Revelation and Resignation (Part 3)
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Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 04:18:34 AM EST
Mark Carver, a top aide to mega-church pastor and best selling author Rick Warren, has resigned as a business advisor to Left Behind Games, the developers of a video game in which Christian militias wage physical and spiritual warfare using the power of prayer and modern military weaponry to convert New Yorkers and kill those who resist. Mr. Carver's abrupt resignation, announced in a statement e-mailed to Talk to Action by Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Ministries on June 6, 2006, came in response to a two-part series on Talk to Action that criticized the game's antisocial nature (warriors shout "Praise the Lord!" as they blow infidels away, and players can switch to the side of the AntiChrist to kill Christians). The series also revealed the game developer's links to Mr. Warren's empire and their emulation of his network marketing techniques. For example, Mr. Carver, Executive Director of Purpose Driven Church, served on the Advisory Board of Left Behind Games, a corporation formed in October 2001 (weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center) to develop the violent video game and distribute 1 million sample discs through pastoral networks and mega-churches. And until June 6, the Left Behind Games web site featured Mr. Carver's name and detailed his prominent role in Purpose Driven Church. [Update: here is a screen shot from the Left Behind Games site taken before June 5, showing Mr. Carver's name and invoking the name brand of Purpose Driven Church. -- JH]

Although Talk to Action did not claim that Mr. Warren himself had developed, distributed, or endorsed the game, it held him accountable for the use of the Purpose Driven name brand in the game's web-based marketing material, and asked whether his mega-church and global pastoral network planned to distribute the game. In response, Mr. Carver has requested that his name as well as the Purpose Driven name brand be removed from the Left Behind Games web site (which actions followed promptly), and Purpose Driven Ministries has promised not to distribute or promote the game. In its statement, Mr. Warren's organization criticized Talk to Action's approach, but did not rebut any of the facts or claims presented.

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.

That simply isn't true, a fact the blogger could have verified had he contacted Pastor Rick, Mark Carver, or Left Behind Games. Using the same form of faulty logic as the blogger, a reporter viewing some of the casual links of the blogger could form the assumption that he endorses astrology and witchcraft; however, journalistic ethics would require any reporter to verify this assumption and clarify the confusion with facts."

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.

"I think the game's developers will discover that Christian pastors and parents find the idea of such a game to be in extremely bad taste.


"Mark Kelly
"News and Editorial Director
"Purpose Driven Ministries"

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:

"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 it and do not plan to promote it in our networks. Mark Carver's involvement with the development of the game was a personal response to friends who asked for his advice as a businessman.

"We applaud efforts to develop wholesome video games that engage young people, and we deplore games that mesmerize young players with gratuitous violence and sexuality. We understand that this is a 'real-time strategy game,' not a 'first-person shooter game' as it has been characterized by critics. We have not, however, seen the game. We encourage people with questions about it to contact the developer.

"As for baseless criticisms of Pastor Rick circulating on the Internet in connection with this game, we do not believe they deserve a 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?

Will the Left Behind Games corporation be asked to delete its reference to and detailed description of Purpose Driven from its web-based marketing materials?

Has Left Behind Games indicated to Purpose Driven that it is planning to make any changes to the game -- such as deleting the comment "Praise the Lord!" when Christians shoot and kill infidels, as reported by the Los Angeles Times?

Will the game be distributed to members of Saddle Back Church?

When you stated that "Christian pastors and parents find the idea of such a game to be in extremely bad taste," what specifically did you have in mind?

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,, has not hesitated to publicly condemn violent video games in the past. For example, one 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.

Because I'm Jewish, I told Frichner that he could play the side of the good guys and that I'd be Satan. That's when Frichner informed me that he grew up as a religious Jew in Queens who went to temple every Saturday.

Stranger yet for a born-again Christian, he had acted in a movie with Scott Baio. Frichner was going to know all my Satan tricks.

The first thing Frichner did was to have one of his Christian characters approach a civilian lazily walking down a midtown Manhattan street in the middle of the battle over Earth and stand next to him for two seconds, which instantly converted him.

I did not think converting would be as easy for my side. I was going to have to spend long minutes challenging people to guitar contests that I very well might lose.

The good thing was, however, that as Satan, I of course had the United Nations on my side. As my peacekeeping Hummer and some of my followers rolled down Sixth Avenue, the Christians outflanked me and started firing, immediately taking out several of my nurses.

The apocalypse, I was learning, was a good excuse for Christians to just go nuts and unload a lot of pent-up stuff.

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.

One thing many gamers will likely find disturbing about Left Behind, though, is the black-and-white polarization of good and evil portrayed. The faithful are good, and the undecided are (decidedly) bad or evil. The only way to accomplish anything positive in the game is to 'convert' nonbelievers into faithful believers, and the only alternative to this is outright killing them.

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.

Far from being a Prince of Peace, the Christ depicted in the Left Behind series is a vengeful Messiah - so vengeful that the death and destruction he causes to unconverted Jews, to secularists, to anyone who is not born again, is far, far greater than the crimes committed by the most brutal dictators in human history. When He arrives on the scene in Glorious Appearing, Christ merely has to speak and "men and women, soldiers and horses, seemed to explode where they stood. It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin." Soon, [Tim] LaHaye and [Jerry] Jenkins write, tens of thousands of foot soldiers for the Antichrist are dying in the goriest manner imaginable, their internal organs oozing out, "their blood pooling and rising in the unforgiving brightness of the glory of Christ."

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.

--> 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)

The stories you're read at Talk to Action are accurate, the video game is real, and it's time for leaders to stand up, speak out, and get out there with a boycott against any mega-church or chain store that plans to distribute this antisocial product.

by jhutson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 05:19:39 AM EST
I'd say that here we have an excellent example of effective societal shaming.

by Arlene Stein on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 06:35:29 AM EST
I gave it a title in my mind :

"The Shaming Project"

All people would need to do would be to email Jonathan's piece to friends or call them up on the phone to mention it.

Given that there are probably 15-20 million people living in NYC and the surrounding exurban area I'd say this one might have some legs.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 12:03:04 PM EST

I discovered that some of the promotional images worked better - were a blunter -  when cropped and desaturated :

I also tried adding "blood". Note the sniper in the bottom right corner of the image below:

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 12:26:52 PM EST

They want to market this stuff to SIX year olds ?

by nonlinear on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 09:29:16 PM EST
One of the few dirty secrets that really hasn't been much publically spoken about is the fact that dominionists actively want to MAKE kids violent so they can have a veritable "Joel's Army" when these kids grow up.

In a whole lot of the more hardline dominionist groups, this starts literally from the cradle in the form of religiously motivated child abuse--where violent battery, even towards infants, is the norm in order to "break" them.  This comment has info on some of the longterm consequences--which are, in many cases, identical to that of PTSD or "shellshock" among soldiers and in some ways even worse because this has been going on through the kids' formative years.  One of the big consequences of growing up in such an abusive environment (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) is an inability to trust, even one's self--something explicitly fostered in religiously motivated child abuse (the inability to trust even one's own feelings).  Most walkaways raised in the more abusive "spiritual warfare" groups have to learn lessons in trust as adults that most people learn as infants--and much like wolf-children who have to learn to act human as teenagers and adults, we always have something "missing" just because of the sheer amounts of catch-up.

Even in cases of parents who "spare the rod", training up kids to be a hardened, bloodthirsty army is all too common in dominionist groups that have embraced "spiritual warfare" theology (one reason why I am gravely concerned that this is spreading outside the pente and neopente denominations where it originated).

An example of this--and keep in mind this is in regards to the Southern Baptists, which are among the more moderate of dominionist denominations--is the dean of theology and VP of academic administration of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville explicitly noting he wants his kids to be violent terrors (and, incidentially, showing exactly the kind of mindset of people who are likely to buy the "Left Behind" game for six-year-old children):

A professor and administrator at a Southern Baptist seminary says he reads "blessedly violent" Bible stories to his young children because he wants to "raise up violent sons" prepared for spiritual warfare.

Russell Moore, dean of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., titled a June 1 column for the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement "Why I'm Raising Violent 4 Year-Olds."

In it, Moore, who functions as the institute's executive director, defended taking his two 4-year-olds to see a movie rated PG-13 for violence.

Moore said a reader objected to an earlier column mentioning he took his two young sons to see "Stars War Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," because the film is "way too violent for children."

Moore went on to say it is only the second movie the boys had ever seen.

"One was a tender, touching Christmas movie about a little boy who discovers that Christmas is all about believing in the miracles within," he said. "The second was a cartoonishly violent movie in which men go face-to-face with evil aliens; often chopping off limbs in the heat of battle."

Moore went on to quip that he repents of "taking them to the Christmas film."

"This is because of my overall philosophy of childrearing," he explained. "I am aiming to raise up violent sons."

"I am not seeking to raise sons who are violent in the amoral, pagan sense of contemporary teenagers playing `Grand Theft Auto' video games or carjacking motorists," he explained. "I want them to be more violent than that."

"I want them to understand that the Christian life is not a Hallmark Channel version of baptized sentimentality," he continued. "Instead, it is a cosmic battle between an evil dragon and the child of the woman, an ancient warfare that now includes all who belong to the Child of the Promise (Rev 12)."

Moore, who has a doctorate in theology from Southern Seminary, said he wants his children to forgive their enemies, "not because they are good boys, but because they understand that vengeance against the Serpent comes not from their hand, but from that of the anointed Warrior-King (Rev 19), whose blood-soaked garments don't often transfer to the imagery of a Precious Moments wall-hanging."

He said he also wants them to "exercise self-control of their passions, not because it is polite, but because they are called to struggle against the Evil One, even to the point of cutting off their own limbs rather than succumb to devices."

An review of "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" in May warned in a reviewer's note: "This movie is unlike the other `Star Wars' movies. The movie's last 30 minutes are the most violent and darkest in the franchise's history. Parents with younger children (under age of 9) need to be aware of this aspect of the movie."

Moore said he would not take his children to see other violent movies like "Kill Bill" or "The Silence of the Lambs," nor would he see them himself.

But he said the "Star Wars" movie "offered the opportunity to talk through these issues of cosmic struggle" with his boys" and "to place such themes in context of what they already know from the most blessedly violent bedtime stories they hear every day: the Holy Scriptures."

(The full article from the horse's mouth may be had here.  The glimpse into how far "spiritual warfare" theology is inculcating itself into the Southern Baptist Convention is frightening--especially as this is from the very dean of theology who will be teaching the next generation of Southern Baptist ministers.)

As I noted, the SBC is actually kind of moderate as far as this goes.  In the groups that spawned the whole "spiritual warfare" movement, like the Assemblies of God, they've been doing frank paramilitary training in their "Christian alternative" to Scouting for a while, and heavily promote "spiritual warfare" theology in that group (in fact, the very existence of the Royal Rangers is seen as a form of "spiritual warfare", as the Boy Scouts are not seen as explicitly Christian enough even though the latter will not admit gays or atheists and kicks out any persons outed as gay or atheist).  The mindset this engenders is revealed in frightening detail in the Harpers Magazine "Soldiers of Christ" article, which in part interviews a member of a Royal Rangers post at Ted Haggard's New Life Church (itself heavily connected with the "spiritual warfare" movement since its beginnings).

Another major promoter of "spiritual warfare" theology is Bill Gothard, who runs many "character education" courses as a a form of "stealth evangelism" and spiritual warfare and who has promoted the idea in past that Cabbage Patch Kids are possessed by the devil (yes, he is a frank promoter of "deliverance ministry", that involves particularly horrific incidents of spiritual abuse and is all too often used as justification for religiously motivated child abuse).  Gothard, too, has run literal paramilitary camps targeting kids in the name of training them for "spiritual warfare" and physical warfare in future:

Gothard operates what appears to be a paramilitary-like training school for teenagers on a 2,200-acre former college campus in Big Sandy, Texas, as part of his ALERT program (Air Land Emergency Resource Team) -- purportedly for domestic missions work via the providing of disaster relief and humanitarian aid (see second paragraph of Endnote #9). Gothard states that "ALERT is an intensive program in which young men [male graduates of ATI] ages sixteen and older are trained in Biblical principles, Godly character, and practical skills. ALERT utilizes military disciplines to train young men to restore life, rather than take it, and to bring peace and encouragement to those in distress. The present program involves the following phases: (1) Discipline: in physical strength, endurance, and self-control; (2) Skills: in a wide range of vocational specialties; and (3) Emergency Services: in response to calls from cities, states, and nations." (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) As of July, 2000, the program had 181 enrolled and 600 graduates.

Since the hyper-spiritual warfare motifs of the Latter Rain movement are beginning to take a sinister shift towards actual military, Gothard's involvement in paramilitary-like things causes us to wonder if there is a connection. Don't forget that Joel's Army has a "chosen seed" (the coming generation) to carry out its purpose on earth, which is dominion (both physical and spiritual). In this context, Christians should have some grave concerns about Gothard's activities.

Along these lines, Gothard has clearly bought into the "Christian America Myth" (ATI Wisdom Booklet 53). He believes that "Christian" conviction can be equated with Biblical faith. But, all religions offer some form of moral basis for society. Christian conviction cannot save a nation that continues to reject true faith in Jesus Christ. America flourished upon a "Biblical ethic" that has sustained it until recent years. But a Biblical ethic is not necessarily evidence of a Biblical faith.

Other sources confirm even further:
g) Views spiritual warfare for the believer to include mandatory binding and rebuking of Satan and his demons, and "praying a hedge of thorns" around one's estranged spouse (see Rebuilder's Guide, pp. 115, 119-121, 124). (Gothard also teaches the concept of "ancestral" demons.) Ed Silvoso, a charismatic "spiritual warfare expert" has also appeared with Gothard at his seminars.20 A 1992 booklet, Ten Reasons for Alumni to Be Encouraged, describes a typical demon deliverance ritual then being conducted at various IBLP meetings.21

Even spiritual warfare guru Neil Anderson (author of The Bondage Breaker) appeared with Gothard at a 6/94 Homeschooling Training Seminar in Knoxville, Tennessee. Almost without exception, demonizers are eradicationists. Via their experience-centered error, the old man is "crucified, dead and gone -- extinct." Hence, it is a simple matter to substitute a demon for the indwelling old Adamic man. Cast out the demon of a specific symptom, and the individual is "delivered." (Source: Miles J. Stanford, 4/97 report, Gothardism: Charismatic & Covenant.)

(The book "Bondage Breaker" is an explicit course on "deliverance ministry" and spiritual warfare theology, promotes "theophostic counseling" as an alternative to "secular" psychology (theophostic counseling is a branch of "deliverance ministry" that has practices indistinguishable from Scientology)  and--disturbingly--has been used in programs operated by Prison Fellowship Ministries.  In that article, I note my grave concerns about the use of this material.)

In churches promoting "Third Wave" pentecostalism (otherwise known as the Brownsville, Toronto, or "Kansas City Pastors" movements) "Joel's Army" is often explicitly equated with the young in the church--those who are minors.  Hence the purpose of dominionist paramilitary training of children and even dominionist colleges like Patrick Henry College.

There's more examples--I'll post in part 2.

by dogemperor on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 11:01:02 AM EST

Bible-camps which promote "spiritual warfare" theology explicitly and targeted to children as young as preschool age are increasingly common; at least one documentary has been made on just such a "Bible camp" called Jesus Camp which was recently featured in the Tribeca Film Festival.  Some of the quotes from movie reviews are horrifying and show exactly why the "Left Behind" game is including six-year-old kids in its marketing:
Among the children featured in the film is Levi, now aged 13, who explains how he was "saved" by Christ at the age of 5.

Another child, Rachael, now 10, dreams of being a missionary. She is seen practicing by approaching strangers in a bowling alley or on a street to tell them that God is thinking about them.

"The reason you go for kids is because whatever they learn by the time they're 7 or 8 or 9 years old is pretty well there for the rest of their lives," Fischer says on a radio show in which she is challenged by Papantonio, a practicing Methodist who is also a director of liberal Air America radio.

"As I understood, your question to me was 'Do you feel it's right for the fundamentalists to indoctrinate their children with their own beliefs?' I guess fundamentally, yes I do, because every other religion is indoctrinating their kids. I would like to see more churches indoctrinating," she says.

Papantonio responds: "You can tell a child anything ... you can make a child into a soldier that carries an AK47."

Fischer says: "You could call it brainwashing, but I am radical and passionate in teaching children about their responsibility as Christians, as God-fearing people, as Americans."

The movie's producer noted:
"We would go from our lives in lower Manhattan and get on a plane and in a few hours we were in an absolutely parallel America," Ewing said, describing the making of the film.

Ted Haggard (we've mentioned him before as a promoter of "spiritual warfare" theology to wee tykes--his church has engaged in such stunts as spraying Wesson oil from five-gallon garden sprayers as an attempt to "annoint" areas and "claim them for Christ" and--more disturbingly--has sent "prayer gangs" out to target and run out neopagans in his city) explicitly promotes this sort of thing:
Another pastor featured in "Jesus Camp," Ted Haggard, head of the National Association of Evangelicals, says in the movie children are fueling a boom in his churches that would continue to have a profound effect on U.S. politics.

"There's a new church like this every two days," he said. "It's got enough growth to essentially sway every election. If the Evangelicals vote, they determine the election."

The group that runs the "Jesus Camp" is, to put it bluntly, highly disturbing.  I have so far been able to find that Becky Fisher runs a group called "Kids on Fire Ministries" (and this is also the name of her "Jesus camp", "Kids on Fire" that is; now I have the song "Napalm Sticks To Kids" going through my head) who sells multiple videotapes geared towards the spiritual-warfare crowd.I have so far been able to find that she runs a group called "Kids on Fire Ministries" (and this is also the name of her "Jesus camp", "Kids on Fire" that is; now I have the song "Napalm Sticks To Kids" going through my head) who sells multiple videotapes geared towards the spiritual-warfare crowd.

Some of the books promoted in Kids on Fire's bookstore include works by Ron Luce (who runs Teen Mania and organises the BattleCry meetings--"spiritual warfare" groups targeting teens; the former has in fact published a complete manual on "bait and switch evangelism" which includes literal suggestions to form mobbing-gangs to harass individual targets to the point of conversion); a very large number of books on third wave pentecostalism, and (not surprisingly) videos on how to turn your little sprog into a God Warrior to put Marguerite Perrin to shame.

The articles are, to put it mildly, bizarre; sources as widely ranging as "name it and claim it" preacher Creflo Dollar, "third wave" revivalists promoting kids of dominionists as an "overcomer generation", and even an article on "indigo children" (!) (usually "indigo children" is something I expect to hear about on froo-froo "New Age" pages, NOT dominionist sites!).

The group sounds like it's probably some sort of neopente group without a clear affiliation with a specific denomination, but it's hard to tell--the only other affiliated group seems to be in South Africa (!) and may in fact be a satellite church.

Sadly, this stuff is becoming increasingly common throughout the neopente movement in particular, so you can't say it's just linked with one denomination or megachurch. :(

Also, at least one dominionist correspondence-school curriculum is run by a church with literal connections to both Christian Reconstructionist and militia groups.  The Church of Christian Liberty, a church connected with  "tax protester" movements connected to militia groups, publishes one of the more popular correspondence-school curricula (the CLASS curricula); it has also sold books by militia nutcase and Christian Reconstructionist Gary North, and has affiliations with American Vision--a group so extreme that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified it as a bona fide hate group.  The church has also hosted talks and recruitment drives by the Minutemen militia group which also has signs of multiple links with bona fide racist groups.

The consequences, in some ways, are just as horrifying--as a lot of these kids tend to be directed towards "Christian Militia" groups as teenagers and adults.  On the mild side, they are more likely to join groups like the Minutemen; more disturbingly, they often join explicitly "Christian Militia" groups such as the infamous "Army of God" (of which Eric Rudolph is probably its most infamous member, though by far not the only one who has committed literal domestic terrorism and murder) and other "militia" and paramilitia groups linked with the antiabortion movement; disturbingly, the tactics used against abortion clinics are now expanding to attacks against adult bookstores, including literal chemical attacks and taking pictures of patrons and their license plates in order to target them for harassment.

by dogemperor on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 11:06:23 AM EST

Seems to have generated interest in talk2action - and looks like it caught the attention of the targets...bringing out trolls.  

Who knows, maybe accesing this non-cult information will help break through to some followers.

by montpellier on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 02:04:35 PM EST

Mark Carver--or at least someone who claimed to be Mark Carver, at any rate--had made posts on several of the threads regarding Rick Warren or Carver's involvement in the "Left Behind" games (including one which was less related to the games and more related to rather disturbing relationships between Warren and David Yonggi Cho, an Assemblies preacher with a long history of promoting dominionism and "spiritual warfare" movements).  I had replied, politely, asking (among other things) what Rick Warren thought regarding this game and Left Behind using the name of his organisation.

Much of the content of his statements, and of the emails noted in this post, smack very much of damage control.  (If there'd been an official condemnation by Saddleback Church before all the national press regarding "Spiritual Warfare X-Com" came out, that'd have been another thing altogether.)

I am actually sort of surprised that Carver did address concerns (even if in email), but like you, would be far more reassured if Warren would issue a public statement condemning this.

(I also think it's a bit of a pity that Carver never addressed some of the legit concerns re Saddleback Church and its close connections to one of the parties that largely invented "spiritual warfare" theology within the Assemblies of God, but that's neither here nor there.  I'd love for Rick Warren (who according to Carver, "despises" dominion theology) officially condemn the crap Cho is pulling and disassociate himself with Cho, but I'm not holding my breath on that.  I also don't expect any real light to be shed on some of the other stuff like the content of the mandatory pre-membership courses, either.)

It's also good that reviews from other gamers have been included in this article--whilst it may not be a first-person shooter, the game DOES remarkably sound like a premillenialist version of the old "X-Com" games (with much prettier graphics)--of which the primary point was to shoot aliens.  One of the big points is still to shoot those who won't convert (which is something straight out of "Serpent Seed" theology--if they won't convert or they refuse you, they must be the literal spawn of Satan, and killing Satan's own is ok in their book).

I do agree that--even if Carver's statements smell a lot like spin to me--this is possibly one of the best examples I've seen yet of "talk to action" in action.  There is enough noise now in regards to the content of this game that people are asking pointed questions--and Carver has basically "fallen on his sword" as a result.

Quite a few of the others involved in the advisory board have links to major media companies (largely as former employees)--it probably wouldn't hurt to expose them too, investigate their roles.  (The other major religious advisor is the media director for a frontgroup of Campus Crusade for Christ, which itself has been known for highly unethical recruitment on some campuses as well as promotion of "stealth evangelism".)

by dogemperor on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 08:20:46 AM EST

At least thats what its supporters claim but there is a lot more to it than that.
I've been playing and running table top role-playing games for over 25 years. I've also written background books and articles for several game lines (including Vampire: the Masquerade). It has always been a fun and entertaining hobby for me. One thing that I have never played or really cared to are video games. I do not like first person shooters or real time strategy games for a very basic reason. They do not allow for interacting with other people. Oh, I know all about the online games but it is not the same as sitting around a table with other real people and talking and joking and having a good time.
Another important aspects of these games are the stories that they tell. The biggest advantage that the paper and pencil rpg's have is that the Game Master (the one who designs and runs the adventure) is that the GM can put any kind of theme out there that they want. With computer games such as LB:EF or Grand Theft Auto or HALO, you're pretty much stuck with whatever comes out of the box and what comes out of some those boxes LB:EF included is pretty damn ugly.
Now I know, from reading various reviews, that mechanically LB:EF penalizes the Xtian player for killing innocents but you know what that isn't the point. The point is that the basic story that the game tells is warped. It has a very unrealistic black/white worldview that says that unless you're one of us then you are the enemy. What's worse is that there is no counterpoint to that view. There is no other human voice to say "Ambush a UN convoy of nurses!? What the hell are you thinking?" No other voice that says "So how does committing cold blooded murder make us any better than the people that we are fighting?"
I'll take a table full of friends and a handful of dice anytime.

by Frank Frey on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 12:00:54 PM EST
Such as Games Division West's "Drang Nach Osten". I never made it through that - I dropped it after calculations told me that it might take longer than WW2 to actually play. It seemed silly.

But - more to come on this - there's good research to show that violent video games are very effective at disinhibiting innate ( instinctual ) human resistance to violence.

I don't think children should be conditioned to play at being soldiers in this way - violent interactive games provide powerful conditioning...... to what end ?

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 12:10:12 PM EST

.............that the image of an African 6- or 7-year-old toting what I presume is a Kalashnikov (I admit I don't know anything about guns except that I wish someone would invent a "Nug" to shoot life back into dead victims of violence) so abhorrent even to Fundamentalists, while they think nothing of indoctrinating their own White Anglo-Saxon 6- or 7-year-olds to be ready to pick up an M-16 or whatever and become Killers for Christ...............

(OTOH, maybe they rationalize that an African 6- or 7-year-old toting a gun bigger than he is only proves their point that Africans are a bunch of inferior brutes who don't know better than to teach their kids to kill each other.)

Very sad. No......... way, WAY beyond sad.

Thank God for getting through to at least one fundamentalist leader enough to move him to dissociate from the purveyors of the new wave of Killer-for-Christ "games." Even if he didn't have the courage to do so in the larger public arena, it's a start.

by anomalous4 on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 12:47:48 PM EST

Bruce,'re a better man than I;-)
Seriously though, I'm looking forward to seeing that research.

by Frank Frey on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 01:09:24 PM EST

You'll see. As for the wargame..... it was a big waste of time, I suppose - although I suppose I learned something. I'm not exactly sure what.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 04:03:24 PM EST
You learned that you didn't like all this particular game.
The teaching aspect is something that a lot of people ignore about games and the media in general. This is why a game like LB:EF is particularly heinous. It's not really the mechanics of the game but rather the lessons contained therein that do the damage.

by Frank Frey on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 04:14:53 PM EST
with some relevant professional expertise in related areas who suggested that the existing research on whether or not videogame violence - and especially "first person shooter" games - actually incline people to more violence or not....  but that, in his opinion, the specificity of the target in the video game - and the ideological backdrop was significant.

I think that is interesting in the context of "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" : I'm going to poke around a bit to see what's available on that question.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 04:45:06 PM EST

An overview of the literature by Craig Anderson who had done significant work in the area is here.

by Psyche on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 01:54:53 AM EST
I read that piece you've linked to with great interest

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 06:48:13 AM EST

Thanks. Great article. I've even visited Dr. Anderson's website. Good information. This is what's needed to try and counter these kind of games.

by Frank Frey on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 10:21:51 AM EST

That picture makes me very sad. That kid has so little hope in his eyes.

by nonlinear on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 09:30:53 PM EST

I am a Witch.... I used to be a Christian. I have many Chiristian friends, and gay friends and relatives, and I can not believe someone would actually make this game. This is one of the sickest things I have ever seen. Are people actually going to buy this for their children and teach them HATE, because that is all this game will do. We have so many violent video games already that promote sex and drugs and theft, why do we need one teaching our children that something different then them is wrong? I want to puke just reading what this game is about.

by Equal on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 11:07:02 PM EST
...and I agree with you. Reading about that game makes my hackles rise. All it will do is brainwash kids (and adults, too) that play it. All of that 'spiritual warfare' stuff scares me!

Much of Dominionism is about getting things in under the radar. Get'em into the mainstream of the culture until their twisted, sick, genocidal views are considered 'normal'. Then they will take over--or try to.

They are playing the long view, but I truly fear that one day not in the too distant future, Pagans (and others who disagree with their worldview) will again be burned at the stake--unless good folk stop them. And that's why I lurk here, participate in the diverse community at Street Prophets, and read everything I can get my hands on about the Religious Right in all it's putrid glory. It starts with us.

Peace, in Love and Light,


by Quotefiend on Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 05:19:40 AM EST

I was actually surprised to see this from the Worldview Weekend folks: ;ArticleID=785

Nice change of pace...


by EmilyWynn8 on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 01:29:27 PM EST

The stories you'll hear on Talk to Action are true, the video game is real, and it's time for leaders to speak up, speak out, and organize a boycott against any megachurch or chain store that plans to sell this antisocial product. I'll show you something much better than speedster guide and download Killer Bean Unleashed on PC.

by patsm00re18 on Wed Nov 10, 2021 at 07:01:10 PM EST

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