Sin and Digital Praise

Those folks who brought you the Christianized version of DDR are back with more!

This time its Light Warriors!

From the synopsis:

Angeltown is under attack! Maniac Brainiac and his band of menacing minions are out to control the minds of the children with worldly messages. Using a keen wit, quick reflexes and a good understanding of the Bible, help the Light Rangers mend this Maniac Madness and bring peace back to Angel town.

Here are some descriptions of the tasks that lie before you:

  • Through his Brain TV, Maniac Brainac is controlling the minds of the kids in Central Angeltown. The children are brain-washed into thinking the Bible has been proven to be false.
  • Vanna Vanity has placed prideful messages on billboards all around North Angeltown to influence the kids, now she’s throwing a party in her honor.
  • The situation in South Angeltown doesn’t look good. Kids are being selfish because Mimi Me has stolen their teddy bears; and now, they don’t want to share anything else because they’re afraid that they’ll lose those things too.

So what’s so wrong with this? Don’t we want our kids to believe the Bible and to not be vain or selfish? Of course we do. But what does this game teach them? We should have confidence in our Bibles because… What makes you vain and selfish is… You can resist those sins by…

The correct moral message is present but the answer is not. We can trust our Bibles not because we don’t watch TV but because they are God’s word to us. They are historically accurate and his faithful witness. We can resist selfishness not because we already have our Teddy Bears (how is that for being backwards moral reasoning!??!) but because in Jesus we have something better than a Teddy Bear, as great as a Teddy Bear is. We can resist vanity not because we don’t look at billboards but because we know that we are sinners undeserving of another moment of rebellious existance but preserved by God’s good grace. He is the center of the universe, not us.

The implicit message of this kind of thing, and really I think much of evangelicalism believes it without knowing it, is that our children are innocent and pure. Sin comes from outiside sources. I don’t know how we get this idea having had three children, I’ve seen how they behave and I know I never taught them that kind of stuff. No, we sin because we are sinners.

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  • I guess I’m to the point with this kind of stuff where I think that it’s just a way to fleece people of money. The fleecers may not even know that they’re fleecing people. But bad actions happen for bad motivations even if the actors are confused about their motivation.

  • That’s the impression I get of them, they are trying to provide “wholesome” entertainment for Christian kids. They’re not bad people but I think they need to bring in two consultants. One on educational processes telling them what the game teaches and the other should be a theologian to discuss the theological implications of what they’re doing.

    I take this as more of the lazy misguidedness of American evangelicalism.

  • Has anyone played the game?

    I played the demo and after reading this article actually bought the game because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I think that both comments are far off the mark and within the context of the game felt that some of the teaching here was light hearted and intended to be for entertainment purposes. I personally took offense to the comment that this company is trying to fleece people of money because it’s clear that none that have reviewed the game have actually played it and also it seems mean spirited to judge their motivations based on a game that they published. Perhaps they werent’ intending this game to be evangelical. Maybe it was simply for a safe form of entertainment.

    I have a christian business, and too often people who don’t know all the facts judge it based on superficial observations. I think that it is clear that this is what is happening to these guys here. Now if they had a past history or “fleecing” people, it’s one thing, but to accuse someone of it without properly understanding the purpose and context of their product is another.

    I think games and entertainment never will replace the gospel and it is never intended to. By your analysis here, Left Behind, Veggie tales and many other stories that are intended for the chrsitian market as entertainment will miss the mark as well. Considering how TRULY bad some secular games are, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase this game for all of my nieces and nephews.

    By trying to destroy the reputations of people that are truly trying to do something good, the Christian market will truly have nothing as an alternative soon.

    I’m sorry for being so passionate about this subject, but if one really plays the game and sees how good it is compared to many others out there. I think perhaps you may have a change of heart. Veggie tales wasn’t good initially, but as they learned, grew and became more successful, they were able to drastically improve their message.

    It’s just sad to hear such comments from a community that should really evaluate content thoroughly rather than superficially, because it only perpetuates the stereotype that Christian opinions are often not based on reality.

  • Sandra,

    I read your comment and then reread the original post and the comments. David made one comment about fleecing. My points, and hey, I own the site, have been that what is implicitly taught by the game is poor theology.

    This is the case with much of what I see in “Christian businesses.” We don’t need an alternative culture that mirrors the one we live in. “Of but not in” is not the correct approach. That didn’t happen in the church for the first few centuries. Paul didn’t tell people to not eat meat sacrificed to idols because it was wrong to send business to pagan temples. What we need to do is live in the world in a Christian fashion, not come up with a Christian version of the world we live in. That was and is the thesis of my post.

    As to your point that for some reason I must actually play the game before I can comment on it, I simply disagree. I can fairly evaluate what the game is teaching by reading the promotional material. I found all of the games on the site irritating. They try to teach Christian values in a format that simply will not communicate what they are attempting to get across to the kids.

    For example, if you read my post on Dance Praise you will see that there are “Christian” songs include that I really don’t want my children listening to. They teach sub-Christian theology. The phrase “Earthsuit” (the name of one of the bands in the play list) is more Gnostic than Christian! Or, if it is referring to the incarnation, it is heretical.

    Just because someone slaps the label “Christian” on it does not make it wholesome, good, safe for the whole family, or Christian. We need to take more care with what we promote as Christian and how we teach the faith.

    I think you sorely misunderstood my point. Please go back and read my original post, my comments and the post I link to above. My issue isn’t with fleecing, it is with crummy theology.

  • Tim,
    thanks for replying so quickly. I did understand your point, but I’ve played the game and the “theology” that you speak of is not represented by the sound bites that are on the website. It’s too bad that you feel this way. But you have a right to your own opinion. God works through broken vessels and although not perfect, Paul even states that as long as the Gospel is preached through what you may consider unworthy vessels, he said that he’d rejoice. I feel that God can still communicate through this work, in spite of what your issues with digital praise are. But I don’t want you to get me wrong, there are really bad things in “christian business”. But shouldn’t we try to support the good ones?
    I think it sets a dangerous precedent if we always judge books by their covers. But there are always those that throw the baby out with the bath water. I’m not a huge fan of some of Digital praises other works, but my impression after playing this game with my daughter is that it was fun and especially the lesson at the end of the game seemed to be right on track.
    I do appreciate your website Tim and please don’t take my words the wrong way. (and I don’t like dance praise much).
    However, there’s just so much legalism in Christianity these days that it’s tough to not generalize everything and miss out on special things. I don’t want my kids playing some of the games out there and I’m sorry if you don’t agree, but if it’s the difference between playing games where you blow people’s heads off and a cute little game like this, I’m going to choose this one. They really love it and in my heart it seems ok. I’m playing with them and I can explain to them what the bible says and doesn’t, but it does allow me to have a conversation with her about things. Espeically the bible trivia questions, which are a great tool.
    Your overall point is well taken, we should all be cautious, but my minor point here is that I think its still important to be thorough and before you deride someone for doing something, you could sin against them by claiming that you know something about them that you didn’t and hold them responsible for things that they inadvertently had done. I think balancing righteousness with grace is one of the more difficult things to do here. And those were simply my thoughts on it.

    Thanks so much sharing however, it did give me a lot to think about. I just pray that you don’t take my comments the wrong way and think I don’t understand that there ARE very unsavory things people do in the name of Christ in business and even in minstry, I’ve seen it first hand! But when I see something that doesn’t rub me like that I try to point it out.

  • Sandra, I’m glad we’re cool. :) I don’t allow my kids to play games like Doom and I acknowledge that there are bad things out there. If you can use the game to discuss issues with your daughter, that’s a good thing. But my issue remains not with what the teaches explicitly but with what the game teaches implicitly. And in the format the lessons are presented, the lessons are learned without having to be explicit.

    Selfishness doesn’t come from outside (someone stole my teddy bear) but from in the heart. Even the heart of a child. The way the game is played, it seems like external forces cause us to sin. We sin because we are sinners. Sinning doesn’t make us sinners. When a child can externalize sin, then it isn’t them.

    Doubting the Bible and God does not come by brainwashing but sometimes by reading difficult texts. A child who is taught that doubt comes from outside is going to be in trouble when they hit something in the Bible that causes doubt. The flesh causes doubt, Satan causes doubt and the world causes doubt.

    My problem remains with the medium through which these lessons are being communicated. It has limitations that make it teach things that aren’t intended.

    It may be a cute game and the kids may really like it, but that doesn’t make it “safe”. In the end it could wind up being more dangerous than playing a secular game because it unintentionally teaches wrong things about sin. A secular game never touches those issues. There is a different problem with secular games and TV and movies. They present a world where God simply does not exist. That is the world we live in and why we must teach our children.

  • I’m so glad for your insight tim.

    I agree that the medium is flawed. But again, finding a better solution for a company like this is much harder than saying, you shouldn’t be doing this because you are doing more harm than good, indirectly. I’m just curious what you think of some of the other christian entertainment out there then, like Left Behind, Adventures in Odyssey and Veggie Tales. By the same, logic that you propose, I see that all of these have serious issues that can lead kids astray. Is it only because they’ve now been widely accepted by Christian culture that they’re ok? What about Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia, are they ok? I’ve found serious issues in these as well? Yet all of these seem to bring out a good side in people, or simply evoke a dialog that it healthy.

    My husband, who is a baptist pastor, and I have had a wonderful discussion because of your website and your very well thought out responses. I just thank you so much and I hope that because of this people like Digital Praise will try harder, if they are really doing this humbly, or will “figure it out” if all they are trying to do is make a buck off the christian market. We don’t know their motivations, but if they are genuine, we need to understand that God will work through the problems, and perhaps it’s just too early too tell with this media. Chrisitan music went through this phase, adn while there are still some questionable groups out there, there are numerous ones that really show the face of Christ. But if you remember, even Billy Graham apologized later for nearly demonizing christian music back then.

    It’ll just be intersting to wait and see. God bless you Tim and keep up the good work on your site!!

  • I am really glad you like my site, Sandra. Blogs tend to be nothing but a show of vanity. As if what I think is worth reading! I mean, it hasn’t had to make it past a publisher or through peer review. :) But it gives me a chance to gather thoughts and express them in a more formal manner than in my notebook but less complete than would be required for publication.

    I believe there is a significant difference between Adventures in Odyssey and video games. The gospel is a message that God gave us verbally. It is a story that demands a response. Jesus taught through parables in a way that his disciples would remember and his enemies wouldn’t get. Nathan approached David with a story to get past David’s defenses and into his heart. Ezekiel acted out his message as often as he spoke it.

    Truth is best communicated in a verbal medium. It requires thought and engages the mind. I love Adventures in Odyssey. I think Focus on the Family has done a wonderful job of putting those stories together. In the telling of the story they can avoid the “implicit curriculum” in how they characters interact. Wit can explain things to Connie. This is how God created us to hear and receive truth.

    Movies and TV are a bit more dangerous because they can communicate with images that don’t “say” anything so they don’t demand refutation! If Wit tells Connie that she’s basically good and that she just needs a little help from God to stop sinning entirely, our warning buzzers would go off and we’d yell at the radio, “No way Wit!” But if images promise us comfort and happiness through adultery or deception, our reaction may not be as immediate. Do you get the difference? It is subtle but important.

    BTW, I love Veggie Tales but I think they’re best when teaching a moral lesson than when handling Bible stories. In “Josh and the Big Wall” they had the Israelites longing to go back to Egypt but in the Bible that was the previous generation! I digress.

    But even in that digression there is a lesson. We need to be discerning even when encountering “Christian” content, whether in books, movies, music or games. I’m certainly not saying you’re doing or advocating this, but I fear we sometimes drop the defenses when we see a sign of the fish on the label. That can be dangerous. Satan doesn’t come looking all evil and ugly. He appears as an angel of light! He doesn’t come spouting pure lies, he mixes in a little truth, even a little Scripture to get us to take his poison.

    Let me use Chronicles of Narnia for an example. I love those books! Lewis did a wonderful job in them. I can’t wait for the movie! But in it Lewis presents a defective view of the atonement. Aslan must die to pay a debt owed to the White Witch. It is called the appeasement theory of the atonement. And it is just flat out wrong! CS Lewis was an Anglican and Anglicans are neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. They take a mid way between the two. So when I read the books to my kids I told them that Jesus didn’t die to pay a debt we owe to the devil, he died to pay a sin debt we owe to God.

    Same thing in Christian music. I have heard some Christian songs that just blew my socks off. Some have been so good and theologically rich and accurate that they bring tears to my eyes. Others so wrong headed and empty that…well they bring tears to my eyes. Books the same. Radio dramas also.

    But when we get to video games and TV shows and that kind of thing, there is a “hidden curriculum” that even the creators might not be aware of. This is what I honestly believe the folks at Digital Praise have done. They aren’t out to undermine the youth of today. They’re trying to offer an alternative to some very well done but morally bankrupt games on the market. What they are not aware of is what is being communicated in what they’re doing. For example, let’s suppose that at the end of every level there is a Bible quiz that the child must pass to get to the next level. The kid is having a blast snapping up Teddy bears and then has to slog though a boring Bible quiz before they get back to the fun. What is the child (unintentionally) learning about the Bible? That is boring and it interrupts the fun. Is that how we want our kids to learn the Bible? As an intrusion in the fun?

    Well, I’ve lectured long enough. It is a complicated issue to be sure.

  • Well, my daughter really loved how the bible questions were integrated into the gameplay, and I thought it was a fun way to do it.

    When I played the teddy bear part, I just thought it was very cute and although selfishness indeed is something internal, I think the truth about it would make the game very dark if they portrayed it that way. Maybe a little to heavy for 6 year olds, which is the starting age for this game. Although it was a silly way to present it, and obviously not accurate, I think the point that the animations make on this section is that thinking of others above ourselves is a better than being selfish. I guess I didn’t get the ‘bad” implicit message, and this is was what I remembered from it. My daughter remembered this lesson too so at least one kid is ok :).

    We’ve certainly beat this subject to death and I don’t want to take any more of your precious space about it. thanks so much tim for indulging me. I guess I’m a little biased because the game really touched my heart and my daughter just loves it. God bless you Tim and I hope that you do write about what you think of the Narnia movie. My husband and I are looking so forward to seeing it and it will be interesting to read your thoughts on it.

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