Divine Comedy of Grand Theft Auto

By Jaime Nava

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I saw a video recently on YouTube that turned out to be a series. It’s a running commentary by a fellow attempting to play Grand Theft Auto as a pacifist. For those who don’t know anything about the Grand Theft Auto series, the main storyline in this video game is really not something kids should be playing. There are drug deals, robbery, and lots of shooting virtual people, which can include law enforcement officers. This is probably a game that no one should be playing. So, as all comedy does, two independently “normal” lines converge to make a ridiculous story of someone playing a violent video game as non-violently as possible.

A common theme for The Jagged Word writers this week is simul iustus et peccator. It’s almost a comedy in itself. Christians are saint and sinner. Two opposing lines converge to create a divine comedy (long before Dante). It’s comedy in the sense of comedy of errors but also in the sense of its contrast to tragedy. In Genesis, Abraham is called by God and is reckoned faithful. This is the same guy who hides the truth about his wife to save his skin twice. In 2 Samuel, King David murdered a man because he impregnated that man’s wife. This is the same guy who killed Goliath and is considered a giant of the Faith. In the New Testament we have Peter who, after Jesus rose and ascended in heaven, refused to eat with Gentiles for fear of others. Peter was rebuked by Paul. The Bible is replete with people chosen by God who are afraid, recalcitrant, stubborn, ignorant, and forgiven.

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When a child of God sees that he is just as hysterically stiff-necked and foolish as Abraham, David, and Peter he can see why non-believers point and laugh at Christians like Nelson from the Simpsons. Ultimately they are laughing at God, at Jesus. What kind of God chooses people like this? What kind of God loves people like this? What kind of God would allow good things to happen to bad people?

There are some video games that allow the player to make moral decisions. Without any statistics or any links to support my opinion, I would wager that the choice to break bad often outweighs the alternative. Fallout 3 has one such choice where the player can decide to nuke a city of refuge in a post-apocalyptic world. How many virtual worlds saw a plume in the distance when that player pushed the big red button? Too many. We are born with an inclination for the wicked and we can see it in the majority of moral decisions that dip below the morality line. All people, Christian or not, have this wicked nature. Depravity is a curse common to man. We deserve to be nuked. We deserve to be robbed and left for dead. It’s not the other guy. It’s you. To think you’re not morally reprehensible reveals delusion too. Breaking the smallest link of the law drops the entire weight of God’s hammer. To put it more simply, you’re more like Bowser, Doctor Robotnik, and M. Bison combined.

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As tragic as that reality is there’s more to the story. Jesus shed His blood for sinful people, for hypocrites. His bride is initially buck-toothed, pock-faced, and cross-eyed. Jesus didn’t die to pay for people who are good. If they were good, they wouldn’t need Jesus. He died for people who hate him, who mock him, who deny His existence. Jesus died for Abraham, King David, and Peter. Jesus died for you. This is Tolkein’s eucatastrophe. Our bleak ending is manipulated by a God who is so loving He will purchase someone as depraved as I am.

This brings us back to our divine comedy. The end of the story isn’t tragic. It’s comedy. We don’t have to wait to experience that either. Although we wrestle with temptation (and often fail) we are simultaneously considered a saint in God’s eyes. As violent as this world can be, violence that sometimes we even create, there is a God who carries us through it all. He forgives us. He saints us. Our story is a divine comedy with a eucatastrophic ending. That’s Good News.

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