Left Behind, The Video Game
My thanks to everyone who tipped me off to the upcoming release of Left Behind: The Video Game, which seems like such a horrible idea that I'm tempted to say it's a sign of the End Times.
Potentially much worse: the Left Behind Games site features a photo of their CEO posing with Mel Gibson and praising his film, The Passion of the Christ. Why is Mel talking with video game designers about that movie? (Dude, once you get to level 10 with Simon of Cyrene you can just mow down those centurions with the BFG 9000! ) Please, no.
The standard reporting on the Left Behind game's upcoming release had me pounding my head against the wall. Take the following from MSNBC:
Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have written more than a dozen novels for the series, which is based on prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation.
No, no, no, no, no.
This is the boilerplate phrase reporters always use to summarize these books. But it's not true. The Left Behind series is not "based on prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation." It's based on this:
That's not "prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation." It's a weird, 19th-century American fever-dream and one of the strangest, most counter-intuitive and convoluted hermeneutic schemes ever imposed on scripture.
This unrecognizable, heterodox puree includes chunks of John's apocalypse, mixed together willy-nilly with the stranger bits of Daniel, Ezekiel and the minor prophets and slices of St. Paul's meditations on death and Christ's warnings of judgment. It also includes lots of other things, like numerology, an aversion to historical context and whole passages apparently taken from the AD&D Monster Manual.
Reporters would be better off summarizing the LB series by saying the books are "based on the authors' interpretation of prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation." That would at least avoid the inference that LaHaye and Jenkins' twisted hermeneutic is the dominant, and only valid, Christian interpretation of Revelation and the rest of the Bible.
But even that statement would accept too much of LaHaye & Jenkins' argument — the presumption that Revelation, and indeed most of the Bible, is primarily about "prophecy"; and the presumption that the prophets were primarily concerned with foretelling the future. Daniel was not Nostradamus. Isaiah was not Madame Marie. If that is what the prophets were about then the word "jeremiad" would mean something other than what it does.
The MSNBC report continues:
The first video game title is set in New York and pits a small resistance force against the Antichrist, who has seized power at the United Nations with the goal of world domination.
See? It's set in New York. Just like the Book of Revelation, which opens with a vision of the five golden lampstands and letters to the five boroughs ("To the angel of the church in Queens, write …").
The "Left Behind" book series has expanded to other entertainment realms, spawning a movie, music and graphical novels, as well as a downloadable computer trivia game and a board game.
U.S. video game sales were $7.3 billion in 2004. Sellers of Christian-themed titles are jumping into the market, hoping to tap the same audience that has made Christian Pop music a force in the entertainment industry.
And the prophets, preoccupied with their foretelling of the future, apparently had nothing to say about American Christians spending millions of dollars on trivia and entertainment.
Here is how the folks at Left Behind Games describe their vision:
BG intends to develop games so as to include the same types of elements that have made interactive games popular for years and yet offer a less graphic experience to the sexual themes and gratuitous violence currently found in many games. We plan to make all games visually and kinetically appealing. We anticipate that the games will be classified as both action and adventure and will receive either an "E" rating (appropriate for ages 6 and up) or a "T" rating (appropriate for ages 13 and up).
They write almost as well as Tim & Jerry.
(The chart above is from someone named Timothy S. Morton, at this site. It's actually one of the less convoluted dispensational charts. The really elaborate, fun ones are from Harry B. Ironsides who produced charts in the early 20th century that included illustrations based on the visions of Daniel.)