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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Christians seek recall of Left Behind video game

by JewsOnFirst.org, December 5, 2006

Links not provided in the text are at the end of this report, along with additional relevant reports.

A video game that arms young people to kill those who resist conversion to fundamentalist Christianity hits the market just in time for Christmas gift-giving. Was this bad judgment or was it deliberate?

Sign a Petition
   for game's recall

Please join with JewsOnFirst and CrossWalk America in a petition campaign for the recall of Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

CrossWalk America is hosting a petition calling on Left Behind Games and Tyndall House Publisher, its distributor, to recall Left Behind: Eternal Forces. The petition, which you can find here, is a polite but adamant plea from Christians, asking in Jesus' name that the game be withdrawn.

JewsOnFirst has prepared a version of the petition for non-Christian signers. We encourage you to join with us, by signing the petition and taking a stand against teaching religious intolerance. Please click here.

The creator of the game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, makes clear that it was entirely intentional -- a smart business move to ride the $500 million surge of profit for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ with a new genre, "God Games." Left Behind Games, a publicly traded company, also anticipates a ready market among the millions who bought 63 million Left Behind novels; the game company holds the license to create games based on the books.

In contrast to the meetings, previews, media debates and warnings that preceded Mel Gibson's film, Left Behind: Eternal Forces has rolled out discreetly, apparently avoiding Jewish scrutiny. A coalition of progressive Christian groups held a news conference last week to warn of the game's perniciousness and call for its withdrawal from the market.

Left Behind: Eternal Forces is set in Manhattan; the enemy is the Global Community Peacekeepers led by the Anti-Christ. The good guys are the Tribulation Force, left behind when their fellow Christians are beamed up in a "Rapture" popularized by the Left Behind book series. To win, the Tribulation side must convert "non-believers" -- Jews, Muslims, and, arguably, many Christians. Their weapons are prayer and assorted armaments including humvees and tanks.

Organizations seek game's recall
The groups protesting the game object to its advocacy of violence against "infidels" and to the "End Times" theology of the Left Behind products.

CrossWalk America, a Christian activist organization in Phoenix which hosted last week's news conference, is circulating a petition (please see box) seeking the game's recall because it "involves teenagers in killing non-Christians and Christians who do not convert to ...the particular form of Christianity" that permeates Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

"Imagine if at Christmas time Muslims had launched a video game based on converting or killing all Christians," said the Rev. Timothy Simpson, president of the Jacksonville-based Christian Alliance for Progress, in a telephone interview with JewsOnFirst.

Dr. Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, noted in an interview that if the game had been set in Jerusalem, the usual setting for End Times dramas, "the outcry would have been deafening."

A review on Focus on the Family's "Plugged-in" website says that Left Behind Games is "pushing" the game as an evangelism tool for teens. The review also terms Eternal Forces "the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior—and use to raise some interesting questions along the way."

Game's "faith-based" killing a concern
Critics raise several concerns about the use of violence in Eternal Forces.

HELP EXPAND THE RECALL CAMPAIGN!

Paste this little notice into your blog or web page to involve your readers and friends in expanding the campaign.

Just select all the text in the small box below and copy it. Then paste it into your page. It contains the html code for the "Who should play this game?" box below. Thank you very much for taking a moment to participate!


Who should play this game?
Who do you think should play Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the teen-rated video game that arms players to kill everyone who resists conversion to fundamentalist Christianity and casts peace-keeping forces and medical relief workers as enemies?
  • Your children?
  • Their classmates?
  • The kids next door?
  • Jewish teens?
  • Catholic teens?
  • Muslim teens?
  • Teens raised in a mainline Christian tradition?
  • Young gamers planning careers in government?
If you are troubled by the prospect of any impressionable young person learning religious intolerance from this game, please click here to sign a petition for the recall of Left Behind: Eternal Forces. (Sponsored by JewsOnFirst.org)

Copy and paste this html code into your blog or web page. Just right-click in the box, "select all" and "copy."

"There's no gore," said Simpson of the Christian Alliance for Progress, who said he has played the game. "But there is killing. It's 'faith-based killing.'"

The game emphasizes that when you kill someone your "spirit score" drops and you must pray, he said. But "once you get to higher levels [of the game] there are military training centers, tanks and humvees."

CrossWalk America Co-President Rebecca Glenn expressed concern about the game's message to teens. Players pray for their adversaries "and try to do good spiritual things for them," she said in an interview. But, she continued, at a certain point, "it becomes acceptable to kill them. The implication is that the killing is justified because the player is making eternal decisions."

"It is really scary when one religion says it has all the answers," Glenn concluded.

Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, said Eternal Forces "is teaching people to consider non-Christians as an enemy target rather than having a dialogue and sharing faith." For him, that makes the game "a perversion, offensive to me in terms of my faith."

Asked how a typical Christian parent might react to a child's use of the game, Prescott replied: "What Christian parent would want their child to hear 'Praise the Lord' every time you blow someone away?"

Company: "Physical warfare results"
In a rebuttal to depictions of the game as violent, the company acknowledges its violent content. According to the Left Behind Games website:

In Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the players' objective is to find ‘tribulation clues', which include Bible mysteries, codes and fascinating and eternally relevant information. In the initial missions, there is little emphasis on physical warfare and gamers are introduced to powers of influence which result in a battle for the hearts and minds of people. As missions progress, there are no ‘objectives' to cause war physically. However, physical warfare results when the player is required to defend against the physical forces of evil; led by the Global Community Peacekeepers.

The company actually promises violence in a posting enticing gamers:

  • Conduct physical & spiritual warfare : using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world.
  • Recover ancient scriptures and witness spectacular Angelic and Demonic activity as a direct consequence of your choices.
  • Command your forces through intense battles across a breathtaking, authentic depiction of New York City.
  • Control more than 30 units types - from Prayer Warrior and Hellraiser to Spies, Special Forces and Battle Tanks!
  • Enjoy a robust single player experience across dozens of New York City maps in Story Mode – fighting in China Town , SoHo , Uptown and more!

Focus on the Family, a leading religious right organization, shrugs off the violence. In its review on its "Plugged In" website (that includes an interview with Left Behind co-author Tim LaHaye), Focus on the Family says:

Yes, you're offered sniper rifles, gun turrets, even tanks and helicopters. And there are points at which a gun battle is necessary to avoid a massacre. (When this happens, there's no gore. Units fall to the ground and fade away.) But if you go in guns blazing, nine times out of 10 you fail. It quickly becomes clear that the strongest weapons in your arsenal are your top-level missionaries and worship leaders. It's easier to convert a group of enemies than it is to shoot them.

Still, post-Rapture warfare is integral to the game, as it is in the Left Behind books and movies. And it's worth noting that fighting back is nowhere described in Scripture. Will Christians really be called to militarize, then? Dr. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling book series on which the game is based, told Plugged In Online that this fictionalized depiction in the books, movies and now video games is a representation "of the self preservation instinct of the much-persecuted saints during the Tribulation."

End-Times theology a concern
The Rapture, purportedly based on the New Testament book of Revelation, is a central fixture of Left Behind books and the Eternal Forces game. According to Simpson of the Christian Alliance for Progress, its popularization "is having a negative effect on Christian theology and foreign policy."

Within the Christian Church, Simpson said, it was accepted theology for Revelation to be read symbolically rather than prophetically. It was written as a two-hour "readers' theater," allegory of good and evil, he said, intended to boost the spirits of 2nd century Christians in Asia Minor, suffering Roman oppression.

Apocalyptic literature has always appealed to people at the margins, Simpson said. "There's a danger, though, when empires pick it up."

He expressed concern that end-timers "want to ratchet up U.S. policy in the Middle East" because "they see all conflict as leading us to the return of Jesus."

In the End Times scenario, the defeat of the Antichrist presages the return of Jesus.

New York not found in Bible
Prescott of the Mainstream Baptists pointed out that New York is an unusual setting for the battle against the Anti-Christ. "New York is not the setting for anything in the Bible," Prescott said in a telephone interview. Everything is based in Megiddo, in Israel.

"Now, he continued, "the scenario is not in the Middle East, it's New York City. Why are we training teens to do battle in New York?"

New York is the location of United Nations headquarters. The Left Behind series' Antichrist is a Romanian dictator who leads a United Nations force of global peace-keepers. This is the enemy in the game, which also warns players against activists, rock musicians and non-Christian medical professionals.

The demonization of the UN reminds that Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind books, was, according to several scholars (cited by Michelle Goldberg in her recent book, Kingdom Coming) associated with the John Birch Society, a far-right fringe group that flourished during the 1950s and 60s, whose extreme anti-Communism was widely regarded as having anti-Semitic undertones.

In the 1980s and 90s the UN and its purported world government became the purview of the interrelated militia and Christian Identity (white supremacist) movements.

Company was struggling
According to SEC filings, the Left Behind Games company used to call itself Bonanza Gold. It has yet to reap that bonanza.

Over the past year, its shares have traded between $2.10 and $7.44. Today LFBG.OB closed at $4.16, down from $4.42. In its annual report (Form 10-K) filed with the SEC in July, the company says (ungrammatically)it may go broke:

We have not generated any revenue and has incurred net losses of $9,547,153 and had negative cash flows from operations of $1,771,790 since its inception through March 31, 2006. Our ability to continue as a going concern is dependent upon its ability to generate profitable operations in the future and/or to obtain the necessary financing to meet its obligations and repay its liabilities arising from normal business operations when they come due. Management plans to continue to provide for its capital requirements by issuing additional equity securities and is currently in the process of soliciting additional capital. No assurance can be given that additional capital will be available when required or on terms acceptable to us. The outcome of these matters cannot be predicted at this time and there are no assurances that if achieved, we will have sufficient funds to execute its business plan or generate positive operating results.

As a result of the above, our independent registered public accounting firm has indicated in its report of independent registered public accounting firm that these matters, among others, raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.

It is unclear what the Left Behind Games has spent or realized since last March. In a November 27th news release, the company said that games have been shipped to 10,000 retailers, and it has "attained multi-million dollar receivables." Retailers include Christian shops and mainstream outlets like BestBuy, according to the news release.


 
Christian groups cross with Left Behind
Religious organizations take exception to faith-based real-time strategy game, saying it promotes violence and intolerance.

By Brendan Sinclair, GameSpot (CNET), November 29, 2006

An assortment of Christian organizations is hoping that when faithful gamers leave their favorite retailers this holiday season, they'll leave behind one new religious real-time strategy game. Groups including CrossWalk America, Christian Alliance for Progress, The Center for Progressive Christianity, and The Beatitudes Society are calling for a boycott and a recall of Left Behind Games' first title, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, saying it promotes a number of decidedly un-Christian values.

Released earlier this month and famously mocked on The Daily Show, Left Behind: Eternal Forces is based on the Left Behind novels, which depict a world after the Rapture. That's where the authors believe the faithful are taken up to heaven, leaving everyone else behind to fight a climactic battle between good and evil. Continue.

Christian video game creates a stir
'Left Behind,' a virtual battle for the souls of unbelievers, draws criticism for its 'us vs. them' view of the world.

By Jane Lampman, The Christian Science Monitor, December 21, 2006

Lampman reports on a range of critics of the game, including CrossWalk America and JewsOnFirst. She interviewed Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, JewsOnFirst's co-director:

Some Jews are also troubled by the game. "Jews are often instrumental in rapture theology - war in Israel, Jews converting to Christianity, all other Jews disappearing in the third act of a four-act play," says Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, of Jews On First, a First Amendment watchdog group. "What happens if no rapture or Second Coming occurs? The classical response in history has been to blame the Jews for somehow foiling everybody's hopes and plans." Jews On First has created a petition opposing the game on its website for people of all faiths to sign; some 500 have done so in the first few days, the rabbi says.

Please click here for the report.

Leave 'Left Behind' behind
New Christian-themed computer game encourages players to help nonbelievers 'see the light'

Commentary by Noam Reshef, Ynetnews.com (Israel), November 29, 2006

Like the residents of southern Lebanon, computer gaming executives are used to living under fire. Whether the attackers are irate parents blaming American high school massacres on violent games or self-righteous politicians demanding that explicit sex scenes be removed, it seems that each day brings a new controversy.

However, this time the computer game industry is facing a brand new opponent: The liberal and secular Left. At stake is a game called “Left Behind”, which is based on the Book of Revelation, or, more specifically, a popular series of religious science fiction-adventure books.

“Left Behind”, a strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic world, can be found on the shelves of mainstream stores. Critics are up in arms over its overt Christian missionary content. Continue.

Left Behind Games' Sales Through Christian Retailers Already Deemed Remarkable

News Release, Left Behind Games, November 27, 2006

LOS ANGELES, CA--(MARKET WIRE)--Nov 27, 2006 -- Left Behind Games Inc. (OTC BB:LFBG.OB - News) recently announced the release of its first game, LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces(TM), the PC Game, based upon the mega-hit selling book series. After just three weeks of sales, Christian retailers are finding a significant demand for this revolutionary product. "Our small and newly opened Christian store has already sold more than 50 copies of the game, helping us to reach our sales goals sooner. The demand for this product is remarkable!" says Bruce Richardson, Praise Him Christian Store owner in Murrieta, California. Continue.

Left Behind Games Receives Accolades From Focus on the Family

News Release, Left Behind Games, December 1, 2006

LOS ANGELES, CA--(MARKET WIRE)--Dec 1, 2006 -- Left Behind Games' (OTC BB:LFBG.OB - News) new PC game, LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces(TM) receives praise from Focus on the Family. "Eternal Forces is the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior -- and use to raise some interesting questions along the way," writes Plugged In, a division of Focus on the Family after thoroughly playing the game. Continue.

'Left Behind' Now an End-Times Game

Bob Hoose, Plugged-In Focus on the Family, December 4, 2006

I'm sure you've heard the one about the guy who stands up at a funeral and says, "The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated." Well, the PC game Left Behind: Eternal Forces has been bearing the brunt of a few "exaggerations" for a while now. Seven months before it arrived in stores, Newsweek reported that the T-rated (for teen) Christian game had "a level of violence reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto." And with that exclamation, bloggers, pundits and even gamers started pulling at their hair and gasping out "Christian militia" and "global dominionism" while talking of a game that boasted "roving religious death squads."

The rock-throwers all had one thing in common -- none of them had played the game. Now that it's completed and has been released, we have. Continue

'Left Behind' Game Promotes Religious Violence, Group Says

Melanie Hunter, CNSNews.com, December 19, 2006

A U.S. Islamic advocacy group Tuesday called on the country's largest retailer to stop selling a video game it says glorifies religious violence and could negatively affect interfaith relations.

The game, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," is described on the game's website as a real-time strategy game based on the best-selling book series "Left Behind."

It allows gamers to "join the ultimate fight of good against evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances" - a reference to the end-time rapture.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which says it received complaints about the game, charged that players are rewarded for either converting or killing people of other faiths. Continue

Statement of Frederick Clarkson and Bruce Wilson, Co-Founders, Talk2Action.org
This statement was distributed at today's press conference by Christian groups calling for the recall of the video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces. -- FC

Frederick Clarkson, Talk2Action.org, November 28, 2006

Last May, our colleague Jonathan Hutson posted a groundbreaking and shocking analysis of the then, forthcoming video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces. In the game, he reported, players control an end-times Christian militia that roams the streets of New York City, seeking to convert or kill New Yorkers. He also reported that the game indoctrinates children and young adults into an ideology of religious warfare, which may be expected in their lifetime.

We believe that the manufacturers should withdraw the game and apologize to their fellow Americans for the spreading, however unintentionally, of a base and dangerous brand of religious bigotry. Continue

Groups Join to Condemn Left Behind: Eternal Forces

Chip Berlet, Talk2Action.org, November 28, 2006

On Tuesday, November 28th, CrossWalk America in conjunction with the Christian Alliance for Progress (CAP) and other groups including Talk2Action will hold a press conference to condemn the Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game "that explicitly encourages 'Left Behind Christian Converts' to convert or kill a host of people deemed unfit for the Kingdom of God."

According to the press release: "In the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces would be rapture survivors are issued high tech military weaponry and instructed to engage the infidel in New York City. The mission? Convert or kill anyone not adhering to a Fundamentalist view of Christianity. This could include Catholics, Jews, Gays, Muslims and anyone who advocates the separation of Church and State, whether they are Christian or non-Christian." Continue

Christian Groups Oppose Religious Warfare Indoctrination Vid for Kids

Frederick Clarkson, Talk2Action.org, November 28, 2006

At a press conference today in Phoenix, Arizona, a coalition of Christian groups will call for the recall of the hate-based video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces. Talk to Action will contribute a statement for the event. Talk to Action's Jonathan Hutson's ground-breaking series remains the definitive critique of the game. Chip Berlet's series on Tim LaHaye, the author fo the series of novels on which the game is based, explains the games' underlying hate-based ideology.

CrossWalk America, the Beatitudes Society, Christian Alliance for Progress and The Center for Progressive Christianity will also urge consumers to boycott the video game, which is being released "just in time for the holidays," according to the manufacturer. The press release is reproduced in its entirety on the flip. Continue

Left Behind: Eternal Forces - The Video Game

Analysis by the Anti-Defamation League, December 19, 2006

The popular “Left Behind” books and movies – which promotes an exclusionary Christian theology that believes Jews and others must convert or be killed at the End of Days – has a new addition to its growing franchise: “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” the video game.

The game, released in November 2006 on CD-ROM, is based on the same intolerant theology embedded in the adult and children “Left Behind” book series, which features gory depictions of the annihilation of Jews and other non-Christians who refuse to convert at Armageddon.

The “Eternal Forces” game was released to coincide with the Christmas 2006 shopping season. It represents the latest tool in the arsenal of millionaire pastor Tim LaHaye, co-author of the “Left Behind” books, and is based on his Christian-only salvation theology and his horror-filled interpretation of Biblical prophecies about Jews, Israel and their fate during the Apocalypse. Continue.

Religious Warfare Vid for Kids, Now on Sale

By Frederick Clarkson, Political Cortex, November 21, 2006

After many false starts, the video game based on Tim LaHaye's best selling "Left Behind" novels, has finally hit the shelves. The game is now for sale in thousands of stores -- just in time for the Christmas shopping season. How it will be received, of course, remains to be seen. But it is worth reminding ourselves that this is but one of a number of strong currents in American religious culture promoting an ideology of religious warfare.

In posts here and at Talk to Action, my colleagues Jonathan Hutson and Chip Berlet and I (among others) have been writing about Left Behind: Eternal Forces for months. I don't want to reprise all that we have had to say, but I have included some links on the flip. Continue.

Merry Christmas, Now Die

by Dan Levin, Forward, December 22, 2006 Last year superstore chain Wal-Mart enraged religious conservatives by instructing employees to wish customers “Happy Holidays.” Well, ’tis the season to be jolly — Wal-Mart switched back to “Merry Christmas” and now Christian conservatives are happy.

This year it is liberals who are protesting — over Wal-Mart’s decision to stock on its shelves the Evangelical video game “Left Behind: Eternal Forces.” Based on the best-selling “Left Behind” books, the game’s plotline begins after the Rapture, in that den of sin known as New York City. The player is a member of the newly faithful who must convert or kill evil nonbelievers who are led by the leader of a United Nations-like organization, who, by the way, also happens to be the anti-Christ. Continue.

Convert or die' game divides Christians
Some ask Wal-Mart to drop Left Behind

Ilene Lelchuk, San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2006

The Chronicle reports: "When asked about the Arab and Muslim-sounding names, Frichner said the game does not endorse prejudice. But "Muslims are not believers in Jesus Christ" -- and thus can't be on Christ's side in the game.

"That is so obvious," he said. Read the report.

Grand Theft Christianity

By Tom Zeller Jr., The Lede (New York Times blog), December 14, 2006, 6:11 pm

A video game that pits good against evil comes with a heavy helping of Christian chauvanism, critics argue.A loose coalition of progressive social-advocacy and Christian groups are lobbying major retailers, most-notably Wal-Mart, to stop carrying a high-end video game that they say “urges born-again Christians to convert or kill others who don’t adhere to their extreme ideology - including Muslims, Jews, and Catholics.” Continue.

Moral choices are in play in faith-based Left Behind

By Hiawatha Bray, The Boston Globe, November 11, 2006

"If there's anything that recent events in the Middle East have shown us, it's that the children are the future of religious wars." So said comedian Rob Corddry a few months back on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." But Corddry wasn't riffing on efforts by Islamic extremists to recruit youngsters to strap on suicide bombs. He was mocking a video game -- a Christian video game called Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

Inspired by the massively popular series of Christian novels, the game takes place in New York City, 18 months after millions of human beings mysteriously disappear. A handful of those who remain know why: Jesus has spirited the true believers away, literally. Only the faithless are left behind.

You'd think all the disappearances, the millions of pairs of suddenly empty wingtips, would give anybody religion. Not quite. A few people fall to their knees, while others reach for their guns. One in particular, former Romanian president Nicolae Carpathia , finally gets the job he's always wanted -- Antichrist. Now Carpathia's goons scour Manhattan, in an effort to wipe out the Bible-believing scum. For their part, the believers form an army of sorts -- the Tribulation Force. Their goals are simple: Spread the gospel, and stay alive. Continue.