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Before there was Pokémon Go, there was just Pokémon—a media franchise first created in 1996 as a video game for Game Boy.
As its popularity spread—with trading cards, toys, comic books, TV shows, and a movie—the game was condemned by many Christian groups as evil. Writing about the Pokémon: The Movie in 1999, the ChildCare Action Project noted:
Pokemon: The Movie is HEAVY into control of others—a basal desire; pronounced in many children. The movie is all about having control and controlling. There may lie the strongest power of the movie to influence. The movie was saturated minute by minute with such influences as:
possession of psychic powers to control others and to kill anger with immense power and presence lust for power, control, and independence “follow your hearts” into dangerous situations rampant confrontation with finality and with doubtful consequences battle and other forms of fighting to settle differences with no consequences to the opponents other than loosing a pokemon portrayal of tears having the power to resurrect misguided and often absent concern for the “death” of a “living, thinking being” (a pokemon)
In 2007, Christian blogger Matt Slick accused Pokémon of having dangerous occultish overtones. “This is not training a child to righteousness, it is accepting the occult and secular evolution,” he wrote. “Is this what we, as Christians, want our children to meditate on? Of course not.”
But with the release of Pokémon Go, the attitude about Pokemon seems to have shifted. The Christian Post notes that because many churches are now Pokéstops in Pokémon Go, they are embracing their sudden popularity as an opportunity for outreach.
So much so, some are even offering water, chairs, and shade to Pokémon hunters.
Even the ultra-conservative Westboro Baptist Church has recruited a Pikachu to send its message.
The ironic reversal of opinions shows that perhaps even Jesus can save Pokémon.
Lyz Lenz is currently the managing editor of the Rumpus. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Jezebel, the Columbia Journalism Review, and Mashable.