This article attempts to leverage a previous Facebook discussion and expand upon it for a more open discussion. As such, original comments may have been edited in order to protect author anonymity.
Initial First Days / My Experience
With the recent Pokemon Go craze hitting our smart phones, I first heard about this fad from work colleagues, graduates to be specific. This was around Thursday 7 July, in the first few days of the game being released here in Australia, and I bit the bullet and downloaded the app purely to find out and understand first-hand the developing craze. After all, I have a reputation of an early adopter to preserve. Now, my experience of Pokemon Go was hampered by my near simultaneous adoption and upgrade to iOS 10. In simple terms:
iOS 10 Beta 1 + Pokemon Go = flaky GPS / poor experience
Over Thursday 7 – Friday 8 during my lunch breaks, I did find use of the app encouraged me to walk around the city just a little bit more than usual. When I left work on the Thursday, instead of taking my usual direct Flinders Lane route to the station, I meandered between Collins St and Flinders St all along the way, zig-zagging to PokeStops. The train ride home on Thursday helped me discover a whole bunch of PokeStops along the Glen Waverley train line, but I also discovered that a moving train was sometimes too fast for me to visit the stop and catch the Pokemon. By the end of my Friday experience with the game, I was at Level 5 and ready to explore the gym scene.
Over the weekend of 9-10 July, the sheer busyness of activities meant that I did not touch the app on Saturday and then on Sunday at church, along with friends we discovered that our church has two landmark PokeStops. After the morning service, a few of the young people were visibly playing the game.
First Online Discussion
It was only on Tuesday 12 July when the following post was made:
Witchcraft warning: Pokemon
I know this post is going to be controversial and probably unpopular given the popularity of the new Pokemon Go game however, it’s with love that I share this and do not seek to embarrass or accuse anyone of being a bad parent etc.
If your child is already displaying bad behaviour recently and you think it might be related, please do contact me for prayer support.
If you’re an adult, best not to play too!
Pokemon contains heavy occult themes and witchcraft ideology. The idea has always been to catch “monsters” so players can summon them and use their powers, whilst training them.
These monsters posses super powers such as psychic ability, extra dimensional travel and many violent acts.
Is Pokemon dangerous? Potentially yes it is. It conditions the child who plays the game into accepting occult and evolutionary principles.
Haunter can hypnotize, eat a person’s dreams, and drain their energy. Abra reads minds. Kadabra emits negative energy that harms others. Gastly induces sleep. Gengar laughs at peoples’ fright. Nidoran uses poison. The Psychic type of Pokemon are among the strongest in the game. Charmander, Haunter, Ivysaur, Kadabra, and many more evolve. The children are taught to use these creatures to do their will by invoking colored energy, fights, and commands. Much of it is reminiscent of occult and eastern mysticism.
The Bible says to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he/ she is old they will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).1 2 Chron. 33:6 says, “And he made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger.”
Pokemon should be added to page 4/5 of Steps to Freedom in Christ or page 17 of white book “Counterfeit Vs Real” along with the following;
Magic The Gathering (cards)
Dungeons and Dragons
World of Warcraft
If you’ve been convicted there is a prayer structure on page 17 to go through. I’m ready for a deluge of feedback anyway.
This post attracted quite a bit of attention and interaction from members within the church. Now, it is important to first understand the context that this FB community group is a closed group with admins and moderators.
The last comment was actually my comment, to which the post author/originator provided the following information to show the detail behind each monster:
The next comment had a little bit of back and forth dialogue, so censoring has been adapted in order to preserve readability – let’s call this Person C:
The next post was where things got a little more interesting and in depth – for the purposes of this public reproduction, I will refer to this individual as Person A.
Please be careful that you do not attribute playing a game to “Sin”. Many creative christian authors and content creators use fantasy and “mysticism” in themes. Lets not forget that CS Lewis wrote Narnia, and JRR Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings.
Pokemon is not witchcraft, there is no “sacrifice”, no “deity”, no “worship”. Evolution as a principle is not anti-christian, human scientists do not agree if or how “evolution” occurs, personally I favour the term “adaptation”. As a christian scientist, even we do not know whether the creation of man took place over the span of one day or over an era spanning hundreds/thousands of years.
If this game has “real demons” embedded then why is the majority of Christians who grew up with Pokemon are unaffected? evil spirits are independent of physical things, they are spiritual, and exist independent of the physical realm. People have been possessed and haunted by evil spirits even before Pokemon. In fact there is a psychological component to what some Christians refer to being “possessed” or “haunted”.
It’s okay if you disagree with me, I expect people to. When you teach your kids the truth in the gospel, what Jesus is all about, and they reframe all these creative fantasies as what they truly are (creating a wonderful world where children’s creativity is encouraged), then these things whether people see them as “demonic” or otherwise have no power over anyone
Now to help provide a little context, the above was written by a psychologist. The original author responded, taking the conversation off in a tangent on creationism and literalism of the Bible:
Sorry bud. You’re way off on this one. And the bible is clear that God created the earth in 6 literal days.
Pokemon is bad news. I didn’t say that Pokemon has real demons embedded. I said that some games do. The fact that some people apparently have no negative affects do not make things safe for everyone. My grandmother smoked until she was 80 for example.
The Bible says to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).1 2 Chron. 33:6 says, “And he made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger.”
I do not see how allowing children to play with games that encourage fighting, reading of minds, use of poison, mimicry, taunting, teleportation, hypnosis, and evolution can be a good thing. This is not training a child to righteousness, it is accepting the occult and secular evolution. Is this what we, as Christians, want our children to meditate on? Of course not.
1 John 3:4 defines sin as “transgression of the law”. As the law strictly prohibits divination and occult practices I would say that it’s getting very close to sin.
Person A’s response:
Sorry “bud”, the Hebrew word “Yon” which is the word that is used for “days” is also used to describe a “measure of time”. The translation became “days” because it is the word that it is most referred to.
Are you saying that all science is invalid? How do you reconcile the existence of dinosaurs with the bible? How do you reconcile carbon dating with the 6 day creation? Let us remember that God created us to be intelligent beings, and to seek knowledge and truth. God is out there in the physical universe, and He wants to be found. Evidence of Him exists in all creation. Except He is not going to make Moses dream through billions of years of creation, He gave Moses 6 snapshots as to the most important things that He wanted Moses to write into the Torah
This is not practicing divination, nor occult practices. There is no calling of spirits, no sacrifice, no worship. It is simply a make believe thing for children to enjoy and enhance creativity.
I’m not going to spend any more time trying to “convince” you, because I don’t think that would get us anywhere. But i simply wanted to say this is not “sin”, and to label it as such is condemning in itself.
The only thing that Jesus said was “By This the world will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” John 13:35. This is the only thing that matters, not “do’s” and “don’ts”. The entire law can be summed up in these two. If me partaking in a game makes me not love one another, then sure. but if it doesn’t, then sorry, don’t have much to back it up.
The discussion thread then continued fully down the rabbit hole of creation and science. The two individuals were fortunately self moderating and respectful of each other. In making this observation, I also joked about how the post originator should espouse his views on a flat earth with Person A. One of the interesting and valid comments to reproduce here was:
A great understanding of scripture really does empower us to love others. However, loving others doesn’t get you saved. Only faith in the resurrected messiah Yeshua, and a life of repentance trying to be obedient to Him.
If you think love is all that counts, that is a works based/mega church style theology that will ultimately leave you fruitless on the inside.
A new contributor to the dialogue entered the fray:
Humans cannot divorce scripture from exegesis. All teachings need to be tested by word, by Spirit, and by creation in the empirical observations of reality. If your interpretation of scripture is that the sky is green, and yet we observe that the sky is blue, it is advisable to reconsider your interpretation.
Fundamentalist literal exegesis contradicts not only creation (in the above sense), but also the theology of the Church Fathers. Rather than originating in the Early Church, the current surge of fundamentalism throughout the denominations is a modern innovation that can be traced back to the late 19th century.
That said, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul does ask us to give consideration for our brothers and sisters who have trouble dealing with food sacrificed to idols. I give to Pokémon no more spiritual power than I do to such idols, but it is good to take care when in the presence of those for whom Pokémon can “become a stumbling block.”
With the author responding:
It doesn’t matter how much power you give to it. Satan cares not of your regard for him. And your understanding of something does not make it true. Pokemon is full of the occult and the occult is banned by our Holy God. It doesn’t matter what regard you have for it or not.
Again, whilst there was disagreement, it was agreed that any further discussion would take place off-line. At this point, one of the church pastors offered his thoughts:
I believe it has been a good discussion and sharing of ‘different’ view regarding Pokemon Go. However as a pastor overseeing the social media platforms, I’ve been made aware of this by church members who have found it ‘unedifying’. So in the spirit of Ephesians 4:29 of letting everything we say be helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen….can I encourage that further ‘debates’ about this happens through private messaging with individuals as is already happening. 🙂
Another observer commented:
I love reading all these comments and arguments. I think its great to flesh these things out and get everyone’s input. As Christians we don’t debate each other enough. Thought provoking public discussions are great 🙂
A further observer (Person J) to all the commentary added humorous images to lighten the mood along the way:
The conversation evolved with the author explaining his stance:
The original intention of the post was a warning about Pokemon. It is often difficult to derive tone from digital posts however I want to apologise for my short comings in my “graceful delivery”. The guys that have debated with me here are clearly very intelligent and I want to encourage them to keep searching, and to keep the passion. Often when people are confronted with the reality of a certain behaviour they find it un-edifying. And the style of the conversation becomes a source of debate rather than the biblical truth. I’m prepared to be disciplined over my style, however I still encourage everyone to prayerfully consider these kind of issues. Personally I have much experience in deliverance ministry and have seen the terrible effects of many spiritual afflictions. Perhaps this is why I come across so strongly. If i didn’t care and love, and want to see our church full of people living the fullest possible life for Christ I would not mention it. Thus, I’m sorry for my style in replying to the two boys (although we are already chatting politely). I don’t make any apologies for the content. Witchcraft is out there and as someone who was saved out of that lifestyle I can say that there are certainly elements of it in Pokemon. As Christian, if I receive warning I must share it. I know I have lots of improvement to make on the style of that and I’m happy to accept correction in that regard.
This is the link I actually meant to post (not satire): http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/resource/pokemon.htm
The conversation then took another twist in the direction of technology and security with a contribution from yet another person:
Spiritual aspect aside, there is a security risk with the game: the company/organisation that made the game could use the app to map out the inside of your building through your phone camera.
The previous company of the founder came up with geospatial tech (hashtags, google earth/maps etc). Reconnaissance technology.
Now packaged in a cute form for mass consumption. Who knows what they will use all the data for.
Prudent thing to do is limit use, or skip it all together.
My gut feel: It’s a trap!
Other people who had clearly been following the conversation chipped in the Star Wars reference… 🙂 The author then asked:
I’d be very grateful to know, where are the leaders stand on this issue!? We are all to happy to post and share our opinions on same sex marriage publicly. And so the where is the leadership stance on this kind of game!? I put it to you that:
1. The bible is the true word of God.
2. The bible instructs that the occult is to be avoided in all forms.
3. Pokemon contains significant occult themes and ideas.
Conclusion; Therefore the game should be avoided. Which point is to be disagreed with? If you are a leader and you agree, come out and say “I encourage people to avoid the game”. Or “I’ve researched Pokemon and the bible to compare occult themes and decided that the game is harmless”. In which case you can advise to proceed with or without caution. You could also argue that scripture doesn’t mention the occult at all, or that the bible is not the true word of God. Is any leader going to comment?
Person C (from much earlier in the conversation) then provided his more in-depth commentary:
I think when push comes down to shove, we are asked by God to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can prove and show the perfect will of God (Romans 12). This means renewing of our minds, our thoughts and our imaginations so that our thoughts and imaginations are the thoughts and imaginations of God. And God asks us to do this because the its the renewing of our mind that transforms us into Christ… which is God’s will for us all to be in the image of Christ, and have the mind of Christ. This is called sanctification… we are saved by grace, we have died with Christ and we are raised with Christ and we have become a new creation, but our mind and emotions and soul need to be transformed through sanctification through renewing of our minds. And God know how important our mind is in the transformation process which is why He asks us to renew our minds in Romans 12, asks us to seek things above and now below Colossians 3, and to think about noteworthy things Philippians 4. Now God is a creative God and we have the mind of Christ, and think like Christ, we are incredibly creative.. God created the world. We are also commanded to watch what comes into our minds and hearts, and cast down vain imaginations 2 Corinthians 10:5. Proverbs says that we need to watch our hearts, because out of it comes the issues of life Proverbs 4;23. SO given this is the case, I would want to be very careful what I am thinking about, what I am imagining etc. Because what I imagine and what I think about shapes who I am being transformed into. I can’t afford to live my life with an imagination or thought which is not conformed to the will of Christ. Now God has given us freedom to do what we want, but we have consequences if we do silly things. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:23 everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. SO I don’t know about you guys, but I want to be careful about what I look at, what I play, what I think about etc. Jesus loved me so much that He died on the cross and paid the ultimate price so that I can be free from the Enemy, free from bondages, free from sin and so that can become a son of God and be transformed into HIs likeness and to think like Him and act like Him. Why would I want to jeopardise what God has won for me by playing something or looking at something that is not from God? I want to be dwelling and thinking about stuff from God, not something from the world at best or at worst something that has demonic influence. Thanks for sharing all . It raises a much bigger issues… what are you looking at, what are you thinking about, what are you letting your mind dwelling on? Are you letting your mind being renewed according to the Word of God, so that you can grab hold of everything that God has grabbed hold for you for when He died on that cross, or are you letting your mind being renewed by some computer game?? I want to have my mind renewed by God so that I am transformed into the image of Christ, I have love, peace, joy kindness and self control, that the Kingdom of God can manifest in me and through me to people around me.
Due to the technology that Pokemon Go is based on, many of the landmarks in the game are leading people to go close to churches. Christians and non-Christians alike are now drawing close to churches all around the world. I would submit that we should use this opportunity to connect with non-Christians and show them the love of Christ
This first conversation thread was then book-ended by the following contribution from a parent who shared their context and perspective on educating their son:
On July 15, the post author issued a premise retraction:
Witchcraft warning: Pokemon (Premise Retraction about the creator being Anti-Christian)
I’m guessing many people having seen my post about Pokemon would have done research and found one of my premises to be unsubstantiated. I must agree. The sources of the claim seem to be from a satire site- and a Pastor in the USA, who seems to have got his information from the satire site. I’m truly sorry about this aspect of my argument against Pokemon.
However, I still maintain my position that the game has occult themes and is a massive waste of your time. That there are far better things that Jesus Christ who has come in the flesh, was crucified to death and resurrected is calling us to. I’m still praying and hoping the leaders will come back to me about my stance on this. I am still holding my warning in accordance with Ezekiel chapter 33.
The final words on this matter were thus:
I do think this has been a concern all over the media. People losing wandering children, people being drawn to places where they are gang bashed, robbed or even raped…. Anything so addictive, so quickly, such a big phenomenon already seems way out of control. I personally don’t play because I waste too much time as it is. The last thing I need is a simple free app that causes me to walk around aimlessly with my head in my phone. Maybe pray and ask God is this the best thing for my walk with Jesus.
And the final comment was this posting by Person J:
In addition to the thoughts I had previously shared, I got bored with the app and by Tuesday 12 July I was over Pokemon Go. One of the interesting things I saw during the weekend that it was hyped up was Go: Public Service Announcement, which helps churches (groups of people really) to inform their congregations on what Pokemon Go actually is.
My position on the matter is reflected in my real-life experience – it’s a fad. Like anything, we should always remain in control and not allow the things of this world become an addition or idol that we succumb to.