Lately my news feed has been lighting up with a number of stories about the 1980s Dungeons & Dragons satanic panic. Geek & Sundry, The New York Times, copycat articles, they all point out the irony of the fear a great number of religious leaders and concerned parents had about the game.
It turns out Dungeons & Dragons isn’t an entry point into a satanic cult after all, but rather just a collaborative game you can play with your friends. It turns out Dungeons & Dragons is pretty great after all, inspiring creative minds, teaching math & social skills, and all sorts of other wonderful boons.
And here’s the thing, I’m eating this up. Well… most of it. I mean, who doesn’t love calling out religious moralists? Even Jesus did it. (I’m looking at you Pharisees.) People’s cheap scapegoating of Dungeons & Dragons, and continued scapegoating of new forms of entertainment and technology, is shown for what it is in these articles: avoidance of the real issues at the heart of human life.
But there’s a part of the story that I’m not on board with. The narrative in these stories is about how the religious tried to fight the secular, but in the end was bested and made to look the fool. Faith is made out to be something foolish, Christian faith in particular. In the 80s the moralists’ argument was that Dungeons & Dragons was more serious than a game. Today, this Christian moralism has been shown to be foolish – so how can Christianity be taken seriously? D&D was once (and if you believe the commenters on some of these articles, is still) made out to be a playful front for sinister activity. The counter argument is that Christianity is a serious front for simple minds. “You’re a facade!” “No, you’re a facade!”
As both a Pastor and a Dungeon Master, I find myself in the gap between these arguments – unrepresented. I take both things for what they are. D&D is a fun, creativity inducing game. Following Jesus is a calling of ultimate significance and meaning. Is it possible for me to live in the truth of each thing? Put another way, can an authentic follower of Jesus engage and enjoy secular culture? Can pastors play D&D?
For me and the other pastors in my D&D campaigns, the answer is a resounding “YES!” This blog is about that answer, and all of the other interesting questions a person runs into on the way to that answer. It should be a curious adventure into the deep truth of human experience that lies behind the shallow facades of the everyday.
The most curious thing about this adventure is that its entrance stands at the crossroads where fighting dragons and following Jesus meet.