Why enjoy a hobby that has so much violence? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
The following blog entry is also a guest blog entry at NearEmmaus. Brian LePort who runs it started asking questions about football of all things and whether there are any theological questions. Now to be honest, I don’t care a bit about football. I watch the Super Bowl for the same reason several of you probably do. I want to see the commercials! The only sport I could ever get into any at all is Braves baseball. Yet I saw the question about football being violent and thought from a different perspective that I could handle that.
Why? Not because I like football, but because from as far back as I can remember, I’ve had a great interest in video games. For me, it started with realizing my parents had something called a ColecoVision (Some of you remember those I’m sure). My favorite game on it was not a fighting game but a puzzle game called Ladybug. (I would love to be able to download this game on the Wii today!) I could often reach level 100 on the game. I had it mastered from an early age. (It’s not as easy to do on the computer)
Being in Elementary School, I realized I needed to get a Nintendo soon and so like many others, I grew up playing games like Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda. Link of the Zelda series was a hero of mine growing up. I still remember taking a Nintendo Power magazine to the place I’d get my hair cut. In it, I showed a picture of Link from Zelda II and said that I wanted my hair to look like that.
And before too long, people at my school knew who was the main expert on video games. While there are puzzle games and some adventure games I still enjoy, far and long the games I enjoy the most are RPGs. I prefer Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts, etc. A notable exception could be multi-player games such as how in Charlotte I got together with friends every Sunday night to play Super Smash Brothers Brawl. When I visit my in-laws, we can play the Wii Sports or Mario Kart Wii. I also like to play the old classic games.
Now with puzzle games we don’t really have much problem of course. That my Dad and I can still play Dr. Mario today is not really a problem to anyone. What about a game where you get a sword and cut through monsters? Isn’t that violent?
Why yes. Yes it is.
Now note in this that for me, I don’t play games that have gratuitous violence. There are limits for me. I do not really like to see the sight of blood that much. I could take something such as playing Goldeneye on the 64 and seeing the blood come down when my character died, but to see someone get shot at regularly and have blood come gushing out would not be something that I want to see. Just yesterday my wife and I watched “Flags of our Fathers” and I had to cover my eyes a number of times because I can’t stand the blood. Watching “House M.D.” can be difficult and I have no idea how I got through the first season of Dexter. This could also be a question of conscience, which many of this is. Note that if someone reads this and still has hesitations and really doesn’t think they should play the games I play, that is just fine with me. I have no problem there. Let us follow a Romans 14 perspective and see this as a matter of conscience. Of course, if you have a real objection, then bring it.
Yet if we are to say that something is to be rejected because it contains violence, then frankly we Christians will have to reject the Bible as well which has much violence in it, something that we need to accept. God is a holy God and those who go against Him are dealt with in accordance with what they do wrong, and sometimes His instrument for doing that is human beings. This still goes on today. Romans 13 speaks about government being such a force that bears the sword. Yes. There are times violence is necessary.
It would be nice if we all lived in a world where everyone would sit down to peace conferences and be willing to do all that was necessary, but because we are still in the flesh, such is not going on. There are people who will want to get whatever they want and who cares about anyone else? There will be people who do not follow the rules of others and go forward on their own authority seeking to stomp on anyone who gets in their way.
But are we not told that blessed are the peacemakers?
Those familiar with Westerns know that Wyatt Earp referred to his gun as the peacemaker. Let’s suppose I had been out somewhere and came home and heard my wife screaming inside. I go in and find some man attacking her and getting a weapon, I manage to kill her assailant. In doing this, I have become a peacemaker the way Earp said his gun was. The person who I dealt with was someone who was violating the peace. By eliminating him, I have restored the peace that he shattered.
“But Jesus told us to love our enemies! Should we kill them?”
Most of us would not consider it loving to lock someone behind bars in a destitute situation for years or to charge a really hefty fine for something. This is what we do however! Why? Because love does not mean everyone gets to do what they want without any consequences whatsoever. Now some have argued that Jesus would forgive people. Yes he would. So should we. However, there is a difference between private and public forgiveness. Someone can privately receive forgiveness for what they’ve done, but they still owe a debt to society and that debt is to be repaid. For an example, David in the sin of Bathsheba was privately forgiven, but his son still died. Forgiveness does not automatically mean there are no consequences. In fact, the Christian narrative should remind us that all actions we do have consequences.
If someone is out there actively doing evil, you can be sure that they are NOT seeking forgiveness. They are not in a state of repentance. I hold that Christians should always be willing to forgive, but they are not to offer forgiveness until the person comes to them and asks for forgiveness. Some might think that is not a good attitude to have, but why think that when that is the exact position God Himself holds?
Yet are we not to turn the other cheek?
Jesus’s statement was about an event in the private setting that constituted a simple insult. The idea was to end the cycle of retaliation before it starts. It says absolutely nothing about physical danger. It is not being like Christ to do nothing while someone inflicts serious injury on innocent people. If you are insulted, it can be a mark of character to simply not choose to retaliate in private. In public, matters are different. While it can be questioned whether Edmund Burke said it, I can easily agree with the idea that “All that is needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” If we sit back and do nothing in the face of evil, let us not be surprised that evil flourishes.
So what about the gaming area since you are the one doing the activity?
And I have no qualms about it. Note for instance that in many games today, one is fighting monsters who are not rational human beings and seek only destruction. (Never mind in these worlds for some reason they all breed like rabbits and are all deadset on destroying you and your party) There are times you fight people, but again, this is in a public forum with fighting those who wish to do evil and are not repentance. There are times in RPGs where you can be given the choice to let a character go who seems repentant.
We also should realize that a game must be considered in the world that it is in. We can look and say that on Earth it would not be like this, but then on Earth we don’t have dragons flying around us and imps breeding everywhere. In this world, if one does not fight evil villains, then the good of the whole world will suffer and we must seek to bring about the good of the world and not just that of an individual.
Of course, we must be sure we are fighting for the good of the world. Are we doing that? If someone is going on a quest and slaying monsters but they’re only doing that so they can get to the hapless village and destroy it, then it would be apparent that while they could be doing good on the way, their overall approach is not good and is therefore something that should be condemned.
Now what about football with all of this? It’s also important to consider that men by nature do tend to enjoy violent activities. That’s the way we are. We’re warriors at heart. Men like something to fight for. One of the reasons I believe marriage can domesticate a man for instance is that it gives him something he can fight for. Many of us men would hopefully be ready for action immediately if someone were to do something that would endanger our wives. We have this instinct to protect and fight born into us. We grow up with toy guns and swords and all manner of activity like this.
What we need to ask is what are we going to do with all this aggression and energy that we can have? Football could be a fine outlet for some people, though I would advise them to be extremely careful. Several older people today suffer greatly because of injuries they got when playing football while young. Of course, on a field, one should only use enough force to take down an opponent. (Don’t expect technical terms from me on football. I couldn’t tell you) I do understand that there are such things as unnecessary roughness in a sport like football. It can be necessary to knock down your opponent. It does not mean it is necessary to pummel him on the ground to keep him down.
Of course, every Christian will have to examine themselves. My great concern for us gamers is not that we will become violent people, but that we will spend too much time with our hobby. I make it a point for instance that when game time comes here, I usually listen to an MP3 at the same time so I can at least be educating myself as well. (Somehow, I don’t think this would work in a football game) Of course, that doesn’t hold if I’m playing a multi-player game with friends in which it’s just fun fellowship. Now if you really have serious qualms about this and you’re not even sure why, you can examine those, but you do not have to partake of something. This is the freedom of the Christian.
As we observe our freedom, let us be careful about how we approach another person’s freedom. What you might find questionable they could have no problem for and let each be fully convinced in his own mind.