Videogames

Longinus. A violent atonement in Far Cry 4


Far Cry 4’s priestly figure of Longinus is both a criticism of the violent conversion policy of christianity in past centuries, and a contemplation about a tragic man unsuccesfully trying to atone for his sins. The spear bearer from christian legends places the player of Far Cry 4 in Longinus’ shoes. Fascinating and confrontating. (Complete with all transcipts of Longinus’ missions.)

Priest is a kind of profession you don’t come across very easily in video games these (or any) days. Of course, there are tons of polytheistic priests and clerics alongside the wizards and sorcerers of the Fantasy Game Lore. But good old fashion priests, ordained, white collar, quoting biblical texts and the such, seem to hesitate to take part in game narratives.

There is, as far as I can think of, one exception: father Grigori from Half-Life 2. This Eastern-Orthodox clergyman roams the abandoned ruins of the town of Ravenholm, invested with zombified humans, ‘easing their souls’ by shooting them in the head. ‘Rest, my child!’ But Grigori is a solemn figure in video games. (See: Half-Life’s Father Grigori.)

Longinus: crazy quotes

In Far Cry 4 (2004) a new priest enters the arena: Longius. He is crazy, full of bad situated biblical quotations and a soul more tormented than any of his flock. The player meets Longinus very soon in the main mission. You will have to do six missions for him, which he frames as salvific, but you will be more or less dealing with shooting guys to obtain their blood diamonds. But there is more than meets the eye. Let us take a closer look at ‘father’ Longinus’.

In Far Cry 4 the player takes the role of  Ajay Ghale, son of the Mohan Ghale, the diseased leader of the rebellions of the Golden Path at Kyrat, somewhere at the slopes of the Himalaya mountains. Your mother fled Kyrat when you were little. You know close to nothing about your heritance when you return to Kyrat – now a grown man – to shatter the ashes of your mother as her last will requested. Barely in Kyrat you are abducted by Pagan Min, the local dictator. And exactly as quickly you are freed by the still active Golden Path to take over the role of your late father, still not knowing how and why.

In this gigantic open world game of Far Cry 4 you will have to run certain missions for a number of figures, all related in some way to the cause of the Golden Path. Longinus is one of them. He seems to be the master weapons trader in the area. Surrounded by all kinds of heavy weaponry, he sends Ajay, the player, to fore fill six missions. In the game these missions, if succeeded, unlock heavier weapons for the player to equip, and provides the resistance of the Golden Path with better weapon supplies. This last piece is only narrative, I have seen no difference in the actual fighting equipment of the Golden Path in the game itself.

Mission 1: Return to Sender

When entering his tent, Longinus greets the player, waving a pistol in front of him.

Welcome. I am Longinus and you… you are Ajay! Welcome to my church away from church.

[Since I could not find any transcript of Longinus’ speeches on the internet, I have provided them myself. See below for all the transcripts.]

When Ajay questions all the guns in this ‘church’, Longinus replies:

Of course! For the meek shall inherit the Earth, my friend. [Mt. 5,5] All they need are some good guns. Revelation 5,5. It is the most… invigorating read. ‘And one of the elders sayeth unto me, weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David hath prevailed to open the book, and loose the seven seals thereof!’

Quoting from the famous ‘sermon on the mountain’, Longinus seems to uphold a certain empowerment of the meek and the humble.  It is all good and fine to be humble and meek, but only when equipped with the right guns. Not exactly the core of Jesus’ message of the New Testament. Longinus however has a marked gift of quoting biblical verses out of context in order to sanctify his violent behavior (against Pagan Min’s men). Thus, when he ‘explains’ the meaning of the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah’ from Revelations, Longinus cries out:

It is our savior! It is our Savior returned to us as a lion, a warrior! So, I started thinking to myself. When the Son of God is reborn, what gun would he use? (…)  A lion needs teeth! What gun would Jesus choose? Deuteronomy 32,47? ‘For there are no empty words for you, but your very life…’ Or maybe! Revelations 19,11. ‘The discretion of a man deferreth his anger.’

Forced conversion: religion & violence

Let’s say that Longinus takes the literal stance on the notion of militia Christi, the ‘soldiers of Christ’. This catholic order was founded in 1209 by st. Dominic and the Dominican friars, in order to battle all kind of heresies within the church. The notion however has attained quite broader meaning, as it has become to denote those Christians who are prepared to defend the ‘true Faith’ against all kind of dangers. Longinus:

A soldier knows. A soldier always knows. For we have seen the rapture and survived it. You need guns to do righteous work, Ajay… for every gun is a bible, for every bullet… a sermon. (…) And he said to them ‘God forth into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole of creation.’ [Mk. 16,15]

To proclaim the Word of God with a smoking gun in the hand and the Bible in the other hand is regrettably a not unknown way of evangelization as preached and practiced by almost all branches of Christianity. Many times the ‘heathens’ had the ‘choice’ between surrender and being baptized or face a gruesome execution. The Saxions under Charlemagne in northern Europe, the Indians of Middle America, the list of forced conversions is endless. Far Cry 4 delivers quite a heavy form of Religionkritik by calling these violent acts ‘sermons’: the peaceful words and sermons of the missionaries have been accompanied by force and oppression. True conversion should come from the heart and be brought by reasoning and discussing, not by force. In Longinus Far Cry criticizes the violent dimension which seems to be so closely linked to (monotheistic) religion, despite its inner core of peace and compassion.

Mission 2: Sermon on the mount

Far Cry 4’s criticism is not the only layer of meaning within Longinus’ character. In the second mission, named after the well-known Biblical passages called ‘the Sermon on the mount’ (Mt. 5-7), Longinus confesses his own sin, and sheds some light on his own history. Longinus sends Ajay on a mission to collect a rather large shipment of guns out of the hands of Pagan Min’s hands. Ajay finds the shipment, but it contains only a small box with some diamonds in it. When returning Ajay askes about the nature of this strange shipment. Longinus replies:

‘And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.’ [Hebrews 9,27] They lie to you, you know this. People call it the circle of life, but life is built on a pile of bones. You eat, or you are eaten. Animals call it survival. Humans call it business.

After this strange ‘lesson’ about the nature of things in this world, Longinus goes on:

Business, Ajay… terrible business. I was saved by a bullet… to the head. It killed the old me, the terrible me, one you would have called a warlord. But that bullet, it made a hole in my skull that allowed the light of God to slip in and I was baptized by the waters of Goka Falls.

Conversion of a Warlord

The story Longinus is referring to his prior life as a warlord in an unknown African country, the same country the events of Far Cry 2 took place. Back then, Longinus was involved in the ‘blood diamond’ trade during a civil war in his native country. During the Far Cry 2 campaign the player has to kill Prosper Kouassi or Leon Gakumba, who were both warlords, at the Goka Falls.

Longinus claims that a lethal bullet nearly killed him, but he was saved by the Roman Catholic priest Father Maliya, also a minor character in far Cry 2. Eventually he was baptized by Maliya in the waters of Goka Falls. His feollow fellow citizens however kept on seeing a fierceless warlord instead of a new-born Christian. So Longinus fled the country, apparently to Kyrat, where he meets Ajay and the Golden Path.

It remains unclear if Longinus is a ‘official’ ordained priest, or more a self proclaimed one. It seems however clear that Longinus regards himself as some sort of priest or preacher.

Blood diamonds: terrible business

Although Longinus may claim he is ‘born in the Lord’, he behavior still shows much of his violent past. He still wields the guns with great skill, but his aim has changed dramatically. The new-born Longinus wants to redeem the sins of his past life by tracing the blood diamonds he traded. About the diamonds:

Leviticus 17,11: ‘For it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.’ These are remnants of my past transgression. Each diamond is a sin, and my hands have committed many. (…) And when you are finished, come see me. For the Lord’s work is never done.

Unfortunately for those who hoped that Longinus has not only changed aim, but also in methods, he sends Ajay to a go-and-pick-up mission: steal the blood diamonds from Pagan Min’s men by shooting them all.

Mission 3:  A Short Hunt

In the third mission, Longinus continues about the blood diamonds.

‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me.’ Psalms 23, verse 4. It is good to see you again, Ajay. Are you here to do the Lord’s work? (…) I have a confession to make, Ajay. I fear evil. Not the evil of other men, for that can be dealt with ease. No, it is the evil within myself that I fear. Do you remember my sins? The terrible business that I spoke off? (…) The blood of the Lamb washes away all sins [cf. Rev. 7,14], but in order to gain purity I must repent and make an act of contrition. There are more of these sins here in Kyrat and they must be tracked down. Start by finding a lost sheep. Follow him, and he will lead you to a vault. Bring me what you find within.

Longinus speaks of an evil within, which is far worse than the evil outside. ‘That can be dealt of with ease,’ while waving his loaded gun. Longinus fears his own sins more than anything else, because he knows these cannot be erased by firing a gun. Longinus knows he has to make an ‘act of contribution’ to ‘wash away’ his sins. Then only he is able to think his sins being washed by the blood of the Biblical lamb. But still, Longinus remains loyal to his old convictions: an eye for an eye (with is ironically also a Biblical phrase). Longinus can only wash his sins away in the blood of the Lamb (with capital) when another lamb (or lost sheep) is sacrificed.

Far Cry thus combines four Biblical images: revenge (eye for an eye), the atoning blood of Christ (the blood of the Lamb), the compassion of God with sinners (the lost sheep) and the proverbial scapegoat of the Old Testament. Longinus:

And he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep.’ [Lk. 15,6]

Far Cry 4 mixes all these images concerning forgiveness, atonement and punishment to express exactly the opposite of the Biblical message. The New Testament, and the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, makes it perfectly clear that forgiveness and atonement are only to be received when one does not only confess his sins, but also refrains from future sins and violence. Longinus tries to get atonement by continuing his old behavior, for which he seeks atonement in the first place.

Mission 4: Recompence

In the fourth mission, another lost sheep has to be found and ‘taken care’ of.

 ‘If any man has an ear, let him hear.’ Revelations 13,9. I am preparing for my sermons. (…) All mankind will fear. They will proclaim the works of God and wonder what He has done. As for you, there is another lost sheep to track down. Locate him, follow him, and bring back what you find.

Longinus: the spear bearer

The name ‘Longinus’ is taken from Christian legend. Longius or Longinus would have been the name of the Roman centurion who pierced Christ’s side on the cross with a lance (John 19,34). In Christian folklore he is the same soldier who said that dead Christ was indeed the Son of God (Mt. 27,54 and Mk. 15,39). His name is not mentioned anywhere in the Gospels, but the Gospel of Nicodemus, the first part called the ‘Acts of Pilate’ gives him his name. His name is derived probably from the Greece ‘logché’, meaning ‘spear’. This gives him the role of ‘bearer of the spear’, which would become a magical and potentially very powerful object in Christina legends as ‘the spear of destiny’. The connection between the old and the new Longius is that both were soldiers, trying to atone for their past sins.

Mission 5. A High Price

The same applies to the fifth mission. Now the number of ‘lost sheep’ is set to a total of three.

Ah! And the Lord said, who shall I send? And you answered, saying I am her. Send me. [Cf. Isaiah 6,8] Your devotions pleases me greatly, but it pleases the Lord even more. Another lost sheep has been located. You know what to do.

Far Cry 4 even mocks the arbitrary nature of Longinus’ quotations. Longinus quotes Psalm 8,2 without giving the Biblical finding place.

From the mouth of babes. You have ordained strength to still the enemy and become the avenger. [Psalm 8,2]

When Ajay asks what verse this might be, Longinus replies a little cross:

The word of God doesn’t always come in the form of chapter and verse.

Even Longinus seems to have been caught up in his own disputable interpretation of various Biblical quotations.

Mission 6. A Final Penance

In the sixth and last mission, Ajay finds Longinus drunk and ranting in his tent. Apparently he is contemplating his evil deeds in the past.

And the Lord said, who shall I send? And I said, I am here. Send me. [Cf. Isaiah 6,8] I come from a land of death and misery. And I stood with the devil for so long. This one… this one wanted travel document to take his family someplace safe. And this one wanted malaria medicine for his sick child, and he tried to kill me for it. I cannot blame him. NO! there is still work to do! We are not finished! You know what you must do. And I know what I must do. Ephesians 5,18: ‘Do not get drunk with wine, for this is debauchery, but be filled with the spirit.’

When Ajay returns to Longinus for the last time, the gun wielding priest is busy packing his things.

It is finished. My work here is done. And now the Lord is calling me elsewhere. (…) South America, I think. Or perhaps Cuba. There are still many sins for me to atone for. Thank you, Ajay. Thank you for showing me that there are still true believers willing to do righteous work. It is a debt that will not be forgotten. I have left you something as a token of my gratitude. Mark 16, verse 15.

Longinus understands there is more work to be done until his sins can be atoned for. And at this rate and ‘quality’ of ‘atonement’ he is likely to spend his whole life trying to outrun his past without any change of success. On the contrary, every attempt to atone for his sins, brings him only more sins. Longinus seems to be cursed, unable to break through the circle of violence which brings more violence. He tries to atone, but he is not capable to do so. He is a tragic figure, a symbolic figure for all men who try to better their way but are unable to. And this tragic insight, Longinus transfers to the player himself, who is also plunging himself in countless killings

And he said unto them, ‘Go forth into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole of creation.’ Go forth now, Ajay, and preach your own sermons.

The player has become Longinus, unable to stop the violence, unable to atone for his own sins. Something to think about, I would say…

==== TRANSCRIPT OF THE SIX LONGINUS MISSIONS ====

L = Longinus
A = Ajay

Biblical quotations without explicite finding place are given so between [ ].
Paraphrases of Biblical quotations are marked by ‘cf.’

#1 Return to Sender

L: Welcome. I am Longinus and you… you are Ajay! Welcome to my church away from church.

A: That sells guns?

L: Of course! For the meek shall inherit the Earth, my friend. [Mt. 5,5] All they need are some good guns. Revelation 5,5. It is the most… invigorating read. ‘And one of the elders sayeth unto me, weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David hath prevailed to open the book, and loose the seven seals thereof!’

A: Uh.

L: It is our savior! It is our Savior returned to us as a lion, a warrior! So, I started thinking to myself. When the Son of God is reborn, what gun would he use?

A: What…

L: When Christ returns to break the seven seals and bring about the Rapture, he returns as a lion, yes? A lion needs teeth! What gun would Jesus choose? Deuteronomy 32,47? ‘For there are no empty words for you, but your very life…’ Or maybe! Revelations 19,11. ‘The discretion of a man deferreth his anger.’

A: I don’t know what you’re talking.

L: A soldier knows. A soldier always knows. For we have seen the rapture and survived it. You need guns to do righteous work, Ajay… for every gun is a bible, for every bullet… a sermon. And for every radio tower that you free from Pagan’s lies, I will give you something. A reward. It is the will of God. Here. This is for the first one. (…) And he said to them ‘God forth into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole of creation.’ [Mk. 16,15]

#2. Sermon on the mount

L: Ajay, my child. I was just thinking that we should work together, you and me, and now providence has provided the means. ‘Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.’ That is Psalms [144,1]. It means: do what soldiers do best, even if it requires you to come to a godless country like this. As soldiers, we protect our people through our willingness to kill. And what do we need to fulfill our purpose?

A: Faith?

L: Guns, Ajay! Guns! Without them, how else will we ‘pass through the sea of trouble’ [Ze. 10,11) ] and calm the surging tides? Help me, Ajay, and the Golden Path will receive their guns.

A: Okay.

L: Praise God, and the scales have fallen from the boy’s eyes! [cf. Acts 9,18] There was a shipment, leaving over the mountain by helicopter, but it went down. I need you to take this tracker, and recover the shipment before the Army gets it back. The Lord will provide you with transportation. What do you say?

A: Amen!

L: Amen! Now go! Go, Ajay!

(…)

L: He returns.

A: One surprisingly small box, as requested. I thought it was going to be a weapons shipment for the Golden Path. That’s why I went.

L: ‘And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.’ [Hebrews 9,27] They lie to you, you know this. People call it the circle of life, but life is built on a pile of bones. You eat, or you are eaten. Animals call it survival. Humans call it business.

A: Are those…?

L: Business, Ajay… terrible business. I was saved by a bullet… to the head. It killed the old me, the terrible me, one you would have called a warlord. But that bullet, it made a hole in my skull that allowed the light of God to slip in and I was baptized by the waters of Goka Falls.

A: So those diamonds?

L: Leviticus 17,11: ‘For it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.’ These are remnants of my past transgression. Each diamond is a sin, and my hands have committed many.

A: And weapons for the Golden Path?

L: They will have them, and better. Go! Tell Amita and Sabal they will be getting their weapons. And they may also want to know that De Pleur is preparing a large shipment of opium at the old tea factory.

A: Wait! Opium?

L: Another terrible business, Ajay. Now go, and tell them! And when you are finished, come see me. For the Lord’s work is never done.

#3. A Short Hunt

L: ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me.’ Psalms 23, verse 4. It is good to see you again, Ajay. Are you here to do the Lord’s work?

A: I guess so.

L: I have a confession to make, Ajay. I fear evil. Not the evil of other men, for that can be dealt with ease. No, it is the evil within myself that I fear. Do you remember my sins? The terrible business that I spoke off?

A: You’re talking about the diamonds, right?

L: Yes. And the blood of the Lamb washes away all sins [cf. Rev. 7,14], but in order to gain purity I must repent and make an act of contrition. There are more of these sins here in Kyrat and they must be tracked down. Start by finding a lost sheep. Follow him, and he will lead you to a vault. Bring me what you find within.

A: I got it.

L: And he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep.’ [Lk. 15,6]

#4. Recompence

L: Ajay. ‘If any man has an ear, let him hear.’ Revelations 13,9. I am preparing for my sermons.

A: That’s a lot of sermons.

L: All mankind will fear. They will proclaim the works of God and wonder what He has done. As for you, there is another lost sheep to track down. Locate him, follow him, and bring back what you find.

#5. A High Price

A: I’m ready for more.

L: Ah! And the Lord said, who shall I send? And you answered, saying I am her. Send me. [Cf. Isaiah 6,8] Your devotions pleases me greatly, but it pleases the Lord even more. Another lost sheep has been located. You know what to do.

A: Find him, follow him, get the diamonds, and bring them back.

L: From the mouth of babes. You have ordained strength to still the enemy and become the avenger. [Psalm 8,2]

A: What verse is that?

L: The word of God doesn’t always come in the form of chapter and verse. Where did you go?

#6. A Final Penance

L: And the Lord said, who shall I send? And I said, I am here. Send me. [Cf. Isaiah 6,8] I come from a land of death and misery. And I stood with the devil for so long. This one… this one wanted travel document to take his family someplace safe. And this one wanted malaria medicine for his sick child, and he tried to kill me for it. I cannot blame him. NO! there is still work to do! We are not finished! You know what you must do. And I know what I must do. Ephesians 5,18: ‘Do not get drunk with wine, for this is debauchery, but be filled with the spirit.’

(…)

L: Ajay! So good to see you.

A: You are going somewhere?

L: It is finished. My work here is done. And now the Lord is calling me elsewhere.

A: Whereto?

L: South America, I think. Or perhaps Cuba. There are still many sins for me to atone for. Thank you, Ajay. Thank you for showing me that there are still true believers willing to do righteous work. It is a debt that will not be forgotten. I have left you something as a token of my gratitude. Mark 16, verse 15. And he said unto them, ‘Go forth into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole of creation.’ Go forth now, Ajay, and preach your own sermons.

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