Halo 3: Outreach Opportunity or Threat to Christianity?

WARNING: This is a rant inspired by the article — “Is Halo 3 a tool for outreach or a bad influence?“. The title alone makes me chuckle, but since apparently there are churches who don’t find the topic amusing, I guess we’ll have to address this seriously.

“If you want to reach people you [must] have legitimate, authentic relationships.”

These are the words of Dudley Chancey, a professor here in Oklahoma who is challenging the concept of Halo 3 as an outreach tool. He cites the violence and the passive isolation of gamers (similar to TV viewers) as reasons why Halo is unfit for youth evangelism, arguing that “After I explain [to students] that I’m not into [videogames], the weirdest thing happens — we talk.”

Mr. Chancey makes a number of mistakes here:

  1. The violence in Halo is akin to paintball, cops and robbers, and any number of children’s pastimes. I would argue his real issue is with the aggressive nature that such violence reflects. If he does not understand why this kind of outlet is not only tolerable but imperative for young men, I strongly recommend he read “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge.
  2. Gamers are not passive or isolated by any means, and that’s doubly true for Halo 3. Multiplayer games thrive on teamwork and camaraderie. In high school, my youth pastor hosted videogame parties both at church and at his house, and I met a number of friends through the experience. One of those friends was Jason Pferdeort, who has since become a lifelong friend whom I would trust with my life — where do you think that kind of trust started? Let’s just say he’s covered my back many times with his Halo-sanctioned sniper rifle.
  3. Can you build meaningful relationships by NOT playing videogames? Of course! That’s like saying you can build houses without using stucco — it has no bearing on whether the opposite is true.
  4. “Outreach,” by its very name, involves reaching out to people who are in a different social circle than you. You need common ground to bridge that gap. Halo 3 happens to be pretty common ground among male teenagers. So, why is it that it shouldn’t be used as a conversation starter?
  5. Lastly, Christian parents need to wake up. You can’t protect your baby boy from the world by neutering him anytime he has a taste of testosterone. He’ll either lash out in adulthood or he’ll be the “safe” quiet guy who gets manipulated his whole life. Churches need to lead the effort to reignite the Biblical picture of masculinity rather than appeasing the requests of overbearing parents spiritually unprepared to raise their children.

So, yes, Mr. Chancey, I do think Halo 3 can be used for outreach. In fact, I would argue it’s one of the best ways for youth groups to stay relevant in an increasingly “unchurched” world.

Now if someone could get me a camera and a microphone, I’ll tackle the issue of “unchurched.”

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