Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Religious Intolerance for kids


I don't normally discuss faith or religious matters here other than passing references to activities we participate in at our church. Other than the following rant I do not intend to discuss religion at all. However, this really has me angry and I simply will not let this matter pass without comment.

The Left Behind franchise has made gobs of cash promoting evangelical Christian viewpoints initially through books marketed at adults and subsequently products aimed at children and then branched out into other items, including PC games.

I will not cite specific news articles, other than to list this search page. The Left Behind folks' rebuttal is here.

They claim, erroneously, "Because our game is a ‘strategy' game, never does a player click a key or press a button to actuate a first-person violent act. Instead, control is managed by the player in much the same way as an animated chess game would be". Of course the fact that the player must initiate character movements and decisions is sidestepped. In other words, violence is ok if the 'game' initiates it, thus neatly relieving the player from responsiblity? The player is manipulated into a situation wherein, in order to 'win' s/he must kill the bad guys. Bad guys being anyone who isn't Christian or won't convert to Christianity.

They also state (cited at the link above), "In the initial missions, there is little emphasis on physical warfare and gamers are introduced to powers of influence which result in a battle for the hearts and minds of people. As missions progress, there are no ‘objectives' to cause war physically. However, physical warfare results when the player is required to defend against the physical forces of evil;" In other words, in the beginning (am I the only one to find that word choice ironic?) players are duped into thinking this is a violence free pc game aimed at proselytizing the unchurched and/or spreading Christian virtues, morality and beliefs. However, if one reads the statement the game basically manipulates the player into religious based warfare, conveniently disguised as "good against evil".

My biggest problem with this game is it apparently has players form a Christian militia. Any character that does not convert to Christianity ends up dead. If the player opts to play the anti-Christian side, there is no way to win the game. Since when is it ok to kill non Christians? Since when is forced conversion ok? Are we condoning a game that portrays the death of nonChristians in a warlike life and death scenario as desirable?

If this game was made with Muslims as the primary 'good guy force' with forced conversions and death to those who refuse, would that be acceptable? If this was a Jewish game where non Jews were forced to convert or be killed make it ok? You can be sure that if there is a pc or console game out there that depicts religious warfare and the killing or forced conversions of Christians, there likely would be a huge outcry. Then again, who knows? Maybe these games already exist. If this was an atheist game where believers were forced to renounce their faith and belief, would that be ok? Isn't there enough religiously based warfare going on in this world already? Aren't the people of this world divided and violent enough? Can they claim this is 'entertainment' with a straight face?

The head of the Left Behind game group has some relevant and other- jaw dropping- things to say about the future of Christian gaming here. I find it quite interesting that the article says, "What publishers need to consider about developing their first 'inspirational' game is to be careful that subtle changes in design or game play don't violate doctrine. They need to make games that include doctrine supported by all Christian faiths.. games should focus on modeling positive behavior through prayer, worship and caring for people. If this is done in an engaging manner that is fun, mainstream America and the world will embrace it."

I can't believe that "all Christian faiths" support or endorse the ideals laid out in this game. Again, from this article, written by Troy Lydon of Left Behind Games "quality Christian video games is a means to reach the lost; those without hope or faith, who long for someone to care about should focus on modeling positive behavior through prayer, worship and caring for people." The Left Behind game does not achieve these lofty goals and will do much to undermine efforts to make peace with those who disgree with us.


CindyS said...

Oh. My. God.

I read the part where the person who kills has to amp up their soul points so they need to kneel and pray. The guy then states that he thinks this is a clear message.

Uh, 'kay. Clearly killing, stealing, and all those other pesky comandments are breakable as long as you pray.

I'm trying to tread carefully and am stumbling over my words. I am far from perfect and I believe that someone's faith is meant to be tested and questioned and not to be followed blindly. This game says clearly that you have to believe (in one specific way) or die. I have friends who believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven and I am floored that they feel they can condem millions of people for not sharing their beliefs.

How is it that extremists can feel that they are the chosen and at the same time condone killing another human? I guess they would argue that killing is not being condoned as no real human dies but I think the message that is being sent is horrible.

I better quit while I'm falling behind here ;) You have said far more eloquently what I wish I could write but I am still reeling from the shock of this!


mailyn said...

First of all I have to say WTF?!?! LMAO!!!! A game where you kill people that won't convert to your religion?! Are gamers so desperatly running out of ideas they came up with this?!?!

I don't know if I can stop laughing at their idea long enough to write something coherent. I'm having a hard time not picturing a guy with holy water and a cross trying to sprinkle the enemy to death.

I do have to say that I agree with you 100%.

Great post.

Angry Woman said...

I agree with your post also. The world is currently rife with religious violence, we don't need anymore especially from a video game. I find it hypocritical when people are up in arms over the violence in games like Grand Theft Auto but it's quite okay in this one because it's a "Christian" game. Either way you cut it, it still condones acts of violence against other people who do not believe in your own faith. That's not acceptable.

Alison said...

I've always hada problem with the whole Left Behind series of books. Something seemed sinister about it from the get-go. I couldn't put my finger on it but now I know. Dare I say that the forces of evil have actually taken over in the disguise of Christianity. A first sign of the apocalypse.

Bookwormom said...

Cindy- I originally started this post early in the morning, but I had to stop because I couldn't phrase my thoughts the way I wanted to. I still don't feel like I've said enough.

Mailyn- I wouldn't have believed it either, except that it was all over the news.

Angry Woman- I'd forgotten the outcry over GTA- probably coming from some of the same folks who promote this game.

Alison- I don't believe in this version of the end times, somehow I doubt this is what Christ has in mind.

jmc said...

I'm boggled by the idea of any religion thinking a war game is appropriate for children.

On any only slightly related note, did you read any of the religious-themed editorials in Washington Post Online last week? They were at once fascinating and repelling, along with the comments. I was particularly repulsed and yet drawn to the arguments amoung commenters re: evangelism. Basically, some posters pointed out that christians have the right to love their religion but not to push it on others, while the evangelicals argued (can it really be called arguing if they refused to acknowledge the other side?) that it was their duty and a piece of their faith to do so, whether or not people wanted to hear them. Basically, their religion tells them to harass strangers, because they are obviously too ignorant to know better. WTF?

Jenster said...

Another case of "Christians are our own worst enemy." :o(


LK Hunsaker said...

This is horrendous! How dare these people denigrate the Christian faith in this manner? It's no wonder so many turn away from religion when these extremists who act like they speak for all of us are so insane. That's not what it's about. Unbelievably sad.

Bookwormom said...

jmc~ I missed the WP op-eds. Not because they were faith oriented, but because I'm alternately enraged and horrified by either the op-eds, the letters or both.

Jenster~ Unfortunately, this is all too true.

lk hunsaker~ Hi! Thanks for commenting. I totally agree with you.