Flight #22. Departing Seattle, WA en route to Chicago, IL.
I settled into my designated seat alongside a fellow traveler.
It began with the typical exchange of ‘old hat’ questions.
I learned the gentleman worked for Microsoft—particularly in the gaming department of the company. I probed him further, and he explained that he was a Department Head Executive for the popular game franchise called Halo—one of the most competitive, award winning, and purchased video games on the market for the last fifteen years.
As the conversation flowed, he became particularly inquisitive about my role as a Pentecostal minister. While I explained about the Apostolic faith I hold, I mentioned that I was soon to make a return missions trip to Germany. Since he was also soon to go, he asked me about popular things to do in Germany.
I told him that what most impressed me in past visits was a castle perched precariously on a rugged cliff-top home in the Bavarian Alps, coinedNeuschwanstein. This extraordinary castle was, at one point, a candidate for the Modern 7 Wonders of the World.
Intriguingly, Neuschwanstein Castle was built out of pure fantasy in the late 1800’s by King Ludwig II in a time when castles were no longer strategically necessary.
This young king had a troubled personality; he was a reclusive, sociophobe that distracted himself from his sovereign responsibilities by his own outlandish fabrications.
Rather than tackle his disappointments and failures head-on, he immersed himself into a delusional world of building this fairytale castle which abounds in architectural themes that feature numerous full wall murals of scenes from Ludwig’s favorite fictional stories. Needless to say, he spared no costs in its grandeur.
The expense of this eccentric project produced alarming debts as he took out one loan after another to finance the fiction of his fallacy.
Ludwig did all of this while pretending he didn’t have any responsibilities to meet as king, any fixable problems to address, or any demand to critical leadership.
In a conspiracy to overthrow him, Ludwig was mysteriously killed by drowning just as his fantasy castle neared the finish of itsconstruction. Some have commented that it was his devotion to this fantasy that provoked his likely murder.
When I ended my historical discourse, I wasn’t expecting what this executive of the gaming industry would say in response. Somberly, he replied,
“...I guess in a way, that’s what I actually do. I build fictitious worlds for people to escape to.”
His words faded out as that seeming revelation came to him.
I broke his thought-filled silence and asked, “How do you feel about that?”
He looked at me and replied, “I just don’t know.”
That conversation has since fascinated me in that a man prominently and directly involved in a platform of the entertainment industry has confessed to creating a fantasy world for troubled people to escape to so as to avoid their problematic realities. He “owned up” to providing the pixilated bulwarks for manufacturing aircastles—of course, not built of mortar, wood and stone, but built of the invisible brick of fiction.
It’s amazing to me how people no longer desire to thrive in the real world but would rather prevail in worlds that do not even exist.
It is here that I hope to write words as fastened nails, for the following is true: we live in a reality of invested non-realities. Imaginations are inventive (Ecc 7:29), lies are carefully constructed (2 Tim 3:13), the vices that are most viral are seemingly the most vile, while hard work has become a statistical casualty (Prov 20:4). There is a cultural fixation upon fantasies to worship the created “more than the Creator” (Rom 1:21-25). We are dealing with a carefully edited, overproduced, and photo shopped world that is ever offering a kaleidoscope of distractions that vie for our attention to pull us away from responsibilities.
For instance, the virtual “air castle” of excessive video gaming has been clinically identified as similar to taking drugs in that it can raise an individual’s dopamine levels. Parents have spoken out about their children going through withdrawals when they cut their children off from gaming. Some of the truly addicted gamers become angry, depressed, and even violent when they can’t play.
Excessive video gaming has been clinically identified as similar to taking drugs...
Macabre-intent games like Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil provide game play that’s ceaseless in reprobate activity. The immoral behavior within these games are often unavoidable to play through in order to go further in the game; meaning, one usually cannot skip the “bad scenes” to justify the improbable good in that rating of game. Shouldn’t this be an inexcusable concern for those who profess the desire to be Christ-like?
Why would we feel inclined to simulate what God said not to do in reality? The desire to simulate immorality ultimately portrays a heart, at least in measure, that’s curious of that immorality in reality (Proverbs 23:7).
Of course, I’m not suggesting that everyone that plays video games (on Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, Tablets, CPU, etc) are playing the outright unrighteous in variety,—there are seemingly innocent alternatives—but the catalogue of this day is producing more unrighteous options than innocent ones. According to the website Healthline, 90% of popular video games portray violence.
It’s not just the unrighteous content that is prevalent, but it’s proven that many use gaming as an “air castle” of escape when life is bad. In fact, those that are intensely addicted rarely make visits to the real world, and when they do, it’s only temporarily to do what’s necessary to survive in their anatomical reality. All the while, friendships deteriorate, futures are staunched, critical times are wasted, and potentials are left undeveloped all for the sake of living in a fantasy world of matrix computer code.
I’ve personally encountered “Christians” who, at (roughly) 30 years of age, play video games all day, every day while their bills are paid by desperate parents—even though 2 Thes 3:10 instructs otherwise. They live as though they deserve life’s boon of blessing handed to them in a perfumed, ribboned box to be received without lifting a finger. Should such a man stay in the cradle of infancy all his life? Perhaps the said person would do well to rob the cradle of himself.
Let’s be clear: to refuse responsibility equals the self-confession of desiring no purpose for actual living. This is a tragedy produced by a will to live in the scentless garden of virtual fantasy more than the rich bloom of reality.
However, the demand for responsibility isn’t only for those entangled in the jungled labyrinth of the gaming world, but responsibility is also a principle rife with neglect outside the context of gaming.
It has been said about our society that never before has a generation so diligently recorded themselves accomplishing so little.
What a charge!
Some people are prone to fabricate and publish an image of themselves that isn’t reality, but a fantasy. As the church, it could be easy to do the same as we catalogue every experience on social media, of which can be the saboteur that dampens the gun-powder of our best efforts at humility.
Let’s face it, across the board, there can be an intense pressure to compete for “the better experience” so as to appear on top of the world 24/7, on top of trends/fashion, on top of revival, and on top of our field for all to see via Instagram, Facebook, or other social forums. This covert vying for status can often manifest itself on these user platforms where people make others jealous only to (ironically) be made jealous themselves—a vicious cycle. We need to command our attention on our intention of why we feel the need to post certain things before we do. What do we really hope to accomplish? Is it promoting God’s glory, or is it covertly promoting oneself? It’s impossible to do both (Roman 3:5,7-8, 8:7-8). If a man chases two rabbits, he will catch neither. The mask may be successfully conveyed to viewers as “glory to God”, but God sees it as it is. Therefore, let us “...provide things honest in the sight of all men.” as Romans 12:17 commends us do.
One might wonder that if social media was a person it would be in a constant pose. The affirmation that comes from the ‘posing pursuit’ of popularity is the modern “substitute-savior”—the “air castle” of this tech age. But, it’s a substitute with no lasting substance for the affirmation we truly need only comes from God. I want to live for the applause of a nail-scarred hand, not the “like/heart” tapping-fingers scrolling past my post. We need a passion for God that transcends peer pressure, trends, and the vicarious feeling of affirmation that comes with the virtual ovation of social media.
I don’t want to fall for the sham of posting much about spiritually-oriented things yet employing little practice of the same. The bottom line is if we want the same result as the heritage of old, or better yet, build on top of the inheritance we received from them, then we need to become just as responsible as they were (and still are) and practice the same work ethic.
This is a call to this generation to fiercely shun the alluring fantasy of the victim mentality of this era and act on our entitlement to responsibility. Prayer rooms need robust warriors. Pastors need faithful volunteers. Fasts need to be sacrificially fasted. Communities need to be passionately reached. Bible Studies need to be effectively taught. Buses need to be driven—the list is endless!
This isn’t a call to position, title, praise, or honor—for if one is lobbying for “the high seat” (Luke 20:46), one may be better suited in the “high chair” and returning to the basic “milk” principle called humility for, clearly, some mature ‘meat’ aspects will have to wait till one can chew without choking on an advanced calling that is prematurely experienced.
The question of maturity is not determined by age;
...True maturity is rather determined by humble obedience to the call of responsibility.
We need a generation that knows the difference between a lazy bone, a funny bone, and a backbone and who have the inertia to tackle ‘the fields white unto harvest’ with a grit-based work ethic that equals God’s purpose for them.
Responsibility is not a cross to bear, a plague to be avoided, or a burdensome enterprise; but, rather, is a privilege. What a “great break” we have been gifted—to revel in the opportunity of giving our best selves to God’s service.