Statement of Frederick Clarkson and Bruce Wilson, Co-Founders, Talk2Action.org
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 12:07:10 PM EST
This statement was distributed at today's press conference by Christian groups calling for the recall of the video game, Left Behind:  Eternal Forces.  -- FC

Last May, our colleague Jonathan Hutson posted a groundbreaking and shocking analysis of the then, forthcoming video game, Left Behind:  Eternal Forces. In the game, he reported, players control an end-times Christian militia that roams the streets of New York City, seeking to convert or kill New Yorkers. He also reported that the game indoctrinates children and young adults into an ideology of religious warfare, which may be expected in their lifetime.

We believe that the manufacturers should withdraw the game and apologize to their fellow Americans for the spreading, however unintentionally, of a base and dangerous brand of religious bigotry.

Hutson observed in his report:

"The firm's CEO is relying on network marketing through pastoral networks as a key part of his business plan, according to a report in the March 6, 2006, issue of Newsweek Magazine: `Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon, whose company went public in February, says the game's Christian themes will grab the audience that didn't mind gore in "The Passion of the Christ." "We've thought through how the Christian right and the liberal left will slam us," says Lyndon. "But megachurches are very likely to embrace this game." Though it will be marketed directly to congregations, Forces will also have a secular ad campaign in gaming magazines.' As part of its marketing pitch, Left Behind Games hypes the realism with which it portrays the neighborhoods of New York City. There is, for the most part, a remarkable verisimilitude except for one detail - all of the ambulances have 911 painted on their roofs. In the reality-based world, most ambulances have a red cross on top. Yet the game designers make prominent use of these 911 ambulances to evoke the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The historical context of 911 is invoked as if to say, We are living in the End Times, and Muslims are among the kinds of infidels whom you should fear, whom you should be prepared to kill for your cause."

The game's manufacturer nevertheless claims the game is not "violent" because it does not depict blood and guts; but the game is still about a Christian militia slaughtering New Yorkers who won't be converted to their particular brand of Christianity.  While the company managed to obtain a "teen" rating, meaning the game is appropriate for 13 year olds, the rating system apparently does not address a hate-based indoctrination into an ideology of religious warfare that targets New York Jews, Muslims and atheists for no other reason than for their religious difference with Time LaHaye and the game's manufacturers.

The company underscores that although they are also marketing to gamers, their target market is people steeped in Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series. This is troubling in part, as Talk to Action blogger Chip Berlet, observes:  "The demonization of enemies, bloodthirsty dualism, and murderous rampages on the computer screen in Left Behind: Eternal Forces are accurate reflections of the "Us v. Them" apocalyptic theology espoused by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in their Left Behind series of novels," which have sold more than 70 million copies. Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive Boston-area think tank, adds, "The Left Behind book series and game are manipulative primers valorizing bigotry, paranoia, and guerilla warfare against those who promote tolerance, pluralism, and global cooperation." Berlet posted a series on Talk to Action about LaHaye and the roots of his apocalyptic and conspiracist worldview:

Hutson's reporting identified and framed the major criticisms of the game, such that news reports now routinely cite his series. That is unsurprising, since several hundred thousand people have read his eight part series so far. A Google search on the game's name turns up Hutson's first post in the #4 spot. Thousands of websites have  linked to the series

Hutson's first post resulted in the resignation of a key business advisor to Left Behind Games -- who had invoked his position of as a top executive of evangelist Rick Warren `s Purpose Driven Ministries, on the company web site suggesting, apparently wrongly,  Warren's blessing. The series has since propagated widely across the liberal blogosphere, and even to conservative Christian sites, many of whom are as appalled by the game's premise. The controversy over the game has been widely discussed at conferences, on radio shows, and in the alternative and mainstream press.   The ensuing discussion has cut across religious and ideological lines, such that discussion of Hutson's series shows up quite often, for example, on websites devoted to Christian home schooling.

Hutson, a longtime member of the mainstream protestant Disciples of Christ concluded his first post this way:

"On the one hand, this video game is anti-American, because it endorses roving death squads engaged in faith-based violence without any regard for Constitutional law.  On the other hand, the video game is anti-Christian, because it argues that the Kingdom of God can be advanced by using the methods and tools of the kingdoms of this world, namely guns and bombs.

The Scriptures say, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) The Scriptures do not say, "Train up a child in the way he should blow away the people of God as well as infidels: and when he is old enough, he will go out and do some killing."


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Talk to Action (www.Talk2Action.org) is an international group blog site dedicated to reporting, analysis and discussion of the religious right, and what concerned people can do about it.  It features the writing of a number of leading writers and thinkers who are critical of the religious right, including, among others, Chip Berlet, Max Blumenthal, Frederick Clarkson, Michelle Goldberg, Esther Kaplan, and Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott.  Talk to Action seeks to reflect and to defend American religious pluralism and in that spirit, features writers who are religious and non-religious; Christian and non-Christian.



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