A few months ago, I realized I hadn’t done a More Cowbell Award in a year. For those who don’t remember “The Award No One Wants to Win,” I instituted it a few years back to poke fun at some of the outright lunacy and kitsch that shows up from time to time in the American Church.
I’ve not awarded a More Cowbell in ages because some parody sites like Lark News have cropped up in recent years, stealing the thunder.
So, it comes as a surprise that I stumbled across a New York Times article that could’ve doubled for a Lark New posting. The more I read, the more I had to keep pinching myself to see if I was dreaming. This. Could. Not. Be. True.
Or could it?
Long ago, churches used to concern themselves with ensuring a young man wins a halo and takes his place among the ranks of saints.
Today, churches concern themselves with ensuring a young man wins at Halo 3 and takes his place among the ranks of survivors.
And here’s the intro from the Grey Lady’s article “Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Videogame at Church“
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 videogame 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.
There you have it: the natural outcome of “Wild at Heart”-style men’s ministry.
Honestly, I’m speechless. Read the whole article and I think you will be, too.
Doesn’t that read like a Lark News or The Onion article? Seriously. We Christians don’t need the parodies anymore, we ARE the parodies! I usually yuck it up on a More Cowbell post, but heck, I’m finding it hard to be funny right now.
Why did I want to go to youth group when I was a teen? Because I wanted to know more about Jesus. And even if there were a few kids in the youth group who didn’t give two hoots about Jesus, they at least showed up to be with their friends.
Now, it seems that not only is Jesus not all that attractive on His own, but today’s teens aren’t all that interested in hanging out with their friends, either—unless their friends can offer up some Rated M videogame. (The point of the game being, eerily enough, to kill “invaders” from a religious group called “The Covenant.” Hmmm…)
So now you’ve got youth ministers saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
You know, for once, I’m speechless. Nothing I can say from here on will add to the conversation.
So I award this More Cowbell to
Ministries That Think Anything Goes
As Long As That Anything Puts Butts in Seats.
I’m just waiting till some men’s ministry hires strippers to dance on poles on either side of the altar. That’ll draw ’em in like flies!
Actually, I won’t be waiting. I’ll be down in my fallout shelter, checking the supplies…