Not many people know “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” were once deemed as occult and burned in bonfires outside of churches.
Select churches throughout the years have disowned certain pop culture trends and have called the Christian community to crusade for their destruction.
Over the summer, I went to Origins Game Fair and attended a chapel service hosted by the Christian Gamers Guild. There, I heard of one of the attempts that a few churches made to condemn certain parts of pop culture: the Satanic Panic.
According to Vox, an online news organization, the Satanic Panic was a period from the 1960s –1990s where the entire country was caught up in mass hysteria over the occult. With serial killers gaining media coverage and cults hitting the news, select churches condemned things supposedly linked to the occult such as rock music, Dungeons & Dragons and books by Lewis and Tolkien.
Several churches simply wanted these ‘occult’ objects banned, while others took more extreme approaches. I met a man at Origins who had been given an ultimatum by his church: burn his game supplies or leave. He left the church and still harbors hatred towards Christians because of it.
Taylor University was also affected by the Satanic Panic. There is a section in our student handbook that condemns gaming.
“Because of the potentially harmful effects some roleplay games have . . . the use of certain ‘fantasy’ games and activities is discouraged at Taylor,” the student handbook reads. “Games, which emphasize a fantasy indulgence in sinful behaviors . . . are considered inappropriate.”
According to Associate Professor Shawn Denny, this section has not been changed in 31 years. Yet, in the past few years society has shifted dramatically towards accepting gaming as a culture. Several celebrities such as Vin Diesel and Stephen Colbert have publicly announced that they played roleplay games as kids.
“This is such a unique time for you,” Denny said. “Culture has shifted to become much more accepting of gaming.”
Many movies and TV shows have given roleplay games more attention. Wendy’s, the fast-food company, just came out with its own roleplay game, “Feasts of Legends”, which was released on Oct. 3.
This is also evident at Taylor as Director of Academic Technology T.R. Knight is now teaching his Game Writing Lab in partnership with Chaosium. This class and a few more like it show that gaming is a new and growing culture on campus.
There is no doubt that roleplay games are popular again, but what are we as Christians going to do about it? Are we going to ignore it, lash back or build bridges where our predecessors built walls?
There is still deep hurt among gamers because of the actions of select churches, and many still feel unwelcome and uncomfortable around Christians. If we are to live our lives as Jesus wanted us to, then we cannot ignore or condemn these people, but we should love them as Christ loved us.
There are several ministries devoted to reaching into the gaming community and sharing the love of God without condemning them. InnRoads ministries, Christian Gamers’ Guild and Game Church are just a few.
Knight has even been able to evangelize and reach many people that would never step inside a church through gaming.
“I never expected gaming to be my ministry,” Knight said. “Teaching game-related courses, hosting community game nights and working at game conventions like Gen Con has provided me opportunities to build relationships with non-Christians.”
We are called to, above all, love one another deeply. Just as with the internet, video games and cell phones, roleplay games are a part of society. Instead of disowning millions of people, we should use gaming as a way to spread his love through the gospel.