Desecrating the Season?

Would you give your child an electric chair for Christmas? No, I'm not joking, but I wish I were. It seems one toy maker this year is marketing a scale model electric chair -- complete with its occupant -- for a supposedly PG-13 audience. The kids strap "Death Row Marv" into a vintage electric chair. When they throw the switch, a buzzer sounds, Marv's eyes flash red, and his body convulses. Seconds later, Marv taunts, "That's the best you can do, you pansies?" This repulsive device is being sold on the Internet, and, according to promoters, more than 65,000 have been sold already. Well, it's a terrible idea that shows the sad state of modern culture. But it's a lesson: Parents need to be wary. Keep a close watch if you let your kids buy toys online. Even if your child isn't likely to get Death Row Marv, you still need to be careful. Walk through your local computer store and you'll see games like "Battle Zone" and "Total Annihilation." The blurb on one game warns prospective purchasers to "play on an empty stomach!" If some manufacturers have their way, your family will have a "red Christmas" all right -- with virtual blood and bodily parts strewn across the monitor screen. "But isn't there something less violent?" you may ask. Yes. On a previous program I recommended the game "Myst," designed by two brothers who are committed Christians. It's still on our list of recommended games. Earlier this year a Christian computer game was released that's so good that USA Today said it "deftly matches its secular counterparts, challenge for challenge and thrill for thrill." The game "Catechumen" is set in Rome at the time of Nero. The title character learns that his mentor and fellow believers have been captured by Roman soldiers. He works his way through catacombs and eighteen levels of the imperial palace -- rescuing the others from watery chasms, hostile soldiers, fiery pits, and menacing lions. Instead of virtual bullets, Catechumen zaps its enemies with a blast of light -- like what Saul of Tarsus experienced on the road to Damascus. The interactive 3-D graphics and exciting action prompted one reviewer to say it "seems too much of a good time to count as a digital devotional." Another game, "Saints of Virtue," is highly recommended by Christian Computing magazine. The enemy is your own heart -- the organ the Bible calls "deceitful above all things." Saints of Virtue navigates the heart's traps and mazes -- encountering ambushes set by pride, fear, vanity and self- righteousness -- with great sound, 3-D graphics, and fast action. And that's just a small sampling. If a game like this seems a good fit for your child, you may want to download a free trial copy. You'll find a list of game makers who do that on our BreakPoint website. We can also direct you to a good book that covers games, films, audio tapes, and online services. Visit BreakPoint Online to view game reviews and order The Family New Media Guide. As you finalize your shopping this Christmas, be wary of toys that teach kids all the wrong lessons, and choose instead those that reinforce the message of this holy season: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" [Luke 2:14]. For further reading: Berman, A. S. "Catachumen: First Person Shooter on Road to Damascus." USA Today. 11 October 2000. Casteel, Rick. "Saints of Virtue." Christian Computing.


Chuck Colson


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