2007-01-19

"Evangelical" has apparently been left behind to follow "Antichrist"

Screenshot of a firefight between Christians and non-Christians in "Left Behind". Apparently, if you look close, Satan is in the middle of it all. I couldn't agree more.

On July 05 2006 I posted a critique of the anti-Christian video game (made by Evangelical Christians) called "Left Behind" (in honor of the novel series of the same name). Today, I receieved a comment from a blogger named "SJR" who claims to work for Left Behind video games. I want to post his comment, my response to his comment, and my original article:

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SJR's complete comment (with the points I want to comment on numbered in brackets []):

This statement is posted from an employee of Left Behind Games on behalf of Troy Lyndon, our Chief Executive Officer.

There has been in incredible amount of MISINFORMATION published in the media and in online blogs here and elsewhere.

Pacifist Christians and other groups are taking the game material out of context to support their own causes [1]. There is NO “killing in the name of God” and NO “convert or die” [2]. There are NO “negative portrayals of Muslims” and there are NO “points for killing” [3].

Please play the game demo for yourself (to at least level 5 of 40) to get an accurate perspective [4], or listen to what CREDIBLE unbiased experts are saying [5] after reviewing the game at www.leftbehindgames.com/pages/controversy.htm

Then, we’d love to hear your feedback as an informed player. The reality is that we’re receiving reports everyday of how this game is positively affecting lives by all who play it [6].

Thank you for taking the time to be a responsible blogger [7].

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My response to SJR:

SJR,

You response evidently comes from a propagandist who has not actually read the content of my blog, as several of your comments deal with things I do not mention or say (as will be shown below). Here are my responses:

[1] I am not a pacifist Christian. I am a "Just War" theorist along the lines of CS Lewis and Thomas Aquinas (as my blog makes clear, but you have not seemed to read). I have not taken material out of context. I have quoted in full from the FAQ section of the Left Behind Games website, as it was written in July 2006.

The quotes in blue (both here and on the original blog) are quotes from YOUR side, not mine. My commentary is always added by brackets [].

[2] If you kill someone as a representative of God, on a mission from God (as the players in the game do), you are killing in the Name of God, because as Christians (notice CHRIST in that last word?) we bear the Name of our God, Jesus Christ the Lord. Everything we do (everything!) is done in Christ's Name. That is why the Hebrew text of the third commandment tells us not to "bear" or "carry" the Name of God "in vain". "Vain" in Hebrew means "empty". We are not to carry God's (i.e. Christ's) Name in a way that empties it of its meaning, or diminishes his reputation.

And what you do in this game- as a "Christian" gaming company in which "Christian" characters kill non-believers on a mission from Christ- empties Christ's Name.

I believe that there is "a time for war and a time for peace… a time to kill and a time to heal" as the Teacher tells us in Ecclesiastes. But that time for war is only done by God's appointed instrument, government, who alone is given "the sword" to protect the innocent (cf. Rom. 13). Any other wielding of the "sword" by Christians, either in this world or a virtual world, empties the Name, the reputation, and the grace of Christ.

And you are right. There is no "convert or die" (not that I ever said there was!). But there is "if you are not converted, you will die". You do kill people who are non-Christians in the game for the sheer reason that they stand against your "[anti]Christian mission". Which is worse? If it was "convert or die", at least you would give them a chance to live before slaughtering them.

[3] I never said you portray Muslims negatively. Only Christians.

And while there are no "points" for killing, you do achieve victory by killing. And which is worse? Really?

The game and website makes it clear that killing by Christan gameplayers will result in "lowered spirit points", which could make them vulnerable to converting to be anti-Christians. However, if "prayer warriors" pray for our freedom fighters while they are killing the enemy, it will keep their spirit-points from dropping. So, I guess it is OK to commit carnage as long as people are praying for you to remain spiritually strong? Come on, this is nothing but propaganda!

[4] I have played the game for myself (and so have over a dozen of my friends in ministry). First, it is fairly boring. Second, everything I have said is true.

[5] Hitler had thousands of "credible experts" from fields of science, medicine, psychology, sociology, law, history, philosophy, and even theology, all claiming to be "UNBIASED", who gave "CREDIBLE" support to his genocide and war. In reality, there is no such thing as "unbiased". Everyone comes at the data from their own perspective (even me). The question is, which perspective lines up with Christ, His Gospel, and the teaching of His Church? The teaching of the Church is not unbiased. It is biased toward what is true, good, and beautiful. The Gospel is a very biased proclamation of Christ's Lordship over all, and salvation from all sin. Your game, on some very important points, does not line up Christian teaching or the Gospel.

In fact, it is actively opposed to it.

Your "credible" witnesses and [un]BIASED experts are false teachers, justifying something that cannot be justified. You are making money, hand over fist, by selling out your Lord and His Gospel into a "virtual" justification for killing.

In Nazi Germany, there was a "state church" called "evangelical" (for that is what the Lutheran church is called there). While the "evangelical church" of the Nazis stood for Hitler and his policies, there arose a "confessing church" that stood against him. It was led by Deitrich Bonhoeffer. This was not strictly a pacifist movement, although it stood against Hitler's war. Maybe it is time for a confessing church to arise in our own country to oppose the deceptions advocated by our own evangelicals and their leaders.

[6] If you are receiving reports of people who are "positively affected" by playing this game, and the results are shown by fruits of passionate love for Christ, and persistent love for their neighbors (all of them, especially non-Christians!), was well as fruits of peace, patience, kgoodness, kindness, gentleness, faith, and self control (cf. Mat 22.37-40; Gal 5.22-23), then I say bavo and amen!

But, if by "positively affected" means they really enjoyed being plugged into a game killing people for hours upon hours, then I say woe to you. If by "positively affected" you mean that they got scared as hell of a wrathful God, and then they said a sinner's prayer to get fire insurance from hell, then I say woe to you. If by "positively affected" you mean they can parrot off the right doctrinal statement, but they have no change of life that makes them a more Christ-like person, then I say woe to you.

Lots of drugs and addictions "positively affect" people while they are high, only to make them sick and dysfunctional after the high.

[7] Yes, I am a responsible blogger. That is why I am telling you to repent. You have chosen to follow the Antichrist, who has cleverly gotten you to advocate a game about a false Antichrist, while it trains young Christians to be REAL antichrists.

You must repent, and turn from the Antichrist represented by your company philosophy. Repent, or the refining fire of God's all-consuming Love will burn down your life and reveal that the true foundation of your work is sin and evil (cf. 1Co 3). Repent for using Christ as a way to make a buck. Repent and turn toward the God who came into human history as Christ Jesus, to destroy the works of the devil, and to bring about a Kingdom where tools of war will be "beat into plowshares". Read Jesus' condemnations of the ultra-nationalistic, ultra-legalistic, pro-war religious conservatives of his day (cf. Mat 23). Realize that it is also YOU he is condemning, and turn from mis-representing him through this game. Repent and become a "confessing Christian" that confesses Christ in word AND deed, in what we produce AND what we advocate. Repent, before you find out that it is Christ Himself that you have "left behind".

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My Original Blog:

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, in their own words, from the makers of the game:

[Left Behind Says:] "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:

[Left Behind Says:] "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...

[Left Behind Says:] "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.

[Left Behind Says:] "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.

[Left Behind Says:] "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"!"

[Left Behind Says:] "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.

[Left Behind Says:] "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.