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A few years ago, Talk to Action led the way in breaking the news and extending the analysis of the video game based on Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of novels. Set in New York, members of a Christian militia called the Tribulation Force, comprising people who had been "left behind" after the Rapture, battle it out in the streets of New York City against the forces of the Anti-Christ, who, as in the novels, is the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The plan was to market the game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, to and through evangelical churches during the 2006 Christmas shopping season. Then on Christmas morning, the glowing faces of children gathered 'round the tree would be handed a game to prepare them for a religious war.  It was bad enough that the game taught children the ideology of end-times religious war, but for many the devil was in the gruesome details. Indeed, the game turned on a feature that was best described as "convert or be killed."  

Now Left Behind Games apparently hopes to revive sales of the game. But first they have to revise history, and their first score was the the business magazine Quartz -- as well as the News Editor of Salon.com who quoted from the Quartz story:

Almost immediately, game reviewers, the media and various religiously-affiliated non profits declared that the game rewarded players for killing characters who did not convert to Christianity. While widely reported, this turned out to not be true.
In fact, it was not only true, but was a critical aspect of the game. It was reported by Talk to Action and others at the time, although Quartz found one gamer, writing three years later who disagreed.  End of story?

Let's set the record straight.

The convert or be killed aspect of the game was obvious, as jhutson reported in his blockbuster series.

Greg Bauman of WarCry Network also played the real-time strategy (RTS) game Left Behind: Eternal Forces (LB:EF) and reviewed it:

   

The heart and soul of any RTS game is the real-time combat system, and sure enough, LBG's experience pulls through to create a very compelling schema. Similar to other wartime RTS sims, LB:EF makes use of military units like apache helicopters, tanks, footmen and snipers.

    One thing many gamers will likely find disturbing about Left Behind, though, is the black-and-white polarization of good and evil portrayed. The faithful are good, and the undecided are (decidedly) bad or evil. The only way to accomplish anything positive in the game is to 'convert' nonbelievers into faithful believers, and the only alternative to this is outright killing them.

There you have it, from another game reviewer who played Left Behind: Eternal Forces and concluded that this game is about converting or killing New Yorkers.
He further explained in another post in the series:
Okay, let's go there right now. Let's go right to the official Left Behind Games site, straight to its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, and get right to the key questions that it poses, and see how the game's creators answer:

   

Does anyone get killed in the game?

    People do perish in our game just like some do in the book series. This is a real strategy game, so the gamer controls his forces just like you do in chess game [sic]."...

    Are guns used by Christians against non-Christians? Why or why not?

    The storyline in the game begins just after the Rapture has occurred - when all adult Christians, all infants, and many children were instantly swept home to Heaven and off the Earth by God. The remaining population - those who were left behind - are then poised to make a decision at some point. They cannot remain neutral. Their choice is to either join the AntiChrist - which is an imposturous one world government seeking peace for all of mankind, or they may join the Tribulation Force - which seeks to expose the truth and defend themselves against the forces of the AntiChrist."

Here you have it. The game's creators say, in its web-based marketing material, that the New Yorkers who populate their game "cannot remain neutral." They must choose either Christ or the AntiChrist. That is, they must choose Christ (give up their Judaism, Catholicism, liberalism, Hinduism, et cetera, and be converted to a particular brand of conservative Evangelical Christianity, as narrowly described in the Left Behind novels and depicted in the Left Behind graphic novels) or... die. Be killed. Be taken out on the streets of New York with extreme prejudice.

The aim of the game is to convert or eliminate all your opponents, according to the game's designers. That's how the game's designers describe the game, and that's how they play the game. To win, a player must convert or eliminate all opponents. And by the game's logic, those who refuse to convert are necessarily opponents -- there is no neutral ground, say the designers.

Also:

When Talk to Action posted The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1) on Memorial Day 2006, the following description was included:

   

If you happen to blow away a neutral party - and collateral damage is inevitable in the End of Days - then you will lose "Spirit Points". But you can power back up with merely a brief timeout for prayer, or by converting one of New York's terror-stricken citizens.
That's accurate. The description is based on a Los Angeles Times article that is linked from Part 1 in this series. This is the same article that talks about demons feasting on Christians.

There was indeed, as Quartz reported world wide media coverage (although Quartz linked to only one story), and the game was denounced by Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups (although Quartz only links to a press release of the Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR).  

I quoted from a study by the Anti Defamation League at the time:  

The entire ADL analysis is worth a read, but I want to highlight one important point made very well.  The game's manufacturer, and apologists in the gaming community, seek to treat the game as if it is isolated from the ideological context of the Left Behind series on which it is based, and the main market for the game, which is primarily people who are fans of the Left Behind books, or who share a similar theology.

   

... the inclusion of a "Left Behind" book in the package for "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" creates a direct link between the two. Together they promote the overall message of an exclusivist religious system that considers the proselytization of Jews to be an imperative. This theology portrays itself as the only path to salvation. And Jews, people of any other faith, or those of no faith who do not convert before it's too late, are destined to suffer horrible deaths.

    The "Eternal Forces" game pits the "good guys" a Christian religious militia, battling the "bad guys," called the Global Community Peacekeepers - a United Nations-like world army led by the anti-Christ. LaHaye argues that the video game is "designed to be a classic battle between good and evil," adding that since there is no "gratuitous" blood and gore, its tale of the hellish demise of non-believers, will actually "perpetuate positive values."

   The game, like the rest of the Left Behind franchise, mirrors another troubling aspect of the Christian Supremacist movement in the United States by portraying Christians who believe in their specific brand of theology as a put-upon minority who are being persecuted by larger and better equipped evil forces.

Unlike the ADL, Quartz left unmentioned the horrific context of the underlying ideology of the game and the novels. Fortunately, Chip Berlet authored an in depth series of posts at Talk to Action which he summarized in a post titled:  "LaHaye and Jenkins: Why is the Criticism Left Behind?"  

When White supremacists post websites demonizing Jews and gay people, they are condemned for the hatemongers they are.

When leaders of the armed citizens militias and their allies in the Patriot Movement in the 1990s urged their followers to form anti-government underground cells and battle global cooperation and the United Nations, they were condemned as dangerous guerrillas spreading divisive conspiracy theories.

When Timothy LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins write the Left Behind series of novels containing the same type of bigotry, they sell 70 million books and are interviewed by clueless journalists who use a double standard by not confronting LaHaye and Jenkins for spreading hate and conspiracism as well as promoting religious violence as a heroic duty.

The Talk to Action series about the original version of the Left Behind video game began in May of 2006 -- and resulted in worldwide outrage and concern. The company made some changes prior to the pre-Christmas release of the game that may have softened the convert or die aspect -- including the gratuitous "Praise the Lord" exclamation that sounded when someone on the anti-Christ side was felled.  While there is reason to doubt the extent of the revisions, even if these issues were entirely cleaned up, they were never the only concerns, and many other disturbing problems remained that continued to generate well-justified opposition.  These aspects are unlikely to ever change.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 07:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  These guys are the scariest force in our country (11+ / 0-)

    They give justification for every anti-social act, total lack of empathy, and all the selfish behavior that we have to deal with daily. "It's OK, you're God's chosen. Don't worry."

    "Humidity built the snowman. Sunshine brought him down" John Prine

    by high uintas on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 08:12:19 PM PDT

  •  The Tribulationists, in insisting that the Bible (18+ / 0-)

    is not only infallible but is also inerrant, lays the Book of Revelations open to serious misinterpretation.  Since they have a stubbornly ahistorical theology, they insist that Revelations is meant to apply to the current century and to current events instead of being directed at a First Century audience, probably the seven churches in Asia Minor at that time specifically.  They also ignore that though Revelations is the only piece of apocalyptic literature in the NT (and only made it into the Bible by a cat's whisker), there is a rich corpus of such literature produced in the First Century as Rome converted itself from a regional power to a superpower and from a republic to an empire.  Add to this the turmoil inherent in choosing successors to the Augustans and the pressure of internal strife, it is no wonder those early Christians felt that they were living in the End Times.

    Relying on Tribulationists' (and there are several different types with different interpretations of Revelations among the general group) generic interpretation of the text, Revelations calls for the Tribulation to be accompanied by the return of all Jews to Israel, an assault on Israel by all the neighboring nations, and half of all Jews are killed in the resulting war (my timeline may be a bit shaky; it is late).  The rest convert to Christianity.  (It was this bit of theology that had preachers such as Hagee scrambling when it was questioned as being antisemitic.)

    I did not play the game but can report that is the gist of Revelations: come Armageddon, the forces of Good will confront the forces of the AntiChrist and all those who do not convert are killed or die in some of the concomitant plagues and other collateral nuisances.  So long as the Tribulationists continue to insist that the entire Bible is inerrant and literally true, then any game based upon the content of Revelations, in order to be completely true to the text, must have a Crusader type mentality where only Christians are saved and all nonChristians must be killed in order for the players to "win"      

    •  yes (14+ / 0-)

      Of course there are so many interpretations of these things,  coming from a variety of translations of the Bible -- for me it has always made the idea of Biblical literalism an oxymoron.  

      But you are right, the gist of Revelations is clear, and people who believe that they are living in the end times or that their children will, have a very different world view than anyone else. And that was the danger of making this video game targeting this market. It would be like an indoctrination video for religious warfare.  Fortunately, almost everyone agreed.

      •  I do note that many Tribulationists have moved (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chmood, sfbob, pvasileff, Ahianne, justintime

        from the KJV Bible, which is something of a relief I suppose.  Early Modern English can be somewhat difficult to understand, as anyone who has read Shakespeare can attest, much less when framed in iambic pentameter blank verse.  Add to this several problematical translation of some passages as our linguistic knowledge has increased over the centuries since KJV was written (And some dozen editions of KJV at that though most stick with either 1611 or 1629 editions).

        To have them move to a more modern version may be something of a relief, though the problems of translating any language into another are many, if they insist on the literal nature of the text.  Most recently, I have been doing some reading on the intrusion of End Time theology into UMC and the United Presbyterian Church, to the extent that I am now finding some SBC ministers filling UMC pulpits.  I first noted this with a local UMC minister who was attending Erskine Theological Seminary.  This is an ARP seminary and which, through its college, more recently fired a long time English prof for refusing to sign a statement that the Bible is literal and inerrant (they now require this of all college and seminary faculty)  

        •  I fear moving FROM the KJV only means a desire (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          justintime

          to spell it all out much more explicitly...which in their minds would qualify as improved accuracy and enhanced inerrancy....

          Show me the whisky stains on the floor
          Show me an old drunkard as he stumbles to the door
          And I'll see a young man with so many reasons why...
          ...and there, but for FORTUNE, go you - or I... - thanks, Phil

          by chmood on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 06:15:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  imagine, FC, if a group of USA Muslims (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        justintime, Frederick Clarkson

        had put out a similar game inculcating these values into THEIR children in which they taught their children that only Islam was the true religion and all non-believers HAD TO BE KILLED.  And they then portrayed a holy war for which they were training their children to be combatants in which the only option for the non-Muslim was to convert to Islam or be killed?????  And instead of a voice saying a:

        gratuitous "Praise the Lord" exclamation that sounded when someone on the anti-Christ side was felled.
        that a gratuitous "Praise Allah!" was included.........

        How many seconds would elapse before they would be labeled as
        1) a hate group
        2) a terroist group
        3) and be paid a friendly visit from the FBI, NSA, etc, etc.
        4) shut down but good.

        and how many minutes would it take to get them shut down and all copies of their game confiscated? and how many hours would it take before the leaders of this would be held as charges against them were considered?

        This is intimidation and terrorism and bullying of the first order and I believe that they are dangerous, really dangerous.  I believe that this is an example of 'criminal insanity.'

        Why isn't the Department of Children's Services intervening in this, as it most certainly is abuse of children through heinous indoctrination.  To kill people who don't share your views?  If teaching, no demanding, that children learn to murder isn't abuse, I don't know what is.

        My hat's off to you and Talk2Action for preventing the continuation of their lies.

        (oh, btw, you missed one 'tag' for the diary: "unfuckingbelievable"!)

        We Must DISARM THE NRA The next life you save may be ONE OF YOUR OWN!

        by SeaTurtle on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 11:30:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes and thanks! (0+ / 0-)

          there is a vast double standard. You are right that if a Muslim group had made a video game for children titled, say "jihad" and featured jihadists as the good guys against the Great Satan of America, things would have been very different.  

          At the same time this episode was good news. Most people,  recognized the danger of this bit of programming. Unlike violent video games, which are mostly based on fantasy situations that no one takes seriously, the violence that was being promoted in Left Behind was consistent with the theology of many evangelicals. That's why we called this a training video for religious war.  People got it and consumers stayed away in droves.  This was a clear win against the religious right. Focus on the family endorsed the game, but people still did not buy it.

  •  Tribulationists are 'short timers'. (6+ / 0-)

    Never trust a short timer with anything important.

  •  Thanks again, FC. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jhutson, sfbob, bythesea, pvasileff, SeaTurtle

    (That sound you are hearing is a paradigm being shifted at Warp Factor Infinity using no clutch.)

    by homogenius on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 01:34:38 AM PDT

  •  I can't decide whether or not this is worse (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Carlsson, justintime

    than games like Grand Theft Auto.

    If it's worse, it's because GTA does not give its first-person shooter a cloak of righteousness.

  •  After the rapture, the earth will be ours. (0+ / 0-)

    Bumper sticker

  •  Still lying about the game after 7 years? (0+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    Hidden by:
    Frederick Clarkson

    Jonathan Hutson's absurd claims about this game were completely without merit.  His descriptions of the game bore very little resemblance to the actual game.  Indeed, they bore such little resemblance that your Talk To Action website ended up getting caught red-handed (almost literally!) altering screenshots of the game to match his false descriptions.  Hutson's lurid descriptions of the game were never verified by anyone who mindlessly repeated them -- people like a few game reviewers.  Other game reviewers, including well-respected and trusted websites like Ars Technica, IGN, and GameSpy, completely disagreed with the notion that the game promoted violence (particularly "convert or kill" violence) -- Talk To Action's main claim about the game.  The Anti-Defamation League, which you partially cite, also completely disagreed with the claim about the game promoting violence -- "convert or kill" or otherwise.  Gosh, Freddy, why don't you mention that rather critical fact?  Is it an inconvenient truth?  So were Ars Technica, IGN, GameSpy and the ADL all lying about the game to help it out?  Of course you could never call out any of those groups for disagreeing with you because then you would have had to actually defend your claims with non-photoshopped evidence, which you cannot do.  So you continue to lie without confronting high-profile groups that disagree with you and cite exactly one example of a reporter playing an unfinished version of the game with someone from the company who was himself unfamiliar with how to play the game.  Pathetic.

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