17 May 2015

Burning Crosses

Religion and D&D is a touchy subject and I certainly don't mean to inflame anyone with this post. However, strong religious beliefs did play negatively into my gaming life and my social life in general in the 1970's. I would therefore be remiss if I didn't speak on the subject, however briefly.

A couple of caveats before I begin:

I'm a "live and let live" kind of fellow. I've no issue with your personal beliefs or lack thereof. If you want to play the game and are able to interact with other adults of the same interest in a wholesome way? You're welcome at any game I run.

Second, don't be a dick. If this post, in spite of the fact I'm not naming or slamming any particular faith, pushes your buttons? Stop reading and move on to something else. Don't "call me out" or take me to task. I'm merely reporting actual events and avoiding value judgment on some of the actors in this little play.

Still here? Read on ...

As I've stated, I grew up on a small Texas town. Never mind which one, that's personal and frankly it's information you really don't need. It's enough to know the folks of that town, indeed the entire region of this rather large state, were god-fearing folk.

The first omen was a simple one. I was at a friend's house and we were puttering around the backyard (garden to you UK folks). We were moving some debris caused by a recent storm from the fence-line to a compost heap when I saw something odd and passingly familiar sticking out. Curious, I poked at it to learn it was half a Ouija Board, the other half presumably buried somewhere within the midden heap. My friend saw my puzzled expression and related how his mom had learned the Ouija Board was a "tool of the devil" and had destroyed his before he could succumb to its power.

Okay. Well, as I've said I'm a big believer in folks doing what they wish so long as they don't break the law. I filed it under "curiosities" in my brain and mostly forgot about it.

So D&D comes along and when folks learned I played it I started getting stories about that, too. Like how the rules were based upon the Satanic Bible. Or, the magic spells in the game were real and I could lose my eternal soul to the demons those spells conjured up. One woman burst into tears as she told me about a boy who had "a real curse" put on him by another player ... and he died a few days later don't you know. My favorite, however, was the well-intentioned but rather scary woman who held her hands high and loudly rebuked the power of Satan within me for playing "that devil game" as onlookers gawked. My reply to these sorts of gambits was to either laugh out loud when folks brought them up, or reply along the lines "playing D&D makes you a real Wizard much like playing Monopoly makes you a real slum lord. It's a game!"

Now, don't get me wrong. I was never in fear of my physical safety over my participation in what I feel was a harmless hobby. However I was insulted, talked down to, dismissed, made fun of, and had folks go out of their way to frighten what they believed was an impressionable young man (I was anything but that) on the road to ruin. So I could say my mental health was threatened. And I did lose a few friends over it, though mostly relationships with certain ones cooled a lot rather than just stopped altogether. The whole episode taught me a lot about folks who may mean well but still leave harm in their wake.

Keep in mind, my parents and the people in funny hats of my particular sect of Christianity had no issue at all with me playing this or any other game. My folks saw me socially interacting in a positive manner with boys and girls of my age group and this was thought of as a good thing. The priest of our church reacted similarly to how I reacted when I approached him with the "devil game" stories I'd been getting from that other Christian denomination. He laughed then assured me I was in no danger of eternal damnation. 

So there you have it. I've no doubt others had no issues at all and I'm just as certain still others had far worse experiences than mine. I've always done as I pleased and hang anyone who didn't like it. That didn't make me popular with the "conform at all costs" types of persons out there, but that really wasn't an issue to me. I'll take a handful of friends who genuinely care about me over a crowd of folks whose interest is a fleeting, fickle thing.

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