These past few days have brought some very disturbing images of black Americans being shot by policemen for sometimes seemingly trivial infractions, giving rise to “Black Lives Matter” protests blocking city streets. Then we saw distressing live reports of shootouts with perpetrators following retaliatory targeting of innocent police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, leading to “Blue Lives Matter” counter-rallies. The nation appears on the brink of anarchy in racism’s grip.
These past few days also brought coverage of the Republican National Convention, and screens filled with Hillary-haters and Trump-trumpeters. As election time draws nigh, explosive rhetoric has been kicked up a notch. Political pundits square off on television, squawking at unwary callers. The nation appears on the brink of anarchy over control of the White House.
These past few days, in an odd distraction of sorts, also saw the launch of Pokémon Go, a virtual reality game in which players chase mythical monsters—Snorlax, Nidoran, Exeggcute, Abra, Venonat and the like—lurking around their homes, workplaces, schools and shopping centers. Youth and young adults (and, yes, even older adults) wander about with faces staring at their smartphones screens, searching for that ever-elusive, rare, extremely powerful pokémon.
As if drawn by some mythical beacon, players have been sauntering up outside the Kentucky Baptist Building this week to find a “pokéstop,” where “pokéballs” and other essential items for their quest await them.
Other local landmarks, historical markers, fountains, city parks, clocks, restaurants, courthouses, even area churches have become gathering places for teams of Pokémon Go players, called trainers, who in a real-sense are rediscovering the joy and spirit of rebuilding community. Once sedentary and solitary, tied to computer monitors in their darkened rooms, these gamers are venturing out into the open air, walking kilometers in search, visiting long overlooked places of community pride, and socializing with other young adults.
Oddly enough, in bringing people together in various neighborhood settings, Pokémon Go seems to be filling one of our society’s greatest needs: a rebuilding of community. The players are breaking down racial and generational boundaries, joining together in a common interest or objective: finding new pokémon, establishing control of gyms. And, in often bringing young adults to the doorsteps of our churches, PokémonGo unwittingly seems to hint at its remedy: revitalization of the church. As a nation, we have drifted away from the church and Christian values and, in the process, have torn asunder the very fabric of our society.
Jesus taught us to “love one another, as I have loved you,” to be a “good Samaritan” to those who are hurt and suffering (regardless of race), that as “God’s chosen ones, holy and loved” we are to “put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another,” and that we should be “compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing.” Treating others as brothers and sisters, worthy of dignity, respectfulness and grace—as we would want to be treated—seems to be deficient these days.
These are the pillars of building true community. They restore a right relationship with God and with our fellow man. Civility, charity and compassion are central to the Christian walk. “For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). Red, yellow, black, white (and blue), all are created in His image and, therefore, precious in His sight.
What an opportunity we have been given! When pokémon players drift down our streets or arrive at our church’s doorsteps looking for mythical creatures or prizes, we can offer them the true source of community. And, instead of just gaining power to conquer a nearby virtual gym, they will discover how to be “more than conquers” through Christ, who “powers up” the believer and gives us eternal life.