Okay, nine times out of ten, mixing nerddom and religion is about as good an idea as mixing crossbows and grain alcohol. Most Nerd Sites are run like Irish pubs in Hell’s Kitchen: No religion, no politics (unofficially, at least). However, if handled with respect, there is no reason why the subject cannot occasionally be broached – as it was on this very site, not once but twice
Fact is, there are probably more than a few practicing Christian nerds here who observe Lent – primarily Catholics, Anglicans (the sect I was raised in) Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Eastern Orthodox follow this tradition. If you happen to count yourself as a member of one of these sects, perhaps this list will give you some ideas: yes, Lent started weeks ago, but better late than never! If you’ve already given something up, you can always pick something from here for next year. The way I see it, being a nerd affects every aspect of a person’s life, and exploring how it might influence a religious observance is by no means blasphemous or disrespectful (I hope!).
A quick primer for the unchurched: Lent is the 40 day period between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday which culminates with Easter (it’s 46 days, technically, but Sundays are not counted, and thus extra days needed to be added to make for a full 40 days). This year it will last from February 13 to March 30. It honors Christ’s 40 days of fasting and meditation in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. Traditionally, it is a period of repentance where one ponders one’s sins, and Christians choose an activity they enjoy and eschew it throughout the season. The Internet has already left its mark on this tradition: Lists like this one (just less specific) abound, and one site even offers, I swear, a Twitter/E-Mail /Facebook service that will send you a new thing to give up for each day of Lent! So I asked myself: What would the pious geek give up? What activities or luxuries might nerds sacrifice as penance?
Even if you do not participate in this tradition (I haven’t in 20 years), perhaps it might be interesting if you decided to test your level of self-control by giving up something on this list for 46 days (or however many you think you could stand). You might learn something about yourself.
9. D&D/Tabletop RPGs
(Granted, not ALL of these ideas will be appropriate for every nerd. That’s why there’s a variety to choose from.) Tabletop gaming may be dying a slow death at the hands of MMORPGs, but there are certainly enough hardcore players out there who would find six quest-free weeks quite trying. For the average D&D campaign member or Dungeon Master, that would mean probably six Fridays where you gain no XP and don’t get to chip in for pizza and Mountain Dew (unless you’re that one player who always “forgets” his/her wallet/purse…yeah – no one believes you, cheapskate!). And to address an old stereotype: I’ve campaigned with more than a few Christian D&D players – none of them renounced their faiths and began worshiping Satan.
8. Console Gaming
The number of households that don’t own at least ONE video game system dwindles further each year. My roomies have two PS3s, and they’re not even nerds (not that they’ll admit to, anyway)! Think you could handle 46 days without Skyrim, Arkham City, Call Of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, GTA or whatever your particular digital poison may be? This could mean one console or ALL consoles – in case you’re a Wii owner whose buddy has an Xbox, and you fear giving in to temptation.
7. Comic Books
Again, not every idea here is for every nerd reading this. I don’t read comics, myself (I just love comic book movies – go figure). Just remember that giving up something you don’t do or rarely do is the coward’s way out. I’m not here to discuss if there is a God or not, but I can say with certainty that if there is, your half-assed penitence isn’t gonna impress him – but I digress.
Comic readers are a voracious and fanatical lot – that’s why comic conventions and reality TV shows about comic fans exist. I would applaud the serious reader who was willing to make a sacrifice like this – that takes guts. Remember, though, this means ALL comics: Not just new ones…and graphic novels and manga DO count (webcomics? Hmmm…..I’d have to talk to a priest about that. And not the Paul Bettany vampire-slaying kind).
6. World of Warcraft/Online Gaming
Now we’re getting serious! NO games that require an online connection – NONE! No WoW, no DC Universe, no Star Wars: The Old Republic. For six weeks, if you wanna game, you’re either doing it by yourself, or with people who are physically in the room with you (now you have a chance to brush up on your Wii Sports skills!) And yes: Console games that have online multiplayer modes count – your Call of Duty: Black Ops clan is just gonna have to survive without you.
Let’s face it: It’s 2013. Maybe giving up TV meant something 15 years ago, but the 21st-century nerd has little or no need to watch his or her favorite shows when they’re broadcast. You just TiVo them or find them online, since no one said you were giving up the Internet (and, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t even contemplate that – we got children to feed! Okay, I don’t, but I’m sure someone who writes for this site does).
So how does today’s geek show piety? By giving up Netflix: That sweet stream of nearly endless binge-viewing; that electronic teat bursting with wholesome, nerdly goodness. Everything from nearly forgotten cult films, to current blockbusters, to TV programs of our youth, to missed seasons of shows still on the air. I can think of few ways a nerd could atone for his or her transgressions in more profound a manner – the only reason this item isn’t higher on the list is there are still a fair number of people who don’t subscribe to it (applies to streaming or DVD service, or both if you have them).
4. Junk/Fast Food
This might not strike you as particularly nerdy, but let’s face it: A lot of us have truly horrific eating habits. Sewage treatment plants process less vile and hazardous substances than many a geek’s digestive system – and I speak from experience. So this act of repentance is not only a testament to one’s faith, but a positive move health-wise as well. 46 days without chips, candy, processed snacks, and pretty much anything you can order by talking into a microphone (don’t pussy out by saying you’re giving up McDonalds, and then ordering the Filet-O-Fish) can only be good news for your toxin-soaked insides.
I’ve already advised against giving up the Internet altogether, and I meant it. We’ve become too dependent on it, nerds particularly: At this point, it’d be like asking someone to give up their telephone, or cancel their mail service for six weeks. It’s unrealistic. However, there are certain things online you can live without (kinda), temporarily. Think you could stomach 46 days free of status updates, pokes, dubious news links and Farmville?
Hey, there’s always Twitter, Tumblr, and – if you’re truly desperate – Google Plus.
(P.S. Giving up Facebook for Lent AFTER signing up for the “Sacrifice-A-Day” Facebook service mentioned in the intro is kind of a dick move)
This one hits me where I live: I actually gave up coffee for Lent in my teens….it wasn’t pretty – and I’m not exactly a ray of sunshine even when I have had my morning fix of sweet, nourishing caffeine. Seriously, mess with my daily intake of Colombian jitter-juice, and I WILL go “spider monkey” on your ass.
I WAS just going to limit this to coffee – out of pity for my fellow caffeine-fiends. But I was reminded of all the other sources of the evil chemical that are popular with our community: Red Bull, Monster, five dozen other energy drinks that taste like carbonated Robitussin, and – of course – our revered Mountain Dew….To be honest, not only was I aware of this, I was COUNTING on it.
What can I say? I’m weak.
Imagine this: For six weeks, whenever you go online and read an article about how Twilight is the greatest achievement in the history of American Literature, or see a comment on a forum stating that Michael Bay’s Transformers films were a profound and sublime interpretation of an insipid cartoon – you have to keep your mouth shut (figuratively).
That’s right, NO SNARK. No mocking the stupid and clueless, no trashing the ridiculous opinions of the tasteless and superficial. No witty cut-downs or criticisms – online or IRL. Did someone post a link to your Facebook page about faking the moon landing? You gotta let it go. Did yet another novel based on some emo douche or obsessed fangirl’s erotic fanfic make the best-seller list? You can’t say a thing. Of course you don’t have to agree with everyone and everything, but would you really just stop at: “I respectfully decline to accept your viewpoint, Sir or Madam”? You KNOW that if you open your mouth (or start typing a comment), your nerd instincts will take over, and before long you’ll be long past the issue of whatever movie or book you were discussing, and knee-deep in wild suppositions about legitimacy of this individual’s parentage, the illegal substances his mother partook in during pregnancy, and his predilection for anonymous fellatio with multiple partners.
If there is a geek out there with the willpower and piety to achieve this sacrifice, then we just might get our very first Nerd Pope. I hear they’re taking applications.