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.