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The Gospel According to Pokemon

The Japanese TV show “Pokemon” is now extremely popular with pre-teens (my 6, 8, and 10 year old all love the show).  It shows the adventures of a group of children as they learn how to capture and train little creatures called Pokemon (the word is apparently an abbreviation of “Pocket Monsters”).  Along the way, they meet various obstacles and tangle with evil opponents.

 Some Christians object to Pokemon simply because the little creatures “evolve” from one form to another, and these Christians want nothing whatsoever to do with anything related to evolution.  In fact, “evolve” is a misnomer, since there is no genetic mutation, neither is there natural selection. Also unlike biological evolution, the creatures “evolve” when through training and experience they reach a certain stage in their personal development.  What the creatures are really doing are METAMORPHIZING, i.e. transforming from one state into another as a part of the growth process.  Metamorphosis is an undeniable fact of nature, and transformation is a critically important Biblical concept.  The “new birth” of the believer in Jesus is a spiritual transformation, a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).  The Christian life is described as the process of being changed into His likeness, ‘transformed from glory to glory’ (2 Cor. 3:18).  Jesus tells His disciples that to be fruitful they must be like the seed which dies, falls to the ground, and grows up anew, bringing much fruit (John 12:24).  And at the last day, we shall be physically transformed and given new immortal bodies, like His glorious body (1 Cor. 15:52-53).

 Pokemon can be faulted for using the wrong word to describe the creatures’ transformations.  However the CONCEPT of transformation which Pokemon presents is not ungodly at all, but  rather true, valuable, and harmonious with  the Scriptures.  It’s easy enough to erase Pokemon’s mistake by pointing out to children that “evolution” as biologists use the term has nothing whatsoever to do with what is shown in Pokemon.

 Pokemon also portrays a clear, wholesome moral atmosphere. Greed, jealousy, pride, and selfishness are always clearly marked as evil, and always bring trouble on those who hold on to them.  On the other hand, the show’s Pokemon trainer protagonists have purpose and meaning in their lives.  They are on a quest towards a positive higher goal, which they pursue despite their weaknesses and shortcomings.  Through their quest, their characters are shaped, they gain wisdom, their weaknesses and failings  are exposed and burned away in the fires of experience.  Pokemon provides a perfect platform for parents to build on, to teach their children that they should dedicate their lives to a purpose which glorifies God and brings personal fulfillment.

 Pokemon is really an example of what the Church should be doing – bringing the truths of the Gospel into children’s focus by relating them to their natural interests and delights.

Prayer:  Father, teach us how to speak our children’s language – not just their vocabulary, but their  thought-patterns, their associations, their interests, their likes and dislikes. Help us to express your Gospel in myriads of ways which they can eagerly grab hold of and devour, just as Jesus always used concepts and images which His audiences found pertinent and gripping. Forgive us for our laziness, for not even trying to understand our children’s world, and for covering over our laziness by pooh-poohing their “childishness”.  What detestable fuddy-duddies we have become!  Help us too become like children, so that we too can enter joyfully into Your kingdom. We pray in Jesus' name.

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Copyright © 1999 CrossPollen
Last Revised: October 7, 1999

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