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Focus on the Family Web Site Endorses ‘Left Behind’ Video Game

A Christian family organization usually opposed to violent video games for children apparently has no problem with a recently released game based on the best-selling “Left Behind” novels and movies that critics say celebrates religiously induced violence.

Plugged In, a Focus on the Family publication, called Left Behind: Eternal Forces “the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior–and use to raise some interesting questions along the way.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
“Production company Left Behind Games is pushing it as an evangelism tool for teens, and I can see that, too,” said reviewer Bob Hoose. “You certainly don’t have to be an eschatologically minded seminarian to appreciate it.”
 
The positive review contrasts with others in the Christian community.
 
Crosswalk America, the Christian Alliance for Progress, the Beatitudes Society and the Center for Progressive Christianity called for a boycott of the game at a Nov. 28 press conference.
 
“We cannot be silent in the face of a video game that promotes killing, violence, intolerance and a hideously false reading of the Bible,” said Anne Howard, executive director of The Beatitudes Society. “It’s time–high time–for Christians to take back the Bible from those who distort it to sell sensational novels or vicious videos.”
 
“Rather than seeking to close the gap between neighbors, as Jesus did in his ministry, the game’s purpose is to drive a wedge between people, teaching teenagers that what God intends is for them to slaughter those who do not share their beliefs,” said Christian Alliance for Progress President Timothy Simpson.
 
On Sunday Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists interviewed on his weekly “Religious Talk” radio program Jonathan Hutson, who profiled the game in a series of eight blogs on Talk2Action.org between Memorial Day and August.
 
Hutson said the game “teaches mass killing in the name of Christ” and “indoctrinates children in religiously based violence.”
 
“For me the big point of objection is not that the game is violent,” he said in a live Sunday interview also available as a podcast. “I’m certainly not calling for censorship of the game. But I have called in my series for Talk To Action for Christians to boycott the game. If people don’t buy this product that teaches mass killing in the name of Christ, then the market for it will disappear.”
 
The game, due out in time for Christmas and based on the Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, reportedly features a Christian paramilitary Tribulation Force roaming the streets of a post-Rapture New York City, who shout “Praise the Lord!” as they blow away those who serve the anti-Christ by refusing to convert to Christianity.
 
Talk To Action, a blog dedicated to opposing the rise of Christian dominion theology in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />United States, said Wednesday that Hutson’s series has been viewed by several hundred thousand readers, but The Left Behind Games Company has not challenged its accuracy.
 
Promotional screen shots show armed forces firing at point blank range at civilians and bodies littering the streets. The manufacturer’s official description states that in the game there can be no neutral noncombatants.
 
Hutson, who described himself as a mainstream Christian, said the game teaches that anyone who is not a conservative evangelical Christian is going to be left behind, with a choice to either convert or die.
 
“The game is teaching these people deserve to die, it’s your Christian duty to kill them, and God will be pleased when you do,” he said.
 
The game received a teen rating, equivalent to a movie rating of PG-13, and has been reviewed in media outlets including the Boston Globe, PC Gamer and Wired.
 
While reportedly tame when compared to other blood-splattering games, Left Behind: Eternal Forces has received most criticism from Christians who view it as a distortion of the gospel message.
 
Hutson went as far as to call the game “anti-Christian,” because “it argues that the Kingdom of God can be advanced by using methods and tools of this world, namely guns and bombs.”
 
He said that contradicts Jesus’ words in John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight.”
 
A top aide to Rick Warren resigned as an adviser under pressure in June and asked the game’s developer to remove the Purpose Driven Ministries brand from its Web site. Christian attorney Jack Thompson denounced and cut ties with Tyndale House, publisher of the Left Behind novels and threatened a lawsuit.
 
Tyndale House also publishes Focus on the Family founder James Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys and The Complete Marriage and Home Family Reference Guide.
 
Conservative Christian leaders including Jerry Falwell and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention remained silent.
 
Another theocracy-watchdog group, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, on Wednesday launched a campaign urging Wal-Mart, America’s No. 1 seller of video games, to stop selling the game.

 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
The game’s official Web site is here.