Backstory – Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a new video game from developer/publisher Ubisoft. Wildlands is a tactical cooperative shooter for up to 4 people. In the Wildlands story, a drug cartel named Santa Blanca has risen to power in Bolivia. They have kidnapped a DEA agent who was a mole inside the cartel, and it’s time for the United States to send in the armed group that “doesn’t exist” known as “The Ghosts”.
To promote this upcoming game, Ubisoft has released a short film called Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: War Within The Cartel. (And the award for longest movie title of the year goes to…) The movie is released under the production label Ubisoft Entertainment Legion of Creatives.
As a Christian and an aficionado of video games, I have seen plenty of “sacrilegious” uses of God and the Bible. It’s unfortunate, but it’s considered “edgy” to rebel against something sacred, and some developers create games that stand against the common conceptions of God and the Bible. Bayonetta did this with it’s perverted take on The Creator. Usually, these twisted tales are fairly generic, targeting “God” or “people of faith”. But this latest attack seems to be more specific and includes a dark perversion of a beautiful passage from the book of Revelation.
Wildlands: War Within The Cartel features some truly heartless bad guys. In storytelling, I love the villain to be detestable. You know, in that whole melodramatic way where you just want to openly boo them in the theater. All of the villains in the film Wildlands: War Within The Cartel are detestable, but one baddie in particular strikes a nerve with me. He is known as El Cardenal, the “spiritual advisor”.
El Cardenal is clearly supposed to be a bad guy. War Within the Cartel lets the viewer know that he was excommunicated, so it’s likely that he was a Catholic, and possibly a cardinal. Featuring an evil “holy man” is nothing new. It’s not uncommon for writers to use a wicked priest as an ironic twist. This doesn’t specifically bother me, it’s a valid story vehicle. And there has been enough evil from within the Catholic Church that seeing it portrayed in movies reminds me to personally be diligent and accountable.
In War Within the Cartel, our introduction to El Cardenal seems innocent enough, to a non-Christian anyway. We see him, seemingly near the end of a sermon. He quotes a bible verse for the congregation (emphasis mine).
“Revelations 19:11, And there before me was a white horse whose rider was called faithful and true. And he is dressed in a robe dipped in the blood of his vanquished enemies, over whom he always prevails. And his name is the word of God.”
He then goes on to speak briefly about the Santa Blanca cartel and their “community” and closes the sermon with:
“Let us pray.”
First of all, the verse in the Wildlands movie is actually a combination of verses in Revelation 19, including the passage from verses 11 through 13. Here is the complete passage from the NIV:
11I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
In this passage, Jesus is the rider. And blood is a very important symbol throughout the Bible. After all, Jesus’ blood is what cleanses his people of their sin. This passage, though having some war-like language, never states that Jesus’s robe is dipped in “the blood of his vanquished enemies”. The Bible is clear in Ephesians 6:2:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Why then would this passage in Revelation be about dragging Jesus’ robe through his enemies blood? Jesus’ kingdom isn’t flesh and blood, but of spirit and truth.
But let’s say that I’m being nitpicky about his paraphrase of scripture. Our preacher isn’t out of the woods yet. In a later scene in War Within The Cartel, El Cardenal co-interrogates a church member and gives him false comfort shortly before the church goer is murdered by another member of the Santa Blanca cartel. El Cardenal shows no sympathy for the innocent man as he steps over his corpse.
What kind of Church is this?
El Cardenal sports black nail-polish (not a sin, just a little emo), misquotes the Bible, has an abundance of skull related jewelry and ornaments (related to Santa Muerte), and wears a knife around his neck. Yeah, look closely at his large “cross” and you’ll see that it’s a weapon made for stabbing.
How then is this “church” functional? They are clearly blind to what a horrible, unrighteous church leader they have. They apparently don’t mind that their pastor misrepresents the Bible, and speaks far too kindly of the drug cartel. I just assume that they don’t know that their own are being murdered for not being completely in favor of the cartel’s actions.
What Ubisoft thinks of El Cardenal
From the Ghost Recon Wildlands page dedicated to El Cardenal (emphasis mine):
According to Narrative Director Sam Strachman, “What’s interesting about El Cardenal is that he is genuinely a nice guy. He’s trying to do charity work helping Bolivians, building schools and churches, but neither the church nor the politicians will help him. He knows the evil things that the cartel is doing, but he thinks that all the good he can do will help outweigh the bad…”
The real problem here isn’t what fictional characters are doing. Fictional characters performing noble deeds isn’t noble, it’s fiction. Similarly, Fictional characters being evil isn’t evil, it’s make-believe. No, the problem is that the writers behind Wildlands actually believe that a sick, scripture-twisting, murder accomplice liar is “genuinely a nice guy”!
Furthermore, Ubisoft seem pleased to have no positive representative from the religious faithful. If there were some force for good within the church it would lend some balance to the story. It’s as if they are saying, “Only ‘The Ghosts’ can resolve this situation”. I understand that The Ghosts are the “heroes” and that they need to slay the villains. It just seems that the creative team behind Wildlands has a gripe with the Church, and this is an outlet for them. Disparaging Jesus and his followers does nothing to add to the heroism of an elite military unit. It’s just a subversive slap in the face to players who have faith.
It’s right there on the screengrab from the official website, under “Personality” it lists: “Extreme zealot. Very loud and boisterous. A true believer.” Really, Ubisoft, that’s what you think a true believer is like? Christians now have a reason, other than wonky vehicle controls, to stay away from Ghost Recon Wildlands.