This is Faith in Play #25: Impact, for December 2019.
Back in maybe 1981 when I first started explaining on contemporary Christian radio station WNNN-FM that Dungeons & Dragons™ was not some evil cult activity but a very Christian game, I was as a lone voice crying in the wilderness. In 1997 when I first posted Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons(TM) Addict, Webcrawler (the original search engine) and Yahoo! (at the time a directory maintained by people reading and indexing web pages) between them had a dozen pages on Christianity and role playing games—half of them against. So sparse was the defense of gaming against the assaults of well-meaning misguided Christians that within days of my posting that page Reverend Jim Aubuchon knew it was there and invited me to join his newly-formed Christian Role Playing Game Association, which within two years would become the Christian Gamers Guild.
I’d like to say that I immediately saw the benefit of joining my ministry with that of others. That is not how it happened—but I have told that story elsewhere. Suffice it that God saw the benefit of putting me on their team.
Today the voices that rage against the evils of role playing games have been isolated to pockets of cranks, and most of the world knows that Dungeons & Dragons™ is not a cult but just a game, and a good game at that. Meanwhile, there are so many people who in an organized way are involved in some kind of ministry involving gaming that there is a Facebook group specifically for such groups, and even though I am one of the moderators of that group and I have more than once read the article on this site naming many of them, Our Friends and Allies—August 2019 by Bryan Ray, I have no idea who they all are or what they all do.
Did we start something?
I can’t make any grand claims for the Christian Gamers Guild. When Reverend Paul Cardwell joined us for a while, he was already working with The Committee for the Advancement of Role Playing Games. I don’t know when Bill Walton launched The Escapist, but he has never been a member of our group to the best of my knowledge. Michael Stackpole and Tracy Hickman were working on rebutting anti-D&D arguments independently of me for as long as I had been doing it.
On the other hand, I know that at least a few of those currently part of that group of game and hobby ministers were at one point members of the Guild now using their talents in other ways. Further, I know that we had an impact beyond them. Just recently (now a few months ago, but only days as I draft this) someone found me on Facebook and reported that two of the articles I wrote in the late 90s (the aforementioned Confessions and the recently unburied and republished Morality and Consequences: Overlooked Roleplay Essentials) had had a positive impact on his life and marriage, as they helped persuade his wife that his gaming interest was not something evil. That was someone I helped twenty years ago of whom I only just became aware. They use to say in media that you will hear from one out of a hundred listeners or readers. That suggests there were a lot more that I helped whom I will never know were helped.
So what, am I patting myself on the back and giving praise to the organization of which I am so visible a member?
That is not my intention.
I wrote that first article because I saw a wrong that needed to be addressed. In fact, I drafted the original sometime in the mid eighties, based on notes from the arguments I’d made on the radio prior to that. I did it because I saw a need. It made it to the web in large part because I had it already largely drafted and needed material for a web site that would draw attention to the game I had just published. I had no intentions nor expectations of becoming a recognized defender of hobby games—that was God’s decision. What I want to convey to you is that if you do what God has put in front of you, if you right the wrongs you see at hand in the ways you see to do so, you will ultimately have far more impact than you imagine. You will change lives simply by becoming involved in them.
There is a local pastor whose church is not more than five miles from my house; I know him because his mother and I attend the same church. One particularly cold night he found a homeless man trying to shelter himself on the front steps of his church. He took care of that man that night—but he thought he, and his church, ought to be doing more for the many homeless on the streets of their small city. One had recently died trying to take shelter in or obtain clothes from a clothing donation box. He started opening the church sanctuary on cold or stormy winter nights for homeless people to sleep on the pews. He worked with other churches in the city and with city officials and police, establishing a program called Code Blue to identify potentially harsh weather, and soon managed to set up places where such people could sleep on such nights, not only in his city but in the two other major urban centers in our county. This was not enough; creating something called the M25 Initiative (for Matthew chapter 25), he got people working on finding and fixing abandoned houses and moving homeless families into them. They are approaching a hundred families so helped—and with their initiative, the State has passed legislation supporting such efforts in every county, and local businesses including the major hospital chain have helped fund and manage the program. (The hospital says that putting people in homes reduces the numbers coming to the Emergency Room for shelter on such nights.) Reverend Robin Weinstein has, I think, had far more impact on people’s lives than I have had, but it began because he insisted on giving a homeless man shelter on a cold night.
People always say, “Let yourself be used by God.” Yet the hearers often respond, at least within themselves, “How?” The answer is right here: do what you see in front of you to help people and correct wrongs, and God will use you in that, and open more in front of you.