What Was Left Out of News about the Left Behind Video Game
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jul 09, 2006 at 03:02:31 AM EST
It was just a matter of time before mainstream media started to pick up on the controversies surrounding the video game, Left Behind:  Eternal Forces. A nationally syndicated story by Religion News Service sumarizes the critcisms of the game raised by conservative Christian attorney Jack Thompson, who is a prominent critic of violence in video games.  While this was certainly newsworthy, there are many more major concerns about the game.

Here are excerpts from the RNS story by Piet Levy:

Sex and violence are the bread and butter of the video game industry. But a new game aimed at Christian teens is banking on blockbuster status by replacing the sex with prayer -- while keeping the violence.

Players can either join the Christians and kill nonbelievers, or join the demonic forces and smite Christians, in "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," a video game due out this fall as part of the wildly popular "Left Behind" franchise of novels.

"Eternal Forces" is the latest effort by Tyndale House Publishers to profit from the "Left Behind" novels, a series about the apocalypse that its authors claim has won over converts to Christianity....  The game purports to teach Christian values while allowing players to kill in the name of either Christianity or the Antichrist.

The article continues:

The game's most vocal opponent is conservative Christian lawyer Jack Thompson... [who] published his book, "Out of Harm's Way" (Tyndale, $19.99), last November. He has since severed ties with Tyndale because of "Eternal Forces."

He said Tyndale, in backing the game, has "personally broken my heart." He accused the company of abandoning morality by exploiting a "cash cow" in the "Left Behind" series, and said co-author LaHaye "ought to be ashamed of himself."

"We've got a company that's really prostituting the name `Christian' and using it as a sales tool to market to Christian kids that which is harmful by any other name," Thompson said.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Hutson's multi-part series at Talk to Action; that was also posted at Political Cortex and The Daily Kos has led the way in raising some very disturbing issues that transcend the issue of video game violence alone. Among the concerns he raises is  that one of the games' main functions is the indoctrination of  children about what things will be like in the End Times, (which look a lot like today) and suggests that an ethic that demands the conversion of New Yorkers, and failing that, slaughtering them, is what Christianity is about. Hutson raises the question, for example as to who gets "left behind" after the "rapture" -- when good Christians are taken up into heaven while wars rage on earth?  (The game does not say, but Tim LaHaye in his books does.) Who are these faceless New Yorkers who were not good enough to be raptured? Why Catholics, atheists, Jews, Muslims, mainline Christians, gays and lesbians, and a host of others who comprise the full diversity of America. These fellow Americans are the characters left to convert or be killed on the streets of New York. This game is intended for children as young as 13. But of course, it will inevitably be played by children much younger as well.

Hutson also reported that the game is packed with spyware, tracking the activities of young gamers and compiling the information for unnamed clients; and that Jack Thompson has written to Christian Right leaders Jerry Falwell and James Dobson urging them to join him in denouncing the game. So far, they have not responded to Thompson's appeal.

Chip Berlet has reported on how the game fronts for, and helps to market Tim LaHaye' brand of hateful ideology. In Berlet's view:

So the outcome of Tim LaHaye's "non-fiction" writing, the Left Behind series of novels, and the video game, is the training of young Christian evangelicals to rebel against the elected government of the United States when they decide government leaders are in service to the antichrist. And the task for these young Crusaders is to gun down the agents of Satan and their witting and unwitting allies among the ranks of the non-believers.

And from the Left Behind novels, we know this list is likely to include not just secularists, but also homosexuals, feminists, abortion providers, as well as Jews, Catholics, Hindus, and Muslims...especially Muslims.

In fairness, there is only so much a reporter can cover in one short wire story. But the issues that Hutson, Berlet and others have raised, are not going to go away. And there will be plenty more opportunities for reporters to delve into them this summer, in the run up to the release of the game in October-- just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

[ editor's note - related stories: uTube video clip of "Left Behind Games" head Jeffrey Frischner promoting "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" in 15 second long plug: "You Can Play The Good Side And The Bad Side!" ]

If it is, then the video gets a pass just like all of the others. The people who think violence is an issue say so; those that don't, say do. Sales mushroom in response to the controversy.  

As serious as the issues of violence may be, or the purity of first amendment protections may be, the issues of the ideological indoctrination of a generation of young evangelicals in the values of permanent religious warfare against people of other faiths and against democratic institutions of government is something about which we all ought to be able to agree.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 09, 2006 at 03:04:17 AM EST

I agree with you that violence is not the only issue here. And, to be honest, probably most of us are upset at the other ramifications of this game, namely doing all this in God's name. That is what rankles me, at least, but I know as an American I have to allow free speech even if it is something I don't like.
But there might be a valid argument against this game on the grounds of hate speech. Substitute unbelievers with African Americans or Native Americans or whatever other ethnic group and what would you have? You'd have a major outcry from all parts of the nation, possibly something that could even spark riots or other violence. Why is this hatred allowed against a certain creed (or lack thereof) and not against different ethnicities? Because it would be deemed to be hate speech.

by Tin Soul on Sun Jul 09, 2006 at 03:21:28 PM EST
I think it is a crucial one to address. Why indeed ?

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jul 09, 2006 at 05:18:30 PM EST

But Religion News Service is syndicated to many papers including those in conservative areas (like the Observer). They try to provide the facts but not be inflammatory. They also give papers the option of using entire articles or cutting them off at a certain point. Don't know if this was the whole article. Actually I think it's significant that they referenced Jack Thompson, a "conservative Christian lawyer." In other words, this isn't an attack by liberals (which would be suspect in some quarters).

RNS also has a review of a new book I hadn't heard about (perhaps others have):

RNS does know about this web site. Sent it to a correspondent I know there a long time ago since she hadn't heard about Talk to Action.

by Psyche on Sun Jul 09, 2006 at 07:27:18 PM EST

It's published by Judson Press, the publishing arm of the American Baptist Churches-USA (a thoroughly mainline denomination, and my own church-of-origin), and is currently available through their website for $11.20 (list price $14.00).


It's also at Powell's:


by anomalous4 on Sun Jul 09, 2006 at 11:48:56 PM EST

will read it and tell us about it.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 12:11:17 AM EST

Spyware rakes in an estimated $2 billion a year in revenue, or about 11% of all Internet ad business, says the research firm IT-Harvest. Direct Revenue's direct customers have included such giants as Delta Air Lines (DALRQ ) and Cingular Wireless. It has sold millions of dollars of advertising passed along by Yahoo. And Direct Revenue has received venture capital from the likes of Insight Venture Partners, a respected New York investment firm.

Many of those impressive ties have frayed or ripped apart recently as Direct Revenue has struggled to fend off a lawsuit filed in April by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The state court action alleges that Direct Revenue crossed a legal line by installing advertising programs in millions of computers without users' consent [ link - Business Week story ]. Shining a light on the shadowy spyware trade, the suit asserts that the company violated New York civil laws against false advertising, computer tampering, and trespassing.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jul 09, 2006 at 09:30:05 AM EST

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