Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What Tier is Jesus On?


A recent game depicts the deities of a number of religions literally fistfighting for supremacy, and Jesus is included in it. The idea is absurd on its face, but the absurdity is an attempt to make the point that all religion is equally silly. That argument would need to show that Jesus is equal to all other gods, though. Since He surpasses them, it is merely insulting rather than being challenging. The game, and the philosophy it is based on, are worthless as a result. 

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would be culling the internet for questions. I still hope to be asked directly (so please send them my way if you have them!), but this is the next best thing. Well, I came across a doozy recently. Someone asked, “Would playing this game be considered wrong because it depicts Jesus fighting the gods of other religions?”

Heavenly Warfare

Along with the question, this person included a link to a YouTube trailer for the video game he wanted to discuss. I am not going to provide the link here because I do not want to contribute to its web traffic any further than I have by watching it myself. For all I know, that was the plan this person had in mind when asking this question. I can't be sure, though, so I will give the benefit of the doubt.

The title under question is in the familiar fighting game format, with Street Fighter being the primary exemplar of the genre. Two characters face each other in a 2-D space with limited room to move backward, simulating a ring. They have a number of attacks that they seek to combo together, and whoever can work down the other’s health bar first wins. This particular game also taps into the nostalgia factor by using 16-bit graphics like SNES and Sega Genesis games did in the 1990s.

The unique hook in this case is that, rather than merely muscle-bound martial artists or outlandish cartoons, the game’s characters are the deities of a number of different faiths (that have been animated as muscle-bound martial artists and outlandish cartoons). The roster includes gods like Odin, Zeus, Buddha, and Anubis, among others. But of course, the reason it comes up here is because it also includes a playable Jesus Christ.

Cowardly Insults

So the short answer is yes, it would be wrong to play this game. Ultimatums are ultimately unsatisfying, however. If we can say yes, we should also be able to say why. It is important for believers to know the reasons so that they can be secure in them and so that they can confidently explain them. That is true whether you are discussing the Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God or whether you are talking about a dumb little parody game.

The obvious reason no one should play it is because it is insulting. That is not exclusively Christian, either. Even though I believe members of other religions are wrong, my goal is to evangelize rather than to mock. Certainly, most of the religions included are defunct and there is not much risk of that. The inclusion of Buddha and Moses, however, are also an attack on the beliefs of living people. Comparative value aside, it is wrong in each case.

The creators of the game also admit to being aware of how disrespectful they are, thanks to a very glaring omission. Mohammed, founder of Islam, nowhere makes his appearance in this title. One might expect the second-largest religion in the world to be present in this theistic throwdown, but no. These brave critics of religious faith are not quite that brave. They are willing to take on safe targets, mostly dead religions and a few living ones with peaceful adherents. When it comes to Islam, though, with the very real threat of violence against those who mock their prophet, boldness turned to silence.

Had they included Mohammed, I could have at least respected their commitment while still detesting their atheism. Instead, they showed that they recognized a line not to be crossed. It simply happens to be a line of self-interest, rather than one taking into account the convictions and sensibilities of others. It just comes off as a combination of bigotry and cowardice, and really wouldn’t deserve the attention I am giving it if not for the fact that the developers seem to think they are so clever.

For the record, they have every right to make this game. That is part of what makes Islam, especially in its radical forms, so dangerous. A system that forbids the discussion of religion in any type of negative tone is not free. I do not wish to see these game developers stopped, so much as I wish to see everyone understand why they are wrong.

Oblivious Comparisons

They are not only wrong for the contempt they show, though. They are also wrong for making an apples-to-oranges comparison. That is why it is especially insulting to Christians, and why it would be wrong to play this game.

As far as I know, the game does not explicitly state an argument. However, I have seen it enough to recognize the common atheist trope that Christians are “atheists less one.” It is meant to be a trap, suggesting that if we can believe in one God then we should have to believe in all others in order to be consistent. All it really goes to show, however, is how little they know about Christianity.

The gods of most other religions are finite. Buddha and Moses are, again, notable exceptions. They are both finite, of course, but neither is the deity or ultimate reality of their religion. They can be put aside in this discussion as a result. For the rest of them, for the members of the Greek, Hindu, Norse, Egyptian, and other pantheons, there are limits. They all came into being, they all have weaknesses, and they all have blind spots in their knowledge. Also, they usually engaged in back-and-forth wars with each other in which the conclusion was often in doubt.

Come to think of it, maybe they are perfect for a fighting game after all. But if so, that is because they better reflect the modern idea of the superhero than they do of godhood. Including Jesus implies that He is the same, which is the atheistic vision of Him. It allows Him to fit in the box of the superhuman, which is all they can imagine deity to be. The goal is to say, “Your God is just like these ones, so why worship one over the others? Isn’t the whole idea silly?”

The truth goes so far beyond what they can imagine, though. As I discussed recently, Jesus is the God of the Bible and the God of the Bible is infinite. He is completely unlike all the descriptions of all polytheistic religion. He has no beginning or end, no weaknesses or limit to His power, and there is nothing He does not know. There is no point of comparison. Christians do not merely say that no other gods exist. We say that even if they did exist they would still not be worthy of worship because they pale in contrast to Christ.  If you were even going to attempt to include Him in a fighting game, He would need an hp bar that never ended and each match would have to end in His victory the moment it started.

So that is really the most insulting thing about this game. It is not only that it depicts Christ as fighting, but that it suggests He is on an even playing field with the false gods of other faiths (with the exception of the merely incomplete view of Judaism). To say He is equal without saying why is just lazy. It is an attempt at humor that does not know enough about it subject to be anything more than silly itself. Atheists do not believe what I do about Jesus, but they could at least go to the effort to understand it if they want to criticize it. Otherwise, they just come across as foolish. As for the game, its attempted subversion ends up being clueless rather than clever. Save the $8.00 for something more useful.

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