New Generation of Video Games Seeks to Create Cultural Understanding and Inspire Evangelism – Drew Dixon

New Generation of Video Games Seeks to Create Cultural Understanding and Inspire Evangelism

 

Most video games are made by Western Developers for Western audiences. They tend to treat non-Western cultures, religions, and people as curiosities at best and dangers to American ideals at worst.
While video games are notorious for playing fast and loose with other cultures, a new group of developers is refusing to exploit them as props or machine gun fodder. These developers not only make a conscious effort to understand and honor the people represented in games but challenge players to do the same.
This year’s Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), the nation’s largest video game convention for fans, demonstrated the best and worst video games have to offer in terms of understanding people groups outside our cultural context. Above the booth for Far Cry 4 hung a giant poster of a white man with blonde hair sitting atop a beheaded Hindu statue with an assault rifle and a rocket launcher.
In the Far Cry series, the player’s primary interaction with people of other cultures is not to understand them but to exploit and subdue them. But the cultural insensitivity in Far Cry 4 is tame compared to its predecessor. Far Cry 3 puts players in the shoes of Jason Brody, an American vacationing on an island in Southeast Asia when he and his friends are kidnapped. Brody escapes and finds himself embroiled in a war to overthrow the pirates that have turned the island into a hotbed of drugs and human trafficking. As the game progresses, the island’s indigenous people adopt Brody as their savior and he goes on to colonize the island.
The Far Cry series is not the only culturally exploitative game on the market. Video games tend to “exoiticize” or demonize people of other cultures, said Kevin Schut, who wrote Of Games and God.For instance, most Indian characters in games are mysterious religious gurus and Arabic characters are typically terrorists.
“These stereotypes reinforce misguided beliefs that we have about those who are different than us,” Schut said.
But another game shown at PAX tells a different story. Never Alone features the Inupiaq people, a Native Alaskan tribe. Andrew Stein of E-Line Media, the organization producing the game, told me his team hoped Never Alone would be a means to share and celebrate extended world culture and inspire youth to take an interest in other countries and traditions.
The game began as an initiative of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a nonprofit group serving the Inupiaq and other Native Alaskan tribal groups. The council was looking for a creative way to counteract startling negative trends among Inupiaq youth. The current graduation rate of the tribe’s teens is less than 50 percent.
“We spent many, many hours with folks from the community—elders, storytellers, artists, youth—really asking questions, trying to understand their perspectives, their history, their values,” saidSean Vesce, Never Alone’s lead developer. Never Alone‘s success required it to be a great game and accurately depict and honor Inupiaq culture, Vesce said.
Another culturally sensitive game, This is My War, puts players in control of civilians trying to survive, rather than soldiers attempting to conquer. This unique war game was inspired by One Year in Hell, an anonymous memoir written by someone who lived through a siege in Bosnia during the 1990s. Real Lives 2010, an educational game, seeks to bridge the cultural gap between us and those we deem “other.”
In these games, people of non-Western cultures are not treated as curious or dangerous but as human beings with hopes and fears and dreams—people made in God’s image. An upcoming game called Thralled, about an African woman who escapes from slavery with her baby after being kidnapped and taken to Brazil in the 1700s offers the latest, and perhaps the most profound, example of virtual empathy.
Miguel Oliveira, Thralled’s creative director, chose Brazil because he and his team wanted to reflect on the human consequences of the transatlantic slave trade. The developers did extensive research on 18th century Brazil and the customs, tradition, and culture of the people of the Kongo, where Isaura, Thralled’s main character, is from.
“The world of Thralled is seen through Isaura’s eye, and every element depicted in it, everything that Isaura interacts with, means something to her,” Oliveira told me. “We can only depict such a world if we try to understand what kind of person she would be, what shaped her, what she has been through.”
Schut, who is starting a game design program at Trinity Western University, a Christian college, looks at such games and sees tremendous potential. They give voice to people society has silenced, he said, and challenge Christians to take an important first step in reaching the world for Christ: “Christ calls all Christians to be a witness to all people and it is very hard to be a witness to someone that you don’t allow in your mind to be a real person.”

 

 

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Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life – Eric Metaxas

 

One of the least-understood and, thus, overused words in American culture is “miracle.” We use it when describing events that are unexpected or surprising, such as the “Miracle on Ice,” referring to the 1980 U.S. triumph over the USSR in ice hockey. Or, closer to my heart, “The Miracle Mets,” who won the 1969 World Series.
Then there’s Marianne Williamson’s “Course of Miracles,” which is little more than magical new-age thinking—and of course its Christian counterpart, the “name-it-and-claim-it” theology.
These misuses of the word “miracle” have cheapened its value and made it increasingly difficult to recognize the genuine articles and, more importantly, to understand their significance in our lives and the lives of others.
Now, the flip-side of this glib use of the word is the categorical rejection of the idea of miracles. This rejection was neatly summed up by Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker in an article about faith and belief in which he wrote, “We know that . . . in the billions of years of the universe’s existence, there is no evidence of a single miraculous intercession [sic] with the laws of nature.”
This extraordinary statement was as much as statement of faith as the Apostles Creed. It is made possible by a worldview that dismisses outright any likelihood of anything beyond the material world of time and space.
Well, my latest book, “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life,” represents my attempt to correct both these errors—and, let’s be plain, that’s what they are—and to help Christians and non-Christians alike to understand what Christians mean—or at least should mean—when they use the world “miracle.”
For me, a miracle is when something outside time and space—which is to say outside the material, natural world—enters time and space, whether just to wink at us or to poke at us briefly, or to come in and dwell among us for three decades.
Think of the Gospel of John, which refers to Jesus’ miracles—turning water into wine, feeding the 5,000, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead—as “signs.” They are called “signs”—sémeion in Greek—because they point, like all signs, to something beyond themselves.  In this case to a larger, unseen, reality.  They don’t compel faith. Instead, they are reminders that the world as we perceive it and wish it to be is not all there is.
A case in point is our very existence. As I discuss in the book, the more you know how fine-tuned the universe is, the more utterly miraculous our very existence seems. The minutest variations in the force of gravity, in the strong and weak nuclear forces, would render our existence impossible.
But of course, not all miracles are on a cosmic scale—which is what the first half of the book is about. In the second half I tell stories of miraculous interventions in the lives of people I know personally. I hope you are as awestruck and thrilled by reading what God has done in their lives as I was learning and then writing about their stories.
Folks, there is more to, well, everything, than we perceive—and dismissing this idea requires just as much faith as embracing it. My prayer is that the book will not only encourage and fortify believers, but that it will open—even ever so slightly—the eyes and minds of skeptics to the possibility of the miraculous.
My new book, Miracles, does not release until next week. But we do have the book available for pre-order at BreakPoint.org today. And my colleagues at BreakPoint will send an autographed copy to the first 100 folks to respond. So please go to the website for details.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children’s books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

5 Ways Churches Can Help Stop the Ebola Hysteria – Tom Ehrich

5 Ways Churches Can Help Stop the Ebola Hysteria

 

Once the first person in America died from Ebola, the usual bigots and ideologues blamed it on President Obama, whom they loathe. Some suggested Obama deliberately allowed the virus into the U.S. for nefarious purposes.

“He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude,” said Phyllis Schlafly, the matriarch of America’s religious right.

Every misstep will be laid at the president’s doorstep, as if he personally ordered a Dallas hospital to screw up.

Such nonsense plays well in an election year, at least with a certain portion of the electorate. But the question remains: How are we as a society to deal with a potential contagion that could impact our lives?

Our worst instincts, as always, will be to blame whatever we don’t like, to imagine barriers and travel bans that would protect us, and to turn against each other. Schlafly, for one, blames Obama personally for  “letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people.”

Similar instincts served us poorly after 9/11, during various Red Scares and during our many wars. They are like a child’s instinct to hide under a bed: We crouch in fear without thinking first.

Our current legislative leaders, unfortunately, have little instinct for leadership. They are most likely to harvest votes among the fearful by stoking their fears. All but the most responsible media will join them in making hay from havoc.

Let’s imagine a better scenario, perhaps even one that faithful people could help to bring about.

First, no cheap blaming. God isn’t causing this virus to spread through western Africa as some sort of punishment for the people there, or to come to these shores as some punishment of us. Diseases happen, and they spread through a combination of bad luck, human error and ignorance.

Second, people need to be helped back from the edge of hysteria. Not through unrealistic predictions, as we seem to be hearing now, but through confidence in those tackling the virus and our ability, through common sense and bravery, to deal with it.

Third, we need to take personal responsibility for getting informed and staying informed, so we can provide useful guidance to children and the vulnerable and take appropriate precautions within our sphere of care and influence.

Fourth, we need to look outside our walls to see who needs help. Beyond family, beyond church, beyond our community — where is help needed, and can we provide it?

Fifth, we need to muster our personal and spiritual resources and find the courage to face something largely beyond our control. If the Ebola virus breaks out of current containment measures and spreads into the general population, our communities will require people with mature judgment and the courage to stand against the legions of fear.

This is a lot to ask. Little in our faith formation has prepared us to deal with such things. Faith communities need to be preparing now, not later. Teaching good theology, for example, in the area of disease causes. Forming emergency response teams. Preparing safe places in case hysteria gets out of hand. Checking in with constituents to counter isolation.

It could well be that none of these steps is necessary to deal with Ebola. But the effort won’t be wasted, for these are fearful times. Ideologues are in full assault, and people are too isolated for their own good. Getting ready for Ebola will get us ready for other crises, as well.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is http://www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

Why You Don’t Need to Fear the News – John Stonestreet

 

On a recent broadcast, Shepard Smith of Fox News took to task what he called the “hysterical voices” that are spreading fear and panic over Ebola in the United States.
After telling viewers that “You should have no concerns about Ebola at all. None. I promise,” he added, “Fear not. Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and the television or read the fear-provoking words online. The people who say and write hysterical things are being very irresponsible.”
“Fear not.” Now whether he was aware that he was quoting scripture or not, that’s what he was doing. God and His messengers uttered those words to God’s people at least eighty times in the Bible. In fact, by some estimates, “fear not” and variations such as “be not afraid” are the most often-repeated commands in all of Scripture.
That’s fitting because it also might be the most transgressed-against command, especially in modern life.
We all know the expression “sex sells.” But it’s also true that fear sells, especially among the middle-aged and the elderly. If you can stand it, try watching an afternoon worth of commercials and take note of how many of them appeal to fear and anxiety that we have over, well, everything: our health, our family’s future, our finances, and, especially in the run-up to the November elections, our national security, special interest groups and our very way of life.
And it isn’t only the ads: The reason for what Smith called the “hysterical voices” is that television networks and other media outlets know that fear and panic are good for business.
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t things in the world today to be concerned about—of course there are. Besides Ebola, we’ve got ISIS and the collapse of order in the Middle East, home-grown terrorism, the decay of decency, growing restrictions on religious liberty—and for some, simply putting food on the table.
But make no mistake, the media know that a frightened audience is one that will stay tuned-in for every scrap or morsel of news, no matter how fragmentary or out-of-context it might be.
I wish I could say that Christians are immune to this kind of fear and are innocent of the sin of fear-mongering. But we’re not. In fact, let me be honest with you: While we would never intentionally stoke fear among our listeners, one of the hardest things we do at BreakPoint is attempt to strike a balance between telling folks the unvarnished truth about the challenges that Christians face and avoiding giving them a reason to be fearful and to despair.
And on behalf of Eric and all of our team, at any of those times that we’ve failed to strike that balance, we apologize to you and we repent before God.
As Christians, we ought to know better than to fear, because we know how the story of the world—and our story—ends. It’s an ending beautifully summed up by Thomas Howard in his book, “Christ the Tiger.” In which he reminds us that our Lord announces that he “[makes] all things new” and does “what cannot be done.”
Here’s a passage from Howard’s book:
God “[restores] the years that the locusts and worms have eaten . . . the years you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheel-chair . . .  the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny and the failure of justice. . .”
And, in an awe-inspiring act of grace, God restores “the good which [our] own foolish mistakes have cheated [us] of.”
How do we know this is true? Because He raised his only-begotten Son from the dead. He destroyed sin and death, and in so doing, demonstrated, to quote Howard again, “the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.”
This is the Good News that not only overcomes fear, but for those who have heard it, it renders fear absurd.
One of the greatest gifts we can offer an increasingly-fearful world is to be hopeful, to proclaim the good news, and more importantly, to live as if it were true.
So, brothers and sisters, fear not. He has risen. Indeed.

VIDEO: AIJAY – SAY AMEN

Here is the anticipated ‘Say Amen’ video from Singer & Songwriter, Aijay. The song was produced by Wizboyy and the video shot in Lagos by
 ace video director, Frizzle & Bizzle Films and beautifully delivered by the sonorous singer, Aijay reminds us of the importance of living with the consciousness of who we are as children of God and the access we have because of who our (Heavenly) Father is. He gives us richly all things to enjoy because the earth is His along with its fullness.

 

PREMIERE: JOI MOR – CHIM’OMA (MY GOOD GOD) PROD. JOHNNY DRILLE

Displaying Joi Mor.jpg

 

Gospel artist and songwriter, Joy Anwuli Nmor popularly known as Joi Mor has been in the music industry for quite a while. She released her debut album You’ve Got Me Tripping back in 2011 which was produced by A-List producer, GospelOnDaBeat. The album got rave reviews and enjoyed massive airplay all over the country.

The singer who hails from Ndokwa West LGA in Delta State was born into the family of an architect, Mr Edwin and late Mrs Mabel Nmor. Over the course of her music career Joi Mor has shared the same stage with the likes of Freke Umoh, Samsong, BNG, Jude Sax, FootPrint5, Jahdiel amongst others. The Benson Idahosa University graduate of Economics who also currently runs a masters degree in the same field is passionate about making music that reaches the soul as well as glorifies God..

After a brief hiatus from music Joi Mor is back with CHIM’OMA which means MY GOOD GOD. It is an upbeat afro-dance love song produced by Johnny Drille. The song which was inspired by religious happenings around her emphasizes the Father and child relationship that God has with us and how it never fades.

 

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Music: Na You – Jeje Michael

Michael's New Graphic Art Picture

 

“Na You” is a song of thanks to THE ALMIGHTY FATHER, for HIS GRACE, LOVE, FAVOUR, MERCY, and HIS BLESSINGS. The song was written by Jeje Michael in 2012 after listening to the testimony of a dear friend who was healed of a brain tumour. The song was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria and produced by Skelly Beatz in 2014.

 

 

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Secularism Grows as More U.S. Christians Turn ‘Churchless’

Secularism Grows as More U.S. Christians Turn ‘Churchless’

 

If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.
How does 38 percent sound?
That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.
He calls his new category “churchless,” the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”
If asked, the “churchless” would likely check the “Christian” box on a survey, even though they may not have darkened the door of a church in years.
Kinnaman, president of the California-based Barna Group, slides them into this new category based on 15 measures of identity, belief and practice in more than 23,000 interviews in 20 surveys.
The research looked at church worship attendance and participation, views about the Bible, God and Jesus, and more to see whether folks were actually tied to Christian life in a meaningful way or tied more by habit or personal history.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, once called nominals — people attached by name only — “survey Christians.” They don’t want to cut ties with their parents or go all the way to atheism, Stetzer said, “so they just say ‘Christian’ since it is the default category from their heritage.”
Kinnaman now has the numbers to back that up.
“We are far from becoming an atheist nation,” he said. “There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular attender at a house of worship.”
How these people think, pray and use their time is shifting away from a faith-based perspective. As a result, a churchless or secular worldview “is becoming its own social force.”
When political scientists burrow into election results, they may find that church attendance is less and less useful for predicting or evaluating political social and cultural attitudes. If you are not around people of strong belief, there’s not a lot of spillover impact.
Stephen Mockabee, an associate professor of political science at University of Cincinnati, has compared church attendance to medication: “It’s not only the drug but also the dose that matters.”
The churchless come in several tribes, according to Kinnaman.
About a third (32 percent) still identify as Christian. They say they believe in God but they’re wobbly on connections. Kinnaman calls them “Christianized but not very active.”
That might include Katie West of Mount Sterling, Ky., or Mike Wilson of Webster City, Iowa.
West keeps the Christian label because, she said, “I follow or at least try to follow the teachings of Christ.” She avoids religious services “unless roped into a wedding or funeral,” but considers herself “a spiritual person without looking at a Bible.”
Wilson is the paid webmaster for a Lutheran church but he can’t recall the last time he attended a worship service or read the Bible. He checks the Christian box if asked in a survey, even though he resonates more with Buddhist and other Eastern philosophies.
“Religion is the starting point to enlightenment, but at some point you have to take that leap of faith and make your personal relationship with God exactly that — personal,” Wilson said. “So if you can find a religion that encompasses that better than Christianity, I will call myself that.”
Other “tribes” among the churchless include:
* 25 percent are self-identified atheist or agnostics. Kinnaman calls them “skeptics.” And their ranks have changed in the last two decades. The percentage of women is up to 43 percent from 16 percent since 1993. Highly educated and more mainstream than before, “this group is here to stay,” he said.
* 27 percent belong to other faith groups such as Jewish or Muslim or call themselves spiritual but not religious.
* 16 percent are Christians — people with a committed relationship with Christ, Kinnaman said — who don’t go to church anymore.
Kinnaman predicts no change in direction. He concluded: “The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is”:
* Millennials (born between 1984 and 2002) — 48 percent
* Gen X-ers (born between 1965 and 1983) — 40 percent
* Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) — 35 percent
* Elders (born in 1945 or earlier) — 28 percent
Karen King, 52, a dispatch scheduler for a local transit agency in Mount Vernon, Wash., knows her state is among the least churched in the nation. Yet among the secular crowds, there are plenty of churchgoers.
“I know because I schedule people to get to churches through Dial-A-Ride. There must be 40 or 50 churches between Mount Vernon and nearby Burlington.”
And King goes to none of them.
The granddaughter of a Presbyterian pastor, King says she hasn’t been to church for a worship service in more than 30 years. Her daughter, a millennial and a pagan, doesn’t go either.
Although King still thinks of herself as a Christian, she has stepped back from denominational brands. Instead, she says, she just tries to show love.
“I do random acts of kindness. I talk to God when I think I need to. I think I have a good connection to Mother God and Father God.”