It has become painfully obvious to me the past few weeks at seminary that many Christians do not understand geeks or geek culture. For some reason it seems acceptable to make fun of geeks, but I’m here to tell you that things the church desperately needs to learn how to do geek communities are already doing. And they’re doing it well. Church leaders, take heed.
1. Strong community: If you have ever been a part of a strong geek community you know what I’m taking about. Geek communities are one of the few strong communities left. You walk into the comic book store (or wherever your community’s gathering place is), and almost everyone there knows your name and a lot of your story. This also means there is an insider/outsider division, but it’s far easier to become an insider within a geek community than within a Christian church. Actually, geek communities are closer to the original meaning of the ecclesia which gets translated in the New Testament as “church” but meant “assembly” or “gathering.” One cannot live as a geek alone.
2: Shared language: Because of the strong community and sub-culture there is a shared language among geeks. I can go into any comic book store in this country and say “My doctor is the 10th doctor” and chances are someone will say “Me too!” and someone else would say “No! 3′s the best!” Everyone in the room would know we were talking about Doctor Who. The shared language contributes to the strong community, just like shared Christian language contributes to strong Christian communities.
3. Important of narrative: Stories are important to geeks–comic books, movies, video games, role playing games. Stories are important. Geeks are able to suspend disbelief in order to hear the story as a story as well as understand the story on its own terms. They want to know the history behind the story, how the story has been interpreted and re-interpreted, and the multiple take-aways. If the intensity that geeks bring to other stories was applied to biblical stories in a concentrated way, no one in that particular community would be biblical illiterate.
4. Good and evil: Geeks care deeply about good and evil, and they recognize how large the gray area in between is. Geeks see heroes while not ignoring their complications and dark sides, and they are not afraid to look at something and name it evil. There is a belief that the world can and should be a better place, and we can effect the transformation of the world for good or for evil.
5. Radical acceptance: In most geek communities there is the type of radical acceptance many Christian churches talk about but are not necessarily achieving. Geeks have a bond with each other that comes from constantly being labeled as “other” and “outsider.” When you’re part of a geek community, you’re part of a geek community no holds barred. This radical acceptance also comes with a very important twist–geeks have little patience for inauthenticity. Geeks can quickly zero in an inauthenticity, and most can tell if it’s simply insecurity. If you’re blowing hot air, geeks (especially if you’re on their turf) will not put up with that nonsense. If you’re being mean, a geek will tell you to your face. It may not be the geek you’re being mean to, but a geek will tell you when you’re being mean. There is a dignity for every person that geeks uphold.
Geek communities are home to some of the most interesting, fun, and warm people I have ever met. They are places where a sense of humor is valued and people who are outcasts can find commonality and a sense of belonging. I miss my geek community from the last place I lived, and I’m building up a new one out here. There are very few places I have walked into and felt so accepted for exactly who I am and to have many of my core beliefs so easily enacted.
So, please, church leaders, stop rolling your eyes at geek culture and geek communities.