I don’t think Christians have done very well in the realm of ‘play’. We have very poor theologies of art, entertainment, leisure, and representation. A reformation inheritance has tended to downplay the importance of ‘play’ in life, and so relegated it entirely to the realm of childhood, which has meant it’s not a topic for serious discourse, and it’s something we want children to give up and grow out of.
However play is very important. Ask some developmentalist-types and they’ll tell you that. But what I want to ponder today is how play is important to social development and social normalisation. My hunch is this: the way we play, or what we play, is often an idealisation of cultural values. Now, I’m not trying to draw a very straight line, as if every act of play is of deep significance, that cruelty to animals or violent video games are automatic producers of serial killers. Read a few research papers and those links are tenuous at best. No, rather the imaginative worlds people regularly inhabit, have a formative effect on their values.
This is why I’m opposed as a Christian to violent games on the whole. Actually, I think a distinction needs to be made between representations of violence and simulations of violence. It is simulations of violence that I’m opposed to. Not because I think simulating violence produces violent people, but because simulating violence helps build up a mindset in which violence is normalised and legitimised.
If the Christian vision of the world is one of the ingathering of the nations into the church, the body of Christ which consists of a new humanity not riven by ethnic and national divisions, why would I want to uphold and honour the professional soldiery of nation-states, whose basic allegiance is to defend the sovereignty of nations by means of killing others, when the whole gospel is subversive of nations by declaring them and us both equal and in solidarity in Christ? If the pattern of Christ is submission even unto death, why would we model our play on self-assertion to the point of death?
The core of the Christian gospel is that Christ came to die to accomplish our redemption and reconciliation, so that the pattern of his life has become the pattern of Christian life. Conflict, within the NT, such as it is, is never about force of arms. Not from Christians. So why would we inculcate the values of a foreign belief system about violence, in our leisure and play, especially for our children?