Left Behind Video Game, Rick Warren and Christian Faith

The Left Behind video game is more than bad
taste. It’s bad theology. Moreover, the inaccurate claim that the Rev. Rick
Warren is associated with the game detracts from the exposure of this
dispensationalist sensationalism.
(Revised June 14, 2006)

The post below is self-explanatory.

Hello Larry

Because of your recent posts concerning Left Behind Games and Eternal Forces
stemming from the Talk to Action blog post, LB Games has drafted an official
response. Please feel free to post the response.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me
anytime.

Best Regards,

Scott Womer
The Bohle Company (on behalf of Left Behind Games)
scott@bohle.com

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

The comments by all of those writing/involved with this blog have been done without
ever having seen the game! It’s distressing to see such an egregious misrepresentation
of our game. The recent comments posted from the Talk to Action article are
nothing short of gross distortions and total untruths. LEFT BEHIND: Eternal
Forces is a game loosely based on the first few books in the best selling Left
Behind book series. These are novels that trace the adventures of those left
behind when the Rapture occurs, a biblical event forecast in the Book of Revelation.

The slanted blurb about our game is carried on an anti-evangelical blog site
with a clear agenda, written by someone who clearly never saw or played our game.
The blogger never once contacted Left Behind Games to attempt to check any facts.
Many highly respected news sources have seen our game and responded positively,
such as the New York Times, LA Times and ABC World News Tonight.

The description of our game in paragraph one is totally inaccurate. The player
does NOT target Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, or any other group.
The game is a good versus evil story, which in turn results in conflict. Players
command battle scenes raging in the streets of New York City between the Tribulation
Forces and the Antichrist’s forces – the Global Community Peacekeepers — during
the End of Days. The Antichrist’s forces are on the warpath, actively hunting
down and exterminating all resistance to his one world government. This includes
the good guys – the Tribulation Force — defending themselves against Satan.
The game is intended to prompt gamers to discuss important questions about life
and death.

The game does not reward killing, but rather results in loss of Spirit points
which are essential for winning. Yes, physical warfare is offered, but it’s
not bloody, graphical or horrific. Additionally, spiritual (i.e. non lethal)
warfare plays a larger role than physical warfare. The player’s goal is to save
as many people as possible from the clutches of the Antichrist – not to kill
them.

Although the title has not been rated yet, we expect a Teen (T) rating from the
ESRB. We are not marketing this game to children, but toward a main audience
of teens to adults.

The Left Behind Team

###

(Revised June 6, 2006)

In the post below an email from Jonathan Hutson takes exception to my statement that his article contains a “serious inaccuracy.” His note follows:

Greetings, Brother Hollon:

I have accurately reported that Mark Carver, a top aide to Rick Warren and the Executive Director of Purpose Driven Church, sits on the Advisory Board of Left Behind Games, and that he is therefore, at the very least, giving them business advice. It also appears that there is an old-fashioned business practice known as “endorsement by association” that is taking place, as I explain in Part 2 of my essay for Talk to Action: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/6/1/82458/92817

However, I have read with interest on Perspectives that you have verified an e-mail that a key executive for Purpose Driven Ministries sent to Rev. Humberto Casanova. Could you please share with me what steps you took in verifying the e-mail? And could you please forward the original e-mail to me?

Thank you!

Jonathan Hutson

This note was followed by the following:

Dear Brother Hollon:

I thank you for your thoughtful coverage of the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces on Perspectives. However, you have characterized my writing for Talk to Action as containing a “serious inaccuracy.” I respectfully object.

Come, let us reason together. I did not specify that Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, or Purpose Driven Ministries was directly involved “in the development” of the game.

Rather, I stated — accurately — that the Executive Director of Purpose Driven Church, Mark Carver, sits on the Advisory Board of Left Behind Games, and that as such, he is at the very least giving business advice to the game’s developers. On that basis, in Part 1 and Part 2 of my writings on the game, I raised questions about whether Mr. Warren had knowledge that one of his top aides giving business advice to the game’s developers. I also asked what Mr. Warren planned to do about the game developers invoking the name brand of his Purpose Driven Church on their web site, which lists Mr. Carver as an Advisory Board member, and gives a detailed description of his role with Purpose Driven Church. Those were fair questions to raise, based on careful analysis of the evidence.

An old business technique, however, is to issue a denial of allegations that were not made in the first place. Okay, so Mr. Warren says he did not develop the game. Who says that he did? Mr. Warren says he did not endorse the game. Then what will he do about the “endorsement by association” that is implied when the game’s developers describe Purpose Driven Church in detail on their site? Will Mr. Carver be asked to step down from the Advisory Board?

On the other hand, if Purpose Driven Ministries is now denouncing the game, then that is newsworthy, and I will be sure to mention it, and link to your blog post as well. If I have misstated any facts, then I look forward to setting the record straight; to date, however, I am unaware of any inaccuracies in my writings on this game.

Peace,
Jonathan Hutson

I sent writer Hutson the email and statement prepared by Purpose Driven Ministries.

In addition, I received this statement from Mark Kelly of Purpose Driven Ministries.:

Left Behind: Eternal Forces

June 6, 2006 – 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.

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.

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.

Carver, who has used his business skills to help plant and support thousands of churches around the world, joined the advisory board of Left Behind Games at the personal request of Jeffrey Frichner, president and co-founder of the company. Frichner and Carver became friends during work they did related to the Jesus Film. The advisory board also included Helmut Teichert, who is the executive director of the Bright Media Foundation, a creation of Campus Crusade Founder Bill Bright and his wife, Vonnette.

The game, according to Carver, has an evangelistic thrust with the goal of transforming a technology (video games) that is saturated with gratuitous sex and violence into a tool that can lead young teenagers to Christ.

In our conversation with Jeffrey Frichner (Left Behind Games), he told us the game is not a “first-person shooter game,” where a player pulls a trigger to kill someone. This is how it has been characterized by its critics, but Frichner also told us that no one contacted him to verify the content of the game.

What the game is, Frichner says, is a “real-time strategy game,” where a player, by managing physical and spiritual resources, learns about the importance of such things as prayer, Scriptures, churches, and God?s protective angels. At this point, we have not seen the game; however, we would encourage you to direct your questions to the developers, or to visit their website: http://www.leftbehindgames.com/.

We have always encouraged fresh and inventive methods of evangelism, and we make no apologies for our concentrated efforts at fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We also applaud efforts to develop wholesome video games that engage young people, and we deplore games that mesmerize young players with gratuitous violence and sexuality.

Having said that, we reiterate that 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, have no plans to promote it, have not even seen it.

The baseless criticisms of Pastor Rick in connection with this game that are now circulating on the Internet are uninformed prejudgments. While we are always willing to answer any questions put directly to us, we believe it serves no one to engage in an inflammatory Internet debate that has little foundation in the truth.

-endstory-


(This is the original post.)

It’s got all
the Christian
stuff, and it’s
still got all
the cool stuff.
–Jeffrey S. Frichner
L A Times

Can a “Christian” video game that involves violence, however mild, reflect the life of faith? How much influence does a video game have on the attitudes or behaviors of the gamers? Does a game that exploits violence in popular culture in the name of religion violate the very principles upon which Christian faith is based?

These are among the myriad questions raised by the game Left Behind: Eternal Forces conceived by the creators of the Left Behind series of novels. The website says players will “Conduct physical & spiritual warfare using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world.”

Does it make
young people
more
compassionate?
Does it make
them more
interested in
human rights?
–Lynn Schofield Clark
assistant research
professor
School of Journalism
and Mass Communication
University of
Colorado, Boulder

The game (which I haven’t seen) reportedly features positive points for “saving” someone and negative points for killing them. It’s an attempt to bring the left behind version of Christian values to the mainstream through a video game, as reported by ABC News.

Writer Jonathan Hutson writes a withering critique of the game in the blog Talk to Action.

However, according to Mark Kelly, News and Editorial Director of Purpose Driven Ministries, the Rev. Rick Warren’s ministry organization, Hutson inaccurately associates Warren, popular writer of A Purpose Driven Life, with the game. An email forwarded to me from Humberto Casanova, written by Kelly, states that “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.”

I confirmed the authenticity of the note with Mr. Kelly in developing this post. He also wrote that a statement on the matter is being prepared.

Apart from this serious inaccuracy, the game puts in sharp focus a question that requires continuing vigilance for all concerned with popular culture and theology. How does engagement with the culture change the character of the church’s witness?

The “Christian stuff,” as the game’s creator put it so inelegantly, is at odds with the culture of violence, militarism, destruction and casual disregard for the sacredness of life. This Christian stuff is about healing a broken world, not about playing with the latest technology to destroy it. It’s about compassion, not dividing God’s children into opposing forces. It’s about justice tempered with mercy, not about conquering in God’s name with overpowering weaponry. It teaches that a loving, generous God comes to us in self-volition, empties that love on us and embodies it in flesh and blood. It doesn’t teach that God would have us tear open flesh, spill blood and leave dead bodies on the street. This is apparently “the cool stuff.”

You can call video game mayhem and death “cool,” but it’s more than sensational to claim that it’s Christian. It’s also more than bad taste. It’s bad theology. From all that I know of Christian teaching, to claim that Christians can take up arms in an end times war and that this is sanctioned by God, is at least dispensationalist delusion. At worst it enters the realm of blasphemy.

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