Dear President Bush,
Your good friend Tim LaHaye is releasing his latest book in the Left Behind Series, The Rapture tomorrow. It happens to coincide with the date 06-06-06. What you may not know is soon there will be video games based on Tim’s series. The production company is called Left Behind Games and trades on the Over the Counter market under the ticker symbol LFGB.OB.
Their new video game, Eternal Forces has a distinctly Christian theme. It is scheduled to debut the last half of 2006. The battleground is New York City with the goal to save souls for Christ. Those who do not convert are killed by their “would be” saviors. A player has the option to join the dark side and fight the forces of good.
Daily Kos & Swami Uptown have raised concerns that one of Rick Warren’s key staffers is serving on the Left Behind Games Advisory Board. Here is what the Purpose Driven website has to say about Mr. Carter:
As executive director for Purpose Driven Church, Mark Carver oversees the ministry of Purpose Driven in every region of the world except North America. His vision is to see a worldwide community of healthy churches working together to fulfill the Great Commission.
Toward that end, Carver and his team are developing tools to train pastors worldwide and creating curriculum to support the spiritual health of individual church members. Additionally, they’re ensuring that needed materials are translated into necessary languages and then manufactured, reproduced, and distributed.
As the bloggers so ably point out, evangelicals have railed against violent video games and their negative impact on youth. Why would a key evangelical leader be involved in the creation of another one, even with a Christian theme? And what does Mr. Warren think of Eternal Forces, the game? He is yet to comment. In this case his silence shouts.
In my research I found several interesting items. Mr. Carter owns 1,195 shares of Left Behind Games. Other advisory board members own from no shares to 333,999. The heavy hitter is James Alan Cook with 25 years experience in the video game and PC industry.
The incestuous nature of Left Behind Games corporate relationships seems a little creepy. The company licenses the rights to Left Behind themed games from White Beacon, Inc. Who owns White Beacon? LBG’s CEO Troy Linden and President Jeffrey Frichner own White Beacon. That means in addition to drawing a salary from the company, each benefits from licensing payments made by LBG to WB. Their salary stands at $95,000 a year but with revenue increases can reach as high as $500,000.
Oh, did I mention the 3.5 million shares of stock LBG gave to White Beacon as part of the licensing deal? At the current stock price that amounts to just over $8 million. Another interesting corporate relationship is LBG Ukraine LLC, a company in which Troy Linden the CEO is a majority shareholder. How arm’s length can business deals be, when one party is working both sides of the deal?
In his past Mr. Linden produced very violent video games, the very kind his evangelical friends deride. One of his masterpieces was Streetfighter. This is conveniently left off the company’s website. It only mentions Madden Football.
Another interesting link leads to Campus Crusade for Christ. The company’s Chief Financial Officer, Thomas Axelson currently works for the largest ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International as their Director of Administration. An advisory board member, Helmut Teichert had a long career with that same organization.
Mr. Axelson can make over $250,000 a year if revenues grow high enough. As Director of Administration for Campus Crusade for Christ International can he steer business toward LBG? Might he have the incentive to spend CCCI’s money on multiple copies of Eternal Forces? One might want to watch this potential conflict of interest. Can you pass this on to the SEC and the IRS?
How will Purpose Driven churches and Campus Crusade for Christ respond to the new Left Behind video game? How will evangelical ministers react to a product virtually no different than the ones they have railed against for years? Would it matter if they knew proceeds from a Christian themed company were not going to feed the poor, shelter the weak, and care for the infirmed? What would Jesus think?
Would it be ironic if when he comes back, he leaves all the Left Behind people left behind as they ignored his commission by spending 7-8 hours a week playing violent video games instead of loving one another? My guess is he takes us all to be with our creator, no matter what. That is the nature of God's grace. Now which Eternal Forces button do I hit for that?
Note added 10-26-07 from the FAQ portion of the Left Behind Games website:
What is the level of violence in the game?
Our game includes violence...