Unreal Tournament

The game is a blast. You race around, snatch up incredible weapons, and annihilate anyone who gets in your way. You need quick reflexes combined with careful precision to do well. The twitch of your index finger combined with the satisfaction of blowing your brother-in-law’s virtual guts out soon becomes addictive. One more frag. One more frag and I’ll take the lead. We have many happy memories together, at home during Christmas-time, lights on the tree and egg-nog in our bellies, sitting at our laptops while we snipe, explode, electrocute, and detonate one another. Mutual virtual decimation makes for great family camaraderie.

And yet.

You know what I worry about? Call me neurotic if you will, but I wonder about the virtual life of my community. At any moment, there are broadcasts of wretched trials of adolescent mothers, accounts of children sexting because their sophomoric national leaders must twitter their groins, adolescents using video-controllers fashioned as pistol grips and slaughtering hundreds of virtual antagonists.

You know what I hope is not is not the case? What if the words of our Lord applied to these virtual displays: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5.28).

I think most would agree that Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 about lustful looking and adultery apply just as much whether the receiver of such looks is real or virtual. What struck me about the above quote, from here, is that the same may go for virtual acts of murder.

But is there a line? Is Angry Birds right up there with Call of Duty? Is there a difference between killing virtual human beings and killing virtual evil-monster-aliens? Or virtual round green pigs?

I don’t have a clear answer to those questions, and I actually gave up violent video games like Unreal Tournament quite a while ago. I began to recognize disorder inside my own spiritual house after playing them. The quote above helped put a little meat and bone on what was little more than a feeling, so I thought I would share it. The comment box is below, and any insights are welcome.

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Recommended Reading

Some cousins recently gave us a copy of Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Andrew Peterson is a songwriter, author, and father of three living here in Nashville. Our cousins gave us a copy of one of his CDs, as well. Although I usually can’t stomach contemporary Christian music, we’ve enjoyed listening to the album together. That said, what I really want to talk about in this post is the book.

This is a story about a small family with old secrets living in big a world that is both beautiful and terrifying. My wife and I had a hard time figuring out the appropriate age range for this novel, but we decided that the age of the main characters, early adolescence, is about right. It has much of what you’d expect in a fantasy novel — wonders, monsters, thrills, and adventure — but it doesn’t rely too heavily on these elements. There are at least a few gratifying nods to Wendell Berry, (!) and although his book certainly proceeds from the spirit of Lewis and Tolkein, Peterson is his own author. He is at times hilariously goofy (whatever you do, don’t skip the footnotes), and others powerfully poignant. He knows the aching of the human heart for Eden, for home, and this heartache gently nudges the reader throughout the story.

My wife and I are scrambling to get a hold of the next few books in this five-part series, and not just to find out how it ends. This is definitely one we will read to our children.