CyberPunk, Ghost Recon, and the “Stunt-Casting” Predicament (Exodus 32, John 12)

It has existed throughout the years in all of our forms of entertainment… celebrity stunt-casting.  It happens when your favorite television show injects some much needed hype into their series by bringing in a high-profile celebrity for a few episodes to drive ratings up.  A long-in-tooth movie franchise snaps up a rising star to capture some fresh eyeballs on their tired gimmick (I’m looking right at you, Fast and the Furious.  I mean, seriously… if you are getting the senior citizen discount on your car insurance then I don’t think you count as Fast OR Furious anymore.  What are they going to do in the next movie… race to the Golden Corral so they get there in time for the Early Bird special?  Maybe a bran muffin and some prune juice might make them a little less furious…)

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And of course we see this in video games, although it is not quite as frequent.  Death Stranding brought in the widely-recognized Norman Reedus from the Walking Dead and has featured him prominently in every ad for this upcoming title.   Ghost Recon took a similar approach by snapping up Punisher/Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal as a featured primary character in their next game.  And unless you have been living under a rock, you couldn’t have missed the “Keanu Reeves Mania” that hit when he was revealed as an in-game character for the highly anticipated CyberPunk 2077.  These celebrities voices and likenesses will dominate the posters and display cases for these games as they utilize their fresh, recognizable image to drive awareness for their new IP or reinvigorate their original concept.

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On the surface this is not a problem, nor is it something new to the video game industry.  For years we have had celebrities pop up in our games… it is just becoming more mainstream now than it has ever been before.  And while these celebrities are unlikely to have any actual impact on the quality of the game (other than the “coolness” factor of beating up thugs alongside Keanu Reeves), the truth is that this trend is a reflection on our fascination with image and how that impacts our perception of the overall product.  And it goes far beyond video games.. if you are like me you have probably purchased something at the grocery store because it looked great on the box, but when you got it home it tasted awful.  (On an unrelated note, DON’T EVER BUY “Peanut Butter Chocolate Blasted Shreds cereal.  It’s the WORST.  You have been warned.)  And now it just sits there, rotting away in your fridge or pantry as it slowly crawls toward it’s expiration date, a harsh reminder of the difference between what you thought you were getting and the reality of what was inside.

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In our lives we have a similar predicament, as the God we serve so often reveals Himself in a different way than what we were expecting.  We have a concept of what He is supposed to act like and how He should do things, but what is in the box rarely seems to match up to the image we have built for ourselves in our minds.  Regardless of your level of Biblical knowledge or amount of religious upbringing, if you believe in God then you most likely have some sort of predetermined notions as to how He is supposed to behave.  And the reality is, we can get caught up in some “stunt-casting” of our own as we attempt to remake God in our own image.

This has happened numerous times throughout the Bible, and we will look at two separate times and the ramifications of this issue.  Let’s start in one of the most well known occurrences, Exodus 32.  This is all the way back in the Old Testament when Moses was leading God’s people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.  Moses had to stop off the trail and get the Ten Commandments from God for a few days, and while the cat was away the mice certainly decided to play…

Exodus 32:1-4 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.  Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

I think we can already see that this is going to go horribly wrong, but let’s dissect it for a minute anyway.  Because the people were impatient with the speed with which God and his chosen leader Moses were moving, they decided to build a different image of God and follow that instead.  An inert, shell of their own creation… a lifeless representation of the fake gods they had seen during their foray in Egypt.  This seems almost incomprehensible today… after seeing the incredible power of God displayed in their escape from Egypt (the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, etc.), how could they possibly make the decision to choose something man-made and pretend that this was what saved them?  I mean, even from a basic concept of logic it makes no sense.  How could an idol they just created have saved them in the past?

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Here’s the truth… they would rather have a form of a god that met THEIR demands instead of a relationship with the actual God of the universe who rarely operates under our preferred timetable.  When faced with the choice of waiting on God or forging their own path… they bet on themselves.  And while it is pretty unlikely that you have been considering melting your jewelry and forming it into the shape of your favorite livestock, the truth is we are all guilty of deciding how we want our God to look, act and behave when he doesn’t seem to cooperate with our plans.  We remake and reshape God into the form of what we would prefer to follow instead of allowing Him to be who He truly is.

This happened in the New Testament as well… in John 12 we find Jesus entering Jerusalem in an impressive parade.  This is a climactic point in His earthly ministry, and from outside appearances He is about to change the status quo in a pretty momentous way.  His followers have been waiting for this moment… fresh off of the resurrection of Lazarus and a variety of other miracles the popularity of Jesus was at a fever pitch.  Crowds followed Him everywhere, his name was on everyone’s lips, and something major was imminent…

John 12:12-18 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!”Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:“Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign.

It all sounds pretty good, except for one small, minor detail.  In less than a week the very same crowd of people that are putting on this parade will be chanting “Crucify Him” and mocking the one they just called “King”.  Why is that?  In both these examples we see the fickle nature of people, who will faithfully follow and celebrate God in their lives right up to the point where He stops acting and behaving the way that they wanted.  Then, they turn on him and replace Him with something that will be a little more obedient, compliant… predictable.  Now you might see this and say, “Well, I don’t have any golden cows or sheep anywhere around here, I would never vote to crucify Jesus, and I don’t even know the first thing about smelting.  What does this have to do with me?”  And I’m glad you asked that oddly specific question, or I wouldn’t be able to segue into this next paragraph so effectively.

We are all guilty at many times in our lives of replacing God with a “better casting choice”.  Don’t believe me?  Think of the times we KNOW what God has commanded us to do in the Bible, but then we seek out an answer from a friend, loved one, or a fellow believer until we get the response that we REALLY wanted to hear.  Or when we reshape our beliefs based on what our current culture tells us is true about God instead of what the God who never changes has already told us about Himself in the Bible.  He hates what He hates, He loves what He loves, He has done what He has done, and we cannot change that simply because it is inconvenient or unpopular.  He is unchanging, regardless of how many times we are tempted to put a different face on Him to make Him more appealing to others.

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I hope that this challenges you the same way it challenges me… to embrace God exactly as He is, instead of trying to put Him into a box that fits our desired representation of Him.  He is not some inert idol, a genie’s lamp to be rubbed whenever we need a wish granted.  He is also not here to win any popularity contests and He isn’t too concerned with winning a People’s Choice award.  He is the God of the Bible, the same yesterday, today and forever.  He cannot operate under the constraints of the little box we tend to want to keep Him in… He requires control of every aspect of our lives and must exist as He truly is in all points of our world.  He defies our descriptions and needs to quantify and simply chose to identify Himself as “I AM”.  His decisions on right and wrong are not opinions… they are ironclad.  And He isn’t available any other way.

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