2006-07-05

Should the name Evangelical be "left behind"?

I write to you as a bonafide, card-carrying evangelical. I was "born again" in 1992 by receiving a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ, after which my lifestyle and worldview was radically changed. I was discipled through a minister getting his degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, as well as through Campus Crusade. My evangelical credentials are all in good order.

On occasion, one of evangelicalism's guiding lights will say or do something that makes me cringe to associate myself with the "E" word. Whether it is Pat Robertson's crazy pronouncements, Falwell's animated antics, a half-baked Baptist boycott, or our general drift toward political supremacy and cultural triumphalism... there is always something out there I feel I have to apologize to both God and man for by taking up the name evangelical.

But what do you do when one of the media stars of evangelicalism does something so patently against the gospel that to be associated in the same camp is to be associated with something demonstrably less-than-Christian, or even anti-Christian?

I feel like we have driven the Evangelical-Triumphalism train over the edge with the latest installment from the makers of the "Left Behind" series! Welcome to the virtual gaming world of "Left Behind: Eternal Forces", the only video game I know of where born-again Christians get to kill non-Christians! Amen, halleluiah, and pass the ammunition!

You can see it at: http://www.leftbehindgames.com

Here is the brief description from the makers of the game:

Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions in LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces - a real-time strategy game based upon the best-selling LEFT BEHIND book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces [i.e. the Good, born-again Christians] or the Global Community Peacekeepers [i.e. the Bad, deceived non-Christians], and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances!

- Lead the Tribulation Force from the book series , including Rayford, Chloe, Buck and Bruce against Nicolae Carpathia – the AntiChrist.

- Conduct physical & spiritual warfare : using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world.

- Recover ancient scriptures and witness spectacular Angelic and Demonic activity as a direct consequence of your choices.

- Command your forces through intense battles across a breathtaking, authentic depiction of New York City .

- Control more than 30 units types - from Prayer Warrior and Hellraiser to Spies, Special Forces and Battle Tanks!

- Enjoy a robust single player experience across dozens of New York City maps in Story Mode – fighting in China Town , SoHo , Uptown and more!

- Play multiplayer games as Tribulation Force or the AntiChrist's Global Community Peacekeepers with up to eight players via LAN or over the internet!

Damn! I have just been itching to blow away some infidels! Let the jihad carnage begin! But, in all fairness, let's read some of their FAQs:

Why does this game have to contain violence at all? Why is it necessary for a fun and successful game?

Violence is not required to make a fun game. However, it is required to make a game about the end of the world in the Left Behind book series. We have taken great care to make certain that there are real consequences for poor gamer behavior, unlike most games in the market. For instance, unnecessary killing will result in lower Spirit points which are essential to winning.

So... if violence is not necessary to create an entertaining game, and largely prohibited by the gospel, except for possible use by the government (cf. Romans 13), then why was it necessary to put violence in the game? Possibly to socialize budding crusaders to appreciate the joy of jihad? Hmmm...

What aspects of the game will keep it challenging to the players?

The storyline play within the game allows the gamer to defend themselves from the forces of the Anti-Christ, ending in a major battle for the streets of New York City. In multi-player game mode, gamers will command the Tribulation Forces and Global Community Peacekeepers and defend themselves from total destruction.

Well, if we are participating in cartoon violence in the Name of Christ, I guess its OK, as long as it is for "defensive" purposes.

What is the level of violence in the game?

Our game includes violence, but excludes blood, decapitation, killing of police officers, etc. Our game is expected to be widely accepted by the mainstream and Christian marketplaces, just as they have accepted Star Wars games which are “T” for teen rated. We have taken great care to make certain that consequences for poor gamer behavior will adequately reflect the gamers actions. Accordingly, unnecessary killing will result in lower Spirit points.

That's nice. And I sure am glad they are making a solid effort not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

How does your game compare to more widely known games such as Grand Theft Auto or 25 to Life?

LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces was developed to provide an alternative form of entertainment to those desiring more positive game content, while still engaging core gamers in battle. The difference is that our game features fictional battles set on the stage of an apocalyptic world. Our game includes no intestines, no blood spatter, no severed limbs, no vulgar language, no sexual conduct, no morally reprehensible conduct – such as cop-killing, prostitute-bashing, or other criminal behavior, no Bible-bashing believers, no Bible thumpers, no radical extremists killing in the name of God, no abortion clinic stalkers…or other such content in the games you mention.

All wholesome fun, as the family takes turns killing infidels. And, it is good to know that one does not have to be a Bible-thumper or abortion-clinic-bomber to kill infidels in Christ's Name. "Hey mom, pass the soda while dad kills that battalion of non-Christians! Gosh, don't worry mom, it is all just part of a "defensive action"!"

Are guns used by Christians against non-Christians? Why or why not?

The storyline in the game begins just after the Rapture has occurred – when all adult Christians, all infants, and many children were instantly swept home to Heaven and off the Earth by God. The remaining population – those who were left behind – are then poised to make a decision at some point. They cannot remain neutral. Their choice is to either join the AntiChrist – which is an imposturous one world government seeking peace for all of mankind, or they may join the Tribulation Force – which seeks to expose the truth and defend themselves against the forces of the AntiChrist.

Nice obfuscation and "spin" guys! You remind me of the Clinton era Whitehouse, or Sean Hannity! Way to answer without answering! Let me read between the lines here: What they meant to say is that those who did not make the right decision to follow Christ deserve to die, and therefore we can kill them in good conscience.

Does the violence depicted in the game run contrary to Jesus’ message on “love your enemy”?

Absolutely not. Christians are quite clearly taught to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies. It is equally true that no one should forfeit their lives to an aggressor who is bent on inflicting death. Forgiveness does not require absolute defenselessness. Apparent contradictions on behalf of Christians are often the result of them placing greater importance on the message, than in caring for others. LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces is a game which provides great entertainment while encouraging fascinating discussions about matters of eternal importance.

Wow. Apparently Jesus was not a good Christian by "forfeiting his life to an aggressor who was bent on inflicting death". Apparently, forgiveness not only "does not require absolute defenselessness", but it is completely compatible with aggressive warfare against one's enemies. Even Christians, like myself, who believe that the State has the just responsibility to wage defensive war to protect the innocent from aggressors can IN NO WAY accept the theological rationale provided here.

Classical "just war" or "defensive war" theory, as explained by folks like Augustine and Aquinas, at least insist that any war must be: (1) waged by proper authorities (i.e. legitimate governments); (2) for proper ends (i.e. defending the defenseless); (3) using the minimum level of force required to gain victory; (4) while ensuring that the maximum number of lives are saved; (5) and that the destruction wrought by the warfare is less than would have probably happened if no war was fought. Of these criteria, only #2 seems to be met in any conceivable way, and all of the other rationale are simply forgotten. Furthermore, the game leaves no place for martyrdom nor mercy, two essential core values of the Gospel.

Instead, this game is a virtual training ground used to teach young and impressionable kids (and old and ignorant adults) that killing infidels is just fine as long as one can generate a rationale of "defense" for such actions. It teaches Christians that our enemies are NOT Satan and his "powers and principalities", but rather other humans who do not assent to the same truth claims as we do. In fact, it is a blueprint for jihad with a tasty Christian coating. Muslim radicals could not develop a more effective way to train people how to hate and kill if they tried.

It is a damnable lie, in the clothing of a child's toy.

And this is not developed by a person or movement at the lunatic fringe of evangelicalism. It was developed in its bosom. I may not be quite ready to turn in my evangelical credentials just yet, but I am closer. I am really wondering if it is time for the title evangelical to be "left behind".
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.