That thought came up in the context of church-related youth activity planning. Personally, I don’t think he would. But it’s no fun to just state that and shut a door to a exploratory learning opportunity. And just because I believe Jesus might not, does not mean it should be forbidden.
Playing Paintball (which I have not done myself, my childhood was in the Cowboys-and-Indians days – I played Indian – and before capture the flag, which I have done once) is basically combat play, like checkers, chess, cards, and many video games and lots of activities in between. Paintball, from what I understand from my own offspring who are well versed on it and many virtual combat methods, is about as close as you can get to actual warfare without death or propelled-metal-projectile injury. As such, it is a game in which one can feel very alive. There is nothing like the nearness of immanent death to make you feel vividly the living moment you are in now. The thrill of the danger, the excitement of coming so close to having the power of death over “the enemy” or the enemy having it over you makes it all very very exciting. It remains fun because the kills are not “real.” However, be aware that the feelings, the passions, are real. And those feelings, and the desperation they bring out, and the things that desperation get you to do in order to win, or to “live” on in the game are the teachable moment of the contest.
Where Jesus once said something like “look at the flowers and birds, they don’t fret or compete, they just exist, appreciating the Creator’s care for them” if he were talking with paintballers I can readily imagine him saying to them, after they come out all splattered with near-death experiences “Why do you find such a thrill in playing at killing? What does that thrill do to you? Where does it take you? Does it make you more human and humane, or something else? Would you have played differently if the power of death was real?” And I imagine much more, and I imagine what I would ask, and what I would point out. The fact is — and this was proven in experiments done long ago which would be unethical now — that most people, given slight but consistent encouragement, would in fact “take it to the limit” much quicker than they believe they would. I might talk about how the thrill is part of “the flesh” and how Jesus was all about getting us to see how it is the passions of the flesh, exercised in this way, that take us to committing acts of inter-human destruction, whether they be flesh wounds or heart wounds.
Jesus knows. He’s seen it happen. Up close and personal! Ordinary people who considered themselves properly religious were incited to call for a death by infuriated and threatened religious leadership. And it happened.
Which is why it was so striking, that in the conversation about Paintball I was privy to, another story came up, a story about an ordinary man who was deeply moved when he was simply constructing a cross to be put up as a symbol in a Christian camp, and he had chills to think that someone in Jesus’ time had actually done that, and now he was repeating it. And he felt he was contributing to a death all over again. Wow! He had learned to pay attention!
All of this is to say that by all means let Christian youth paintball! But then let them explore what they’ve learned about themselves afterward. To simply go to black-and-white, right/wrong thinking and forbid it would be to lose a chance to learn about the real power of the latent desire to win and kill and survive. This is the power Jesus gave up for us, so we could learn something about ourselves. And reflecting on that part of Painball, or video gaming, they can begin to recognize how we tick, and how our natural way is likely not the way of Jesus.