LARP vs Faith

calvin-hobbes (1)


‘Oh, I always thought you were quite… liberal.’

That’s the response I often get when people find out about my faith.

Hi, my name’s Charlotte. I went to a Church of England primary school, Sunday School, a Catholic girls secondary school and sometimes I even make it to church as an adult. As well as studying videogames in my History of Art degree I also have an interest in Christian altarpieces and liturgical items.

‘But you’re a feminist!’

Oh cool, you noticed! I mean, I don’t exactly keep that aspect of me hidden. I’m a pretty active campaigner for women’s rights to be honest and it’s hard to stay quiet about that when you believe in it so strongly.

‘And you’re non-monogamous?’

Yeah, I guess you noticed that one too. I don’t exactly keep it a secret.

‘And… you’re pansexual…’

Yes I am. Again, I don’t really hide the fact that sometimes I date people who aren’t men.

This is the point where they tell me I’m a bad Christian. Sometimes they add in that I believe in skyfaeries and therefore my views on anything else in the world shouldn’t be taken seriously. You know, just to make themselves look like a total bellend.

But today I’d like to talk specifically about attitudes to Christianity in the LARP community. And possibly religion more generally, but I really only witness it as a Christian – since that’s what I am (although I’m now hyper aware that I’m like one of those guys who says ‘I never see women being oppressed’).

There’s something I really love about most of the LARP community. It’s the fact that it’s so welcoming and tolerant of people who are different. Like last year when there was an outpouring of support for those women who had been made to feel uncomfortable because of their gender (or in the more serious cases, sexually assaulted). That was pretty fucking fantastic as a community. And there is of course the tolerance that is generally shown to those who are anything other than heterosexual. And the willingness to accept and include those who are disabled (don’t shout at me if I’ve used the wrong language – I’m sorry).

People fight for the rights of others in the LARP community. They stick up for the underdog and defend them ardently. The hobby has a massive amount of political campaigners that are actively working towards getting people a fairer deal in life. It’s brilliant. I love it.

You know what I don’t love? When those very same people mock Christians.

You see, I can’t choose my faith any more than I can choose my sexuality, my sex or my non-monogamous lifestyle. It’s who I am inside and there isn’t anything I can do about that. Asking me to ‘be sensible’ and renounce my faith is like asking me to stop finding women sexually attractive. I can’t. It’s not who I am.

It should be noted that the government believes that you can’t choose to be faithful either. Religion is a protected characteristic. Would you like to see the list of protected characteristics? There’s nine of them.

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

So I guess what that says to me, is that if you wouldn’t mock someone because of their sex, their preference in bed, their physical disability, their mental illness, the country that they’re from, or their age… then you probably should reconsider why you’re willing to mock someone’s religion. You see, none of us choose to have those things happen to us – well, perhaps except getting married or getting pregnant. We don’t choose to be born with penises, to find men attractive, to have a part of our body that doesn’t function quite right or to come from a certain country, so it seems kind of out of order to make fun of those things or make us feel unwelcome because of the way that we are.

Remember that the law sets out a lowest minimum standard for us all to achieve. We shouldn’t feel proud that we don’t take the piss out of someones sexual orientation for example. We should not take the piss because we’re good human beings. And it should be that way with religion too – taking the piss out of it, well, it’s just a bit sad really as far as I can tell and shows that someone isn’t actually as tolerant and kind as they’d perhaps like people to believe.

And if you’re considering using items from someone’s faith in your LARP setting, or for your characters costume… then please do so considerately. Just as you would for any other aspect of a person.

  • michaeljk

    Hey Charlotte, thank you for pointing out the difficulty on Religious intolerance in LARP, I do agree that there are some intolerant people out there. But let us also remember that some people are also intolerant of alternate religions including Pagan. Above all people who are in the LARP circuit need to remember it is JUST A GAME. Characters take on their own form, and in some cases can ruin the game for everyone. Religion is a deeply held belief and in todays world a landmine. The Church of England (Anglican) and the Episcopal (American version) is one of the more progressive sects of the christian (small c) religion. Let us always hope that tolerance and understanding, in the end, wins for all sides.

  • Lizy Townshend

    I have to say, I respectfully disagree that religion is as immutable a facet of personality as sexual orientation or gender, nor a biological feature as sex or disability. In my opinion it is much more similar to political affiliation, which is not a protected characteristic – but which nevertheless many people recognize the rudeness of starting an usually heated and fruitless argument on, especially at a Larp. It remains a choice, however culturally or preferentially ingrained it may be.

  • Benjamin Wenham

    I am not certain that the government does think that faith is something you can’t choose, even if it does, that is no real indicators of whether it is something that is a choice. I thinks that the legal protections given to relgions (but not say, musical taste or political opinion) are far more neatly explained as the result of the historically priviliaged position of faith. For me, as a person without faith, the protections offered to people of faith, look a lot more like unequal protection of political views, with theirs being protected, because their based on faith, while mine are not protected despite my efforts to ensure they are born of rationality.

    Is religion a choice?

    I would suggest that it is pretty clearly a choice, in that people regularly make choices about faith, be it people converting(or changing sect) out of changing beliefs, or for reasons of marriage, or the whole sale abandonment of faith as a system thought. There is an apparent pre-disposition towards towards magical thinking associated with possessing the gene VMAT2, but not everyone who has it is religious, and one of the apparent factors are what we might term elements of choice.

    But there is every reason to believe that political beliefs, or choice of football team have ratios of choice to non-choice. After all, most people vote the same as their parents (just as most people hold the same faith as their parent.) people are as willing to try and spread their political views as their faith, people are about as equally unwilling to change their beliefs in a political movement as they are in a religion, and so on.

    Yet one has many legal protections that the other does not.

    The inconsistency is, to me, jarring.

    All that said, your faith or lack their in matter very little to me under almost all circumstances. I have yet to see a successfully reasoned argument for how your belief can be rational, so please forgive me if I do not consider it such, but beyond that it really isn’t my business and I am more than happy to support your right to believe whatever you want.

    Your beliefs only matter to me when they start causing you to behave in damaging ways. In your case that doesn’y seem to be a problem, but in lots of peoples cases, it is a MASSIVE problem. From attempts to teach stuff that is provably non-sense in science classes, to monolithic support of gender inequality, to pursuit of incredibly stupid approaches to sex education, through to ingrained support structures for homophobia, to denial of minors effective medical treatment, to the genital mutilation of children of both genders, there are so many places where faith is a huge part of the problem, and the legal protection faith and the often undue reverence their for , are barriers to fighting these issues