Thursday, October 18, 2007

Spiritual Roleplaying II

Since a more narrative approach can reinforce a Christian worldview, is that good enough? Not always.

Back in high school, I knew a lot of gamers who seemed to think that the vicarious experience they gained from games was roughly equivalent to life experience. It isn't. For one thing, it's possible to be fooled. I pulled an apparently clever trick in a D&D game once that I later discovered was physically impossible--yet the justification that I used and my DM/ref accepted was physics!

Free Clue #1: You can fool the ref, but you can't fool God.

But sometimes the very nature of the game situation is contradictory. For example, a lot of Christian groups (especially youth groups) roleplay witnessing and similar situations. It makes sense: by playacting the situation, newbies get used to the unfamiliar aspects in a safe environment.

This is why it's a catastrophically bad idea:

Witnessing (like the other things they enjoy roleplaying) is a spiritual phenomenon. Sound familiar? The great weakness of RPGs is handling spiritual matters--and here it is far worse. When you are really witnessing, you can count on God to inspire you. Will he inspire you with the hypothetically right approach to a hypothetical situation? No. (God doesn't seem to like hypothetical questions, probably because on spiritual topics in particular, they turn from reality to unreality.)

So what do you learn from these exercises? Well, if God isn't helping you, you learn to rely on your own wisdom rather than God's. Does that sound like a good idea? Yet this sort of exercise is extremely common, at least in the U.S. (and thus probably in many other places). The proper way to learn witnessing is either to jump out and do it or pair up with someone more experienced. (This used to be called discipleship.) If you pair up, you give prayer and other support to the guy who's doing the main work, and then you trade off, and your mentor can help you when you get into trouble.

Of course, we aren't going to do that, because like parents reading to their kids instead of plunking them down in front of the tube, it takes time and effort.

You might try it anyway.

In the next post, I'll try to sum all this up.

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