Revelation and Resignation (Part 3)
Talk to Action had argued that what was going on was an old-fashioned business practice, "endorsement by association." By its actions, Purpose Driven Ministries showed its understanding of this argument, and acted accordingly:
"Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, and Purpose Driven Ministries have no connection to the development of the `Left Behind: Eternal Forces' video game. We have not endorsed the game and have no plans to promote it... In order to avoid any confusion about the fact that Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, and Purpose Driven Ministries have no involvement with Left Behind Games, Mark Carver resigned from the board of advisors on June 5, 2006 and asked that the reference to him be removed from Left Behind Games website."In other words, as of June 6, organizations in Mr. Warren's empire "have no connection" to the development of the video game, because on June 5, a top aide to Mr. Warren resigned from his position giving business advice to Left Behind Games, and asked that the corporation stop invoking the name brand of Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Church. Now the organizations are making a public relations retreat, taking brisk, small steps, and making little noise about it, while at the same time attacking the messenger, and still refusing to condemn the gory game that glorifies violence and lets children strategize how to kill in the name of Christ, or the AntiChrist. Will the pastor dubbed by Time Magazine as "America's Minister" outright condemn the game and lead a boycott of any mega-churches and chain stores that plan to distribute it? The Purpose Driven Ministry's web site proudly proclaims that U.S. News & World Report named Rick Warren among "America's Best Leaders" in 2005. This is a moment to display pastoral leadership.
A leader who has a public megaphone and a talent for organizing might be expected to condemn and boycott the mega-churches and chain stores slated to distribute this violent video game. Will that be the courageous course taken by Rick Warren?
Suggestions for Leadership
Does a good leader beat a hasty retreat, nitpick over nonsense, and bleat about bloggers? No. Leadership calls for public figures to condemn and protest distribution of this antisocial product that immerses children in a virtual reality that looks like present-day New York City, and rehearses them in religiously inspired violence against New Yorkers who resist conversion. For crying out loud, how much leadership does it take to stand up and decry the developers of a video game that lets children gun down infidels on the streets of New York, then switch sides, command the forces of the AntiChrist, and unleash demons that eat conservative Christians? Where is the leadership? Where is the word of witness? Christianity is not about mass killings; it is about doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly before God. No part of Christianity is about distributing violent video games in the church pews. No part of leadership is about vigorously sitting on one's hands or keeping silent as children are indoctrinated that they are living in the End Times, and may soon be called upon to perform a deadly deed to defend their creed. This abomination is not hard to denounce. The game's developers have announced their plan to distribute through mega-churches 1 million advance copies of a video game that lets children role play mass killing in the name of Christ, or the AntiChrist: children's choice. This is a violent video game whose graphics, themes, and setting evoke the tragic events in New York City on September 11, 2001, in order to make a buck. A game feature is that when people are killed, no one gives them a decent burial: the corpses of New Yorkers pile up and fester in the streets. What public word will come from the minister that Time hailed as the successor to Rev. Billy Graham? This is a time for leaders to stand up, speak up, and boycott!
So what happened on June 6 besides a sudden, quiet resignation and the withdrawal of a ministry's name brand from a corporate web site? Purpose Driven Ministries invoked a straw-man argument - a misleading attempt to persuade by falsely characterizing a speaker's position, then pretending that the speaker's actual claims have been refuted. Mark Kelly, News Director of Purpose Driven Ministries, used the June 6 statement to prop up and push over this straw man argument:
"One of our staff members, Mark Carver, sat on the advisory board for Left Behind Games, and a blogger took that information and jumped to a conclusion that Pastor Rick was involved with marketing the game.Astrology? Witchcraft? Journalistic ethics? Who invoked those dark arts?
'Extremely Bad Taste'
Purpose Driven Ministries' original media plan, according to personal e-mails obtained by Talk to Action and verified by Mr. Kelly, was to say nothing and pray for the Internet storm to blow over. On June 1, 2006, the news director of Purpose Driven Ministries wrote an e-mail message condemning Left Behind: Eternal Forces:
"Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, and Purpose Driven Ministries have no connection to the development of this game, have not endorsed it, and do not plan to promote it in their networks.Private Condemnation and Public Silence
Privately, the news director of Purpose Driven Ministries condemned the concept of Left Behind: Eternal Forces as "extremely bad taste." Publicly, Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Ministries planned to say as little as possible, as Mr. Kelly indicated in e-mails sent on June 2:
"Our formal response:Talk to Action asked the following questions in an e-mail to Mr. Kelly dated June 5:
Will Mr. Mark Carver, Executive Director of Purpose Driven, be asked to step down from the Advisory Board of Left Behind Games?Mr. Kelly's non-response followed one hour later: "Further questions should be directed to the game developer." That's a strange response, in light of the last question. How would the game developers know what specifically Mr. Kelly had in mind when he said the idea for their violent video game showed "extremely bad taste"?
Rick Warren's web site for his global pastoral network, Pastors.com, has not hesitated to publicly condemn violent video games in the past. For example, one Pastors.com article -- part of a regular feature called "Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox" -- decries violent, lusty games and advises: "These games are an absolute outrage! Parents need to keep their children and teenagers away from them."
So if the Left Behind: Eternal Forces game is embarrassing enough for Mr. Carver to resign from the Advisory Board of Left Behind Games, if this antisocial product is creepy enough to cause the Purpose Driven Ministry to disassociate its name brand from the Left Behind Games web site, then why should Mr. Warren's mega-church ministry fail to publicly condemn what its news director has privately disdained? Is the killing of infidels on the streets of New York, while Christian militias shout "Praise the Lord!" merely a matter of "extremely bad taste"? Is the idea of demons eating Christians alive merely a faux pas? Is the concept of a mega-church distributing advance copies of a video game that lets children try their hand at commanding the forces of the AntiChrist just some kind of social gaffe? Is crass profiteering off a game that evokes 9/11 just awfully regrettable but better not spoken about in polite society?
Evoking the New York City of 9/11
Some of you may be thinking: this cannot be real. Yet it is all documented. Read the evidence in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, follow the links in these essays, and think for yourself. Look: this "physical and spiritual warfare" game is set in New York City, where billows of smoke roil from downtown skyscrapers, and ambulances all have "911" painted on their roofs. In real life, these ambulances would have a red cross or a paramedic star on top, not a "911". But remember, Left Behind Games was created in October 2001 - soon after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. So common sense tells you that the game's designers had that memory on their minds when they created the graphics for a game that has New Yorkers being killed by paramilitary fighters shouting, "Praise the Lord!" That battle cry is not a far step removed from the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center, shouting, "God is great!" And speaking of the World Trade Center, why do opening scenes of the game feature Manhattan skyscrapers with billows of smoke roiling from them? And how callous is it for children to be immersed in a vividly detailed simulation of New York that features cold corpses piling up in the streets, never to be given a decent burial, but piling higher and higher with each battle?
A Jewish Journalist Reviews Left Behind: Eternal Forces
Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein played Left Behind: Eternal Forces at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. He published a review of the game on May 16, 2006. Mr. Stein makes light of the fact that here he is, a Jew, playing against a converted, messianic Jew in an End-Times battle. His opponent was Left Behind Games President and co-founder Jeffrey Frichner. Mr. Frichner is also a friend of Purpose Driven Church Executive Director Mark Carver, whom he had recruited onto the Advisory Board of Left Behind Games.
In facing off with Mr. Frichner, Mr. Stein describes the slaughter of nurses on a peacekeeping mission by Christian paramilitary forces on the streets of New York:
When I finally got to the company's booth, Left Behind Games President Jeffery Frichner agreed to play against me. He assured me that he had no advantage because, despite the fact that he sold his house to raise money for the company, he'd never played the game. It seems you get pretty cocky when you've got the divine force behind you.This first-person account by a Los Angeles Times journalist who played the game against the company's founder describes a scenario that is neither an act of conversion nor self-defense; this is an ambush and annihilation of nurses by Christian militia forces on New York's 6th Avenue. What else is described by reviewers who have played the game?
Greg Bauman of WarCry Network also played the real-time strategy (RTS) game Left Behind: Eternal Forces (LB:EF) and reviewed it:
The heart and soul of any RTS game is the real-time combat system, and sure enough, LBG's experience pulls through to create a very compelling schema. Similar to other wartime RTS sims, LB:EF makes use of military units like apache helicopters, tanks, footmen and snipers.There you have it, from another game reviewer who played Left Behind: Eternal Forces and concluded that this game is about converting or killing New Yorkers.
Theological and Cultural Context of Left Behind
This video game, licensed by the Bible publisher Tyndale House, exists within the cultural context of the Left Behind novels and comics also published by Tyndale House. And in the theology embodied by these works of fiction, anyone and everyone who is not a conservative Evangelical Christian, must either convert or be killed in what the game's developers describe as the ultimate battle between good and evil. This is a battle where everyone must choose. If you are born and raised a Jew, you must be reborn as a messianic Jew, or die. If you are a believer in God who does not agree with the teaching of conservative Evangelical Christianity -- say, if you are a Catholic, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or even a conservative Evangelical Christian who is a closeted gay man - then you must convert or die. Ultimately, everyone must choose; neutrality is not a long-term option.
Craig Unger comments on the subculture of the Left Behind book series for Vanity Fair:
As befits the manifesto of a counterculture, the Left Behind series is a revenge fantasy, in which right-wing Christians win out over the rational, scientific, modern, post-Enlightenment world. The books represent the apotheosis of a culture that is waging war against liberals, gays, Muslims, Arabs, the UN, and "militant secularists" of all stripes -- whom it accuses of destroying Christian America, murdering millions of unborn children, assaulting the Christian family by promoting promiscuity and homosexuality, and driving Christ out of the public square.The ultimate earthly aim of the Left Behind series is the reconstruction of America as a "Christian nation" - a theocracy. The final novel in the series is Glorious Appearing. That gutbucket gore fest concludes with an American Evangelical pilot-turned-holy warrior, Rayford Steele, asking whether, with only true believers "left in the United States...would there be enough of them to start rebuilding the country as, finally for real, a Christian nation?"
The Left Behind theology is imbued in the core audience of the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces. When they mow down nurses on 6th Avenue, they can rehearse in virtual reality the removal of infidel New Yorkers, those obstinate defenders of democracy who stand in the way of reconstructing America as, finally for real, a theocracy.
Revelation and Resignation (Part 3) | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden)
Revelation and Resignation (Part 3) | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden)