As a 26-year-old Millennial, I grew up playing Pokémon. It was either in 1998 or 1999 when I received a present for Christmas that would set the course of my geeky life: Pokémon Red for the GameBoy Pocket. Having already been a fan of the Pokémon anime series, I instantly fell in love with the game. I’ve been playing the Pokémon games for Nintendo’s handheld systems ever since. It’s a classic RPG that requires significant strategic thinking. Even as I continued to play Pokémon in high school and college, there were the significant few who’d say, “You still play Pokémon?” and would tease me for it. Now, with the release of Pokémon GO as an AR (augmented reality) game for smart phones, suddenly nearly everyone loves the game or at least admires it. Of course, there are those naysayers who critique the population playing it, claiming they should spend their time and energy looking for a job, despite that this population of young adults are those who have jobs and a disposable income to play the game to begin with. In any case, Pokémon GO has swept the nation.
I recently read a blog written by a pastor, Ross Engel (here), whose church is a Poké-gym. Because of this, traffics of trainers come in and out of the parking lot to challenge the gym. One day he walked outside upon a father and his son who were battling their Pokémon at the Poké-gym, and stopping to converse with the father, he told him “how fun it was to pass along something he enjoyed in his youth and to be able to experience this iconic piece of his life with his own son.” Engel didn’t clarify, but since Pokémon was a big part of this man’s youth, we can assume this father is in his mid- to late-twenties, like me. Engel then began writing about the patrimony in our own lives, and then I got thinking about the patrimony in my own life.
Patrimony is something that children inherit from their father. Particularly, this is when he dies, but we also experience patrimony before our fathers die. So, I began thinking about the patrimony in my own life. I’ve inherited much from my own father: my love for photography, literature, musical performance, and the vitality of attending church every Sunday. All these things my dad passed on to me are huge parts of my life. I run my own photography page on Facebook; I write poetry, short stories, this blog, and I write for Geeks Under Grace; I love to read, I’m a Detroit Red Wings fan, and I’ve been playing the saxophone for 18 years and even had a professional music career in the Army Bands.
Today, fathers my age are passing on their love for Pokémon to their children, and it means the world to them that their children get to experience Pokémon in a way they only dreamed of when they were kids. People have their biased critiques about Pokémon GO because they fail to understand the nostalgia this brings to twenty-somethings today. We’ve waited two decades (literally) for this kind of technology for a game we love, and now we get to share it with our children (for those who have kids). Grandma gets to collect her antique dolls that nobody gets to play with while twenty-somethings today collect imaginary creatures called Pokémon. Nobody critiques grandma for her silly obsession, and yet we critique twenty-somethings for having nostalgic joy in something they loved since they were kids. This is indicative of a pattern I’ve noticed today: people crapping on other peoples’ fun. Whenever someone has joy in something, somebody else immediately has to take a giant dump on it with hostile words. Pokémon GO is a great tool to have to get our minds off of today’s darkness that’s looming over the world, and it’s a terrific excuse to go out and exercise. In fact, I recently joined a dietary plan at the VA hospital and part of my diet is to walk more, and Pokémon GO gives me a huge incentive to do this.
This AR game is fun and all, but let us remember the greater patrimony we have as Christians. There’s a one-verse hymn that Engel brings up that’s in the Lutheran hymnal called, “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage.” The lyrics are as follows:
God’s Word is our great heritage
and shall be ours forever;
to spread its light from age to age
shall be our chief endeavour.
Through life it guides our way,
in death it is our stay.
Lord, grant, while worlds endure,
we keep its teaching pure
throughout all generations.
Our children inherit many things from us. Engel goes on to explain that “God’s Word is our great heritage.” How true that is. Out of all the things I’ve inherited from my father, the most important thing I’ve inherited is my reverence for God and the importance of attending church weekly. In fact, were it not for my father’s influence to bring me to church every Wednesday and Sunday during the divorce, I would not have come to faith. The greatest thing we can pass on to our children as Christian parents is God’s Word. Paul exhorts, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). There are various places in the Psalms and Proverbs that speak to the benefits of this patrimony. I can say I grew up in a Christian home, but I can’t say I grew up in the Church. The only talk of God there was in the home was prayer before dinner every night. There were periods when we went to church every Sunday, and longer periods when we never went to church. I’m not a father, so it’s up to you whether or not you want to heed what I’m saying. All I know is what it’s like not to grow up in the Church. So, parents, do you want your children to grow up in a Christian home, or the Church? There is a difference. Beyond supper prayer, I don’t know what it’s like to pray with my parents or grow up learning of the sacraments (forgiveness) and God’s love for me. I’m not saying I had a bad childhood, because I didn’t. What I am saying is a further exhortation of Paul’s in Ephesians. To bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is to raise them in the Church.
Engel says, “We would never place the responsibility of teaching our kids what sports team to root for into the hands of someone else,” so let’s teach our kids the love and forgiveness of Christ. But it’s not as easy to teach them about Christ than it is about our favourite sports team. Why is that? I think it’s mostly because we hardly even try. At least some of us. I’m not downplaying passing on things of this world that you love to your kids, but I do believe it’s more important to pass on the message of Christ to our children. Enjoy watching sports with your kids. Enjoy your time with them as you play Pokémon GO or watch them enjoy it. Always remember, however, the greater inheritance we have in our Lord Jesus Christ and the exhortation Paul gives us to pass on this inheritance to our children.