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The Crossroads of Faith and Secular Media pt. 2

At the Crossings, our mission is to explore the intersection between faith and art. This new series "The Crossroads of Faith and Secular Media," created by staff editor and content creator Elijah Bansen, contributes to the an important cultural conversation by exploring the ethical engagement of Christians with art and culture.

 

In the past I have written on the legitimacy of video games as an art form, and their place in our culture today. I expect some readers would be rather hesitant to believe those claims at face value, so allow me to explain myself. First off, I do not make the claim that video games are in any way comparable to or even on the same level as literature or film. Literature is a medium completely built on the power of the written word, and film is itself based on our inherent desire to see as well as read. Both art forms utilize their own strengths to leverage and illicit emotions more powerful than what we usually experience in our day to day lives. That is part of the reason why we chose to engage with them: we want to experience new facets of life that are not readily available in our own. And so it is that we have many classis in both mediums that are commonly studied in life, culture, and education today, such as Great Expectations, True Grit, Don Quixote, The Godfather, The Odyssey, Jojo Rabbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Last of Us, God of War, and Dark Souls.


Ok, I lied. Those last three are not movies or books. They're actually some of the best video games ever made and are held up in our culture as some of the best stories in all the medium. But why should we care? I hear you ask, Afterall, they're just games for kids and cannot possibly be on the same level as some of the greatest stories of all time, right? Well, to start off, all three of these games are rated M for mature, specifically ranking them as intended for adults. Of course, the main reason for this is because of the level of violence and gore prevalent in each of them, but it is also because of the depths of their stories. Each of these three narratives deal with some of the toughest issues in our world today.

The Last of Us deals with topics of fatherhood and family, as well as vengeance and grief. The world of this story is torn and ruined, and characters must struggle to maintain what little shreds of their humanity remain. The discourse around this game was especially volatile when its sequel came out and took some questionable narrative directions that left audiences grasping at smoke for answers regarding its message.


God of War takes a look at what it means to be a powerful man in a world of danger and innocence, especially when the care of innocents falls to those with the power to destroy. How does a strong man pass on the wisdom he has gained to a son who only seems to worship the power without the restraint.


And Dark Souls imagines a world torn to pieces by the deification of powerful people who ascend to the level of godhood in the common people's eye, only to abuse their newfound power to dominate and destroy. I would even argue it has deeper tones of secularism versus spiritualism, as the game's multiple endings shift the world this way and that based on the player's choices. Will the player choose to trust in the established order of blind polytheism? Or will they fall into secular nihilism and decide to let the world fade to darkness, so the gods may be deprived of their power? Either way, the choice is yours, and it very closely mirrors our own choices in the real world. Our perception defines our reality, and although it cannot change the world itself, what you believe does have an impact since belief eventually becomes action. If one believes God to be an evil dictatorial force up in the sky who cares little for the people at his feet, then of course their worldview will reflect that. If one decides to abandon the very idea of God, then what else is there for them but to descend into the bowls of secularism? A choice must be made, and one must accept the consequences of those actions (I'll let you guess which of the three games I find the most fascinating 😉).

It may be that you are still unconvinced that any of this is important or relevant in our world today, especially to us Christians who really don't need to be bothering with icky things such as eldritch horror, space gods, or the blasphemous idea of ignoring God. And here is my answer: if not us, then who? If something is just too gross for you to touch, if you think you can just turn up your nose and walk away because something just isn't holy enough for you, then why are you even bothering with calling yourself a Christian? God called us to be salt and light in the world, and that involves being active and engaged with the things our culture deems important. Not that we need always take part in those things, but we should at least be well prepared to understand and talk about them so that we may be readily able to give a proper account for the will of Christ in our world today. Christ is still relevant, but it is up to us to convince people of that fact.

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