Imagery
M. Joseph Young
March 2003

  Eight months ago we began exploring ways of bring our faith to bear on our games.  In that time, we looked at quite a variety of ideas.  We said that you could play the Good Guys, characters who shared at least part of your faith; but that you could also play the Bad Guys, showing the nature of evil and possibly making others examine their own hearts through this.  Fantasy was recommended, as magic demands we consider the possibility of the supernatural world; and it was suggested that the existence of that supernatural world view demanded that Justice prevail in the worlds we create.  We spoke of glorifying God by being The Best players we could be.  We considered reflecting in our characters the Awe which should naturally follow from being in the presence of a god.  Last month we added Wisdom to the list of things that reflect a belief in God.

  As we come to the end of two years of this series, I realize that there is a far more subtle means of bringing our faith into our games.  It has many expressions, but ultimately all of them can be summed up as one form or another of imagery.

  I started to think about this after reading an article praising the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer for its Christian themes and ideals.  Among the observations, it was said that when Buffy gave her life to save the world, she extended her arms into the shape of a cross.  That was not, perhaps, the clearest image of our faith in the series, but it got me thinking.  How many movies and television shows have such images in the background, informing and guiding them?

  But literal images, pictures of things in the background, don't work well in role playing games.  Here I am inclined to think in terms of a different kind of image, a word picture or story picture which carries a seed of the gospel.  For these, we do better to turn to literature than to the visual media; and in literature we find many such images.

  I am always struck by the number of messianic flashes in The Lord of the Rings.  Not one of the characters is The Messiah; yet several of them have clearly messianic roles.

  • Gandalf fights against the evil spirit powers, taking the battle into the depths of the earth, and returning to a new life in a new body; he then is revealed as the new head of the council of wizards, casting down the traitor.
  • Aragorn is the long-awaited king.  He enters the world of the dead, and leads them forth against the armies arrayed against his city.  In this connection, it is notable that his throne is being held by the Stewards, as we are all stewards of the grace given.
  • Frodo is himself a redeemer, who must carry the burden of the evil of others into the very land of evil and cast it into the fires to destroy it and so free the world.

  These are just the most notable examples, the major messianic images in the story.  It is littered with other parallels, subtle references to messages in scripture.

  Similarly, in The Chronicles of Narnia, we all see in Aslan the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who gives his life for the traitor and returns to life again, who is active in the creation of the world and who heals and frees those imprisoned by the witch.  Yet there are many other images which connect the stories to our faith.  The High King Peter is something of a messianic image, coming back when needed to set things right.  The witch who captures Prince Rillian takes the guise of a great snake, and attempts to take power by charming him into giving it to her while pretending she is giving it to him.

  Marty McCall has an album entitled Images of Faith; the title song wonderfully paints pictures, snapshots that immediately call bits of truth to mind--a boat in the desert, a rainbow, a dove, a tree in a garden, a star, a cross, a tomb.  Not all of these work in every setting; but often you can bring a trace of faith into a game world through an image, an idea that recalls the story.

  After all, most people already know many of the Bible stories, and a good part of the gospel.  This doesn't mean we never have to tell them; but it does mean that we can often do better by reminding them, by bringing the truth to mind through hints and images.

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