The final solution to the non-believer problem
Al Qaeda is the start, we'll finish the job
The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1)
By Jonathan Hutson
A new Christian video game evokes 911.
Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.
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.
The designers intend this game to become the first dominionist warrior game to break through in the popular culture due to its violent scenarios and realistic graphics, lighting, and sound effects. Its creators expect it to earn a rating of T for Teen. How violent is that? That's the rating shared by Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell - Chaos Theory, a top selling game in which high-tech gadgets and high-powered weapons - frag grenades, shotguns, assault rifles, and submachine guns -- are used to terminate enemies with extreme prejudice.
Could such a violent, dominionist Christian video game really break through to the popular culture? Well, it is based on a series of books that have already set sales records - the blockbuster Left Behind series of 14 novels by writer Jerry B. Jenkins and his visionary collaborator, retired Southern Baptist minister Tim LaHaye. "We hope teenagers like the game," Mr. LaHaye told the Los Angeles Times. "Our real goal is to have no one left behind."
The Left Behind video game lets children create carnage on the streets of New York.
The game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, is based on scenes from the first four novels in the series. The game was developed by a publicly-traded company called Left Behind Games, according to SEC records. The developers obtained the license from Tyndale House, the Christian publisher of Left Behind.
Tyndale also publishes Bringing Up Boys and The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, PhD. Mr. Dobson has advised parents to monitor the amount of time children spend playing video games and "avoid the violent ones altogether." But he has not yet stated his views on whether there should be an exception for video games that role play gunplay in the name of Christ, or of the AntiChrist.
Tyndale's licensing of the project infuriated one of its authors, Jack Thompson, a conservative Christian attorney and outspoken critic of video game violence, who told the Los Angeles Times that he severed ties with his publisher in a dispute over "Left Behind: Eternal Forces."
"It's absurd," said the video critic. "You can be the Christians blowing away the infidels, and if that doesn't hit your hot button, you can be the Antichrist blowing away all the Christians."
The firm's CEO is relying on network marketing through pastoral networks as a key part of his business plan, according to a report in the March 6, 2006, issue of Newsweek Magazine:
Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon, whose company went public in February, says the game's Christian themes will grab the audience that didn't mind gore in "The Passion of the Christ." "We've thought through how the Christian right and the liberal left will slam us," says Lyndon. "But megachurches are very likely to embrace this game." Though it will be marketed directly to congregations, Forces will also have a secular ad campaign in gaming magazines.
As part of its marketing pitch, Left Behind Games hypes the realism with which it portrays the neighborhoods of New York City. There is, for the most part, a remarkable verisimilitude except for one detail - all of the ambulances have 911 painted on their roofs. In the reality-based world, most ambulances have a red cross on top. Yet the game designers make prominent use of these 911 ambulances to evoke the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The historical context of 911 is invoked as if to say, We are living in the End Times, and Muslims are among the kinds of infidels whom you should fear, whom you should be prepared to kill for your cause.
For game enthusiasts, there is also a multi-player mode, in which you can go online and battle to take territory from other players. If you happen to blow away a neutral party - and collateral damage is inevitable in the End of Days - then you will lose "Spirit Points". But you can power back up with merely a brief timeout for prayer, or by converting one of New York's terror-stricken citizens.
God Gameth, God Bloweth Away: The creators of a violent video game are linked to dominionist pastor Rick Warren. Graphic by Jonathan Hutson
In this way, the game resembles a send-up of Christian-themed video games by "The Simpsons." "Billy Graham's Bible Blaster," is a first-person shooter game in which you fire Bibles at club-carrying heathens to convert them into card-carrying Republicans. (Hint: after you finish reading this blog piece - and eating all your vegetables -- visit the Simpson's official web site and open file drawer F-H, then click on the character of Evangelical Christian kid Rod Flanders to play the game.)
So according to Mr. Warren, the worst of American culture is reflected in examples of violence, terrorism, shootings, and the coarsening of our society, that turn people away in disgust. And in addition, "some people are more materialistic than ever."
If violence, coarseness, and materialism are serious social problems, then what purpose is served by exploiting a global pastoral network to mass market a game about mass killing, whether in the name of Christ or the AntiChrist?
On the one hand, this video game is anti-American, because it endorses roving death squads engaged in faith-based violence without any regard for Constitutional law. On the other hand, the video game is anti-Christian, because it argues that the Kingdom of God can be advanced by using the methods and tools of the kingdoms of this world, namely guns and bombs.
This game is simply Christian Postal, the late 90's murder spreee game. They put a nice gloss on it, but this game is at the same level as the Neo-Nazi Jew killing and Turk killing games. Offensive isn't even the word for this. Wal-Mart shouldn't carry this, because it violates their standards.
I bet that the game play sucks as well.
posted by Steve @ 1:44:00 PM