Left Behind in Iraq?

August 11, 2007

A Christian evangelism organization, Operation Straight Up (OSU), is sending care packages to U.S. troops in Iraq. However, in addition to more traditional items, the packages will include a copy of the Left Behind video game. Max Blumenthal reports on this story in The Nation. Here are a few highlights from his piece:

As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.

... The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye's and Jenkins' books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to "everlasting punishment" while the evangelicals are "raptured" up to heaven.

The Left Behind videogame is a real-time strategy game that makes players commanders of a virtual evangelical army in a post-apocalyptic landscape that looks strikingly like New York City after 9/11. With tanks, helicopters and a fearsome arsenal of automatic weapons at their disposal, Left Behind players wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who, according to LaHaye's interpretation of Revelation, represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a Left Behind player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, "Praise the Lord!" To win the game, players must kill or convert all the non-believers left behind after the rapture. They also have the option of reversing roles and commanding the forces of the Antichrist.
This is quite troubling. The game itself is very problematic and should not be considered Christian as the teachings of Jesus about loving your neighbor were clearly left behind. What makes this story even more troubling is that it might send the message that U.S. troops in Iraq are God's army and therefore should kill or convert everyone. True conversion does not come at the end of a sword or gun. And true evangelistic efforts are hurt when perceived to be part of a military strategy. This is not a time for playing games.

Thanks to Bruce Prescott at the Mainstream Baptist blog for pointing out this story.

UPDATE [8-17-07]: The Department of Defense has pulled the plug on the proposed shipping of the game!