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Grand Theft Jesus-IJ Released!

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It's here! In a move designed to avoid loss of market share to its main rival as a result of the much-ballyhooed roll-out of Grand Theft Auto IV, Xianity Fantasy Games has just released the newest version of its best-selling game, Grand Theft Jesus.

At the stroke of midnight last night, Grand Theft Jesus-IJ, rated "G" for gullible audiences, went on sale in megachurches around the country, accompanied by the huge promotional efforts of televangelists in hour-long disinfomercials.

"GTJ IJ offers fantasy game enthusiasts the most dazzling array of options the religious interactive entertainment industry has yet produced," Xianity's CEO said in a prepared statement. (It seems unlikely that any reader is still unfamiliar with the corporation behind the Grand Theft Jesus phenomenon, but for the information of any such person who may exist, the name derives from the company's mission: to remove Christ from Christianity.)

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"When you begin playing," one commercial for GTJ-IJ says, "be prepared to put the real Jesus on hold for months—maybe forever. You can get so caught up in this amazing game, that you'll never hear the real words of Jesus again. It's literally incredible!"

The GTJ-IJ player enters the game by going through a giant looking glass on the opening screen. He then finds himself in an amazing fantasy world populated by a gang of Jesus Thieves. Here he is confronted by a remarkably lifelike replica of Jesus, standing on His head and preaching violence, hatred, war and greed.

The Inverted Jesus (the source of the IJ in the name of this edition of Grand Theft Jesus) praises the rich and urges players to shun the poor. "Just say you believe in Me, and then you can do whatever the hell you want," the beckoning, head-standing Jesus proclaims.

"The new GTJ-IJ has GTA IV beat every which way but Sunday!" exclaimed a young game enthusiast who had camped outside Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston for 37 hours in order to be first in line to get the latest Grand Theft Jesus game.

The first step for the player is to pick from the rogues gallery which Jesus Thief to be. Among the favorite characters are, in addition to Osteen, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Tim LaHaye.

Daring GTJ players can choose to be the disembodied Spirit of Xians Past, Jerry Falwell.

Next, the player picks a mission. Each of the missions in the new Grand Theft Jesus takes place in a different locale. Here is a sampling of the exciting missions in GTJ-IJ:

Kidnap Jesus
Locale: The Holy Land

This is the beginner's mission for the GTJ novice. Your assignment is to find the right-side-up Jesus while He is preaching the Sermon on the Mount. You are required to seize Him, tie Him up and (this is the most important part) gag Him, so He can't say anything. Then you replace Him with a Doppelganger (yourself!) who looks like the Original, but says the opposite!

Drug Dealer
Locale: A sprawling suburban megachurch

Drug Dealer is one of the most exciting missions in the new edition of Grand Theft Jesus. Players get to test their abilities as pushers by enticing credulous marks into buying fixes of the highly addictive drug ChristianityLite. Winning this mission is based on how many people you can get hooked on this adulterated drug:

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Robert S. McElvaine is a professor of history at Millsaps College and the author of ten books. He is a frequent contributor to the op ed pages of the major national newspapers and blogs for the Huffington Post. His latest book is "Grand Theft (more...)
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