The latest Left Behind product may prove to be the most controversial yet. A video game — “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” — features mayhem, violence and military equipment. All aimed (no pun intended) at teenagers.
The heroes of the game are
members of the “Tribulation Force,” people “left behind” after the “Rapture”
who have subsequently found Christ and a cache of weapons. They fight the
forces of Antichrist in the streets of
There has been, of course, controversy over the violent nature of the game. But even more interesting is how this video game is being marketed. Troy Lyndon, one of the game’s creators, told the Los Angeles Times that the game will be “a new tool to get the two-minute generation to think about matters of eternal importance in a way that isn’t religious.”
“We hope teenagers like the game,” explained Tim LaHaye, creator of the Left Behind series. “Our real goal is to have no one left behind.”
What is being left behind is relevant, authentic Christianity. For several decades, the dominant culture has obsessed over the need to orient nearly everything, from clothes to music to food to cars, around the desires and impulses of children and teenagers. This culture of perpetual youth — or perpetual adolescence — has resulted in whole generations of people who not only believe that their feelings are sacrosanct, but that questioning those feelings is the epitome of intolerance and insensitivity.
Christians, including Catholics, have too often bought into this culture of perpetual youth.
It is scandalous and often tragic when Christians succumb to the leading sins of a particular age. But it is equally disturbing when Christians attempt to affect culture by simply mimicking it, using the lowest forms of popular culture.
Yet there is a substantial, if not obvious, difference between trying to present the Gospel in fresh and relevant ways and simply wrapping the Gospel in clothes not meant for it. The great saints don’t inspire people to consider and contemplate Christ by merely being like everyone else, but by being different from everyone else in striking ways while remaining accessible and approachable.
Part of the problem is that Christians are tempted to use dubious means of proclaiming the Gospel and presenting the person of Jesus Christ. We can become enamored of programs, techniques and technology that promise to be pragmatic, practical and, yes, entertaining. We sometimes think that dumbing down the message makes it accessible. In fact, it simply makes the message dumb, at least in appearance.
Should we assume we can reach the lost by amusing them? Can we really change lives through diversion and escapism?
When Christianity becomes a self-help program or a form of entertainment, it also becomes disposable and empty. I’m not convinced that video games will be “a new tool to get the two-minute generation to think about matters of eternal importance” because I think certain tools aren’t fit for the work at hand. And I believe that people of all ages really do want more than entertainment coated with a thin Christian veneer.
We shouldn’t be afraid to demand more of others. But we need to also demand more of ourselves.
Carl E. Olson is editor of