Jonathan Huston writes at Talk To Action about a new video game where a major aspect involves killing or converting non-Christians:
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. [...] 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.
The connection to Rick Warren strikes me as a bit tenuous. Warren isn’t personally responsible for the game, but people who are close to him and who play a major role in this religious organization do seem to bear some responsibility for the game. If they do bear some responsibility for the game and this game reflects some of their beliefs, then one has to wonder what sort of influence they have in Rick Warren’s organization — and whether he approves of their beliefs and influence.
The LA Times notes that not all Christians are pleased with the creation of such a violent game in the name of Christianity:
[C]ritics counter that, in an effort to make Christian games appealing, developers such as Lyndon and Frichner are doing little more than putting a religious veneer on the same violent fare. “We’re going to push this game at Christian kids to let them know there’s a cool shooter game out there,” said attorney Jack Thompson, an author and outspoken critic of video game violence. “Because of the Christian context, somehow it’s OK? It’s not OK. The context is irrelevant. It’s a mass-killing game.” [...]
Not surprisingly, Left Behind Games’ attempt to make Christianity accessible to youngsters through the use of lethal firepower has its critics. Thompson, for instance, said he severed ties with Tyndale House in a dispute over “Eternal Forces.” “It’s absurd,” the video game critic said. “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.”
It’s fair for a Christian to be annoyed at a video game based upon Christians killing or converting non-Christians, but such critiques should not be made without a proper historical context — a context which includes Christianity’s long and violent past. Jack Thompson is wrong if he thinks that this video game comes out of nowhere. Did he object to the violence inherent in the Left Behind books? Has he expressed similar dislike of violence in historical Christianity?
A Vanity Fair article comments on the Left Behind book series:
As befits the manifesto of a counterculture, the ‘Left Behind’ series is a revenge fantasy, in which right-wing Christians win out over the rational, scientific, modern, post-Enlightenment world. The books represent the apotheosis of a culture that is waging war against liberals, gays, Muslims, Arabs, the UN, and ‘militant secularists’ of all stripes — whom it accuses of destroying Christian America, murdering millions of unborn children, assaulting the Christian family by promoting promiscuity and homosexuality, and driving Christ out of the public square.
This “revenge fantasy” is intrinsic to Christianity itself — you can find it on prominent display in the Book of Revelations, a biblical text upon which the Left Behind series of books is partially based. Christians were on the bottom of the food chain of the ancient Roman world and many of their apocalyptic texts exhibit a revenge fantasy where, in the end, they came out on top while all their pagan persecutors were cast down for eternal torment in hell. Early theologians described how much better heaven will be because Christians will be able to see the torture of damned souls in hell.
This new video game might be awful, but there isn’t anything very new about it — the technology is new and the format is new, but it’s a way to act out a revenge fantasy that has been circulating in Christianity since its earliest decades. It’s worth asking, though, whether the ability to act it out in such a graphic manner will create something new: violence-minded Christians who have become inured to the idea of harming non-Christians in the name of God. Given the proper ideological training, such Christians could be more likely to engage in violence in real life.
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