Christian Video Game? To be or not to be..?

Wow! Any thoughts out there in cyberspace? Things are getting crazy out there!

Groups urge chain to drop Christian game

By Hiawatha Bray, Globe Staff December 13, 2006

A coalition of liberal groups has launched an effort to persuade Wal-Mart to stop selling “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” a Christian video game in which players can kill unbelievers.

“It’s very dangerous for civilized society and for constitutional democracy itself,” said Frederick Clarkson editor of Talk2Action.org, a liberal religious website. Clarkson has joined forces with two other groups, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution and the Christian Alliance for Progress, to urge Wal-Mart to halt sale s of the game.

“Left Behind: Eternal Forces” was inspired by a series of novels that have sold more than 60 million copies. The books describe “the Rapture,” a concept from fundamentalist Christian theology in which all true believers in Jesus Christ mysteriously disappear and go to heaven, leaving Earth inhabited only by unbelievers. In the books, many of those left behind become Christians, while others join forces with an evil politician who is eventually revealed as the Antichrist, enemy of all religions and all virtue.

In the game, Christians travel through New York City, converting “neutral” citizens to the faith, and trying to stay out of the clutches of the Antichrist’s minions. The game encourages players to use prayer and the singing of hymns to defend themselves. But they can also create military units that can kill the Antichrist’s forces.

This aspect dismayed Timothy F. Simpson, a Presbyterian pastor and interim president of the Christian Alliance for Progress. Simpson said “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” was “antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ” and urged Wal-Mart to withdraw “a dangerous and immoral game.”
But Wal-Mart shows no sign of bowing to the game’s critics. “As always, the decision on what merchandise we offer in our stores is based on what we think our customers want the opportunity to buy,” said a statement issued by the company.
Left Behind Games co founder Troy Lyndon said the game is presently sold in only about 200 of Wal-Mart’s 3,800 US stores. “It really wouldn’t affect us much if they took it out of Wal-Mart anyway,” he said.

Indeed, Lyndon said he resisted selling the game in more Wal-Mart stores, because he doesn’t like the way the giant retailer is marketing it. Lyndon said that Wal-Mart puts the game in its computer gaming section. That would normally make sense, but this game is intended for Christian consumers who aren’t avid gamers and usually don’t visit that part of the store. That’s why Lyndon’s company is also pushing the game in Christian bookstores. Lyndon said that early sales of the game have been “terrific,” but refused to provide specific data.
Lyndon said the campaign against the game could boost sales. “We’re excited in some regard about the press, because it’s getting people to say, ‘What’s up with this thing?’ ” But he also worries that over time, the criticism could depress sales. “If they . . . start ranting and raving,” Lyndon said, “it could be damaging.”

Lyndon rejected his critics’ claims that the game celebrates violence and religious intolerance. “There’s no killing in the name of God,” he said. While players can use violence to achieve objectives, repeated use of deadly force will cause a player’s soldiers to desert to the enemy. Lyndon said avid gamers would never play “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” if it had no violence. But he said the game gives its greatest rewards to those who use nonviolence to win.
But Talk2Action’s Clarkson said the game, which is rated T for teenagers and older, teaches intolerance and brutality in the name of God. He called it “an instructional video for religious warfare.”

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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