what that person is like, just ask yourself: Would YOU want to spend much time with them? If they were a nerd? Or an extrovert? Or a Social Justice Warrior? Do you speak with someone you entirely agree with? Someone you disagree with but who’s interesting to talk to? Or are you one of those people that actively does things that make them miserable just so they have something to complain about?
MeQuest: Next Generation
So, that about sums it up. At the end of the day, it’s about personal tastes, personal beliefs, and the wisdom to discern where the lines are instead of fearfully drawing them to be even thicker. And I learned (or at least was taught) that this wisdom is not in opposition to my faith, but a vital component of it. And so I am the person you see before you today; perhaps not someone you’d find attending every church activity and group, someone you’d mostly associate with nerdy hobbies, but someone you’d readily find in a chapel nonetheless.
Am I the exception to the rule, going by the horror stories of conservative, controlling parents? Or am I part of a silent majority of people practicing reasoned faith? I don’t know. All I can do is try my best to live by my teachings, and hope they can pass on something of worth to others.
But hey. Imagine it. A generation of believers running a campaign into the Abyssal Depths to fight the Helldrake and purify the world. Yes, there’s an aspect of faith there. But besides that, they’re…not any different from everyone else at the table. Not in the things which unite us as people and players. They laugh, they argue about rules, they say stupid things in-character, they fall for traps. Wouldn’t that be something?
And hey, better yet: We could hopefully say goodbye to those God-awful (Lord’s name not used lightly, they are SO bad) made-for-Christians movies once we have a generation that knows what ACTUALLY GOOD WRITING is.