Those buying it must be 17 years old, given it is rated M for mature audiences. But that has not prevented leaders at churches and youth centers across Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches that have cautioned against violent entertainment, from holding heavily attended Halo nights and stocking their centers with multiple game consoles so dozens of teenagers can flock around big-screen televisions and shoot it out.
The alliance of popular culture and evangelism is challenging churches much as bingo games did in the 1960s. And the question fits into a rich debate about how far churches should go to reach young people.
Here's a short essay by Lane Palmer--quoted in the NYT article above--using Halo 3 as an illustration of Biblical principles. I imagine that some youth pastors try to use games as a springboard for spiritual discussion (which, let's be honest, is a bit of a stretch), while others see them as just a social activity that gets kids to come to youth group meetings.
I'm not at all surprised--console games are pretty much ubiquitous in the US these days, and multiplayer gaming is a major pretext for social gatherings. The idea of using them in youth ministry is not a new phenomenon--I know of a few youth workers who were using multiplayer LAN parties as a way of connecting to kids even in the days before the XBox and Playstation 2. But of course, Halo and its ilk are a lot more graphically violent than the games of my youth.
What do you think about the use of Halo or similar games in youth ministry? Does your church use gaming get-togethers as a way of connecting to its young people? Does it bother you that violent games are being used in this manner, or does it not seem much different than church paintball games? Share your opinion in the poll at the top of this post, or in the comment section below!
(And whatever you think of Halo in church, remember that it could always be worse!)