What’s Going on Here?
Well, here’s one that falls into the “what not to be thankful for” category on this Thanksgiving weekend. I stumbled across this depressing article this morning. Apparently, some evangelical churches in America are using the video game Halo to attract young people to their churches. I don’t know much about this game except that it is popular, it is violent and you have to be 17 years old to purchase it.
But apparently, if you’re not 17 just yet, all you have to do is find a church near you where some “pastor” considers it to be a crucial recruitment tool for the “elusive audience of boys and young men.” Does it glorify violence and get kids loaded up on adrenaline from “blowing stuff up?” Sure. Could it feed addictions to technology in an already techno-saturated culture? Probably. But it gets them in the door of a church and, according to a Denver youth pastor, that’s the first step in making it “hard for kids to go to hell.” “Teens are our ‘fish,” he wrote. “So we’ve become creative in baiting our hooks.”
Lest you think this pastor represents some isolated atypical case, there are, apparently, entire organizations who are sold on the idea of promoting Halo as an evangelistic tool.
Hundreds of churches use Halo games to connect with young people, said Lane Palmer, the youth ministry specialist at the Dare 2 Share Ministry, a nonprofit organization in Arvada, Colo., that helps churches on youth issues.
“It’s very pervasive,” Mr. Palmer said, more widespread on the coasts, less so in the South, where the Southern Baptist denomination takes a more cautious approach. The organization recently sent e-mail messages to 50,000 young people about how to share their faith using Halo 3. Among the tips: use the game’s themes as the basis for a discussion about good and evil.
Right. Well, call me colossally stupid or culturally naive, but I wonder if the best way to stimulate “discussion about good and evil” is to allow kids to participate in three hours of virtual violence as a warm up. Apparently, this occurred to some parents as well, although their concerns were quickly alleviated after being reassured by some “pastor” that giving kids a night of virtual violence is all part of being “relevant”:
John Robison, the current associate pastor at the 300-member Albuquerque church, said parents approached him and were concerned about the Halo games’ M rating. “We explain we’re using it as a tool to be relatable and relevant,” he said, “and most people get over it pretty quick.”
Ah yes, the never ending desperate quest to be “relevant.” Forget about being countercultural in any way, to pointing to better (more healthy?) ways to use technology, spend recreational time, or “fellowship” with one another (according to one pastor, Halo nights are just like camp outs – just another way to “fellowship”). No, the church’s main task is to get people out of hell and if that requires slavishly imitating a culture gorging itself on violent games and movies (not to mention technology), so be it. All part of taking up our cross, I guess…
Later on, another pastor from Minnesota is at least honest enough to say what’s really going on here: “We have to find something that these kids are interested in doing that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol or premarital sex.” Which leads me to a final note of interest. Focus on the Family (the American über-Evangelical ethical watchdog) is an organization that often has quite a lot to say about things like sexual ethics, drugs, and alcohol. So one would expect them to have something to say about Halo-evangelism as well, right?
Well they did. After acknowledging that they are “trying to balance the game’s violent nature with its popularity and the fact that churches are using it anyway,” a spokesperson said the following:
Internally, we’re still trying to figure out what is our official view on it.