Role-playing games hold no appeal for me. In fact, they never have. To be honest, whenever I tried to play, it felt like endless set-up without actually getting to any kind of game playing. Besides the fact that I find that sort of thing boring, I don’t like the lack of originality. When you play, you’re bound both by the original rules set up for the game and the social norms that your community of players creates. This includes limits on the types of beings that inhabit your RPG world and what they can or cannot do.
I find that somewhat strange. Most RPGs are based on fantasy, which is the one genre in which there are absolutely no rules whatsoever. In fantasy, you can have animals that talk; jelly beans flavored like ear wax or vomit; magic rings that make the wearer invisible; wizards turned useless in the presence of silver; and yes, sparkly vampires. (Those are all examples from real books.*) You can even have a horse with wings and a horn that changes color every five minutes while whistling the Hallelujah Chorus. No one is allowed to say to you, ‘That can’t happen. Your horse can’t change color and sing, horses don’t do that,” because in your world, they do.
Just because I like to read random things, I was looking up the phoenix recently. I came across this Wiki and was greatly amused by this quote from the text:
The bird was also said to regenerate when hurt or wounded by a foe, thus being almost immortal and invincible — a symbol of fire and divinity. This concept was mirrored with slight falsification to it in the famous and common movies, Harry Potter.
I found the idea that the Phoenix can be “falsified” to be a little silly. After all, it’s a mythical being, i.e., not real. One might say that a person took liberties with what is written about a make-believe creature, but the fact remains, these are still imaginary creatures and there is no copyright on them. There is nothing wrong with creating new legends. (The same applies to those diamond-skinned vampires, by the way, for all you haters. Newsflash: Vampires are already not real; who cares if someone reimagines it? Or are you just jealous that you didn’t think of it first?)
Anyway, I’m off the topic. My point is that RPGs create an artificial reality in which the mythological and magical beings are constructed a certain way. It doesn’t leave room for those color-changing winged unicorns. Not only that, there are many different games and types of games, each with their own legends and rules. Unfortunately, the same thing has happened within the church.
We have fractured into so many branches, denominations, and individual churches, each with our own doctrines, constructs, and styles. Unlike the different RPGs, however, we fight over our differences. Some churches switch denominations when a change in policy is made. Sometimes a church splits internally when the leadership is divided over an issue. The splinters become smaller and smaller, and we end up competing for resources (namely, people and their money). It becomes less about spreading the gospel and more about who is right.
The problem with this is that often, the rules we create are not necessarily any more correct in one denomination than another. Most churches believe they are lifting their doctrinal statements straight from Scripture. The problem with that belief is that only one interpretation is theoretically correct. So if it matters, then someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong.
Instead of arguing about it, we might try listening to each other. If we admit that we don’t have all the answers, and perhaps even that it doesn’t matter whether we do, we create open space to hear one another. But if we stamp our feet and insist on demanding absolutes, we close those doors. Let’s not make it permanent.