Recently I came upon the Christ and Pop Culture website which interacts with all sorts of media from an evangelical perspective. Though I don’t agree with all of their conclusions, which is to be expected with nearly all things, perhaps the good-natured discussion will spark some thinking of your own.
In particular, they have a recent post and audio regarding Halo 3: You can check it out here.
I’ve edited this post to reflect a more balanced perspective on their ministry, but below is the original response explaining my initial hesitancy and even stubbornness to recommend their audio:
As a young adult with countless hours spent on all incarnations of Nintendo, Playstation, and Xbox consoles, not to mention an incredibly tragic affair with Everquest and World of Warcraft, I take great interest in understanding media and how it may be used to further the cause of Christ. Now, I don’t say this to establish my “street cred” but rather to display a heart that sincerely regrets my wasted life, would in a heartbeat take it all back, and is repenting and turning from it to the glorious work of Christ in this world.
So, upon hearing about a new podcast featuring Evangelism and Halo3, obviously my interested was piqued. Could I still play video games and use them for the Lord? I wasn’t sure what I would hear, and to be honest was pleasantly surprised by what I did hear – but there are some problems.
As to the benefits of the podcast, I appreciate the three voices discussing the issue (and wish I could distinguish and attribute comments to each individually). They discussed a topic that is very contemporary and relevant, and brought up a recent NY Times article with which to engage. At one point, someone mentioned that rather than having a youth group plan to play video games and then discuss Jesus in a structured way after, we should “bring halo up in a conversation about God instead of vice versa.” The idea of more “organic methods” of evangelism was promoted. There was an explicit emphasis on family and the centrality of the gospel. And finally, the “top 5 misguided uses of pop culture” which starts 21 minutes is humorous.
Now, the reason I don’t post many opinions or critiques on this blog is because I sincerely do not know the intentions of other men. So regarding the following weaknesses, take it for whatever its worth. On the show Owen contrasted Halo3 with Doom, explaining the former as a game of skill and the latter is one of blood and guys. The lack of blood (which is present in Halo3) and guts doesn’t sanctify a game whose primary intention is to kill. The multiplayer feature is probably must used, in which this is the killing of other characters. The podcast astutely explained later that video games are dangerous because of the fantasy aspect, so it reeks of dangerous ground to me. Yet, this is not what was said: “The idea of just hanging out with kids and playing Halo3 sounds good sometimes.” A perscription for the church given by Owen to reach 13-30 year olds was to “have competition, events that have some elements of violence in them” because young adults like violence. Further, he says “I like a church culture that caters to young men” since they are going to be leaders of the church. What kind of leaders are we cultivating? How does this relate to the extended adolescence of our men? Are we giving young adults and men further justification that they do not need to grow up? Later, an assertion is made that “Movies touch on the deep things of life.” Sure, they might, but for many we would have to expose ourselves to sin first, and most teens don’t sit and ponder the questions afterwards anyway. Finally, I’m grateful for the emphasis at the end on the sanctity of preaching rather than letting it turn into story hour or a comedy club bit, but in context it all rings inconsistent to me.
And so, while the podcast had some very good moments talking about fantasy, violence, centrality of the gospel, and family, I wish they would have applied it more sincerely to the game of Halo3. In the end, our call to evangelism is to make disciples, followers of Christ, and to display the superior desirability of the Lord and spiritual things to this world. I personally will not organize a youth group event, inside or outside of the church, around Halo3.
For all the time and thought these folks put into the podcast, the folks at Christ and Pop Culture deserve a fair hearing.
edit3: Curiously, Owen is more forthright about the violence and dangers of Halo3 on his blog than he was on the podcast.
HT: Said at Southern