During my elementary years at Catholic school, Pokémon was not welcome. The teacher-nuns didn’t condemn the import Japanese franchise as tools of Satan, but they did say it was distracting us from doing homework. I don’t know, I was busy playing Pokémon. But one memory remains: Pokmon was banned, our cards, our GameBoy games, all of it.
Fast forward to 2016, and Pokémon wants its fans to go to church. Sort of. The new augmented reality app Pokémon GO for Android and iOS devices, wherein users find and “catch” Pokémon in the real world, went live this week and users have noticed a divine phenomenon. Many Gyms and PokeStops — local landmarks where trainers can refuel on Pokeballs and collect unhatched Pokémon eggs — have been churches and other places of worship.
It’s no miracle, and Pokémon has not become a propaganda tool for the spiritual establishment overnight. (If anything, Pokémon is a pretty blunt exercise in Darwinism with its evolution system.) Rather, the Pokémon GO app merely uses local spots of significance to get players outside to play — which is the app’s primary intention. It just so happens that many significant locations, urban or rural, are churches.
And the will of Pikachu does not discriminate. Pokémon GO has brought trainers to a diversity of denominations, be it Presbyterian, Mormon, and even Islam, with several Gym locales being local mosques.
But unlike the sacred church, a number of Pokémon GO users have found Pokémon in the place they actually spend time: Their own office.
Maybe this is what mankind needs to break down barriers. Race, color, creed – none of it matters when in the pursuit of catching them all as long as we stay away from police stations.
Pokémon GO is now available on Android and iOS devices.Photos via Getty Images / Mike Lawrie