Faith, Self-Harm, and Depression in Far Cry 5 Jul25

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Faith, Self-Harm, and Depression in Far Cry 5

Promotional image from Far Cry 5.
It’s no accident that Far Cry 5’s fictional district in Montana is named Hope County. The game features many people looking for hope, reminding me of North America’s current political landscape, changing values, shifting economics, and fear of war. In Far Cry 5, you play as a deputy tasked with arresting a charismatic cult leader. His cult, one that hijacks many Christian themes and practices but warps them into something sinister, has slowly been taking over Hope County. Though the game features several characters with tragic stories, John Seed’s journey of “faith” is perhaps the most horrendous to me.

Introduced as he makes a speech reminiscent of contemporary televangelists, complete with electric guitar music, bright lights and even a catchy slogan, John tells his “testimony” of abuse, addiction, and seeking escape, until meeting “The Father” (the cult leader—Joseph Seed). John says, “I spent my whole life looking for more things to say yes to . . . then Joseph showed me how selfish I was being, always taking, always receiving . . . the best gift is not the one you get, it’s the one you give.” He has experienced tremendous trauma over the course of his life and done things that haunt him. On the surface, his words sound nice. But the hope he offers turns out to be false.

I am often angry at myself for not being able to overcome depression.

For one thing, his method of atonement is tattooing the names of his sins on his body and then cutting them out—a practice he encourages others to partake in. Freedom is experienced through self-torture and suffering, according to John—an idea that is not all that foreign in the real world, though not always to this extreme.

Inflicting pain on ourselves can feel like an outlet for internal suffering because it gives us the illusion of control amidst the chaos. This type of abuse might take the form of physical self-harm, or it could be something as unassuming as self-deprecating humour. If we insult ourselves first, we don’t have to wait for others to do so, after all.

Using suffering to counteract fear or past hurts doesn’t work, though. It never feels like you can inflict enough pain to make your internal struggle go away, and the escalation can lead to death. I remember being shocked when Robin Williams committed suicide, because he always seemed so funny, happy, and excited, but as I’ve come to experience depression regularly myself, I now understand how those emotions can overlap.

I am often angry at myself for not being able to overcome depression. I have days where I see myself as worthless, stupid, unlovable and deserving of whatever pain I experience. In Far Cry 5, John Seed capitalizes on these types of feelings, and I understand how people buy into it. But in the end, heaping punishment on top of self-loathing leads far away from hope. Anyone who has attempted to harm their way into a healthy mindset can tell you that it is a downward spiral rather than upward movement.

Jacob, Faith, and John Seed—secondary antagonists in Far Cry 5.

Religion in North America has done little to disabuse someone of this assumption, and in many ways made it worse. Words of condemnation and directives to deny yourself to the point of believing you are incapable of anything good are used to create dependence on religious figures for relief. Far Cry 5’s mirroring of this landscape is painful and sobering for me because the basis for my depression—the suffering I’ve experienced through physical and emotional abuse, substance abuse, abandonment, and betrayal—has only been survivable through my faith.

Understanding that this world is a distortion of perfection, but that there is something good and pure and worthwhile at the center of who I am, has allowed to me overcome those feelings of worthlessness. And understanding that God is not some cosmic punisher, but someone who would take that pain for me, and walk with me in that suffering, gives me a hope that can’t be defeated.

Inflicting pain on ourselves can feel like an outlet for internal suffering.

While Far Cry 5 presents a form of Christianity that is uncomfortably close to what it looks like for many North Americans, faith in something good exists. Real Christianity offers people a place to ask all their questions and keep looking for answers, rather than clouding the mind. And it is rooted in caring for others. In the Christianity that reflects God’s love, strength is defined as defending the weak and protecting those who are being abused; power is used to make sure no one is taken advantage of. This is the real hope that my faith offers me, and I am heartbroken when it is used to hurt others. Far Cry 5 is fair in its judgements and wise in the ways it points out the dysfunctions of religion, yet it does not say that faith is evil or that religion is bad, only that when used in this way it does harm.

You, as the deputy in the game, are not passive in this conversation of false hope, but instead the main actor. By violently opposing the cult, you end up causing as much harm as the cult itself. The quest to free everyone from the cult leaves people without anything to believe in when catastrophe hits.  While the faulty hopes offered by the Seed family cause destruction, so too does destroying any type of system to find hope in. I’m reminded to make sure living out my faith is done so in a way that helps people rather than attempting to shame, distort, abuse or rob others of the love and forgiveness offered them.

Dustin Schellenberg

Dustin Schellenberg

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Dustin spends his time exploring the far reaches of space, understand the ancient ways of might and magic, and wandering the post-apocalyptic wastes. If it has a reasonably open world, a crafting system and some way to sneak around, he'll be there. When not gaming, he's probably planning his next D&D character (because his DM keeps killing off the old ones). He is a competent bass player and guitarist, mediocre mid laner and outright awful FPS player. He is father of two, husband of one, a sometimes theologian, and all-times pastor of Crestview Park Free Methodist Church in Winnipeg, MB.
Dustin Schellenberg