A phenomenon has taken the world by storm and just in time to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of one of Nintendo's most profitable franchises, namely the Pokemon series.
Ever since the video games and anime series launched 20 years ago, Pokemon has gained a worldwide audience and is still very popular to this day.
Nintendo's Pokemon Go is a game which essentially allows you to capture Pokemon on your own smartphone in various locations including next to restaurants, leisure centres and even places of worship. It's not only these places but we can gather from the game that it is able to show Pokemon in a variety of locations.
Now I personally don't have Pokemon Go myself, but I since so much buzz as occurred, it's something that the Lord wants me to address and Pokemon Go is not something that can be ignored.
Can Christians play it? Well that depends.
Let us step back for a bit, Like movies, video games, sports and other neutral things, whether a Christian can engage in them is entirely debatable and like the neutral things, we need to consider our options. (See Romans 14 on disputable matters)
Let's talk first about the negative points. This game has consumed many people, it comes across as addictive to some. There are people who have been run over, gotten lost underground thus needing to be rescued, taken away from friends and family and of course there was one report I came across that said one man gave up his full time job to become a full time Pokemon Go player (What a stupid thing to do).
For some, the game is a terrible distraction taking away valuable time doing other things, like working in a job, providing for family, gospel preaching, other good values and ultimately living for and loving YHWH God, the blessed Trinity as Deuteronomy 6:4 states.
It is not a question of should we play it, it's more of what is there to gain from it? While a video game is fine to play, it should not consume us entirely or to the point we neglect our duties, in which case we either give them up or in the very least, monitor our time, as well as stepping away for a time to do other things.
On the hand.... There are cases where Pokemon Go has had positive results, like finding a dead body to be recovered, finding lost animals etc.
I am not saying that Pokemon Go is wrong and should be shunned, I am saying it is a question of getting our priorities right, but also, what can you take away from it theologically.
I have used Final Fantasy XIII-3: Lightning Returns and Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask as illustrations of urgency in one of my own articles on universalism and in the case of movies have used Back to the Future part 1 and part 2 as an example of contrasting two marriages, an abusive one and a good one and despite liking the Dark Knight Trilogy, have pointed out that Christians should not be vigilantes based on Romans 13.
However you do need to be careful that any fictional franchise may contain lies, in other world's there are things in it that do not hold a biblical world view.
The Kingdom Hearts franchise is one example. I like this franchise a lot, although while the story is intriguing in the direction it's going, it would take another essay to even unpack what the main villain's goal is and how he went about it, but I digress.
There is something in Kingdom Hearts which is positive, namely loyalty to friends and of course there is no love without loyalty (Proverbs 17:17, 18:24). There is a contrast between those who care for others with a willingness to lay down their lives, helping even those they barely know and those who only care about their goals and aspirations at the expense of others. Certainly a good contrast in how we should treat people and how we shouldn't.
But on the other hand, the characters have the tendency to trust in their own hearts, especially if it leads them into an impetuous decision that would land them in trouble or have world destroying consequences. Trusting in ones own heart is something that Jeremiah himself would discourage if not condemn (Jeremiah 17:9)
Basically when it comes to your thinking, hold fast to good and avoid evil when a franchise presents a particular way of thinking to you. However this would only be applicable in cases where story is part and parcel of the game and Pokemon Go doesn't have that. So that value not even there.
We also need to bear in mind that we are to make the most of every opportunity we have to live out the message of the Bible and carry out Jesus teachings, which includes a holy life:
"Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not bepartakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (forthe fruit of the Light consists in allgoodness and righteousness and truth),10 [f]trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitfuldeeds of darkness, but instead even[g]expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are [h]exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason [i]it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
15 Therefore [j]be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,16 [k]making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, [l]for that is dissipation, but befilled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to [m]one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to[n]God, even the Father; 21 [o]and be subject to one another in the [p]fear of Christ."
Ask God for wisdom, whether or not he wants you to play it.
"James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits."
Pokemon Go isn't evil in and of itself, it's just a neutral thing that's there. If you can play it with a clear conscience, that's fine, but remember to fix your eyes on Jesus and keep in mind he will hold you to account for you live. If you can't play it with a clear conscience, then don't. For as Romans 14 states at the end, What does not proceed from faith is sin.