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2014’s top 10 stories: an addictive game and a drag queen

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst poses with the trophy after winning the 59th annual Eurovision Song Contest at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen May 11, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz)

When Vietnamese businessman Dong Nguyen invented the video game Flappy Bird in 2013, he had no idea that he created a phenomenon.  Six months later, it was the most downloaded free game in the iOS App Store and was earning $50,000 a day.  Last February, Nguyen removed the game from Apple’s App Store and Google Play, stating that he felt guilty over the game’s addictive nature.  Irate players threatened to murder him or commit suicide, perhaps making his point.  A revised version was released in August.

It’s no surprise that Flappy Bird would be included in Google’s Top 10 searches for 2014.  Here’s a name that was less predictable: Tom Neuwirth, better known by his persona Conchita Wurst.  Neuwirth is openly gay, and performs as a drag queen.  As Conchita Wurst, he won the Eurovision Song Contest for 2014 and subsequently performed in various gay pride parades, the European Parliament, and the United Nations regional headquarters in his homeland of Austria.  A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Wurst a “cultural icon.”

What does it say about our culture that an addictive video game and a drag queen would be among our most-searched topics?

As we begin a new year, it’s easy to face the unknown with trepidation.  Our culture seems to be continuing its moral slide while opposition to biblical Christianity continues to mount.  For instance, Newsweek’s latest cover story, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” has been called “an irresponsible screed of post-Christian invective leveled against the Bible and, even more to the point, against evangelical Christianity.”  And there are fears that the European debt crisis will lead to another Great Recession, and that ISIS fighters will use stolen Syrian jets to attack the West.

However, stepping into 2015 with anything but confidence is the wrong attitude for followers of Jesus.  Our Lord warned us: “In this world you will have trouble.”  Then he added: “But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Our Father assures us: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).  The psalmist testified, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).  Peter invited us to “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Why do we fear the future?  Because it is unknown, and the unknown can be frightening.  And because we feel ourselves inadequate to the challenges that may lie ahead.  But the future is known to God.  And God promises to meet all our needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Pope John Paul II declared God’s assurance: “Have no fear of moving into the unknown.  Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you.”  So name your fear about the future, put it in the omnipotent hands of the God who loves you, and choose to believe his word: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).

The new year is as bright as the promises of God.