Christian Cadre's Layman: 'A Whopper of Being Wrong' (Part 4)
And the series has been given major exposure throughout the blogosphere by Crooks and Liars -- which has prominently promoted all three parts - as well as The Agonist, Air America's "State of Belief," BlondeSense, BoingBoing, Chuck Currie, The Center for American Progress, RJ Eskow at Huffington Post, Majority Report Radio, Pam's House Blend, Pandagon, PublicEnemy.com, Slice of Laodicea, WeaselWeek, and three "Daily Dish" items by Time Magazine's Andrew Sullivan.
As expected, the series has drawn some public opposition from folks who believe the real problem is not with the horrific real-time strategy game that lets children kill New Yorkers, but the messenger. Chiefly, there is the campaign by the conservative blog Christian Cadre, led by Layman. Layman has posted comments on Wikipedia -- the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit -- and on dozens of web sites, charging Talk to Action with inaccurate and deceptive statements. On Christian Cadre, Layman goes further, charging Talk to Action with creating an inflammatory "anti-Christian right hit piece" that spreads "misrepresentation," "hysterical claims," "a mess of lies," "outright lies," "hysterical lies," and "slander" that is "flat out wrong," "way wrong," "a whopper of being wrong," and "wrong in such a way that it conveniently reinforces the hatred so many people apparently have towards Christians."
Writing for Christian Cadre, Layman stakes his core claim that Talk to Action purposely misled readers by reporting that Left Behind: Eternal Forces sends children on a virtual mission to convert or kill New Yorkers:
Talk2Action claimed that the game had players kill anyone who refused to convert. That is not just not accurate, it is a slur. Talk2Action focused on the why of the killing, not the who. Yes, those who are being killed are non-Christains [sic]. But that's kind of a by-product of being servants of the anti-Christ, don't you think? No one is killed because they are a Jew, because they are a Catholic, because they are a Buddhist. You are only "fair game" if you are member [sic] of the anti-Christ's army and are trying to murder Christians and unleash demons on earth.
Layman repeatedly states on Wikipedia that his core concern is Talk to Action's report that the Christian militia - called the Tribulation Force in the Left Behind novels, graphic novels, and video game -- uses the power of prayer and modern military weapons to conduct physical and spiritual warfare, which means converting or killing New Yorkers.
"It is inaccurate, untrue, not factual, to say the game calls for people to `convert or kill.' That's simply anti-Christian propoganda [sic]," writes Layman. "The secular reviews by people who have played the game completely contradict the nonsense espoused by Talk2Action."
Enough. Let's go fishing for facts - in the very waters where Layman claims to have caught his "whopper". Let's see if we can catch a real whopper. Layman has searched Technorati.com (a web site that aggregates information about blogs) for days, he says, posting on dozens of blogs that Talk to Action has spread inaccurate information, and this is his key contention, his claim to fame. Layman thought he hooked the big one, and he's bragged to everyone about it for days. Let's see what kind of whopper he really reeled into the Christian Cadre boat.
Layman asked for reviews by credible people who have actually played Left Behind: Eternal Forces, and which document the "convert or kill" claim. Here are two.
Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times:
'The Christians outflanked me and started firing, immediately taking out several of my nurses'
Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein played Left Behind: Eternal Forces against Left Behind Games President and co-founder Jeffrey Frichner at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Mr. Stein published a review of the game on May 16, 2006. Mr. Stein describes how a Christian paramilitary force armed with modern military weapons ambushed and slaughtered unarmed nurses - nurses on a UN peacekeeping mission, who were never given a chance to convert -- on New York's 6th Avenue:
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.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.
But Layman said, "You are only `fair game' if you are member [sic] of the anti-Christ's army and are trying to murder Christians and unleash demons on earth." So how about nurses with a U.N. peacekeeping force walking down 6th Avenue? Are they necessarily trying to murder Christians?
Layman said that if you shoot people, you lose. But the game's creator played the game, ambushed and shot down nurses, and won, reports the Los Angeles Times. Was that a fluke, an exception to the rule, or was that an application of the rule that, in the terms of the video game - like the Left Behind novels that inspired it, and the Left Behind comics that inform it--New Yorkers cannot remain neutral, and they cannot even serve God as practicing Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, or Hindus? No, the game's designers declare: ultimately, there is no such thing as a neutral ground. One is with the Tribulation Force or against it. The refusal to actively support it means ultimately, in the designer's terms, that one opposes it, and is therefore fair game.
Greg Bauman's Review for WarCry Network:
'The only alternative to this is outright killing them'
Greg Bauman of WarCry Network also played the real-time strategy (RTS) game Left Behind: Eternal Forces (LB:EF) and said that unlike other violent wartime game simulations ("sims"), this game poses a disturbing moral quandary. The moral quandary is, Mr. Bauman concluded, that this game is about converting or killing New Yorkers:
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."Finally, visit the game's site itself and review the rather specific description of the game. There is no reference to killing those who do not convert to Christianity," Layman has urged on Wikipedia.
Okay, let's go there right now. Let's go right to the official Left Behind Games site, straight to its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, and get right to the key questions that it poses, and see how the game's creators answer:
Does anyone get killed in the game?Here you have it. The game's creators say, in its web-based marketing material, that the New Yorkers who populate their game "cannot remain neutral." They must choose either Christ or the AntiChrist. That is, they must choose Christ (give up their Judaism, Catholicism, liberalism, Hinduism, et cetera, and be converted to a particular brand of conservative Evangelical Christianity, as narrowly described in the Left Behind novels and depicted in the Left Behind graphic novels) or... die. Be killed. Be taken out on the streets of New York with extreme prejudice.
The aim of the game is to convert or eliminate all your opponents, according to the game's designers. That's how the game's designers describe the game, and that's how they play the game. To win, a player must convert or eliminate all opponents. And by the game's logic, those who refuse to convert are necessarily opponents -- there is no neutral ground, say the designers. The common sense of it says that if you are a Jew, like the Los Angeles Times reporter Joel Stein, then you must convert into a messianic Jew, like Left Behind Games co-founder Jeffrey Frichner, or the "Christian" Tribulation Force will regard you as a servant of the AntiChrist. Buddhists? Same thing. Hindus? Get in line. Catholics? The Left Behind novels teach that Catholics will not be raptured, and Unitarians can just count on being left behind. Gays? Straighten up and convert, the Left Behind product line teaches, or prepared to meet thy God Squad. Lesbian Wiccans? End of the line, says the Left Behind orthodoxy. The video game exists within the context of the Left Behind novels and comics, and all of these products indoctrinate children about what their lives might look like in the End Times - which look like present-day New York. If in the End Times, a practicing Jew, Catholic, Buddhist, moderate, mainstream Christian, gay man or lesbian, secularist, or pagan, refuses to join the "Christian" Tribulation Force, then by the game's logic, your refusal to convert means that you have necessarily chosen to serve the AntiChrist.
The player must maintain a certain level of strength - measured in "spirit points" - to proceed with the military and religious mission, described on the Left Behind Games site as "physical and spiritual warfare" with "modern military weapons," such as "battle tanks" used by "Special Forces."
When Talk to Action posted The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1) on Memorial Day 2006, the following description was included:
If you happen to blow away a neutral party - and collateral damage is inevitable in the End of Days - then you will lose "Spirit Points". But you can power back up with merely a brief timeout for prayer, or by converting one of New York's terror-stricken citizens.That's accurate. The description is based on a Los Angeles Times article that is linked from Part 1 in this series. This is the same article that talks about demons feasting on Christians. It is the same article in which the dual nature of the religious and military mission is made explicit:
"The reason that I think this game has a chance is that it's not particularly preachy," said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. "I will say some of the dialogue is pretty lame -- people saying, 'Praise the Lord' after they blow away the bad guys. I think they're overdoing it a bit."The same Los Angeles Times article makes clear that the Christian militias do more than merely defend themselves. They also attack:
The game is set in New York City, where the Tribulation Force clashes with the Antichrist's Global Community Peacekeepers in a tale that makes the United Nations a tool for Satan. Each side attempts to recruit lost souls in the battle for the city. "Eternal Forces" is a so-called real-time strategy game -- players act as battlefield generals for their virtual armies, deciding where to place units and when to order attacks or retreats.And if the Christian militia attacks and kills unarmed nurses on a UN peacekeeping mission, slaughtering them on 6th Avenue without giving them a chance to convert, then so be it. That's how the game was designed; that's how the game's creator plays it.
The Christian militia slaughters unarmed nurses on a peacekeeping mission without giving them a chance to convert, and what happens? Their spiritual vitality is sapped, but that is easily restored by a moment for prayer. And then the military and religious mission continues toward the only possible outcome in the ultimate battle between the forces of absolute good and absolute evil: every New Yorker who is "neutral" must choose to convert. Or die. Be killed. Be taken out by Special Forces with modern military weapons and battle tanks. Be piled up like cord wood - cold, dead bodies piled up in Times Square, in Chinatown, in Harlem, and downtown, where the World Trade Center towers used to stand. Bodies that are not removed for a decent burial - that's a game feature, folks, festering bodies piling up in New York City's streets, to teach children a moral lesson about what it looks like when you are living in the End Times - times that look very much like present-day New York. This game indoctrinates children to look at present-day New York, and present-day New Yorkers, and consider that in the End Times, which look just like present-day New York, they will have to go out and do some killing, a deadly deed to defend their one true creed.
Pray. Shoot. Kill. Pray. Convert or eliminate all your opponents. "Praise the Lord!" Anyone who does not convert must be an opponent. The game's designers declare: "They cannot remain neutral." New Yorkers cannot remain neutral. Convert or die. Pray. Lock and load. Ready. Aim. Fire. Kill. "Praise the Lord!" Eliminate your opponents. Practice Christian supremacy. Win. "Praise the Lord!"
Or win one for the AntiChrist, your choice: this video game, slated for distribution through pastoral networks and mega-churches, lets children switch sides and command the forces of the AntiChrist, including demons that eat Christians. Praise... Who now?
Now Layman, leader of the Christian Cadre campaign, has denounced these essays as a "mess of lies" and accused Talk to Action of cooking up and dishing out falsehood out of malice, of spreading "anti-Christian propaganda." Really? How is Talk to Action anti-Christian? We'll have to ask our regular front-page posters The Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott (Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists), The Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer (minister for the St. Louis Association of the United Churches of Christ), and The Rev. Dr. Andrew Weaver (United Methodist), about that.
Meanwhile, here's what Paul Procter of the conservative Christian Worldview Network has to say in "Killing for the Kingdom - Just for Fun & Games," his essay based on Talk to Action's series:
After all, biblically speaking, the ungodly premise of the game is frankly a no-brainer. I mean if Christians who read or hear about this disgraceful invention don't see anything wrong with the church promoting a video game about killing reprobates for Christ or, if you like, killing Christians for the antichrist, (your choice) there's really nothing I can add, except maybe a stern rebuke.Thank you, Brother Paul Procter. Bless your conservative Christian heart for standing up and speaking out with such a sharp analysis on this abomination. By so doing, you've demonstrated excellence in leadership. We're still waiting to hear from mega-church pastor Rick Warren, whom U.S. News & World Report hailed in 2005 as one of "America's Best Leaders," and whom Time Magazine has dubbed "America's Minister." So, progressive Christian leaders and conservative Christian leaders are standing up and speaking out. May we now see a show of leadership, and hear a word of witness, from "America's Minister"?
Here's blogger Sean Coon of Connecting the Dots, who dialogued with Layman about the Talk to Action series: "Sorry," says Coon, "but in a world wrought with so many divisions of faith leading to intolerance, hatred, genocide and terrorism, this game is sick no matter how you try to spin it." And how does Layman respond? Layman responds, "Wasn't trying to promote the game, just trying to expose some of the hysteria being promulgated about it. It's not my cup of tea either." Ooh! Strong stuff! Not his cup of tea? This is what Layman, who calls himself a Christian apologist, has to say about Christian children commanding the forces of the AntiChrist, killing New Yorkers, unleashing demons that eat conservative Christians? Cold corpses of New Yorkers piled up like cord wood in Times Square? Gunning down nurses on 6th Avenue? Too naughty! It's just not Layman's cup of tea.
How does Layman respond to the Los Angeles Times report of Christian militias gunning down New Yorkers and shouting "Praise the Lord!" Layman responds on Christian Cadre: "I think we simply don't know how the 'Praise the Lord' comment fits into the game. If it is something said after killing anti-Christ soldiers, I find that distasteful. If it is something said after completing a mission, then much less so."
Blamblam! Blamblamblam! Kaboom! UN nurses blown away in an ambush on 6th Avenue. Christian militia members then shout, "Praise the Lord!" Layman finds that perhaps "distasteful." But maybe nothing so strong as that. Maybe "less so" -- less than a wee tad distasteful. Wouldn't want to say anything provocative or the least bit bold in criticizing people hawking this horror through the pews of mega-churches, for fear of being misinterpreted as inflammatory. Better not react too strongly. Better just say it's not his cup of tea. Not His Nibs' cup of tea then? Maybe he'd prefer a great big greasy Whopper instead. It wouldn't be his first.
Christian Cadre's Layman: 'A Whopper of Being Wrong' (Part 4) | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 hidden)
Christian Cadre's Layman: 'A Whopper of Being Wrong' (Part 4) | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 hidden)