Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Whys and Wherefores

Back in in my 70s childhood, I was given the Holmes Boxed set of D&D. This singular event set me on a course of events that has very largely made me who I am. Let me be very upfront. I am a devout Orthodox Christian. Having played D&D and RPGs of every stripe, throughout the last 4 decades (!), I am acutely aware that D&D and Christianty have a history. I vividly remember going through the list of 10 warning signs that your child might be a Satanist with my friends. We laughed ourselves silly, because we wouldn't have touched a Satanist cult with a 10 foot pole, and yet qualified for 8 or 9 of the warning signs, not the least of which was playing D&D. However, it must be acknowledged that a lot of the pulp fiction that inspired D&D is at best unconcerned with religion and at worst has a polythesitic bent. This bent was not explicit in OD&D (as a matter of fact, Christianity was implicit as James Maliszewski has recently pointed out), but it did make its way into the game over time. Starting with AD&D 2nd Edition, the game I love systemically supported, and even required a polythesitic world view. This has only gotten worse over time. As an Orthodox Christian, it is something that I lament and have been increasingly uncomfortable with.

This discomfort, however, is tempered by the reality that D&D is one of the reasons I am an Orthodox Christian in the first place. The game sparked in me a fascination in medieval European history that had me jumping at the chance to study in Russia, Estonia and Hungary. It was while wandering the streets of Moscow that I first ecountered Orthodoxy. It was while searching out a medieval castle in southern Hungary that I felt the shockwaves of bombs dropping during the Yugoslavian civil war. These bomb shattered me, in ways that I am still recovering from. It has been my faith that has allowed me to start putting the pieces back together. This trajectory proves a point made by Alexander Schmemann:

In the Christian worldview, matter is never neutral. If it is not "referred to God," i.e. viewed and used as a means of communion with Him, of life in Him, it becomes the very bearer and locus of the demonic. — Of Water & the Spirit, pg. 48.

D&D is not by nature evil. In my life, it has been a great blessing. I allowed it to point me towards God. Through D&D Christ came into my life, and that has been huge. Whether or not something is good or evil depends on how we use it.

Thus we come to the reason for this blog. I fully realize that when the words "Dungeons and Dragons" are mentioned, a lot of Christians cringe. I also know that the same is true of many RPGers who hear the word "Christianity." I hope to stand firmly with one foot in the world of D&D and another in the world of my faith and thus reduce the number of cringes in both worlds. I still love D&D. I still love the culture, the people, the game. And I am a Christian. So, I will muse on how Christianity informs my view of D&D, how I play it and how the two can affect each other in a positive way. Enjoy.

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