Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Halo as Church Recruiting Tool

I was directed to this NY Times story via a post over at the Young Anabaptist Radicals site: Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church.

It describes how churches are now using Halo 3 (an ultra-violent video game) as a recruiting tool to attract teenagers into church (who are often too young to legally buy it). Some excerpts:

At Sweetwater Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., Austin Brown, 16, said, “We play Halo, take a break and have something to eat, and have a lesson,” explaining that the pastor tried to draw parallels “between God and the devil.”

Players of Halo 3 control the fate of Master Chief, a tough marine armed to the teeth who battles opponents with missiles, lasers, guns that fire spikes, energy blasters and other fantastical weapons. They can also play in teams, something the churches say allows communication and fellowship opportunities.

. . .

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.”

David Drexler, youth director at the 200-member nondenominational Country Bible Church in Ashby, Minn., said using Halo to recruit was “the most effective thing we’ve done.”

In rural Minnesota, Mr. Drexler said, the church needs something powerful to compete against the lure of less healthy behaviors. “We have to find something that these kids are interested in doing that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol or premarital sex.” His congregation plans to double to eight its number of TVs, which would allow 32 players to compete at one time.

. . .

In one letter to parents, Mr. Barbour wrote that God calls ministers to be “fishers of men.”

“Teens are our ‘fish,” he wrote. “So we’ve become creative in baiting our hooks.”

Sure, it is a just a video game. It isn't really violence. In exactly the same way that pornography isn't really sex. And movies with drunken teenagers doing mean and dumb pranks to each other is just fiction. After all, if you want to be "culturally relevant" in order to attract more bait, er, I mean teenagers, wouldn't an even more effective method be to buy them beer and let them watch porn? But of course that would be outrageous, because we all know that sex is so much more outrageous than violence.

Toleration for violence among modern American Christians continues to amaze me - it is as if most people are simply unaware that Jesus was an avowed pacifist. If the goal is to attract more people to Jesus' way of radical love towards everyone, perhaps it should be done in a way that doesn't feed on people's worst impulses for even passive violence.


Amy said...

Hi Dan,
This reminds me of the 13 year old boy who got shot during a gang fight over drugs and told the officers who came to see him at the hospital "I didn't know it (getting shot) would hurt." You are absolutely right in your position - churches don't have any business thinking violence is a better alternative to sex, alcohol, and drugs. P.S. Good seeing you last week.

dw said...

Hey Dan. A similar post on this topic here. I'm sure it will be sad for all the MYF members that you're not going to follow the "relevant by beer and adult films" path.


Amy Derby said...

That's just sad. Maybe pathetic is a better word.