Simon Weckert used cellphone signals to deceive Google servers in Berlin for a digital art piece posted on Feb. 1. (Simon Weckert)
Our Godgle who art online, hollowed be thy name,
Thy thingdom has come, thy will being done on earth as it is in cyberspace.
So weave us this day our daily web,
And forgive us our sims as we forgive those who simulate against us,
And lead us not into discontinuation but deliver us from the believable,
For thine is the programme to devour the story, forever and ever, Amen.
PeaceGrooves was originally founded as a springboard for the creation of games and other story-telling venues that would educate players in peaceful ways to affect positive change.
My graduate theory paper “Video Games as Change Agents for Peace” presented this idea over ten years ago. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, PeaceGrooves was never able to fully realize its full potential and so I made the difficult decision several years ago to take our website offline and move on to other projects.
Today, I was inspired by the following article in the Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2019/10/14/once-he-was-refugee-now-hes-ceo-making-video-games-peace/
It describes a former Somali refugee’s creation of a video game for peace that is based on the creator’s actual experience. Mr. Lual Mayen has created his own video game company to produce and market his game.
It is wonderful to see others who are making video games that are change agents for peace.
Pardon the potty talk. I guess I’m regressing back to prepubescence.
But I am annoyed and I don’t mean that goofy character that threatens Domino’s pizzas.
It’s Sunday and as is typical, the paper is filled with store inserts. And it seems every insert has Call of Duty on the front page. Best Buy is the worst. There are three phones, a laptop, and a game console on the first page – every single one with the same puke green Call of Duty wall paper. I guess the idea is that you can play the game everywhere. Yuk!
I write a peace blog so I’ve got more than a few issues with a militaristic first person shooter especially this particular franchise which pushes just about every single one of my pacifistic buttons. Talk about being “depressed.”
I express my annoyance to my teenage son who is growing more receptive to my media maddened rants. He says that pretty much everyone he knows has the game. He’s getting used to not being allowed to play certain games that his friends and family members can. But I’ll be honest with you. It gets old being a parent trying to buck the current – and the current trend.
I mean the game is rated M, as in MATURE. Hello! So for the parents who seem to be unaware of what M means here is a little info. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rates video games similar to the way movies are rated. According to the ESRB website:
Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Hmm. Delightful. I definitely want my child putting his fingers in that stuff. Psych! Sarcasm aside, just for comparison sake, that is similar to an NC-17 movie. In both the video game and movie rating system there is only one rating higher – A (Adult).
If it wasn’t so sad, I would be fascinated by the phenomenon where some parents will allow their children to play M video games and yet not allow them to watch NC-17 movies. But perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe parents are allowing their children to do both. I don’t know. I mean we are so inundated with media these days, how do we keep track? Quite frankly, I look around and I see a lot of parents who seem to have given up and a lot of kids without the necessary boundaries for healthy growth. That is why I write this blog.
So I’ve said my peace. I’m starting to calm down now.
Then my son shows me something else. There on page one down in the lower right corner is another advertisement for earbuds. But these are not ordinary earbuds – they are a tell tale green color and shaped like bullets. Yep, you guessed it. Now you can own your very own Call of Duty earbuds. I guess they make the explosions sound better.
But I suspect they are mainly to keep kids from hearing an alternative voice of peace.
And parents from having to be that voice.
November 10, 2011
So this week I’ve been listening to the audio book “Mercury Rising” by Ryne Douglas Pearson. Originally published in 1996 as “Simple Simon,” the book was re-released in 1998 under the new name in conjunction with the movie starring Bruce Willis.
Therein lies the rub.
Now I like Bruce Willis as an actor in most of the movies I’ve seen him in. But I don’t understand why he was cast as the main character in this role.
You see, in the novel, Art Jefferson, the FBI agent who befriends and protects the autistic savant Simon, is African-American. He is strong, competent, happily married, sensitive; a man of high moral values and integrity.
So why wasn’t an African-American actor given the starring role (instead of Chi McBride added as the sidekick almost as an afterthought?)
What a missed opportunity. But then again, such a role would fly in the face of how the black male is portrayed in the media.
In the story, an autistic 9-year old boy somehow has the ability to break the government’s top secret computer code.
Unfortunately, the code of continued racism in Hollywood is a lot harder to crack.
By his stripes we are healed.
For a young Christian seeking holy rock and roll growing up in Mississippi, Stryper delivered.
Imagine my joy to discover that they were coming out with a new album! (which I preordered)
So now I am making some amazing spinach quesadillas while listening to and worshiping with this truly amazing band.
At times I have felt the need to take a break from the news which is rather difficult as I am a consummate news junkie. I believe in being informed.
Then inevitably a day comes when the information interferes with the being.
It is not that there is no good news happening in the world. I would submit that there is more good than bad happening on any given day. It simply is not broadcast.
Or one must look a little harder to find the good news broadcasters.
So I have stopped reading the newspaper. I also deleted several news apps on my phone and canceled a variety of notifications. To say I was obsessing over the news was an understatement.
But it isn’t enough to simply refrain from something. So I did some research to find a replacement.
Here is what I found:
So here is what I did:
I downloaded the News Republic app. I turned off all of the notifications from its news sources. Then I customized it by adding the RSS feeds for the Good News Network, Positive News, Yes! magazine, my blogs, MWR, etc.
So now when I click on the News Republic app I have a nice screen of good news. I also get notifications during the day. News Republic also learns my preferences and creates a personal profile.
Benefits so far?
I am happier. I am less depressed. I have a better perspective on what is happening. I am not as angry.
And my creative muse has returned.
Now that is good news!
I am a post-apocalyptic person. I spend way too much time engaged with media and thoughts about the end of the world. There are very few stories about the survivors surviving as pacifists. Yet the blatant divination of violence in the Book of Eli takes killing in order to survive to the extreme. In a word: I am appalled at the explicit perpetration of the myth of redemptive violence in this film.
Synopsis: The world has suffered through a nuclear catastrophe. A blind man named Eli has the sole remaining copy of the Bible. He has heard a voice telling him to travel to the West Coast. The book is destined to help save the world. I concur.
However, I do not condone the overwhelming violence that Eli commits to “protect” the Book nor do I believe that because of the Book, he is somehow divinely protected from the violence of others. Eli (in the form of Denzel Washington) is simply one in a long line of heroes who use violence to bring about “good.” The end somehow justifies the means. That is a lie.
If violence is the means to an end then the end is simply more violence. We have it backwards. The means should justify the end.
It is beyond ironic that Eli is the name of the main character in the film. In Hebrew, Eli means “Ascent”; “Yahweh is the most high/God on high,” or simply “My God.” In other words, Eli is another name for God, in this instance a God who condones violence, whose ends are brought about by violent means. The all-too-real and sad implications of this belief today is that there are far too many members of the world’s monotheistic religions who are killing in the name of this El – i (My God), as a result of some “voice” they are hearing to protect the sanctity of their particular interpretation of the Book.
A History Lesson
Around 1000 BC, according to Samaritan and Israeli historical accounts, the people of Israel broke into three factions: those who followed false gods, those who remained true to the High Priesthood on Mt. Gerazim, and a faction who followed after the prophet Eli. Eli attempted a sacrifice which was not accepted and so he was rebuked by the High Priest. Eli then went to Shiloh with his followers where he built an exact replica of the temple and altar that existed on Mt. Gerazim. His priesthood resembled the true priesthood in every way except it and the place of worship were illegitimate (1 Samuel 1:1-3; 2:12-17).
According to the Samaritans this marked the end of the Age of Divine Favor called רידון (Ridhwan) or רהוּתה (Rahuta), which began with Moses. Thus began the פנוּתה (Fanuta) Era of Divine Disfavor when God looks away from the people. According to the Samaritans the age of divine favor will only return with the coming of the Taheb (Messiah or Restorer).
Often when we look at a particular situation, we can see a right way and a wrong way. These are often easily distinguished because they are complete opposites. I would submit that there is also another way, a false way that masquerades as the true one but is in every sense just as false. This is the way of Eli.
It is the way that is followed by those who do violence in God’s name. However just and true the cause might seem, however clear the voice may sound, however meaningful the worship may feel; it is a lie.
The Death of Eli
At the end of the movie, Eli, gravely injured and without his Bible which has been stolen, is able to orally dictate the words from memory before he dies. The new copy is then placed on a shelf with the Talmud and Qur’an. The implication is that these three books will help “civilization” return. (I wonder what our hero thought when he was reciting the parts about loving your enemy and the meek inheriting the earth. Perhaps he left them out).
The death of the false priest Eli is less noble. Upon receiving the news that Ark of the Lord has been captured, Eli tumbles from his seat beside the city gate and dies from a broken neck. I would submit that another kind of break needs to occur among us as well. We need to separate ourselves from any false way of Eli that masquerades as true, in this instance a way that justifies violence in the name of God.
Whether we believe the Messiah has come or not, until we begin to live as if the Messiah has come, or at least believe that everyone is deserving of and should experience the Messiah’s favor and blessing, then we will continue to live under Fanuta, or the Era of Divine Disfavor. Rahuta, the Era of Divine Favor, only returns when we begin to live as Taheb, the Messiah, would have us live, exemplifying those qualities of the divine, and developing eyes to see that same spark in everyone around us.
Taheb, and Rahuta, come quickly.
(Author’s Note: While I am aware that my commentary is somewhat dated as this movie was released in January 2010, the idea for this post which had been germinating since its release was brought to the forefront when my pre-teen daughter was traumatized by the movie being broadcast in a spa where she was getting her nails done recently. The spa owner’s irresponsibility is equal to that of the Hughe’s Brothers, all who seem to disbelieve in a world that contains impressionable children or is ruled by a God of peace).