Churches opening doors to Pokemon
You won’t find Pokemon mentioned in the Bible, but you can find them at church. When Clovis’ Trinity United Methodist Church Pastor Amy Jordan discovered her church was a “PokeStop” featured in the phenomenon of Pokemon Go, she decided to take full advantage of it.
The mobile-app version of the 1990’s Japanese television series and game has swept the nation since its launch July 6. In a scavenger hunt-like way, players of all ages use the GPS and camera on their phones to guide them in their real-life search for virtual Pokemon.
At the recommendation of TUMC church members Seth Herman and Caleb Herman, brothers who play the game, Jordan agreed to host a Pokemon Go gathering at the church. “I did see a few things online about how churches could take advantage of the opportunity to welcome people who we might not usually come in contact with,” Jordan said. “The church thought it was a great idea.”
The gathering, scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight at 1320 W. 21st St., is open to any Pokemon player. Bottled water, snacks, free Wi-Fi and outlets to charge phones will be offered. Seth Herman, 25, who said he lost 3 pounds from walking around to play the game, thinks the gathering could benefit both the church and the players, especially with “Lure Modules”— an in-app purchase that attracts wild Pokemon.
“I kind of explained to (church members) that it’s a good way for the church to attract people because there’s a lot of people who don’t go to church who are playing Pokemon,” Seth Herman said. “The players might consider going into the church on Sunday morning instead of just driving through the parking lot to get the Pokemon and leaving.”
A longtime Pokemon fan, 23-year-old Caleb Herman said he started playing the revamped game when he heard there was a mobile version. “I’m sort of the type of person who likes to spend my time indoors,” Caleb Herman said, “so this gives me a good reason to go outside and get some exercise.”
But not all Christians are so supportive of the game, including Cindy Herman, the boys’ mother. “My mom didn’t let us play it before,” Seth Herman said, “so this is my first big Pokemon experience. I feel like we got cheated out of that in my childhood, so that’s the main reason I’ve been doing it. I didn’t get to play it as a kid and always wanted to.” According to Cindy Herman, the ’90s game went against her beliefs because the Bible forbids partaking in the occult.
For example, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 states, “There shall not be found among you anyone who … practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord.”
“I was religiously opposed,” Cindy Herman said. “I feel like there was a lot of magic involved — not necessarily doing magic, but just incorporating it. I really tried to avoid that with my children.” One example of this “magic” is the potion that heals wounded Pokemon characters. Additionally, Pokemon are equipped with special powers, like Gastly, a levitating poisonous ghost. Of the psychic kind, Abra has a magic guard and evolves into Kadabra, who emits a negative energy to inflict harm.
Even the term “Pokemon” translates into “pocket monster.” However, Cindy Herman said now that her adult sons can “do whatever they want,” she’s more open to the game these days. While she may never play the game herself, she said she’ll attend the Pokemon Go event tonight.
“I felt like on this, I don’t have to like it,” she said, “but I can offer grace and love. We are going to meet some people that we probably have never met before and offer them some of the grace that Jesus gives us.” As the church leader, Jordan said the religious debate on Pokemon is a “sticky subject.”
“It is a game,” Jordan said, “and there are many things in our world that have the potential of taking us over and becoming an obsession and something that’s unhealthy. But quite frankly, I don’t see the harm in Pokemon.”
She said her concern is more for the players’ safety, especially if they were to get distracted playing in their cars.
“That kind of thing is certainly a bad thing,” she said. “But as far as this congregation, we felt like this was an opportunity to express the love of God, and we do that by welcoming people.
“Our purpose here is we extend the grace of God to you. We do that with simple things like a bottle of water and a place to charge your phone.”