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Pokemon Go: What Is It? Are There Risks?

Master of Public Administration. Married with 4 boys and 4 girls. Wealth of humorous, faith-filled, and fascinating experiences.

Pokémon Go Location: Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines


Introduction: What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is a mobile game released July 2016 by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. Pokémon is short for pocket monster. Players can capture and train fictional characters like Pikachu in a gym in order to form teams for competition. You can download the free app to your mobile device.

What is a PokeStop?

While driving by the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, IA with my son and daughter, we noticed 200+ people, mostly teenagers and twenty somethings swarming the area. They were aiming their phones towards the various art sculptures. The park is a "PokeStop" which means it has been marked as a location for Pokémon Go. The app causes your phone to vibrate to alert you to these stops.

Pappajohn Sculpture Park: A PokeStop

Gamers Capture Pikachu

Dozens gather at the park to train and battle

Dozens gather at the park to train and battle

My Church is a PokeStop!

At church, I questioned a teenager on a skateboard to find out more. He said that our church was a "gym" and that our Risen Christ statue was a source for Poké Balls used to capture and store Pokémon. He showed me a picture of the statue on his phone. He took his thumb, swiped it across the picture to spin it and several red balls came out. I asked him how our church became a location. He said that any place that is a landmark is automatically loaded into the game by way of Google Maps.

Pokémon Go Video Interview at Church

A Chance to Share Christ

The young man on the skate board said allowing people on church property might be an opportunity to lead them to Christ. suggests that churches should consider water stations and a place where visitors can charge their phone. It can be an opportunity to evangelize.

The Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin suggests that churches place welcome signs, offer free wifi, and provide a book for prayer requests.

Pokémon Go Video Interview 2

Pope John Paul 2

Missionaries…must learn the language of the place in which they work, become familiar with the most important expressions of the local culture, and discover its values through direct experience. Only if they have this kind of awareness will they be able to bring to people the knowledge of the hidden mystery [of God] in a credible and fruitful way.

-Saint Pope John Paul 2

Criminal Mischief and Safety Concerns of Pokémon Go

The Pappajohn Sculpture Park was vandalized during the time the gamers were present. Police warned players to be respectful of public and private property and mindful not to be trespassing.

In Missouri, teenagers playing the game were lured into a parking lot and robbed. Two men in Encinitas, California fell off a cliff and another player crashed his car into a tree in Auburn New York. This has lead to the prompting of public safety notices by authorities.

Spiritual Concerns: Occult?

Christians have concerns that Pokémon is linked to the occult. "The word “occult” is generally associated with secret knowledge and practices dealing with the supernatural or “psychic” phenomena, often for the purpose of obtaining personal power. Some occult practices rely on demons or “spirits” to achieve their goals“ (Christian

One of the Pokémon characters, "Jynx" uses "psychic energy" to perform attacks.

Scripture Warnings

“Let no one be found among you.... who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.“ -Deuteronomy 18

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft.... I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.“ -Galations 5:19-21

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So Is It Sorcery or What?

When I was a teenager, I played with the Ouija board. I didn't think much of it but then found out that it is a practice of the occult. My mother had reservations about my friends and me playing, “Dungeons and Dragons.” I argued that I could choose a priest as one of the fantasy characters and I had the power to, "turn the undead." She allowed me and my friends to play it but she remained uncomfortable.

As an adult growing in faith, I can clearly see the subtle links to the occult in both of the games. And I have the same concerns for Pokémon today.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

You might not follow the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But here are some words of wisdom to prayerfully consider:

”Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.”

“All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums....They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

Some Takeaways

Welcoming Pokémon Go players on church property offers an opportunity to lead young persons to Christ. This is especially important when National Geographic reports that the fastest growing religion among millennials is no religion.

I hope that one day someone will come up with a clever way to have a moral purpose to Pokémon Go. Perhaps Christians could develop an app called, "Deliver us from Evil" whereby you train a Christian for battle against evil forces.

Until then, let us be open to understanding more about modern technology and reach young people where they are so as to plant seeds of faith.


Catechism of the Catholic Church. Retrieved from:

Christian The Occult-What Does the Bible Say? Retrieved from:

Diocese of Green Bay Department of New Evangelization. A Parish Primer: Responding to Parish Questions and Concerns. Retrieved from:

Google. Pokémon Go Accidents. Retrieved from:

The Holy Bible. New International Version. Retrieved from:

Ministry Matters. What to do if Your Church is a Hub for Pokémon Go. Retrieved from:

National Geographic. World'sFastest Growing Religion: No Religion. Retrieved from:

Pokémon. Retrieved from:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Robbers Target Players of Popular Pokemon Go Smartphone Game, Police in O'Fallon, Mo., Say. Retrieved from:


Whitneysm on July 17, 2016:

Cool idea for an app. Let me know when it launches.

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