Leah Libresco on LARPing and conversion

Leah Libresco on LARPing and conversion October 9, 2012

LARPing (Live Action Role Playing for all you non-Geeks) is basically a new form of combined gaming and storytelling (think D and D) in which you get to inhabit your character’s skin.  Fundamentalists were greatly exercised about all this some years back, since stuff with magic and spells  and stuff was regarded as pure evil (except when Tolkien and Lewis do it).  Of course, the reality is that fantasy and science fiction, like all other forms of human imagination, can be used for good or evil.  One thing it has led to, as Leah points out, is encounters with the holy as LARPers put themselves inside the skins of, for instance, Nightcrawler: a devout Catholic mutant from the X Men.

The Catholic tradition has long gotten that we internalize the truths of the revelation best by seeing it lived out in somebody else.  So Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” and tells us to make use of the “riches of his inheritance in the saints.”  We are baby duck and we imprint on others.  What the cult of the saints (and great fiction) does for us is give us human beings who show us how to be human and saints who show us how to be saints).  They aren’t perfect, but then neither are we.  So they give us doorways into Christ.

All of this is deeply incarnational, which is to say, deeply Christian.  It is the curse of our age to fear and suspect human models and insist instead on diagrams and abstractions.  I am Christian, in no small part, because of Christians I have known.  Far less important are abstract ideas.  That’s why sinful Christians (and I’m down there with the worst) are so damaging to the Faith, while stupid ideas typically have much less impact.

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  • Bob

    I agree and would heartily endorse the statement about being a Christian because of other Christians, not because I was entirely intellectually convinced.

    But then again (and I am sure you would agree) ideas (even abstract ideas) don’t exist out there in a Platonic cloud. People have ideas, and people do things to themselves and others according to their ideas. Ideas matter because they reflect the people who have them, and because of their potential or actual consequences.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Nightcrawler was/is my favorite of the X-Men/Excalibur for much the same reason.

  • In all fairness, if you mean the whole kerfuffle over the D and D game when it first came out all those years ago, at that time Fundamentalists didn’t always make exceptions for Lewis or Tolkien either. I remember reading an article about some even going after E.T. because of Elliot’s healing. So it was, if nothing else, consistent.

    • beccolina

      Wasn’t there a big-to-do about the movie Willow as well? I remember my sister and I going, and being very excited because we were finally old enough to go to a movie by ourselves. Then someone heard something from somewhere about the makers having a pact with the devil for the movie’s success and we had to go to confession. Enter years of unnecessary “Catholic Guilt” for enjoying fantasy.

      • Wouldn’t surprise me any. Though by the time Willow came out, that hardcore assault was diminishing by the month. Ironically, part of the fundamentalist movement’s obsession with all things Satan was a reaction to the pop-culture’s obsession with all things Satan. Not just movies and TV movies (back in the day of the TV Movie of the Week). Those news programs that were beginning to emphasize sensationalism over substance made quite a stir of it as well. I remember a nighttime special once hosted by none other than a young Geraldo Rivera (before the Al Capone debacle), where the whole subject was Satanism in America, with stories about all those evil, satanic rights young people were getting involved with. By the mid-80s, it already began to fade, and some fundamentalist leaning Protestants began to be OK with Tolkien or Lewis. I can’t speak to where Catholics were at that point.

  • Diagrams are problematic because they simplify, but abstractions are the means by which the finite human mind grasps the infinite. Our rational intellect builds all our relationships with other people by a process of abstraction: it takes raw sensory data and sorts it into categories and matches experiences with each other and draws conclusions about the world around us – including the recognition that other people are people like ourselves, and that some love me and some are jerks toward me and so on.

    This is why stupid ideas have so much more impact than sinful Christians (even those as sinful as myself): because an idea communicates something about the infinity of reality, and a bad idea teaches us to misunderstand or even reject reality on a universal level. It can reach more people in a moment than any one of us can connect with in a lifetime. Indeed, even the impact that a sinful Christian has on any of us is only through our ability to abstract and form ideas, to compare ideas, to draw conclusions.

    Don’t go all nominalist on us, Mark!

  • Mk299

    Quick clarification, which I also posted over on Leah’s site:
    “Just a quibble – LARP is actually not mentioned in this story anywhere. Ms. Edwards just says she “role-play[ed] the character in a comic book RPG,” which was likely a pen & paper game like D&D, as most gamers distinguish between LARP and table-top gaming. LARP is often seen as the extreme fringe of collaborative storytelling games – every subculture has to look down on somebody!

    I realize that this may not have any interest for those outside the geek-sphere, but it’s a notable distinction for those inside the subculture like myself. Thanks for stories like this, though – always good to hear about other Catholic Nerds!”