The latest event in the world of video games is the appearance of Halo 3-- a violent star wars sort of game which has a rating of M, as in for mature audiences only. Now normally that sort of rating would result in Christian parents making sure their under aged children had nothing to do with this sort of time consuming mayhem on a screen. But NOW we learn that many youth ministers are using it in churches to recruit teenage boys (especially) to come to their youth groups. In my view, it's time to ask--- What is wrong with this picture?
Here is the link to the story in this weekend's NY Times. Read it and weep:
The headline in the Times reads 'Thou Shall not Kill, except in a Game at Church'.
If even a Times reporter can see there might be a two fold contradiction here, then it shouldn't be hard for those of us involved in the church every week to recognize the danger here as well.
Let's start with the fact that the maker of this game has quite specifically told everyone it is for adults, and has adult content. Imagine if you will using the tactic of show skin flicks to attract young men, or offering beer blasts in the church back yard. Doubtless you would attract a crowd, but would you have just vitiated your whole credibility as conveyors of the Good News of Christ in the process? The answer is yes.
If you read the article closely what you notice is the 'ends justifies the means' kind of arguments by the youth ministers in question. But frankly if the means are unethical, and indeed contradict the ends you are trying to achieve, aren't you guilty of using unethical tactics to attract people to Christ? Aren't you sending an enormously mixed message to youth--- "come to church, and after you've blown the brains out of the enemies, we will tell you about the Prince of Peace and how God so loved the world (even the enemies)!"
I'm sorry but this whole sorry approach to youth ministry smacks of absolute desperation and fear-- fear that if we are not relevant, we cannot attract a crowd. Is this really what Jesus would do? I don't think so.
Nor Paul for that matter-- in his 'garbage in, garbage out' speech he urges his audience in Phil. 4.8--" Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things." There is frankly nothing admirable about this whole approach to youth ministry. If you have so little creativity or imagination that you imagine that the only way to appeal to youth is by appealing to their most base and basic fallen instincts, then get out of youth ministry-- you haven't got the tools for the task, and your means betray your message. If you want creativity and effective appeal to youth, look at some of the things Rob Bell is doing in his Nooma videos (about which we have commented before on this blog).
I must say that I am stunned that Focus on the Family has not come out and said something against this whole debacle. Even the Southern Baptist Convention hasn't managed to completely condemn it yet. Why not? Perhaps because they do not see the inherent contradiction between violence and the Gospel of peace, or vengeance and forgiveness. But log in and tell me what you think.