Wednesday, October 10, 2007

88 Reasons Left Behind will have 88 Books

We received a rather negative comment the other day in response to our post about the threats of legal action emanating from Left Behind Games against various video game websites that have made unspecified "false and misleading" statements. Let me clarify why it bothers me that they(the game company) are doing this:

1. It's whining. They are basically pulling out the lawyer card to fight off misrepresentations in the media instead of letting their game speak for themselves.

2. They weren't specific. In none of the complaints that were posted online was a single specific instance cited. This leads to number 3.

3. This isn't that bad, since I can understand and even respect it from a commercial standpoint; they have a new, "gold" edition of the game coming out in a short while and this is easy, free, publicity. Nothing wrong with that, at least commercially. The morals of it are more debatable.

I'll admit that I haven't played Left Behind: Eternal Forces. Not even the demo? Why? There is no Mac version yet. Maybe when I can afford a new Intel MacBook I'll install XP and play it on there. My co-host actually has a copy of the game, but he lent it to our sometime guest host to play, and I spoke with him yesterday and he said his computer can't run it. So, for the moment, we don't have any informed thought on the matter.

I will weigh in on the most troubling aspect of the game, in my opinion. For a long time I've had a love/hate relationship with Christian post-apocalyptic movies. I love post-apocalyptic movies in general. Mad Max, The Road Warrior, the Terminator series, The Quiet Earth, Damnation Alley, The Omega Man, Warrior of the Lost World, Waterworld, Nausicca: Of the Valley of the Winds, (Spoiler)The Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The Stand, the list goes on. I love them all. The idea is just cool, running around a lawless world, scavenging gasoline, shooting evil biker gangs to defend beautiful damsels and their mutant children. It's the ultimate escapist fantasy.

But it has its problems. Max Brooks, author of the excellent World War Z, said it best when discussing the popularity of his books: "I don't know what's scarier, the fact that zombies could rise or the fact there are actually people out there that can't wait for it to happen. So they can just start loading up with guns and get on their motorcycles..." Recently, I read the letters column of The Walking Dead, a zombie comic book, and they had a totally insane letter from some guy who had built his own zombie proof fortress in a cabin high in the mountains. I'm waiting for the follow up when he gets into a shoot out with ATF agents. If you take this type of fiction too seriously, then it can have highly negative effects on your worldview. Suddenly, a nuclear exchange with another country not only seems survivable, it might seem likable.

This problem is more extensive in Christian post-apocalyptic(or you might call it apocalyptic) fiction. It has many of the same appeals(lawless land, fighting for survival, good vs evil in a final struggle, beautiful damsels, biker gangs) and many of the same drawbacks. However, since it is explicitly Christian it, in my opinion, is much more dangerous. It isn't based upon conjecture or redacted Civil Defense plans from the 1950s; it is based upon an interpretation of the revealed Word of God. If it is possible to believe that a post-nuclear situation like Mad Max is plausible, how much more so for the Christian to believe that a Left Behind type of situation is possible, even inevitable.

It is a problem; how do you have escapist apocalyptic Christian fiction without becoming a dangerous influence on young people? How do you balance entertainment with a desire not to have a generation of readers who want to launch nukes at Mecca in a effort to "hurry up" the 2nd Coming? Or bulldoze the Dome of the Rock so that the Temple can be rebuilt. The conclusion I came to long ago is that this kind of fiction is best avoided. The Bible is not very explicit about the end times, leaving much open to conjecture, but it is very clear that it will not be pleasant. Men will wish for the rocks to crush them so that they might escape. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. People will long for death but will not die. Pretty awful, right? I've decided that I won't support and apocalyptic Christian fiction unless it makes it quite clear that it will be, literally, hell on Earth during the end times.

But I still love apocalyptic fiction. Hence, my dilemma with Left Behind: Eternal Forces. I like the fact that they are making a RTS set in this environment. It is a great idea. But a part of me still recoils from the romanticizing of the end times. I think that weaving in religion just puts it too close to doctrine and too far from entertainment, and it is a dangerous doctrine.

That said, our commenter, Jason, has an amazingly in-depth overview of the the game at his blog, Shock & Blog. He covers the controversy, reviews every mission(!) of the game, and generally comes across that the world's biggest fan of Left Behind: Eternal Forces. He does a good job of responding to criticism of the game, although at times he comes off as simply repeating the PR line from the game company. Check it out if you're interested in the game. He obviously loves it, and has some good information. Thanks for the comment Jason!

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1 comment:

Jason said...

I think you misunderstand my position. I don't love or hate the game. I haven't even read the books, though I've seen the movies. My position is about countering the lies that are being spread about the game. Just from my previous experience with anti-fundamentalist critics, I knew that what they were saying about the game couldn't be true. But just to verify that, I went and actually bought the game to play it (something that many of the critics never did). Unsurprisingly, I found the critics to be completely wrong.

Additionally, my purpose isn't to get people to enjoy the game. I don't care if people hate the game for legitimate reasons. Not every person enjoys every game. There are games you and others enjoy that I don't, but I don't base my dislike on those games on falsehoods. For (a fictional) example, I don't go around falsely claiming Halo 3 promotes pedophilia because I dislike it (I actually haven't ever played any Halo games) and I certainly don't criticize the game based only upon what other people have claimed about it.

As far as your concerns about the books, movies and video game inspiring people to "speed up" the coming of the "End Times," I addressed that very topic in one of my earliest posts about the game:

"God is not beholden to the deeds of man. The book of Revelation details signs we are to watch for and Jesus teaches in Matthew 24 that we are to "keep watch," but note that he doesn't ever teach "Do things to speed my return." We cannot speed up, slow down or even stop the return of Christ by any means. It will happen when God wants it to happen and not a moment before or after."

In retrospect, I guess you possibly could count extremist cults like David Koresh's Branch Davidians as people who felt they could speed the return of Christ. I'm not privy to the exact details of their beliefs, but it seems that's what they were trying to do. At the very least, they fit your idea of religious people stocking up weapons to prepare for the "End Times," but they don't represent in the least the average person who has enjoyed the Left Behind story. All you have to do to verify this is turn on TBN. Not even the hardcore "End Times" believers (like that Hagee guy) are calling for people to stock up on guns to prepare for Christ's return. Indeed, they're not even expecting to be around during the "End Times." They're expecting to be Raptured beforehand.

I've heard there are people who believe that there will be no Rapture during the "End Times" or at least not until afterwards, but I don't think even these people - who are expecting to be here through the Tribulation period - are preparing for it by stocking up on weapons. I've never heard of any such thing anyway.

In short, all the concerns people have about fundamentalist Christians and the "End Times" are by and large blown way out of proportion. They just don't fit reality.