Conservative Christian Culture Warriors Cut and Run (Part 7) Email Print

Originally posted on Talk to Action

One of the main reasons why the Rev. Jerry Falwell co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979 was to decry the corruption of America's values. For decades, the Southern Baptist pastor has hectored Hollywood, trash-talked TV, been het up on hip hop, and spouted vitriol about video games. But this once bold, big lion who strode the stage popping off about pop culture lately has been reduced to a peewee church mouse. On his claim to fame, Rev. Falwell's got no more game. When it came time to denounce Left Behind: Eternal Forces -- a Christian supremacist video game that one Republican attorney has characterized as "the worst example to date of how the corrosive pop culture has conformed the Church to its image" -- the broken down old culture warrior has cut and run. And he's not the only one to show such cowardice. But now he's being called out in public for the first time by a fellow culture warrior.

When Bible publisher Tyndale House licensed a video game that exploits 9/11, and teaches children that New Yorkers who don't convert deserve to die, conservative Christian leaders sat silent - all but one. Now, a 20-year veteran on the front lines of the culture wars is challenging his brethren and sisters to protest the game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces. So far, he's called out Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, PhD, Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren, and Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell. In the past, all three have warned parents to keep their children away from other violent video games. But since Christian supremacist hate literature has been turned into a children's game, the No Comment Chorus has shucked and jived, ducked and covered, cut and run.

Conservative Christians have castigated the video game. For example, readers have regarded it as an unholy thing of the Antichrist. But the chief culture warriors of the Christian right have gone AWOL on their own troops. Why the fear and trembling from Dr. Dobson, Rev. Warren, and Rev. Falwell?

Such pious pretence and sanctimonious silence won't suffice for Republican attorney and video critic Jack Thompson. For once, Mr. Thompson is on the same side as gamers - denouncing the hypocrisy of self-appointed culture critics who assail the video game industry, but cop out when it comes to criticizing the Christian supremacist video game. Mr. Thompson is offended by Left Behind: Eternal Forces, based on the Left Behind novels co-authored by retired Southern Baptist pastor Tim LaHaye. He's tried shaming conservative Christian leaders privately. But they've cut and run, despite Mr. Thompson's repeated invitations and admonitions to speak up. Mr. Thompson does not want to ban the game; he just wants these conservative Christian leaders to protest and boycott it. And they won't. So now he's shaming them publicly. His latest target: Rev. Falwell. Talk to Action has the exclusive on Mr. Thompson's blistering letter to Rev. Falwell. Here, take a peek.

Mr. Thompson states in his letter to Rev. Falwell dated June 13, 2006, that he wrote "to alert you to the fact that Reverend Tim LaHaye, with whom you founded the Moral Majority, seems to have lost his mind, only figuratively, I hope." And then he described how Tyndale House licensed the real-time strategy game to Left Behind Games.

Mr. Thompson stated that the game makes a mockery of Christianity:

"In this game, you can take on the role of Christian soldier and kill unbelievers, or you can take on the role of the Antichrist and kill the Christians. The killing setting is in Manhattan, of all places. I'm not sure that this is a faithful presentation of the Gospel message. In fact, I know it isn't. It makes a mockery of the witness of all of us."

Mr. Thompson also argued that the game undermines the war on terror:

"This is dangerous stuff, not only because it legitimizes the use of violence to Christian kids, but also because the last time I checked we were in a War on Terror, in which the other side claims we are engaged in a latter day "Crusade" against Islam. Now we have a Tyndale House-blessed killing game that glamorizes just that. What a rhetorical gift to radical Islamists. I can hear Al-Qaeda now: `America is producing a video game that trains Christian children to kill Muslims and to enjoy doing so.' "

Mr. Thompson rebuked Left Behind Games for stealthily pushing its game as a tool for evangelism:

"What this company is doing is using the rubric `Christian video game' to come in under the radar and sell a violent game to Christian adolescents and teens (the game is due out this fall) that thinking parents would not allow their kids to have but for the disarming `Christian' label. This is stealth. A lawyer would call it fraud."

Indeed, it is stealthy of Left Behind Games to market its product as a tool for evangelism, when it depicts the killing of "neutral" New Yorkers - those who refuse to convert - and leaves their bodies to pile up in the streets of Manhattan. How offensive to the people of New York City, who are still dealing with the trauma of September 11th.

Mr. Thompson said that Mr. LaHaye, who used to decry corrosive pop culture, has become "part of the problem" by promoting a game that is the epitome of corrosive pop culture:

"This is undoubtedly, in my twenty years of experience as a foot soldier in the 'culture war,' the worst example to date of how the corrosive pop culture has conformed the Church to its image, rather than believers confronting and transforming the culture... Tim LaHaye at one time seemed to understand the danger of what he is now doing. You and he helped created the Moral Majority to do a number of things, not the least of which was to counteract pop culture's assault upon morality and faith. Tim LaHaye, with his killing simulator marketed to Christian children, enabled by stealth and fueled by avarice, has now become part of the problem rather than part of the solution."

Mr. Thompson assures Talk to Action that to date, he has received no responses from Rev. Falwell or other culture warriors to whom he distributed this letter, including Dr. Dobson, Rev. Warren, and Rev. LaHaye. He has asked Rev. LaHaye to quash the video game project before it is released, and he has asked other conservative Christian leaders to speak out against the game. Mr. Thompson has also opined to Talk to Action that the game would not be banned by a Louisiana law that he drafted, and which was signed into law this month, but that the law would likely prohibit this game's distribution to children.

Some reviewers have compared the new Christian supremacist video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces to other controversial games that are bloodier, such as Doom or Grand Theft Auto. But such comparisons are misguided, because Left Behind Games' product, slated for release on October 17, 2006, is readily distinguished from any other controversial video game.

The Seven Woes of Left Behind: Eternal Forces

Behold, in seven short paragraphs, the Seven Woes that for once unite gamers and Jack Thompson in agreement, and mark Left Behind Games as set apart for scorn by gamers and conservative Christians alike. (And that is true, even if conservative Christian leaders continue to scamper under the pulpit on their pittypat paws like mincing church mice.)

The First Woe: Pushed by a Bible Publisher

Left Behind: Eternal Forces is licensed by Tyndale House, which publishes the New Living Bible. Tyndale also publishes the Left Behind novels and comic books by retired Southern Baptist minister Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, and child-rearing manuals by James Dobson, Ph.D. Unlike other controversial games, Left Behind: Eternal Forces is pushed by a Bible publisher -- and distributed through pastoral networks and mega-churches -- even though it rehearses children in mass-killing in the name of Christ or the AntiChrist (children's choice).

The Second Woe: Alienates Its Core Audience

The aim of the game is to eliminate one's opponents, either by converting them to conservative Christianity, or by killing them. Killing a "neutral" (that is, not yet converted) New Yorker - say, a Jew, a Muslim, a Catholic, or a gay man - temporarily lowers a player's "spirit points." These "spirit points" are a renewable resource, just like money. You spend money in the game, but you can also earn money. Likewise, when you kill an unconverted New Yorker, your "spirit points" are temporarily lowered - until you pause for prayer. And hey, presto! You're running and gunning, praying and spraying hot lead again over Times Square, Soho, and Chinatown. This Christian supremacist theology, coupled with the AntiChrist roleplay, has deeply offended moderate Christians as well as conservative Christians, and many other people of faith, as well as atheists.

The Third Woe: Spyware in the Software

Even gamers who think it would be cool to play for the forces of the AntiChrist universally abhor spyware. Left Behind: Eternal Forces comes with tracking software inserted directly into the game by an Israeli corporation called Double Fusion, which downloads the latest ads and uploads data on your geographic location (based on your IP address), your demographic characteristics, and your gameplay. For example, this software, without a gamer's knowledge or permission, tracks when the game is played, how often, and how long, and which ad the gamer views in what New York neighborhoods.

The Fourth Woe: Exploitation of 9/11

Left Behind: Eternal Forces opens with shots of smoke plumes roiling from New York City skyscrapers. It features Christian commandos who reportedly shout "Praise the Lord!" when they make a fresh New Yorker kill. As bodies pile up in New York City streets, never to be removed and buried, ambulances featuring "911" emblazoned on their roofs pick their way amid the mass of corpses. Real NYC ambulances feature a red cross or paramedic star, but Left Behind Games was created in October 2001, a few weeks after September 11, 2001. It does not hesitate to profit from the memories of the tragedy caused when planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers, as fundamentalist terrorists shouted "Praise God!"

The Fifth Woe: Left Behind Games Hurts the War on Terror

Conservative Christian video game critic Jack Thompson severed his ties to his publisher, Tyndale House, over the licensing of Left Behind: Eternal Forces, and in a letter published on Talk to Action, he called on James Dobson, PhD, to do the same and to join him in denouncing the game. Now, in a letter to Rev. Jerry Falwell, published for the first time on Talk to Action, Thompson has called on Rev. Falwell to denounce the game, along with his fellow Moral Majority co-founder Rev. Tim LaHaye, because the game leads children away from Christ and hurts America's "war on terror" by giving terrorist recruiters talking points.

The Sixth Woe: The Game Offends People of All Faiths

Conservative Christian Evangelicals are offended because Left Behind: Eternal Forces portrays their beliefs as hateful caricatures. And every other New Yorker -- including Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, moderate, mainstream Christians, gays, Wiccans, and atheists -- is targeted by the game's eliminationist theology, which teaches that only conservative Evangelicals can be brought to heaven in "the Rapture," while every other person must be "left behind". The game's creators state on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page of their site that New Yorkers "cannot remain neutral." New Yorkers who resist conversion are considered fair game to be killed by Christian commandos. Left Behind Games likes to tell gamers that its product is "not too preachy," but it tells Christian audiences that the game is an evangelistic tool that wins souls for Christ. They cannot have it both ways. The game indoctrinates children that certain New Yorkers deserve to die, that it is your Christian duty to kill them, and that God will be pleased when you do a deadly deed to defend your creed. Every person of faith, and every agnostic or atheist should protest and boycott this game. No one's calling for censorship, just common sense. Keep the game out of children's hands, and exercise your free speech and free will by leaving this game behind.

The Seventh Woe: They Shoot Nurses, Don't They?

Left Behind: Eternal Forces will be remembered as a perfect storm of bad marketing. It will be hooted at for doing everything wrong, including alienating its core audience of conservative Evangelicals and for once uniting gamers with video critic Jack Thompson. Mr. Thompson in this case is actually agreeing with gamers, and is not calling for a ban. Instead, he is denouncing the game's creators for marketing a spyware-infested Christian supremacist convert-or-die game that rehearses children in the mass-killing of New Yorkers in the name of Christ or the AntiChrist (children's choice). In a word, this game sucks woefully. Quickly, name one other wholesome "Christian" video game for children in which Christian commandos shoot nurses in the head and leave their bodies to rot on the streets of New York City. Oh, yes, believe it. Here's an official screenshot.

The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1)

Violent Video Marketed Through Mega-Churches (Part 2)

Revelation and Resignation (Part 3)

Christian Cadre's Layman: 'A Whopper of Being Wrong' (Part 4)

Apocalypse, Now a Lawsuit (Part 5)

Who's Watching the Boys? (Part 6)

Conservative Christian Culture Warriors Cut and Run (Part 7)

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