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Pokémon Go and the Crises of Our Day


Pokémon GO is the most popular mobile game in American history. The app instructs players to use their mobile devices to catch Pokémon characters in the real world. It has sent multitudes of people into streets, parks, and malls looking for such creatures. More than twenty-one million people play the game every day in the US. (For more, see Ryan Denison's Is Pokémon Go-ing to Church?)


I'm old enough to remember when Blockbuster stores rented video games and VHS tapes. Now Blockbuster stores and VHS tapes are no more. We could never have imagined then the technology we take for granted today.


One reason for the popularity of Pokémon GO is that it provides a distraction from a world that grows more frightening by the day. Security is tighter than ever for the Republican Convention in Cleveland. (For Nick Pitts's reports from the convention, please go to our Facebook page.) According to this morning's New York Times, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the seventeen-year-old Afghan who attacked passengers on a German train before he was killed by police. After the shootings in Baton Rouge and Dallas, police officers across the country are patrolling in pairs. 


A psychologist noted in The New York Times, "With the frequency of shootings and terror attacks there is a sense of anxiety that's building in people, a sense of vulnerability and powerlessness." 


In the face of such crises, it's hard to take the long view. What happens today seems more important than what happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow. The current challenge seems to be more of a challenge than anything we've faced before or will face again. But that's seldom true.


From 1960 to 1993, violent crime in America increased by 560 percent. It has since dropped to half that level. We are understandably worried about Islamic terrorism. But I grew up in a time when we lived every day with the very real possibility of nuclear war. 


Bernie Sanders focused his campaign largely on the problem of economic inequity in America, a challenge for which much progress remains. However, according to the Pew Research Center, poverty in the US has fallen from twenty-six percent in 1967 to sixteen percent in 2012. The poverty rate for African-Americans has fallen by fifty percent.


We often hear that America has become more secular than ever before. However, a recent survey reports that thirty-two percent of atheists, agnostics, and people who have no religion believe in life after death. There is indeed a "God-shaped emptiness" in every soul.


Here's my point: Every generation has its challenges, and every generation can choose to face them with or without God. Our Lord wants to use the crises of these days to show us the folly of self-sufficiency. He wants to draw us from our problems to his providence, from our fears to his omnipotence. His word is clear: "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain" (Psalm 127:1).


Is God building your house today?



Publication date: July 19, 2016


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