Should youth groups play Halo?

Halo debateBy now most of you have seen the the New York Times article, Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church. I was actually contacted by the author for an interview on the subject, but none of my content was used in the article. Oh well. I’ve received several emails about it, so I thought I’d address it here for everyone, answering the various questions people have asked me privately.

First of all, please avoid making judgments about ministries who use video games like Halo as a part of their ministry. I know it’s easy to jump to conclusions, especially if it’s your first impression of them, but try not to judge them or anyone else too harshly based on their approach to this issue. In regards to Dare 2 Share’s recent Bible study lesson on Halo 3, I know Greg Stier and can vouch for his personal integrity as well as that of his ministry. They seek to reach kids for Christ, just like the rest of us, and are doing a fantastic job of reaching them and equipping the rest of us to do the same. Just because they write a Bible lesson about Halo 3 doesn’t make them kin with the enemy!

In my mind, this is a very gray issue. It’s the same issue that arose back when The Matrix hit theaters. Christians raved about the clear gospel message in it (which I disagree with, by the way) and wanted to use it as a ministry tool even though it was rated R. The argument went two ways. 1) “The kids are going to see it anyway, so let’s watch it with them and help them process what they’re seeing.” OR 2) “Even if they see it anyway, that doesn’t mean we should support it or promote it at church.” Both approaches have merit and an element of truth.

The video game situation now is no different. Can God redeem something that’s worldly and use it for His glory? Absolutely. Every believer is living proof of that. Does that mean that we should intentionally seek out worldly things and use them as tools? Probably not. But if the best way of connecting with an unbeliever is to play Halo, should you do it? In other words, does the end justify the means? That’s an area of personal conviction, not a black and white standard. Jesus went to sinners and participated in their parties and drank wine, but he did so as the person who was the influence, not the one being influenced. I trust this is true of youth groups who use Halo. But conversely, scripture tells us to refrain from the very appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22).

Whatever a youth group decides, though, let’s be consistent about it. If a group bans Halo but goes on paintball trips or even plays laser tag, that sounds like a double standard to me. Maybe some can justify a difference, but then again you come back to, “Where’s the line?” And that’s my point: the line is gray.

Personally, I’m not sure where I stand on this issue right now. In the past I’ve used Halo 1 and 2 as a ministry tool and have gained tremendous opportunities through it. At my current church, I’ve let youth play it at my house if their parents are OK with it, but if even one kid’s parent isn’t OK with it, then no one plays. Is that the right decision? I’m not sure. There’s certainly a lot of positives to it that I won’t bother to list because that’s really not the issue. If it’s sin and communicates a wrong message to our kids, it doesn’t matter how many positive excuses can be made.

No matter what happens, though, please don’t recommend Christian video games as a substitute. They’re so lame and poorly done that Christians and non-Christians alike laugh at it and loose all respect for Christian material. (The “Left Behind” video game of converting people? DDR to worship music? Please stop.) Maybe one day they’ll be worth recommending, but not yet. Fortunately, Christian music just started reaching par within the last couple years.

I don’t know if this helps or not. It’s a great issue to discuss, but let’s discuss it in love and graciousness toward each other. If you think it’s black and white, that’s great for you! Flaming someone who has a different viewpoint doesn’t help anyone. I appreciate your passion, but harsh criticism and unfounded assumptions don’t help people think through the issue, it just turns them off to your message. Please and thank you.

[tags]Halo 3, Dare 2 Share, Greg Stier, New York Times, youth group[/tags]

Posted on October 9, 2007

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