“It’s just fun blowing people up.”

The purpose of basic training for the military is to turn ordinary young people into soldiers who can kill on command. Who knew that the groundwork for this task has been shouldered by churches?  And thus the sarcastic 1960’s anti-war slogan, “kill a commie for Christ,” roared back into my mind today at this:

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 video game 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.

My kids are well into their twenties. I am drifting back into cultural cluelessness… must consult Wikipedia.  Yuck.

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.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church.

Hard to go to hell. Mr. Barbour, are you sure they aren’t in hell when they enter your church basement?

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