Christian Dating (Third Revision)

I penned dating advice before Jess and I got married (over three years ago). Seems like a good time for a re-think now that we now have so many young single friends.

Hitch

All of us need at least a little help. (Hitch, 2005)

“How do you develop a healthy romantic relationship?” (We all ponder this)

This may be one of the biggest questions. And if you’ve read the whole Bible, you’d be surprised to find that there’s not a ton of instruction. Sure. “Avoid sexual relationships until you’re married.” “Cultivate a close relationship with Jesus.” and “Learn to love others.” But that doesn’t necessarily help young folks navigate the dangerous waters of romance. So maybe some advice will help?

“Why do you want to date?” (Ask yourself)

No, seriously. Take a moment and think about it. Why do you want to date?

Are you trying to find somebody to spend the rest of your life with? Are you in a season of life where it’s time to do that? If not, maybe it’s not a good idea to start dating. You might just be setting yourself up for heartbreak. Romantic relationships can be a source of some horrible heartbreak (duh). So you may not want to mess with something as fragile as your heart until you’re ready to pursue a spouse.

Back to the question: Why do you want to date? Is it because you feel like nobody loves you and you want to feel complete? This may come as a shock, but a romantic relationship will amplify that insecurity, not solve it.

If you’re looking for pure and unconditional love, maybe look to Jesus before you look to another screwed-up human being?

Just a suggestion.

Actually, maybe I should be more pointed? Don’t pursue for pursuit’s sake. Discover whether this somebody you could spend the rest of your life with. If they’re not the person you could build a future with, or you’re not at a point where you’re ready to do that? Don’t do it!

Yo, seriously heal yer hearts! (Overcome heartbreak)

Your heart is the most important part about you. It’s what God most treasures about you. And your heart’s health is what determines your quality of relationships.

Please don’t start a new romantic relationship when you’re heartbroken. That stuff trickles. You’ll carry all your hurts into your next endeavor even if they sit nice and tucked away for the moment.

The King of Hearts wants to heal you and make you whole again. If you haven’t worshiped God in a while, you may forget (or simply not know) that he loves to put your heart back together as you give it to him.

Heartbroken? Maybe it’s time to let Him in?

Don’t date, hang out!  (Become good friends first)

Using the term “Christian dating” can be a bit of a misnomer. The hangout seems to have replaced the 1950s model of “going out on a date.” Hanging out in group settings seems to be the best place to get to know one another. It’s at least a lot less volatile than going out to dinner and interviewing one another about what you want in life.

The hangout process is safer; less volatile. It’s less make-or-break. There’s a greater likelihood that you can remain friends if things don’t work out.

This doesn’t mean that an established couple shouldn’t be going out on dates to connect with one another. However, I do believe that healthy relationships need to develop a friendship before they get romantic. That’s why hanging out is just a good idea.

More importantly, don’t date in isolation without a community of friends around you to help navigate tricky heart-matters. Hanging out in groups can open the door for all the healthy benefits of community.

Date their friends (Value each other’s friends and family)

No I don’t mean to pursue your date’s friends. But you do need to value them and befriend them. You’re probably not courting just one person. You’re courting everybody they’re closest to.

Did you see the movie Hitch? Remember the part where Hitch teaches Albert to treat his love interest’s friends as more important than her?

In the Christian context, that’s their closest spiritual family (church). These are the people who help your love interest make their decisions. Their lives are interconnected. And you will be interconnected with them if you get married.

You must participate with them, love them, and demonstrate your true character to them. You might find that their friends become your family.

Respect one another, dangit! (Don’t be a *****)

While I wouldn’t recommend learning everything you know from 19th century English courting habits, I would absolutely recommend gentlemanly and lady-like conduct.

Gentlemen, open doors, pay, prefer her decisions over your own, and speak kindly (but honestly). Most importantly, respect her in every way. Never treat her as an object. Ladies, unlock his car door before he gets to it, don’t exploit his paying for you, prefer his decisions over your own, and speak kindly and honestly. Most importantly, respect him. Don’t bad-mouth him – to his face or behind his back.

And both of you: spend healthy time apart. You don’t have to talk to one another through Facebook Messenger incessantly. Don’t break-up or talk about breaking-up over text. If you need to have a serious conversation, have it face-to-face.  Maybe over coffee.

Since it bears repeating, let me iterate: respect one another. Seriously.

Want sexy? Become sexy. (Especially spiritually.)

Pursue the sexiest mate you can find. However, you may need to redefine “sexy.” A person’s body is not the most important part about their sex-appeal. Their emotional health may be the sexiest thing. Can you trust this person with your heart?

If so? That’s pretty sexy.

There’s a safety and an appeal to somebody who is arms-wide-heart-abandoned to God. Even the worst bad boys will admit that there’s something seriously attractive about a godly woman. One young woman told me she was attracted to a young man because of how he worships God. I don’t think this is an isolated case. I’m convinced this is a universal rule: whole-hearted God worshipers (who love God and others with pure hearts) are sexy. Additionally, nothing is more attractive than virtue and integrity. Humility is paramount! Those quick to admit when they’re wrong? Hot.

Any of this sound good to you?

Great. Now become this kind of sexy. Pursue virtue and maybe discover what it means to really follow Jesus.

Build on mountains. (Like Jesus and other healthy couples)

Once you start building your life with somebody, you’re gonna need something bigger than each other. If you claim to be a Christian, this should probably be Christ himself. Focusing entirely on one another can slowly and subtly turn your romance into a gross pile of festering sewage. A human being isn’t your goal and never should be. If they are, you could end up like my puppy, Luna, who caught a Frog in her mouth and suddenly had no idea what to do with it. You need a mission and a vision bigger than yourselves. Maybe that vision and mission could be embodying God’s Loving Kingdom in the world around you? Just a thought.

The whole purpose of a relationship is to connect. If you stop doing this when you get married, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Seek wisdom from people with time-tested relationships. If your friends haven’t ever had a relationship last more than a few months, maybe they’re not the best ones to go to for advice?

Questions? (Don’t be shy)

I missed a lot. This is by no means complete or as well-thought out as it could be. So I hope to fill that void with discussion.

What did I miss that’s important to you right now?

What have you been afraid to ask?

Voluntary Servitude GameCell

In which, our gamecell flirts with max capacity, we look at feet (with Jesus), and we play games about mopping, crawling, jazz, and hypnospace…

gamecellmay

Brian showed up early. Vince and Alex weren’t too far behind. By the time everybody trickled in, we were full to capacity. My living room sits a maximum of eleven apparently – any more than that and we’ll have to make better use of the floor.

Michael Knapp, Richie’s little brother, was our celebrity guest of the night. Since Devin hadn’t been down since his first visit nearly a year ago, we gave him honorary new guy privileges. The mass population required introductions. For an icebreaker, we asked everybody’s favorite game or media of choice. Surprisingly, Alex Carter chose the new DmC (based purely on its combat). Jeff Adams couldn’t possibly say anything other than Counterstrike (being that he’s got more hours in it than most of us have games altogether).

“So what’s GameCell about?”

GameCell is about mature engagement. With life and God and games and all the good and bad that entails. And that means we’ve got to listen to one another. The only way to do that is to make sure that the new guys have all of our attention. So we try to encourage a culture of attentiveness.

“Why do you think Jesus washed his disciples feet?”

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

- John 13:3-5

If you read the blog title, you probably have an idea. But imagine you didn’t see that. Why do you think Jesus washed his disciples f– Yes, I know you read that it’s all about voluntary servitude. But imagine you didn– Okay, I know. It’s there. You know that’s where I was going. Fine. So yeah. That’s what it was about: Jesus came to serve not to be served and he expects his disciples to do the same. Sure, it’s not a common thing to lower yourself to everybody and serve everyone, even your enemies. And you think it would be something you see more of if “2 billion people” claim to follow Christ on this planet. But that’s not quite reality, is it? That’s why the question is, are you a voluntary servant in the world around you?

cleanup

To follow the theme of serving others, we played a game about mopping. “Is mopping all you do?” they asked. “No, you have other things you can do, like pick up the remains of slain enemies and put them in an incinerator. No seriously.”

The premise behind Viscera Cleanup Detail: Shadow Warrior is that you’re the janitor that somebody hired to cleanup the mess left by the real player number one. Newbie, Michael Knapp took the helm on this one. He seemed to have the gift.

sleep

Devin likes scary games. He went straight for Among The Sleep, the horror game in which you play as a toddler. We turned off the lights. There wasn’t a single time in the game that there was an actual threat to our two-year-old hero. Tell that to the guys who left the room. Love to say that there’s more to the game beyond jump scares and creepiness. As far as we could tell from the firs half hour, seems it’s just a tense spook.

jazz

Needing a lighter tone, Josh Z selected Jazzpunk, the quirky first-person comedy published by Adult Swim. He talked to cardboard boxes, saw that his boss was a drunk, tried to sneak into a Soviet Embassy, and shot pigeons with a strange remote control.

hypno

To close out the night, Jeff opted for Hypnospace Enforcer by my buddy, Jay Tholen. Given the quick and frenetic pace of the Battletoads-Hyperbike-like action-dodging-gameplay and the entrancing tunes, the game made its way the whole way around the room. We played it for over a half hour with nobody making it past the first level. But it wasn’t for lack of want. I had to shut things down instead of us trying to get through the challenge. Everybody seemed especially fond of the drunk cat that clings to your cruiser’s roof with a big smile on his face.

And that was it. Great night.

Transistor Experimentation, Incarnational Multiplayer, and Children of Light

In which, we discuss Transistor’s experimentation, how playing with your friends is godly, and who Child of Light is for…

Oh I’m Just Sperimentin’ With My Transistor – Transistor Review

transistor

Have you ever just played a game three times through without playing anything else? And made each one of those play-throughs much longer than they need to be? That’s what I did with Transistor. I just wanted to savor every moment I had with the game. Truly loved it. Gave it a perfect score.

The Theology of Local Multiplayer

golden

I throw the word “incarnational” around like it’s candy. It’s just my way of saying “physically, mentally, and emotionally present” with those around you. It’s what Jesus was like. And I know that if Jesus played any games (none of which is documented, but highly likely) that he did it in a way that enaged with those around him because he loved them. What if our game-playing was primarilly focused on those we play with? This hour-long podcast episode talks about that.

Don’t Call Me Princess – Child of Light Review

child

Have you ever played a game that made you wish you had a daughter to play it with? Child of Light did that to me. It’s a pretty decent game with a lot of thoughtful strategy and prettyness. But it also made me feel unsuited for the game.

SportsFriends GameCell

In which, our GameCell played the Sportsfriends collection in the back yard and we discussed God and stuff.

Let’s Johan Sebastian Joust!

Young and old men alike played this game where one tries to move their opponent’s controller while keeping their own perfectly still. This was the result:

me-n-dudes
josh-john
four1
garretstalk
puller
green
winner

“Light Conversation”

After everybody got all hot and sweaty, it was time to cool off around some light conversation:

“So what do you think God’s like?”

Loved everybody’s answers, but there were two absolute favorites:

Mr. Beatty said he thought God’s like all energy but would reveal himself to people in a way they could understand. Like as a person that you could connect with (which reminded me of The Shack).

Mr Smith said he thinks God is revealed in every facet of the world around us – in each other, in our puppies, and even in plant life (which reminded me of this verse in Romans 1).

We didn’t just throw-into that question out of nowhere. Before it, We talked, heard about each other’s lives, and talked about what GameCell is about. I’m learning it’s important to allow for small distractions and get a sense of the group’s dynamic for the evening. I don’t want to be flip or awkward when dealing with heart-topics. Small-talk’s important.

Two Controllers. Four Players. Two Games.

twogames

Hokra snagged the first post-conversational game slot. It’s also the first that let us share controllers with a partner (single-controller two player) as we played four player games (on two controllers). It’s a game of purple and green squares trying to get a little black square (puck). Each of us tried to get the puck and work with our team mate to hold the puck in one of our goals. Kinda dug how this caused us to play shoulder-to-shoulder.

Then we unexpectedly found our new favorite awkward-to-control game: Super Pole Riders. It’s also got an option for four players on two controllers. It ‘s funny to try to pole vault and whip one another with pool noodles. I’m willing to bet six dollars that if you play the game for three rounds, you will giggle. We giggled like schoolgirls.

Good Night Out (Back)

bbb

We played my personal favorite Sportsfriends game, BaraBariBall, which I would describe as Smash Bros Volleyball with seven jumps instead of two.

And we had a lot of fun hanging out in the back yard.

Great night.

funoutnight

 

Can Call of Duty Get Real? Can Planning Be Fun? And Can We Brave Scary Music Worlds?

In which, we discuss whether or not Call of Duty can grow up, feeling like a vulnerable foreigner, and our unexpected love for planning…

Can Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Tackle Real-World Issues?

pmc

Is the Call of Duty marketing confronting the practices of private military contractors? Could it be that Call of Duty is actually being critical of real-world problems?

Oh I Love It When a Sang-Froid Comes Together!

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I hate planning. But Sang-Froid made me love planning. Do you think a strategic survival horror game could make you love planning?

Feeling Foreign In FRACT OSC

fract

Ever been to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language? The only thing I could compare this game to is my time in Kurdish Iraq. It made me depend on my a friend of musical talents.

Resurrection, Alzheimers, and Alpha Protocol

In which, we explore some of the best stuff from April because we’re lazy and didn’t share it until now…

Theology Gaming’s First-ever Resurrection-cast!

resurrection

A while back, we had a pretty rad Theology Gaming podcast about Resurrection where we talked about Jesus resurrection and how themes of resurrection pervade the gaming industry at large. The only times death and resurrection come up half as much as they do in Christianity is in videogames. Folks are dying and resurrecting all the time in that junk. We talked about it last month on the Theology Gaming podcast.

Ether One’s Real-World Horror

ether_one

Unlike resurrection, Alzheimers doesn’t come up too often in videogames. But back in April, it came up in two. After toying around with one, I wrote about it in length. In short, if you liked Bioshock and thought it needed more of a real-world personal touch, you should find this story about Ether One fascinating.

The Wonderful Terrible People-Pleasing Power of Alpha Protocol

alpha

Alpha Protocol’s preoccupation with flattery got me into a little bit of trouble. As much as I love the game, I do have to be honest with how much it co-opted my pre-existing fear-of-man and made me just learn how to appeal to everybody’s pride so I could “win” as a verbal conquistador. Also, it’s my first feature on Plus 10 Damage!

Sharing GameCell Over Formative Stories

In which, our GameCell talks about formative stories, we play Child of Light, and we get a visitor who wants to start something like GameCell in his own community.

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Formative Stories

“So, what stories formed you from an early age?”

Bob, being our honored guest of the evening, went first: “Hardy Boys. Chronicles of Narnia. Anything I could get my hands on, really. I think I read all of the Hardy Boys by second grade.” Alex went next. “Pokemon. My grandmother got me into it. Pretty much everything fun in my childhood was because of her.” Vince shared about his love for G.I. Joe and how much of a shock it was when he saw a cartoon where somebody actually died (Robotech). For me? Bible Stories where Noah, Jesus, and Moses were all cartoon characters.

“So what stories do you want to form your children?”

“Stories of Hope.” Vince said resolutely. “I don’t want my kids to ever be lost to despair. I want them to know that there’s always hope and that God never gives up on us.” Bob shared about reading to his four kids, but expressed how much his oldest child can’t seem to connect the Narnia series. He said he hopes that all of his kids can connect with the Bible so they see themselves in that story. Alex talked about how he wanted to empower his kids any way he could, focusing on stories that teach them to stand up to bullies. And I shared how I want my kids to experience the raw wild detail in Bible stories; maybe feel a little bit of the horror in the Noah Story, or ask me “What’s a prostitute?” when I tell them the story of Samson.

We also talked about what was going on in each other’s lives.

Bob came to visit to see how we do GameCell in hopes that he might bring some of what we’re doing back to his home church in the Harrisburg area. It was a huge privilege to have him. And I hope to soon hear his stories about trying something like GameCell within his own church family.

Also, Bob, you’re welcome back anytime!

childoflight

Child of Light

Following the theme of formative bedtime-like stories, Child of Light seemed like the perfect fit. We gave Bob a controller and told him he was now princess Aurora. Within the next hour, we went with him into a fantastic world where everybody rhymed and the world was a mess of sad beauty. Tim showed up, picked up the second controller and as a supportive firefly named Igniculus, helped Bob with the strategic turn-based battles.

childgame

Next, we changed games to show Bob some of the GameCell favourites. He won the first round of Samurai Gunn. We also busted out Towerfall Ascension and Nidhogg. Much laughter and excitement filled the room.

Tim got so into Nidhogg that he felt the need to take his shirt off.

“How Do You Do Gamecell?”

After we closed up shop and most of the guys left, Bob seemed to have a few questions.

1. “How do you get the games or decide what to play?”

If it’s a theme night, I’ll look at the games I’ve got that circle around a particular theme. A lot of the time, I’ll grab an indie game that the guys haven’t heard of but I think they’ll like. I’ve modded my PC so that it’s basically a console and we play it just like an Xbox. It helps that there’s a ton of stuff out that’s inexpensive and great for couch play. Humble Bundles help. But I realize a lot of the game selection comes down to my love for games and having a ton that I just want to share with folks.

2. “How do you come up with the content for the discussion at the beginning of the night?

Mostly I just ask the Holy Spirit and run with whatever comes to me after that. Sometimes I come up with a theme for the whole night that links to the games we play. But I always focus on questions (never more than 3). I realize that some of this is related to my gifting and makeup as a teacher/Bible-lover guy. Also, we go through the GameChurch Jesus For The Win gamer Bibles, which are first-hand accounts of Jesus’ life according to his closest disciple. Mostly, I just want dudes to see what Jesus is like and let the Text do more of the heavy lifting. We’ll just focus on a tiny little bit of it at a shot.

And now as I’m writing this, I’m wondering: Would it be helpful for me to put together all of the kinds of discussions we’ve had? Like as a guide or a list of suggestions?

3. “What would you say is the most important part of GameCell?”

I’d say listening.

So much of Gamecell is about creating a culture and group focused on the new guys. To listen to their stories. To learn from one another. But mostly to listen. That’s especially why I like to pick a single-player game for the newbie to play so we can all just experience it with them. It teaches us to appreciate each other instead of just focus on ourselves or winning or whatever.

Also, always pray. I’ve found that prayer/readiness for what the Holy Spirit wants to do? It consistently dictates the quality of our time together as a group.

Kids From Church Design Game in My Car (And Here It Is…)

In which, a conversation with young guys on a drive home from church led to a funny game you can have.

indicorn

A conversation from a drive home after church:

“What if you made an endless runner where you’re a cob of popcorn trying to avoid being popped?” Israel asked.

Isaiah smiled as he listened to his brother.

“Yeah. And he could get a sword and cuts the other already-popped popcorns to pieces.” Isaiah said.

“I dunno guys, I think it would be funnier if our corn didn’t have any weapons and he was just terrified out of his mind!” I said.

We all laughed hysterically.

Recently, Isaiah informed me that he made this game.

And you can play it now.

Enjoy.

Indiana Corn (58mb, PC Only)

No Underestimating the Walking Dead and a Theology of Exploration

In which, contributions elsewhere point-out the value of oft-overlooked folk and remind us to have an explorative theology.

No Underestimating The Walking Dead’s Protagonist

clem

Telltale’s Walking Dead: Season Two is shaping up to quite a curious tale. An eleven-year-old girl starts showing up the men in her life. And I realized that maybe this has something to do with the “least of these.” GameChurch pubbed the piece.

A Theology of Exploration (and Videogames): The Podcast

zelda_lbw

Ted, Zach and I discussed the merits of theological exploration in a diversity of traditions and the videogames that somehow relate to that. Ted related it to playing Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Zach linked it to Dark Souls, and I drew connections to Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall/Brigmore Witches. Go figure. Listen to Podcast 35: Exploration on Theology Gaming or through itunes.

Resurrection and Octodad: GameCell Recap

In which, our GameCell talked about the resurrection of Jesus and octopuses who have to make coffee.

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The Convo:

“What do you think Christianity is really about?”

I lobbed this query into a room of young men. (My suspicion was that they had the answers and maybe didn’t even know it.)

“Like, forget all hypocritical trash. What’s the real substance?”

“Like that Jesus died for our sins?” Matt replied.

“That’s an awesome point, Mr. Romano.” I said. “I like how you emphasized ‘our sins’ and made that connection to each of us. What do the rest of you guys think?”

Brian told a recent real-world good Samaritan story and how important it is to take care of others. I affirmed that that was tied to the greatest commandment. Newcomers, Garret Kraut, and Alex Hively filled in a few gaps in the story, bringing up resurrection. Alex Carter shared a bit, too. Then Vince fleshed-out how the whole story related to his experience with Jesus and the church.

“So what do you think of Jesus resurrecting from the dead?”

“Do you believe it’s true?”

Then I read this bit from John 20 in our Jesus For The Win Bibles:

Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

“So what do you think? Do you believe this?”

Garret said, “Yeah, I do believe it. I didn’t understand when I heard bible stuff before, because it was boring. But I get this.”

garret_alex

Octodad: Starring Alex as the legs and Garret as the arms

This got messy fast. Octodad is a hard game to control. That’s the fun of it. You’re an octopus trying to keep the world (and your family) from realizing that you’re a mollusk. It’s surprisingly easy as everybody in the world is pretty deluded.  You just have to be careful not to smack your wife with a toaster or beat your kids with the milk jug when you pour them a drink. Problem is, that none of that is easy. Even when you’re two dudes who are like this:

Pretty sure they had a blast. Though, it’s pretty painful to watch when all you have to do is a simple task like, “make burgers” and our heroes can’t seem to get the last burger on the daughter’s bun because their tentacles are going each way to Sunday and Alex just laughs hysterically the entire time. Very funny. Though, maybe not exactly fun to watch. Though, everybody got to enjoy the extreme sense of accomplishment when we successfully weeded the garden, brewed coffee, and hung the birdhouse on the tree.

Then it was time for something we could all be good at.

Towerfall: Ascension

Then Tim showed up with pizza!

GameCell Isn’t An Event Anymore

I told the guys I’ve messed up. I’ve treated GameCell like it’s an event. It’s not an event. GameCell is us. We are GameCell.

My mistake was in how I framed things by saying “Come to GameCell.” Instead, it should be, “Our GameCell is getting together. Wanna see what we’re like?” From here on out, people are a part of GameCell the moment they they show up. It’s up to them whether they want to own it or not.

So, would you like to be a part of our GameCell?