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This page is a partial answer to an extended letter on another page, Difficult Questions:  Christian Life and Role Playing Games.  The reader may wish to refer to that page for a better understanding of the background of this one.  This is the first page of answers.

  First, thanks for your kind words about Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons Addict.  It's helped a lot of people, or so they say, and I'm glad to know it continues to do so.  But let me begin with the questions.

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  "What do you believe if role-playing leads a friend of yours to stumble or is a wall for them coming to God?  My roommate at college is not a Christian and he loves the idea of magic and has been looking into Wicca ever since he started reading fantasy a long time ago.  Role playing recently has set him in an even larger fervor.  I do not know what to do."

  This is certainly a difficult point; but there are several things to consider.

  Your letter has prompted me to wonder why anyone is interested in magic.  Consider for a moment how very magical it is to be human.  we have the ability to think in rational ways, to be self-aware, to perceive the concepts of good and evil, to understand the perspectives of others, and to communicate these complex ideas to each other--all of these abilities are quite magical, inexplicable apart from a belief in some kind of supernatural (or a completely irrational belief that it is all sheer luck).  We also have the abilities to change our world, to alter our environments for better or worse, to help or harm each other.  We are extremely magical creatures; so what is the basis for an interest in these other magics?  The answer lies in a feeling of inferiority, a desire to have something special, to be someone important and powerful, to be able to control things in a way which others cannot.  So perhaps the question you should be asking is this:  why does your friend wish to be more than he is?

  Everyone who feels inferior or rejected harbors a secret wish that they had the ability to change things in an unexpected way--the more unexpected the means, the better the surprise.  But God is calling to us, and telling us that we are not inferior, not rejected, but that we are loved by the One Person in all of reality Who most matters, the Creator God Himself.  He goes on to tell us not only are we individually important to Him, but we are important to each other.  Each of us has been given unique gifts which make us uniquely important in His plan and in His Body--that is, to each other.  We are individually magical in special ways.  There is a fantasy realm (I can't think of the name at the moment, but a friend once used it as a Multiverser setting) in which everyone is born with a single unique magic ability, something which only he can do.  That fantasy has more to do with reality than we might have realized:  each of us does indeed have special abilities which in combination make us unique assets in the Kingdom of God and in the world.  But few of us see ourselves this way; we are sold the lie that we are interchangeable parts in the machine of the world, that there are a million others who could replace us, and we are not needed.  As I express in my paper on Philemon, we need to see ourselves as the uniquely valuable people that we are.  Perhaps we also need to help others to see that as well, including those who, like your friend, don't know God and don't realize how significant they are.  That may be the single best way to draw someone away from witchcraft and sorcery.  I remember decades ago reading a Madeline L'Engle book which made that point:  the best weapon the truth has is love.

  Are there other things you can do?  I've got some other thoughts on the matter, and suggest that you remain open to anything that God chooses to do.

  Some years ago, I knew someone who was involved in magic.  He asked God to show him why he should turn from it, and had a dream in which he clearly saw hell; he was convinced.  But for the next several years, he told a lot of people about his dream, and warned them that they, too, were bound for hell--and could not understand why they didn't care.  But God works with each of us as individuals, and we cannot expect that others will always see what we see.

  What we can do is demonstrate that the greater magic belongs to God.  It is not something to argue, but something to believe.  I am not interested in magic, because I know that it's second-rate stuff.  The power of God is far greater.  In fact, there's an interesting aside to the story of the guy who was into magic.  He use to do psychronomy--the ability to read things about people from personal objects.  Keys were a forte.  But he met a couple of girls who were Christians, and found that he could read nothing from their keys nor from any other of their objects.  One of them told him quite frankly that it was because she was Christian, and therefore protected from his magic.  It was the first problem that he had--he had never noticed that his magic was blocked by such a thing.  Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world--and if you just live the life you're supposed to live, that will gradually become apparent to those around you.

  I remember that I had several opportunities to talk with him before he turned to Christ, and that he told me about some of his magical abilities.  I made it a point not to pontificate nor condemn, but to listen and consider his situation carefully, to ask pointed questions, and to confront him with the difference between what he thought and what was proved.  For example, he claimed that he had the power to call the wind, and that he had done this on numerous occasions.  I found this interesting, and asked if there was anyway we could test this to determine whether he really controlled the wind, or whether instead he was merely made aware that the wind was about to change and compelled to perform his ritual.  At every turn I challenged him to consider whether he really controlled the spirits and powers upon whom he called, or whether in fact they controlled him.  I went so far as to suggest that the pentagrams, hexagrams, and thaumaturgic circles which allegedly trapped evil spirits might be just a trick on their part to convince him that he was in control when it was they who controlled him, keeping him from the truth and power of God.

  What turned him around?  What changed him?  In the end, it was the love and power of God; I and the others who spoke to him were certainly part of that, but God orchestrated and choreographed the campaign which changed him.  Two things interest me.  First, although he had long been criticized for being a gamer, he continued to play and to referee, and began to understand how the truth could and should influence his fantasy; I believe he had a real impact on a number of young players through this.  Second, more clearly than anyone I ever knew, he saw the Christian life as a war between the powers of God and the forces of evil, and himself as a soldier in that fight; his sensitivity to and awareness of the spirit realm as well as his specific knowledge of the enemy gave him an intensity and focus in that war which was remarkable.  Don't give up on your friend if he seems to stray into these things--it may be that what he learns from his error will be valuable to him later.

  But you've suggested that the RPG's themselves are a problem for him.  I won't say that's not possible; I will say that people who are interested in magic will find things which increase their interest.  You might suggest moving away from swords & sorcery and into sci-fi games.  I hear that Traveler is trying to sell out the last of their inventory cheaply; I've always enjoyed StarFrontiers, and there are some old copies of that around, as well as Gamma World (although I always found that a difficult and at times depressing game).  A lot of people play StarWars or StarTrek.  There are a lot of games that are neither swords & sorcery nor sci-fi, including westerns, cops & robbers, and espionage, but they aren't as popular generally.  I could also invite you to look at the Multiverser role playing game.  You'll find that it presents magic in a way much more compatible with your faith.

  However, I think that someone who is interested in magic will look for it in all the wrong places, and there isn't much you can do about that other than being a light shining in the right direction.  You can do that both in the games and in life.

  And you also should understand something which is said in alcoholic counseling sessions and drug therapy groups and many other types of rehabilitation:  most people must reach their own bottom before they'll look for a way up.  All of us have had friends who grew away from us and into trouble; we've seen some of them come back.

  I hope that you find this helpful; if you've any more questions on this, let me know--and I'll continue this with your next question.

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