When Peace Is Left Behind

Okay, so it’s the end times and it’s up to you save the world. How do you do it? Well, you pray, worship, and fight the forces of the Anti-Christ. The game is Left Behind: Eternal Forces, based on the best-selling Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

There is a lot of controversy about the game (see links below) and it is difficult to get to the truth. Critics say the game glorifies violence by Christians, especially against people of other faiths. Defenders say you are penalized for perpetrating violence and killing innocents. Critics reply that once your spiritual points go down, all you have to do is pray to get them back up again.

Regardless where you come out, the game is questionable for several reasons:

  • It is based on bad theology in several ways. It combines a literal reading of Revelation with the idea that Christians can save the world by themselves, with violence as an option for doing so.
  • It allows violence to be a part of the game (the game is rated T), whether players are penalized or not.
  • It definitely does not portray Jesus as the Prince of Peace. (Just a note: In Revelation Jesus is portrayed as the Lion who is the slaughtered Lamb, one who took violence rather than perpetrated it in order to save the world (see Revelation 5).
  • It pushes a particular theological and political agenda without providing for the sophistication necessary for players to dialogue or raise questions about issues of faith. It paints a simplistic picture of good and evil in the world and the authors of course know which is which.
  • In the multi-player version of the game, you can play either as part of the Tribulation Forces or the Anti-Christ’s Global Community Peacekeepers. However, putting Anti-Christ next to terms such as “global,” “community,” and “peacekeepers” is problematic at best for those of us who don’t see those terms as necessarily anti-Jesus.

The game is well-done, is getting great reviews, and will probably sell like crazy (just like the books did). We Christians like everyone else vote with our money. The choice is whether to support questionable media or help create alternatives.

In my opinion, the game leaves Jesus and lots of good theology behind. For those reasons it too should be Left Behind.

News links for more info on the Left Behind game controversy:

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/gaming/2006-12-13-left-behind-controversy_x.htm

http://www.leftbehindgames.com/pages/controversy.htm

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16175897/

Anabaptist perspective on Revelation, World Events, and the Left Behind series by Loren L. Johns, Academic Dean, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

http://www.ambs.edu/LJohns/Godinthisworld.htm

http://www.ambs.edu/LJohns/Leftbehind.htm

Originally posted February 2007

Reposted in light of the passing of Dr. LaHaye.

2 Comments

  1. A mostly fair review, but a few points:

    “It is based on bad theology in several ways.”

    Says who? One could easily and equally say that your beliefs are based on bad theology. Who are you to claim that your theology is the right theology?

    In reality, the game – like the books – is fictional. No one involved in either the game or the books actually believes that everything they’ve created will actually happen or even happen in the exact manner it is depicted in the story.

    “It combines a literal reading of Revelation”

    A “literal reading” of Revelation is almost impossible. It would mean Jesus actually has a sword coming out of his mouth and the whore of Babylon is actually a prostitute in the ancient city of Babylon.

    “with the idea that Christians can save the world by themselves,”

    The game isn’t about saving the world. It’s about rescuing people by spreading the Gospel. Is that wrong? And the game isn’t even about saving everybody. You can try, but ultimately, as it is in real life, not everybody is going to accept the Gospel. And Christians aren’t portrayed as doing all this themselves. God is always present.

    “with violence as an option for doing so.”

    Yes, it’s an option in the game, but it is never the best option (the Antichrist’s forces are tougher and more numerous) and it’s not an option for saving people.

    “It allows violence to be a part of the game (the game is rated T), whether players are penalized or not.”

    So… do you fault God for allowing violence to be a part of the world? Just as we can learn that violence isn’t the best option in the real world (but sometimes is unavoidable), so too players of the game can learn that violence in the game isn’t the best option, either.

    ” It definitely does not portray Jesus as the Prince of Peace. (Just a note: In Revelation Jesus is portrayed as the Lion who is the slaughtered Lamb, one who took violence rather than perpetrated it in order to save the world (see Revelation 5).”

    You do realize how much violence God perpetrates throughout the Bible, don’t you? In any case, the game promotes peaceful solutions over violence.

    “It pushes a particular theological and political agenda without providing for the sophistication necessary for players to dialogue or raise questions about issues of faith.”

    It’s. A. Game. While the game’s creators did provide some direction for people to find answers to their theological questions, ultimately it’s still just a game and not a college course in theology.

    “It paints a simplistic picture of good and evil in the world”

    As God does in the Bible. In actuality, God’s picture of good and evil is even more simplistic than what is in the game. Do you then fault God?

    “and the authors of course know which is which.”

    You seem to know which is which, so why is it wrong for the books’ authors and game’s creators to allegedly claim to know, too? Of course, they in fact claim no such thing and encourage people to find their own answers.

    “In the multi-player version of the game, you can play either as part of the Tribulation Forces or the Anti-Christ’s Global Community Peacekeepers. However, putting Anti-Christ next to terms such as “global,” “community,” and “peacekeepers” is problematic at best for those of us who don’t see those terms as necessarily anti-Jesus.”

    Wow. So close to the point, yet so far away. The term “Global Community Peacekeepers” is entirely intended to be ironic. “Global Community” is supposed to give a sense of inclusiveness and tolerance, but in the story the organization is anything but. The same thing goes with the “Peacekeepers” part. There is nothing peaceful about them. They seek to kill everyone who opposes them.

    When I first heard about all the complaints about the game, I easily found answers to them within a few minutes of searching online. Here’s a good start:

    http://www.eternalforces.com/

    Check out their FAQ and links. There are also several fair-minded reviews of the game which don’t bog themselves down in theological issues or criticisms of Christianity and the Christian right:

    http://conservapedia.com/Left_Behind:_Eternal_Forces#Reviews

    Like

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. You obviously read the post carefully and left a thoughtful response. We have disagreements and that is fine. I don’t want to belabor my points; I felt like I was pretty clear, but I’d like to touch on a few things.

    I am not a theologian. Hence my links to one who has done excellent work on Revelation at the end of my article. I hope you took the time to read his work.

    I am fascinated and somewhat saddened by Christians who justify violence by saying God did so in the Bible. First of all, we’re not God. Second, we are a New Testament church. This doesn’t mean that the Old Testament is irrelevant, far from it. But Jesus came to create a new way of doing things and a people willing to do it. When he said “Love your enemies,” I don’t think he meant kill them. Third, the Bible is about God’s ongoing efforts to draw people to Himself. Many times, the OT saints got it wrong. They disobeyed, they blew it, they misheard God. When I see so many people throughout history justifying killing in the name of their god, I have no problem believing that is exactly what happened in the OT. God doesn’t tell his people to off others. They do so in zealous fits of mishearing the still small voice. Still God is faithful. And seeks to bless the whole world, no exceptions.

    My primary point is that creators of media, especially Christians, need to take responsibility for the media they create (games, books, etc.) This is Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth” warmed over and re served as eschatological supper.

    The argument that “it is a game” is old and worn out and totally irresponsible. It is the primary argument used by game companies concerning games with graphic violence as the reason why they refuse to entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, their game might be affecting someone adversely. Games teach. So the question is, what is being taught? And is it a good thing?

    Finally, in no part of my article did I mention the religious right. You made that assumption. Bad theology exists both on the right and left and in between. It’s up to us to serve and worship within an accountable community, pray, study the Word, and in all humility seek the way we should go. That is all we can do. We will blow it. I have been wrong more times than I can count. But God does not give up on us. And God’s grace is sufficient. Blessings.

    Like

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