I have heard it said many times in many different places that adults have forgotten how to play. Somewhere in between recess in elementary school and adulthood we have forgotten how to play and we are in desperate need to rediscover play. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps we have. We put down our dodge balls and picked up a beer glass. We put aside our board games and replace them with textbooks, committee reports, or tax forms.
However, after purchasing the core Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks I’m inclined to believe there are some among us that haven’t forgotten. They are the role play gamers. They are the cosplayers. They are the board gamers. They are the video gamers. They are the planeswalkers. These are the people who have let their imaginations soar, and I am honored to call many of them my friends and blessed to be counted as one of their number.
It was a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor that gave me permission as an adult to play. His Star Wars game was the first time I picked up a twenty-sided dice. At first I played an utterly ridiculous four-armed, canine Jedi Knight. And I had no idea how to play. I had my character purchase a black tunic, a pair of black pants, and a crushed, purple velvet cape. Because of how ridiculous I let my character become, the shop owner gave him a large red hat with a large red feather plume for free. This was my character’s first away mission and he was supposed to be traveling incognito and inconspicuously. Needless to say I failed miserably. The Game Master (that Lutheran pastor) took pity on me and allowed me to create a new character for the next game. My next character was an ambitious, fish-like starship mechanic. He plied his trade across the star lanes in his tricked out starship and with a loyal, yet snarky crew. My character became free transport for the group as a favor to the Jedi Order. My character had one fault I’m afraid: he was a compulsive gambler. On the away mission, while the Jedi were off doing their own business, my character found a local bar and invited himself to a card game. Yes as ridiculous as it may sound, I was playing a game within a game. It didn’t take long with a few bad rolls of the dice for my character to become indebted to the house. It required the group’s benefactor, a benevolent Hutt, to bail my character out.
In the years since that Star Wars game I have lead a few of my own and played some equally colorful characters. I have played a Pentecostal missionary turned New Testament Scholar and Roman Catholic Cardinal c1920 in an H.P. Lovecraft inspired game. I have played a knight in the year c650 in a game inspired by Le Morte D’Arthur. I’ve played a priestess of the Cult of Istus (goddess of Fate) in a D&D adventure. Currently I am playing one of the seven archdeacons of London who serves the crown and the archbishop as a professor at Oxford, diplomat, spy, and paranormal investigator in a steampunk game set in Victorian London.
Are you seeing a bit of a pattern? Jedi. Cardinal. Religious knight. Priestess. Archdeacon. Anyone surprised I feel called to ordination? And why am I sharing all this insanity and fun? I share this for two reasons.
One, I have read a great deal about the anxiety surrounding Christian beliefs. Well, I call it anxiety. So much ink has been used and (when you consider the centuries of violence) blood spilled over the rightness of a particular set of Christian beliefs. But I have let my imagination soar. And I have considered mysteries far stranger than a triune God, a God-Man that is somehow 100% God and 100% man, bread and wine that either stops being bread and wine and starts being God or the bread and wine continues to be both bread and wine and also holds God. I say this not to belittle the mysteries of the faith but to say that I accept them for what they are: mysteries. I don’t claim to understand them but because I have played such weird and wonderful games, I have come to simply assert that I don’t need to try to understand. Instead I try to live into them by loving deeply, serving passionately, and praying unceasingly. Or to quote the prophet Micah: do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God.
The second reason is to invite all who read this to play. Sometimes it is a vacation, paid or otherwise. Perhaps play a game, any kind of game for the point is to play! Perhaps it is a Sabbath time alone, in a group, or with a special someone. It will enliven your faith in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine.
Reflection by Carl J. Fosnaugh, IV
Carl is an Alumni of the Floral House Community who is currently working toward teaching licensure at Capital University as well as theological studies at Bexley Seabury. Aside from icons (of which he has several), the Daily Office and high church worship are each strong parts of Carl’s spirituality. Carl is a self-described “huge nerd with loves of history, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, film, and Biblical languages.” Carl also practices the Korean sword-based martial art known as Moojung Gumdo