If you read this post from BT’s Oct. 7 list of links or in your local newspaper, perhaps you were as taken aback as I was that multiple youth groups are using the new video game “Halo 3” as a draw for getting kids to church.
The wildly popular sci-fi shooting game has sold a gazillion copies, but the violence it depicts is so vivid that the game is rated M-17, for “mature” players only. You can’t buy the game unless you’re 17 years old, and can’t even look at the website without entering your birthday — at two different times — to prove that you’re either old enough or a liar.
Yet, some churches are allowing children well under 17 to play the game. It’s common for churches to start “youth group” in sixth grade these days, which means some 11-year-olds could be vicariously blowing the bad guys’ guts out at church when they’re still years away from being old enough to officially buy the game.
I know the argument that you have to be relevant and try new things to get/keep the teenybopper crowd in church, but there has to be a limit somewhere. Porn movies would probably attract a crowd. Or a night of beer tasting. Or an uncensored game of “truth or dare.”
Most rational people would recognize that those are over the line. It’s hard for me to understand why an excessively violent video game should not also be well beyond the border.
It’s one thing to shoot at the iconic aliens on “Space Invaders” — it’s another thing entirely to pull the trigger when pointing your digital gun at realistically portrayed people. Some argue that “it’s only pixels.”
That’s only rubbish.
Protracted exposure to violence, whether it’s in movies or on a computer screen or in person, can desensitize people toward the humanity of others. Our “enemies” become just that — not real people who have feelings and families, but just another obstacle who’s blocking our path.
However noble their motives and however righteous the “hero” of Halo appears to be, I see no passable justification for endorsing the idea that blowing people to bloody bits is acceptable, even in a video game.
Jesus never said “blast your enemies , disembowel those who persecute you, and behead those who despitefully use you.”
I’m pretty sure he used a different verb.
A verb like “love.”
It’s that kind of behavior that deserves a halo.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.