February 7, 2019

Some Christians Don't Want You to Have Fun

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Dancing, rock music, pre-marital sex and masturbation, alcohol and drugs, role-playing games, yoga, comic books, video games, and books that are not sufficiently Christian are just a few of the things many Christians have opposed. Some have gone so far as to characterize these things as evil. Some insist that they may lead you to hell. It often seems like many Christians devote much of their lives to prevent others from having fun. Why? What business is it of theirs, and why would they possibly care?

Do these Christians genuinely believe that pursuits like these will corrupt people, leading them to stay from whatever might be defined as Christian values? Is it pleasure itself which they oppose or just every pleasure that does not involve Jesus? Perhaps they think that people will be more receptive to their preferred god if they are sufficiently bored and miserable. And what is it that they expect people to do instead of all these things? It seems like even the most pious Christian would eventually tire of going to church, prayer, and bible study.

I exaggerate, of course. There are plenty of Christian-approved activities in which one can participate that don't involve church, prayer, or bible study. One can, for example, watch Pat Robertson and others like him on TV. One can probably participate in certain sports, play Christian-approved board games with friends, and so on. It is just that when most of us consult the list of Christian-approved activities, especially if we are adolescents at the time, we find it difficult to imagine the appeal of most of them.

While attending a Christian college, I was often baffled by what the more fundamentalist-oriented Christians did for "fun." While the rest of us were going to parties, football games, bars, concerts, and dance clubs, they stayed put in the dorms. While we were abusing various substances, listening to loud music, and having sex, they were quietly playing cards (but only the Christian-approved card games), watching Christian-themed movies, and holding their own bible study groups. They had the same hormones raging inside them as we did, so I guess there must have been plenty of cold showers.

We seemed to inhabit very different realities. I think that at least some of them probably did regard how they spent their evenings as "fun" because they didn't know any better. This was how they were raised, and none seemed to have had any different experiences. But I also suspect that some had the suspicion that they might be missing something. I remember some being very curious about some of what we did and having lots of questions for us. I was even told on a few occasions that they sometimes wished they could join in. Of course, they would not because what we were doing was "sinful." I felt sorry for them but accepted that it was their choice to reject unsanctioned pleasure.

What I have not been able to accept is the tendency for some of these Christians to decide that it is not enough for them to choose not to participate but to take the additional step of trying to ruin it for others. In college, the few who did this usually called campus security or even the police to report us for our assorted "sins," but I was usually willing to forgive those misguided efforts. The ones I have a harder time with are those where Christians like this take over school boards and ban books or manage to attain political office and ban everything else.

I will happily place the refusal of an individual Christian to have fun in the category of religious freedom. What I have a much harder time with is doing the same for Christians who band together to impose their choices on the rest of us so that we no longer have a choice. The same goes for religiously motivated bigotry and church-state violations. One's right to religious freedom cannot be permitted to impinge upon the rights of others or to violate the separation of church and state.