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Actually, it tastes a lot like Zarqawi

May 30, 2006

What do you get when you cross juvenile theology with taste-challenged Evangelicals whose idea of cultural transformation is to slap a the prefix of "Christian" on any cultural product? Try the ‘Left Behind’ video game:

This game immerses children in present-day New York City — 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, “Praise the Lord,” as they blow infidels away.

I hope this is some kind of hoax, but my gut tells me that even if it’s not, there are way too many people who would not have a problem with this game.

Now I am obviously a supporter of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but this kind of thinking is extremely repulsive to me, even in a video game. It feeds into the worst kinds of fears of those outside the church, it’s hideous theology (and therefore bad practice); it could have the effect of militarizing and separating those inside the church at the expense of those outside. Except for the observation that the game sounds incredibly lame. That may save us all. I loved Doom (the game) because the whole point is you are blowing up non-human monsters – literally. I had a weak spot for the game Redneck Rampage, but even that felt weird because "humans" died in it. That’s not a game.

I have always objected to evangelical phenomenons The Purpose Driven Life ("youth ministry for adults" one of my Pastor friends calls it) and the Left Behind series on the basis that they are just dumbed-down third-rate products for the shallow. They’re vulgar. It makes sense to me that the forces behind these two products would be behind this video game (at least one person involved in Warren’s church wants to use the same techniques used to sell PDL to sell this game).

Go Play Research video game analyst Billy Pidgeon said “socially
conservative Christians may not want their children to play games at
all. . . . On the other hand, when kids are asking to play video games,
Christian parents may find these games an acceptable way to promote
their values
, while keeping their children entertained.”

I find this statement incredibly disturbing, althought sadly predictible given the tendency of some evangelicals to view the unsaved as mere targets for conversion. This just takes it to another level under the guise of "it’s only a game". Which it is of course – I don’t think anyone involved with the game or LaHaye would advocate actually going out and shooting people for real – but could you imagine the social (not to mention legal) problems for the church and the game makers in particular if an incident occurred?

At the bottom of this are a couple of issues. First of all, if the urge to be "entertained" is so paramount in a family, that’s a problem, and a video game of any kind is not the solution. My kids are young – 2 and 3 1/2 – but the computer and TV are already issues. It will be interesting to see what’s in store for me 10 years down the line, but I think a Sunday sabbath from electronic media is already a good option, not to mention encouraging things like playing musical instruments, reading books and talking to each other and playing games.

Second of all is a kind of creeping relativism that I think results from a disordered value system, even in Christians. I think most of the conflicts in our culture result not from different values per se, but the relative importance we put on them – the order of their priority. Keeping teenagers entertained in some kind of rudimentary "Christian" way – no matter how vulgar or shallow – should be way, way down on the list. Respect for human life should be, ahem, way up there. Sure, the game is set in some far off "end times" scenario- not present day – but having your characters say "Praise the Lord" after shooting someone who resists conversion seems obscene. Self defense I understand. Targeting terrorists and mass murderers, I understand. Not this. Even worse, and more insanely, the game has a mode where you can take the Anti-Christ side instead!! How does that promote Christian ideas? Free will I guess. They should have a "pre-destined" where you do not get to choose which side you are on.

I predict response to this game will be lukewarm among believers. A stronger following may be found in non-believers who enjoy ironically taking the anti-Christ side. Sounds fun to me- for about 15 minutes.

There is cause for hope though: "Catechumen," an adventure set in 1st-century Rome in which a young
Christian attempts to rescue his mentor from demonically possessed
soldiers without resorting to violence" is the best selling Christian video game of all time – with only 80,000 units sold. Hopefully Christians will find better ways to spend there time.

UPDATE: Boy, I fell for it. Here’s what I subsequently learned.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Timmy C permalink
    May 31, 2006 1:14 am

    Actually word on the street is that you’re much better off waiting, and buying the game with a later to be released “Post-Tribulation Rapture” Add-on Pack. Much better game at that point.


  2. June 1, 2006 4:48 pm

    This report was very inaccurate. The game does not have the player try to establish a theocracy or kill people who don’t convert. In fact, you are penalized for killing people, even though Christian forces are fighting against the anti-Christ’s army. See more about the nature of the game, with quotes from secular reviewers who have actually played it:

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