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Teaching through Violence

Head shots? Killing sprees? Pawning noobs? The Bible? What could they possibly have in common? Chances are you wouldn’t have guessed that they are all popular evangelical tools.

If you’re familiar with the popular video game series Halo, you’ll probably recognize that these terms are mentioned regularly during game play. In many churches today throughout the country, you can hear those terms referred to as youth pastors and ministers are going to new lengths to reach America’s youth.

In an article published on Oct. 7 by the New York Times, reporter Matt Richtel said that pastors are controversially using Halo to bring youth back into the fold by hosting gaming parties at their churches. In the article called “Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video at Church,” Richtel says that while some pastors may not agree with the moralities of the game, they see this almost as a necessary move of desperation. The article also says that some find their methods to be suspect.

The recently released Halo 3 has flown off the shelves, with 3.3 million copies sold in September alone. A survey done by the Commission on Urban Life and Faith, and undertaken by the University of Wales, Bangor and the Children’s Society, reports that 70 percent of young people in urban areas feel that life is not worth living, 52 percent often feel depressed and 27 percent have seriously considered committing suicide. The numbers say that youth need to be reached, and that Halo is one of the most relevant vessels to do so.

The controversy lies mainly around the game’s violent nature. Are Christians compromising their own moral integrity and message in supporting and soliciting this game?

Eastern’s own Reverend Duffy Robbins believes that this is at the least a relevant question to consider. “I’m sure I could get the average teenage guy to read Matthew 5:28, if I had it painted in lipstick across a woman’s derriere,” Robbins said. “But I’m afraid that the medium would override his attention to the message.”

Robbins goes on. “To me there is a question bigger than the question ‘Does it work?’ and that is the question, ‘Should we do it?’ The first is a raw pragmatism that I don’t think does credit to the gospel.”

First-year youth ministry major Sam Rotz feels like the game is an acceptable medium for reaching youth. Rotz says Halo is not that violent of a game, and it encourages fellowship and group play. However, Rotz clarifies that the game is not for a young audience.

How should the church reach out to youth on an even broader plane than Halo? Youth Ministry Associate Professor Calenthia Dowdy said that Eastern’s youth ministry program is relationship centered. “It’s very simple. Spending time with youth, getting to know them, hanging out with them, talking with them, having a non-judgemental spirit and attitude, having fun with them… always the best ways,” Dowdy said.

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