I just finished reading the current edition of the Highland Study Center’s monthly publication, Every Thought Captive, with the theme “Revolt Against Maturity.” It’s a good issue, and it will eventually be on the net, but not yet. Several of the articles, such as “Theologians in Diapers,” are excellent, and I would welcome access to them when available.
The general critique of the HSC authors is one that is being marshalled all across the God-blogosphere these days: men in our culture are immature, and are postponing maturity while embracing adolescence. They are addicted to juvenile ideas, activities and behavior. They engage in the pursuits of children long after they should be married and embracing adulthood. It is the avoidance of marriage and responsible maturity in the support and nurture of Christian families that is at the root of much of the culture’s invasion of the church.
(Bloggers Alex and Brett Harris write about the same phenomenon in “Addicted to Adultescance” at Boundless webzine. Al Mohler addressed the issue in April of ’05 with “The Generation That Won’t Grow Up.”)
High on the list of immature activities of today’s young men are “video games.” Sproul, Jr’s article “Confederacy of Dunces” mentions video games no less than 6 times in two pages as a marker of immaturity among men.
I haven’t played video games seriously since the early 80′s. (My recent acquisition of Civ IV is sitting unused in my cd rack.) I am aware of the part that video games play in the life of young people. My students are more involved in video games than any other kind of recreation. My school chess club, long a success at our school, was effectively done in by video games.
I think I could probably give a good talk on twenty bad things about video games, and passably impress the audience of a “family talk” radio program. I see the content of many games, and I cringe right along with any other morally sane person.
Still…it seems to me to be a bit of a pot-shot to continually use video games as a marker of maturity. Just as I am aware of the stereotypical “dark” and “troubling” side to video games, I know that millions of normal, mature men, devoted husbands, church leaders, responsible citizens with no unusual attraction to “adultescance” play video games.
Is it just me, or is there a tendency on the part of evangelical culture critics to always look for the latest version of “corrupting technology?” First radio. Then television. Then records. Then MTV/videos. Then animation. Now computers and video games and so on. All are conveyors of culture, and culture is fallen, even rotten. The devotion of Americans to technology has implications, but are the critics right that video games, as the latest in a long line of amusements that dominate youth culture, hold a particular danger of keeping grown men acting like boys?
Somewhere in all of this lurks “the man in the grey flannel suit,” i.e. the 1950′s style “adult” who was responsible and thrifty, and quite the distortion of a Christian version of a man. Evangelicals fear the triumph of the counter-culture that made that responsible father into a hated icon, and the technology of adolescence is a prime culprit. But have they gone too far? Was Jesus pointing us to Ward Cleaver as the grown up? (And he was a great example of a grown-up. Don’t miss my point.)
While evangelical moralists and culture warriors focus on men playing video games, I wonder if the “adolescence” of much evangelicalism has been noted? Not its devotion to gaming, but its addiction to entertainment and consumerism, and its reduction of discipleship to activities participated in and Christian consumer goods purchased.
Are Christian radio and television activities for the “mature?” Concerts? Movies? Fellowship events? Conferences?
I sometimes wonder how much Jesus himself is the definition of maturity we are looking at. There is something about Jesus that would never make the “family values” contingent very comfortable. So much of what he did seemed- to those who criticized him- a kind of immature rebellion against responsibility and tradition. He was not a cultural icon of conformity to expectations. He warns us, I believe to beware of looking for “maturity” in places other than the Father’s imprint in His sons.
I’m not taking these critiques to task. They are needed. I simply wonder if a focus on caps, clothes and video games is stereotypical to a fault. Are we wrong to say that Jesus would play a game, whether it be soccer or a video game? If Jesus wouldn’t play a game, what is the reason?
Maturity in the image of Christ may be more diverse and less driven by the analysis of evangelical critics than we are led to believe by those who have their own ideas of what Christian maturity/politics/culture/ etc ought to look like. Jesus’ own maturity was measured in devotion to God’s will and to God’s mission. Isn’t that what we should be pointing out?