Spiritual Dangers in Things Like Pokémon

June 13, 2023

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In this episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast, host Elizabeth Urbanowicz addresses a question from a listener concerned about the spiritual dangers of Pokémon. Elizabeth explores how to approach such concerns by asking specific questions: What is the specific concern? Are there dangerous origins impacting it today? Can evidence supporting the concern be presented? What healthier alternative can be offered? She also discusses the extent of one's sphere of influence and the power of prayer in these situations. Join Elizabeth as she equips listeners to evaluate these types of issues from a biblical worldview.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical Worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Now, today's question says, "The kids that I teach are obsessed with Pokémon. I personally think there is a lot of spiritual danger here and have mentioned some of this to the parents, but it's been ignored as innocent, fun, entertaining to a kid who doesn't show interest in other things or as a way of kids connecting with each other. What are your views on this game and how should I approach this in my classroom?" Really good question.

As always, before we dive into this question, if you found the content of this podcast beneficial, would ask that you would like and subscribe to make sure that you don't miss any future episodes, and also ask that you would consider writing a review and sharing this with those within your sphere of influence so that we can equip as many kids as possible to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

Now, in regard to this question about Pokémon and Pokémon cards and games, I actually do not know too much about Pokémon. Really, my only experience with Pokémon, aside from kids sometimes bringing those cards into my classroom was when Pokémon Go was released. I don't know how many years ago that was now, five, seven years ago. I just remember right after it was released, I went for a walk by the river with a good friend of mine, and I remember looking at her and saying, why are there all of these men in their twenties and thirties who have clearly never seen the sun before walking around looking at their phones? And she then explained to me about Pokémon Go and what it was and how it had just been released. So that's really my own only personal experience with Pokémon.

But what I'm going to seek to do in this podcast is I'm going to seek to provide guidance on how we can wisely approach any topic like this, anything that we have a concern with, whether it's something that our own biological or adoptive children are engaged in, or something that the children in our classroom or our church or our neighborhood are engaged in. So I think there's a few important questions that we can ask ourselves to really get to the heart of what am I concerned with? Is my concern valid? How do I handle this?

So the first question that I think we should ask ourselves is, what is my specific concern? Now, the questioner says, I personally think there's a lot of spiritual danger with Pokémon. So my question to you would be, okay, what is your specific concern? What do you mean by spiritual danger? Is it because of the origin of Pokémon that you're concerned? Is it because of spiritual things that you see in a cartoon or a game or cards? Is it because of a specific character and the name of the character, the thing that the character does? Because I think just being very broad and saying, "oh, I think there's a lot of spiritual danger here." A lot of times people won't take that seriously. Where if we can give very specific examples and sometimes might need to just take a step back and think through that ourselves, what is my specific concern here? And so we need to first identify that in our own minds, what is our specific concern?

Then I think the next question that we need to ask ourselves is, does this thing have dangerous origins that continue to impact it today? Because I would assume that some of the spiritual danger that you're sensing here is because of the origins of Pokémon and how it was created and who it was created by. And now there are some times where the roots of something are actually very dangerous because those roots continue in that thing. And then there are other times where the roots really have nothing to do with that thing today.

For example, if you think about naan bread, bread that's frequently served with Indian or Thai food, when you go to a restaurant, the origins of naan bread go way back to the BC days, and they were developed in pagan cultures that had just horrible practices where naan bread does not today have any spiritual roots tied to it. So I think we can most likely eat naan bread without any danger of anything. We can even make it in our own home.

Where if we think of something different that has spiritual roots, something like yoga, and now I know Christians disagree over this, but I think that we need to be really careful with something like yoga because the actual positions in which we're placing our bodies during a time of yoga are positions that are used in Hindu worship and are designed to yolk the worshiper with the spiritual being that's being worshiped. And since that position is directly connected with yoking oneself to a specific spiritual being, I think there could potentially be a lot of danger there because the roots, so the Hindu roots of yoga are still in yoga that we have today where this bread, this naan bread that was developed thousands of years ago in pagan cultures, there's none of those pagan roots in the naan bread anymore. So that's something we can say, "oh yeah, maybe it didn't have the greatest origins, but those roots aren't still there today." Where with something like yoga, yoga didn't have the greatest or origins because it's rooted in Hindu cult worship, but those roots are still there in the positions that are used, which are designed to open us up to the supernatural that has nothing to do with God.

So first question, what are my specific concerns? Second question, does this thing have dangerous origins that continue to impact it today? If the answer is no, then we can say, okay, this is something we can probably leave alone. If the answer is yes, then we need to think through, how can I present this to others? So that leads to the third question of what specific evidence supporting my concern can I show others? Because when we're confronting someone on something that they're doing that we think is potentially dangerous, we're probably not going to have a very long audience with them because it's very hard for anybody to hear a confrontation that what they're doing or what they're allowing their children to do is potentially harmful, dangerous, or even morally wrong. And so we need to make sure that we specifically understand what our concerns are and then the evidence that we have to support those concerns. That when we go to this person, we're not just saying, okay, I have these general concerns, but I have the specific concern and here is the evidence supporting my concern.

The fourth thing that I think we need to ask ourselves is what healthier alternative can I offer? Because if we're asking someone to take something out of their lives, we can't just ask them to take it out because then there's just this vacuum here. There's a space that needs to be filled. And we consistently see this in scripture that every time we're told to take off something from our old nature, we're told to put on something or some things from our new nature, there's a putting off and a putting on. So we need to think through, what healthier alternative can I offer? And so this is something that the person who wrote this in is a teacher. So you should be thinking, what healthier alternative can I offer within my classroom? If you're a parent thinking about my neighbors or my kids' friends, bring these Pokémon cards over to our house. What healthier alternative can you offer at your home to take the place of this time when they're wanting to play with the Pokémon cards? So think through what's something that would be of interest to my students?

The person writing in said that a lot of parents make the excuse that this is just a way of kids connecting with one another. Well, there are many different ways of kids connecting with one another, but we have to be intentional because on this side of Genesis 3 relationships, healthy, God-honoring, joyful friendship, relationships do not happen naturally. They have to happen intentionally. I found this with myself as a teacher. My first year teaching, I taught fourth grade, and I love teaching fourth grade. I love that age, but one thing I couldn't stand about fourth grade is by the time the students came to my classroom, they already had these cliques that were developed and they were just, I just couldn't break these cliques apart, and I just saw certain students being left out and it just broke my heart.

And then the next year when I moved down to third grade, I saw that when everybody entered into third grade, everybody was friends, everybody got along with everybody. And then around November, everybody started to become more socially aware and they started to break off into different little friend groups. And I was kind of like, no, because I could see happening before my eyes, what I had just experienced the previous year in fourth grade, that there was these friend groups that were going to be so solidified and so isolating that they weren't going to let anybody else in. And so by my second year of teaching third grade, when I realized, okay, this problem starts to take place in the middle of third grade, I thought, what can I do to start fostering healthy relationships and friendships among kids of all different backgrounds and interests and friend groups?

And so what I started to do is I started something that would take place twice a week just for 10 minutes in my classroom, and I called it the monthly mingler. And I'd break students up into pairs and I would give them just a 10 minute assignment to do together. And it wasn't a classroom assignment, it was like a fun assignment. I might give them one single sheet of paper and say, okay, in the next 10 minutes, you need to figure out how to turn this one single sheet of paper into the tallest sturdiest tower that you can. And then they suddenly have this project that they have to work on together, or we might have a paper airplane building contest. Okay, I want you to build a paper airplane that's going to fly the farthest, and we're going to go outside for the last five minutes of this challenge, and we're going to see whose paper airplane flies the farthest, but just giving them some activities to do together that are going to foster camaraderie.

So you can do this, whether it's in the classroom or you can do this in your own home when your kids have a play date, do some kind of a challenge if your kids don't naturally know just how to be friends with one another. There's also some social skills that we have to teach kids nowadays where so many kids are just hooked on technology. It used to be like 20, 30 years ago, I say this jokingly, that 20, 30 years ago, you could very easily pick out homeschooled kids because a lot of times homeschooled kids 20, 30 years ago were so isolated that they didn't know so many social skills and they just seemed a little bit different. Where today, I think it's just the opposite today, I think it's the homeschooling kids that have the best social skills because their parents are actually intentionally working with them. Where most kids that go to public or private school don't even know how to make eye contact or hold a decent conversation because no one is teaching them how to do that because adults are distracted on their phones and kids are distracted on their tablets.

And so this is something we in the home and in the church and in the school, need to be directly teaching kids just positive social skills. I think it was my sixth year of teaching. I just really noticed a change in my students and that they didn't know how to make eye contact and smile at me and say, good morning. And so I decided, okay, you know what? We're going to spend two weeks just teaching positive social skills. And so I would model for my kids, I'd make it a game, I'd have I'd a volunteer. I'd ask one student to come to the front of the room and I'd have that student stand on a really sturdy chair, and they would pretend to be me greeting them in the morning.

And then I would walk past them and model what I saw in them. So the student would say, "good morning Elizabeth" to me. And I would just keep my head down one time and I would walk completely past the student, and then the next time I would just stare at them. And then the third time, I would make eye contact, smile and say, "good morning, Mr. Urbanowicz." And we'd talk through, what did I do in each of those situations, which was the right thing to do, which was treating the teacher as an image bearer of God? And then I would break them into pairs and I would have them practice asking questions to one another. Sometimes I would give them questions that they would have to ask one another at lunchtime, because I noticed my students didn't even know how to talk to one another at lunchtime.

And so we have to directly teach these social skills. So this fourth question, what healthy, alt, healthier alternative can I offer? Just think through what are things that you can offer, whether it's in your classroom or your home or your church that can help kids have positive gospel-centered interactions with one another.

And then a fifth question I think you need to ask, we need to ask ourselves is, where does my sphere of influence extend? And where does it stop? If you are the parent of the child in the situation, your sphere of influence extends over the child's entire life until they're a teenager when you're starting the gradual release of responsibility. So if you have concerns over things that your kids are playing with, you are the parent, you have complete authority, God given authority to say no, to explain it to your child, and then to get rid of those things, you are the parent.

Now, if you are the parent and your neighbors are coming over, you know, don't have the authority to take away your neighbor's Pokémon cards, but you do have the authority to say, "I'm sorry, we don't allow those in our home." So think through, okay, where does my sphere of authority, my sphere of influence extend? And where does it stop?

I had to recognize this as a teacher. There were many times teaching where the students in my classroom had seen movies that were PG-13 or R rated when they were eight or nine years old. And I was just like, this is completely inappropriate. If a secular rating system is telling us that a child should not see something until they are 13, what should we as Christians be thinking about that movie? And so I had to realize, okay, where does my sphere of influence extend and where does it stop?

And so I would talk to parents and parent teacher conferences about, I'm concerned about what your child is watching. I'm concerned about how it's impacting him or her. And that was my sphere of influence, but I couldn't make the parent stop. That was not my authority. That was the authority God had given that parent. So if you're a classroom teacher and you're thinking about wanting to stop this interaction with these Pokémon cards because you're concerned of the danger, you can't tell the parents to stop letting their kids play these games or interact with the cards or the TV show. But what you can do is you can warn them of your concern, as I mentioned before, and you can refuse to allow the cards in your classroom. You can say, you know what? Those have to stay in your backpack or what, those are not allowed in school.

So your sphere of influence extends throughout your classroom. And so you have the authority to say, you know what? I think that those are not a good idea. Here's why I think they're not a good idea. And so we're not going to allow them in the classroom.

The final question I would encourage us to ask ourselves is, how can I be praying in this situation? Because prayer is powerful. Prayer is talking with the God of the universe, and God can do things in the hearts and minds of others that we could never, ever do. God is the only one who is capable of taking a heart of stone and making it into a heart of flesh. He's the only one who is capable of bringing the dead back to life, of bringing life from death. So pray. Pray over the children in your classroom, pray over their parents. Pray that God would give their parents the wisdom that they need. Pray for these kids that God would soften their hearts, and that they would just desire and crave the things of God that they would taste and see that the Lord is good.

So just as we wrap this time up, the first question I recommend is, what are my specific concerns? Second, does this thing have dangerous origins that continue to impact it today? Third, what specific evidence supporting my concern can I show others? Fourth, what is a healthier alternative I can offer? Five, where does my sphere of influence extend and where does it stop? And six, how can I be praying in this situation?

Well, that's a wrap for today's episode. If you have a question you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview Podcast, you can submit that question by going to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast. As we leave this time together, my prayer for you is that you would recognize that no matter the situation in which you and the kids in your sphere of influence find yourselves, God is working all things together for good by using those circumstances to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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