Tuesday, June 06, 2006
666-Prophet Culture for [End]Gamers
Seeing as its 6-6-06 today, I thought I would delve into the fundie phenomena. I'm thinking that this may be part of a series of posts where I look at what I believe are the two heirs to post-modernism: Prophet Culture and Network Culture. Maybe not so much the successors of the endless parade of -isms but at least the new replacement or prism that seems to be shaping everything we know, touch, and feel for some time to come. Its a big topic of which I am sure to be unqualified but I'll give it my best shot with the help of the real brainiacs in cyberspace along with a dose of Fred Jameson now and again ;)
I came across this alarming, though not surprising post on Daily Kos via Raw Story. The Christian Right has developed and is about to deploy and market a video game that looks to be quite competetive in the game market. In addition to being a financial ringer, it certainly has the potential to be a horrifying watershed moment not only for video game culture, but for the overall "culture war" and the way religion in general is dispensed to the youth of America. The game is positioned to be the first Dominionist game to break into the popular culture. By what devices? Violence peppered with racial, religious, homophobic hatred that usually equates to boat loads of money.
Hate is big business in case you hadn't noticed...
The game is called Left Behind:Eternal Forces. The men that are behind this have enormous cultural and political clout - though you won't hear about them on any art blog. They are Rev. Rick Warren and author Tim LaHaye. Rick Warren is a pastor of a mega-church and author of the multi-million copy selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. Tim LaHaye is the author of the wildly successful series, Left Behind - millions in sales as well. [If you think the DaVinci Code has suspect prose get a hold of one of these! Its written on a highschool level at best- but you knew that already.] Warren and LaHaye are also linked to James Dobson Phd. of Focus on the Family which is based in Colorado. Dobson as you may know is a major player in national politics and has been highly vocal against violent video games (and everything else for that matter) - it remains to be seen if he endorses LB:EF - but his publisher, Tyndale, helped develop the game so it may be within his interest to do so. Tyndale is the publisher of the Left Behind book series and is heading marketing and distribution.. It should also be noted that Mr. Warren was dubbed America's minister by Time magazine, having recently filled the LA Angels baseball stadium with his congregation. To sum up, these are the leading evangelical leaders in America who are heading major corporations which are looking to expand there religious and business programs onto a global stage. He has stated the desire for a billion stealth Christian foot soldiers and is actively recruiting business leaders and political leaders throughout the world, namely Africa at the moment.
But back to the game! What is the game exactly?
The game places the player in a Christian militia deployed into NYC to convert or kill the following non-believers: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who supports the seperation of church and state - that would be moderate Christians and liberals. [Note to Catholics, yes you are still not considered Christians by Evangelicals - sort of like the the Sunni/Shia divide. So wake up!] Anyone who resists this spiritual mission "must be taken out with extreme prejudice". Scared yet? Sounds alot like our Islamist brothers abroad I'd say. But there is a special role playing twist in this game that must even have fundies squirming. If you get bored being a paramilitary Christian killer you can switch sides and become the Anti-Christ and go on about killing everyone, Christians included! Such fun for the flock. There's a grand irony here - not too mention a quite cynical opportunistic bigotry and hypocrisy.
This is one of the uglier sides of product endorsement by association. The association topic is nicely analyzed by the Kos post as well as Warren's dealings with Rwanda as a laboratory for his global project of creating Christ's landing pad for the Rapture. This game will be piped through the mega-churches and the international pastoral networks. It will get into the hands of millions of teens and generate millions in sales. Of course that strategy might be the silver lining that limits the distribution from reaching the mass market. I'd like to think that a game killing the inhabitants of NY won't have much traction in the gaming world, but I won't be surprised if the opposite is true. I also don't underestimate the power of pastoral networks. We see how churches have affectively become political action committees for the GOP.
So what does this have to do with anything? It has everything to do with the cultural environment that artists are facing or about to face. While the art blogs are discussing irony, cool paintings, and the corporate influence on art boards - your neighbors are busy reading Tim LaHaye instead of Zizek, they are looking to video game imagery to express their inner world view and not the latest show at Zach Feuer. My point is they aren't the isolated group - we are. Its an isolation that can ill be afforded. We've been hinting a lot around the blogs about the civic role of the artist (beyond online petitions against Bush and the local Anti-War protest) and what that might mean and look like for the 21st century. We have the onset of Network Cuture - as manifested by so many blogs - which is certainly to be at the center of everything concerning the private and the public - not unlike Faith itself. It is a culture that will also be mastered by these the new religious corporations in the same way grassroots liberalism was co-opted and mastered by the right wing over the last 30 years. It will be a battleground. I'm not claiming to have an answer or program here, but I do think artists could begin with the content they choose to engage and how to get that out to a larger populace - what ever form that may take. There is a need to find something that can be part of the larger discussion and not the insular trage-comedy of what passes for discourse on many artblog threads.This may be utopian well wishing and perhaps a little conspiracy centric, and quite possibly has nothing to do with what the artworld can be about or should be about, but I think the visual arts has to start addressing the larger concerns of the human psyche with less narcissicism and insider art cliches. If not, then the LaHaye's of the world will start (and are) filling the social, emotive, and philosophical void left by the arts and artists- just as a Madras passes for an education in Pakistan.
What is happening to people around the world? Why is it that these particular "spiritual" quests, the ones based on literal interpretations of ancient literature, are consuming billions of people? Why are so many turning to fascist and fundamentalist outlooks and ethics? Its a big question that needs to be addressed by visual artists in some manner. Big business and Big religion are combining so wanking off in the corner is going to cost us our collective heads unless a counter statement for the human experience is presented.