Curiosity is Not a Sin and Ignorance is Not a Virtue

Growing up, I had a fascination with all things fantastic. I especially loved everything that had to do with what is commonly known as “Heroic Fantasy”. I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was in the fifth grade and I was a skilled player of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) by the time I entered junior high school.

I grew up in a relatively strict Christian household and while my obsession with Tolkien never seemed to bother my parents, my love of fantasy role-play most certainly did. They never outright forbid me from playing the game – after all, the kids with whom I played AD&D were the smarter and more polite of my friends – but they sure as hell frowned upon it with a vengeance.

My folks never actually read any of the AD&D rulebooks or sat in on a gaming session to see first-hand what it was all about. They were satisfied to let the likes of Pat Robertson do the research for them and they accepted his determinations on the subject. This was, of course, akin to believing David Duke could offer up a fair assessment of the ACLU.

The reasons presented to me for my parents’ disapproval of fantasy role-playing games such as AD&D centered on the fact that in such games there exists an evil element (the game’s antagonists) which includes but is not limited to witches, demons, and even The Devil himself. My counter-arguments that both my Tolkien novels and the Holy Bible itself contain such elements found no purchase with them. To this day, I am certain they do not understand what I saw in AD&D; from my viewpoint, playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was an important part of my social development.

Head in the Sand is a Known Failed Policy

I’ve encountered this phenomenon over and over again throughout my life: the complete exclusion of something under deliberate ignorance. More often than not, this voluntary naiveté is religiously driven. There seems to be this idea that Christians should not expose themselves to anything perceived as not being "from God". The fact that this idea is paradoxical – someone has to expose themselves to it in order to determine if it’s evil – is lost on many and often times the wrong things are looked upon with disdain or even protested. There are several groups, for example, that find Harry Potter to be morally unacceptable, though I doubt most members of said groups have even completed a single Harry Potter novel.

Voluntarily perpetuating ignorance is, regardless of the reasons, a ridiculous notion. I consider myself a Christian man, but I have no problem with Harry Potter and I’ve even read the entertaining piece of fiction by Anton LaVey entitled, quite unimaginatively, The Satanic Bible. People like my dear mom (who wouldn’t even gaze upon such a book’s cover) might be, in the case of The Satanic Bible anyway, completely correct that there is nothing to be gained from reading such garbage. That doesn’t mean, however, that reading it is bad or wrong. And in my experience, knowledge is usually better than ignorance.

My favorite television show of all time is a genius piece of work by Joss Whedon called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fortunately, it flew low under most conservatives’ radar, but it still has its haters. But anyone who thinks this show goes against God and the teachings of Christ only exposes their vast ignorance to the world. In fact, only someone who has not bothered to watch it would say such a thing. With all its immortal demons and powerful witches, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most intelligent, uplifting and morally grounded television shows ever committed to film.

Consider the following scene – from the Season Six finale – in which the weapon Xander uses to defeat the black witch his beloved best friend Willow has become is LOVE.

Willow: You can't stop this.

Xander: Yeah, I get that. It's just — where else am I going to go? You've been my best friend my whole life. World gonna end — where else would I want to be?

Willow: Is this the master plan? You're going to stop me by telling me you love me?

Xander: Well, I was going to walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but it seemed kinda cartoony.

Willow: Still making jokes.

Xander: I'm not joking. I know you're in pain. I can't imagine the pain you're in. I know you're about to do something apocalyptically evil and stupid and hey, still want to hang. You're Willow.

Willow: Don't call me th—

Xander: First day of kindergarten you cried 'cause you broke the yellow crayon and you were too afraid to tell anyone. You've come pretty far, ending the world, not a terrific notion but the thing is, yeah. I love you. I loved crayon-breaky Willow and I love scary veiny Willow. So if I'm going out, it's here. You wanna kill the world you start with me. I've earned that.

Willow: You think I won't?

Xander: It doesn't matter. I'll still love you.

This makes Willow furious.

Willow: Shut up.

Willow makes a slashing motion in the air.

Xander stops as three large cuts open on his face, as if she scratched them there. He winces, touches the blood on his face and looks at it. Then, at her.

Xander: I love you.

She slashes at him again.

Xander's shirt tears at the shoulder as larger, deeper wounds appear. He almost doubles over from the pain. But, again, he looks at her.

Xander: I love–

She blasts him with a bolt of energy, knocking him down. She looks at him, her face etched with sorrow.
On Xander, as he picks himself up. He catches his breath, stares up at her again. Then begins to stagger toward her.

Xander: (through the pain) I… love you.

Willow: Shut up.

She blasts him again. He grunts at the impact, but this time, he doesn't go down. As if her assault has lost some of its strength.

Xander: I love you, Willow.

Willow: (tears starting to flow) Stop…

She sends another blast, but he barely registers it when it hits him. He keeps coming.

Xander: I love you.

He reaches her and she starts to hit him, with her fists, shaking her head. He withstands her blows, but on his injured body, they do inflict pain.

Willow falls to her knees, sobbing. Her hands over her eyes, her black hair suddenly morphs back to its normal red. Xander gently puts a hand on her shoulder.

Xander: (softly) I love you.

Now, knowing that Jesus’ message was that of love, it’s hard to see how this scene (or indeed any other in the entire seven-season run, when taken in context) could be construed as going against God.

It often takes no more than a title or a misunderstood premise to begin a witch-hunt, but if you just immediately assume that anything that is called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that contains demons and witches must be inherently evil, you miss out on some incredibly wonderful and inspirational stuff.

My faith is strong enough to withstand reading silly things like The Satanic Bible and playing AD&D. And because I don’t succumb to deliberate ignorance, my faith is made even stronger by many of the things a lot of Christians are afraid to experience.

I wonder who coined the phrase “Ignorance is bliss”. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Jesus.

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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19 Responses to Curiosity is Not a Sin and Ignorance is Not a Virtue

  1. bouche says:

    Well said.I grew up in a similar household, only I don't think my parents would have cared about AD&D, I've actually played it once at a friends without protest. In my house, certain and most forms of music were evil. It's strange to wrestle with what we're told versus what we know and how we feel concerning the things we're told are evil and should avoid. If anything, instead of repelling be from music, it propelled me deeper into hearing it all for myself. There hasn't had been a single instance of music that has had the effect on me they would like to believe it would have. BTW. Buffy is an awesome show. I'm one season shy of having them all on DVD.

  2. Lauri says:

    Very good, Kirk! :)))When asked I pull out my favorite verse in the Bible (paraphrased for my convenience) When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment he said "Love the lord your god with all your heart, soul, mind and your neighbor as yourself"Ok, the "Mind" is the one I love to emphasize! Jesus wasn't a dork, but many of his followers are. 😛

  3. Auds says:

    Hehe I just read about the Harry Potter debate in my Written Argumentation class, a peer is doing her paper on the subject. It's really amazing what some people construe as evil or destructive to the mind/soul, I can only hope they really just didn't read it. I guess the question is if ignorance is more forgivable than plain idiocracy.

  4. IG says:

    Ah, I love you, Brother Kirk. This is excellent. Love the Buffy reference–huge fan, great scene–Dark Willow rocks.

  5. Cortadito says:

    Great post and absolutely true!

  6. Jody says:

    Excellent post!!

    You basically hit on the reasons why I feel I have to call
    my faith something other than born-again or non-denominational Christian. I grew up as a Pastor's Kid; AD&D was
    forbidden to me (though I did start playing in college and continue to do so
    now with Yod, my sister, and her hubby – who is the DM).

    I've always held the belief that God is all-powerful and
    that knowledge is power. I also believe
    that reading fiction or questioning your faith do not automatically make you a
    non-believer or evil or any less of a Christian. Matter of fact, I find it to be quite the opposite.

    Did Jesus stay out of the slums of cities because evil was
    done there, or did He go forth and choose the discarded, the unclean, the
    sinners, and the lower class as his disciples?
    If God is love, is He not, then, ALL love?

    I distinctly remember the "thou shall have no gods
    before me" part of the Bible, but I must've missed the "thou shall
    stick thy head in sand and ignore the world" passage.

  7. Amen Kirk, bloody Amen!I was raised catholic, but am now a Agnostic, Shinto, Buddhist. I love fantasy novels and movies, comics and played AD&D and many other RPGs.I find it interesting that the Christian right says reading Harry Potter will condem you to hell, especially when matched by a couple of recent movies they tried to co-opt as being Christian movies recently.First they said that The Lion, the With and the Wardrobe was one for them, "Hello! It's got a WITCH right in the title> WTF?!?!"Second they said that Superman Returns was theirs, a movie where the hero had premarital sex and fathered a child with Lois, Covets his neighbour's wife (Lois again, isn't there a Commandment against this?), and steals (he left the hospital without paying for their services). These are Christian values?!?!?

  8. Kitsch is the enemy. 🙂

  9. Moira says:

    These things often amaze me as well. This was a remarkable post.

  10. Well, I can't possibly figure out what's remotely Christian about Superman Returns (maybe really crappy things = christian?)But The Narnia books are bible tales. C.S. Lewis was a good little christian soldier, and this is totally evident in the fact that one doesn't even need to scratch the surface to be inundated with uber-Christian mythology in either the book or movie.I don't know about burning in Hell, but reading the Harry Potter books certainly can't be good. Harry is a terrible role model, and the writing. Gah. It makes me twitch.

  11. Kirk says:

    "(maybe really crappy things = christian?)
    "o_O I wouldn't go that far, but okay.
    "But
    The Narnia books are bible tales. C.S. Lewis was a good little
    christian soldier, and this is totally evident in the fact that one
    doesn't even need to scratch the surface to be inundated with
    uber-Christian mythology in either the book or movie."Same goes for Tolkien, yet he seldom suffers the same abuse.
    "…reading the Harry Potter books certainly can't be good. Harry is a
    terrible role model, and the writing. Gah. It makes me twitch."And yet Rowling is the best-selling author ever.
    Go figure. It's almost as if what they teach in writing classes is sort
    of subjective, hmm? I'm thinking all the BS I learned about writing
    when I was majoring in it at the University of Washington doesn't mean
    dick next to what I've learned just by reading an immensely diverse
    selection of literature and making my own judgments.James Joyce,
    for example, is considered one of the Great Fucking Writers Of All Damn
    Time and yet I can't read him without getting a stabbing pain behind my
    eye. Does that mean he's a bad writer or that I just don't like his
    work? And does it mean that I have shitty taste in fiction if I find
    the Harry Potter stories clever and enjoyable?Elric of
    Melniboné isn't the greatest role-model, either, but I can say plainly
    that I think the Elric Saga is the best heroic fantasy ever written. So
    there you go.It would seem there's just no accounting for taste, eh? 🙂

  12. Red Pen says:

    Nice post, Kirk. People are awfully quick to judge things on surface qualities, aren't they? You made many good points to demonstrate that what people think of something at first glance may not be the opinion they would hold if they took the time to look deeper.

  13. I was joking about that ;)Because lowest common denominator fantasy SELLS. People like having things explained to them. And JK does SO MUCH DAMNED EXPLAINING. Though that's really not my problem with her. My problem is that Harry is the only really developed characters. Ron and Hermione really started getting the shaft. Rowling never bothered to give them real lives, so they always end up flat. Hell, even Anne Rice makes her supporting cast full enough to not look like cut outs next to her stars. And that's kind of my problem with Harry. Harry is so developed, and has such a gifted life thanks to his parents being the best and brightest and loaded. That he ends up being this complete asshole who is ultimately, a really bad friend. He's not heroic at all. He's not even an anti-hero, either. Hell, if people weren't trying to kill him, his character wouldn't even bother with anything.Toss The Harry Potter series up against Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, and you'll see just how flat it falls. But with an aggressive marketing campaign (no doubt bolstered by crazed Christians) and the simplest of prose. You can sell anything.I mean shit…Dianetics was a best-seller.

  14. Oh. And people only read Joyce so they can talk about how smart they think they are.Same thing with Ayn Rand.

  15. Marque says:

    Excellent post! Really, so well written and intellectual. Like you! Well, not the well written part…I mean, you are…but, ya know..the intellectual part, for sure.Oh, screw it….you rock!

  16. Budd says:

    I was interested in D&D but we were poor and I couldn't afford those expensive books. My parents would say, "D&D is evil, look how much that book costs. Here this book is a lot nicer. It is only $3, and look at that title. The Necro. . .nom. . .icon, isn't that interesting. I wonder what it means."
    I like the Harry Potter books but Rowlings forgot to have him actually learn magic in any of the books. Now he has dropped out of school and knows next to nothing about magic or the wizarding world. In a real duel with voldemort, harry would get beat down.

  17. Jeepz says:

    Yep, good post 🙂

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