I saw the Halo youth-ministry story that everyone’s commenting on when I picked up a copy of the New York Times at the airport on Sunday.
For those lucky enough not to have read the story, it seems that staging nights of playing Halo 3 (a rather violent video game) is the hip new thing for youth ministers to do to lure in young boys who never go outside.
They set up competition nights on various televisions at the church, then have some kind of lesson that tries to relate Jesus’ message to the act of killing pixellated versions of living things.
It is, the youth ministers say, the only way to get some kids in the door.
Quite frankly, I don’t really care. I’ve never “gotten” video games, and I don’t intend to expend any effort in doing so now. I don’t attend the sort of church that would consider making video games a serious part of youth ministry, probably because we consider discipleship, community and contemplation more important than a body count.
What got to me about this story, though, was the fact that it was on the same front page as the story that caused me to pick up the New York Times in the first place.
There, above the fold, was a picture from Panzi Hospital, and a story that started with Dr. Mukwege, the gynecologist who performs fistula repair surgeries for hundreds and thousands of women and girls who have been raped by armed forces (usually by young men) in the Congo. It’s a hospital I’ve visited, a doctor I’ve interviewed, women whose broken faces and broken bodies I’ve seen.
The article doesn’t mention it, but Panzi is a hospital that’s supported by churches. Dr. Mukwege is a pastor’s son.
Looking at those two articles, juxtaposed on the same front page of the Sunday Times, I couldn’t help but wonder what those Congolese Christians, who do all they can to serve the victims of violent crimes, would think if they knew that American churches are using a violent video game to lure young men into their sanctuaries.
What a wide gulf separates us from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Laura Seay is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This column is from her blog, Texas in Africa.
Laura Seay is an Assistant Professor of Government at Colby College. She studies African politics, conflict and development, with a focus on central Africa.