No, The Other Kind Of Halo…

3 comments October 7th, 2007at 02:54pm Posted by Eli

This is a very strange sort of religious outreach:

Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.


Those buying it must be 17 years old, given it is rated M for mature audiences. But that has not prevented leaders at churches and youth centers across Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches that have cautioned against violent entertainment, from holding heavily attended Halo nights and stocking their centers with multiple game consoles so dozens of teenagers can flock around big-screen televisions and shoot it out.

The alliance of popular culture and evangelism is challenging churches much as bingo games did in the 1960s. And the question fits into a rich debate about how far churches should go to reach young people.

Far from being defensive, church leaders who support Halo — despite its “thou shalt kill” credo — celebrate it as a modern and sometimes singularly effective tool. It is crucial, they say, to reach the elusive audience of boys and young men.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church.

But the question arises: What price to appear relevant? Some parents, religious ethicists and pastors say that Halo may succeed at attracting youths, but that it could have a corroding influence. In providing Halo, churches are permitting access to adult-themed material that young people cannot buy on their own.


Daniel R. Heimbach, a professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes that churches should reject Halo, in part because it associates thrill and arousal with killing.

“To justify whatever killing is involved by saying that it’s just pixels involved is an illusion,” he said.

Focus on the Family, a large evangelical organization, said it was trying to balance the game’s violent nature with its popularity and the fact that churches are using it anyway. “Internally, we’re still trying to figure out what is our official view on it,” said Lisa Anderson, a spokeswoman for the group.


Hundreds of churches use Halo games to connect with young people, said Lane Palmer, the youth ministry specialist at the Dare 2 Share Ministry, a nonprofit organization in Arvada, Colo., that helps churches on youth issues.

“It’s very pervasive,” Mr. Palmer said, more widespread on the coasts, less so in the South, where the Southern Baptist denomination takes a more cautious approach. The organization recently sent e-mail messages to 50,000 young people about how to share their faith using Halo 3. Among the tips: use the game’s themes as the basis for a discussion about good and evil.

At Sweetwater Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., Austin Brown, 16, said, “We play Halo, take a break and have something to eat, and have a lesson,” explaining that the pastor tried to draw parallels “between God and the devil.”


Playing Halo is “no different than going on a camping trip,” said Kedrick Kenerly, founder of Christian Gamers Online, an Internet site whose central themes are video games and religion. “It’s a way to fellowship.”Mr. Kenerly said the idea that Halo is inappropriately violent too strictly interpreted the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” “I’m not walking up to someone with a pistol and shooting them,” he said. “I’m shooting pixels on a screen.”


Ken Kenerly said he believed that the game could be useful in connecting to young people he once might have reached in more traditional ways, like playing sports. “There aren’t as many kids outdoors as indoors,” he said. “With gamers, how else can you get into their lives?”

I am neither a Christian nor an “OMG VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES WILL DESTROY US ALL!!!” alarmist, but I have a hard time seeing how Halo is consistent with Christian values in any way. I understand that churches are struggling to reach the teen demographic, but drawing kids in with a shoot-em-up video game is very inappropriate… unless you want to promote a martial approach to Christianity. If you want a congregation who see Christianity involved in a life-or-death, no-holds-barred struggle against nonbelievers (Muslims? Liberals?), then using Halo as a recruitment tool is a brilliant genius idea.

We should probably be a little bit worried…

Entry Filed under: Religion,Weirdness


  • 1. Cavalor Epthith, Esquire  |  October 7th, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Leaning against a tree I can still see the forest . . .

    Any means by which to have them in the fold, to fill their heads with the proper race based worldview, and to speak in dominionist rhetorical terms about sexuality, is valid to Christianists who fear the world of Reason and Ideas is catching and passing them.

    The prime directive here is to get them while they are young.

  • 2. Eli  |  October 7th, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I did find Focus On The Family’s ambivalence interesting. They’re torn between their absolute anti-fun prudishness, and their lust for power and influence. I will not be at all surprised if they decide violent video games are okay as long as they’re used for Jesus.

  • 3. ::matthew  |  October 7th, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    In my cabinet making days, I made some custom game console units for a baptist church’s youth center. Although I don’t recall the names of the games behind the youth minister’s desk, I do remember thinking that they were pretty violent games.

    They’ll do anything to get fresh meat through the door.

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