GenCon 2014 & Dark Dungeons (Part Two)
August 21, 2014
In the last installment about Dark Dungeons, you may have found I went into a great deal of my personal story. A few friends were shocked to find out that I burnt my D&D books even though it seems I avoided the moral panic of the 1980s. So, with my mother’s great example and having avoided much of the problems many faced, why did I burn my books?
Two stories lead up to the book burning…a phrase, which still causes me to have butterflies in my stomach. In the first story, I was driving home late one night in probably the nicest car I owned during my teenage years. It was the first car I had ever purchased with my own money. (The others were purchased through indentured servitude to my father over the course of many summers.) On the way home, my car’s slick tires skidded on a wet, narrow bridge throwing me into a railing and totaling it out.
After two truck drivers helped me push my car off the bridge, a police officer showed up and began to give me the once over. After he was convinced I was sober, he began to inspect my car and then told me I would need a ride home. Unfortunately, this was a time before cell phones were normal and I was pretty far from a phone booth. I asked the officer if he could give me a ride home and he told me, “No” several times before he eventually relented and drove me to my Mom’s house. (I found out it was on his way. Still don’t know what the problem was with taking me home. Maybe it was the D&D books in the backseat?)
On the drive to my house, he proceeded to tell me, because of my D&D books in the car, I was “riding with the devil.” This was about all he shared with me. Not a lot of information…. just that I was riding with the devil. “Great,” I thought, “one of those.”
A few years later I was talking to a young man outside a Baptist Student Union where he asked me a simple question, “Have you ever seen the need for forgiveness in your life?” I said, “Yes” and it was at that moment I truly began to understand the forgiving love found in Jesus. As John Wesley would say, “My heart was strangely warmed.” I’d had a few minor religious experiences in previous years but this is the one that took. And it just didn’t take, it took off!
I found myself in church every possible chance I could get and I often stopped by and checked out revivals at various places. It seemed, when I first came to faith, there was a revival almost every week at a different church. There was a Baptist Church close to my mother’s home which seemed to have a LOT of revivals. One night I stopped in to listen to a traveling evangelist who began to talk about the evils of RPG’s and various other “occultic implements” and, being a new Christian, I didn’t have the resources with which to refute him. So, I took this man at his word. After all, I was a new Christian and didn’t know anything, right? I said to myself, “This man is older and much wiser than me so everything he says must be spot on.”
The next day I went home to my dads and loaded up all my RPGs, fantasy books, and porn and took them out into the woods to burn them. (Burning the porn broke my Uncle’s heart. He told me I should have given it all to him. Looking back on it, burning the porn was a pretty good idea.) Yes, I even burnt my first print copy of Deities & Demigods with the Cthulhu Mythos in it.
I spent the next year wandering around in what I now refer to as the “Fundamentalist Fog.” It was foggy because I wasn’t sure where I was going to find my footing. Fortunately, being a geek caused me to question quite a few things. I started looking at historical context, biblical culture, and reading a wide range of authors. About this time, I met a young lady who encouraged me to go to a Christian college. (I later married that beautiful woman. She’s quite amazing.) It was at this Christian college I learned the same CS Lewis who wrote Mere Christianity was also the same CS Lewis who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia.
It was there my journey took a sharp change. I began to realize fantasy, in and of itself, wasn’t necessarily bad. Over the next few years I began to learn and grow. Bible Study became much easier as I processed the historical/grammatical method and certain aspects of higher criticism found their way into my life. Scripture started coming alive to me once more and I saw things in a different way.
In the mid-90s, I had an opportunity to seek a pastorate in Alaska with a different denomination than the one in which I now serve. (I eventually declined.) On my way back from Alaska, I stopped into a bookstore and picked up a copy of Marc Miller’s Traveller. Sci-Fi couldn’t be as bad as D&D, I thought, so it came home with me on the plane.
When I got home, I decided to search this burgeoning technology called the Internet and see if I could find Christian gamers. Low and behold, I found a group called the Christian Gamers Guild and was transformed. I found many Christians who not only played D&D but also found out many of the people involved in its earliest days were people of faith. Reading M. J. Young’s famous, “Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons Addict” also helped a great deal. (Strangely enough, some people now confuse us. It’s probably because he is the chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild. I just like to think I’m younger and better looking. )
After that, it wasn’t long before I picked up the dice again and started playing. I haven’t stopped since. Playing D&D has helped me develop many friendships over the years with other Christians, people of different faiths, and people of no faith at all. It has opened doors of laughter, kindness, and care I have not always seen in the church and many of those friendships have lasted for a very long time. I have also introduced my love of gaming to my wife and daughter. We are very fortunate when we are able to have those family game nights.
When I returned to ministry in 2007, I also found my love of D&D and other games has opened up a number of opportunities to minister to people both inside and outside of the church. This journey continues to this day and I look forward to more chances to be “Jesus at the Table” as the years go on.
I know this has been a little long and I haven’t gotten to the Dark Dungeons movie yet but I appreciate those of you who have stayed with me so far. My next blog post will discuss the Dark Dungeons movie, the Faith & Gaming panel from this yar, and my thoughts on it all. Hope to see you there.
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