When Plugged In Online published a story about the ultra-popular video game Halo 3 being used in churches as an outreach tool, we took a dim view of the practice, questioning whether shooting up things—evil aliens though they be—teaches the wrong sorts of moral lessons. We also touched on the fact that casually allowing children to play the M-rated game in youth groups undercuts parental authority.
At the same time, we recognized that churches are trying to do whatever they can to reach people for Christ, and that some Christians believe games like Halo 3 are effective ways of making that happen.
Then we asked you, our Plugged In readers, to weigh in.
And boy, did you. You stuffed our e-mail box with thoughtful theories, personal stories and even a few angry missives. One thirtysomething writer told us a church “Bible study” turned out to be nothing more than a weekly Halo tourney, for instance. Another relayed a story about an online Christian gaming community that works to reach unsaved gamers.
Roughly 75 percent of those who wrote agreed with our stance. They’re worth hearing from—as are those who represent the balance to the debate. So here’s a taste of what you had to say:
“You guys really seem to get worked up into a major fit over this, but I think the ‘controversy’ is really a fairly simple one. At the end of the day, does it matter if a kid got saved at a Halo party or in the middle of a Sunday morning service?” —David Bronson
“Perhaps the reason that only 16 percent of young people view Christianity favorably is because they have the whole bait and switch thing figured out. If we’re playing Halo 3 in our churches, then we’re either secular pretending to be Christian or Christian pretending to be secular. You don’t have to be a seasoned adult to figure that out.” —Clay Gardner
“Our church youth group leaders provide and allow video games for a large portion of ‘Sunday school’ time for middle and high schoolers. Included are video games such as Halo, Grand Theft Auto, etc. I am concerned that this is promoted and condoned for susceptible, vulnerable youth. When approached, the youth leaders say that it is a tool they are using for evangelism and that their own young children are allowed to play them. [But] I do not allow these games in my home. [So] I am unsure how to proceed other than looking for another church with standards more in line with my family values.” —Patricia Stevenson
“I have to admit, the Halo series is really fun. … Yet while I want to satisfy the need in my flesh, I choose God’s standard of living over the world’s. I wholeheartedly believe that we need to reach out to the world in a way that’s pleasing to them, but I disagree … that Halo 3 is the answer.” —Andrew
“Kids have to fight temptations every day at school and with peers. They should not have to face these temptations at church as well.” —Lisa Schoonover
“I think it might be important to note that the multiplayer mode that most youth groups use to reach people does not contain dismemberment, and you won’t hear the characters spouting obscenities. It is the solo mode that contains the vast majority of the objectionable material.” —Karmin
“Halo 3 is a powerful tool to get people into a church when they would otherwise be scared to set foot into one. It’s just a matter of whether they are playing Halo 3 at home, or with their friends learning that Christians can play video games, too.” —Thaius Tydane
“Do you think they would allow schools to use this as a fundraiser? Even though I’m sure it would make money and be popular, in light of all the school shootings around the country, I highly doubt that any school district would even touch this game!” —Ernie Medina
“I no longer allow [Halo] into my ministry because it tells the teens that it’s OK to make those decisions when it’s all just pretend. But Philippians 4:8 reads, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’ I do not find anything that is true, noble, pure or right in the video game Halo, so I will not let my thoughts dwell there or allow the thoughts of the teens I am responsible for to dwell there while they are in my care.” —Dave Lopez
“[Games in church] add more peer pressure if [a teen] has decided that he will not play M-rated games in an environment in which many youth look for support, not added hindrance. It provides access to games that may not be allowed in the youth’s home—another wedge added into the already challenging family unit.” —Catherine Wilmot
“Personally, I have never played the game Halo 3—but I get visions of tables being thrown when I think of inviting Jesus to youth groups to play what you have described.” —Cindy Friesen
“I may sound strong about this, and I am not mad at anyone, but I am a bit upset at Christians saying all this stuff about Halo when they themselves have never played the game or read the novels to get the full story. This is one of the main reasons so many young people leave the church. Once one Christian believes that something is wrong the other Christians follow him even when they have never read, played, experienced or otherwise ‘felt’ it for themselves.” —Daniel
“Here’s a thought: Halo 3 may be drawing new kids into the youth groups, but what about the ones already involved who come from God-fearing homes and are truly seeking spiritual growth? … We are well aware that it is largely teens who influence other teens. If all efforts are directed toward drawing in the worldly, even at the risk of excluding the godly, who is left to do the influencing?” —Meagan Gee
“I can understand how a youth group that wants to present itself to high schoolers in a contemporary way could use this as a great witnessing tool for Christ, without compromising values. And it’s a lot of fun blowing away the guy sitting next to you, only to have him come back after 10 seconds with a vendetta.” —Fraser
“You are right, why do we allow violence and bloodshed into our church as entertainment? I enjoy the Halo games, but I do not think we should play them in church, necessarily. However, if the church is only a building, and my body is the temple of God, isn’t it no different playing it by myself? It has given me a lot to think about.” —Brandon
“We had video games in our youth room that the kids could play before and after church. They were put in for the very reason your article indicated: to draw others in. This summer we went to the beach. All the kids were told not to bring their electronic devices or cell phones. Not even a CD player. The result? Later in the week, after they had fun with their friends, the kids voted to take the video games and TVs out. Guess what! They are out, never to return.” —Gayle Golden
“Here’s the thing … is the Lord really telling His church, His chosen bride, to use a violent, foulmouthed game to bring kids into His house? I truly don’t think so. There are other games out there that churches could use.” —Shannon McFerren
“You don’t have to be a Christian at all to oppose M-rated games at church functions—you just have to be a responsible parent.” —Anonymous
HT: Plugged In