Saturday, April 13, 2013

Christian Video Game Highlights Violence

A few years ago when I was working as the news director for an entertainment firm I reported on a game developed for mass production and designed for one particular group of consumers, the young Christian audience. This violent and intolerant video game being hyped to the Christian youth of the world comes down to little more than appealing to the darker side of humanity's nature and securing their dollars in the process. I thought it might be important to write briefly about this sad state of affairs once more since I have witnessed little or no change in the situation after six years. The game is on its 4th version and is one of the highest grossing video games targeting a specific clientele. 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 intolerance and culture wars'.

The game I spoke of then and still causing such 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 and other news outlets. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company is 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 and shoot somebody for 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 antichrist 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 in 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 designer's 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 antichrist 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 said.

Not all who profess to believe in Jesus agree with the pundits pushing the game. Many mainstream Christians are accusing some of the more 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 continency 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.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Wisdom In Quohelet

Many who have read Quohelet [Ecclesiastes] believe it to be written by a person full of despair and defeatism. I tend to disagree. For me this is an essay written by a person that has spent a great deal of his or her life both living it and contemplating it, altogether.

After much experience of life and deliberation on that vast amount of wisdom gained, this person came to a personal realization that life, in and of itself, has no real meaning. This is not a defeatist attitude but one based on quiet, reflective realism. This individual is not lamenting that fact, but is simply stating it out loud.

The greatest question of all, "Is there, or is there not, a G-d?" is noticeably missing from all the equations posed by the writer. Why? Because he/she understood that this is one question that has no finite answer and therefore, one not befitting the main thesis of the present dissertation.

Like any great thinker, this person does not intend to or try and prove or disprove G-d, but simply assumes G-d. In reality that is about all that any person is truly capable of on this present level of enlightenment. However, it begs the question of faith. Is the assumption of G-d the same as faith in G-d? I believe the writer answers that inquiry with a resounding NO! Faith, by its own agenda, does require (even demands) some form of proof, albiet, ever so slim; whereas assumption requires only an observable and rational acceptance of life as life and for life's sake in all its myriad manifestations.

The author's final summation is one that any reasonable person must come to by assumption after living and contemplating in true honesty their own life: "The sum of the matter, when all has been considered: Be in awe of G-d and keep Its commandments, for this is a person's whole duty."

For the writer of Ecclesiastes those commandments happen to be the Torah of Moses, given by that assumed G-d on Mount Sinai. However, regardless of one's particular bent the same truth would apply: After all is said and done one must be true to their assumed idea of G-d or they are living a useless life of vanity and futility.