Archive for August, 2008

Today I’m ENFJ

It really depends on the day if I come out “E” or “I” on these things. But this latest round of navel gazing has me leaning towards being an extrovert. Oddly enough, I’ve never seen myself as a teacher. Though I like that I could be either a Pope or Oprah.

ENFJ

Extraverted Intuitive Feeling Judging
Strength of the preferences %
44 50 38 11

You are:
· moderately expressed extravert
· moderately expressed intuitive personality
· moderately expressed feeling personality
· slightly expressed judging personality

Idealist Portrait of the Teacher (ENFJ)

Even more than the other Idealists, Teachers have a natural talent for leading students or trainees toward learning, or as Idealists like to think of it, they are capable of calling forth each learner’s potentials. Teachers (around two percent of the population) are able – effortlessly, it seems, and almost endlessly-to dream up fascinating learning activities for their students to engage in. In some Teachers, this ability to fire the imagination can amount to a kind of genius which other types find hard to emulate. But perhaps their greatest strength lies in their belief in their students. Teachers look for the best in their students, and communicate clearly that each one has untold potential, and this confidence can inspire their students to grow and develop more than they ever thought possible.

In whatever field they choose, Teachers consider people their highest priority, and they instinctively communicate personal concern and a willingness to become involved. Warmly outgoing, and perhaps the most expressive of all the types, Teachers are remarkably good with language, especially when communicating in speech, face to face. And they do not hesitate to speak out and let their feelings be known. Bubbling with enthusiasm, Teachers will voice their passions with dramatic flourish, and can, with practice, become charismatic public speakers. This verbal ability gives Teachers a good deal of influence in groups, and they are often asked to take a leadership role.

Teachers like things settled and organized, and will schedule their work hours and social engagements well ahead of time-and they are absolutely trustworthy in honoring these commitments. Valuing as they do interpersonal cooperation and harmonious relations, Teachers are extraordinarily tolerant of others, are easy to get along with, and are usually popular wherever they are.

Teachers are highly sensitive to others, which is to say their intuition tends to be well developed. Certainly their insight into themselves and others is unparalleled. Without a doubt, they know what is going on inside themselves, and they can read other people with uncanny accuracy. Teachers also identify with others quite easily, and will actually find themselves picking up the characteristics, emotions, and beliefs of those around them. Because they slip almost unconsciously into other people’s skin in this way, Teachers feel closely connected with those around them, and thus show a sincere interest in the joys and problems of their employees, colleagues, students, clients, and loved ones.

Mikhail Gorbachev, Oprah Winfrey, Pope John Paul II, Ralph Nader, John Wooden, and Margaret Mead are examples of Teacher Idealists.

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The End League – A Review

“Finding Hope in Hopelessness”
“Living in a post-JLA world”

Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Mat Broome
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

There isn’t much to do with an iconic super hero team. Most teams seem to be versions of either the Justice League (or the Justice Society or the historically nitpicky) or the Avengers. But whenever someone wants to examine the mythic or iconic nature of heroes, they tend to deconstruct the Justice League. From The Authority to the Squadron Supreme, all roads begin with the JLA. So what happens when you turn the conventions of a super hero book on its head?

“I had, and have always, sought to use my power for ethical and moral purposes. For this the world branded me a hero as if I was behaving extraordinarily.” –Astonishman

Cynicism led to arrogance as his faith in humanity eroded and now Astonishman lives with the guilt of his choices using regret to fuel his mission. With Astonishman, we have a tortured main character set against a dystopian landscape. He believes himself to be living a lie as a hero since, in a moment of arrogance, he accidently destroyed the world in May 1962. Led by bad information and arrogance, he set off what would called “The Green Event”. Three billion people died and of the survivors, 1 in a 10000 would mutate ushering in the age of super heroes. The Magnificents would inherit the earth.

The seemingly cheesy names–Astonishman, Brother Occult, Arachna Kid, etc.—were inspired by different eras of comic book history. A simpler time when the idea of super heroes first stamped themselves on our cultural consciousness. It’s a perfect example of the continuing problem with the book: a good idea that stumbles in the execution.

“The only difference between a good man and a bad one … good men don’t act on the evil impulses we all have.” –Astonishman

At this point, The End League would seem little different than a darker version of The 4400, Rising Stars, or Heroes, which is why Remender adds one more twist to fully set the stage. As if in a parallel universe where evil is the natural state of things, the heroes being the story in hiding and on the run. The villains cut down most of them in a coordinated attack, essentially winning the day and achieving what villains have always dreamed of: world domination. The heroes scramble to survive, defending a society which searches for scraps of food among what’s left of their world.

“A chance for redemption will present itself.” –Mother Hive

Some might call this a pessimistic view of humanity. After all, the essential message of the book is that with super powers, humanity would wreck the world in months instead of centuries. That there are more people operating as “self-seeking egotists” than good; unfortunately, it seems to be a bleak worldview shaped by current events.

The End League, as well as its precursor (for the historically nitpicky) the Squadron of Righteousness, both were imperfect vessels. We could almost call them a church, a group of gifted ones living and gathering as communities of people for the sake of a greater cause. They were a collective embodiment of a new way of living, trying to build a better world, and setting an example simply by being. Their existence alone brings hope, if they live out their mission to be a blessing to others and participate in the redemption of creation. Sure, they’ve screwed up along the way in their arrogance and certainty, operating out of their own might and influence. So the book examines the issue of what gives hope to the mission; what gives light to those living in utter darkness. Because hope is what anyone needs to go on and people can only operate out of a clear understanding of what it is they hope in.

The End League is a bit of a mess. At least the first issue, it suffers from too much exposition as it sets up the world we are entering. It’s difficult to create and populate an entirely new universe, especially within the confines of his high concept. Remender leans on our familiarity with the DC archetypes (Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash) then mixes in Marvel ones for variety (Spider-Man, Captain America) rather than introducing any of the characters. The exquisite art makes up for any drag in story rendering action sequences with a deft touch, but reading Astonishman brood issue after issue will get old really quick.

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The Damned: Prodigal Sons – A Review

Weekend at Eddie’s
“The Things a Father will Do”

You’d think Eddie’s got it made, wouldn’t ya? Sure he’s been kicked plenty by the demonic crime families, maybe even more than his fair share—but them’s the breaks when you’ve sold your soul and ended up cursed for your troubles. Even considering his habit of getting in over his head where the infernal are concerned, Eddie’s managed to wriggle out from under Big All Aligheri’s thumb and position himself as the owner of The Gehenna Room nightclub. And even though he has a knack for futzing around where the demons don’t want him, it don’t hurt none that he also has this knack for coming back from the dead if anybody touches his corpse—leaving whoever touched him pushing up daisies In his place … when he dies, even for a short time, he catches a glimpse of a ghostly otherworld populated with lost souls, one of whom might be his own dear old mother.

A sequel to Bunn and Hurtt’s demon noir tale The Damned was inevitable as well as appreciated. There were plenty of questions about our hero, Eddie, and his past remaining. Rather than tread water, the duo mines new territory by focusing on family. Eddie springs from the tradition of the Jim Rockford (The Rockford Files), the private investigator who dives into situations and often gets his butt kicked. Cursed by beings known as the Verlochin, Eddie meanders along confidently as the loner, his actions and choices impact those around him, even those he thought left behind like his equally cursed brother (Morgan) and gone-but-not-forgotten mother.

“Ya could at least pretend to care that I’m the one who gets marked every time ya pull one of yer grifts.” –Morgan

The layered story involves flashbacks from Eddie and Morgan’s childhood when they witnessed their father making deals with demons, the love/hate relationship between the brothers (every time Eddie dies, his brother Morgan receives a new scar), and the intriguing family dynamic surrounding demon adversary and his own daughter. But it all comes back to Eddie.

Eddie believes himself fully in control of his various dealings and situations. His foolish plans stem from him thinking that he has everything figured out. Thus he ends up dead for a good chunk of the series while his corpse is whisked from one bad scenario to a worse one. One of the axioms thrown at people is that once you hit rock bottom, once reached the end of your ability to do things on your own, God has you exactly where He wants you: dependent on Him. That might be one way of looking at a prodigal son.

“There ain’t no coming back from the dead. At least not for most of us.” –Morgan

The story of the prodigal son is found in Luke 15:11-32. Basically, there was a man with two sons, both of whom he wanted to follow in his footsteps. The prodigal decided to ask for his share of the inheritance so that he could live life on his own terms, while the other remained with his father. Soon, however, the road got rough and the prodigal ended up doing all sorts of things to survive, eventually hitting rock bottom. He realized that he had placed himself in that situation, prayed about it, and returned home. His father ran to him when he saw him and prepared a huge celebration for him in order to say “welcome home.” In other words, it is a story of ruin and reconciliation – a story of a spiritual journey.

When you understand the culture of the original story, you understand that when the prodigal asks his father for his share of the inheritance, he was wishing that his father were dead. When the father runs to the son, he shames himself (first century Jewish men never ran). But the father didn’t stop loving him because he’s rebelled and failed. The son beat himself up with the consequences of his decisions.

The subtext of Eddie’s dilemma is that each time he dies, he’s transported to a kind of purgatory while he waits for a resurrection. His life is one of continuing mistakes and continual rebirths, hopefully the wiser at each turn. The prodigal’s conviction of faith has to be a matter of repentance; to the life he was meant to lead, and then be reconciled with the people in his life. That’s what marks most journeys, mistakes and moving forward.

The Father remains his father and has an inheritance he can’t squander.

Based solidly in character, the non-stop action of The Damned: Prodigal Sons delivers both horror and darkly comic turns. Bunn, with a solid ear for dialogue and a tight script, crams a lot into the reading experience with his dense script and Hurtt is phenomenal at capturing the gloom of the story. Not only does he deliver action sequences, but he captures the emotions of the characters in every panel.

During the Oni Press panel at Comic Con, Cullen Bunn announced his upcoming horror graphic novel, The Hollows. Due in 2009, it gives us something else to look forward to.

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Eat This Kaufmann

Since I’ve probably been dropped from all of the Christian feeds I was on over the weekend

(swiped from Sofia Coppola, I mean, Nick Kaufmann)

Your result for The Director Who Films Your Life Test…

Quentin Tarantino

Your film will be 49% romantic, 31% comedy, 42% complex plot, and a $ 42 million budget.

Wow! What a life you have led thus far! Action-packed, anti-social with probably dark humor. Quentin hasn’t really made many films, but each successive one is a bigger and grander project … and more violent. Karate CHOP! Your life story will probably star Michael Madsen, Uma Thurman, or some TV or movie star from the 1980s for which your film will be the comeback — let’s say Emilio Estevez. Maybe. Quentin’s short directing resume includes Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2.

Take The Director Who Films Your Life Test at HelloQuizzy

[Now forget about the bad man from the weekend. These were not the boobies you were looking for.]

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God of the Boobies*

Back when I was in Youth Group, we went on a one of those week long retreats, pretty similar to an intense Bible Camp. Well, during the free time of our first day, a group of us were in a swimming pool and a group of us were frolicking about merrily when one of my friends lost her bikini top. This happened right in front of me and another kid who happened to be three years my junior. After a few moments, I pointed out to her that she had lost her top. She grabbed it, ducked underwater, came up a little red-cheeked from the experience, but otherwise intact. We had a good laugh about it. The only lingering tell-tale sign that something transcendent had occurred was only in the fact that for the rest of that week, the kid who was my junior followed her around like a lost puppy. It was as if he’d seen the face of God and now lived in expectation of seeing Him again.

As I recalled that formative moment from my youth, I had an epiphany: I have a one word proof text for the existence of God: boobies. All me to exegete this from Scripture:

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

God made everything. Including boobies.

“A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.” Proverbs 5:19

See? We’re commanded to be satisfied in them. Who can’t get behind a God like that? And there’s even a textual example as Solomon rolls out the big pimpin’ lines (though I don’t know what kind of women he was hanging out with as he kept comparing boobies to fawns earlier in the book):

“Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.”” Song of Solomon 7:7-8

That’s why they call these books the wisdom passages! Holla if you hear me! Even Aaron had to raise his hands in the air and wave them like he just didn’t care:

“Aaron waved the breasts and the right thigh before the LORD as a wave offering, as Moses commanded.” Leviticus 9:21

And for those who doubt the application of such a revelation, go see my friend Evie expound on how the church is like a bra.**

I can’t relate at all to folks taking a verse out of context and building a whole message out of it. But I obviously have time to kill. I have no idea why I’m always on speaking probation at my church. That’s why we have this blog. MauriceBroaddus.com: your one-stop shop for theology and boobies.

Yeah, I probably won’t be asked to write anymore tracts. Hey, I’ve been sick and I’m high on medication. That’s right, boy, I’ve been cooking up some Thera Flu.

*Um, all of you daughters of Eve may want to go ahead and skip this one. BTW, the alternative title for this one was “My Bible brings all the boys to the yard”

**Hmm, why don’t I post this on a Saturday when people are less likely to be reading this.

An Atheist and a “Pastor” Go to a Convention Part I

Folks often ask me about the kind of conversations I get into, so I thought I’d begin a bit of an on-going series involving one. With B’s permission, I am reprinting parts of our conversation. My question to you is how would you respond to B’s questions and the issues he brings up? (Be warned, I’ll probably make a blog out of the more interesting responses).

Hello Maurice!

I am the atheist, B, that you met last Friday evening at the InConjunction session titled “Religion and Science – Can there ever be peace between the two?”

You had told me during the panel discussion last Friday, and then again when I bought your book, that I’d like Wrath. And I assume I will. I would like to meet Mr. White or see him in action in your suggested “debate” type of event. But, at the risk of always focusing on the negative, I’m a little surprised at what you and he both write in the foreword and afterword of your book.

You write, “We’re both men of faith.” This would be a major insult to me as an atheist. But it’s not for Mr. White? I think that’s surprising given the atheists I know. I find that Christian believers are constantly trying to bring the atheist down to their level when it comes to standards for establishing the truth of our reality. You did the same during the session last Friday by saying atheists have “faith.” I do not have “faith” according to how Christians use the word. I’d like to think that if you give me solid evidence to the contrary, I’ll back down on even the propositions that I hold to be the most certain. Please try to understand that my attempting to maintain an open mind is not the same as lacking certainty.

“We each are on our own spiritual journey…” I consider myself spiritual in a loose definition of the word, but it’s not the definition for the word “spiritual” that believers in the supernatural use. Again, I’m surprised that you feel comfortable in describing Mr. White that way – inferring that he accepts this.

And then, in the afterword, Mr. White writes “Or, we could do the honorable thing and admit that neither of us know anything about these big cosmological questions with anything approaching absolute certainty…” This again brings me back to the panel discussion last Friday where persons repeatedly tried to infer that we, as humans, cannot know anything with confidence or “certainty” thus putting religious propositions on equal footing with known physical realities. Is that honest?

I’m ready to state that after my investigations, I am certain the Christian God and Jesus as “Christ” are not realities. There is no practical evidence that the Christian God participates in our reality. There’s no practical evidence that a man can lie dead and decaying for 2.5 days and be resurrected. Nature, as shown through science, doesn’t provide for these things to have happened. In addition, the known history of the world, of mankind, of religions in general and the history of Christianity, in particular, shows that it’s very common that man creates god and that people, for their own reasons, buy into it. The history of the Christian Bible, the history of Christianity, shows man’s fingerprints, not God’s.

And the human race has only been around for a very short time compared to the history of the universe, the history of the Earth and the history of life on Earth. And a lot of what is known today, wasn’t known very long ago – especially in relation to the history of the human race. Galileo only publicized that the Earth was not the center of the Earth in 1610. Newton published his theories of motion and gravity in 1687. Einstein published his theory of relativity in 1917. Hubble “discovered” the universe outside of the Milky Way in 1930 when he”saw” less than a handful of galaxies. Now we can “see” billions of galaxies, with an average of 1 billion stars per galaxy. It’s only been in the last 10-15 years that the human genome has been mapped and compared to other animals. We now have genetics to show the underlying processes that result in the evolution of life. Genetic analysis in combination with archaeology has given us some good information on the migration of the human race around the world (everyone alive today shares a common male ancestor who lived some 60,000-80,000 years ago in Africa). Only recently has the background microwave radiation of the universe been mapped to help show the pattern of the universe’s formation and its development. And research into quantum electrodynamic mechanics is helping to describe the mechanisms that provide all matter and energy.

Amid all this, Christians expect the Bible, a collection of letters and stories written by men thousands of years ago (The first independent evidence for the NT gospels is Justin Martyr in 150AD) to supercede what we know as the truth of our reality – the truths we know about nature. I won’t pretend that we “know” everything. I won’t pretend that some of what we know may need refining and maybe some of it is just plain wrong. But we know enough with enough confidence that I know the Christian Bible is wrong about God and Jesus as “Christ.”

And we haven’t even touched the subject of human psychology and human motivations that result in “belief” despite the evidence to the contrary. If the Christian God does exist, then he’s provided me with so much proof that he doesn’t exist, it’s so completely one-sided, that I can’t possibly think he’s a reality without giving up my honesty and personal integrity or my sanity.

Just so you know, I don’t write all of this solely to be antagonistic – but rather, to provide you the ability to compare my perspectives to what you’ve gotten from Mr. White. And you seem to be open to at least hearing other perspectives. Perhaps, if the opportunity presents itself, I will have a role to play in future events involving Mr. White. I’m not much in the way of a polished public speaker, but I have studied and thought through a lot of relevant information.

-B

to be continued …

Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

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Church Should be Like a Cover Letter

I enjoy getting constructive criticism. The need for helpful feedback has been hammered home to me as a writer. Not complaints: you have to earn the right to complain and most folks only get to complain to me only if they also come with a solution or how THEY can make it better (with that as my policy, I get surprisingly few complaints).

I remember a couple of comments I received after our Mo*Con III service. It ran along the lines of “the service was often insightful, but it needed a good editor.” I get that, we were trying to cram a lot into that one service. However, it got me thinking about church services in general.

Every now and then, we’re prone to being over-produced or are guilty of trying too hard. With the ease of multi-media technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to inflict sensory overload on a group. This can lead to the exact opposite of what we want: creating an atmosphere of chaos, leaving participants unable to retain anything because so much was going on.

I like the wisdom and perspective Kelli Dunlap provided (NOTE: the words “wisdom”, “perspective”, and “Kelli” were all used in the same sentence). She suggested that when we get a lot of newcomers to the church, we ought to do a beginner’s service. A sort of intro to the philosophy of our church, one that explores the idea of what we try to be and why we do what we do. Then she compared church services to cover letters. They should include:

Title – the theme of the day
Word count – how well we met the guidelines
Valid/relevant publications – how we live out the mission/the core message

They should not be an academic resume that goes on and on. Just something to keep in mind. I know I will. What do you think?

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Gen Con 2008 V: Gamer’s Delight – A Wrap Up

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16

From what I was told, that Matthew verse was Gary E. Gygax’s favorite Scripture and goes a long way to illuminating how Gary chose to live his life. Gary, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons and founder of Gen Con, passed away earlier this year. His death sent reverberations throughout the gaming world and at Gen Con we were reminded of not only his legacy, but also of how many lives he touched. As D&D; sees its 4th edition this year, the equivalent of seeing a new pope, his loss was felt by the entire gaming community and community is what Gen Con is all about.

Gen Con is kind of like taking the typical high school hierarchy and inverting it. Suddenly the A/V squad, band members, and chess club as shoving jocks into lockers (literally, as Colts fans anxious to tour the newly opened Lukas Stadium had to give way to a parade of stormtroopers).

We all want a place where we can be included, where we can be who we are and not only accepted, but understood. For many folks, conventions like Gen Con are family reunions, where the blood of the family is found in their united passion for all things related to gaming.
The gaming community/culture encompasses writers, artists (like Steve and Becky Gilberts), gamers, collectors, role-players, filkers, and a whole host of like-minded individuals. The overwhelming spectacle of costumes, exhibits, games and activities takes four days to experience. Or at least do as much as possible. By Sunday, the body breaks down and almost everyone has “gamer’s cough”, that rasp from talking, laughing, partying, and gaming too much (while sleeping too little).

Of course there’s a hierarchy of nerds. Where would we be as a society and culture if we weren’t able to compartmentalize folks or better yet, rank them. Of course I consider myself in the upper echelon of nerdom (he who makes the list is automatically at the top). I’m good for a little Dungeons and Dragons, maybe a few games of Magic: the Gathering. I like my share of sci-fi shows. Star Trek (Deep Space Nine was the best. This isn’t even a discussion.) Babylon 5. Farscape. Dr. Who (Tom Baker and Christopher Eccleston – this isn’t even a discussion). So I’ll leave you with a few last Gen Con thoughts:

-Lucien Soulban was robbed at the ENnies!
-Seriously, spandex wasn’t made for everyone.
-Black nerds unite! (Cause we represented at Gen Con)
(And I may have one more follow up piece to the Gen Con Experience. I had to earn my free press pass.)

Gen Con 2008 IV: Christian Gamers Part II

Continued from Part I: The Sinister Minister and the Geek Preacher
Is this another way people can learn to minister to others through gaming?

Derek: We, as Christians, need to be social. We need to get outside the four walls of the church and be in our communities in every way. If you love to game, get out there and game. If you love to play golf, get out there and play golf with everybody else. Don’t segregate yourselves. We have ghettoized ourselves as a community and we need to break down the four walls, get out there, and be Christians and love people. And let them know we are Christians. Don’t just be a nice person. Let them know that “I’m a Christian and I’m going to love and care for you.” Do it in our games and do it in our every day lives.

Dave: Two stories about that. Seven years ago, I was living in an apartment and got a new neighbor. I was at work, my wife was helping them unpack, and said “oh, Dungeons and Dragons books. My husband used to play that kind of stuff. Fantasy’s not my genre and D&D; is not what I usually play, but I thought, “hey, it’s a way to get to know the neighbor.” And what was nifty was that on a Tuesday night, around 8:30, put the kids to bed, knock on the door and say “hey, how about we play for an hour.” That was really convenient. We got to know them really well and within five months, he started coming to church with me and he and his wife were baptized. He asked me if I would be the one who would baptize him and I was really honored.

But, a sadder story, is that a year and a half ago, a friend of a friend, who had just joined my game, died in his sleep. He was just 25 and it was real obvious that he wasn’t leading a godly life. But I was never able to bring up the topic of God to him. And the opportunity was closed. I decided from that point that anyone at my gaming table was going to know where I stand and if there’s any way that I can help, I will do that.

How can people better develop a sense of discernment when it comes to gaming?

Dave: I suppose the same way you develop discernment in any category: you learn by making mistakes. The only way to get good is to start off being bad.

Andy: I think prayer is key in everything that we do. When we’re trusting God to lead us, I think God will do that for us. And I think God will give us discernment even if we’re not emotionally or spiritually mature enough to have that discernment. If we’re trusting in Him, I think He comes through for us.

Derek: I’d add to it get a good education. We have so many people who are woefully ignorant about the origins of things. I am an uber-geek. At nine years old, I read Bullfinch’s mythology. So I understood when I read the D&D; books that this was based off Greek mythology. Many kids don’t have a good, classical education nor do their parents. Being married to a teacher makes me say this as well. So get a good education, have prayer, and the Bible better be central to a good Christian’s life in that. There’s no pat answer, you just have to work at it.

In light of all of the “what would Jesus do?” slogan, would Jesus game?

Dave: I think he certainly would. He sat and ate with “sinners”. He met the woman at the well and spoke with her. There’s a book called God Loves the Freaks (it’s the book centered on the site FansForChrist.org). In it, he takes the approach that Jesus approached everyone differently. He walks up to Zaccheus and says “hey, I’m going to have dinner at your house tonight.” And he talked to the wise young ruler, who was not all that wise, and said “I want you to give away all that you have and then come follow me.” He didn’t have any pat answers or pat approaches. He used people where they are as a way to get into their lives. And if Jesus was trying to minister to a gaming community, he would sit down and he would start gaming.

Derek: I would say that there’s not an easy answer to that question. I’m sure Jesus played games as a child. I’m sure He played games and used his imagination. A great book that I read was Christ the Lord by Anne Rice. Of course it was a fictionalized account of Jesus’ childhood but I think she does a great job of talking about some things.

But I also view Jesus’ life as His vocation. Jesus came for a purpose. So while He is fully man and fully God, I think sometimes we try to bring Jesus down to our level and that negates His vocation. What would Jesus do? Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. Jesus came to die on a cross to redeem an entire world that we might be resurrected and have new bodies and have a new life for all eternity with Him. When we ask ourselves those questions, we miss the central part of who Jesus is and that is the Redeemer of the world.

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Gen Con 2008 IV: Christian Gamers Part I

“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” –Proverbs 16:33

The Church has a lot in common with gaming, from arguing over which edition (version) to use to arguing over the minutiae of gaming rules. So on a related note, the Christian Gamers Guild, founded in 1996, is an online community of Christians who play games of all kinds. They believe that “Christians have too long allowed non-Christians to dominate the imagined world of role-playing, which was originally inspired by Christian men like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (not to mention Dante, John Bunyan, and John Milton). And that it’s time to be a creative force in role-playing and other forms of faming for the true author of all creativity and imagination, Almighty God Himself.”

The Christian Gamers Guild not only had a panel on what it means to be a Christian gamer, but also held a standing room only traditional church service: including hymns, a sermon, and communion. Reverend Derek White preached out of Galatians 2:14-16 about the branding of the church, that what should define it should be to remember the poor, to be inclusive, and to love.
I had the chance to sit down with Rev. White, a United Methodist Church pastor; Dave Mattingly, the president of BlackWyrm Games, the exectutive director of the Games Publishers Association, and vice president of the Christian Gamers Guild; and Andy Mathews, the art director for Hero Games (Derek and Andy pictured).
How did the Christian Gamers Guild get started?

Dave: It’s primarily a mailing list, people gathering together to talk about how their games affect their faith and how their faith affects their games. Various issues of how do you deal with evil in a role-playing game or magic; where do you draw the line between what is good/right, and what is a hobby.

At your panel, you discussed the idea of honoring God in gaming. What sort of issues are involved in that?

Derek: At its plainest, we should be honoring God in all aspects of our life. As long as you honor Him in everything that you do, you’ll honor Him in your gaming.

Dave: And this is not a hard line in the sand of “you have to do this” and “you have to do that”. If you feel uncomfortable doing a certain thing in a game then don’t do it. We went through the “weaker brother argument” which is where some people feel okay eating meat that was sacrificed to a pagan idol and some did not. So when you’re with your friends who don’t feel comfortable, then don’t eat that pagan-sacrificed meat around them. But when you’re by yourself or with other who feel like you do, then it’s fine. You can go ahead and, in a super hero game, send your heroes to hell and have them make a deal with a demon to get back home. As long as those around the table are all okay with it, then it works.

Why do you think the church, as a whole, has been hesitant to embrace gaming?

Dave: A lot of it came from the suicide of Irving Pulling in the early 80s. A woman had lost track of her son for two years and blamed gaming. It’s a long story, but to us it looks like a case of bad parenting rather than some books. He struggled with manic depression and had been off his medication, yet it wasn’t her fault, it was these “weird” games that must’ve done it.

Derek: To add to that, I think today more and more churches are becoming open to gamers. Not as much as we’d like, but for the church to survive, and to be true to the biblical text, it must be inclusive.
And to many more than gamers. And I think that’s the easiest way. “So you’re going to reject someone because you don’t like gaming?” My response has been “good, because I don’t like golfers.”

Andy: In a lot of ways, gaming suffered from some bad design decisions and bad press. Some of the early D&D; books—Fiends Folio, Dieties and Demi-gods—it would be easy for someone not ready for it to see that and think the entire game was slanted against Christianity. The fact that you can play evil characters rubbed my mother the wrong way.

Derek: Even though Gary (Gygax) said in numerous Dragon articles that you shouldn’t play evil characters. He put it there so that there could be a balance of the alignments so that the DM would have the evil characters. But Gary, the game’s creator, steadfastly referred to [D&D;] as heroic fantasy and that’s what he always wanted to see people do. Now don’t get me wrong, he didn’t mind seeing them take a bad path or a dark turn, but it would be like falling away and coming back.

How would you respond to people saying that magic is glorified through role-playing?

Derek: The first thing I’d do is laugh to be honest. I know people that I’ve talked to, that are friends, who are Wiccans or pagans and they laugh at the concept because their own view of these spells are so completely different. A lot of it was just Gary’s sense of humor. To say that it glorifies magic, I’d say “okay, then what about you guys that like to play Risk or Axis and Allies? Are you glorifying war? Or Monopoly … so you glorify greed?” It’s nothing more than a game. You glorify what you want to glorify.

Dave: One of the things we can do is show that evil does have consequences. The game master can say “okay, if you really want to torture your prisoner for information when there’s no real need to … you can do that but it will come back on you.”

Do you think there is a moral stumbling block to playing evil characters?

Dave: As a game master, we have to role play evil characters: we are all of the antagonists in one person. While the player characters play heroes. Sometimes we have to come up with sick, twisted characters and play them out in order to make our heroes shine more brightly.

Derek: I’d have to agree with that. But I’ve seen some people work through some issues playing evil characters. As I’ve run games, and I’ve had people want to play an evil character, sure I’ll let them do that because I like to tell a story and I want my game worlds to be consistent. They face the consequences of their actions. But I’ve also seen these people, some Christian, some adamantly not, want to turn their character around and want to make their character better. And sometimes I see people just go down this dark, dark path and I realized—as a friend, not as a minis
ter, but as a friend—that they were dealing with some issues in their own lives and they were trying to find an outlet in the game. The thing is, as a mature friend, what do I do? Do I condemn them or say “wait a second”? to me, it’s like any other game. When I was playing baseball with my brothers and I’d see my brother just pounding the ball it was just coming off, I knew my brother was angry about something. There’s always something going on.

That’s the good thing about the social aspect of a game, is that in the many games I’ve just played in as a player, other folks will come up to me and say “you know, his girlfriend just broke up with him.” It lets me see them as a real human being.

(to be continued)