Religion and The Southern Geek

Here is a topic that I’ve been meaning to address for some time now. Many people in Christian circles talk about how American society has become “post-Christian” and very few people have any understanding or familiarity with the faith. While this has a certain truth to it, this is not a hard and fast rule and couldn’t be less true in the South.

As someone who has spoken with Geeks across the world on a variety of topics, I have found that the Geek in the Southern part of the United States still has a somewhat nominal acquaintance with the faith. In a way, this bothers me for the same reason most “nominal Christians” irritate me but it especially irritates me where Geeks are concerned. Why might you ask? Well, let me relate something that recently happened:

I was recently in my FLGS sitting around talking with the store owner and some friends. As often happens, a group of customers walk up to the counter and ask about a particular product. Being a good Geek and supportive of my FLGS I point out several nice items while the owner retrieves some of the games from behind the counter that might interest them. As the customers are browsing through the games, a conversation starts up about technology. Imagine that! Geeks talking about tech. Go figure, eh? Well, since I didn’t bring up the topic I thought I would listen for a bit to see if I might want to jump in the conversation. Hey, Geek Talk is Geek Talk, right?

As I listen to the conversation, one of the customers begins to talk about credit and debit cards while another brings up the concept of electronic chips being implanted in someone’s hand and then scanned so they might pay their bill. It’s a similar idea to the “quick pay” system you see at many convenience stores and gas stations. It was at that point I decided to speak up. I mentioned how it would be much more convenient and less likely for someone to steal your information if it was placed on a chip that would only work while implanted. This gamer, this Geek looked at me with wide eyes and said that it was a scary concept. I then asked this young man why he thought it was such a scary concept. His answer? “Because of that Bible thing. It talks about it, you know?”

Now, a few things were immediately obvious. First, this young man had only heard the “chip concept” within some type of Conservative Christian context. Next, it was fairly obvious that he had not really read any of the Biblical texts that are so often stretched to “prove” this point. So, what was my response? The first thing out of my mouth took him by surprise. I simply said, “That’s bad theology.” Well, the young man looked at me as if I’d suddenly rolled three consecutive ones on a Twenty-Sider or had told him that I’d never heard of an XBOX. I went on to explain that I work in the field of Biblical Studies (doesn’t that sound so much geekier than “pastor”?) and that the texts used to try and prove that point were never meant to be read in that manner. Needless to say, I think I effectively killed the discussion at that very moment. It is times like that I remind myself why I try my best never to bring up these topics but I also realize that when someone else brings it up I’m definitely going to try and jump in and have a bit of fun.

So, you might ask? What’s the problem? Don’t people show their Biblical ignorance daily in the South? Haven’t people been exposed to just enough of the Scripture in the Southern US that they can pretend to know what they’re talking about? Yes, these things are often true but I expect better from Geeks! Come on! Geeks are the ones who are known for reading through 300 page rulebooks so they can Min/Max their character or learning a new programming language just for the fun of it. Shouldn’t we know better than to just make statements we haven’t really researched?

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t expect every Geek in the country to immediately become a Biblical scholar. However, I do expect Geeks to try and learn about a topic to some degree before just making some off-hand remark. Maybe I am asking for to much because I have to be honest with myself. In the electronic age where everyone immediately claims expertise on a topic, I probably should expect Geeks to behave like everyone else. Aren’t we the ones that invented flame wars and L33t Speak while also constantly editing peoples Wiki entries just so we can have our own shot at rewriting history?

So, what does all this mean? What’s the point I’m trying to make? First, most people need to realize that many people of all stripes like to say “The Bible says” without having one damn good idea as to what it really says or means. Second, Geeks are like everyone else. We pretend to have knowledge we don’t. Third, Southern Geeks are affected by Southern Christian culture just as much as the next person. Honestly, we’re all guilty of these things so I’ll end with my good ol’ Southern Mama’s Advice. She would say to me:

“Derek, when you don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about keep your damn mouth shut!”

Thank you, Mama. I miss you but I don’t think I’m ever going to forget that advice. Maybe it would do us all a bit of good to remember it.

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