January 2, 2013
“When world-views collide, as they do in pluralistic societies, our hero systems are relativized and called into question. This undermines the existential armor we need to achieve a workaday equanimity in the face of death. And when facing this prospect, it is much easier to cope with this existential anxiety by defending the worldview against ideological Others.”
I have been wanting to read this book for some time and recent tragic events around the country (and world) hit me hard enough that I finally downloaded it and began to read.
As a geek who has seen many a flame war spread like wildfire across the Internet as well as heated conversations at conventions that have almost turned into blows, nerd rage is a very real phenomena. Its intensity borders on religious fervor and I’m starting to understand why.
Before I go any further, it’s important to be up front and admit that I’ve been both victim and perpetrator of nerd rage. Just like many of you, I’ve argued about Star Trek, Spiderman, Batman, various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as quite a few other things. I’ve been furious when people have talked badly about my favorite Spiderman story and flabbergasted when others tell me, in no uncertain terms, they don’t like Dr. Who. Heck, there have been times when I’ve trolled many a message board waiting to see someone talk bad about my favorite version of D&D and been the first one to pounce on their ignorance.
So, yes, by the grace of God, I’m a recovering nerd rager and I think I’m starting to understand it a bit better. The things we like as geeks and nerds are our “hero system” and when someone calls them into question many of us view it as if the very nature of our being is challenged. These heroes we like (whether it be one of literature or our favorite operating system) all come with a story that we’ve invested with meaning. These meanings come to define us and that’s not a bad thing.
For example, as some of you may know Spiderman is one of my favorite heroes. The idea of a geek who gains power and does his best to use it responsibility even when others still dislike him is something wonderful. It teaches me great lessons and puts me on my guard in my own life, as a pastor, to make sure I don’t use the power God has placed in my hands irresponsibly. When thinking about how Spidey is mistreated, I find it amazing he still goes on doing good. This type of characterization in the story points to a virtue like humility and makes me want to emulate it in my own life. So, when someone attacks the Spidey story or tries to change it as they did in that gawd awful movie that came out this year, it can make me feel as if they’re saying my own story is meaningless.
That, my friends, is the essence of nerd rage. When someone takes your hero and, in your eyes, devalues them you get defensive at your best and angry at your worst. So, how do we make our way through this dilemma? Is there an answer? Well, to be honest, I think that virtue of humility is what should guide us. When someone critiques my favorite stories or the version of D&D I like the best, I should take it with a grain of salt. We should examine their critique and see if there is any validity in it and, if so, accept it for what it is.
This is the nature of truth. A true story is one that moves our hearts and minds into a wonderful, positive place. One that changes our lives and transforms us into better human beings. If a part of that story deserves critique, that’s quite alright because it doesn’t mean the story has to be done away with but it just needs to be reevaluated.
I put the Church in the same category. It has a story that needs to be examined openly and honestly. When someone critiques it, I can get defensive and angry or I can take it with a grain of salt and reexamine the life of the Church. In doing so, I’m being fair to my predecessors and if I see the critiques are correct then maybe it’s time to inject better truth into the Story. It doesn’t mean I throw the Story out. Tossing the baby out with the bath water is a very bad thing but that doesn’t mean I should keep the bath water! With that in mind, maybe it’s time to calm our nerd rage down both inside and outside of the Church and take an honest look at any critiques leveled our way.
The Church needs new bath water and the babe in the manger is the One who is still able to change it.
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