Faith Community Debates Halo 3 Youth Ministry

October 8, 2007 -
Although there has been some recent talk around the Net about the use of the Halo series to attract kids to church activities, Saturday's New York Times coverage (see GamePolitics write-up here) seems to have crystalized the debate over the practice.

A lively discussion at the blog site of bible scholar Ben Witherington nicely captures the opposing views. Witherington - who pretty clearly is not conversant with video games - doesn't like the idea of using Halo to attract youthful congregants:
This whole sorry approach to youth ministry smacks of absolute desperation and fear - fear that if we are not relevant, we cannot attract a crowd. Is this really what Jesus would do? I don't think so...

If you have so little creativity or imagination that you imagine that the only way to appeal to youth is by appealing to their most base and basic fallen instincts, then get out of youth ministry - you haven't got the tools for the task...

Lisa, a reader of the site who describes herself as "a reasonably avid gamer," weighs in to disagree:
Playing, say, Grand Theft Auto in a church would be a vastly different story... If a church has specifically made it its mission to be culturally relevant to today's youth, if you're eliminating video games as an option, you're highly limiting the tools you can use to reach out.

Another reader, Jake, adds:
[Perhaps] you're judging video games as a medium more harshly than films... A second possibility is that you are equating the violence in Halo with vengeance or senseless violence - which is debatable given the narrative the game follows...

Witherington replies, but his lack of familiarity with games is evident:
When you play a 'Versus' sort of game, or in that sort of mode, you are in the first place setting up a scenario for individual winners and losers. There is nothing about this that builds community...

Secondly... I do have a major problem with a game that takes endless hours to play, or win, and is so absorbing that it encourages the worst sort of narcissism...

Thirdly, there are numerous studies out there to be had about how these games affect and indeed encode violent images on young brains in various ways that going to a movie that lasts an hour or so would not do.

Jake replies:
I disagree completely that community cannot be built around a game like Halo... I've... formed friendships with people online as I've played, as well as enjoyed the community when I get together with friends in person and play...

Marc Axelrod weighs in:
My Super Nintendo helped me through a lot of seminary nights when I just didn't feel like studying... As a pastor, I've had great times playing NFL Blitz and other games with the young people...  But I wouldn't feel right playing a game with gratuitous violence. I don't know if Halo 3 is a case example or not. I did play Virtua Fighter 4 at church with a couple of my confirmands last Sunday night. Maybe that was a borderline call...

Comments

Re: Faith Community Debates Halo 3 Youth Ministry

I see this as just much cultural divide than religious.  It is more common to find people who believe that guns are the root of all evil and cartoons such as Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry may cause their kids to become violent.  The church has bought into this too.  The false notion is that if we get rid of all guns and all influence of violence people will be peaceful.  This is absolutely false.  Cain murdered Abel and he had no influence of Halo.  It is a heart problem.

Due to political correctness, Halo would be more acceptable 30 years ago than it is today.  As a boy we played army with fake guns.  We pretended to kill each other with play knives in battle while wrestling to the ground.  We understood the difference between fiction and real.  These games didn't make us become murderers.  We were pretending.  It was fun.

For those who don't want their kids to be exposed to any violence, I suggest you don't read the Bible because it is full of violence.  David cut off Goliath's head with a sword.  Deborah did a number on a guy's head with a tent peg, and when you think about it Noah and the flood, all those people were killed in massive numbers.  Perhaps that is the most violent of all.  We teach our kids this story like it's a nice little story with animals.  God killed these people.  My point is, not all violence is evil.  I don't think shooting pixels on a television screen hardly qualifies someone to become a murderer.

Come on church, lighten up.

I've always had issue with certain institutions "advertising," namely, the News, Hospitals, and The Church. They all seem like institutions that should attract people based on their merits, not on "events" or "commercials." I don't have a child, but if he (or she) told me that they were going to a church to play Halo 3, I would probably forbid them to go, even if I let them play it in the home. I understand that Churches need to connect to people and need to be "fishers of Men," but if my Son or Daughter joined a church because of Halo 3, I would be really upset. That's a decision that should be made by them when they are capable of understanding the decision they are making.

I have problems with ppl playing Halo 3 because if it's anything like the first two it's probably really overrated and not that good... other than that I can definitely see how it can build a nice community and group of friends, just kind of wish they picked a game that was good.

@someguy

IMO, children shouldn't go to any church at all, being left to make their own decisions when they are grown up enough to question and choose which religion, if any, they'll pick up. I've been raise as a catholic by influence of my family, and the way I see, the interest of the churches in children indeed lies in the ease of manipulation, especially throught fear. Fear of going to hell eternally because you didn't want to go to mass in one weekend, because you took communion without confessing (a rite that wasn't even created by Christ). I've managed to become a free-thinker and leave this behind, but no matter how much I discuss this stuff with my mother and my grandmother, they can't see a different point of view (which is, in fact, because of a life of belief, or brainwashing).

And I also have to deal with things like this: I'm preparing an RPG session, looking through the D&D Monster Manual, and my grandmother sees the illustration of the flesh golem, then she says I'll end up as a satanist (despite the fact I've already explained to her that satanism has nothing to do with worshipping the devil - she answers me that's it's what she believes so it doesn't matter if I explain or not). By playing a game.

A little more on topic, religion alienates me like the way I've explaines, so I don't like it at all, and I like it even less for using our media to lure the young and possibly do to them what they tried to do to me.

Sorry if the post is disperse, I'm quite sleepy right now.

@Phoenix

1. Big bang theory? I believe you are referring to a scientific assumption concerning the expasion of the universe from a point of sigularity [which has yet to be explained]: a claim with universal and binding connotations, a claim that attempts to describe. The claim itself is supported by a limited collection of emperical observation. Emperical observation, due to our limited scope and metaphysical indeterminancy, cannot be trusted to establish, with certainty, the origins of our universe.

Consequently, as you've said, our minds are not capable of passing judgment (with the current facts and "truth finding" methods avaliable to us) on a naturalistic theory rooted in emperical unity. Thank you for implicitly illustrating the absurdity that occurs when we jump from natural judgments to supernatural judgments.

2. The question is not concerned with the free will argument. The topic on hand is that God personally commited actions that define our conception of evil. Even if I were to entertain the free will argument, you will eventually fall into a critical delimma: the human condition does not permit or logically allow the existence of a diety that claims to possess ALL of the following attributes: all-knowing, all-good, all-just (all attributes are posited on God, by man, in the Bible; the contradictions are too numerous to list).

Christian dogma penetrates virtually every facet of society: http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/AntiXtian.htm (my favorite parody). Allowing supersition to exist without critique, when it exists solely because it is indoctrinated or terrorized into the ignorant, is not a viable option for an ethical person.

I wonder if the game's title 'Halo' is what creeps out some of the less-informed communities and Churches? In the religions sense, a halo is supposed to be an aura of light on the head of a blessed person. Though usually we go for a nice and cartoony hoola-hoop floating above the head.

firstly let me quote

"This whole sorry approach to youth ministry smacks of absolute desperation and fear - fear that if we are not relevant, we cannot attract a crowd. Is this really what Jesus would do? I don’t think so..."

im not very religious, infact i down right hate christianity, or atleast the way it is being taught but thats not what im talking about. jesus did make his points relevant to people because without relevance people do not learn, he used parabols, like the mustard seed and all that other crap.

personally i find it hilarious because whether gamers like it or not and im a gamer by the way. the game is violent, you shoot people, people die. the game premotes teamwork and community but it is still violent. again i went to the midnight launch so dont get angry with my comments i love the game. christianity is about community, but using games as a medium to spread their beliefs is not the way to do it.

the declining of religious youths means one thing, we as a society are becomming more and more detached from spirituality, even those that say they are christian or muslim or hindu or buddhist arent following because they chose to but because it is tradition, because their parents or community believed one thing and gradually the little voice in thier heads that questioned what they truly believed was squashed and follow the crowd because they cannot deal with change and frankly dont give a damn

"When you play a ‘Versus’ sort of game, or in that sort of mode, you are in the first place setting up a scenario for individual winners and losers. There is nothing about this that builds community…"

So, by this logic, kids who play or cheer for a certain team in baseball are taught to... what? That there are winners and losers? That games are only fun if you win? I remember playing little-league baseball, and even if we lost, we were still awesome about it and didn't gloat. I think THAT was what games taught us to do- even if not everyone acts that way. But a community CAN be built on such thinking.
Let's even step away from that line of thinking and consider Co-Op mode, and metagame scoring, where you need to work with others to progress, while at the same time competing for a score throughout the game.

"Secondly… I do have a major problem with a game that takes endless hours to play, or win, and is so absorbing that it encourages the worst sort of narcissism…"

2 hours a day, you could beat Halo 3 in about a week. That's not endless.

"Thirdly, there are numerous studies out there to be had about how these games affect and indeed encode violent images on young brains in various ways that going to a movie that lasts an hour or so would not do."

Name one such study, by a reputable research group. And then tell me they said there was a direct link and actual causation between the two. No? Move on.

"My Super Nintendo helped me through a lot of seminary nights when I just didn’t feel like studying… As a pastor, I’ve had great times playing NFL Blitz and other games with the young people… But I wouldn’t feel right playing a game with gratuitous violence. I don’t know if Halo 3 is a case example or not. I did play Virtua Fighter 4 at church with a couple of my confirmands last Sunday night. Maybe that was a borderline call…"

At least this guy admits he doesn't know enough about the game to make snap judgements. The violence level in Halo 3 is significantly less than alot of other titles. Unless you count the flood, there's no dismemberment to speak of.

[...] happyliving wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIf a church has specifically made it its mission to be culturally relevant to today’s youth, if you’re eliminating video games as an option, you’re highly limiting the tools you can use to reach out. Another reader, Jake, adds: … [...]

@ Tezza

My aunt, whom I really hold no love for, goes with members of the christian church community and places bets on survivor, trying to figure out who's going to be kicked off, who is going to win, etc.. Gambling is considered a sin by most religions, but it brings them together as a community. So what are you trying to say? That there's a right way and a wrong way to bring people together as a more tight-knit community? That certain ways are invalid because they don't conform to someone else's standards? That the means of doing such a thing have less importance than the ends of such a method? We could do a WHOLE lot worse. You could bring people together for an ORGY for the benefit of the religious community, but that wouldn't really conform to most people's views, first of all, and it's not really the best way.

Second, you seem to have some beef with the idea of "it's a game, people die in it" when the people who die are fictitious- lemme say that if it's okay for Franklin Delano Roosevelt to say "And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking," in regards to the D-Day invasion, or for political leaders to believe it to be "god's" will that a war be fought and won, where REAL people die for uncertain reasons, then a church using a science-fiction game to bring a community together is tame in comparison. Are we going to say "Hey, let's have a Lan-Party on X-Wing: Alliance, because people in those ships don't die!"? Or watch a science-fiction movie where people die but you don't really sympathize because their the bad guys?

“This whole sorry approach to youth ministry smacks of absolute desperation and fear - fear that if we are not relevant, we cannot attract a crowd. Is this really what Jesus would do?”

Didn't he miracle up loaves and fishes for them?

As a Christian and a Gamer I really don't see anything wrong with this.

At a church I use to go to the pastor actually played Halo 2 with some of the younger kids and even made jokes about it during a Sunday service.

Even in the youth hall we use to have game nights, with football, basketball, and two xbox systems hooked up to both television sets with two teams of 4 battling via the network setup.

One of the biggest thing churches have now is they don't have a good outreach program, and when one church tries something different everyone is kinda shocked, but I for one applaud them, this is a way to reach a broader audience and a way to get the message across, whether or not the message gets across depends on the person listening.

[...] You can read the rest here: http://gamepolitics.com/2007/10/08/faith-community… [...]

I agree that this is a desperate bid for young people. And one thing young people do especially well is detect a desperate attempt to seem relevant to them. Campaigns like this only serve to enforce a view of religious institutions as hypocritical entities.

"Secondly… I do have a major problem with a game that takes endless hours to play, or win, and is so absorbing that it encourages the worst sort of narcissism…"

How long would it take someone to read a book that was as long as say, oh, THE BIBLE?

Narcissism??? I'm not sure I understand the supposed connection...so if I play a game hours on end this will result in a superiority complex? Somebody explain this to me.

Or is my first impression more accurate...that this clown has NO clue what he's talking about?

Going by what these guys say, if Jesus were alive today he'd probably have an N-Gage.

@hayabusa75

It should be if you fight against games for years, THEN you get a superiority complex :P

I'm personally in favor of the whole idea of reaching out to kids via Halo, speaking as a Christian.

@ hayabusa75 I'm guessing he meant nihilism, or possibly extravagance.
Then again he may just be crap at English.

Whilst I don't have any objection to the more awesome among the pastors doing things like playing halo with the kids and generally building a community around activities that kids actually enjoy these days, It's a road that should be tread carefully lest the entertainment becomes the sole focus.

Of course Jesus wouldn't do that. He totally steered clear of bad people and bad places. He certainly didn't hang out in seedy joints with prostitutes and corrupt tax collectors.

Oh wait...

With regards to Halo 3, I have to agree with one of the marines riding shotgun with me last night as I plowed through a horde of ghosts and choppers in a tank.

"I think his violence is *artfully* done."

I think one of the most ironic things in this whole debate about what Jesus would have done is that He always approached people, on an individual level anyway, about what they were doing at that moment.

For example: When He recruited Peter He talked to him about fishing; with the woman at the well He talked about water. It was always in context and relevant to what the people were doing. Using a video game as a means to introduce the Gospel and Christ's message in not only relevant but precisely what Jesus WOULD have done. At least in my opinion.

Jesus: S'up man, I was fragging like a mofo on Halo 3 last night, and it taught me to love my fellow gamer yo.
Gamer: Right on J-man.

I don't see it somehow.

Gotta indoctrinate those kids while they are still young! Nothing like forcing a child to learn a religious tradition at an age where they are not capable of understanding the most elementrary works of literature, civics, or philosophy! Hell, making sure those poor kids learn under the presumption that Christian superstition is the only truth in the universe is even better! Keep going, Christian friends! Be sure that you also prevent a child from learning about other religious traditions, and threatening the children with eternal torture if they ever do! What? Not finished yet? Lure the children in with gimmicy promotions that have nothing to do with the religion? Hell yes! Power advertising, go on. Yes? Never expose a child to works of inquiry or confront the morally brutual, logically contradictory, and emperically ridiculous segements of the bible? Oh god, go my Christian friends, GO! Cherry pick through the scriptures, while claiming their absolute literal truth, until you simply find Bible versus and "interpret" your way into a half-ass ecclesiastical jusification from contemporary secular morals!? YES! YES!!!

Mmmmm! Christian values at work, baby.

I suppose when screaming about the ravings of a genocidal, child-killing, "God" are not enough.... on top of the threat of eternal torture if you do not acknowledge a ficticious diety as master.... the only form of truth left is:

KILL THE ALIENS, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST!

@GoodRobotUs

"Didn’t he miracle up loaves and fishes for them?"

I think the modern equivalent would be if he could miracle up a finished copy of Duke Nukem Forever. That might get people listening.

Darn, Pandralisk came back. Please go troll elsewhere.

I happen to agree with Pandralisk's post. Why does everyone flame him? He's not attacking any of you, just people's antiquated and flawed beliefs.

You aren't going to get any support here, so don't try it.

If that was your opinion, then I have to say you are the mirror image of JT.

@Pandralisk

Dude, please just stop. You're as bad a bigot as JT and its just as productive. If you have something relevant to say, please do; but if all you're going to do is troll and spout your typical myopic vitriol please do it elsewhere.

If you fail to see the wit and humor of Pandralisk's posts then I think you are taking life too seriously. He speaks the truth and his post is relevant to the topic. IMO, that != trolling.

As long there isn't any molestation going on i don't really care.

While I think there is a difference between being critical of the modern incarnation of the church and it's system of politics and being critical of the religion in general I believe Pandralisk doesn't see that difference. Using something that can be an honest debate to spout inane cliched hatreds does not make you look smart.

That being said I believe the church may be "rolling with the times" so to speak. If it helps draw people in I am all for it. It is ultimately up to the parents to know where their kids are spending time. We have a skateboard church here in Seattle that uses the same methods to get kids to identify with them.

^^ I can see the wit and humor in that.

I say it again, Pandralisk comes across as nothing more than a Jerk, even in the eyes of those that do not follow the "Religions of Abraham", as he puts it.

As to Pandralisk's biggest fan. Anonymity is a treasure on the internet. But it is also the Zero card: The fool, the beginning and the end of seriousness and ridicule (take your pick). In short, I think you're Pandralisk, and you're only making things worse.

If you're not Pandralisk, then chose another nick for yourself. Establish an identity and don't be an ass. That's all I ask.

Can't really blame the Churches for their desperation. Christianity's becoming less and less relevant (thankfully) as is evidenced by the decline in its number of followers, especially in first-world Europe. Will be a mostly dead religion by the turn of the century (give or take) and Yahweh can join Zues, Odin, and all the thousands of other obsolete gods. I'm more worried about Islam's recent sharp increase in popularity, really. Whatever their outreach program is, it must be working.

On a brighter note, at least kids are getting free Halo parties.

Sorry for the repetition, but I think this accurately sums up everything Pandralisk says.

"All Christians have an IQ less than 10, and I don't stereotype! I have nothing against Christians, but I hate them! They are all brainwashed from a young age, even though many question and even leave the church when they are older! They secretly ran the KKK AND the Nazis! And why? Oh, it’s all because of their Bronze-age war-god, who EATS BABIES, and TORTURES PUPPIES.

Their God also secretly lives on earth, as a profoundly gay black man with a hot pink afro and baby blue facial hair named Stan. He lives in Downtown New York, is married to a dustbin called Jim-Bob, and plays STRIP POKER WITH THE DEVIL on saturday nights.

It’s all proven in the bible. Really.”

:D

@Pandralisk,
I have no idea how you came upon the ideas of Christianity. I never went to a church like that, and none of the people i know went to a church like that. I am so sorry that you had to experience that sort of thing, but the majority isn't like that. The majority also doesn't make headlines, because it isn't like that. Again I am sorry you had bad experiences and had to go through that. And if you haven't stop talking out your ass.

"Their God also secretly lives on earth, as a profoundly gay black man with a hot pink afro and baby blue facial hair named Stan. He lives in Downtown New York, is married to a dustbin called Jim-Bob, and plays STRIP POKER WITH THE DEVIL on saturday nights."

Wtf? LOL

watch out for the upcoming story on a 10-year old kid jumped to his own death in a tragic suicide spurred from his parents banning videogames from him. Caught the story on digg.

I am not a bigot! You all are just idiots who are incapable of understand that all Christians are child-raping scum who all force their religion on others and are retarded fools for believing in a fictional god! I am not trying to destroy their beliefs like an egotistical jackass, I'm just trying to prove a point through sheer dickishness. I am NOT biased, just truth-CHRISTIANS RAPE CHILDREN!-ful, like my idol, Bill O'Reilly! PAPA BEAR!

I have no problem with using a videogame for a youth ministry to connect to kids.

But not an M-Rated game.

It seems odd that any religious organization would even touch Halo. A major plotpoint of the series is that the villians are trying to destroy the entire galaxy in the name of their devout FAITH. I always thought of the Covenant as having parallells with Fundamentalist Christianity (faith over truth & reason) and Islam (holy war).

Master Chief is fighting a war against religion...

Pendralisk: Your second name "Nekowolf" means "cat-wolf". You're an idiot.

Wow, pandralisk, just wow. you truly are the biggest piece of work I've ever seen, worse than JT even. Just...wow. The only real difference between you and JT is that your not a lawyer.

myrpok: That IS Nekowolf. not Pandralisk. I kind of feel embarrased for you now.

Oh, and his post was a joke post.

Honestly, a christian could cure cancer, and Pandralisk would still find a way to twist it into a negative.

Why? The second name was what I was referring to, and the person posting under Pendralisk's name was adopting it. Catwolf in Japanese is as stupid as it sounds in English. Plus the "satirical" crap about christianity isn't clever, it's just dumb.
 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Who's responsible for crappy Netflix performance on Verizon?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
james_fudgePlease use the comments section for bitching about specific articles :) We do read them, after all.07/23/2014 - 10:52am
Andrew EisenThat's unfair but thank you for the tip on the Reddit thread containing the Kickstarter message to backers. The article has been updated.07/23/2014 - 10:50am
SleakerHere's the message Areal backers recieved from Kickstarter: http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/2beqlc/areal_kickstarter_suspended/07/23/2014 - 8:52am
Sleaker@MW - I still think Cogent/Level3 hookups were lacking prior to the comcast switch, but I do think verizon is being dumb here.07/23/2014 - 12:06am
Andrew EisenOf course it's a question. It's got a question mark and everything!07/22/2014 - 6:43pm
Matthew WilsonHate to say it, but that poll is not even a question. there is too much evidence that points to Verizon. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/186576-verizon-caught-throttling-netflix-traffic-even-after-its-pays-for-more-bandwidth07/22/2014 - 6:23pm
Andrew EisenHuh. The new Battlefield has been delayed to early next year. Are you feeling okay, EA? http://blogs.battlefield.com/2014/07/bfh-will-launch-2015/07/22/2014 - 6:11pm
SleakerWest End Games - Areal developers just got their Kickstarter suspended. Might want to dump that 'fully funded' status.07/22/2014 - 12:08pm
MaskedPixelanteHas anyone who bought it gotten their Sims 2 Ultimate Edition upgrade yet? Still waiting on mine, especially since they're supposed to be out by today.07/22/2014 - 10:45am
IanCDynasty Warriors 8 for the PS4 finally has the option to turn off the OTT depth of field that made the game look like a blurry mess. Only a few months behind the JP version patch...07/22/2014 - 10:17am
NeenekoI see nothing in Section 111 that would exclude IP transmission. It even explicitly includes 'other transmission methods'07/22/2014 - 9:28am
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/07/19/ruling_aereo_is_not_a_cable_company07/22/2014 - 8:13am
ZippyDSMleelul what?07/22/2014 - 7:53am
ZippyDSMleehttp://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/07/bungie-cross-generation-destiny-wouldnt-be-fair-to-low-res-players/07/22/2014 - 7:53am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/22/wii-u-update-adds-system-to-system-transfers/ The latest Wii U update allows you to do the system transfer between two Wii Us. Still not true accounts, but getting there.07/22/2014 - 7:39am
Papa MidnightSpeculation from PC Gamer. Don't hold your breath. http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/07/21/microsoft-job-listing-says-nice-things-about-pc-gaming-isnt-clear-if-it-means-them/07/21/2014 - 5:58pm
MaskedPixelanteI dunno, it's probably Vevo powertripping.07/21/2014 - 5:52pm
Andrew EisenMP - Makes you wonder what the intention behind the removal was. Stop the RickRolls? Yeah, like removing that one video is going to make a difference.07/21/2014 - 3:27pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.billboard.com/articles/business/digital-and-mobile/6165313/youtube-blocks-original-rickroll-video Moment of silence, the original Rickroll video has been blocked in many regions.07/20/2014 - 3:53pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician