Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Video Vexation

The New York Times reports that a church has used a violent video game to recruit youth. It is a first-person shooter game called Halo. (First-person shooter simulations are used by the military to train soldiers to kill. See the book, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill.) This incensed me, and I emailed the youth pastor. He claims they have stopped using the game. Why it was ever brought into the church is the question. One cannot win the world to Christ through worldiness (Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17; Luke 16:15).

22 comments:

Johnny-Dee said...

I think your post is sage advice for youth ministers. Don't try to get youth in church by being just like the world. The world is always going to win that contest. If you want youth in your church be different than the world. For example, show them that Christianity is TRUE. Explain the content of what Christians believe. Treat youth with respect by having high expectations and appealing to their minds. Don't disrespect them and treat them like a bunch of hedonistic monkeys that only respond to base stimuli.

Sarah Scott said...

Dr. Groothuis,

Good post! That game is an addiction for so many kids, and the last thing they need when coming to church is something that annihilates dialogue and the potential for relationships. They come, they play Halo, they listen to a message (often lacking in substance), and they go play Halo until it is time to leave. There is no room for spiritual and relational cultivation for these kids.

Sarah Scott said...

I cannot believe that I left out mental cultivation. It is of huge importance and is the most ignored component of youth ministry.

Yossman said...

This is bad for another reason. Marketing tricks are the worst way to 'entice' people to Christ. We should not entertain Christians nor should we market people into the church. Instead we should preach a gospel message that is intented for all knowing that it is obeyed by only a few. We reach people by telling them the truth about their eternal state and offering them the free solution in Christ that will cost them everything!

righteousness first said...

I too am angry (though not as angry as you!). Your choice word of incensed reminds me of Jesus driving out the money changers, and it sounds like that was your aim with your missive.

Having never played the game, though, I'm not sure what it's all about. I even heard that it had this redemptive message embedded within the story and that violence is sometimes justified in stories of redemption, but my response to such tripe is that the only violence we were ordained to learn about comes from the Bible, and nothing else.

As for Johnny-dee's statement, I would caution you against allowing blantly racist language on this board. I think that it is unacceptable to call the African-American a "m...."

And as Sarah intimated--there is no chance of spiritual growth through this medium. Any perceived spiritual growth is a FARCE!

evagrius said...

So...how does Iraq "play" in this?

Johnny-Dee said...

I can't imagine how anything I wrote could be taken to be "blatantly racist." If someone is going to imagine that I secretly harbor racist intentions, let me put those imagined intentions to rest. My previous comment is not racist; it is not intended to be racist; and I can't imagine how someone would read my first comment as being "blatantly racist."

My point (which is unambiguously made in the context of my first comment) is that youth ministers should treat youth like intelligent persons who want to mature in their faith; instead of hedonistic animals who can only be reached by appealing to their base desires. I don't see how race could possibly have crossed anyone's mind if they read my comment in context.

Daniel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel said...

The same advice for not playing Halo could be used for Seminary students who should have better things to do with their time but instead spend it watching TV or playing video games. It's a sad state of affairs...

Doug Groothuis said...

Johnny:

Righteous tends to post bizarre comments regularly, along with sane ones. It is hard to figure it out. If this keeps up, I may ban him, too.

DG

Kyle said...

Dr. Groothuis,

Since no one has tried countering your position yet except for maybe righteousness first, I'll give it a shot. Basically, I am not convinced that the issue is as simple as you made it out to be. Maybe you could clarify your two arguments that 1) It shouldn't be there because it trains kids to be violent, and 2) It should not be used because it is worldly.

For point 1: Would you consider paint-ball an inappropriate activity for a youth group because you are actually shooting guns at other living humans? What about lazer-tag? What if the youth group watched Lord of the Rings at a lock in?

For Point 2: Would you consider having a Super Bowl party at the church to be inappropriate? What about a game of basketball at the church?

If you could explain to me why those hypotheticals are right or wrong that would help me understand your position more. Though I still admit that the fact that Halo is rated M is a pretty strong argument against it being used with teenagers.

righteousness first said...

As I mentioned, the term monkey is a racist term (look on Urban dictionary under the N-word and notice that it is a synonymn and part of one definition). This isn't disputable. Perhaps they call people such things in Iowa, but they do not in the Northeast. You should refrain from this language, especially when the picture places an African-American in the foreground.

So I would be banned for asking people not to use racist language? Does that fall under the penumbra of bizarre?

Daniel said...

Righteous--

By "monkey" if you read johnny's comment for what it is saying, is that children are not just elementary beings who grow in their knowledge base from video games or looking at the "urban dictionary", but rather through conversation, reading, writing and other worthy intellectual pursuits.

It's idiotic that this accusation of "racism" has even been brought up.

widge44 said...

Dr. Groothuis,

I too am interested in your responses to kyle's request for clarification on the two points of your argument.

Dr. Steve Cowan said...

Kyle asked. . .
For point 1: Would you consider paint-ball an inappropriate activity for a youth group because you are actually shooting guns at other living humans? What about lazer-tag? What if the youth group watched Lord of the Rings at a lock in?

For Point 2: Would you consider having a Super Bowl party at the church to be inappropriate? What about a game of basketball at the church?


I too anxiously await Dr. Groothuis' response to Kyle's questions, but I can't resist adding my own two cents. I think that the answer to every one of these questions is "no, No, NO!" The church is not in the entertainment business PERIOD.

The only one of the suggestions that would come close to being acceptable is the "Lord of the Rings" idea, but it would be better as an unofficial activity, not part of a regularly scheduled church event, and only if there were serious discussions made before, during, and after the film about its philosophical, theological, and ethical themes.

righteousness first said...

It is not an accusation of racism per se, but the use of racist terms. Is it acceptable to use the phrase "porch-monkey" or certain shades of niggardly (which means cheap)--I think not. I'll let you decide if you're striving to do the right thing or be above reproach. These terms are used a certain way and regardless of what you meant, you should be careful. But perhaps, the very fact that you can't acknowledge this fact is that you are woefully uneducated in early 20th century American literature.

B. Thomas James said...

Righteousness,

"But perhaps, the very fact that you can't acknowledge this fact is that you are woefully uneducated in early 20th century American literature."

Let's keep the ad hominem attacks to a minimum and actually engage the ideas being presented, i.e. Halo and entertainment's place in the church, and not go off on rabbit trails referring to a non-existent use of racial name calling.

Kyle said...

Dr. Steve Cowan,
While I don´t think I agree with your answers, I do admit it is a consistent position that I can´t entirely rule out. If Dr. Groothuis has the same answers, than I can accept his response to the Halo issue, if not, then I need more explination for why Halo specifically is over the line.

Daniel said...

The key word from b. thomas james above: non-existent.

Doug Groothuis said...

1. Righteousness is either bluffing or incoherent. "Monkey" is only a contingently racist word, not a necessarily racist word, such as "jungle bunny" or worse. Johnny simply meant, "Don't treat children like lower animals." I wonder if Righteous is just trying to distract us with these obtuse and bizarre comments or if he is serious.

2. To Kyle:

For point 1: Would you consider paint-ball an inappropriate activity for a youth group because you are actually shooting guns at other living humans? What about lazer-tag? What if the youth group watched Lord of the Rings at a lock in?

I don't know much about paint ball, but I abhor the culture of violence perpetuated by big business: video games, "action" films, etc. But a paint ball doesn't explode a human being. The video games simulate that.

I don't see what's wrong with lazer tag or The Lord of the Rings. I trust the latter is great literature, but I cannot speak to the film. But I take Dr. Cowan's point that the church is not an entertainment center.

For Point 2: Would you consider having a Super Bowl party at the church to be inappropriate? What about a game of basketball at the church?

I hate football for moral reasons and think Christians should have nothing to do with it. See my essay on this elsewhere on the blog. (This always stirs people up.) Basketball is not intrinsically violent and dehumanizing; but pro-basketball seems to be filled with egomanaics and overpaid celebrities who mutilate their bodies with tatoos. These are not good examples for youth.

We need to feed youth meat from the Word of God; get them involved in good works (all that energy at that age!); and teach them to defend their faith rationaly. Most will be devoured at college because they are unprepared. Fun activities should be positive, constructive, and wholesome, despite our culture's debachery.

D. A. Armstrong said...

I probably have a middle of the line view here. I've been actively reading the responses to this post. I'd think that Halo is wrong for the church for the following reasons: M rating, the church is not in the business of entertainment, sends the wrong message to kids and it's the wrong bait.

That said, I would think that Halo could still function as a method of opening doors to unbelievers. It's just not the churches method. There is a group of kids at my church that get together to play Halo every month or so. The opportunity is that you can bring a unbeliever into a situation that is relaxed and yet has lots of Christians. This then is not the bait for the church, but a doorway for kids to evangelize to kids.

I am apart of something similar, but not with Halo. I regularly watch UFC fights, which many here would object to certainly. The doorway opens for dialogue and time to share the gospel with unbelievers. Currently, myself and another guy have been talking with a LDS member about his view and our view of Christianity. It's been an open dialogue that we pray will be fruitful.

Peter M. Head said...

I sure wish B. Thomas James wouldn't go about using speciesist language on a blog like this. "rabbit trails" indeed. That is so insulting to rabbits. It is not as if rabbits are the only animals to lose their way occasionally.
If you keep this up you will surely lose readership among furry animals.