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.
The action begins after the world’s two billion righteous true-believers have gone straight to Heaven. Those that have been left behind on earth (hence, the name) are the wicked and the nonbelievers, as well as those whose fate is not yet known.
“Left Behind” refers to the righteous as the Tribulation Force, an expression derived from the Christian Bible. In contrast, the evil ones, who are led by Satan’s son, the so-called Antichrist, are called Peacekeepers. Cynics charge that the latter appellation sounds suspiciously like the United Nations.
In many aspects, the game is similar to others in the genre. The player needs to establish a headquarters, set up a training base for his or her soldiers, and recruit new fighters. Finally, the player must attack his or her enemies.
However, “Left Behind” is a bloodless game, and innocent bystanders must not be harmed. Moreover, new soldiers – and enemy fighters – can be recruited through missionary activities, such as prayer.
In fact, any soldier can be ordered to stop and pray at any time. By doing so, the fighter’s morale will be boosted and his functioning will improve.
The final goal is to eradicate the forces of evil. All neutral characters are to be converted into believers, and those who insist on aligning themselves with the nonbelievers are to be destroyed.
If the game in question was merely a mediocre program distributed free on the Internet, there would be no controversy. But “Left Behind” looks and feels like any other top-rated game.
Developed by a team of professionals – headed by Troy Lyndon, formerly of Electronic Arts – the game’s graphics and action are extremely impressive. “Left Behind”, which retails at USD 50 a copy, is clearly being targeted at the general gaming market, which, in 2005, was worth 6.1 billion dollars in the US alone.
Tom Clancy meets Jesus
Thus, “Left Behind” is simply another manifestation of the latest trend within the American entertainment industry, as evidenced by the incredible success of Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ”. Although detractors accused the Aramaic-language movie of anti-Semitism, the film earned an astonishing USD 400 million in the US alone.
With surveys revealing that 87 percent of Americans define themselves as Christians, the entertainment industry has drawn the obvious conclusions. The Christian market is a lucrative one, and six Christian-themed movies were released this year.
Furthermore, 43 million copies of Christian rock albums were sold in 2005, and there are over 1,400 Christian radio stations and numerous Christian television stations throughout the US. In addition, The Holy Land Experience, a Christian theme park, is located in Orlando, Florida, not far from Disney World.
And then there are the books. The first volume in the “Left Behind” series was published in 1995. Since then, over 70 million copies have been sold, and several of the books have made it onto the New York Times bestseller list.
The series has been described as “Tom Clancy or Steven King meets Jesus” - action-adventure with heavy Christian overtones. Spin-offs include a children’s edition, comic books, postcards, board games, three movies and more.
Critics are particularly incensed by the identity of the series’ authors: Dr. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. LaHaye heads several American conservative organizations, including the Council for National Policy, which leftwing journalists accuse of having undue influence on American policymakers.
Good for the Jews?
Where do we fit into all this? Jews and Israelis will find the series’ plotline extremely troubling, to say the least.
In the first book, seven years of fighting between the forces of good and evil begin with a Russian attack on Israel, which survives to enable Jesus to return. While many Jews “see the light” and convert to Christianity, some liberal Israelis support the evil nonbelievers. In other words, “Left Behind” supports Israel but portrays Judaism as a mistaken religion.
The game has been attacked from both the left and the right. On The Daily Show, a satiric television program that airs on YES, Rob Corddry showed a clip of the game’s developer explaining that if a player “kills” an innocent bystander, he or she loses a point. However, if the player recruits and converts the bystander, he or she gains two points.
Moderates view the implied connection between Christianity and violence with misgiving and caution that Islamists may use the game and the books as proof of American anti-Muslim intolerance.