"Fun" with the Fundamentalists.

By Mark A. Siefert

I’m sorry, but I don’t think that Pikachu is a minion of Satan.

Try telling that to Mark Juvera, pastor of the Grace Fellowship Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Back in August, Juvera took a blowtorch to Pokemon trading cards and used a 30-inch long "sword of the sprit" to literally hack up Pokemon toys before a church service of 85 children. Why? The answer can be found in an e-mail essay from a California woman stating that without a shadow of a doubt, Pokemon was Satanic. The letter claimes that Pokemon encourages children to "role play" (a big no-no in Fundamentalist circles) and become a "master" and accumulate "spirtiual power" greater than their God!

For those living who have been living under a rock, in a cave under the South Pole; Pokemon is the latest craze sweeping America’s kiddies. Originally started as a video game and animated series in Japan, Pokemon can be best described as "cock fighting for kids." The idea is that these cartoonish creatures are trained by their human owners to battle each other in professional competition. The violence is no worse than your average Warner Brother’s cartoon; unrealistic and harmless. However, that hasn’t stopped Fundamentalist Christians (or as I like to call them, Fundies) nation-wide from including it, along with anything else that happens to be fun, on their list of objects or institutions rubber stamped "SATANIC."

Since it’s for intended little kids, Pokemon is not my idea of entertainment. At it’s very worst, Pokemon is childish and goofy. However, when last I looked, there was no law against that. The only politically active group who could possibly have a gripe against Pokemon are the "Animal Rights" kooks who could complain that it promotes cruelty to animals, but so far they aren’t complaining… yet. However I somehow doubt that cute little anime critters like Bulbasaur or Squirtle are somehow in league with the forces of darkness.

Then there is poor Harry Potter, the boy wizard protagonist of a very popular line of children’s books by Scottish author J. K. Rowling. The Fundies in Columbia, South Carolina has called for the public schools to ban the books from their libraries because they "promote" witchcraft, youth rebellion, and the occult. I haven’t read the books myself and somehow I have a feeling that neither has this handful of outraged bible-beaters.

As a connoisseur of the fantastic and odd, I’ve seen this sort of thing a hundred times before. The Fundies have always looking for the Devil in the darndest of places: Horror movies, science fiction novels, "Magic The Gathering" trading cards, heavy metal rock, not to mention the unholiest of unholies… DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS! Even the corporate logo, of Proctor and Gamble, the man in the moon, has come under the scrutiny of their Spiritual McCarthyism. ("Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Chruch of Satan?")

You can try to reason with them, but that would mean that the Fundies operated on such a principle. These people view their existence through the stained-glass spectacles of faith. To them, there is nothing but the word of their God and anything else that they perceive to threaten it is considered heresy. It’s enough to make you think that Jessie Ventura wasn’t all that off base in that Playboy interview, doesn’t it?

I really have no quarrel with faithful per se. The Fundamentalists have every right to ignore reason in favor of their religion. They are free to worship and think (or not think) as they see fit. They are not compelled to purchase Pokemon products, read a Harry Potter book, play D&D, listen to Marilynn Manson, believe in the heliocentric model of the solar system, or even that the world is round.

But the very same freedom that grants them their right to believe as they see fit, also grants others the right to believe otherwise. The faith of the Fundies ends where someone else’s reason begins. They are not worried that they will be exposed to this "Satanic" material. They are concerned that other people, particularly their children, maybe be endangering their souls to what they think is eternal damnation. However, each individual owns their own mind and soul (if such a thing truly exists), and they may use or misuse it as they see fit. Even the children of Fundamentalists have the freedom to reject the faith of their fathers and pick up a Lloyd Alexander novel, or buy a booster pack of Magic cards.

Until the Fundies come to same conclusion about freedom of Speech and Expression as the rest of us, we can expect to see more of what happened in Colorado Springs in the future. Perhaps they will start to rant about how Barney the Dinosaur should be banned because it’s clandestine attempt to teach Darwinian Evolution to children. (The Good Book said nothing about annoying, purple, Tyrannosaurs Rex in the Garden of Eden.) It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Pat Robertson demand the arrest of David Copperfield or Penn and Teller for corrupting the youth through "satanic rituals." Maybe they can propose a new constitutional amendment to give the federal government the power to force all Americans to be as dour and ignorant as they are.

God only knows what goes on in those tiny minds.