A Spiritual Evaluation of Pokemon

For  those who are  pure,  all  things are  pure: but for those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing  pure, for their very minds and consciences are defiled. (Titus 1:15).

Pokemon is about fantasy creatures in a fantasy world.  Fantasy is not evil.  Fantasy is an expression of imagination, and imagination is a reflection of the creative nature which He has given to man (Genesis 1:27).  Through fantasy we may glorify Him by exulting in our creative capacity, which is a reflection of the creativity of the One who made the heavens, the earth, and the myriad varieties of living things which fill it.

Fantasy is an effective way to make a vivid and powerful impression.  God Himself speaks through fantastic dreams and visions to the prophets Joseph (Gen. 37:5ff)  and Daniel (Dan. 7), the rulers Pharoah (Gen. 4:17ff) and Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:31ff) in the Old Testament, and to the apostles Peter (Acts 10:11ff)  and John (Rev. 13)  in the New Testament.

Some children find it hard to distinguish between reality and fantasy.  There are cases of children who don Superman capes and jump out the window.  Children who can't tell the difference should not be exposed to fantasy—but this does not make fantasy bad for all children.  The judgement must be made on a child-by-child basis.  We should not squelch all children's creativity because some children can't handle it, any more than we should outlaw peanut butter because some children are allergic to it.

Some children become fixated on Pokemon to the point of addiction.  Addiction is a bad thing.  It's bad to be addicted to food, or sex, or spectator sports – but that does not mean that food or sex or spectator sports are demonic.  Children are easily swayed by fads, kids are easily addicted. Certainly parents should monitor and regulate their children's involvement with Pokemon.  For instance, our family planned a "Pokemon fast", during which we put away all Pokemon toys & games (but I think it's only fair that if the kids have to give up something, the adults should give up something also!)

Satan is not creative.  He cannot originate – rather, he can only plagiarize and pervert the good creations of God.  He can use fantasy to suggest a distorted  picture of the world. There are certainly aspects of Pokemon which Satan can take advantage of.  The word Pokemon is an abbreviation of "pocket monsters".  Pokemon "evolve" from one form to another.  Some Pokemon have "psychic" or "hypnotic" powers.  But though Satan can use Pokemon as propaganda, at the same time Christians armed with the Word of God and prayer can use the same fantasy to explain and clarify a true picture of spiritual reality to our children.  We can use the idea of "monsters" to introduce some of the fantastic creatures in the Bible (Ezek. 1:5ff).  We can explain that the word "evolve" is really a misnomer, that what is actually going on is metamorphosis or transformation, just like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly; and we can  use this to introduce the spiritual transformation which takes place when we are born again (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We can warn our children that people who claim to be really "psychic" are fakes and frauds.  We can tell them about the miraculous powers which God really gave to Moses and Elijah (among others), and about the super-power of the Holy Spirit which God gives us to fight against demons and overcome the devil (Ephesians 6:11-18).  These are only a few examples of the ways that we can use Pokemon in a positive and edifying way.   Pokemon gives parents a wonderful opportunity to open up discussions which compare the fantasy with reality.

Some Christians shun all forms of "worldly" entertainment, such as  movies, TV, literature, etc. I believe that this is exactly what Satan wants us to do (1 Tim. 4:1-3, Col. 2:20-23).  He wants to co-opt us into a paranoiac "siege" mentality, where everything which is not  stamped with a "Christian" label is spiritually unclean.  This is exactly opposite to what the Bible teaches.  God wants us to take dominion (Gen. 1:28), to go into the world,  taking ideas from music and art and literature and science and bringing them into captivity to Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

The use of fantasy fiction as a teaching tool has a long and illustrious history.  One terrific example of the positive use of fantasy is the "Narnia" books of C.S. Lewis, which has the Gospel woven right into the story line (we should not be deceived into calling these books "demonic" just because they talk about "magic").  Of course,  ungodly people with a hidden agenda can also use fantasy as propaganda.  So how about Pokemon?  I am familiar with the characteristics of Pokemon characters; I have watched several of the television episodes, as well as the Pokemon movie, and I have seen no evidence that the creators of Pokemon have a hidden agenda.  They are merely worldly -- they use what they see and hear about in the world.  Being worldly, they are indiscriminate, and cannot distinguish between the divine and the demonic. Hence just as we may use examples from the world to instruct our children, so we may use the imaginary world of Pokemon to point children to God's truth rather than to Satan's corruptions.

There is one part of the Pokemon scene which I am not familiar with, namely the Pokemon card game.  Here there may be more cause for alarm. The card game is made by Wizards of the Coast, a company noted for creating games having an occult flavor, such as Dungeons and Dragons. It may be they have a hidden agenda, and they have intentionally introduced occult elements into the Pokemon cards..  But the card game is an entirely separate issue from the rest of Pokemon.   The only connection between the card game and the rest of Pokemon is that Wizards of the Coast  obtained a license from Nintendo (which owns the Pokemon trademark) to use the Pokemon characters.)  And we should not suppose that this licensing agreement incriminates Nintendo, for Nintendo is a secular company, and should not be expected to be discriminate on a spiritual level.

Let us be fully aware that prohibitions and restrictions can be dangerous, as Paul sternly warns us in 1 Timothy 4:1-3. On the face of it, refraining from questionable activities and amusements appears to promote our spiritual health by keeping us from worldy pollution.  However, Satan knows full well how to turn abstention into extremism.  Satan uses spiritual jujitsu on us -- when we move against him, he grabs our arm and pulls so that our own momentum throws us off balance.   In fact, almost all activities have questionable elements, because Satan "the god of this world" has permeated this world with sin. If we abstain from everything tainted by sin,  then very few things are left.  If we required all our food to be free of all bacteria, then what would we have left to eat?  Let us not become spiritual hypochondriacs.

Let us also take FULL advantage of the sanctifying power of the Spirit.  After warning about "spiritual" prohibitions, Paul goes on to say: "Every creature of God [is] good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received  with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." (1 Timothy 4:4-5) Though sin corrupts the most innocent of human endeavors, so much more the Spirit can take the worldliest of activities and transform them into glorious manifestations of the grace and love of God.  But take note HOW the Spirit sanctifies according to Paul,  namely, through the Word of God and prayer.  This is a matter for diligence and focused attention, and not something to be taken blithely for granted.  We must scrupulously apply the Word of God and prayer to every activity, in order to bring it into alignment with the Spirit of God.  Prayer and the Word of God serve to purify the heart, and "To the pure, all things are pure."  (Titus 1:15)  If even after the application of prayer and the Word of God, an individual's conscience remains uneasy about something, he should abstain from that thing -- for a clear and unburdened conscience is one of the greatest blessings which should be enjoyed by every child of God (1 Timothy 1:5; 19).

Prayer: Father, we wish to be holy in all that we do.  We submit all our activities and amusements, and those of our children, to You.  Show us what is pleasing and what is displeasing to You, and teach us how to use all things to glorify You and the name of Your Son Jesus Christ.

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Last Revised: July 20, 2000

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