Faith-Based Killing? Critics Rip Christian Video Game

The antichrist has come to Earth, and the forces of good are battling the forces of evil. Your mission: to convert or kill the non-believers.

That's the premise of the new personal computer videogame "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" -- a game caught in a harsh theological and political controversy.

Liberal Christian leaders such as the Rev. Tim Simpson, a Presbyterian minister and the interim president of the Christian Alliance for Progress (LINK), are demanding the game be pulled from store shelves.

"It's essentially faith-based killing," Simpson says, arguing that the game twists the Gospel. "The religious right envisions sitting down by the fireside -- Mom and Dad, Johnny and Susie -- killing all their non-Christian opponents inside the game and imagining this is what, in fact, God wants."

But Troy A. Lyndon, CEO and co-founder of Left Behind Games (LINK), disputes this notion, arguing players learn the value of prayer -- key to success in the game.

"The truth is, you can win our game without firing a single shot," Lyndon says.

Apocalypse Now

True to the popular "Left Behind" book and film franchise, the game begins with a short video of the Rapture, when believers in Jesus are whisked away to heaven, leaving behind non-believers and Satan's forces -- a secular United Nations-esque army called the Global Community Peacekeepers, led by a smooth-talking anti-religious man named Nicolae Carpathia.

Then the game begins. In New York City, settings that include Soho and Chinatown, the "good guys" form the Tribulation Forces, a Christian community and militia that battles the evil Global Community Peacekeepers. In 40 comprehensive and, at times, complex missions, players evangelize New Yorkers and gather resources while fending off their enemies. Good guys need to pray throughout the game in order to function, while also killing the enemy using tanks, helicopters and rifles.

Critics worry the game could be used as propaganda -- depicting the United States as trying to convert the Muslim world.

"That the game has a character in the Satanic Army named Amir Mohammed Salaam cuts very quickly to the fact that the game is based on intolerance," says Clark Stevens of the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (LINK), which monitors conservative religious activists.

Adds Christian conservative videogame critic Jack Thompson, "Imagine the response in the Muslim world: 'Get Osama on the satellite phone. Some knuckleheads in the video game industry in America just assured us one million more recruits with the 'American pop culture is the Great Satan' angle. Praise be to Allah!'"

Simpson and other groups are calling for retail giant Wal-Mart to stop selling the game. Wal-Mart has rejected that call.

"We chose store locations where we anticipated customer demand for the product, and the product has been selling in those stores," the retail chain says in a statement. "As always, the decision on what merchandise we offer in our stores is based on what we think our customers want the opportunity to buy."

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