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I recently discovered that the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon from my childhood is on YouTube. I’ve watched a few of the episodes, and it’s got me feeling rather nostalgic for those days. I have always loved that kind of stuff ever since I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Hobbit. It wasn’t long until I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was in middle school. I continued to play D&D, as well as other role playing games, throughout high school and college. And in recent years I have even begun to return to it as a part of family game night.

The interesting thing for me is that, when I first started playing during the 80’s, many people believed that Dungeons and Dragons was satanic and a form of spiritual warfare against children. Even my own mother (whom I will still mercilessly tease about this!), at one point, forbade me to play the game based on this hysteria that was sweeping the country. While some hold outs still believe this, for the vast majority of people time has proven the accusation to be false.

There is something else, however, that reminds me of those days in my life. That is when I find myself looking at something my daughter enjoys now, as a parent, and wondering if it’s actually good for her. There are certainly some things that I have forbidden her to watch, listen to or be a part of, and she is no happier about it than I was when it happened to me. When I do that, I sometimes find myself wondering if I am simply doing the same thing as people freaking out over a game that, as it turned out, was not only fairly innocent, but also tended to be good for you. How can we as parents know the difference between legalistic and prudish hysteria, and a genuine concern for the things our children may be putting inside their heads?

Certainly, there are some no-brainers. Those are things like pornography, extreme and non-contextual violence, and things of that nature.  But for many things it is not that clear. And it is there that we struggle to do what’s right, while at the same time giving our children the freedom to grow and learn and experience things as we did when we were children.

In our faith, we are often encouraged to judge by the fruit something produces (see Matthew 7:15). I think that is an excellent way to proceed here as well. Are the things that we are doing, the things that we are watching, the things that we are listening to, bearing good fruit in our lives, or are they bearing bad fruit?  Are they helping us to grow and become better people, or are they slowing our growth or worse yet pushing us in a bad direction? Now of course, anything can be abused and used for evil, including God’s Word itself. You have to look at the outcomes, the fruit, in a totality when you make your decision.

For example, one of the people that I played role playing games with the most (including the game Call of Cthulhu which was a horror role playing game based on the writings of HP Lovecraft, and that would certainly have given Pat Robertson conniption fits) was one of the people that was instrumental in leading me back to Christ when I fell away during high school.  The connections and friendships that I made through role-playing games were definitely evidence of good fruit born in my life.

In the end, I think my mom has it right. Her response now, when I tease her about it, is simply this, “I didn’t really know what it was, but I heard it might be dangerous. So I took precautions. But once I realized that it was actually fine, I let you play.”  That was good parenting.  And I hope my own daughter will one day come to realize the same thing about the decisions I make for her.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)