Choose Your Battles
By Jesse Carey
CBN.com Interactive Media Producer
- This week, the latest installment of the controversial Grand Theft Auto video game series released, and industry-watchers expect it to be one of the highest-selling games of all time. GTA IV (as it’s known in gamer circles) has also been on the receiving end of tons of press—much of which was garnered by critics who point to sexually explicit and violent elements of the past editions of GTA.
One of the game’s loudest critics has been conservative lawyer and activist Jack Thompson. Thompson railed against the game’s maker Take-Two Interactive when it was discovered that a past GTA game contained a hidden feature of an animated sequence that depicted sexual activity.
And this time around, Thompson is making his opinion known again.
According to the tech site Softpedia, Thompson allegedly wrote the following email to the mother of Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zeinick: “Your son last week was reported to have said the following about Grand Theft Auto IV: ‘We've already received numerous reviews, and to a one, they are perfect scores. My mom couldn't write better reviews...' Taking your son's thought, I would encourage you either to play this game or have an adroit video gamer play it for you. Some of the latter gamers are on death row, so try to find one out in the civilian population who hasn't killed someone yet."
Thompson confirmed to another a news source (CNET) that he had written the letter, but said it was sent to Strauss’ attorney, not his mother.
The letter, though, was sent sometime before Tuesday; that’s before the game actually came out. Thompson had not yet played the game (or had seen it played) before sending out the letter. Democratic California State Sen. Leland Yee also released a press statement that urged parents not to buy the game before she actually saw it.
It’s totally rational to make assumptions about the content of a video game based on past versions it (before it actually releases), and it’s safe to assume that GTA IV will contain lots of adult-oriented content. But much of the press the game is receiving from tech news outlets and gamer magazines focuses on the criticisms from outsiders. And the tone of the criticism, not to mention the preemptive assumptions about the game (even if they are completely valid), has made the video game industry enemies with the critics.
Instead of engaging the ones who actually create the content that they are so strongly opposed to, the critics have made the conflict into an us vs. them showdown. And with millions of dollars in sales, the game industry is “winning”.
Many times, family watchdog groups and even passionate Christians see things like Grand Theft Auto, R-rated movies and secular music as “attacks” on their values and see culture waging “war” on their beliefs.
It’s an admirable thing to stand up for what you believe—but many times what you say isn’t as important as how you say it.
We can’t expect secular game-makers, movie channels and TV networks to have the same moral standard as Christians. And though it’s important for Christians to make others aware of our spiritual convictions when it comes to culture and content, when we go on the “attack”, we completely risk sending the wrong message to the people we should be trying to reach out to.
Whether it’s a an “assault on our families” or a “battle for our culture”, if we’re looking for a fight, it’s easy to find one.
But is a fight really what we should be trying to find?
When we bait our “enemies”, they’re going to bite. And by picking fights with people we don’t agree with, it becomes too easy to get engaged in an endless circle of argument. In Ephesians 6, Paul gives this reminder to church in Ephesus who were learning how to deal with a culture that didn’t agree with their values: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Breakthroughs in medicine usually come when doctors realize that they’re simply treating the symptoms, not the real disease. Just taking painkillers to dull the sensation after falling doesn’t fix the broken arm, it just makes the symptoms (in this case, the pain) go away. Cough drops might make your soar throat feel better, but if the strep throat infection goes untreated, the sickness will just get worse. I think we in the Church can learn something from this analogy. After all, we do live in a world that is sick in broken.
Video games aren’t the problem. They’re just a symptom of a deeper issue. Whether it’s kids who find refuge playing them all the time (because they’re not with their families), the real violence they depict in fictional ways or objectionable content being allowed into the home in the first place, the issue isn’t just the game (or the R-rated movie, or the secular media); it’s what behind them. If we spend all of our time treating symptoms, people will still get sick from the actual disease. And for that, there’s only One cure for.
It’s important to let people know what we’re against (and uphold standards of morality)—but it’s also important to help the lost understand what we are for. And that should be love—not judgment; that should be salvation in Christ, not condemnation for not reaching standards they’re not even trying to hold to in the first place. By reaching out in love and regularly praying for those that do (or create) things we don’t agree with, they can see what amazing things life in Christ has to offer, not just what it forbids.
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Jesse Carey is the Interactive Media Producer for CBN.com. With a background in entertainment and pop-culture writing, he offers his insight on music, movies, TV, trends and current events from a unique perspective that examines what implications the latest news has on Christians.
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