We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the “Citizens of Virtue,” and they sure seem to be up to some shady practices. In this ARG-that-campaigns-against-ARGs, the C.O.V. are a fundamentalist Christian group that may or may not be holding some individuals captive while also apparently lying about their business practices. Citizens of Virtue is part of an Alternate Reality Game created by Rob Bell and Don Golden, as a promotion for their latest book – Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Yes, it is in fact of a rare breed – the Christian ARG.
Our first encounter with the C.O.V. came from an email we received in late September from a Ms. Savannah Merks, listed as the Public Relations Specialist for the group. In the email was a press release which claimed, among other things, that, “[a] sweeping wave of ‘alternate reality’ games is steering our nation down a dangerous path, according to the Citizens of Virtue (C.O.V.), a Christian organization dedicated to improving Christian lifestyles around the world.” Merks herself noted that, “[w]ith alternate reality games, literally millions of people could be caught up simultaneously in a mind-altering swirl of confused thinking.” Yeah, imagine that!
Since then, we’ve received a number of game tips pointing us to the game, and while it was part of the discussion in episode 63 of the ARG Netcasts, we know we’re a bit behind on getting involved in this one. However, we know that the community discussion at the Unfiction forums will help those who wish to get started, and we’re pretty sure that anyone there will be glad to help get you up to speed!
We’ve got more information about the plot, the book tie-in, and a few interesting images of swag cards we received in the mail after the hump, so click on through!
In recent developments of the narrative, Wilfred Dawes, the Vice-President of Cultural Development for the group, was reported as having ten DUIs, and for this organization, that’s a big deal. However, the official spin of his termination involved his glowing commendation of Blake Cranston, a lawyer for C.O.V., in his sudden and unexpected resignation for personal reasons.
This has players asking: can this organization really be trusted? They run a children’s camp named Camp Francis. They’re even bringing to market a drug that “is the innovative new solution to the passions that can override the judgment of our youth and lead them into temptation” called Passionix. Indoctrination seems to be an understatement!
And then there is Bridegroom of Blood, a band hailing from Boston. Last week, a musician from the band named Xander Greene was freed from the clutches of C.O.V. after going to them for help and redirection. Xander had gone to the group because he felt that his lifestyle was too “un-Christian”, but what he found there after checking in was a little… extreme. He ended up having to communicate with the outside world by sending coded messages and riddles through the CoV website. Quite cryptic they were! But with some cunning wit from the community aiding him, he was able to get out of the facility, and thwarted a project of the C.O.V. in the process.
This project, revealed in their Temperance virtue week (we’ll explain right away), the C.O.V. wanted to “re-write” fourteen all-time classic hymns (including the likes of Amazing Grace) to better suit what they felt was more accurately a Christian worldview. It so happened that Lila, Xander’s aunt who was campaigning to find him and rescue him, was able to copyright the updated songs of what the C.O.V. called the “Faithless Fourteen” — because Xander had written the lyrics. That meant they had to abandon their project (and was likely the reason they let Xander go).
That was one project in the midst of a seven week campaign they call the “Seven Virtual Virtues” – a positive reflection of the seven deadly sins, based on the Catholic Seven Cardinal Virtues. They’ve even shown up at three recent events to hand out their propaganda. Virtue #3, Patience, begins October 21st, with the remaining four on the following Tuesdays.
As far as the book itself is concerned, reviews are both full of praise and criticism. It’s may be tough pill to swallow, for anyone who reads it (both religously, and politically – even to the point of comparing the United States to the Roman Empire!). It’s a challenge to the Christian community, and a re-visioning of the Christians’ place in today’s culture. Some may see the book as a controversial political piece for Christians, others simply an alternate theological perspective on the role of Christians – the “new Exodus” – and how they live out their faith – wherever they are, as a reflection of Jesus’ life on Earth.
Want to try some puzzles for yourself? Find the hidden message in the book’s endnotes. Decode the secret message on the “help save the seven” page of its website. See if you see can solve the Daily Inspiration riddles’ secret tips.