Today is the Feast of the New Martyr Zlata (also known as St. Chryse). The title New Martyr refers to those who were martyred after the 4th century, when the first great period of persecution ended with St. Constantine issuing the Edict of Milan making Christianity legal within the Roman Empire. St. Zlata lived in the 18th century in the Bulgarian village of Slatena when Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule.
I am going to be blunt about this, because this story really isn’t very pretty. St. Zlata was kidnapped by a Muslim man who wanted to force the saint to become his wife. When she refused, she was beaten and held captive for almost a year. They tore strips of flesh off her back. A hot poker was shoved into her ears. Through it all she never wavered in her faith in Christ and refused the demands of her captors. When it finally became clear that she was not going to relent, they tied her to a tree and carved her flesh up into little pieces with knives.
This brings up a difficult topic, especially considering what is going on in the Middle East these days. Political correctness demands that I be tolerant of what many consider to be one of the great religions of the world. Unfortunately, Orthodox Christians have been victims of this great religion for centuries, almost from its very beginnings. The synaxarion (list of saints) is littered with New Martyrs like St. Zlata who suffered a similarly cruel fate.
Theologically, Orthodox Christianity and Islam could not disagree more. Indeed, I would argue that the theology of Islam is dangerous. It holds that there is only one soul that humanity shares. This strips us of our individuality, our uniqueness, our value and our free will— it dehumanizes everyone, especially those who refuse to accept Islam. When we, as human beings, dehumanize entire groups of people bad things follow. A quick scan of U.S. history is proof positive of this fact, and we aren’t even close to being the worst offenders.
This is where I wax philosophical about art and how it allows society a safe place in which to wrestle with issues that would otherwise be less than desirable water cooler talk. It is also here that I place RPGs within that large umbrella known as art.
As I have proved via this blog, RPGs are an art form that allows us to wrestle with Christianity — a subject that was virtually taboo in this corner of the internet when I began blogging several years ago. RPGs became a safe place in which to explore, discuss and otherwise deal with the relationship our lives and this hobby has with Christianity.
There are plenty of other difficult issues that RPGs have allowed our community to struggle with. Feminism — via the way this hobby has used both language and illustrations — has been a hot topic several times since I started paying attention to our little corner. Rape (via the existence of Half-Orcs) has been grappled with. Certainly freedom and what that word means has been part and parcel of the whole old school vs. new school discussion.
In other words, RPGs are a marvelous vehicle for us to wrestle with difficult issues in a similar way that other art forms do. Sometimes this struggle might be too uncomfortable to make the whole experience very much fun (which is the primary purpose of this hobby), but we can always dial things back and return to what originally brought us to this hobby.
Therefore, I don’t particularly mind folks like Mr. Raggi pushing the envelope (though I won’t be sending much of my own gaming budget his way). He is using this hobby to wrestle with those issues. In turn, I have found that a lot of folks have grown to appreciate my own proclivities, especially when it comes to how I allow my faith to inform my game. I hope to see the day where we can wrestle honestly with the issue of Islam and what it means for the average joe on the street. Maybe a cautious use of RPGs can help us get there.
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