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Merry Christmas, Now Die

Last year superstore chain Wal-Mart enraged religious conservatives by instructing employees to wish customers “Happy Holidays.” Well, ’tis the season to be jolly — Wal-Mart switched back to “Merry Christmas” and now Christian conservatives are happy.

This year it is liberals who are protesting — over Wal-Mart’s decision to stock on its shelves the Evangelical video game “Left Behind: Eternal Forces.” Based on the best-selling “Left Behind” books, the game’s plotline begins after the Rapture, in that den of sin known as New York City. The player is a member of the newly faithful who must convert or kill evil nonbelievers who are led by the leader of a United Nations-like organization, who, by the way, also happens to be the anti-Christ.

Some of the religious conservatives who fought in the front lines in the war on the “War on Christmas” are commending the sale of the game as educational and wholesome — despite often being the first to condemn “dangerous” violent video games. “Eternal Forces is the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior,” declared Pluggedin.com, an entertainment Web site run by Focus on the Family, a prominent right-wing Christian organization.

All this has liberals and Wal-Mart critics up in arms. “It just further shows the hypocrisy of the religious right, who claim to be a paragon of family values, yet here they are promoting violence and intolerance,” said Clark Stevens, co-director of the liberal group Def-Con America: The Campaign to Defend the Constitution, which is dedicated to combating the political influence of religious conservatives. Def-Con supporters have sent more than 30,000 e-mails to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott to protest the sale of the controversial game. According to a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, “in the warm spirit of the season” the chain refuses to remove the title saying “the decision on what merchandise we offer in our stores is based on what we think our customers want the opportunity to buy.”

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