I hated fighting Faith Seed, the highest-ranking woman in Far Cry 5's fictional cult. She was confusing, annoying, and - like all the game's enemies - wanted to kill me. I was supposed to hate her, but I didn't relish winning our final battle. Faith embodies the ugliness of the game's cult, The Project at Eden's Gate, but, more disturbingly, the bind in which evangelical Christianity often traps women.
Faith is a mess of contradictions: Flirtatious but childlike, devoted to cult leader Joseph Seed but afraid of him, powerful but mostly acting through her followers, real but a drug-induced hallucination. She's one of the three heralds, or bosses, who control the regions of Far Cry 5's Hope County, Montana. She oversees the manufacture and distribution of Bliss, a drug that blurs reality and, in its highest doses, turns people into murderous zombies.
She appears throughout the region to taunt and periodically kidnap the player, stealing your allies away to the cult and hurling her minions at you at every turn.
Faith has to fight against the stories told about her from those outside the cult, no matter how much she might have changed during her time there. We're predisposed to disbelieve her. The description of her on resistance member Dutch's map calls her "a siren" and dismisses her past as "a sob story."
Perhaps protesting too much, she mentions during the player's first encounter with her that they have likely heard stories about her being "a liar and a manipulator [who] poisons people's minds."
Faith tells the player that she wants to tell them "a different story, a true story." That story involves her being ostracised and abused, which she dealt with through drug use. She tells us that her self-destructiveness has been wiped away by Joseph giving her hope, confidence, and purpose.
She continues to at least manufacture drugs, if not use them herself, and this past behaviour is the basis of her usefulness to the cult.
Despite her outward enthusiasm, Faith may not have entirely chosen her role. She reveals in her boss fight that Joseph drugged and threatened her when she was 17 to get her to join Eden's Gate. Early on she tells the player about him challenging her to jump to her death for him, telling her that "he would have faith in her if she would have faith in him." She says she was scared but did what he wanted anyway, manipulated by his supposed love for her and by the "new family" he's given her.
Despite Joseph inviting her into a group that professes to accept everyone as they are, he still makes her prove herself worthy. Faith seems aware that Joseph could take everything she loves away if she displeases him. When you destroy a statue of Joseph, for instance, Faith worries "what he'll do to me" in response. She is restrained by threats and fear, even as the cult has made Faith so free she can break the rules of physical reality through her ability to float and appear at random.
Faith randomly appearing. It's hard to tell if she's a hallucination or actually there.
The Faith we encounter in the game tells us Joseph has brought her into a world that "doesn't take, doesn't devour," but she's one in a line of women sacrificed to Eden's Gate's male leader, devourable and replaceable. The various Faiths seem to have known there would be consequences for wavering, as revealed in another note:
I just wanted to be special. When Joseph came into my life, I felt like you'd given me a true gift, Lord. That a man who talks to you would bring me in on your holy conversation…? And so I took the name that you gave me, Lord, through Joseph: "Faith." And I am a woman made anew. But now, I'm ashamed to say, even though I carry this name, my devotion to the Project is… plagued. By Doubt. What do I do? I know you will forgive me, dear Lord. I don't know if Joseph will.
Faith wears her conflicting identities literally in her outfit, a lacy combination of a wedding dress and a child's summer frock. The high neckline and the sleeves that run below her elbows are modest and traditional, but the hem is flirtily short and uneven. Is she a faithful, innocent follower of Joseph Seed, or a seducing "siren," as Dutch's description of her reads? Is she a powerful leader or Joseph's fear-stricken prisoner? Is she unique among Eden's Gate's followers or a replaceable cog in his ego-driven machine?
Ultimately, she has to be all of these things, navigating the conflicting roles and identities others have created for her.
This state of a woman being pulled in conflicting directions is endemic to certain denominations of evangelical Christianity, which Eden's Gate feels inspired by through its militaristic theology and focus on conversion. The cult seems to stem from a kind of Christianity that sees women both as the temptress who caused humanity to be expelled from the Garden of Eden and as subordinates to men.
It's a culture in which, in the words of Christian writer Carla Ewert, "the male identity is the fulcrum on which all things, especially female identity, pivot. Without the male center, all is unhinged and purposeless." These denominations see women as an afterthought or a problem to solve. Some believe in complementarianism, the idea that men and women have Biblically-ordained different roles.
Other believe in more explicitly submissive roles for women with an emphasis on sexual purity. Lyz Lenz, a contributor for The Washington Post, writes that this purity-minded Christianity teaches women that they "ought to be passed down from father to husband, more an inheritance than a human."
These different views of women as equal or subordinate overlap and conflict, though are not as dissimilar as they might seem on the surface. They stem from a root that forces women to contort themselves to men's demands, that makes it so that, as Christian blogger Kristen Rosser writes, "no matter what [women] do, no matter how they dress, they can be blamed for 'causing their brothers to stumble'" by the mere fact of their existence.
(In the case of Far Cry 5's Faith, causing people to stumble is literally embodied through her effect on others.) It's a culture that's led to abuse in the church, that created disgraced reality star Josh Duggar and Alabama politician Roy Moore, that's causing upheaval across evangelical churches today in the form of #ChurchToo, the faith's version of Hollywood's #MeToo movement in the wake of Harvey Weinstein.
When I was in divinity school I had a female friend pursuing ordination. It's a complicated, drawn-out process under the best of circumstances. During that time her partner switched denominations from his own to hers and sought ordination as well.
He moved through the process much faster than her, despite her qualifications. I'll always remember the look on her face when we talked about it, one night at a house party as we lingered over our plastic cups of beer. She gave me an expression of resigned bafflement as we realised she was seeking acceptance from an institution that would never find her sufficient, no matter what it told her and how hard she tried to live up to its demands.
The situation wasn't as cut and dried as just her being a woman or that he didn't deserve it, but there was an undercurrent of traditions and beliefs that lifted him while pushing her back. It was unfair but at the same time seemed so intractable that her moving ahead anyway was both an obedience and a rebellious victory.
In Far Cry 5, Faith pays the price for the cult's culture and actions. Late in her boss fight she even cries, "It's not my fault. None of this was my fault! You think I wanted this?" Joseph is ultimately the mastermind, the real power, the reason behind her every move, but there's no option to spare Faith.
As I fought her, as she cried out about The Father, I felt bad. We were both fighting a common enemy who had the privilege of not being in the room.
Once the player has defeated Faith, she gives a last monologue during which she approaches the player, who steps back when she reaches for them. An incredible range of emotion crosses her face in this moment: Longing, surprise, disappointment, despair.
I found that moment heartbreaking. Faith wants to be all the things everyone demands of her - virginal, sexual, confident, submissive - but most of all she wants to be wanted, to be embraced and accepted for all her average complexity. She seems to really believe that despite the events that unfold through her region the player will still love her. She has a naive faith in her own innate worth. It's the worth that Jesus promises but the church so often takes away.
Footage via Video Game Sophistry
Far Cry 5 casts Faith as a villain, but to me she's doing the best she can against and amid a culture that asks her to be more than anyone could be and then blames her when she can't measure up. She's caught up in evangelical Christianity's earthly misogyny and faith's own desperate gamble that all of us are inherently good. I hated fighting her, and I hated killing her.
She, like so many women unappreciated by their churches, deserved better.