Conservative Christian Culture Warriors Cut and Run (Part 7)
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Tue Jun 27, 2006 at 11:40:14 PM EST

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.

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)

Bible Publisher Tyndale House Faces Boycott Over Anti-Christian Game (Part 8)

It's hypocritical to castigate Hollywood and the video game industry for corrupting America's moral values and misleading our children, and then turn right around and let the Christian supremacist video game off scot-free. While no one, including Jack Thompson, is calling for a ban on Left Behind: Eternal Forces, there's reason for everyone who values American democracy and religious pluralism to protest and boycott this game. That's not censorship, that's common sense and free speech in action. Plenty of moderate and conservative Christians have denounced this game. So why are the self-appointed moral crusaders who have denounced other video games -- Rev. Rick Warren, Dr. James Dobson, and Rev. Jerry Falwell -- so strangely silent on this Christian supremacist game that is being pushed by a Bible publisher?

by jhutson on Tue Jun 27, 2006 at 11:57:37 PM EST
regarding video game violence.

From James Dobson:

QUESTION: What is your opinion of Nintendo and other kinds of video games? They've been claiming a big portion of our son's time over the past few months, and I'm getting uneasy about it.

DR. DOBSON: Depending on the particular games in question, you may have a valid cause for concern. Dr. Vince Hammond, head of the National Coalition on Television Violence, has described the potentially harmful nature of video games, especially those with violent themes. Some observers have come to the conclusion that these games can become obsessive and encourage aggressive behavior. There's even evidence to suggest that children between the ages of 8 and 10 are 80 percent more likely to fight with one another after playing with them.

Concerned Women for America endorsed "Fighting Back" against video game violence by quoting Jack Thompson:

"A study out of Harvard showed that adults and teens process highly emotional images in different parts of the brain," Thompson said. "Adults process those images in the area of the brain known for reasoning skills. Teens, however, process the images in the emotional regions."

"Indiana University researchers did a study of the brain waves of particularly troubled kids and found their brain waves were different from those of their peers," Thompson said. "Troubled kids actually had physical changes in their brains."

The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana released a 1999 study on the formation of neural pathways.

"That research found that a repeated physical act in reaction to a stimulus actually causes a neural pathway to form in the brain," Thompson said. "Repeated acts hardwire a brain to perform that act flawlessly.
"That's why we pay for piano lessons and haul our kids off to football and soccer practice, because we know that repeating an act develops proficiency," he added. "So why are we allowing our kids to become proficient killers?"

From Albert Mohler:

Parents are often the first to notice the effect of video games. Several years ago, military analyst David Grossman argued that video games involving shooting had turned American adolescent males into excellent marksmen--demonstrating incredible eye-hand coordination. The physiology of video gaming is also of significant interest. After all, the endorphins released in the process of intense video gaming are the same chemicals released in the process of panic or sexual activity. As is now well known, these hormone releases can become addictive.
As Christine Rosen sees it, "Improved hand-eye coordination is not the reason most people play video games. It is the opportunity to be someone else--someone else with limitless powers and absolute control." Obviously, this can become deeply problematic.
Rosen also provides a glimpse into the world of "Christian game makers" who "are wary of role-playing games that promote any form of spiritual or moral relativism." Rosen cites Jonathan Dee who noted in The New York Times Magazine, "The Christian gamers' position is that, while you may fight the Devil and lose, you may not fight as the Devil."

And finally, from the World Congress of Families, whose member participants include all the usual suspects from the religious right:

The evidence is now irrefutable that the mass media of entertainment influences the behavior and the cognitive and spiritual growth of children.
Perhaps Lt. Col. David Grossman has done the most to help us understand the ability of the mass media of entertainment to influence younger media consumers to violence.

Lt. Col. Grossman spent almost a quarter of a century as an army psychologist, learning and studying how to enable people to kill. When he investigated the killings by the 15 pre-adolescents and adolescents last year, he found that there was a significant correlation between how the media had trained them to kill, and how the army trains its recruits to kill.

Lt. Col. Grossman points out that killing is unnatural. Killing requires training because there is a built-in aversion to killing one's own kind. Only sociopaths - who by definition don't have that resistance - lack this innate violence immune system.

Thus, children don't naturally kill. It is a learned skill, and they learn it from violence in the home and, most pervasively, from violence as entertainment in television, the movies, and interactive video games.

And now, Dobson and all the rest are playing possum. Moral cowards, all of them.

by moiv on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 12:08:20 AM EST

Why would you combat something that is going to bring you money?

(Jerry Falwell does not advocate drinking alchohol, but he has no problem taking money from Coors...)

Maybe things about this game are being overlooked;
-The game is a terrorist training device?
-This is all about digging in pockets outside their protective bubble?
-Their unfair advantage in marketing...they own the monopoly in the censorship arena?
-This is a pied piper recruiting device?
-Pandora's Box?

I think that they expect much of what is being talked about. They have thought things through so direct inquiry may not phase them. Negative publicity may sell more copies of the game...

Good Luck,

by inlikeflint on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 02:54:04 AM EST

To date, negative publicity from Talk to Action over Left Behind: Eternal Forces has forced Mark Carver -- the Executive Director of Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Church -- to resign from his role giving business advice to Left Behind Games. It has also forced Rev. Warren to pledge not to distribute the game through his pastoral networks or mega-church. However, it has not yet resulted in a public denunciation of the game by Rev. Warren (even though his News Director, Mark Kelly, stated in a private e-mail exchange that the idea of the game was in "extremely bad taste"). Plus, Purpose Driven Church has told Left Behind Games to remove the Purpose Driven name brand and a detailed description of Purpose Driven Church from its web site. These negative consequences certainly don't boost sales for this game.

It is also unlikely that gamers will rush to buy copies of any game that includes spyware in the software. That fact alone alienates even gamers who were thinking it would be cool to command the forces of the AntiChrist, unleashing demons that eat Christians.

And even the game's core audience has turned against the game, as witnessed by the posts from readers, as referenced in the essay above. Alienating the core audience does not help boost sales for the Christmas rush. And that is so, despite the pleas (if any) from gamers hopping up and down crying, "Mommy, what's spyware? Can I get some for Christmas? I want to be tracked by strangers on the Internet in real-time!"

by jhutson on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 07:45:36 AM EST

listened on Lauras show last night, well done. regarding the game, it's amazing to me what the "god talk for dollars" crew are willing to do to promote their agendas.

by Sunshine Jim on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 12:37:36 PM EST

I'm sick of hearing about Left Behind: Eternal Forces.  Let's pick something new to pick on.

by TruthHurts on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 07:26:43 PM EST
...doesn't it, TruthHurts?

Now is the time to encourage more, not less, critical attention to the religious supremacist violence of Left Behind.

If you don't want to be confronted with these realities, there are countless religious blogs that stay clear of such critical thinking...

by Tenoch on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:44:42 AM EST

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.

And this database goes to.....?

Lets see...... Is really good at the game.... always plays the Christian side....Plays a minimum of 40 hours a week...prefers to kill in this part of town.....just the person to recruit for a secret first strike army. You could approach them with reasonable certainty that they would be, at least, positive about the fact that you contacted them, and not get all weirded out about the morality of your plan. And from where he likes to kill most, you know which specific bigotry is his particular hot button.

Folks from the CIA to KGB to Osama himself would be envious of such a list.

by FreeDem on Fri Sep 22, 2006 at 03:13:04 AM EST

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