I guess I should not be surprised that someone created a video game where various deities and religious icons battle one another in combat reminiscent of Street Fighter. After all, you always hear someone say that wars are caused by religion. It is true to some extent, but not a hard and fast rule. I would say that religion is often perverted to justify war.
(Image courtesy of newgrounds.com)
So Faith Fighter was created in classic arcade fighting style: two dimensional side view screen with one on one player action. It is free and available online through any simple Google search. You may be aware that I am a student of World Religion with a Bachelors of Arts in Religious Studies, non-Christian emphasis. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the religions depicted in this game. The image above shows the six possible player fighter options. The elephantine headed guy in the back is Ganesha, Hindu deity and son of Lord Shiva, one of the three central Hindu gods and part of Hinduism’s Trimurti. The blue fellow in the saffron robe to his right is a very East Asian version of Buddha ( I would say Thai by the look of him), not a deity per se, but a prophetic figure and religious icon in Buddhism. To the Buddha’s left is a grumpy looking old man simply labeled as “God.” It is a medieval concept of God’s appearance to say the least, and very Euro-centric, and masculine. I will stop there. The chubby guy sitting down is Budai, more commonly known as the Laughing Buddha out of China. Back and to the left is supposed to be Jesus. His lack of culturally appropriate facial hair not withstanding. He is sporting a loin cloth and one visible nail wound in his hand. Nothing on the feet or a gash in the side, but I guess we have no precedent for accuracy at this point anyway. Jesus would be better depicted the same skin color as the man to his right in green, who is supposed to be the esteemed prophet Muhammad from Islam. With our cast assembled, I am left to wonder about the religions “chosen” for combat.
I know Jesus is for Christianity, Muhammad for Islam, Ganesha is Hinduism, and we have two Buddhas for Buddhism. I supposed God could be for Judaism, but God is prime in Christianity and Islam as well, so I am a little confused. Why two Buddhas? Why not represent Sikhism, a religion that does have a strong military history, an idealized “saint-soldier,” and happens to be the fifth largest religion in the world? I am not sure I would have chosen Ganesha as the representative of Hinduism either. Vishnu and Shiva are much more widely known and prominent deities, not to mention that they could have added a female character in the imposing and fierce female goddess, Kali:
(Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)
I am not sure that Buddhism needed double representation either. Buddhists represent less than six percent of the religious population worldwide, according to the CIA World Fact Book 2010. There are other significant religions that were abjectly left out, such as Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Japanese Shintoism. Alas, they are forgotten, if they were ever known, to the creators of the game. However, if you were to play the game and beat all five other opponents, then you would find yourself battling another religion’s representative:
(Image courtesy of mobygames.com)
Behold Xenu, the final boss of Faith Fighter and the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, or so Scientology says. He is basically an alien, and is depicted that way, as in a classically cheesy rendition, in the game. This is about as asinine a boss match as I can think of, much less a metaphor for a serious battle for world dominance in religious terms. For so many reasons this game is just wrong. Almost all of these deities and icons are peaceful or have turned from the paths of violence during the course of their relationship with humanity. To depict them fist fighting in a mixed martial arts style as if the cosmos were some octagonal battle ground is beyond disturbing, especially to those who hold these persons in beloved status. Religious practitioners have long rebelled against the inference that we should have to fight against those who are not like us, who have divergent beliefs. We seek to find a way to live peacefully with one another, and be in dialogue rather than battle.
At the very least, and I mean very least, Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, not a Muay Thai title belt contender. I cannot imagine Jesus approving of this. It is not about good fun but equal opportunity offense. In choosing to depict these sacred persons in this demeaning manner, they have perpetuated untruths and false stereotypes that do real harm to religious practitioners world over. Whether they meant to or not, they have. I pray that we can get beyond the “us versus them” mentality in the realm of religion and begin to live in peace with one another. I doubt Faith Fighter will get us any closer to that blissful state.