Sobbin’ Women and a Rubber Duck: Ellynn’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Ellynn” is a pseudonym.

I didn’t intend to write this.

When the prompt went out about Media Memories I didn’t feel like I had anything to add. Like most homeschool kids, I wasn’t allowed to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, or a decent chunk of Disney. This was in an era of little to no internet access, so I have old art projects where I tried to draw the things from the shows my public school friends told me about with no basic idea of what they were talking about (my idea of a megazord was apparently multi colored ninjas making a pyramid). My media was Nanny Bird and Psalty (the blue fro’d singing psalm book). My younger, non-fundie cousins had Barney. Comparatively, when my youngest siblings came along, Veggie Tales were amazingly watchable.

And you know, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t really terrible. I wasn’t scarred for life because I wasn’t allowed to watch Aladdin. Yeah, as an adult I had a lot of cultural catching up to do, but I’m not upset about it.

So, yeah, I didn’t think I had anything to say about my own Media Memories.

Do you know how much of your thinking occurs on a subconscious level? Little background things collate as you go about your day and then smack you in the face when you least expect it.

I’m one of those people, I’ve always got a song in my head.

While I love it, it’s also quite frustrating because I have no control over the selection. Monty Python, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and various greatest hits of YouTube pop in at the most inappropriate times. More annoyingly, I often revert to songs I grew up with. My Aunt’s favorite country songs, Stephen Curtis Chapman, the Donut Man — I find myself absently singing things I haven’t heard in well over a decade, things I could happily never hear again.

I’m pretty sure I still know all the lyrics to Achy Breaky Heart. Thanks for nothing Billy Ray Cyrus.

So one day last week I was at work and I caught myself absently singing “Sobbin’ Women” from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and nearly threw up. Literally, and let me tell you it was unexpected.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a retelling of the Rape of the Sabine.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a retelling of the Rape of the Sabine.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is something that even the most conservative families I knew had watched. It’s a 1950’s musical, with attractive guys and fun dance numbers and it all ends in a mass wedding. Wholesome, right?

The thing is, it’s a retelling of the Rape of the Sabine, where a group of men came upon the young women of a village at the Sabine river, bathing and doing laundry, and took them by force to be their wives.

Did you know the English word rape rooted in the Latin raptio, which also translates as “abduction”? The reason we root sexual assault within a word that generally translates to abduction is because of this story. It’s also considered one of the foundational moments in Roman history.

Here’s a few of the lyrics from the lesson the elder brother taught his younger brothers about wooing:

Them a woman was sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin’ fit to be tied.

Ev’ry muscle was throbbin’, throbbin’ from that riotous ride.

Oh they cried and kissed and kissed and cried

All over that Roman countryside

So don’t forget that when you’re takin’ a bride.

Sobbin’ fit to be tied! From that riotous ride!

…Them a women was sobbin’, sobbin’, passin’ them nights.

Now let this be because it’s true, a lesson to the likes of you,

Treat ’em rough like them there Romans do, Or else they’ll think you’re tetched.

And the reply:

Oh yes! Them a women was sobbin’, sobbin’,

Sobbin’ buckets of tears

…Oh they acted angry and annoyed, but secretly they was overjoyed!

(Click at your own risk, because damn is it catchy)

So don’t forget that when you’re taking your bride! Sobbin fit to be tied!

And you know, it’s very 1950’s, there’s something like four kisses in the movie, they all seem like lovely kidnappers, and of course the women loved them and they got married, so it was romantic!

As a kid I didn’t really have a concept of what rape was, much less rape culture. I just loved the dresses and the dance numbers.

As an adult I catch myself singing “Them a woman was sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin’ fit to be tied. / Ev’ry muscle was throbbin’, throbbin’ from that riotous ride,” at work and go from zero to physically ill almost instantly.

So I had something to say, but I still wasn’t sure what -—other than “don’t let your kids watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Trust me, they’ll be glad to have missed out on that when they’re older.” But the thing is, in my experience homeschoolers never need to be told not to let their kids interact with media. The slightest hint that someone disapproves is generally enough to get further restriction, and that’s really not  a message I endorse. So yeah, I wasn’t sure where my brain was going with this.

And then, while I was thinking over what to write, a small voice in my head sang “because I love my duck,” and I just knew.

Have you ever seen King George & The Ducky? It is by far my favorite Veggie Tales tape. The songs are catchy, the mini skits are great, THE FRENCH PEAS! Really, what’s not to love. And they managed to tell the story of David and Bathsheba in a way that would be acceptable to children.

Except I’ve never wondered, but why are we telling the story of David and Bathsheba to children?

It’s essentially a story of rape (yes, there are no explicit scenes in the text, but if a king orders a woman he’s never met brought to him for the purpose of having sex, struggle or not, it is totally rape) and murder. What are we going to tell them next? The story of Lot and his daughters, teaching a tale of incest and/or date rape with carrots and peas? Just because it’s in the bible doesn’t mean it’s really appropriate material for children.

But there’s something more than that.

You are not the author of your own story, you’re not even a character, but if you’re really lucky we’ll put you in it as a rubber toy.
You are not the author of your own story, you’re not even a character, but if you’re really lucky we’ll put you in it as a rubber toy.

In conservative culture, be it from the 50’s or 2015, women are generally objects with no agency. Even when they’re main characters, i.e. Elsie Dinsmore, their greatest virtue is in their absolute submission to the men in their lives, their unquestioning obedience and absolute love for these men, no matter how wrong they many be (i.e. Seven Brides style kidnapping plots). If you love and obey your father/man in all things you will have a happy ending – unless God is testing you, then after several years of lovingly submitting through hell you will have a happy ending, probably with the person who was tormenting you through all those years.

Moving beyond the minimal representation women often have in media, there are very few examples of women who are strong, smart, and make their own choices, for good or for ill, in christian media. Heck, a girl making her own choices and having a happy ending was one of the reasons people hated The Little Mermaid when it came out. A man can choose to kidnap a group of women and get a happy ending, a woman can only be good when she is submitting.

Because I love my duck.

Veggie Tales didn’t really have any female characters for the first several installments. They tried to remedy that later on with Esther, Shelby, and Madame Blueberry, who each showed up very sporadically and never really made it into the core character set. I’m not even sure Junior’s mom has any lines.

Bathsheba, the woman who was pulled out of her house, forcibly made consort to the king, and who had her husband murdered, is a rubber ducky. She is literally an object. And that’s a lesson for little girls.

You are not the author of your own story, you’re not even a character, but if you’re really lucky we’ll put you in it as a rubber toy.

King George was my favorite Veggie Tales installment, and now, when I think about it I want to cry.

And that is the trouble with growing up, it’s not the things you weren’t allowed, it’s the things you realize you can never enjoy again because what seemed harmless, cute, and wholesome in actuality makes you ill when you start to think about it.

That, and paying for your own insurance.

When Your First Concert was Carman: Sapphira’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Sapphira” is a pseudonym.

It’s always a really awkward question for me: “What was your first concert?”

For context, my husband owns a record store. This question is typically asked by someone after we’ve been discussing great hardcore, punk, or indie shows that we’ve recently attended.

Well… my first stadium concert was Carman.

[insert crickets chirping noise here].

Well, I’m pretty sure it was Carman, unless, wait, I think maybe I saw Twila Paris and my family was so excited because Mike Warnke – you know – the comedian — was opening for her. Who was your favorite rap artist in the 80’s…. Steven Wiley was rated highly… no one? Anyone? Any Michael W. Smith fans out there? Amy Grant (obviously pre-selling out and going secular)?

My evangelical musical background is not the cool kind of obscure the kids are typically looking for…

When my family converted, they went all in, they burned their old rock music, gave away our evil toys (thank you Turmoil in the Toybox for that trauma), smashed the TV, tossed out the VCR and shifted us over to only “wholesome” toys and music. Homeschooling followed soon thereafter.

I was starting 3rd grade when they pulled me out. I remember my oldest brother (10 years older) having a really hard time adjusting. He tried to trade in his Bon Jovi, Poison, and White Snake for Crumbächer and Stryper, but they just didn’t quite cut it. Plus, it didn’t matter because soon those bands were seen as “gateway” bands and they were also removed from the acceptable playlists.

Eventually it was a very small list of approved music and that is how I ended up at my first Carman concert, being enthralled by a ridiculous song about Lazarus. There would be many more Carman concerts, waiting in line to see The Newsboys, getting super excited to see Tooth & Nail bands, youth group trips to the Christian music festival at Great America, and then reaching the pinnacle of homeschool kid cool – joining the super hip praise dance crew at church and learning choreographed, very modest, dance moves to all of these bands and more to be performed at our outreach missionary programs.

There is nothing quite like boys and girls in baggy modest clothing doing very repetitive choreography to Audio Adrenaline or DC Talk to really get the crowd pumped.

What I always found especially amazing was the ability of some homeschool parents to find something sinister about even these ridiculously over-the-top super Christian bands. For example, my friend’s parents took her copy of DC Talk and recorded over the song “I Don’t Want It” – for those who weren’t DC Talk loving Jesus Freaks…note the lyrics to the first verse:

“S-E-X is test when I’m pressed

So back up off with less of that zest

Impress this brother with a life of virtue

The innocence that’s spent is gonna hurt you

Safe is the way they say to play

Then again safe ain’t safe at all today

So just wait for the mate that’s straight from God

Don’t have sex ’til you tie the knot” (Full lyrics available here)

This song has it all…. It’s perfectly aligned with the I Kissed Dating Goodbye lectures we were getting at youth group…women are the guardians of virtue and the temptresses, the most important thing is to guard your purity, safe sex is a lie, it continues on like this for the entire catchy song.

Yet it was too taboo for my homeschool crew.

About 50% of us were allowed to listen to it as long as we were over 16, the remainder had it removed from their tapes. It’s always amazed me that even though my family are two to three standard deviations away from the norm in their over the top hyper-controlled and restrictive practice of evangelical Christianity, I always had friends with even more restrictive and punitive parents that made my experience seem almost moderate. It was only after breaking away (and finding community in the hardcore/punk/feminist music scenes) that I was able to see how restrictive my family was and was able to begin to chart my own course.

At least it’s been easier to catch up on the music I missed out on…

That whole “unlearning pretend science” and “learning actual science” once I got to college thing was quite a bit more challenging.

50 Shades of Grey or Contemporary Christian Music Lyrics? A Quiz

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Growing up evangelical, I listened to a lot of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I never understood the whole “rock music causes demons to eat your brain” mentality. But I did understand — to some extent — their point that Christian rock music was just normal rock music with “Jesus” pasted on top. To my friends and I, that wasn’t actually an intelligent critique. It was more a joke, something we all laughed about.

Fact is, my peers and I often thought it was funny that many CCM songs appeared to be sexy romance songs where the “you” was just capitalized so it suddenly was about Jesus rather than a hot piece of man-flesh. And some CCM bands — Skillet, most of all — have lyrics that are so spiritually kinky, even actual kinksters might blush.

So to honor this humorous memory of CCM’s steamy lyricism, I decided to create a quiz where you must identify whether certain phrases are lines from the bestselling erotic BDSM novel 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James or lyrics from Contemporary Christian Music songs. So pull out a pen and paper and keep track of your answers; an answer key is provided after the quiz.

Make sure you don’t cheat. God is watching you. As Phil Joel says about God, “He’s gonna keep the night light on. He’s waiting there to receive you.”

Or was that something Anastasia Steele wrote in her diary about Christian Grey?


1. Which of the following is a lyric from a Newsboys song?

a. Giving it over, I was flat on my back.

b. I come instantly.


2. Which use of “hand” is from 50 Shades of Grey and not a CCM song?

a. You gentle your hand…

b. Gushing with surrender in your hands…

c. My hands are open, so take what you see…


3. Three of the following four lines are from Skillet songs. Which one is from 50 Shades of Grey?

a. Stretch me bigger….

b. An empty vessel to be filled at your whim…

c. I’m exploding like chemicals. I’m going crazy — can’t get enough!

d. It’s so urgent. It’s so desperate I can feel it in my bones.


4. One of these four is dirty talk. The other three are DC Talk. Which one is dirty?

a. You consume me like a burning flame.

b. Anytime, anyplace.

c. I am calling out your name.

d. Oh, you know that I surrender.

dc talk

5. Which “you” is from a Sonicflood praise song? (The other two are about sex.)

a. God, I want you

b. I want to touch you.

c. I am in awe of you.

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6. Can you figure out which is neither Rebecca St. James nor Audio Adrenaline?

a. Here I am. I will do as you say.

b. You’re pinning me to the wall.

c. I’m enslaved to what you say.


7. Different people handle pain differently. Which one is the 50 Shades of Grey way?

a. How can I scream when the pain is such a release?

b. The pain is such that I refuse to acknowledge it.

c. I do not deserve to be set free.


8. Once you experience something you really like, you usually want more. Which wanting more is not about God?

a. We’re going all the way.

b. I’ve never wanted more, until I met you.

c. I’ll be chasing you.

d. I wanna do it soon.


9. Which romantic exclamation is not about Jesus?

a. When I’m in your arms is when I feel the best.

b. My heart beats for you.

c. I want my world to start and end with you.

d. I can feel your power surging through the whole of me.


10. One of these is about a BDSM master/slave relationship. The other three are from Christian music.

a. Capture me, make me a slave.

b. I’m struggling to resist, but I’m drawn.

c. If I could only be your master.

d. You can have everything I am.

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Answer Key


1. Which of the following is a lyric from a Newsboys song?

a. Giving it over, I was flat on my back. – Newsboys, “Giving It Over”

b. I come instantly. – 50 Shades of Grey

2. Which use of “hand” is from 50 Shades of Grey and not a CCM song?

a. You gentle your hand… – 50 Shades of Grey

b. Gushing with surrender in your hands… – Skillet, “Suspended In You”

c. My hands are open, so take what you see… – Smalltown Poets, “I’ll Give”

3. Three of the following four lines are from Skillet songs. Which one is from 50 Shades of Grey?

a. Stretch me bigger…. – Skillet, “Suspended In You”

b. An empty vessel to be filled at your whim… – 50 Shades of Grey

c. I’m exploding like chemicals. I’m going crazy — can’t get enough! – Skillet, “My Obsession”

d. It’s so urgent. It’s so desperate I can feel it in my bones. – Skillet, “Kill Me Heal Me”

4. One of these four is dirty talk. The other three are DC Talk. Which one isn’t DC?

a. You consume me like a burning flame. – DC Talk, “Consume Me”

b. Anytime, anyplace. – DC Talk, “Consume Me”

c. I am calling out your name. – 50 Shades of Grey

d. Oh, you know that I surrender. – DC Talk, “Consume Me”

5. Which “you” is from a Sonicflood praise song? The other two are about sex.

a. God, I want you – 50 Shades of Grey

b. I want to touch you. – Sonicflood, “I Want To Know You”

c. I am in awe of you. – 50 Shades of Grey

6. Can you figure out which is neither Rebecca St. James nor Audio Adrenaline?

a. Here I am. I will do as you say. – Rebecca St. James, “Here I Am”

b. You’re pinning me to the wall. – 50 Shades of Grey

c. I’m enslaved to what you say. – Audio Adrenaline, “Some Kind of Zombie”

7. Different people handle pain differently. Which one is the 50 Shades of Grey way?

a. How can I scream when the pain is such a release? – Skillet, “Kill Me Heal Me”

b. The pain is such that I refuse to acknowledge it. – 50 Shades of Grey

c. I do not deserve to be set free. – Grammatrain, “Pain”

8. Once you experience something you really like, you usually want more. Which wanting more is not about God?

a. We’re going all the way. – Delirious?, “Deeper”

b. I’ve never wanted more, until I met you. – 50 Shades of Grey

c. I’ll be chasing you. – Newsboys, “Beautiful Sound”

d. I wanna do it soon. – Seven Day Jesus, “Butterfly”

9. Which romantic exclamation is not about Jesus?

a. When I’m in your arms is when I feel the best. – Skillet, “Safe With You”

b. My heart beats for you. – Jars of Clay, “Love Song for a Savior”

c. I want my world to start and end with you. – 50 Shades of Grey

d. I can feel your power surging through the whole of me. – DC Talk, “Supernatural”

10. One of these is about a BDSM master/slave relationship. The other three are from Christian music.

a. Capture me, make me a slave. – Skillet, “Take”

b. I’m struggling to resist, but I’m drawn. – 50 Shades of Grey

c. If I could only be your master. – Grammatrain, “Sick Of Will”

d. You can have everything I am. – Audio Adrenaline, “Hands and Feet”

Part of “That” World: By Abigail

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Today I realized (aka found it amusing) how few words would have to be changed in Disney’s The Little Mermaid’s song, “Part of Your World,” to make it into a “homeschool edition” of the song. So I tinkered a few minutes and came up with the following.

Tip: it’s better if you sing/hum the tune as you read. 😉


Part of “That” World


Look at this stuff

Isn’t it neat?

Wouldn’t you think my life’s purpose complete?

Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl

The girl who has everything?


Look at this shelf

Treasures untold

How many Christian books can one bookshelf hold?

Looking around here you think

Sure, she’s got everything


I’ve got Bibles and siblings a plenty

I’ve got homework and housework galore

You want jean skirts? I’ve got twenty!

But who cares?

No big deal

I want more


I wanna be where the people are

I wanna see, wanna see ‘em dancing;

Movin’ around to those – what do you call ‘em?



Stayin’ at home you don’t get too far

Socialization’s required for friendships, dating

Attending a youth – oh – what’s that word again?



Out where they walk, out where they run

Out where friends cut away and have fun

Wanderin’ free – wish I could be

Part of that world


What would I give if I could live out of this hell-house?

What would I pay to spend a day free from control?

Bet’cha the world, it understands

That you don’t subjugate your daughters

Bright young women, sick of submission

Not here to command


And ready to know what the people know

Ask ‘em my questions and get some answers

What’s a condom and how does it – what’s the word?



When’s it my turn?

Wouldn’t I love, love to explore the world they talk of?

Wanderin’ free – Wish I could be

Part of that world

Plowshares into Skyhooks: The Evolution (Intelligent Design?) of Bible Games: By Aaron Gotzon

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HA note: Aaron Gotzon is a homeschool alum and one of the regular contributors to The Ontological Geek, a website that examines videogames through various critical lenses. The following was originally published on The Ontological Geek on April 24, 2013 and is reprinted with permission.


Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. – The Book of Joel

Frequent readers will note my intimate familiarity with the Evangelical subculture. It wasn’t until I grew out of my larval form that I recognized just how sub that culture was. To me, it was normal to repudiate the machinations of the secular, decry the subversive whims of a liberal media, and lionize such defenders of the faith as the Billy Graham Crusaders, the Gaither Vocal Band, and Randy Hogue.

In TobyMac, Switchfoot, and Relient K, we had our own music; a pro-family, pro-social answer to every genre of song – many Christian acts of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, in fact (the heydecade of the movement) consisted of popular secular tunes repurposed to affirm our social agenda. We had our own cartoons, some of them actually rather clever and technologically groundbreaking. We had huge rallies in stadiums of millions, and popped out “world outreach centers” like sneezes: some of which have passed on into obscurity, some remain a force with which to be reckoned, and a certain quite famous one in my hometown is under scrutiny for harboring some dark practices within ostensibly benign, if radical, quarters.

We had hit novelsmajor motion pictures. We refitted holidays to eliminate pagan (or even neutral) elements, and had our own youth organizations, like AWANA, as a cultural counterpoint to the Deistic-in-theory American Scouting movement. It might be said that, for some, or even many of us, the Boy Scouts weren’t conservative enough.

And, of course, we had our own games.

This impulse was borne from the Pauline commandment to “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

“Worldly” was a slur.

The 1980s: BibleBytes, and Kidware Shareware Adware Underwear

The gameplay and presentation in "Noah's Ark" are similar to that of the American Super Mario Bros. 2.
The gameplay and presentation in “Noah’s Ark” are similar to that of the American Super Mario Bros. 2.

The concept of the Christian computer game began with the uprising of modern Evangelicalism with its soon-to-be-realized theocratic tendencies and its reconstructionist emphasis on the budding culture war between the “old-time Religion” and the open secularization of the West. Focusing on the Family meant meeting the public mainstream culture point for point: in politics, in art, in hobbies and entertainments all alike.

As with certain evangelical leaders (Dr. James Dobson), internationally recognized conservative think tanks (Focus on the Family), and popular, still-running radio programs (Adventures in Odyssey), the “Christian” game was born in Colorado. BibleBytes was founded by the Conrod family with the express mission of bringing computer games into the mainstream with overtly religious messages. This being the early 1980s, videogames weren’t met with the scorn we witnessed in the early-to-mid 2000s, for example, on the charge of being unspeakably violent (and certainly they’ve earned that distinction, regardless of how that makes you feel personally). Instead, this was an answer to the emergent popularity and rampant growth of infant gaming, another tit-for-tat appropriation of an aspect of modern culture and integration into the fledgling Christian subculture.

BibleBytes was successful in marketing the first Christian games on the era’s microcomputers, which included those manufactured by Radio Shack, Texas Instruments, and Timex.

The overwhelming majority of Christian games produced during this period were developed by BibleBytes, and ported to the appropriate hardware platforms, including the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, as those became widely available. The games were released in multiple volumes and iterations as a collection rather straightforwardly entitled Bible Computer Games.

Today, BibleBytes continues to operate as the dreadfully named “Kidware Software,” selling primers on programming basics designed for children of homeschooling families. They’ve since stopped supporting the old software, and no longer develop or distribute new games.

The wave of Bible games had begun, but it had yet to swell, until…

The 1990s: The Tree of the Knowledge of Dreams and Piracy

Like BibleBytes before it, the role of Flagship Developer of Bible Games fell to Wisdom Tree – the company formerly known as Color Dreams – during Our Most Awkward Decade.

Color Wisdom Dreamtree has several notches on its Belt of Contributions to Gaming History, the first being its development and distribution of the first-ever side-scroller for “IBM Compatible” (as the parlance went) PCs. The next two honorable mentions aren’t nearly as honorable, though they’re certainly not unimpressive: Color Dreams managed to develop a workable hardware bypass for Nintendo’s 10NES chip, the silicon gatekeeper of the Japanese company’s famously strict licensing rules. Later in the decade, they’d also publish the only unlicensed SNES title ever, Super Noah’s Ark 3D.

Wisdom Tree’s first release after their rebranding was Bible Adventures, for the NES, a three-in-one-pack featuring the following:

  • Noah’s Ark, a platformer wherein the goal is to gather up all of the animals by picking them up. The animals are presented as being hoisted above Noah’s head, and they can be stacked one atop the other, making Noah only slightly weaker than Superman (which I don’t remember from the Bible). The gameplay and presentation are similar to that of the American Super Mario Bros. 2.
  • Baby Moses, in which the player takes on the role of Moses’ sister Miriam, attempting to deliver him safely to the palace while evading guards after Pharaoh’s decree that all male Hebrew firstborn be killed. Miriam, like Noah, transports her charge by holding him directly above her head. Intriguingly, she is able to throw the infant prophet around the screen with no penalty damage to the child. She is, however unable to use the invincible slave-spawn as a bludgeoning weapon.
  • David and Goliath is similar. You’re still picking up animals as the psalmist shepherd and stacking them over your head. Except this time, once David succeeds in carrying enough sheep to safety, he is transported to the front lines of the Philistine war armed with a slingshot, with which he eventually defeats Goliath in the final stage by landing the perfect shot right in the giant’s forehead.

The Bible Adventures compilation was ported to the Sega Genesis as well, with virtually no changes to either graphics or gameplay.

Wisdom Tree would continue to release games throughout the rest of this decade, many of them with elements borrowed heavily from other more popular titles, like Zelda expy Spiritual Warfare for Game Boy, NES, and Sega Genesis. Sometimes, the games would be outright clones and re-skins of titles Color Dreams released before they re-styled themselves as a Christian developer, like top-down puzzlers Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land and Joshua: Battle of Jericho, both of which used the same gameplay mechanics and level layouts as the secular Crystal Mines, with different graphics reflecting the biblical theming.

Perhaps the most bizarre was the aforementioned Super Noah’s Ark 3D, which could only be played by loading a licensed cartridge on top of Noah while it was connected to the SNES console. It was an actual level-for-level clone of the popular Wolfenstein 3D by id Software, with Noah replacing the meaty muscled bloody guy (did he have a name?), a slingshot for a weapon, and various animals standing in for Nazis. A widely-spread rumor claims that id Software gave the source code of their Wolfenstein game to Wisdom Tree as a revenge on Nintendo for releasing an inferior port of their popular game, making it a point to tone down the violence (Nintendo was known for being especially particular about games for their system being Family-Friendly). The details surrounding this bit of corporate intrigue have never been released, and the facts remain unclear to the present day.

Technically, Wisdom Tree is still active, selling their own games and those of even smaller developers on their website, on which they promise to make their entire past library available for the current versions on Windows, eventually.

So, you know, if you ever really, really wanted to pay $22.95 for a videogame called JESUS IN SPACE, now’s your chance.

The 2000s: Cacti and Catacombs

One of the only explicitly Christian games to enjoy significant mainstream success and recognition was Catechumen.
One of the only explicitly Christian games to enjoy significant mainstream success and recognition was Catechumen.

So far, the formula for most Christian games, as codified by Wisdom Tree, was to adapt well-known stories from the Bible into playable adventures, most often by taking an existing secular game and copy-pasting kitschy religious imagery (the standards, mostly; bearded men in dresses and plenty of camels). In the early 2000s, the standard began to shift from adaptation to symbolic imaginings of the Christian journey and comic-style portrayals of spiritual warfare.

Arguably, one of the only explicitly Christian games to enjoy significant mainstream success and recognition was Catechumen, a first-person shooter which tasked the player with a journey to travel down into a Roman-inspired catacomb to defeat a demonic horde ensconced therein. Along the way, the player character increased in spiritual power until finally gaining enough strength to banish Satan himself from his lair in the bottommost parts of the caverns. The quality of the action, progressive gameplay, and “mature” theming drew many gamers from both inside and outside of the Evangelical community.

Cactus Game Design entered the scene a little later in the decade, bringing yet another more adolescent-oriented shooter offering, Saints of Virtue, to the range of Christian games available to consumers. The player journeyed into the center of a young man’s heart in an attempt to purge it of sinfulness from the outside in, gathering items representing the different pieces of the “full armor of God” along the way. These were accompanied by verses explaining different facets of the Christian inner life, and at times could be oddly introspective in its rather personal, if clichéd and Totally Rad! ™, exploration of the meaning of the modern Christian walk. The weapon in the game was the “Sword of the Spirit,” which was not used as a typical bladed tool. Instead, the player was able to fire bolts of lightning at the (quite scary) enemies, masks which took the names and traits of various sins or follies.

The Saints of Virtue characters would come to be used again in Cactus’ Magic-like trading card game, Redemption. Instead of draining the opposing player’s life points, the objective of matches in the card game was to come into possession of the opponent’s so-called “Lost Souls,” claiming them for the Kingdom of God with biblical hero characters, while at the same time defending their own souls with evil characters. The game worked well, and became pretty successful for a few years, hosting national and local tournaments and gaining a cult following even among those Christians not expressly invested in the culture of Evangelicalism.

The latter portions of the decade saw a trilogy of Left Behind games, based on the popular and long-running series of novels sets after a premillennial dispensationalist’s idea of the Rapture, which faced some controversy from the mainstream regarding various charges of cultural insensitivity and (of all things) violence.

Other than this briefest of debacles, and a few rhythm games, which were basically Dance Party and Guitar Hero but with contemporary praise and worship music, the rest of this decade saw no noticeable influence of explicitly Christian games on the mainstream.

The Present

We’re now well into the New Tens, and, as it turns out, they’re suspiciously absent of any noteworthy Christian games. Many of the old developers are either closed completely, or sustaining themselves by repackaging, reselling, and sometimes halfheartedly supporting or updating their old titles. It seems that, by and large, the Evangelical subculture has given up on appropriate games into itself. This may reflect the poor quality of the early games, the lack of significant commercial success of the newer ones, or the Evangelical movement’s withdrawal from the impulse to create a new, “Christian” world in lieu of being participatory in the new one.

It’s true that religious themes abound in modern games, as interactive media matures and becomes able to comment on more and more aspects of culture, layering complexifying narratives over dynamically evolving artistic structures and play mechanics. As with BioShock Infinite and Fallout: New Vegas, these new representations of Christianity and other religions seem to refrain rather cautiously from commenting on popular religion specifically, choosing instead to focus on general themes, patterns from history, or minority faiths (Mormonism is a popular one, and by some accounts New Vegas managed a nuanced and respectful portrayal of the Latter Day movement).

This advancement of a more subtle religious theming has allowed the faithful among us to project our journeys onto the adventures we undertake in our gameworlds of choice, without the exclusivity implicit in playing a “Christian game.” We’re allowed to think about the spiritual paths we choose, even as we consider the paths we undertake when synched-up to player characters. We’re allowed a wider discourse, incorporating gamers of other faiths, or no faith, to engage with us in our universal quest for personal, immediate, and transcendent truths. We’re allowed to put our problems, like violent impulses, misogyny, and all those sundry troublesome –isms, on display without fear of retribution from a community which once sought to burrow in and ignore or downplay the difficult issues which come along with being human, indeed, being fundamentally worldly.

There may well be something profound to be said of a freedom in Christ, but it seems like today’s secular games offer us a lot more freedom (even to be in Christ more fully and honestly, should we so choose) then would Christian games, had they gotten the chance to become as successful or ubiquitous as our more familiar, religiously neutral engagements.

Perhaps the central impulse of the Christian subculture of the past twenty years was slightly twisted: being “in the world, but not of it,” does mean rejecting ties to historical barbarism, checking destructive primal urges, and striving to create a more balanced, peaceful social order. All great ideals, but if we want to achieve them, we do have to be “in” the world. We don’t get to opt-out of the realities of earthly life before we’re through with it. Before we’ve managed to accomplish being in it, even if we choose to identify with an otherworldly ideal. Even if you suspect that your Real Home might be elsewhere, this is definitely where it is now.

So, “worldly,” perhaps, shouldn’t be a slur. Succeeding in embracing the world, loving it, being Home-for-Now, might be the first step toward transforming it into something better, toward making the “world” something not to be rejected, but to be cared for and nurtured. Something to be proud of.

So, yeah.

Anyway, go play some games.

“What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.” – The Book of Luke


A note: for some fun, check out the Angry Video Game Nerd’s three-part series on Bible Games. He covers just about all of the Wisdom Tree titles of the 90s in detail, with his typical humor (which means the videos aren’t safe for work, obviously, and screw you for watching YouTube at work, you lazy ass).

Grandma’s Bible Classes: Katia’s Story

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Katia’s blog Redeemed Aspie. It was originally published on March 7, 2014.

….And when the soldiers came, the brave little girl took the Bible and ran out to the garden and hid it under some cabbages… On Grandma S’s flannelgraph board was a picture of a little girl hiding a Bible under some cabbages. Grandma S was teaching her weekly Bible class, and this week we were learning about early Christians who were persecuted for their faith. I forget the rest of the story, but as a plant loving youngster, the idea of hiding a Bible under cabbages intrigued me. At the conclusion of class when we drew pictures and snacked, I drew a picture of the girl hiding a Bible under the cabbages and Grandma S wrote on the picture what it was.

Grandma S, my maternal grandmother, moved to Indiana from Ohio to live with us when I was 7. She needed a way to way to stay busy and loved her Lord and grandchildren. Holding a weekly Bible class for her four grandchildren enabled her to stay busy and show her love for both Lord and grandchildren.

Using a flannelgraph, drawings, or books with large illustrations, Grandma S taught us all the Bible stories Christian children learn — David and Goliath, Elijah, the Christmas story, the Easter story, Jesus’ parables etc. She also taught stories about missionaries, early Christians, Christian concepts, and the stories behind Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.

Grandma S was a quiet, sober, simple, independent woman. Yet using her simple media, she held her four grandchildren (and later two friends of those grandchildren) spellbound as she gave her lessons. Even though I secretly disliked formal religious services, I don’t remember being bored with Grandma S’s stories. At the time of Grandma S’s Bible classes, we were attending a homechurch with no children’s Sunday School.

Grandma S’s Bible classes filled that void.

Each Bible class began and ended with prayer. Often Grandma let one of us children do the praying. Next up: singing. Each of us children got to choose a song. Because I loved animals, I usually chose “The Birds Upon the Treetops”

“The birds upon the treetops;

Sing their songs.

The angels chant the chorus,

All day long.

So why shouldn’t I?

Why shouldn’t you?

Praise Him too.

After we sang, Grandma S gave her Bible lesson. At the conclusion of class, Grandma gave us a snack and drawing materials. As we enjoyed the snack, we drew pictures of what we learned or other thing that interested us. Grandma posted each new picture on her refrigerator and kept all of our pictures in the folders she kept for her grandchildren.

Sometimes Grandma would give us a word and have us try to get as many words from it as possible. Today all four of her grandchildren love books and are good writers.

Grandma S’s Bible classes were something I took for granted. Only now as an adult do I see their value and treasure the few memories I have of them. Only now do I see the hard work and love Grandma S put into each class. Only now do I see her wisdom in letting us draw what we wanted after class, even when what we drew had nothing to do with what she had taught.

Grandma was a woman of God and understood the importance of letting a child voice what he had just learned or experienced in order to understand it.

And only now do I see the great blessing of learning those Bible truths from my grandmother in her quiet, simple way. Had I been in a loud Sunday school that used the latest technological media and involved complicated crafts and lots of people, I would not have learned those truths so thoroughly and treasure the memories so much.

Grandma S’s Bible classes ended the year I turned 14 when my older brother got a job and she got sick. Before the year was gone, Grandma S fell asleep in her Lord in the spot where she’d given so many Bible classes with Mom and I at her side.

I’ve written this in the room where Grandma S gave her Bible classes and fell asleep in Jesus. As I think of her, the day a trumpet sounds and we are reunited at the feet of Jesus in the rapture cannot come soon enough.

And The Music Was There: glor’s Story

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“Rock” music. Simultaneously my oppressor and my escape, we have an unusual relationship. Going from “anything with a strong beat will fill you with demons” to “oh hey, I just bought the newest VNV Nation album!” may seem extreme, and I admit that I sometimes suffer from whiplash, but at the same time it’s been a very freeing evolution and something that mirrors my general escape from my childhood/immediate family.

The first memories I really have about specific music was trying to defend myself at a camp-out.

I’d been found crying in a dark place by myself, and my fellow campers [all the same general age as myself, 9-12ish] didn’t believe me that the song made me cry because it reminded me of a friend who’d died. The song was played at his funeral. It was the first example of exactly how strongly music hits my emotional centers – and for that song, having to “prove” it made it hit me all the stronger in the following years.

Following that, the next set of memories is about music being “awesome” – or rather, not. The cult we were in at the time were very adept at using the “Sunday morning worship” to twist us this way and that, and I can distinctly remember how you could tell what the sermon would be about by the first half of the very first song of the day. I remember dirge-like music playing as we lined up in a school’s gymnasium to “repent of our sins.” I remember the slightly happier songs that the children danced to. I remember everyone in the room being scathingly rebuked because one of the singers had dared to say that a song was “awesome” – because, you know, only God is awesome. Never anything else, even a song literally praising his name.

The music collection at home wasn’t too much better. Michael Card. Sandi Patti [maybe… if we were lucky]. Some random Maranantha song tapes. Plenty of classical. That was about it, that I remember. I had very little interest in music outside of that, for the most part, simply because I didn’t know anything about it. There was the usual hush-hush about KISS and Marilyn Manson, stuff like that, but it was all mostly above my head. Then, I was introduced to DC Talk and Michael W Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman. My brain just about exploded from glee – finally, something that fit me!

I could put my emotions onto these songs and I could finally understand things about what I felt that I never could before.

See, I have bipolar disorder. I have rapid and multiple mood swings, from seriously depressed to extremely manic, and until that point, none of the music could encompass either end of the curve. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt [because Jesus!] – to steal from Vonnegut. Any emotion other than happiness and joy was Wrong. You were a bad Christian – nay, a bad person, if you weren’t always basking in the love and companionship of Jesus. Being human, though, that wasn’t possible. So I struggled along in my lonely childhood self, trying to deal with these big emotions and not having anywhere to turn.

And then lo, DC Talk and “Jesus Freak.” They were my introduction to a larger world, and were, in fact, the very beginning of my long and slow departure from the church.

Teenagerhood hit. I was “rebellious,” according to my parents, and it was all because of my music. They had it backwards, of course. I was in an abusive home situation and I had found an escape in the music that expressed all the emotions I was feeling and allowed me to survive day after day, because there was nowhere else to go. Once again I was stifled under the “no emotions except happiness” expectation – which became more and more difficult the worse my bipolar got. It’s very hard to be “blissfully happy in Jesus” when one day you’re suicidal and the next you’re on a cloud and can do ANYTHING! that you could think of. I hid my music and snuck it as often as I could [or dared… woe betide me if I was found listening to [oh my!] Superchic[k] or the Newsboys or [quadruple gasp here, people] the Cruxshadows.] All of the songs that I listened to held deep emotion and symbolism for me, and allowed me to blindly feel my way through the disaster that was my home life.

There were fights about the music. My mother tried to convince me that rock music was of the devil. She emailed me all these “studies” about plants and rats [and since those have been addressed elsewhere on HA, I’ll refrain from doing so here], talked about the “demon beat,” and tried to take my CDs away. Fortunately, by that point, there was the internet and it was easily accessible. When it got really bad and my parents tried to take that too, I was attending the local community college and could use their computer lab to retrieve what I needed.

Eventually, I escaped. Barely.

When I got out of their home, I stopped attending church, I stopped seeing them, and I fairly quickly stopped identifying as Christian. My music needs changed – from the “life sucks and God’s still there for you” of the Christian rock world to the “you’re alive, you’ve survived some awful shit, and you’re still here” of VNV Nation, the Cruxshadows, Linkin Park, movie soundtracks, and so many other artists I can’t even list them. For the longest time, my playlists were nothing but loud anger and rage. I had to purge that from within myself eventually, I knew, but at the time all I could do was cope.


I was sexually assaulted at work. More rage and bitterness. And the music was there.

I was extremely sick and almost lost my job. And the music was there.

I moved halfway across the country. And the music was there.

I was raped. And the music was there.

I had a psychotic break… and the music was there.


Four years later, I had enough, and said “this anger, this bitterness, this rage and hate and harm will not be a part of me any more.”

And the music was there.


It was there as I burned out the bitterness, screaming my tears of pain to the heavens. It was there as I sobbed in my friend’s arms. It was there the nights that I woke up screaming from the nightmares of the pain and the terror.

And the music was there when I finally broke through and let the love out.

Maybe it’s about the time
To let all of the love
Back in the light
Maybe it’s about the perfect place
To let go and forget
About the hate

Love into the light.

Kesha, “Love Into the Light”

March Series: Media Memories

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Being homeschooled makes you part of a cohort. You share a common language and culture with other homeschooled individuals that seems like a foreign language to others outside that cohort. It’s like a variation on the “third culture kid” concept.

As Christian homeschoolers, many of us are also a part of the larger “American evangelical” cohort. We are the Jesus Freaks: the children of the flannel graph, raised on a healthy diet of Psalty, Veggie Tales, Donut Man, and Carman.

That culture we were raised in? Many of us (though not all) have mentally burned it to the ground. Yet we find ourselves circling back to where it burned and sifting through the ashes for memories to redeem. Inside that whole culture’s remains — homeschooling in particular, American Christianity in general — we have found solace, peace, and transformation. Maybe you found hope for your depression in Jars of Clay’s Much Afraid; maybe you found stress from the “seriousness” of the church in Veggie Tales; maybe, maybe not.

But for the “Media Memories” series, we want to remember those pieces of media — whether videos (Buttercream Gang, anyone?), music, TV, books, etc. — that were a part of our culture and impacted us deeply. Consider this nostalgia week, basically. Pick something that you loved, or hated (maybe even hated vehemently), or (probably most commonly) have a love/hate relationship with, and talk about it. It can be a song that got you through hard times, a book that helped you break free from the culture, a movie that prompted a new stage in your recovery process — or a creative conspiracy theory about Psalty.

Or even just something you remember lightheartedly with a smile.

* Deadline for “Media Memories” submission: Monday, March 24, 2014. *

Please put “For Media Memories Series” as the title of the email.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at