Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Religious Intolerance Posing As Prayerful Concern

Younger Christians might be marching to a different tune these days with the advent of video gaming. Their new battle hymn might well be "Onward Christian Gamers Marching off to 'Culture Wars.'"

A so-called Christian game causing a lot of hooplah is called "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" and is based on the popular "Left Behind" series of books and movies from Timothy LaHaye. It is a teen rated strategy game that critics accuse of fostering a message of violence, hatred and religious intolerance, while those in favor of it are sporting that it promotes a prayerful lifestyle.

An advocacy group "Campaign to Defend the Constitution," which monitors right-wing religious activities, says the game is violently pro-Christian and has petitioned retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to pull it from its shelves, according to Reuters. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company will be selling the game in its stores because demand for it within the Christian community has been very high and hard to keep on the shelves. With millions of professing Evangelical Christians in America alone, this should come as no surprise to retailers. So, step right up and make a buck on Jeeeeeesus!

The premise of the game charges players to persuade, recruit and convert as many people as possible to a certain segment of Christian theological belief in order to build up an army that can engage in warfare of the physical and spiritual variety against the anti-christ and his legion of evil human followers.

All of this reportedly takes place after millions of "Christians" have been miraculously transported to heaven in the twinkling of an eye; an event commonly called "The Rapture" by adherents to that belief.

The critics of the game describe it as "a violent video game in which 'born-again Christians' aim to convert or kill those who don't adhere to their extreme ideology."

"After you kill somebody you need to recharge your soul points and to do that you need to bend down in prayer. I think the message is extremely clear," said Clark Stevens, co-director of Campaign to Defend the Constitution.

To no one's surprise the game's designers have called the critics into question.

"The reality is that our game perpetuates prayer and worship and that there is no killing in the name of God. There is killing of course, it is a video game. But the basis of the game is spiritual welfare," said Troy Lyndon, CEO of Left Behind Games Inc. "The anti-christ is the main bad guy and so you are dealing with his henchmen. Both sides are trying to win the hearts and the minds of people who are not on either side," Lyndon told Reuters.

Not all who profess to believe in Jesus agree with the pundits pushing the game. Many mainstream Christians are accusing some of the more ultra-conservative elements within the Evangelical movement of using these types of games and other forms of entertainment to play to human nature's natural inclination toward intolerance toward the faith and belief of others outside their own clan or narrow view of the world. They believe this is especially important since the target audience for this type of material are young impressionable minds.

The Rev. Timothy F. Simpson, a minister and member of the Christian Alliance for Progress countered the Evangelical applause to this kind of game with a call to tolerance, saying - "We are trying to tell families that this game is faith-based violence and is not suitable for families."

I personally don't understand all the concern. Video games can be violent, whether they are secular in nature or spring from a religious faith-based foundation. I think it is a blast of fresh air that this particular game is finally owning up to the basic intolerant and violent nature of not only a large contingency within the Christian religion, but organized religion as a whole. What bothers me, however, is the desire to cover up that fact with statements about it being all about prayer, as given above. Don't be fooled by the religious spin, this one is about killing those not like you or your group.

So, in a world gone haywire, how can one tell the true from the false expression of faithful concern for the welfare of others? Well, one thing is for sure, it is a little hard to actually go out and kill the infidel in a religious frenzy of self-righteousness when one is in the vulnerable prostate position of actual humble selfless prayer.

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