This post is also up on my other major blog, here. I thought it would be interesting to connect them, since they’re huge parts of my life and have been for a long time…
For theology-blog readers: “Danger, geekiness ahead!” (Skip this if you buy into this garbage)
For gaming-blog readers: “Danger, religion ahead!” (Skip this if you’re not into religion)
For readers of both: “Wow, you’re awesome!” (Seriously, we should hang out sometime!)
I was about the same age when I preached my first sermon and when I started playing roleplaying games. In this case, the sermon was a pre-prepared one, a sort of scripted conversation with another churchy kid called Feed and Seed wherein we both dressed up as farmers and talked about the Parable of the Sower. The game was Dangerous Journeys by Gary Gygax. (I imagine both are now out of print).
A few years later, I was here in San Anselmo with my mother as she worked toward her Master’s Degree at SFTS. While she was away taking seminary courses, among other things, I was in an apartment in this same building, creating my own roleplaying game. Otherwise, I’d play with the few other kids who were living here, or wander around, or talk about religion with seminary students.
It isn’t so much a case that religion and gaming are connected to me – they are, but only in the way that both of them are connected to almost everything I do with my time. There is actually not all that much specific overlap. These are just two things that I enjoy immensely, and have since I was a little kid, which fascinate me to this day.
Of the two, gaming has caused me by far more trouble. I’ve had family members become concerned that I would be dragged into devil-worship and the occult. Thankfully, after talking with one family member in particular and giving him some information to read on his own, he’s been semi-converted into thinking that gaming sounds fun and is something he might even try at some point. At this point most of the rest of my family has decided that gaming is just another weird thing about me that they have to endure.
Of more concern, at certain points in my life, is that gaming is often a sure-fire method of social suicide. The interesting thing is that it didn’t stop me. Accutely aware that this particular hobby was something people tend to feel profound condescension toward, I kept at it because it is so amazingly fun. And I still feel the same way. At almost any point in my day, I’d rather be gaming. When I don’t have a group to game with, I feel myself coming slowly unhinged. When I have a great group, I am 100% guaranteed a weekly high.
This social-suicide aspect is something that I’ve found fades with time, along with many anxieties about what people think of me. Really, it’s still deeply uncool, but the change is that I don’t care nearly as much.
Religion, or being religious and studying religions, is also a lifelong interest. In the US faith is far more acceptable than gaming (about 150 million churchgoers and about 2 million gamers). The main problem I tend to have is that, well, I’m odd. A good example is that just a few minutes ago I was listening to the Infidel Guy podcast, which is an atheist/freethought discussion podcast that I usually enjoy. I find it very challenging, but very important, to remain in contact with atheists and atheism. The reason for this is simple: I understand that I could just be crazy. And even if I’m not, when I talk about how well-meaning and reasonable people can disagree, I put my money where my mouth is.
Maybe I’ll post sometime about time spent as an atheist, or at least a serious agnostic. (My more conservative readers probably think I was never truly re-converted – and maybe they’re right)
Sometimes I toy with some way to combine my love of gaming and my religious life. A game about religion, or a way to use concepts and practices from gaming in worship or education. Maybe I will. For now, oddly, I enjoy the segregation. Everyone has to have hobbies, right? And I think that it’ll probably be key to my ongoing mental health as a pastor if I have some pastimes that have nothing to do with church.