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Christian video game creates a stir

'Left Behind,' a virtual battle for the souls of unbelievers, draws criticism for its 'us vs. them' view of the world.

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"In one cataclysmic moment, millions around the world disappear." Not a bad intro for a dramatic video game. It turns out those millions have been "raptured" into heaven by Jesus. The player's job is to battle to save the ones left behind on earth from the global forces of evil, which are controlled by the Antichrist.

The hitch, though, in this new game aimed at teens, is who constitutes those "forces of evil": activists, secularists, non-Christian rock musicians, and others who resist "recruitment" into the "forces of good" – the believers in a particular kind of Christianity.

Based on the popular Left Behind series of apocalyptic novels, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" is being marketed for Christmas giving through churches and big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart.

But it has created a stir among Christian, Jewish, and activist groups who disagree with the fundamentalist theology the game presents. They say it will teach children religious intolerance and an "us vs. them" view of the world that is both dangerous for the country and contrary to basic Christian teachings. The game's producers disagree.

The real-time strategy (RTS) game takes place in New York City. "You are sent on a spiritual and military mission to convert people, and nobody is allowed to remain neutral," says Eric Elnes, copresident of Crosswalk America, a progressive Christian group, who says he's explored the game extensively. "You lose spirit points if you kill somebody, but you can hit the prayer button to restore the points."

Mr. Elnes's organization has joined with other Christian groups to petition the game's producers to withdraw it from the market. At the same time, two groups that seek to counter the religious right – the Campaign to Defend the Constitution and Christian Alliance for Progress – have written to Wal-Mart requesting that the PC-based game be taken off the shelves.

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