Left Behind Eternal Forces – Violence for Christians

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Today in the Los Angeles Times, there is an article about a new “Christian” video game: Left Behind: Eternal Forces. The game aims to make a broadly appealing video game, similar to Grand Theft Auto; it is a “real-time” strategy game that “features plenty of biblical smiting, albeit with high-tech weaponry as players battle the forces of the Anti-Christ in a smoldering world approaching Armageddon.” The creators, including Troy Lyndon who used to work for Electronic Arts, say of their new game, “Left Behind has the anti-christ, the end of the world, the apocalypse…It’s got all the Christian stuff, and it’s still got all the cool stuff (emphasis mine).”

The mission was to create a game that appealed to more people, in hopes of evangelizing people for the Christian faith; something similar to “Christian houses of worship like Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback church…have attracted followers – in part by not being overly doctrinaire.”

Will this game really do anything good for the church? It stands to make more money than earlier Bible-based video games, but at what cost? What kinds of Christians could games like this cultivate? Other than having the characters in the game say things like “Praise the Lord” after killing people, and referring to the UN as a tool of Satan, the game battles against the “Antichrist’s Global Community Peacemakers,” a very interesting title to unpack. The army of Christ is violently plotting to kill the “peacemakers” of the Antichrist, hmmm….I wonder what these guys think of the Christian Peace traditions…?

The Times writes, “In the game, Tribulation squads unleash the usual arsenal against the Antichrist: guns, tanks, helicopters. But soldiers lose some of their spirituality every time they kill an opponent and must be bolstered through prayer. The failure to nurture good guys causes their Spirit-points to drop, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment by the other side.”

The Left Behind series has done a disservice to the church in that it propagates a teaching that is both unbiblical and based in violence. The doctrine of the Rapture is a fairly new invention created by John Darby in the 19th century, and is not the historic position of the church or of the majority of churches outside the suburbs of America.

Really this video game, and these Christian-pop movements to strip the Gospel of anything that might challenge our American ideals of violence, power and money leave me flustered. Not only is the game trying to make money on the cool stuff, i.e. violence, but it makes light of the apocalypse – something so terrible that it can only be described as being “the end of the world as we know it.”

Not only should the church not support this video game, but it should send a message that we are not going to take violence, Christian practices and the end of the world (however you think it will happen) lightly and we are certainly not going to make a game of it (I’d rather you play non-christian games that do this then Christian games that blur the lines between these things, though I am not advocating this way either).

For the record not all Christians think or support the things built-into this game, in fact many of us right-out reject them. And following Jesus’ way of peace is not being overly doctrinaire.

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Wess

A papa, Quaker minister, Phd in Intercultural Studies from Fuller, & prof. Contributor to Antioch Sessions. Angelic troublemaker & #sketchnote preacher. Enjoys #remix, liberation theology, bourbon & a wool vest.
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21 thoughts on “Left Behind Eternal Forces – Violence for Christians”

  1. “Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs?”

    - Tertullian, 2nd century

  2. Welp, I’m a monkey’s uncle. The Christian Right invaded the rock world, seriously, over 10 years ago when I discovered a former friend of mine who was a DJ in college promoting Jars of Clay back in ’94 before they were overcome by the throngs. Now we see LaHaye going for the jugular–unifying violence and youth culture. What’s impressive is the combination of fantasy and reality (Satan exists on the earth to manipulate real humans which you are charged to eliminate), whereas Grand Theft Auto is almost a reversal (electronic people purely created to represent a fantasy reality).

    I think this is truly a turning point for the X-ian Right. What’s next and how far will they push it? What about a Sims video game where your job is to convert/save people? I think I need to stake my copyright to that idea now so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, if it hasn’t already.

  3. @Joy – I love that quote from Tertullian way to bust out the big non-guns. What a testimony coming out of a context where Christians were themsleves violently killed by people who opposed their message.

    @Chad – Hey its good to see your name pop up on the ol’ wordpress dashboard. And even though you are a monkey’s uncle I like what you said. Why is it that LaHaye gets more media attention, and Pat Robertson gets to represent Christians — while people like Tom Fox fly under the radar? Oh, wait, I think I know…authentic Christian witness doesn’t sell well at all does it?

    You make an interesting point about GTA, I’ve not been a big fan of it for sometime, but in thinking about it in comparision to the Left Behind debacle I’d rather go with that. Another friend of mine said that the worlds in these games are not real, and thus aren’t necessarily making moral statements. While I pretty much agree with this, it seems like Christian kids in particular eat this kind of stuff up. They “believe” so much, that when they play a game labelled “Christian” they will believe what they are doing is really “Christian.”

    I hope you get some bids on your new — TBN Role playing game where people get saved according to how posh your house is.

  4. Obviously this game is a joke, but not as big a joke as the whole “rapture” theology that is panhandled by LaHaye and his fundamentalist goon squad. It is no surprise that American Christians jump on the bandwagon of an idea that Christians will be spared from suffering. Apparently they forget Christ’s words about “taking up our cross and following after Him.” Last time I checked, the cross is an image of extreme suffering. Anyways, this is just another example of the mass-marketing of generic, Gospel-less, Christianity.

  5. @Kevin, I am really glad to hear you use the word goons, not just because I agree with you, but because it made me remember our earlier running days…

    Thanks for posting the Scripture about the cross, and your comments on suffering. The role of the Christian is to absorb evil and redeem it if possible – turn hate to love, anger to peace, get slapped on one cheek offer the other, etc. And when we cannot redeem it we bare it in the name of Christ, as his followers, the way he did. Christianity from the perspective of this group of neo-fundamentalist, or as you eloquently put it the “goon squad,” has flipped the roles again. Now the loving (and willfully suffering as Tertullian implies) community of Christ become the vengeful army of a seemingly angry God who is out to punish. Their God doesn’t seem to have any rootedness in Jesus of Nazareth, that should be a concern.

  6. Agree with everything here, and as a long time lover of the big T I think that a grand quote. I’ve nothing to add at all but I am curious now because I can’t think of anything myself: What would make a good Christian video game?

    Making more violence with a “Praise the Lord” added is in reality as much a sin against creativity as a sin against the Christian message. It’s easy to copy GTA, give it a Rapture veneer, and try to appeal to the masses, who have much, much better games that look exactly the same to choose from.

    What would be creative, new, stand out, and be Christian? Methinks there’s an audience out there for something original.

  7. This reminds me of the Simpsons when Bart plays the video game “Billy Graham’s Bible Blasters” with Rod and Tod. “No, you just winged him and made him a unitarian.” “Second coming, reload, reload!!!”

    Sadly, the creators of the Simpsons predicted this kind of stuff correctly. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  8. Patrick, I too have thought about the question you bring up. I really don’t know what would make a Christian game, I guess I wonder if we really need to have a Christian game at all? Why not just have “Christians” working on games like GTA who can help keep things like raping women out of the game. Christians can help keep games from becoming dehumanizing all the while living as a witness in their field. On the other hand, I always loved Madden’s football game, a good game without “Praise the LOrd” plastered throughout. It doesn’t have to be Christian to be okay – but I see what you’re saying. And I wonder if there are any Christians out there (in the marketing world) who think creatively and about more than just making money.

  9. Kevin, its interesting how the Simpsons have, often times, been an almost prophetic voice in our culture. That Billy Graham game actually sounds fun – maybe Christian satire games would be the best!

  10. To all:

    I have been cruising around (via Google) to see whether the alarming advance word on “Eternal Forces” is causing any reaction at all, and thus I have found the thoughtful words at this site. I hope it is a popular site. I ditched the Southern Baptists about 25 years ago because I felt they were helping Reagan ruin the planet, but it turned out they needed more presidents to finish the job. I have done some reading about Christian Reconstructionism/Dominionism, and I think that an understanding of that movement immediately brings up the question: “Where will they get the troops they need to take over?” And “Left Behind: Eternal Forces”, Battle Cry, and the Air Force Academy proselytization story are the answer. I grew up in an Air Force family, and I have to say now that if there were to be a military coup here, the Air Force would be the lead agency, assisted by teen Christian militias on the ground. These things are not a coincidence. Luckily, it appears five years after 9/11 that the vast majority of white conservatives might fantasize about world conquest or smiting our slums, but they’re too fat and greedy to do it themselves. I don’t doubt that there is an effort by some to indoctrinate young whites into a fascist mindset so that they will enlist instead.

    The game is pernicious because it teaches kids to consider such things as the killings at Haditha and My Lai to be a normal part of America’s future, along with torture, domestic spying, etc. But it’s all passive acceptance – unless the Pentagon can build a vast number of robot weapons for the players of “Eternal Forces” to graduate into. I’m hopeful we will be bankrupt before then.

  11. My father was a Methodist Minister whose understanding of Christianity was as a religion of peace. He’s rolling over in the grave.

    What very much suprises me is the refusal of many Christians on all parts of the political spectrum to actually look closely at the images released to promote this game which seem to depict soldiers firing on unarmed civilians.

    There are pictures at my website

  12. Bruce, thanks for commenting – I will check out your site. I can’t imagine any church really wanting to market this game, though I know they are out there.

  13. Lisa, I have found myself saying these exact words “Christian terrorists” lately…you are right there seems to be a lot of violence justification happening in certain circles, influenced by certain people’s books these days…

  14. Interesting Weblog. I picked up the link from Leaving Munster. A bit of a disclaimer for context: I am not a Christian and, further to disclaiming, never (did I say, “never????) expect to see this type of commentary coming from “Christians,??? though I periodically and too infrequently do. Are you sure you people are really confused Buddhists? Christians don’t think this way. Okay, I’m over it, kind of.

    Is the only tie that binds you to them a belief that Jesus is the Son of God? I have to say: given the cultural chasm that exists between the what I perceive of you and what I know of them, no matter how big a tent you think Jesus provides, I don’t see it being that big, ever. Seriously. You folks worship different Gods. You just use the same nomenclature. Why is you are in the minority? Can’t you get a president elected?

  15. Lisa, thanks for your kinds words – there are actually more of us Christians than you might expect but we are all mainly Quakers and Anabaptists: a marginalized group for sure.

  16. 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. There is NO “killing in the name of God??? and NO “convert or die???. There are NO “negative portrayals of Muslims??? and there are NO “points for killing???.

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

    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.

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

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