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Freedom of Expression: Prejudice

Faith & Gaming Expanded Edition cover by Susan VanDenhende
Susan VanDenhende, used by permission M. Joseph Young, Blackwyrm Publishing

Last week I wrote about racism, and particularly about the charge of racism, the claim that those who criticize the opinions or actions of a member of another race or class or group do so because of that irrational hatred or despite toward that group. I made the comment,

There are those who object to what I write simply because I am Christian. I still extend to everyone the benefit of the doubt, that if they criticize what I say it is because they disagree with what I say, not because of who I am or what I represent to them.

In the days which followed, I wondered whether the statement was true, and whether it was credible; I thus decided to take a moment to speak personally of my own experience as a target of discrimination. That will sound disingenuous to some; after all, I am of European extraction and a member of the dominant religion in the United States, at least historically. Yet the discrimination was real, and even in its own way vicious.

In 1997, when I began publishing articles on the Internet (I had some experience in newspaper prior to that) I posted an article for which I had been seeking a publisher for most of a decade, entitled Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons Addict™. It was intended to inform Christians that role playing games (the real ones, not the computer simulations) were not evil works of the devil but good forms of entertainment in which they ought to become involved. I got a few letters from Christians who wanted to argue that I was wrong and deceived, and quite a few more from people, some Christian and some not, thanking me for answering the questions and concerns they had in relation to such games; I also got a few letters from gamers. Most of them never got past the title of the article before firing an attack against the author, and admitted as much rather apologetically when confronted with that observation and persuaded to read what they were vilifying. One, though when I responded that the article was not an attack on D&D™ but a defense, responded that he did not care, and his objection was that I was encouraging Christians to accept and to play role playing games. He did not want people of faith, or at least of that faith, becoming involved in his hobby.

I don't know that it harmed me, although in publishing they say that every person who writes represents a hundred others who did not, so I cannot help wondering how many others out there never gave me the chance, never got past the initial impression of the piece to discover that I was not their enemy, or even who still consider me their enemy despite having read it. It strikes me as irrational; I would be interested in how they rationalize it.

The article did me more good than harm, though. It introduced me to the Christian Gamers Guild where I have served as its international chaplain for about fifteen years. Current Dungeons & Dragons™ publisher Wizards of the Coast eventually thanked me for the piece, with a very nice gift, saying that they had five people on staff whose primary job was answering such questions, and my work had made theirs so much easier. Just recently the article was republished in the collection Faith and Gaming: Revised and Expanded Edition. I know the critics are not merely wrong but narrow-minded, shallow, and prejudiced. That does not completely remove the sting of the criticism, but then, anyone who enters any public job, from writer to musician to politician, has to have a bit of a thick skin, because criticism comes with the territory. It just hurts less--really--if you are criticized for what you say instead of for what you are.

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