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Thou Shalt Not Kill: Halo 3 and Church

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Just read this amazing new article in the New York Times about Halo 3 and youth groups using the game for outreach nights - really fellowship and evangelism. It seems they come down pretty strong on the "no way" side of the game at a church event, and I was wondering what you think?
a) have you used any of the Halo games in/at your church or youth group?
b) is it OK to use it at home and not at the church?
c) why should this game NOT be used?
I'll share my opinion tomorrow, but I don't think it'll surprise you. Here's a clip:
First the percussive sounds of sniper fire and the thrill of the kill. Then the gospel of peace.

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.

The latest iteration of the immensely popular space epic, Halo 3, was released nearly two weeks ago by Microsoft and has already passed $300 million in sales.

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.

posted by Joshua Griffin @ 11:26 AM |

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At 10/09/2007, Blogger Kevin said...

I've never had a problem killing aliens before. People are different. Aliens aren't real. If they were all Viva Pinata characters, would people care?

Also,if Lord of the Rings, which seems a lot more realistic and dark is only pg-13 and the church embraced that because Tolkien was a buddy of C.S. Lewis, who cares about Halo?

Lastly, I would have to say that Halo is one of the most mild of all rated M games and I questioned why it was rated M anyway.

At 10/09/2007, Blogger Kevin said...

I agree with the other Kevin :)

I actually just went to my first youth event a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure the only reason the youth pastor invited me because I own a Wii... We had the Wii in one room and 3 xbox 360s hooked up in the other. The Halo 3 games going on in that room were great for getting the kids laughing and talking with kids they normally never hang with.

I find a lot of the video game ratings to be quite off... especially when compared to movies. Even Zelda is rated Teen, which most Disney movies are more violent then that game.

At 10/09/2007, Anonymous Grant said...

Well said, Kevin.

My longer treatise is here but what is bothersome about the article (the church is near here - Denver) is they seemed to have missed a couple of important details.

First, you have to have a permission slip to participate and secondly, the team sees this as a opportunity much like a Tolkien book or Lewis book made into a movie or creating a skate church.

At 10/09/2007, Blogger carmen said...

It doesn't matter if you agree with the "M" rating or not, Halo 3 has an "M" rating and we as Christians shouldn't try to justify playing games like this with students under 18, just like we'd never consider playing an "R" rated movie in the church sanctuary during a lock-in.

As adults, we forget that students will not justify our (notice I said "OUR") actions as easily as we do. Most students accept and understand that they are under 18 and there are things that are off limits to them. You may look cool in the short run for letting them play these games at church, but in the long run will it really gain respect for your leadership? After all, as a leader, aren't we supposed to be held at a higher standard.

I have decided not to do certain things in my life because I work with students. I don't drink because my primary job in life is to work with a bunch of people for whom it is illegal to drink.

Who cares about Halo? Apparently enough people to make a big deal out of these games, so it is important to talk about.

Do you think it's important for a leader to live a life of holiness? Trying to justify playing these games in your life, is, well, "playing games" with your holiness.

At 10/09/2007, Blogger .justin said...

i wouldn't say we "use" halo in our ministry. [as an attractional tool or a tool of allegory pointing to jesus]

however, my copastor has a cousin that worked at microsuck and got us an x-box, 4 controllers, halo 1 and halo 2 for SUPER CHEAP at the end of a budget year, so we jumped on it.

we've never advertised as a "we've got halo AND jesus" youth group, and the only time we've had a "halo party" was when some of our already youth group kids brought their own tvs and router ands games down and we had a little ditty. which was fun. we haven't had these things because i/we disagree with them, mostly because we just haven't.

since we got the systems [2? 3? years later?] we've had 2 controllers broken or stolen and the halo2 game stolen [within a few months of getting it]. we have not replaced that which was lost. and no one seems to mind.kids bring in their own controllers, it's only open before and after youth group hours, and we don't make a huge deal about it.

also carmen, i WOULD consider using a rated r movie in youth group.

and i'm not just referring to the Passion of the Chrizza.

i don't want my kids to be raised allowing plugged-in, or the MPAA to make their decisions on media consumption for them, but instead on the person and work of jesus christ, who entered our culture to redeem it and shed his light on it, while pointing all men to his loving and gracious father in heaven.

no offense.

At 10/09/2007, Blogger Joshua Griffin said...

Good discussion, keep it going! JG

At 10/09/2007, Blogger Nick said...

Is the argument really about Halo? I think it is the most convenient and up to date issue for the more legalistic crowd to get up in arms over, and it does nothing more than fuel the fire for such articles to be written and to bring about more controversy and division in the Christian community.

I have to jump on the Kevin #1 bandwagon and say, I have no problem killing Aliens, and if one just so happened to stop by my house I am going to look for the nearest plasma grenade to see just how much green blood they really have!

I've personally seen and heard of positive results from using Halo in various forms, within the student ministry.

I guess now you can lump Halo in with the other issues that make God MAD with churches, like, casual dress, rock music, entertainment, and not using the KJV1611...

At 10/09/2007, Blogger wb said...

We have used Halo 1, 2 & 3 for Youth Group Lock In and the church leadership had no dramas with it.

I think that it is a way in which we can link first timers into a church 'entry level' group.

once they feel comfortable they will continue to come along.

Halo is not about the here and now it is a futuristic thing and most of the young people that are playing it know the difference between real and make believe.

I don't think some people give their young people enough credit to rate halo for what it is - a game.

At 10/09/2007, Blogger geoff said...

For a spiritual reason to play Halo 3, check this out: http://www.dare2share.org/culturecommission/halo-3

"How to share your faith using Halo 3."

At 10/10/2007, Blogger samwise said...

thanks for posting this josh...i was just wrestling with the same question. a former professor of mine had sent me the nyt clip. i have done one halo party last spring and it was huge. had over 50 young men and 30 of them were guests and mostly unchurched. we had 8 xboxs hooked up for an incredible evening. your post and and my prof prompted a conversation with a post-grad student leader about the end vs the means. the comments shared here are good and helpful as i'm redoing our youth space and have a special ediiton halo 3 xbox sitting in my office for our gaming wall. i'm going to keep it and will step up the prudent governance of the same. i'll still use the brokenness in the culture to point to the need for the Savior.

At 10/10/2007, Blogger Riverdale Youth said...

One of the learning aspects presented in seminary to me was "Change the container, but not the content". If you take a milk carton and pour some in a glass, it's still milk. The presentation has changed, but the content hasn't. The gospel must never change, but the way we present it has to stay culturely (if that's a word) relevant. Though I'm not for compromising my moral standards, I am about doing what it takes to reach teens.

Riverdale Baptist

At 10/10/2007, Blogger Riverdale Youth said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10/10/2007, Blogger bryant johnson said...

for me. i have halo 3 and love it. i have some youth in our program who play regularly and i will meet up with them online to play. and the co-op is awesome. we sit, we talk, we hang out. and many of the kids are talking about it, their stats, and their achievements. a few want to help me beat legendary i grew up with games. at 5 years old, my dad came home with an atari 2600 and together we played asteroids for hours.

anyways, i have always thought that if you are ok doing "X" anywhere else, then you should be ok doing it in the church. if that wouldn't be ok, then we should really think about what it is we are doing. maybe we shouldn't be doing it all.

the culture changes and will always change. just as soon as we think we have it figured out, it will change again. we need to be culturally relevant. in but not of the culture. i think games are ok.

for us in our church, i'm not sure it would fit with what we are currently doing. i wouldn't be opposed, but it doesn't fit are events and activities. for some it might be right and others it's not. i think that's ok. what i don't think is ok is that we miss the message of the gospel. jesus has called us to become more like him; full of love, grace, mercy and compassion. not matter what your are doing, if we leave this component out of what we are doing we have failed.

and for outreach, you need to be involved in that culture that you are reaching out to. i don't think we need to do an outreach expecting youth to know the words to the latest chris tomlin song. it may just not be an outreach if it is filled with youth ready to worship.

to sum it all up - go with God, sensing His presence, experiencing His love, and sharing with all that you come in contact with.

At 10/10/2007, Blogger Matthew McNutt said...

I am in the 'no Halo in church' camp. And yes, I have Halo 3. Love it. I am disgusted by gory video games and like many, I'm not quite sure why it even has an M rating. I do not think for a moment that we need to use Halo to bring out a crowd; I have a video game party every year in my tiny town with only a few hundred teens total in the region ... and I'll get a crowd of 50-70 kids out to play video games for a few hours. It's all family friendly games; kids just have a blast playing on the video projectors and big screens. I avoid the controversy and still manage to pull in a crowd of kids who otherwise have never visited our church.

Personally, I love Halo. I owned one and two, and now own three. And I have an XBox live membership that I have specifically so I can play against others ... but I don't bring it up with my teens because some parents don't allow their kids to have it and I don't want to be an arguement tool for the kids; 'pastor Matthew thinks it's okay!' Which would be twisting it, since I only play the game at night when my kids are asleep; they're too young for it! : )

Anyway, a bunch of disjointed thoughts to say that I do not think it is an appropriate church activity ... and that it is just an excuse to play a game we like to say that we need it to bring in kids - kids come out for video games regardless. I can get a crowd out with MarioKart, Smash Bros., Madden, etc. The only shooter I play with teens is Greg Hastings Paintball; awesome action and graphics, no death. Not a single parent has been offended by it and in my paintball crazed community, that game has the longest lines waiting for a turn.


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