Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sekrit Religious Messages Decoded
Sometimes you need an ex-Baptist to translate current political rhetoric. (Ex-Baptist, but still very much a Christian.)

“It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others,” he wrote.

I've seen various people bitterly complaining that McCain insulted D&D players and by extension all geeks. He did deliberately evoke a lot of nasty stereotypes, and he is already in disfavor with many of the computer-literate for his own unwillingness to deal with technology. From my POV, this is all to the good. By the time the campaign is over, I hope he will have alienated the gamers, the geeks, and every other human being so that he ends up with just one vote in his favor.

I've also seen plenty of people laughing -- with reason -- at the notion that D&D players are likely to be Obama supporters. The gamers I know range from hard-core libertarian ("any fourth-grader should be able to buy heroin with the money zie has earned") to a deeply conservative Iraq War vet to a red-diaper Marxist-Leninist. Many, many gamers are at least fiscally conservative, and a good many have served their country. There was even a games-for-GIs initiative a few years ago -- remember?

This is not surprising. One of the reasons I rarely game is that so many gaming scenarios are morally simplistic, good-versus-evil morality plays, in which the Bad Guys are readily identifiable by their appearance. (A good GM can make a huge difference. Also a great gaming system like Cat.)

But neither the insult to gamers nor the linking of Obama with D&D was gratuitous. Weird as it may seem, this throwaway line was designed to make Obama look like a minion of Satan -- very much like the Internet ads implying that he is the Anti-Christ. Even Tim LaHaye, senior author of the Left Behind series, saw the allusions, and he is no milk-and-water liberal by any stretch of the imagination.

I could give you examples from my own experience, but I'll let others speak for me.

Some quotations from Evangelical writings on RPGs:

RPGs encourage Satan worship:
The words demon, devil and hell appear a total of 225 times in eight pages of Deities and Demigods (pages 16-23), and encourages the worship of them as lesser gods (page 105).

The D&D universe is not Christian:
This problem is that the cosmology of D&D is fundamentally anti-Biblical. Many of the defenders of D&D make the common mistake of assuming that because there are roles in the game for "clerics," this makes the game alright. They make this mistake because they equate Roman Catholicism and its robed clerics for Christians. They do not understand that one can be a cleric (Muslim, Buddhist, etc.) and not be a Christian.... But any game which draws people away from a true understanding of Jesus, God, salvation and the cosmos IS soul-destroying in the truest possible sense of the word. That is incalculably worse. We only have our bodies a few scant years before they turn to dust. Our souls we will have forever, and what if they have been destroyed by playing D&D? They may well end up in the fiery blackness of hell.

It lures young people into the occult:
I myself became very interested in occult things due to the constant reference to it in AD & D, and I believe that over a period it would be very hard for a non-christian to resist the attraction of the descriptions of evil things in the AD & D rule books.

Satan is like a roaring lion, prowling around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). How delighted he must be when someone starts becoming interested in him due to descriptions in the AD & D rules.

You become what you pretend to be:
The bible is the final authority on right and wrong, and if God declares in the Bible that prostitution, rape, stealing, mutilation, murder, human sacrifice, worshiping other gods, casting spells, using magic, and practicing necromancy are wrong, then should one pretend those things or become involved in a fantasy game in which one participates by imaginative role playing? NO!

Evangelicals take words and imagination more seriously than almost any other group I can think of. In gamer terms, many of them are rules lawyers, constantly obsessing over what exactly The Book says, but they honestly, profoundly believe that what's at stake is their immortal soul. And yours.

So, knowing that, it's easy to see that the linkage of Obama and RPGs is not innocent or accidental. It was a coded reference and a subtle character assassination.

There is a certain irony to the fact that this disingenuous little statement was made in defense of McCain's story that a North Vietnamese prison guard, secretly a Christian, connected with him by drawing a cross in the dirt with his toe. The world is full of secret messages.

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