Book Plunge: Pokemon and Harry Potter: A Fatal Attraction

What do I think of Phil Arms’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been a gamer for as long as I can remember. My gaming life started with seeing a Colecovision when I came home one day under the TV in the living room and asking what it was. From then on, I came to enjoy games. They’ve always been there. Not just video games. Any games. Board games and card games can still be very enjoyable to me.

Now I am married and active in the ministry of Christian apologetics. It has been over three decades since I got my first Nintendo. My love of gaming hasn’t changed. I could be playing Words With Friends with some friends or going through a daily logic problem.

I also see it as a shaping influence on me. It is growing up in gaming that also shaped my desire a lot in the battle of good versus evil. Of course, this was also coupled with my Christian faith. My parents raised me up in the church and I was there every Sunday and in the evenings and when I got out of high school, the subject I knew best was the Bible so off to Bible College I went.

Today, I really see apologetics as doing in reality what is often done in fantasy. It is the battle of good versus evil. It is fighting to spread the Kingdom of God. There are real people out there who seek to destroy Christians. I debate atheists most every day.

Recently, someone sent my wife and I a video about religion and Pokemon. It is no secret that Pokemon, like many other fantasy industries, draws upon mythological themes found all over the world. This is not a problem to me. I find it fascinating. In looking at this video, I wondered if anyone might have actually written on this from a scholarly perspective. Sadly, I found nothing, but I still think it could be an interesting project for anyone interested in this. I would not be surprised if some Poketubers on YouTube have engaged in such research.

What I found on Amazon was Phil Arms’s book instead. I laughed some and before too long, I decided why not see what is said? Sadly, going through, much of what I think is confirmed. Many people who write about this write with a fear that our children don’t understand fantasy from reality. I suspect it is such writers who do not understand fantasy from reality.

Let’s say something positive upfront. We should all applaud the effort to raise our children Christian. We should also applaud the effort to monitor their entertainment choices. I have no problem with that. If a parent has forbidden something like Pokemon or Harry Potter or such from their home, the children should respect that.

Still, I wonder when these children grow up and start to think differently how many of them will wind up rebelling against this kind of thinking? It has happened in many areas and many of these areas of truth. Consider the case of sex before marriage. Many people have told young people, “If you have sex before you are married, you will feel guilty.”

Some will. Sure. Some won’t. When this happens, they will wonder what else the church has lied to them about. (Note it is not a lie, but they often perceive it as a lie. A lie is not merely an untruth but something that is told as true knowing it is false or vice-versa. It is intentional.) Inerrancy and young-earth creationism are two other beliefs like this. I have seen some people ready to throw Christianity out the window because they found one “contradiction” in the Bible they couldn’t reconcile.

Note I say that last part as a believer in Inerrancy properly understood. I believe in it so much I have been a co-author on two eBooks on the topic. Those are Defining Inerrancy and Contextualizing Inerrancy. While I do hold to Inerrancy, a contradiction in Scripture would not cause me to abandon Christianity for a moment. Jesus still rose from the dead based on the historical evidence.

I fear that Arms’s work could be doing more of the same. He also gets a paranoia in Christians that I do not believe is fruitful to good Christian discipleship. The lines are too blurred as great writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and others are not mentioned who often engaged in writing of a fantasy nature. If anything, this could lead to a further idea in an atheistic worldview reaching children.

On page 16, Arms tells us that much of the evil of Pokemon comes from “the deeply held belief system of some personalities at the very core of the Pokemon industrial complex.” Little problem. He never tells us who these people are. This is quite important as well since these are accusations of moral turpitude of the people involved. We should not make such claims unless we can name the people and specifically cite the references.

Does that mean that all people involved are perfectly angelic and devout Christians? Not at all. Yet that does not mean they are definitively involved in a satanic plot to control children. These claims need to be backed.

Pokemon was actually created by a man named Satoshi Tajiri. This is someone I have a great respect for also because he and I have something in common, namely Aspergers. The game was based largely on Tajiri’s love of bug collecting as a kid. This is something common with other original game makers. He was also mentored by Shigeru Miyamoto. You may not know who that is, but you have probably heard of some of his creations. These include Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong.

Actually, Zelda hits home with me. Link, the main character, was one of my first heroes growing up. I remember going to the barber when I was young with a picture of Link from Zelda II and wanting a hairstyle like his. I had a wooden sword and shield for me that my Dad made for my pretend adventures. My wife today has given me two ocarinas. I found out later that Miyamoto based Zelda on his love of outdoor adventures and told people when he signed things like instruction manuals to the game, “On warm days, play outside.” Also, I have a friend who has written a book about The Legend of Zelda and Theology.

By the way, let’s state something here also. If the only way you can present the Gospel in media to people is something explicitly Christian, you don’t know how to really present the Gospel that well. It has been said that wherever you have a hero and a villain, somewhere you have the Gospel. This should not surprise us. Christianity is the cry of the heart of man. It is the truth that we all seek.

On pages 23-24, Arms mentions doing research on a number of websites. The problem is that throughout this book, he consistently does not cite the sources. He will give quotations, but he won’t tell many times where they are found. Internet searches I have done for these quotations has been fruitless and as one who has seen several made-up quotations, I remain skeptical.

On page 24, he refers to Ash as a character in the game. This is false. Ash is a character in the anime. Some could see the character Red as referring to Ash, but it could just as well refer to the main character in the original game. Those of us who play the game and understand it will have a reason to immediately discount Arms as not knowing what he’s talking about.

On page 25, Arms has a problem with the idea of becoming a Pokemon master. After all, Master is a word from the New Age movement. This would be a guilt by association and Arms seeking to find what he wants to find.

The creatures in Pokemon, referred to as Pocket Monsters, are often seen as pets. Pet owners are often referred to as masters. Slaves in the Bible are said to have masters and Jesus is said to be our Lord and Master. One can go to College and get a Master’s in a particular field of learning or play Golf and participate in the Masters’ Tournament. If you host an event, you can be referred to as a Master of Ceremonies. Why choose the negative term and not the other terms? Why read into a term something not necessarily there?

He also says Pokemon trainers gain powers in the game. This is false. Trainers acquire new Pokemon who have new abilities, but the trainers themselves do not gain powers.

On page 26, he states that an early quest is to capture a Kadabra. This is also not accurate. I shared this with my wife and we both laughed together wondering when this quest was in the game. It is also not in the anime. There is a quest in the anime to defeat Sabrina’s Kadabra, but not to find one of your own.

Arms says there is an emphasis in Pokemon on teaching children to fight, kill, poison, and use occultic and psychic powers to reach their goals. One of the first rules of understanding a work of any kind is to try to figure out the world it is set in. Is it in a world meant to be like ours? Now there are times that sometimes one could think that it’s set in our world, such as in a movie when Ash says most Vikings lived in Minnesota, referring to the football team there.

Still, do children today see the world of Pokemon like that? Doubtful. Children don’t need fantasy stories to believe in magic. We already do. Fairy tales are full of it. They lock on to what children already know. As Chesterton said, fairy tales are not here to tell children dragons exist. Children already know they do. They exist to tell us that dragons can be beaten. Lewis also referred to the spell of naturalism and that we need a stronger spell to overcome that.

One can understand the concern of people like Arms, but would they prefer fantasy with no extramaterial elements whatsoever? (See my article on why I do not accept a natural/supernatural distinction.) He could find this in much of science fiction like Star Trek. Keep in mind that many of us are mature Christians who can enjoy series like Star Trek and Star Wars (Which I don’t watch personally on either account) and still not agree with the worldview, but we like the story. There is even a series now called Star Trek Continues starring Vic Mignogna. Mignogna is a popular anime voice actor who has been at numerous anime conventions. My wife and I have met him and I have emailed him a few times.

Oh, wait. Did I forget to mention he’s a devout Christian? He has helped numerous people who have come to the conventions struggling with many issues, including suicide. I have heard of him playing the piano at these conventions and singing worship songs. You can watch videos of him online talking to kids at these conventions about Jesus. We have with us a Gospel of John CD that he gave us personally with him reading the Gospel. If you go to his website, he makes it no secret that he is a Christian.

I say this because many of us do know fantasy and Mignogna does as well. We have elements of fantasy in our literature and stories because we know the real world is fantastic. We know that there is more than the material realm that we see every day. Arms should want to affirm and celebrate this.

Arms also says part of Pokemon is saying “My will be done” instead of “Thy will be done” on page 33. Yet if this is Arms’s point, it can be pushed to absurdity. The evening I publish this, my wife and I will be joining friends to see Christmas lights. We will stop somewhere for dinner. Are we sinning when we tell someone what we want to eat? We are telling the cooks in the kitchen “My will be done” aren’t we? The problem is only if our will contradicts the moral will of God.

On p. 35, Arms quotes another pastor who says that Pokemon teaches about gaining power from crystals. Again, my wife and I were puzzled at this. We tried to think of a game of Pokemon where this happens. We could not come up with one. We suspect this is a pastor who does not know about the game and sadly, there are too many pastors writing about things they do not know about.

On p. 40, he quotes Anton Lavey (And it’s Lavey, not Levey) who was the founder of the Church of Satan, as saying the fastest way to indoctrinate young people into the occult is through fantasy role-playing games. I saw that and immediately tried to find this quotation. I had no such luck. Arms gives no reference. Let me show a problem with that. Check this picture with a quote from Lavey about Halloween.

There is a well-known Christian apologist who regularly shares this quote. Many people look at this and think this is a powerful statement. For me, as a researcher, I want to know when I see an unreferenced quote where it came from. I did some searching, but so did Jeff Harshbarger of Refuge Ministries, an ex-satanist. As expected, he never said it.

There’s also a great danger with unreferenced quotes. One runs the great risk of bearing false witness about one’s neighbor. Yes. Even though Anton Lavey was a satanist, he was still someone in the image of God and thus, our neighbor. We are not to bear false witness against him or anyone else.

Arms also has something to say about evolution which is in the games. Yet go to any biology professor and base your paper on evolution on the Pokemon games and you will fail immediately. Not only that, there are plenty of devout Christians today who hold to Inerrancy as well who either agree with evolution or have no problem with it. This isn’t just modern times. Go back to the past. Asa Gray, the Christian botanist, had no problem with it. Neither did the minister Charles Kingsley. Also, Mr. Inerrancy himself, B.B. Warfield, wasn’t concerned about evolution. You can find support from a framer of the ICBI statement like J.I. Packer as well.

For those who assert God must have created humanity fiat to be special, we have an excellent counter-example. Namely, everyone of us. Psalm 139 says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we all know there is a long nine-month average process of making each of us. It is not how we are made that makes us special. It is what we are. We are bearers of the image of God.

There is an emphasis on the concerns about power on p. 46 as the game apparently tells children they have the power in their hands. Use it. Any child who thinks this applies to the real world I suspect already has some severe problems to begin with. There are also many things that can give a child a feeling of power. This is especially true for boys and not a bad thing. To this day, go through Wal-Mart during Christmas time and hand two grown men rolls of gift wrap. They will duel with them like they’re lightsabers.

On p. 50, he tells us that Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Popeye have been replaced with more sinister characters, yet even these characters would fall under concerns like magic and violence.  Mickey Mouse, for instance, nowadays, appears in the popular Kingdom Hearts role-playing games.

But even before that, one does not have to look far to see the magic in many Disney movies like Fantasia or short scenes like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Don’t forget the classic fairy tales that Disney has brought to life. How many of these also have Christian ideas of ending the conflict, which Arms speaks of? Do they not often have a warrior who slays the villain?

Looney Tunes is also not without magic. One of the favorite cartoons of my Dad and I involve Bugs Bunny in a Transylvania setting where he gets in a magic duel with a vampire using those dreaded words like “Abracadabra” and “Hocus Pocus.” Popeye is the hero every time by eating spinach and then walloping the villain of Bluto.

But who are these other more sinister characters? Figures like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, She-Ra, Care Bears, Gummi Bears, The Smurfs, and My Little Pony. Arms at this point strikes us as one who sees satan behind everything.

Arms has much to say about the phenomena with teen witchcraft and Wicca. I share his concerns. The problem is not Pokemon. The problem I point more to a church failing to do its job and looking to something like Pokemon to blame. The church has often failed to present a compelling view of Jesus in our era and does not build a good Biblical foundation. It’s more than just reading Bible stories to children today. We need to equip them with apologetic knowledge of how they can know the Bible is reliable and that Christianity is true.

From there, he goes on to talk about Dungeons and Dragons. Later in the book, Arms says he has never played Dungeons and Dragons. This was not a shock. Many of the criticisms presented about the game have been found to be sensational and been retracted. Are there problems? Yes. There are also problems with solitaire since that can be an incredibly addictive game. How many people have redealt a hand on the computer until they finally won one game?

Arms gives the case of Sean Sellers who says he got involved in wicked practices because of D&D. Is it really the cause of D&D or is it more the cause of Sellers himself? Fortunately, in response to the Pulling Report, we have the record of Sean Sellers himself.

With the controversy over role playing games so prevalent today many well meaning people have sought to use my past as a reference for rebuking role playing. While it is true that D&D contributed to my interest and knowledge of occultism I must be fair and explain to what extent D&D contributed.

When I was playing D&D I was not a Satanist, and in fact would have probably punched any Satanist I met right in the mouth. I was interested in witchcraft and Zen however. In doing some research at the library for a D&D adventure I was leading I happened upon other books that led to my study of occultism.

After I became a Satanist I used D&D manuals for their magical symbols and character references for my initial studies. I also used my experience as a Dungeonmaster to introduce people to Satanic behavior concepts and recruit them into the occult.

I do have objections to some of the material TSR releases for their role playing games. I think their excessive use of paganism and occultism is unnecessary and can lead to idealistic problems among some players; however, to be fair to TSR and in the spirit of honesty I must concede that D&D contributed to my involvement in Satanism like an interest in electronics can contributed to building a bomb. Like the decision to build a bomb, I had already made decisions of a destructive nature before I incorporated D&D material into my coven projects, and it was Satanism not D&D that had a decisive role in my crimes.

Personally, for reasons I publish myself, I don’t think kids need to be playing D&D, but using my past as a common example of the effects of the game is either irrational or fanatical.

February 5th 1990
Sean R. Sellers

So by Sellers’s own statement, whom Arms cites as an authority, Arms is either fanatical or irrational. Perhaps he is both. Also, unlike Arms, I will give my source. It is Michael Stackpole’s response which he says Sean Sellers helped with. We also recommend Arms read Confessions of a D&D Addict.

On p. 63, Arms says that Pokemon does not have a Christian view of conflict-resolution. Instead, it is more in line with the New Age movement encouraging children to think of the collective instead of individuals. There is a great irony here because in doing so, they are much more in line with the Biblical worldview. Arms has grown up in the modern 20th century in the West and thinks everyone thinks like him.

The Bible is in a culture where individualism was unheard of. The group was to be thought of first. One does not think about what is good for them, but rather what is good for their culture and their people. Arms is invited to check any of the scholarship from the Context Group and an honor-shame perspective to see this. It’s a great irony that in this facet, countries like Japan where Pokemon comes from are closer to the Biblical culture in that respect than modern America.

Not only this, has Arms never seen the first movie? In the main battle of the clones in there, Pikachu, the mascot of Pokemon, responds to the slaps of his then evil clone by turning the cheek repeatedly. Ash, the main character, throws himself in between the two fighting forces when a powerful blast goes off being willing to sacrifice himself to end the conflict. Does Arms see these as wicked examples?

On p. 64, Arms says in Pokemon the real pathway to peace is for the world to abandon all ideologies and religions. No backing is given for this incredible statement. He then goes on to say that to accept this premise would require rejecting Biblical beliefs like the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, salvation by grace through faith, etc. The fact that there are numerous numerous Christians like myself out there who have no problem with Pokemon and love Jesus show that this is inaccurate. Note in all of this, Arms never references an episode of Pokemon or the movies or anything of that sort.

On p. 68, he returns to D&D saying the setting is the mind of the player. Why yes. The mind is the area of the imagination and D&D requires imagination. Imagination is something that sets us apart as well. We don’t see other animals creating works of fiction after all.

At this point with his obsession about violence, conflict-resolution, obsessiveness, deceptive tactics, anything to win ideas, and occultism, I want to ask Arms a question. If he is wanting to eliminate anything having to do with anything like this, let’s get to the point. Will he speak out against professional sports?

Violence? Has he never seen a football or hockey game? How many fights break out at hockey games? Many parents have got into fistfights at Little League games over calls made on their children. There are people today suffering physical damage because of football they played growing up. Some hockey players opt to have their teeth pulled out and replaced since they know playing hockey will knock them off. I have heard of someone having a part of their body cut off by the blade of an ice skate. Not only that, how many times has a professional sports team won a major event and the response has been rioting and looting in their home city?

Conflict-resolution? It is often violent. In football, grown men tackle and climb all over each other for a ball. What about boxing and wrestling?

Obsession? Do you know how many sports shows you can find on the radio? Do you know how many TV channels there are dedicated to sports? How many grown men can spend all day watching sports? How many people memorize trivia about their favorite sports?

How many sports also rely on lying and deception? Do you not have to fake out your opponent many times? Is this not deceptive? This also includes winning at any cost. How many of us have heard about athletes who take steroids to win?

And as for occultism, how many teams are named after animals? Could this be not seeking to embody the spirit of the animal? Isn’t that familiarism at that point?

I am sure I can amass many more examples from professional sports. I am also sure Arms will not denounce them. Professional sports are just different somehow.

Let’s go a step further. If we want to talk about Biblical conflict-resolution, why exclude violence? Isn’t that how the Canaanite conquest was resolved? Isn’t that how the Amalekites were to be dealt with? Isn’t this how God deals with His enemies in the book of Revelation?

Arms also says on p. 69 that for the vast majority of young people involved in D&D, the line between fantasy and reality grows fuzzy. No backing is given for this statement. I would love to see which organization out there did a search of all the young people that play and how they determined the line between fantasy and reality is blurry for them.

Arms quotes an authority familiar with the game saying, “The stuff that make me nervous is the over-identification with the characters. I’ve seen kids go into raging fits, scream for hours, and throw objects in anger when they lose a battle or when their character dies.” Arms gives no reference to this quotation. I have done a search but have not found it. I have no reason to believe this quote without a reference and a source. Does Arms expect me to believe blindly? Would it have been too much of a bother to quote the reference? Obviously, it was.

It is not a surprise to see Arms go after Harry Potter, but as usual he does not know that of which he speaks. Arms even tells us about the four books out at the time in order of release. Prisoner of Azkaban, Chamber of Secrets, and Sorcerer’s Stone. Yes. Those are only three books. Yes. The last one to come out was the first one mentioned.

Yes. There are instances in the book of good characters being killed by the evil wizards. Why? Because J.K. Rowling (Her name is spelled wrong at one point even by Arms) knows what world children live in. It is a world where real death occurs. Not everything is pretty and bright.

We wonder if Arms has ever interacted with Christian scholarship on Harry Potter. There are plenty of Christians who see the good in the series. Most notable I think is John Granger. Granger read the first book after his pediatrician gave his daughter a copy so he could explain to her why trash like this is not allowed in their home. He immediately saw them as Christian classics. More can be found here.

It is doubtful Arms will ever really research this. More likely, he sat down at his computer one day and put in a web search of something like “Pokemon, satanic” and went immediately with what he found. Similar happened for Harry Potter. Researching both sides and responding to real criticisms does not seem important to Arms who holds the view of what my ministry partner calls, “The godly man in authority.” The cause is just and necessary so one cannot be bothered with details like this. Ironically, it’s also an anything to win mindset.

On p. 95, he writes about parents complaining that their children spend all day playing Pokemon. First off, parents need to be able to control their children properly. If you have a problem with what your kids are doing, try to exert some authority. Second, how about this for an idea? Play the game with them. Many kids would love it if their parents would take an interest in their games.

On p. 99, Arms tells us about how his children talk to others about controversial subjects on the playground and get ridiculed. Arms tells them that this is what Jesus said would happen. We would be persecuted and this shows tht we are on the right track. Now let’s suppose I send this to Arms, which I think I will. He writes back and he gives a lot of criticisms. If I followed his logic, that means my thinking is on the right track since I am being persecuted.

This is bad logic on Arms’s part. To say If you follow Jesus, you will be persecuted, does not equal, if you are persecuted, then you follow Jesus. If it is raining, the sidewalk is wet. The sidewalk is wet, so it is raining. False. It could be raining. It could be a walker spilled a drink. It could be a sprinkler system came on. It could be it was raining yesterday and the sidewalk is not dry. It could be flooding is going on in the area and the sidewalk is not only wet but underwater. You get the idea.

On p. 114, he says the creators of Pokemon have now released Digimon. This is false. Pokemon and Digimon are often seen as rivals to one another. Again, this is basic research Arms could have done. He should not speak as if he is an authority when he has not done basic research.

He also says a number of websites for Pokemon are proud of their linkage with D&D and another game called MAGIC. He quite likely means Magic: The Gathering, which I have never seen referred to as MAGIC. If guilt by association works, I encourage him to ban Parker Brothers and Playskool. Both of them have the backing of Hasbro who manufactures D&D and other such games. Parker Brothers produces Monopoly and Ouija Boards both. Guilt by association does not really work.

On p. 127, Arms lists Isaiah 14 as an example about the life of satan. This is not about the devil. The figure in the account is a man. One can make a parallel if they want to, but I see it as no reason to think that is in the mind of Isaiah. This does not mean I do not hold to a real devil. I think the Bible is clear that he exists. I do not think he is talked about as often as people think he is.

In conclusion, Arms’s work is really lacking. It is the kind of fanatical paranoia that gives Christianity a bad name. We can appreciate his zeal, but we know that Scripture has a problem with zeal not in accordance with knowledge and much of Arms’s work I think will drive more people away than it will bring them to the Kingdom.

Now if you’ll excuse me, as I have said, my wife and I were gifted with a Nintendo Switch recently and she’s happily playing Let’s Go, Eevee! I think will go and join her. She loves it when her husband plays Pokemon with her after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

 

Why Suicide And Self-Harm Questions Matter To Me

Why do I take seriously questions relating to self-harm and suicide? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night as I was getting ready to go to bed, I got a question sent to me for a ministry I help answer questions for. It was a question about suicide that also referenced self-harm. The person who passed the question on to me asked me if I was okay to handle it. It was hard, but yes. I was. I did.

Why is it so hard?

Let me tell you about the worst day of my life.

When I met Allie years ago, she had actually just recently before then had a suicide attempt over a guy who was a jerk to her. When I met her, she thought she could make it right with him. That changed quickly. Before too long, she didn’t care about making it right with him. She was interested in me.

So go back a few years ago. I know the date. I don’t want to tell you for my own reasons. I had just got done with a podcast. Allie and my Dad and I were going to go to the movies. I went to see her and was talking to her and she was being quiet. Something seemed strange. I told her I needed to go to the drugstore and she still seemed out of it. Then I heard her say three words that ripped my world apart.

“Nick. I overdosed.”

At that moment, everything comes crashing down. I called 911 instantly in a panic. Fortunately, there was a fire station about a mile away from where we lived. I was calling everyone. I called her parents. I called my parents. My parents lived next door and my mother ran down and jumped on the bed and begged Allie to keep her eyes open.

The firefighters and ambulance that arrived assured us she was going to be okay. They were taking her to the hospital. My Dad and I would follow in his car. Mine had recently been hit by someone and thus I didn’t have one. When my Dad said we would follow the ambulance, I had no idea how literal he meant that. We followed right behind them the whole time through intersections and red lights even.

Allie had multiple people waiting to see her in the waiting room as we had called so many people on the way. Sadly, most of them did not get to see her. I was restless the whole time wondering when I would get to see her. When the time came, I went back there. Of all the people who were allowed to be in the room, two at a time. I was the one who was there the whole time. Her mother also arrived from Atlanta and stayed with her.

I stayed that night with Allie all night long. I didn’t get any sleep. I had to sit in a chair and someone had to come in regularly and turn the lights on to do things like draw blood and other such things. I don’t remember exactly what was done, but I remember being there. The next day, my parents took me home so I could get some sleep for a little while.

I went back that evening and just stayed by her side. We knew sometime they were going to take her to the mental health wing of the hospital. It could have been that night. We didn’t know. When that happened, I couldn’t be with her. The time came that I needed to go. Allie wanted me to stay, but it wasn’t that easy. I had no car. If they took her to the mental health wing, then I would be there at the hospital all night alone with no food and no place to sleep. Not only that, Allie had done this because she felt like two friends of hers had abandoned her. If I go, will she feel abandoned?

It was a hard decision, but I went home. An hour or so later she called me. I was scared she was going to be angry with me. Instead, she said I was right. Within an hour they had taken her to the mental health wing. From there, for the most part, I couldn’t reach her. She could call me sometimes, but they were the rare times.

So I sat at home alone. Many of you know I love doing apologetics, but there was no interest. I would sit in the chair in the living room just watching TV. My mother took care of everything in the house. Also, this time, there was a lot of anger rising up inside of me.

I couldn’t imagine how Allie could do this to me. How could she be willing to leave me like this after all I had done for her? Did these friends matter more to her than me? Was she just telling me that I was no longer worth it? I’m not a good enough reason to go on living?

I remember well the next time I would see her. Allie was taking Dialectical Behavioral Therapy at the hospital. There was a long hall to get to where she was and at the end there was a set of doors with windows you could see through, a short tiny hallway, and another set of doors like that. Now keep in mind, I love Allie, but I was going to tell her how hurt I was and all manner of things. I had a lot of anger in me and I was preparing all I was going to say. It was ready.

Until I went through the first set of doors and saw her at the end of the long hallway after that. As soon as I saw her, immediately I had a mental wipe. I forgot everything I was going to say.

We walked back to the mental health wing. Allie had been allowed to go out for DBT, but soon she would have to go back. We sat on a little bench outside and did I don’t remember what. I’m sure it was talking, hugging, kissing, things of that sort. Once again, it was devastating to see her go back and know I couldn’t see her.

You have to understand that I have a deep devotion to my wife. If things are not the way I think they should be between us, it’s hard for me to function. It is a great disappointment in my life when I think that I do not please Allie. I am always striving to be her man.

A few days later, Allie was able to come home. When she was home, it was wonderful for the first month. Allie was wanting to take care of the house, she was wanting to lose the extra weight she has, she was sharing great notes on Facebook about the joys of knowing Jesus and wanting everyone to know Him, and she was open to my love and freely giving me hers. She walked with a confidence I hadn’t seen. It left me more and more inspired to make changes in my life and be a better man. Ladies. Learn this. If you have a man in your life, nothing will make that man come alive and face challenges like him knowing he brings you joy and you enjoy him.

Except one day, one of those friends she’d thought she’d lost. He had made up with her and then on Facebook he told her she was stupid and from that time on things came crashing down. It all vanished. I do not speak to that person to this day. Before we left Knoxville, I tried to make it right, but things failed miserably. I had to talk to several people to help me deal with the anger. No doubt, there’s still some of it there. Anytime I see someone hurt Allie like this, that anger comes back. I guard her with my life.

Allie also struggles with self-harm. The last time was not too long ago and it was after nearly nine months without. When I found out, I cried for two hours. When I called the crisis line, they were more convinced I was the one in crisis. I don’t care if you think I’m less of a man really for crying for my wife so much. It is an expression of how much she means to me. I had no idea how much any one person could mean to me until Allie came into my life. Today, aside from Jesus Christ, she is the #1 influence in my life.

It hurts me every time. I wonder what is going on that hurting herself brings more relief than letting herself be loved. It is incredibly painful. I am pleased to say Allie has avoided self-harm since then, but I know this is a struggle.

Because of all of this, these questions matter to me. Suicide is never anything to joke about. It’s never anything to be flippant about. It’s also never anything to be glorified and celebrated. We should not treat celebrities who commit suicide like they’re heroes. We can grieve for them and their families, and it doesn’t mean we speak of them like they’re devils, but let’s make sure we all know the action is wicked.

If Allie had succeeded, I know I had the thought going through my head that I was no longer worth it. I would have lived with that thought forever. Suicide leaves such a painful effect on those left behind. They do get to where they can function, but they are never the same.

If you are considering suicide or know someone who is, please reconsider. Get some help at the Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Call your local crisis line also. Whatever it is, it is a temporary problem.

Especially if you are a Christian, embrace the love of Christ at this time and realize that even if He seems silent, He is there. He has not abandoned you. You never truly walk alone.

Whoever you are, your life is worth living. You also never need to hurt yourself. Christ took on enough wounds for you. You don’t need to add any more to them. You matter as someone who is in the image of God.

Please don’t make this awful choice. You have more of an impact on those around you than you know and they will never be the same. Celebrate the people who love you today.

When I get a question now about this, I always take it seriously. It matters greatly. I’ve been there. I don’t want anyone else to have to be there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Review of Paul: The Apostle

What are my thoughts on this movie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Warning! Possible spoilers ahead!

So last night, my in-laws took Allie and I with them to see this movie. As far as Biblical movies go, I actually thought this one was very well done. I cannot really comment on the acting and such because I really just don’t normally notice that kind of thing. I pay more attention to the story.

The story is set in Rome with Paul being held as a prisoner and Luke coming to see him and staying with the Christians in the area. They are often hiding because Rome wants to kill them, especially since this is set at the time of the fire of Rome which Nero was more than happy to blame on the Christians. Christians were regularly lit on fire to provide light for Nero’s games and for any other events he had going on.

Luke meets up with Paul and encourages him to tell his story in an account, which will be the book of Acts. My question at this point is why is it that if this was meant to be Paul’s story that Luke would include so much information at the start that is not about Paul? This is a question that scholars will be debating on why Luke wrote what he wrote. Still, that is a bit nit-picky, but it’s just something I wonder.

Paul will regularly then recount events that happened prior to his coming to Rome and being a prisoner. You can see events like the stoning of Stephen and the road to Damascus. Sadly, there wasn’t much beyond that. It would be fascinating to see Paul at Mars Hill or in Ephesus casting out demons opposite the failed exorcists there or in the Philippian jail cell or in the raging ocean of Acts 27. Perhaps a fuller movie will come out sometime.

Luke also deals with the Christians in Rome who often have different attitudes with what to do. Some Christians want to take up arms and fight against Rome themselves. Some want to flee the city thinking there’s more good to be done outside. Some want to stay in the city thinking that they can still stay inside.

At this point, I find another problem I have as each person decides to do what they think God is revealing to them to do. This is common terminology in modern Christian circles today, but I don’t think it’s the way the ancients thought. It’s more of our individualism seeping through.  I always get bothered when I see something like this in a Biblical film.

The other major character is a Roman soldier who has a sick daughter and the struggles he and his wife have as the gods seem to be silent and each blames the other. This is the same soldier who also has to regularly deal with Paul. It is quite interesting how it all turns out. I leave it to you to go and see it for yourself.

Many times, Paul and Luke and others do quote Scriptural passages in the film. If you have a good Biblical knowledge, you’ll be able to recognize a number of them. Paul is seen as someone who is willing to suffer for Christ greatly. A great theme in the movie is that suffering is temporary. Eternal joy awaits instead.

Biblical movies have normally been a miss for me, but I think after Risen and now with this one, we’re getting more of a step in the right direction. I’m also thankful that a lot of the sappiness of Christian films was left out of this one. There is much suffering in the film and it should be clear to all that the Christian walk never promises freedom from it.

So yeah, I recommend going to see this one. It is an enjoyable film.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts On The Greatest Showman

What did I get out of The Greatest Showman? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I had a Fandango gift card and so we went with another couple from our church to see this movie yesterday. There are no doubt some readers who are more familiar with the history of P.T. Barnum than I am. I cannot comment on if the history in the movie is accurate, so what I’m going to do is to just take the story as is. If we granted the story presented was accurate, what can we get from it? Also, as should be obvious, there are spoilers here. I will tell where spoilers end.

The story starts with Barnum growing up in a poor society and trying to impress a girl who has the rich snobby parents. He writes to her regularly while she’s at finishing school and then shows up at her door to marry her. Her father is sure that she’ll be back where there is money.

Barnum loves his wife, Charity, and their two little girls, but wants to be able to do more for them. He goes with the idea of starting a show where he has wax figures of dead and gruesome figures from the past, but his daughters suggest that he needs something living. Barnum starts by going to find a midget he had seen earlier in the film and from there, gets the oddest and most talented group he can, such as trapeze artists, a dog boy, a man covered in tattoos, the world’s tallest man, the world’s heaviest man, and the bearded lady.

Barnum’s show is a hit with many of the masses, but the critics of society do not like it. Also, there regularly show up people in the community who are angry about the glamorization of the freaks. Barnum’s whole point throughout is encouraging those who society has shamed to rise above. Let themselves be themselves and let people love them not because they are like everyone else, but because they are different.

Barnum gets himself a partner in Phillip Carlyle. After that, he’s invited with his troupe to go see the Queen of England. There, he runs into the star singer Jenny Lind. He offers to take her on tour in America with him, leaving his family and his entourage behind there. On the trip, Lind and he start getting close. Nothing happens until her last performance where she kisses him live on stage where the cameras see it.

Barnum returns where his troupe he gathered around him feels rejected by him and his wife is leaving him because she’s seen the pictures and says he doesn’t love her. He loves himself. There is a fight also between the protesters and Barnum’s troupe and the building where the shows are at burns down. Barnum has hit rock bottom.

It’s at this point he is reminded by that band of misfits that he found that they are why he started this and he remembers what is important. He is able to reunite to his wife and he and Carlyle agree to be partners. They don’t need a building. A tent will do. The show does indeed go on!

END SPOILERS

As my wife and I left, I told her I figured I would blog on this to which she replied there wasn’t anything religious in the film. I told her that that was quite mistaken. Everything is to some extent religious. Christianity has something to say about everything and despite what many skeptics might think, our world has been greatly shaped by Christianity. So what are some things I gleaned from this film?

We could ask what is a human first off. The characters Barnum had were all considered freaks by the protesters and shouldn’t be put on display. But why? We could all understand not wanting to put bad behavior on display, but that’s not what was going on. The people were being rejected because of who they were. They were different. They didn’t fit in.

As someone on the spectrum married to someone on the spectrum, this is something I definitely resonated with. Yet here, Christianity has something else to see. All human beings are valuable because they are in the image of God even if they’re a dog boy or a bearded lady. Everyone is someone who bears the image of God and was made to be loved by Him and by us.

Second, what does it mean to be successful? Barnum wanted more and more, and to an extent that’s understandable, but at times, he lost sight of his family. It as if he got so caught up in providing for his kids that he forgot about his kids. He wanted to provide what would make his wife happy forgetting that she loved him when he had nothing and he is what made her happy. There are many people that can be successes in ministry, but sadly their families are left damaged due to them neglecting their family. Ministry to God does not mean that you neglect your ministry to your family.

Third, we could then ask what is a family and what is friendship. Many of us know about friends that we have that we would consider them family. When I lived with a roommate for awhile, we went to a bookstore and I knew he wanted the apologetics study Bible. I went up to the counter asking if they had it in thinking I would surprise him if I found it for him and got told, “Oh. Your brother was up here already asking for it.”

Biological brother? Not at all, but there is a way that a friend can be closer than a brother. Many have also had families that were less than stellar and they turn to friends to be a surrogate family of sorts. Barnum’s friends managed to come together to form a unity based on their being the rejected misfits of the world. The acceptance they missed with others they found with each other.

This isn’t to say that a family is just any relationship you want. Still, we can have such great friendships that friends will seem like family. If you have a bad family, you can find comfort and support in the good people that you do allow in your life.

Also, I think this movie would not be possible without a Christian worldview that says that each person matters and that something should not be despised for being different. Chesterton said the same about Christianity making childhood something special and so we have Peter Pan. If Christianity is true, everyone has something they can give to the Kingdom.

If you’re wanting to know about how the acting was and such in this, I’m not the one to comment on that. It is a musical and I think the music is great. My wife and I are planning on getting the soundtrack soon. Definitely, this is a film I am glad I went to see and is quite memorable.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Transgenderism on The Good Doctor

Was the right diagnosis made? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Generally, my wife and I enjoy watching The Good Doctor. It’s a great new series about a surgeon who is a savant and who is autistic. What is most interesting is not the diagnoses per se, although it is interesting to see the symbology that shows that he’s thinking about the case and picturing it all, but how he relates to others and how he speaks and understands messages around him.

In the latest episode called “She” the team starts to investigate a young girl who was brought into the hospital by her grandmother. As they start to check out the pain the patient has, they have to uncover her lower regions and lo and behold, they notice that she has male genitalia. Shaun Murphy, the good doctor, says that most everyone should know immediately.

The patient is a boy.

Now some might say that the person who is autistic does not understand how society works, but on the other hand, we could say that person is going to be less clouded by political correctness and such. Over and over, Shaun will regularly refer to the patient as he. Other doctors will correct him, but he will insist that this is the case.

Of course, every other doctor and even the president of the hospital and all involved from the hospital’s side are wanting to be politically correct. The patient says he’s a girl, so by golly, he is a girl. (Please note that that sentence doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It is crazy to even have to say he is a girl unless you’re talking about someone doing an acting job.) The parents also have been going along with this since the patient, Quinn, decided years ago that he was really a girl.

The grandmother in this episode normally plays the role of the villain. Why? Because the grandmother in this episode is guilty of the awful heresy of telling the truth. She is guilty of saying that Quinn is really a boy. I think I once read a quote from Chesterton about how a madman would be one day someone who stood on top of a tower and proclaimed that two plus two equals four. The rest of the world would gasp at such a claim.

Now we are in the position that we believe in such claims often as assigned sex. It is as if the doctors see the baby coming out of the womb and look at the body and just say to each other “Well what do you think? Is it a boy or a girl?” It’s as if there’s no objective criteria to tell what someone really is. (You know, things that normally don’t change like DNA and genitalia.)

“But what about intersex?” Yes. I know about cases like that, but for the overwhelming majority of these cases, there is no problem with the DNA and genitalia. We’re not talking about intersex here. We’re talking about someone with no ambiguity in their bodies, but ambiguity in their feelings.

The story also goes on to say that Quinn due to his condition tried to commit suicide rather than live like a boy. The parents had then put him on puberty blockers which the grandmother was horrified to learn of. (We can think the grandmother is a person obviously still living in the past and not aware of how progressive we are.) Yet one has to wonder, are we going to say that because one person tried to commit suicide, their reasoning for it was right?

Let’s be clear. People who think that they are the opposite sex of their body do need compassion and understanding. Yes. Bullying is always wrong. On the other hand, so is coddling and giving in to demands. If an alcoholic was wanting to commit suicide rather than live without alcohol, that would not mean we freely give them the bottle.

The episode also dealt with if the patient should have both testicles removed or just one due to a cancerous growth. In the end, only one was removed unless the mind was changed later on. Let’s keep in mind that people think a decision like this should be given to a teenager when many a teenager has a hard time even deciding what they’re going to wear to school the next day.

I find it amazing in the field of apologetics how much we have to defend today and how much we have to defend is that which is often the most obvious. I thought it odd enough when we had to defend that marriage is a man-woman relationship. Now we have to defend that the man is a man and the woman is a woman.

Unfortunately, many of our people are going to be educated through pop culture rather than think through the issues themselves. It is another reason why Christians need to learn how to use the mediums that we have today to better communicate the Christian claim instead of just preaching to ourselves. At this point, I wonder how long it will be before future historians will look back on some of the things that were defended in the popular culture and ask “What were they thinking?”

In the end, Shaun says he is working on understanding. By all means, try to understand what is going on when a boy thinks that he is a girl. Try to understand the person and what they’re going through and how to help them. Don’t try to understand the boy being a girl. You might as well try to understand 2 + 2 being 5.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/27/2018: Nancy Pearcey

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in an age where people are really enthused about their bodies. You can turn on TV and see many fitness shows. You can go to the library or the DVD store and you can find plenty of fitness videos. Of course, we live in an age also of rampant sexuality which means that we really want to appreciate those bodies all the more.

In this, we have a book come out called Love Thy Body. Obviously, this is a book about working out and taking care of yourself. No? It isn’t? What is it about? It’s about in an age where people claim to love their bodies and be fascinated with them, we really don’t listen to them and pay attention to them. With our fitness regimes, we treat the body as fundamentally important. With our philosophies, we treat it as highly secondary. Perhaps it could be that we don’t really love our bodies.

This plays out in a number of areas in our lives. It plays out in abortion, pre-marital sex and the concept of living together prior to marriage, homosexuality, and transgenderism. (You kind of wish the book could have talked about something relevant to today don’t you?) In all of these areas, we deny the truth of the body and put that truth below something else, most notably, our feelings for the most part.

I’m very pleased to have on the author of this book. This is a lady with a razor sharp mind and as I have gone through the book I have often asked, “Why is it that I didn’t put two and two together like this before?” The book I really think is a bombshell on the whole culture war and one that should not be ignored. The author is Nancy Pearcey. So who is she?

According to her bio:

Nancy Pearcey is the author of the newly released Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. She is professor and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University and editor at large of the Pearcey Report. Her earlier books include The Soul of ScienceSaving Leonardo,Finding Truth, and two ECPA Gold Medallion Award Winners: Total Truth and (coauthored with Harold Fickett and Chuck Colson) How Now Shall We Live? Hailed in The Economist as “America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual,” Pearcey has spoken at universities such as Princeton, Stanford, USC, and Dartmouth.

I hope you’ll be listening to this show and I hope this is a book you’ll also want to get your hands on. Pearcey gives some powerful arguments that will help with debates you get into concerning homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and pre-marital sex. Not only that, she often writes with a pastoral heart on the need for compassion for people struggling with many of these areas. Please be watching and please also consider going on iTunes and leaving behind a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. It’s always good to know that you are enjoying the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

For Christians Seeing Movies

What should we consider when we see a film? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I have some dinner and a movie gift cards, so today we’re going to go see the new Star Wars movie and then go out for a dinner. Some of you might be surprised to learn I’m not really much of a Star Wars fan. I know the basic story, but that’s about it. We went to see Episode VII because my wife wanted to and that’s the same reason we’re seeing VIII.

So I wanted to give some advice about seeing movies. I’m not going to talk about the usual things you might expect such as sex and violence and profanity and the like. That has been said over and over. What I am saying will apply to not just movies, but to books and most any other form of media as well.

When I was a student at a Seminary, we had a professor who really loved movies and wanted to start discussions based on movies. One night at the seminary all students who wanted were invited to watch The Truman Show. I had never seen it and it was a free movie so I decided to go along.

When the movie ended, the professor came out to ask us what we thought and also to talk about the messages that we saw in the movie. Naturally, this is a room full of Christians and I have no doubt many of them wanted to impress the professor and their peers with how insightful they were. I was off sitting more by my self, but I saw student after student speak up and talk about how X was a symbol of Christ.

It’s understandable. In some ways, I think Christ figures are unavoidable in movies. Christ is the ultimate hero after all and the ultimate example of self-sacrifice. What we have to ask is if that was really what was in mind.

This gets down to how to approach any work of media in the world. When someone goes to see the new Star Wars movie, they could see images that remind them of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that that was in the mind of the producer necessarily and even if it was, it doesn’t mean that the producer of the film is trying to give a Christian message.

When you see a work in the media, try to interpret it based on what you think the author is really trying to convey first. Be honest with the work. If the author is not a Christian, he’s quite likely not trying to convey a Christian message. We would not want someone to watch The Chronicles of Narnia and try to find a Buddhist message in it. We know Lewis is talking about Jesus in it.

Also, keep in mind you can enjoy the movie. Just because a movie or a book is by a non-Christian doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it, and even still you can find some glimpses of the truest story of all in there, even if they are not really intended by the author. If the Gospel is what our hearts really long for, it will come out eventually.

If you’re going to see the new film today, have fun and enjoy it, but don’t try to turn a non-Christian film into a Christian masterpiece. Treat the work fairly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/23/2017: Kevin Schut

What’s coming up Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

People who know me know that while I am certainly big into apologetics, I’ve also had a love of video games all my life. A few months ago, someone gifted me Console WarsThis is a book about the war between Sega and Nintendo, which was a major war in my generation growing up. As I was reading it, I read about Emil Heidkamp who was a devout Christian in the field and helping to produce video games, including such classics as Castlevania. I wondered why it was with my love of games that I had never had someone come on my show to talk about that.

I took to Amazon then to see what I could find. Perhaps you could find some people writing on this, but are there really any professionals in the field? Is there any really scholarly work? Fortunately, I found what I was looking for. I found someone with a Ph.D. in a related field who had written a book on video games and Christianity. He took a very positive approach as he is still a gamer himself and still a devout Christian. I got in touch with him and he was very interested in coming on and now the date has come. The book is Of Games and God and the author is Kevin Schut. So who is he?

According to his bio:

Kevin Schut is the Associate Dean of the School of the Arts, Media, and Culture and Professor of Media and Communication at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, Canada.  He’s the author of the book Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games, and he spends his spare time playing Mario Kart, King’s Quest, and Overcooked with his 3 daughters.

We’ll be talking about various connections between Christianity and video games. How can Christians partake in a field where there is violence as there is in many video games? Does this go against the teachings of Christ? Schut has three daughters, and yet we know that there are many games out there that do in fact highly sexualize women. What are we to say about that?

What about video game addictions? Don’t people spend way too much time playing video games? Some people have even suffered health problems and death due to video game addiction. Are we enabling people to get addicted? Why should we even be playing video games when we have to spread the message of the Gospel?

Also, what about Christians who want to go into the gaming industry and produce games? What do they need to be doing? Are we just going to wind up like we have in other media fields where we will produce media that will be great at reaching other Christians, but not so great at reaching everyone else? Haven’t Christian video games, like Christian movies for the most part, been just awful?

I hope you’ll be listening next time as I combine two great interests of mine for an interview and we talk with someone who has looked in-depth at these kinds of issues. Please be looking for the next episode of the show. If you haven’t yet, also go on ITunes and leave a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Of Games and God

What do I think of Kevin Schut’s book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Dr. Schut’s book is an excellent one that I can easily say that when I got to the end, I was rather surprised. I hadn’t been keeping that much track. This is the kind of book I wish I had had when I was in high school and dealing with issues of doubt and such. I have seen enough damage done by people who are critical of the medium of video games but have not engaged with it.

For my part, I am going to turn 37 later this year and yet I still consider myself a gamer. My favorite kinds of games are RPGs. I am still bothered that I have not got to play Breath of the WildFinal Fantasy is another favorite series of mine and it’s my wife’s hope that somehow we can save up enough money or find someone generous so that we can get a Nintendo Switch so she can play the new Pokemon games.

Like me, Schut is also a gamer. He has seriously wrestled with the arguments on both sides. His favorite games seem to be ones like Red Dead Redemption and Civilization. He also does not deny at all that he is thoroughly committed to Jesus. So what does he say about the games?

Schut does say we need to listen to criticisms. Take time to pay attention to what is being said. At the same time, we should be hoping for critical evaluation and not self-righteous evaluation.

Also, we are living in an age where games are more and more common, including games on our IPhones and Kindles and such. Many people who would likely never play a video game have no problem playing something like Words With Friends for instance. There’s also games that are popular such as Candy Crush which has now become a gameshow, and Angry Birds, which has had its own movie.

He also speaks out against our attempts to Christianize everything. Something is not automatically Christian because it mentions Jesus. Many of us would say the Chronicles of Narnia are Christian, which indeed they are, but you will not find Jesus explicitly mentioned anywhere in them. Our Christian material is usually preachy and we’re very good at reaching ourselves, but not everyone else.

We also have to pay attention to what kind of medium a video game is. One noted difference is that it is interactive. No matter how many times you read The Lord of the Rings nothing new will happen. The story will be the same. No matter how many times you watch the movie, nothing new will happen. Every time you play the game, something different will happen. Of course, there can often be some overriding parameters set for you by the designers of the game, but you have great freedom and influence on the story. No two playings will be the same.

He also does get into the topic of a demonic scare. I was pleased to hear like me, he had a great interest in Dungeons and Dragons as well as Magic: The Gathering. For me, in high school, my friends and I didn’t care for the school lunch at all, so rather than have lunch, we’d go to the library and play Magic all afternoon together.

Unfortunately, too many people have brought into scare stories about such things. Consider the Pulling Report for instance. People who latch onto this do a disservice to those who play the games. Most people who are playing these games are for the most part the same as any other interest. It’s sadly the few that no doubt have other issues going on beforehand that are emphasized.

This naturally gets us into the question of violence in video games. Schut doesn’t shy away from this one, though he does say each person needs to evaluate this for themselves as well. It could be that part of our world is we live in a fallen world and sometimes violence could be what needs to be done. One aspect of this I was considering is that if I’m playing a game like Final Fantasy, one could consider reasoning with a human being, but if a hungry carnivorous creature is coming after me, reason will not work.

Another issue is game addiction. Games do have a tendency to draw us in, reward our achievements, and make us want to do more. There will be a little bit more on this later, but let’s discuss how it relates to addiction. Can some people get addicted? Yes. Still, there is no proven condition like this. Many people do learn to manage their time well. The question is not what do you do, but what do you not do? He also says a temporary obsession is okay. When Breath of the Wild came out, many of my friends were indeed engrossed in that for awhile. (And I hate them for it in a loving Christian way.)

What about sexuality in video games? It is only in the world of video games that a woman can go into battle wearing pretty much a bikini and count that as armor. Video games are usually a world dominated by men, but there are plenty of female gamers. (My wife is playing Pokemon as I write.) The representation on the other hand can be quite different. Women are usually eye candy. There are some exceptions, such as Samus Aran, but we only need think of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and the obsession with some people on finding a nude code for her.

Now to what I said there would be more on later when talking about addiction. What about education? Video games could be a great source of education. For instance, when I studied Greek in Bible College, we used a program called Parson’s Greek Tutor. I would like very much to get my hands on this again as the interactive format made it much easier for me to learn the material and at the time, I was moving ahead of the class even. Every round was a game and I wanted to get perfect and would settle for nothing less which made sure I learned the material very well. As one working on learning the language now, I look back and wish I still had that.

Video games can be used in such a way for us today. There is something real in the concept of edutainment. Ask a gamer about the information they need in a game and many times they will know it because they have to know it to play well. It is practical knowledge for them.

But what about concerns about the digital age killing our minds? To some extent, this is true. To another extent, the digital age is here to stay and we have to do the most with it that we can. Every new medium brings with it changes. The print medium brought changes as does the internet medium and the video game medium. It’s easy to strike at the medium instead of the human sinful tendency.

Schut also has a section on Christians in the video game industry. Many of these are dedicated people and want to do the best they can. They see their work as an act of service to God in trying to make the best game possible. There are few explicitly Christian video games, and this could be a good thing as sadly, many of those are just awful and only reach those of us who are already Christians. Abandoning the industry will only do for that what it does for Hollywood. We need Christians in every field being salt and light.

No discussion would be complete without the social aspects. I remember years ago getting together with my brother-in-law and some of his friends. No doubt, I was the youngest one there, but we spent all of one afternoon playing Goldeneye together. In Charlotte, I would get together with some friends every Sunday night. After some time playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl we would go bowling. When it came time for my bachelor party, all we did was bring the Wii over to a guy’s apartment complex who had a big screen and played Smash Brothers all night long together.

Games have had a way of bringing people together and uniting them. Gaming conventions are places where people can very often be themselves and form friendships easily. It could be that the gamer today is no longer the single guy sitting in his mother’s basement.

If you’re a gamer, you owe it to yourself to read Schut’s book. It is a gripping looking at a neglected medium and one that we need more of. I appreciate that he sent me a copy for review purposes and I look very much forward to interviewing him on my podcast about this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Console Wars

What do I think of Blake Harris’s book published by Dey Print Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is not a book about apologetics.

This is not a book about Christianity.

This is a book about video games.

Yep. Video games.

And yet I think it’s a book helpful for apologetics and Christianity.

A friend gave me this book as a Kindle gift and I always like to try to read books that are gifted to me. It’s about the battle that took place in the late 80’s and early 90’s between Nintendo and Sega. How is it that Sega wanted to take on the giant of Nintendo? What worked? What didn’t? Why is it that Nintendo eventually emerged from that battle and now Sega makes games for Nintendo?

My bias right at the start. I grew up a Nintendo guy. I always favored Nintendo. The time I began bending that was to get a Playstation and that was for only one game. Final Fantasy. The series had moved over to the Playstation and I wanted to be able to play the games.

It was fascinating to read this book and realize about all that was going on behind the scenes when I was growing up that I had no idea about. Why was it that I never saw commercials for Nintendo games when I was growing up? I figured it was because word of mouth and the magazine Nintendo Power were far better ways of advertising. What was going on when Howard Phillips left the company? How did Nintendo and Sega come to be?

There are a number of main characters in here. There was Howard Lincoln, the lawyer who joined up with Nintendo and eventually became their chairman. There’s Peter Main who was vice-president of sales and marketing. Minoru Arakawa was the president of Nintendo of America and the son-in-law of the main company head Hiroshi Yamauchi. Other characters at Nintendo were Bill White, who eventually went to Sega, and Tony Harman.

At Sega, you had Tom Kalinske who was the president of Sega of America. He was hired by Hayao Nakayama who was president of Sega of Japan. Kalinske had several working with him like Ellen Beth Van Buskirk and Al Nilsen and for awhile, Steve Race, before he moved over to work with Playstation.

Other characters show up as well. Emil Heidkamp is one who was a noted Christian presence at Konami and if you ever played Castlevania, you owe it to him. Olaf Olafsson was one of the main people instrumental at Sony in getting them in the video game industry in the mid-90’s. There are more people overall that were involved in everything.

So what kinds of things did I learn? For one thing, I went through this realizing that I had never thought about marketing the Gospel. Now by that, I’m not at all saying we tone it down or change it. Not for a second. I am saying we need to consider how we present it. Someone out on the streets with a bullhorn is giving out the Gospel. Someone making an informed presentation at a church on the resurrection of Jesus is also doing that. Who is likely to have more results? It’s not changing the product. It’s doing what we can to present the product in a way people will like and respond to and catch their attention.

This is especially essential to do today. If you are making a presentation and within the first few moments you do not grab your audience’s attention, you will probably not get it back. They’ll go to their IPhone or anything else at the time. We have to find a way to present the message in a way that reaches them, informs them, and convicts them.

At the same time, we can’t be overly aggressive. One of the big mistakes that Sega made was they tried to overstep and do too much. In the end, that doing too much cost them because they focused so much on the style that substance was lost. Thus, when it came time for a product of substance, it wasn’t ready to go out. I could say more about this, but there would be spoilers for those who haven’t read.

Nintendo, by contrast, had an idea of slow and steady wins the race. Despite the increasing power of Sega, they never really saw them as a threat. Nintendo was focused on substance more than anything else and they believed that time-honored tradition focused on good games was what would win the day.

We must also be working together. When you look at Nintendo of America in their relationship with Nintendo of Japan, there are some disagreements, but overall, everyone is on the same page. Not so when it came to Sega of America and Sega of Japan. These two were often working against one another. Japan always had the final say which often would cripple the American company. We in Christianity must not be so caught up in internal debates that we aren’t working as a unified front. Had Sega of Japan and Sega of America actually been working together, things might have turned out rather different.

Honesty must be a large part of all that we do. When Nintendo released Super Mario Kart, there was talk about it having something called Mode 7. This was a real thing which allowed for some 3-D imagery to take place. Sega had to find something they had that Nintendo didn’t. They found it buried in their games somewhere and it was called Burst Mode. They decided to name it Blast Processing. What did Blast Processing do that was so unique?

Well, nothing.

I mean, it had an effect, but the effect was miniscule. That didn’t stop Sega from making commercials about it acting like it was this great big innovation. The sad thing is that they knew that it wasn’t.

I was very surprised when moral issues came into play. Emil Heidkamp met Tom Kalinske at a show once and talked about how he had become a born-again Christian. Heidkamp worked with Konami and had a standard for the entertainment they would produce and was concerned about where the industry was going. He ultimately left when he saw Mortal Kombat. Kalinske heard his concerns, but when it came time to push the envelope into areas that Heidkamp would not have liked, Kalinske decided to do it. That included finding a way to cheat the system on Mortal Kombat so that Sega could have the blood and violence that Nintendo wanted toned down. Throughout the book, Kalinske will then have issues of conscience, but push them away.

Eventually, some companies started looking into video games and being concerned about the effects on children and such. When Kalinske got a call about this, he seemed to go into a panic mode and tried to explain things the best that he could. When Howard Lincoln of Nintendo got that call he just said “It’s not us.” The difference was remarkable.

By the way, a word about Howard Lincoln. At the end when Kalinske does retire, he gets a very nice letter from Howard Lincoln. This was something that really showed me the character of the Nintendo people. They weren’t saints to be sure, but I think they always tried to play by the rules.

While the lessons I learned were good, ultimately, this was also just a fun read. I could hardly put it down. In many ways, I got to relive my childhood and see so many games mentioned and events that I had forgotten about. I remembered the World of Nintendo centers that I always looked for in the department stores as a kid and I remembered the Play It Loud campaign. It was amazing reading about what was going on that I had no idea about. (Unfortunately, that also included some brief reliving of the travesty that was the Super Mario Brothers movie.)

I understand there’s a documentary being made based on the book. I eagerly look forward to seeing it. Console Wars was a wonderful read and anyone who grew up and saw this battle owes it to themselves to learn what all was going on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters