Is this pagan? The answer is no, it is not.
Back in the late nineties and early 2000s, there were some folks in the religion business who were out to get attention for themselves by picking on whatever happened to be popular at the time. Back then, Pokemon was really popular, so it became a target for them.
Of course, the accusations that Pokemon encouraged the occult were all false, and a little bit of research could have verified this. Sadly, research seemed too hard for certain people, even though it was the early days of the internet, when research was generally becoming much easier to do.
It actually got to the point where it caught the pope’s attention, and he and a team decided to review the official Pokemon materials themselves. After having actually reviewed the Pokemon games and cartoons, they concluded that Pokemon had no harmful moral side effects, encouraged friendship, and said that the games were very imaginative (source). However, that didn’t stop Saudi Arabia’s ban on the franchise due to supposed complicity in a Zionist plot to undermine Islam. What Pikachu would have to do with such a thing, I don’t know.
It’s been about a decade and a half since this controversy was last relevant, so one would think that cooler heads had prevailed, and the mistakes of the past wouldn’t be repeated. As it would seem, some higher-ups of a certain charity stumbled on the dark corners of the internet that contain conspiracy theories, and decided to allow them to influence their policy, because they’re excluding Pokemon toys from their charity drives.
The reasoning? According to Joey White, assistant director of Operation Christmas Child, “There are some references that may be questionable,” (source, emphasis added). The concern was about whether there would be pagan references.
“May” be questionable? “MAY” be? The word “may” connotes the existence of a possibility, whether significant or remote, with an implication of doubt on the part of the person using it. Do these pharisees really intend to make their choices hinge on an element of suspicion in matters where, by their own admission, they’re really not certain? Or do they intend to ban anything that bears any resemblance to anything that they deem objectionable? In either case, they have problems.
In the modern world, we get to enjoy some nice conveniences. However, a person has to do a lot of research to be informed on important matters, especially considering that the media isn’t straight with us. There is a lot that a modern person has to know just to be competent as a consumer. This is also the case when it comes to deciding what’s appropriate for our children. When we go ban-happy, we run the risk of banning something that really wasn’t any harm. When that happens, the child could find out later on that the concerns of their parents were unfounded, and that they weren’t very good decision-makers, and consequently, they could end up trusting us less. We already see many parents telling their children to believe in Santa Claus. Those kids are going to find out the truth about the guy sooner or later. Those parents are setting themselves up.
The irony that seems to be lost on the directors of Operation Christmas Child is that, for all their concern about pagan references that may exist in children’s toys, Christmas is an observance that has been positively determined to have pagan origins.
What’s more, the organization has expressed the intention to give toys to non-Christian children, including to Muslims, who may interpret the offering of Christmas gifts as a challenge to their Islamic faith. When you insist on giving something to somebody who doesn’t even want it, you could run into problems. If someone doesn’t want to observe Christmas, the act of insisting Christmas gifts upon them doesn’t have much more behind it in terms of motives than a desire to destroy what that person stands for and replace it with their own ideals. If one goes that far, those ideals had better be true. An ancient pagan solstice observance doesn’t become true, even if overlaid with a Christian-sounding message.
No, Pokemon does not promote pagan messages. The themes of Pokemon are adventure, nature, exploration, science, and technology. There is a very involved social aspect to Pokemon that is encouraged by the fact that it’s much harder for a person to obtain every pokemon by themselves. I’ve noticed that people who are good at math tend to be better at Pokemon, which might be an interesting thing to look into. These seem like the kinds of things that would make Pokemon a very positive experience for children.
However, there are people in this world who, after seeing something that they don’t understand, would immediately accuse it of witchcraft for that very reason. These are the kinds of people who would see someone perform Trigonometry and interpret the manipulation of numbers as some kind of sorcery.
Christianity is supposed to be a spiritually-enlightened way of life, not a legalistic cabal insisting on banning everything in sight.