We Were Wrong About Pokémon

Ten years ago there was a movement among Children’s ministers to educate children and parents about the horrors of a cartoon-card game-toy combo called Pokémon. Many a children’s service was sprinkled references to these “pocket monsters” and how the game would act as a gateway to other games such as Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons. The way some of my peers went on and on about it you’d think Pokémon was more of a threat to their children’s salvation than Satan himself.

So now all those children have grown up. Pokémon fever has subsided. What has become of those who just had to catch them all? Did they fall prey to the gateway of card gaming and delve deeper into the devil’s grasp?

No they didn’t. Kids who played Pokémon during it’s height are now in college or starting a career and a family. The internet is full of these now young adults and guess what. The worst that happened is that some of them still play Pokémon. Others create comics that riff on their former dedication or the vulnerabilities of certain characters or even issues with gameplay in general. Still others craft plushies or create song remixes using their talents and skills. The same way my generation pays homage to Star Wars, The Smurfs, Transformers, Scooby Doo or He-Man.

We were wrong about Pokémon.

It didn’t lead anyone any further away from God than they already were. That goes for Christian and non-Christian kids alike. And I’ve had the privilege of watching children in both groups grow up. It was a fad. A game and a TV Show. And now a part of pop culture. Nothing more.

Why does this matter?

Why write a post about it? Because back in my day, in my childhood, churches and Christian parents were up to the same thing. He-Man, The Smurfs, Transformers, Scooby-Doo… all marked as evil. At times I heard more about what I wasn’t allowed to do than anything else. So between the evils of pop culture, catching the tail-end of the backward masking craze and the church’s fixation on demons in the 80’s it’s a wonder I learned about the love of God at all.

It matters because we still play this game today.

Anything that comes out that becomes popular is demonized by church folks. Did Teletubbies send any toddlers to hell? Or even worse convert them to homosexuality? No. Has Harry Potter interested thousands of kids in witchcraft and created a demand for warding schools across the country? No. Has Sponge Bob Squarepants tempted a generation of helpless children to live in a pineapple under the sea? No.

People (kids included) don’t go to hell because of what they watch, collect, play or enjoy. The only reason a person goes to hell is if they do not have a living relationship with Jesus Christ the Son of God. Time is precious. There is so very little of it. Every moment we spend preaching against something is a moment we’re not directing kids toward God. It’s actually a moment we’re spending making kids think that God is against everything fun, creative and popular.

That’s why I don’t preach against pop culture. I share the love of Christ and try to illustrate how that love affects the lives of those who return that love through obedience. My job is not to be the Holy Spirit for my kids and their families. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. And if the parents don’t care, or aren’t involved… well those kids have bigger troubles than what they’re watching on TV and they need to know God cares more than what we believe he frowns on.

I understand the intentions of those who demonize pop culture. Their goal is to protect children. I have children of my own. They’re not allowed to watch everything that’s out there. But I understand that if they grow up to be horrible people, it won’t be because of what they watched, collected or traded with friends. It will be because I didn’t display how a living relationship with God affects a life, a marriage, a family, a ministry and the world. This is a call to all parents and children’s ministers. Let’s focus less on the things of this world and more on the things of God. Let’s be a church that stands for something rather than against something.

“The things of this world grow strangly dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.”

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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