In a family, it’s an inevitability, like growing older, feuds over the Thanksgiving table or getting married. Someone, somewhere, is going to find religion, and since he’s family, you’re going to have to put up with him. So when Uncle Chris and his kids come to visit, hiding away the sinful secular influences – putting away the toy guys, hiding some of the racier movies and so on – becomes as much a part of the routine as preparing the guest room, putting out extra towels and making sure the kids know they’re supposed to behave. One suspects the religious guest is not fooled, as his heathen kin are, well, heathen, but there are proprieties to be observed, because we are family and – this may be because we are old Southern types – there are rituals to be observed. The ritual dance of acceptance and pretending not to notice the copy of Hellraiser that slipped onto the DVD rack continues apace, all in the name of familial peace.
To pass the time, the clan inevitably turns to board games. Board games are wonderful for family time, largely because they require everyone to be in one place and frequently spark irrational outbursts of anger. Part of the catering to the religious relative requires a certain discretion in the choice of game. Nothing secular for this crowd, lest the sinful influence of Risk taint their immortal souls, and accommodations must also be made for the varying skill levels of the accumulated players. Grandma and 10-year-old Clark aren’t going to process a round of Axis and Allies, no matter how much you spout obscenities at them. The game of choice must be simple and, most importantly, must not damn any of us to an eternity in painful torment.
Pictionary is the logical choice, and, fortunately for a nest of heathens, my cousin received a copy of the Biblical version one Christmas Day, which meant we had a gaming solution, though a larger problem always lurked on the horizon. The non-evangelical side of the family is a collection of semi-devout and/or lapsed New Orleans Catholics, a city where church services are scheduled around LSU football games and parades, because, otherwise, no one would show up. The relative lack of Biblical knowledge, coupled with the inevitable board game competitiveness and family bickering, led inevitably to unintentionally hilarious exchanges, such as:
“It’s a man!”
“It’s a man with stuff coming off of his face!”
“It’s a man throwing up!”
“Jesus Christ, it’s Moses! That’s a beard!”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain!”
Our lack of knowledge came back to haunt us in other ways, too. Couple the New Orleans brand of Catholicism with a game that’s genuinely hard (how one represents “Galilee” in 60 seconds is a question for philosophers and geographers, not New Orleanians who’d attend the Second Coming, if the Saints had a bye that week) and you have a recipe for disaster.
“It’s a man with a beard.”
“… Uh, Jesus?”
“… Moses … ?”
“How the hell do you draw ‘Elijah’?”
“Who the hell is Elijah?”
“Don’t say hell!”
It’s not to say Elijah is unimportant; in fact, he’s one of the most important prophets of the Old Testament and a major figure in Judaism and Christianity, but I’m not entirely sure how one would represent him (excepting the “man with a beard”) in 60 seconds of scribbling with an audience of the not-so-devout. Nonetheless, we persevered, marching into good intentions hell via Bible Pictionary because acceptance is what family is all about. When a cousin can’t play with guns but can play with swords because they’re in the Bible, you quietly accept it and make sure he gets lots of swords (which he, being a little boy, instantly tucks under his shoulder while shouting, “BANG! BANG! BANG!”). And when the family needs to bond, you grit your teeth and try to draw Elijah, because gaming brings us together, whether we like it or not.