Back in August, I posted on a video game — ostensibly a Christian game — based on the mega-best-selling Left Behind books. The video is set in the end times, after the faithful have been raptured to be with the Lord Jesus. Everyone left behind is caught up in an apocalyptic struggle between good and evil.
I describe the game as “ostensibly” Christian because it is contrary to the Gospel to encourage violence in Jesus’ name. (Nor do I subscribe to the theology in back of the game, but that’s a different sort of dispute.)
In my view, the game will bring Christ into disrepute — hence the negative review on my blog. But Left Behind Games disagrees with me. This week I received the following comment:
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. …
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 leftbehindgames.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.
I admit I haven’t played the game. There are other ways to gather information and reach an informed conclusion. For example, I could visit a promotional Web site and look at the game’s characters. Some of them are soldiers:
The “level one” soldier, on the left, has two special abilities: “Pray, WarCry”.
Soldiers recognize that not all warfare in this world will be spiritual. Their role puts them at the front line at all times – and their orders are NOT to shoot unless their teammates are attacked, themselves.
Spiritual warfare and physical warfare alike are legitimate for the well-rounded Christian. Pray and WarCry are both valued assets.
The “level two” soldier also has two abilities: “Pray, Explosive Bullets”. I don’t have to think of a critique; the description satirizes itself.
The “level three” elite soldier has three special abilities: “Pray, Camouflage, Silent Attack”:
These are the best trained combatants in the world, capable of intense fighting – on the front line, or deep inside enemy dominated areas. Capable of moving invisibly for short periods of time, and able to utilize Silent Attack techniques when so ordered.
As I understand it, players lose spiritual power when they kill. But, aw shucks, sometimes they must kill in self-defence. And here we seem to have moved beyond that justification. Any soldier who sneaks behind enemy lines to carry out a silent attack is an aggressor, not a defender. Is this a soldier or an assassin?
The Bible occasionally speaks, metaphorically, of spiritual warfare. For example, St. Paul encourages Christians to “put on the whole armor of God”,
that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (see Eph. 6:11-18)
Paul mentions only one offensive weapon: a spiritual sword, the word of God. The Christian’s enemies are “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” — against whom Exploding Bullets are ineffectual.
On the occasion of Jesus’ arrest, he forbade his followers to use violence:
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?
Christians take their cue from the ethical principle, What would Jesus do? In this context, we must observe that Jesus submitted to execution rather than take up arms against his oppressor.
Take another look at the image of the three soldiers. Can anyone picture Jesus dressed in such military garb, with an automatic machine gun in his hands? Would Jesus fire Exploding Bullets, or sneak behind enemy lines to silently assassinate an enemy?
Despite everything I’ve just said, I am not a pacifist. I am, at bottom, a pragmatist. I reluctantly conclude that good men and women must sometimes resist evil violently: as in the case of Hitler, or even Osama bin Laden. Hence my remarks are not intended to disparage real soldiers risking their lives in real wars. (God bless them, I say!)
But Christians must never turn killing into a game. They must never imagine it as just another tool in the toolbox, alongside prayer and the Bible. They must never think, My role in the cause of the kingdom is to kill people who collaborate with the devil.
Thanks, sjrnyc, for giving me a chance to say it one more time: LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces will bring Christ into disrepute. I don’t care how many testimonials good evangelicals supply you with. “Let God be true and every man a liar” — or, if not a liar, then tragically mistaken.