Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meditating on Jack Chick

The news that Jack Chick has passed away has been making its rounds around the blogosphere. Reactions range from the vindictive to the conciliatory. Personally, I wasn’t aware of Chick’s work or his influence on the Satanist Scare and D&D until much later in life when (ironically) the Christian faith I had rejected in my youth drew me back to actually playing the very game Chick warned would destroy my soul.

Believe it or not, I have no animosity towards Chick. In another odd twist, I am actually grateful to him. Despite the fact that I disagree with him on many issues, without Chick and his ilk openly challenging D&D, we would not have the OGL, the OSR or Hasbro putting D&D on the shelves in bookstores so that another generation can fire up the imagination in a way that only pen and paper RPGs can.

In the small picture, the Satanist Scare but TSR on the ropes. In the bigger picture, it led to a series of events that culminated in the OGL so that the game can never be taken away from us ever again.

This leads me to the main point of this post: freedom of speech. Jack exercised his right to publish his nonsense and try to convince a bunch of people that D&D was bad. In turn, others (including myself) have used our free speech to defend the game and to promote it in its various forms. To this day, people are free to decide who is more persuasive and which set of ideas is going to make their life better. I call that a win for everybody.

Unfortunately, there are a growing number of people out there that think limiting speech is a good idea. More and more people believe that they shouldn’t have to listen to ideas that challenge their own world-view. Frighteningly, there are also more people willing to use their influence and power to make that happen and to coerce, bully and forcibly shut people up.

We live in a Golden Age of RPGs specifically because of the freedom of speech that allowed Chick to voice his beliefs. Those beliefs force those of us who play this game to answer his challenges, to know this game better and to make this game better. As a consequence, we are all better for it.

For all those who think that it is okay to bully, coerce and forcibly shut people up because you disagree with them, this is a world-view that would have robbed us all of the game we know and love today. It may very well have also forced D&D into the dustbin of history.

I pray that the lesson we learn from Chick, his life and his death is not that his version of Christianity was bad, but rather that freedom of speech and the ability to be challenged by ideas that disagree with our own has made the world a better place.