Far Cry 5 and Faith Distorted

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A man comes to town and befriends a preacher. He mixes truth-spoken with drug-fueled visions. He kills in the night and then moves on to capture the hearts of men. The town is soon flooded with one man’s lies. What is this perverted faith being presented in Far Cry 5?

The use of religious imagery and language are often intertwined in video games. Faith presented as a misunderstood mystery.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

Two Examples:
  1. 1998’s Xenogears delved into crucifixion, a Roman form of the death penalty. The game then took things a step further by having the crucifixion take place on a hill called Golgotha. Sound familiar? Japanese RPG’s have a tendency of pulling parts and pieces from all different cultures and shoving them into their narratives.

2. Ken Levine’s BioShock Infinite plays around with the concept of baptism being a key turning point in a man’s life. The beginning of the game going so far as to use baptism as a point of entry into the City of Columbia. Press X to Accept Baptism.

What should the Christian response be to distortions of faith in media?

  1. We should not be surprised at non-believers not understanding spiritual things.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18

2. We should recognize / be aware of certain genres of media having a predisposition to use religious imagery and language just because they can.

3. We should call out / shed light on depictions of faith that are not accurate and veer into cult territory. Far Cry 5‘s baptism trailer clearly depicts an unhealthy faith and devotion to a man, who will fail them. In watching the trailer, I’m reminded that God is not oppressive; God is not about control. No, oppression and control are tools of the devil.

Unlike the tagline at the end of the Far Cry 5 trailer, God does not call Christians to trust Him blindly nor to pray and obey Him out of fear:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

In the end, Far Cry 5‘s fictional Hope County, Montana is in need of a spiritual cleansing. These people need to experience the freedom that Jesus Christ offers and be freed from the cult-ish slavery they are mired in. Being a Far Cry game, violence and rivers of blood will be the only way to purity.

Will you make the trip to Big Sky Country when the game is released?

Will you embrace the violence, the distorted faith presented?

Inside: A relationship built on trust

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I really enjoyed this piece by my friend Josh, via Gamechurch. Can’t wait to play this on my PS4, August 23rd.

They’re looking for you, little boy. The masked men just released their hounds. You run. The bloodthirsty dogs close the distance between you and a cliff. Just as the dog’s teeth lunge for your foot, you jump off the cliff. Let me pause right here. You have no idea what’s at the bottom of this cliff. You’re completely at the whim of the game designer. Knowing there’s no other option, you simply trust the creator.

Read more here

Inside

 

NIrV Minecrafters Bible

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The NIrV Minecrafters Bible is a Biblical recipe mixing faith and fandom. This Bible features a solid hardcover to hold up against any Creeper or Zombie attack. The New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) makes for an easy read. 24 Minecraft-themed pages highlight Biblical stories and offer short in-game objectives to complete.

Minecraft Samson

But all is not well at the Minecraft Crafting Table. Missing ingredients such as:

  • Durable pages
  • Helpful reading plans
  • Highlighted verses
  • Daily Devotions
  • Chronologies/Maps

All reveal a subpar product. A quick cash-in that shows no respect to the Biblical reader nor respect to the player. Zondervan is selling a plain no-frills Bible with a minimal (24 page) Minecraft makeover.

Minecraft Jesus

Zondervan should have gone the extra mile. Including actual study material and embracing Minecraft through trivia and in-game tips. If done well, this could have been an amazing tool. Instead, the NIrV Minecrafters Bible is a damaged wood sword. Beckoning clueless parents and grandparents to pick it up.

Save your money. Invest in something that will last and further real life and in-game adventures.

I was given a copy of this book by BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Joe and the God who helps

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Joe, over at Theology Gaming, writes about Dark Souls and community. You can read more here.

There’s a life lesson in here somewhere. How many times in my own life have I set out with unwavering determination to accomplish a thing, armed only with my own knowledge and experience? More frequently than not those experiences serve to remind me that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. It’s certainly not that I think I know it all; I just think I know enough.

From Across the Net – “Christian Games Done Right: That Dragon, Cancer”

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Nelson knocks it out of the park with his piece titled “Christian Games Done Right: That Dragon, Cancer“.

…I want to tackle how I feel this title has been tragically misrepresented by the games media. And as a result, those who might have benefited most from playing it were turned away.

That Dragon, Cancer is not the story of Joel’s tragic death. It’s the story of his life. The difference may seem small, but it is extremely important, because it defines the very way you approach the game.

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That Dragon Cancer drove me to prayer

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Tabitha and I experienced That Dragon Cancer together. With Wyatt tucked away in bed for the night, we hooked the laptop up to the television. Light’s dimmed, we entered the world of the Green family. The musical score comforts like a warm blanket. The woods around full of promise and wonder. In this setting we meet the Green’s son, Joel, who is feeding a duck. Joel laughs, a lot. After a transitional time at the playground, we meet the dragon of this story, cancer.

Cancer, represented in jagged distorted shapes of hate. Always lurking like a monster in the night. Howls reverberating as a heartbeat of a sick boy.

That Dragon Cancer is a series of vignettes, brief flashes of hope and dark nightmares. Narrated at times by Ryan and Amy Green, we follow their family on their journey with Joel. Tabitha and I appreciated the depth of honesty in Amy’s comments on doubt. Doubt is normal, she says. A contrast to the modern Church whispering “hush” in such moments.

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No matter how dire the situation became. No matter how hard Amy and Ryan prayed, their faith stood out to us. A faith that allows for questions, doubts, and even fears. Media, as a whole, has a hard time portraying faith. The video game medium allows for an unknown level of intimacy. Allowing us to partake, in some small way, in the Green’s suffering. I’m thankful for that.

As the game ended, I found myself in a contemplative mood. That Dragon Cancer reminded me of my need to pray. I prayed for Amy, Ryan, and their family. I fell asleep only to wake up sometime later. Praying over life, direction, and meaning.

I would like to thank Ryan and Amy for being real. For sharing Joel’s life and opening up their family to the world.

Wave SplinterTitle: That Dragon, Cancer
Developer: Numinous Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, OUYA
Reviews on: PC
MSRP: $14.99

*A review copy was provided for this review. 

Thank You for Joining Me

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“How many people do you know who actually read your blog?”

“A whole lot more than you would think.”

When I write, I try to push aside thoughts of who is reading this blog. I write:

  • As an exercise to improve written skill
  • To clarify thoughts
  • To share my life with the greater world
  • In the hopes that someone, somewhere out there, is able to see that they are not alone. We all share similar thoughts, feelings, the human experience. I just happen to expose my musings in a public manner. Good or bad.

Yesterday evening, I was at Men’s Bible Study at my church. One of the guys–hi, Jeremy!–admitted that he reads my blog. He told the group that you never know what you might find here. He couldn’t be more right.

Thought I would take a moment and thank you, the reader. Thank you for joining me on this blogging journey. Thank you for taking a moment out of your day to visit with me. You never know what you might find here. But I can promise you, that you’ll find 100% me. At the junction point of faith, fatherhood, and video games.

Until next time.

Quote of the Day – Fear of Failure

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“The fear of making a wrong decision shouldn’t strip the faith right out of our faith. The only way our faith will ever strengthen is for us to use it. We need to apply thought and prayer to our decisions and then trust God for the outcome. We need to set our sights on growing in faith, not shrinking back for fear of failure.” – Lysa Terkeurst, The Best Yes

In the Valley

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I am convinced that God deals with us in the valleys of life, in times where we need the most faith to move forward. Sure there are moments where we can clearly tell where God is leading us, those so-called “mountain top” moments. I would argue though that those moments of clarity are few and far between. In the darkness, we need the light. In the darkness we must rely/embrace God, trusting that He will see us through, that He has an ultimate plan.

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Started reading Mike Erre’s Astonished the other day. Below is a quote I wanted to share:

God takes us to places where we can’t figure it out or depend on our resources or intelligence. He wants us to trust Him, nor our formulas, spiritual disciplines, or knowledge of the Bible. He draws us onward, using the acute sense of limitation and sorrow we feel, to bring us to the place where we “don’t know” and “can’t see” so that we’ll reach for Him and grab hold of Him, after there is no other place to turn.

In the Valley

Lately I’ve been in one of those places where the valley only seems to be getting darker and deeper. The crazy cycle/ negative atmosphere at work is eating away at my soul. I can’t seem to find the work eject button. A job I applied for a few weeks ago, a job that seemed like a shoo-in, panned out into the ether. I am not sure where God is leading me but the crazier I feel, the more I know that I need to be leaning on Him.

Even at the end of my rope, why do I find it so hard to just give up? Why is it so hard for us to just allow God to be our strength? Pride? I’m not sure. I do know that prayer is the answer. That trust in God is the key. I have come to a place where nothing else makes sense, where God has me. I just need to surrender and listen. So hard.

Five Elements of Biblical Nutrition

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“The more you focus on truth, the clearer it becomes. The more you wrestle with how to live it out in your life, the more skilled you get at living biblically. So the five elements of your biblical nutrition are: hearing, studying, reading, memorizing, and meditating.” (p.62)

Farrel, Bill. The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2010. Print.

Fight: Winning the Battles That Matter Most by Craig Groeschel

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“…within every man, God has planted a divine desire to fight for righteousness.” – Fight, p.13

As king of the flannelgraph boards, the Biblical/historical figure of Sampson is one that many a young boy wishes to be. Set apart by God from birth, Sampson is the original superhero. Fight, by pastor Craig Groeschel, examines the life of Sampson in parallel to the modern Christian male. Both have been created by God in His image; both are prone to utter and complete failure. Groeschel goes out of his way to point out that Sampson’s failures, like ours, are never due to one time events. Like the falling blocks in a game of Tetris, our decisions stack up and can eventually lead us down a road to ruin. However, like Sampson, we are never beyond God’s redemptive power.

Fight is organized into 3-4 page chapters. I enjoyed these easy to digest chunks of truth. My biggest and only complaint with the book was the unneeded machoism that permeates throughout. Much like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, Groeschel felt the need to add blanket gender assumptions such as:

“Think about it this way. There are two kinds of movies: chick flicks and, well, everything else. Do chick flicks inspire men? Do they make them want to be stronger, braver, better men?What about in Pride and Prejudice when Keira Knightley’s character says to her new husband, “You may only call me ‘Mrs. Darcy’ when you are completely and perfectly and incandescently happy.” And he responds with, “Then how are you this evening…Mrs. Darcy?” and kisses her on the forehead. And then, “Mrs. Darcy,” as he kisses her on the cheek. And then, “Mrs. Darcy,” as he kisses her on the nose. Again, if you’re a guy, you have no idea what I’m talking about right? Or if you do know, you’re trying hard to forget.” (page 14)

Despite comments such as the one found above, I enjoyed my time reading Fight. Craig does a fantastic job going beyond the Sampson depicted in Sunday school flannelgraphs and digs into the heart of what made him a man. I highly recommend this book.

I was given a copy of this book by BookSneeze. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Big Decision

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My wife and I have launched ourselves onto an uncertain path. Back in March, we made the decision for her not to sign another contract for this upcoming school year (yes, she is a teacher). For us, this means the loss of the comfort her paycheck brings; for me, it means stepping up to the plate. Even better, for our son, this means that he has his Mom full time. What could be better than that?

I am not sure what the next few months or even the rest of the year looks like. I do know that God is in control. Please know that I do not say that in some sort of trite way but as someone who truly believes it. This does not mean that I do not have moments of pure freaking out. I want to know how things are going to pan out. I want to know the future. I want control!

In all of this though, God is teaching me to let go.

Off Campus: Bryan is over at Theology Gaming today. Come visit!

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Theology Gaming

Tried my hand at an interview. Special thanks to Mr. Josh Cauller for being a great sport. You’ll have to let me know what you think. Don’t be cruel.

The Theology Gaming Sessions: M. Joshua Cauller

My goal in these sessions is for you, the reader, to become better acquainted with the writers of Theology Gaming. So, without further ado, this week we have an interview with Mr. M. Joshua Cauller.

Q: Tell us about yourself and how you were first introduced to video games.

Josh: Christmas 1989, my cousins got a Nintendo Entertainment System with two controllers, the gray light gun, and Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt. Suddenly, the Nintendo officially became the coolest thing in the universe. I mean that thing even beat Transformers. And nothing was cooler than Transformers in first grade. Instantly, I learned what the word jealousy meant. My family certainly wasn’t the poorest in West Philly. But a $100 game system was an unheard of luxury at the time. Plus, my mom was pretty opposed to me owning something I could get addicted to. She said she heard stories of kids at the handicapped kids’ school who literally couldn’t do life without those things. So for most of my childhood, video games represented envy. .: Continue :. 

What God Has Been Teaching Me

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All I have to do is look to you
And I will never be the same
My lifes been changed
And like a child, I will play despite the rain

– Between Thieves

God has been really working on me lately. Teaching me that:

  • I need to be faithful in the little things (10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10): Practically, on a daily basis, this looks like showing up for work on time and having a good attitude about it. Also means being excited about the opportunity to actually teach a Bible study versus bumming over having to study for it. Perspective is everything.
  • That God fulfills His promises43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” – Joshua 21:43-45): With all of life’s challenges, knowing that I am not alone. That God is with me and isn’t going to forsake me and leave. Knowing that He is with me is comforting.
  • That God works in His own time (the entire book of Haggai): Even when it feels like I am stuck in life, that no answers are being given, that God is still working in the background. Orchestrating my life’s story.
  • To focus on Him, not worry, and everything else will fall into place (25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-34): Worrying about everyday life is a huge thing for me. Will I ever have a job where I can support my wife? Will we ever be able to own a house? God says not to worry. I should take Him at His word.

What has God been teaching you?

Our Actions Impact Others

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Our actions impact others. Period. 

Recently I was reading about a guy named Jonah. Jonah was told to go to a city that was known to support terrorism. Being that the city of Nineveh’s reputation that wasn’t all that positive, Jonah decided not to go. In the process of running from his mission, Jonah ends up putting the men on the boat he escapes on, and all their cargo, in jeopardy. Jonah’s selfish actions not only almost cost the sailor’s livelihoods but their very lives as well. All of this could had been avoided had Jonah been obedient to God telling him to go to Nineveh and speak His word to the people.

Our actions carry life and death consequences. Period.

When Achan heard the news that that the battle hadn’t gone well, he must have known deep within his soul that it was his fault. 36 people had died. The battle of Ai was supposed to have been easy. Something was wrong and Israel’s leader, Joshua, knew it. After some heavy sifting of thousands of people, Achan stood at the forefront. He confessed that he had been disobedient and had gone against what God had said about taking things from Jericho. Achan had disobeyed and had stolen from what was to be devoted to God. Because of his actions, Achan, his family and all of his possessions were destroyed by rock and flame.

Bible stories are easy to gloss over, especially after you have heard the same stories repeatedly. I personally find that it is easy to miss the bigger narrative that God is writing. In the above two examples of Jonah and Achan, both men did not take into consideration the consequences of their actions on others. In Jonah’s case, the men and their cargo could have perished in the storm; In Achan’s case, Achan and his family suffered due to his disobedience. Both stories have gotten me thinking about the ramifications of my own actions. How will my daily actions impact my:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Workplace, etc.

I want to encourage you today to look at the bigger picture.

How have your actions impacted those around you?

Brisingr

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Thoughts on Christopher Paolini's epic

Over the past few months I have been slowly reading through Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr, the 3rd book in his Inheritance cycle. The book so far has shown a remarkable improvement in both Paolini’s writing style and growth as a writer. That said, I have enjoyed what I have read until this point (about a quarter of the book left). The other night I came across a scene in the story that I felt was out of place in this epic tale of dragons, dwarves, and elves.

The scene in question involved the title character, Eragon, going to visit the mother of a dwarf who had died protecting Eragon’s life. As this dwarf mother mourned for her son, she prayed to the dwarf gods. This lead Eragon to contemplate a bit of theology. Take a look at the quoted section below and then we’ll continue.

She said, “Tonight Kvistor will dine in Morgothal’s hall. That I know.” She kissed her amulet again. “I wish I might break bread with him, along with mine husband, Bauden, but it is not mine time to sleep in the catacombs of Tronjheim, and Morgothal refuses entry to his hall to those who quicken their arrival. But in time, our family shall be reunited, including all of our ancestors since Guntera created the world from darkness. That I know.”

Eragon knelt next to her, and in a hoarse voice, he asked, “How do you know this?”

“I know because it is so.” Her movements slow and respectful, Glumra touched the chiseled fee of each of the gods with the tips of her fingers. “How could it not be otherwise? Since the world could not have created itself any more than a sword or a helm might, and since the only beings with the wherewithal to forge the earth and the heavens into shape are those with divine power, it is to the gods we must look for our answers. Them I trust to ensure the rightness of the world, and by mine trust, I free myself of the burdens of mine flesh.”

She spoke with such conviction, Eragon felt a sudden desire to share in her belief. He longed to toss aside his doubts and fears and to know that, however horrible the world might seem at times, life was not mere confusion. He wished to know for certain that who he was would not end if a sword should shear off his head and that one day he would meet again with Brom, Garrow, and everyone else he had cared for and lost. A desperate yearning for hope and comfort filled him, confused him, left him unsteady upon the face of the earth.

And yet.

Part of himself held back and would not allow him to commit to the dwarf gods and bind his identity and his sense of well-being to something he did not understand. He also had difficulty accepting that if gods did exist, the dwarf gods were the only ones. Eragon was certain that if he asked Nar Garzhvog or a member of the nomad tribes, or even the black priests of Helgrind, if their gods were real, they would uphold the supremacy of their deities just as vigorously as Glumra would uphold hers. How am I supposed to know which religion is the true religion? he wondered. Just because someone follows a certain faith does not necessarily mean it is the right path. . . . Perhaps no one religion contains all the truth of the world. Perhaps ever religion contains fragments of the truth and it is our responsibility to identify those fragments and piece them together. Or perhaps the elves are right and there are no gods. But how can I know for sure? – Brisingr, p477-479

Notice several things here:

  • Talk of grief and assurance of something beyond ourselves.
  • The worldview that suicide denies entry into Heaven or the beyond.
  • The longing for assurance that there is something bigger/ beyond ourselves.
  • Human nature – to not want to relinquish control.
  • Questions of where we come from/ who created us.
  • Doubt – perhaps there are gods? perhaps there is not?
  • Universalism – all religions have pieces of truth that eventually form Voltron and end up in the same destination.
  • Athiesm -the elves. What is interesting about this is that the elves, in the world of Eragon, practice a sort of nature magic.
  • Lack of absolutes – there is no absolute truth. What is true for me is not necessarily true for you.

I write all of this not to say that theology has no place in a tale of fantasy. (The Narnian Chronicles are a fantastic example of theology being weaved into a story in an indirect way.) I believe that discussions of such are good as long as they do not draw the reader out of the main story. In regards to this scene in Brisingr, I felt that Paolini dealing with Eragon’s struggle with faith, a struggle not let onto until this very moment in this 1000+ page series, was forced. Sure one could argue that Eragon is contemplating faith and the afterlife due to the death of his guardsmen. If this was true though, why didn’t Eragon go through a similar crisis when his mentor Brom died in the first book? Perhaps this theme of faith struggle is echoed in future pages of the series? Time and the speed of my own personal reading will soon answer that question in regards to Brisingr.

While I applaud Christopher Paolini’s efforts in exploring themes of doubt and faith, I also feel like I have been duped. As asked above, why suddenly have a conversation that hasn’t been apart of Eragon’s life or has been explored earlier in the series? The author’s worldview is unknown to me.  I would love to know where he is coming from and if this specific faith conversation reflects questioning going on in his own personal life. For now I proceed with caution…there could be dragons about.

What do you think?