An old Calvin
and Hobbes cartoon may help provide a context for our discussion.
The two friends are speeding down the snowy mountain in a sled
as Calvin shares his anxiety about Christmas.
"You're worried you haven't been good?" asks Hobbes.
"Thats just the question," answers Calvin.
"Its all relative. Whats Santas definition?
How good do you have to be to qualify as good? I havent
killed anybody. See, thats good, right? I havent
committed any felonies. I didnt start any wars. I dont
practice cannibalism. Wouldnt you say thats pretty
good? Wouldnt you say I should get lots of presents?"
Looking serious, Hobbes answers, "But maybe good is more
than the absence of bad."
"See, thats just what worries me," says Calvin.
"OK, assuming I can get an overnight letter to the North
Pole, what would you charge to write me a glowing character reference?"
"Oh no, Im not going to perjure myself for you!"
answers Hobbes, looking rather self-righteous. "My records
In today's culture, it's
normal to see the world through the filter of
relativism and ignore God's unchanging Word. So it's not surprising
that many of you ask, "Out of all the bad things"
out there, why did we pick on Pokemon -- or Harry Potter or Yu-gi-oh? After all, Doom and Quake,
two dark occult games that are obviously full of "evil"
images and suggestions, would have been more likely candidates
for a critical review.
I appreciate this question since it begs two basic answers:
Pokemons spiritual influence clashes with God's standard,
and its danger to Biblical faith is far more subtle than that
of Doom and Quake. Few Christian families would consider buying
the latter two games. But concerned parents, who see obsessive
behavior in children captivated by Pokemon, find it much harder
to say no to the cute little pocket monsters than to the obviously
occult games. Yet they sense there is something wrong. Thats
why parents ask for answers and
guidelines. This is my response.
In other words, wrote it to help Christian parents
who want to follow God's way. I didnt write it to tell
fans what to do. Nor did I
write it "to get publicity" or to sell books,
as some of you have suggested. I pointed to A Twist of Faith
at the end of the article, because it answers some of the difficult
questions about occult influences that I didnt address.
It also provides the kind of practical help than I cant
possibly offer in a simple article.
The only place I posted this article was at our website, which
is primarily a ministry to Christian families. I did not send
it to the Nintendo site where many of you found a link. I dont
know who did. Therefore, its a bit ludicrous that so many
of you were offended, wished me dead, and believed that I "should
be kept away from all other humans!"
I had to laugh when I read some of those comments! Yet, that
irrational attitude comes dangerously close to suggesting censorship
of voices and websites that express a different set of convictions
than your own. It raises some serious questions about the future
of the freedom many of us have treasured in America:
Would you want to trade "free speech" and the other
rights guaranteed in the First Amendment of our Constitution
for enforced compliance with your own beliefs?
you censor Christian websites that communicate values contrary
to your own?
will happen to America if a majority feels free to curse, condemn,
and hate anyone who shares a contrary opinion or violates their
Many of you told me that I was hateful because I criticized
your favorite game. But I surely dont hate any of you!
Nor do I hate Pokemon. As you said, its only a game.
But even if I did feel hatred for Pokemon, why would that
upset you so much? Could the game and its cute little monsters
possibly mean more to you than "just fantasy"
as you claim? Some of the rage in defense of Pokemon and Magic
the Gathering sounds more like the fighting words of devotees
deeply committed to a cause or an idol, or in love with a person.
If Pokemon is nothing more than a game to you, why such fervor?
I mention this, because the passion many of you express illustrates
the kind of obsession that worries parents and grandparents across
the country. Some children, when asked to stop playing these
games and rejoin the family, either ignore their parents or rage
The reason for my article was neither anger toward the game
nor toward the people who played it. I wanted to look at Pokemon
from a Biblical perspective so I could warn Christian families.
Let me assure you again, I wasnt writing to you! You happened
to read what I intended for those who wanted this information
the Christian parents who come to our website for Biblical
But "Im also a Christian," some of you assured
Please remember that there are many kinds of "Christians"
today. The word "Christianity," like "God,"
"truth," and other significant words, has been redefined
to fit todays paradigm shift. Since I dont know what
each you believe about God and His ways, let me share with you
what being a Christian means to me. Then you can tell me if indeed
we follow the same God. This explanation will also help answer
many of the questions you raised about my objections to and attitude
1. Following Gods way.
First of all, I
believe that when someone chooses to trust in the sovereign God
of the universe, He joins that person to Himself through His
death on the cross. Thats what happened to me. I became
part of His family, and He became my King, my Counselor, and
my Shepherd. Galatians 2:20 describes it well:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I
who live, but Christ lives in me
Because He lives in me, I want to do what pleases Him. He,
in turn, enables me to know and follow His will. My primary guidance
comes from the Bible. And throughout the Old Testament, He warns
us to shun other gods (including the spirits, rituals, and practices
embraced by other religions) and follow only Him.
2. Occult practices. A key Scripture is Deuteronomy
18:9-13. It tells us to guard against all the rituals and practices
that are basic to most earth-centered religions such as divination,
witchcraft, sorcery, spiritism, spell casting, and calling "up
the dead." While God calls them "abominations,"
most children today view them as exciting and innocent fun.
All these practices were either implied or demonstrated in
the Pokemon shows I watched on television for three weeks. One
of those shows included several appearances of the beautiful
ghost of a young woman who had died long ago. Not only did she
manifest her presence as a seductive apparition, she could also
take the shape of an old woman and communicate verbally with
Ash and his friends. This ghostly apparition and her messages
fit the last of the occult practices listed the Deuteronomy passage.
In case you havent consciously noticed each of these
unholy practices in the Pokemon show and games, let me define
them for you. These meanings came from Websters Dictionary,
Encyclopedic Edition, 1989. Each of these words were demonstrated
in the above episode or in the episode I described in the article:
Occult: "beyond the range of normal perception;
secret, mysterious, esoteric; dealing with magic, alchemy, astrology,
. the supernatural."
"a divining or foretelling of the future or the unknown
by supernatural means"
"the use of magic powers derived from evil spirits"
[Any supernatural "spirit" mentioned in the Bible,
not including the Holy Spirit or Gods Spirit which is always
capitalized, would be part of the demonic realm and therefore
considered evil. It would include ghosts, psychic forces, etc.]
Witchcraft: "Sorcery as practiced by a witch or witches."
On page 62 in her book, The Spiral Dance, a practical
manual on witchcraft, Wiccan leader Starhawk explains,
"Magical training varies greatly, but its purpose is
always the same: to open up the... consciousness that allows
us to make contact with the Divine within. The beginner must
develop four basic abilities: relaxation, concentration, visualization
Spell: "an incantation, words which properly
changed or uttered are supposed to have magical effect."
"To cast a spell is to project energy through a symbol,"
wrote Starhawk in The Spiral Dance, page 124.
"the art of foretelling the future or magically achieving
some purpose by communication with the spirits of the dead."
3. Practicing discernment. I agree with you
that Pokemon seems innocuous at first glance, especially true
when compared to many other shows or games which are obviously
filled with violence and occult forces. The fact that many of
the televised episodes dont emphasize the above practices,
makes the Pokemon fantasy world all the more deceptive. But that
doesnt mean that children are immune to its subtle messages
concerning supernatural forces and authority. The Bible tells
us to "beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and
empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to
the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ."
(Colossians 2:8) We would be wise to heed that warning.
Please dont tell me again that children know the difference
between fantasy and reality. Some dont, but most do
at least on the surface. But you cant count on it. Many
children today spend far more time in the mythical world of television
and movies than they do learning the facts about the real world.
Consequently, much of their understanding of reality, values,
relationships, and spiritual forces come from the images and
suggestions they absorb from being immersed in fantasy through
television, movies, music, books, and school.
4. Psychological addiction.
Even children who
see clearly the difference between fantasy and reality can become
obsessed by this word of fantasy. Many prefer it to reality.
They want its thrilling escape from the responsibilities of the
real world and often resent the intrusion of parents and siblings.
The Bible describes this addictive process in Romans 1:21-32
On Sunday night (8-22), CNN gave a brief report about "Internet
addiction," warning viewers that such psychological addiction
causes relational problems, especially in marriage. Think about
it. If the "experts" tell us that adults can become
addicted, are children any less immune to todays captivating
games and entertainment?
May I suggest to those who consider themselves experts in
psychology or who believe that only "unstable"
children can be affected by role-playing games that you
re-read the section on psychological
addiction in the Pokemon article, then read two other articles,
"From the Littleton
Crisis to Government Control" and "Zero
Tolerance for Non-Compliance." You will see how stable
students are rendered unstable by the new education programs.
When you add the two factors psycho-social education programs
and role-playing games that desensitize students to occult dangers
-- the result could be painful for both children and their families.
5. The problem with desensitization.
made this comment: "Even the "terrifying occult ghosts"
Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar are portrayed as goof-offs who are
just lonely guys looking for someone to talk too. . . .There
is nothing wrong with the game. The only poison is that spread
by those sadists who try to tear children away from their favorite
game with threats of punishment by the Devil. If religion has
become nothing more than a bludgeon to terrify children into
giving up their livelihood, I pray that somebody sets the world
right before the world descends into a spiraling abyss of anarchy."
Again, let me remind you that the problem is not so much what
each Pokemon does - whether they are "goof-offs" or
serious practitioners. The main danger is the enticement to become
so fascinated with the feel-good fantasy world and its supernatural
forces that they prefer not to follow God anymore. Pokemon characters
such Haunter, Hypno, Kadabra, and Gastly may be innocent in their
actions but they are all identified with practices and beliefs
that clash with the Bible. Therefore they can desensitize children
to practices that God forbids, and they can produce results common
to the Old Testament slide toward paganism:
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their
own sight!" (Isaiah 5:20-21)
6. Called to single-mindedness.
be more open minded about cards," one of you suggested.
"Try to play, read the background stories, and don't get
scared if the word Demon is mentioned. Just remember that in
Magic, there is an equal amount of White (the "good"
ones) and Black (the evil ones) cards."
From a Christian perspective, half and half isnt good
enough. You cannot have a foot in both camps. God tells us to
shun evil. If you dont, you will eventually shun the Biblical
God -- or follow a God of your own imagination.
"No one can serve two masters," warned Jesus. "Either
he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted
to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24)
Genuine Christianity cannot be compromised. As soon as a person
tries to blend (synthesize) it with other religions to create
what seems to be a more "tolerant religion", it ceases
to be Biblical Christianity. We cannot follow Jesus Christ, while
living by a different set of values. The two have never really
matched, and today they are becoming increasingly incompatible.
7. Taming human nature. Some of you mentioned
that the Bible contained all kinds of evils: sexual immorality,
idol worship, murder, child sacrifice, etc. Its true. The
Bible is very honest about the inclination of our fallen human
nature. In the Old Testament days, God dealt with persistent
and spreading evil by withdrawing His protection from the land
and allowing all kinds of enemies to oppress His people. All
those illustrations are warnings for us today. (See 1 Corinthians
The evils committed under the banner of Christianity through
the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, etc. had nothing to do
with genuine Christianity. It had everything to do with our greedy,
power-hungry human nature which refuses to either know or follow
the Shepherd. Apart from Christ, thats how people and nations
behave everywhere, whether or not they call themselves Christians.
Please dont blame human evils on a "straw-man"
or counterfeit of Christianity.
8. Masters of the Pokemon world.
One of you
said, "A harmless GAME! Its not about people hurting people,
its about animals "battling" animals. Even in the wild,
animals attack each other, and no, its not JUST for food."
Thats true. But children who play the games and watch
the program become the masters that direct those fights. The
Pokemon may not always obey its trainer, but the humans are in
charge. They decide what these "animals" should do
to each other.
9. Genuine love.
Someone said, "What I
have come to find out talking to other people in the gaming community,
they laugh at Christians because of attacks like your article.
. . . you do not show them the love of Christ. You drive them
from it! I write this in love and concern. You are not to judge,
but reach out in love. I pray you take this to heart."
That command deals with people, not games or things. Throughout
the Old and New Testament, God tells us to evaluate everything
according to His standards and guidelines. He holds us responsible
for knowing that Biblical standard and using discernment in everything
Let me remind you, I didnt judge you or anyone else.
I analyzed a game, not people. Pokemon and the Magic cards from
a Biblical perspective, then provide a helpful critique for those
who would listen. If your neighbors house is burning one
night, would it be more loving to let him sleep or to get him
out of the fire?
10. Choosing the narrow road.
I realize that
the answers I am giving in response to your questions may be
as offensive as my article. No one can really understand Gods
truths or Scriptures unless His Spirit opens our minds to understand.
Thats why theres such a wide gap between my worldview
and that which most of you expressed to me. The apostle Paul
warned us about this difference in his letter to the Corinthians
when he explained that "the message of the cross is foolishness"
to those who reject God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
Those who know the God and long to walk that narrow road with
Him cant indulge in compromise. He tells us, "Do not
conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and
approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect
will." (Romans 12:1-2)
To those who choose Him over all else, He promises incomparable
peace, love, joy, and hope. And when the Lord the sovereign
King of the universe becomes our personal Shepherd, He
promises to provide for all our needs out of His wonderful abundance
of riches and grace. He will be our shelter in the storms, our
wisdom in todays confusion, and our strength in the midst
of all our battles. Nothing is impossible for Him. Blessed are
the people whose God is the Lord!