Idol Chatter

Less than a month from now, the video game version of the Left Behind series, “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” will debut at big-box retailers, just in time for Christmas shopping season. The game, set in New York City, follows the basic M.O. of the bestselling Christian adventure novels. Tribulation Forces–those left behind to fight the anti-Christ after the cream of the Christian crop is skimmed off to heaven–force unbelievers to fight or switch. “Conduct physical & spiritual warfare using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world,” says the game’s promotion material.

This connection between prayer and violence has raised the hackles of some real-life believers. “We’re entertaining ourselves with a crusade against people who don’t believe [in Christ],” John B. Thompson, a Christian author, told The Jewish Week. “This is madness.” Left Behind Games president Jeff Frichner points out that killing someone actually lowers a player’s spirituality, akin to that player’s onscreen health or strength.

“Eternal Forces” is also disconcerting to some Jews, who, in the name of versimilitude, make up many of those whom “Left Behind” players will encounter in their virtual quest around Manhattan. Interestingly, both Frichner and the game’s developer, Troy London, who helped create Madden NFL games, are both New Yorkers who converted from Judaism to Messianic Judaism–the faith that worships Jesus as Lord while retaining many Jewish traditions.

But the partners say their game is like any other strategic video game. “You have the force of good and the force of evil, you battle against evil and hopefully you can figure out and manage your resources to win each level and, ultimately, the game,” says Frichner.

The best hope for the unconverted, perhaps, is that the game will be wildly popular, and keep Christians who would take inspiration from Left Behind fastened securely to their control sets.

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