A note about Pokemon Go

gplus229009618My friend, we’ll refer to her as “Pam” because that’s her name, recently put up a post about Pokemon Go players disrespecting certain places such as cemeteries and private properties when they play their game. She rightly pointed out that it is inappropriate to chase after virtual monsters in a solemn place or on another person’s property without permission. As someone with a little knowledge of how the game was constructed, I decided to share a little bit of insight.

Niantic had (has) another game called Ingress as well as a neat “personal tour” app called Field Trip. Both of these are also location based and have been around for a few years. Why does this matter? Because Google used the data from Ingress to find interesting places that were friendly to walking (opposed to driving).

Ingress began by mapping all fire stations, libraries and post offices and placing a game spot (portal) on each one. Then, gradually, more portals were added to the game through a laborious user submission process. Eventually, the Ingress app added an easy way to submit any location in seconds from your phone. And the portals blew up! Many of them interesting, some of them inappropriate for game play.

Here’s the connection: Pokemon Go used the data from Ingress to place their game spots. I think they’re called “gyms” in Pokemon Go. Niantic should have trimmed their list of game locations better. Much better. A lot of the garbage portals in Ingress have been removed, but not all. Ingress attracts players who are typically in their 20’s and older. Pokemon Go attracts more children. There are exceptions to both of these age group generalizations.

1. Children are more likely to play their game on someone’s yard or burial site than adults.
2. There are MANY more people playing Pokemon than Ingress could have imagined.

That is why a lot of the problems are happening. The game developers didn’t do more to clean up the game locations and the players are not being respectful of others as they play. So Niantic is responsible for causing part of the problem and responsible for exposing the other part of the problem. Fix either one and the problems would dissipate into occasional annoyances. Changing the game locations is the easier fix. Changing a culture that sends out children who don’t know about certain societal norms of decency or private property without adult supervision is a tougher solution.

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There have been two recent deaths where a black person is killed by a police officer. In past cases, there have often been circumstances where it appears the officer was ultimately acting in his or her own self defense or the defense of others. Not always, but we have been conditioned to err on the side of the law enforcement officers. And sometimes, the word “err” is accurate.

In one recent case, the victim was selling CD’s in front of a convenience store, and was carrying a firearm illegally, as his 2nd Amendment rights were taken away due to him being convicted of a prior felony. In the video, the man is wrestled to the ground by two officers and appears to not be a threat to anybody when one of the officers pulls his service pistol and puts it to the man’s chest. Two shots are heard and the man dies on the ground.

In the other case, the victim was in possession of a legal firearm and was in the calm process of reaching for his license to carry the weapon. During this time shots are fired into the car and the man dies there. His crime was notifying the officer that he was a legal gun owner and seeking to provide authentication of this. The man’s fiance’ was handcuffed and taken away. The news didn’t say what was done for the child who was in the back seat when the man was killed.

These are heartbreaking examples of injustice. These are examples of heartache that is caused by men who frequently have the phrase “To Protect and Serve” on the side of their cars. And I agree with the governor of Minnesota who said that had the man been white he would be alive today.

What is the answer here? Too often, white Americans have been asked to apologize for the actions of the past as some sort of contrition for events of the future. That isn’t the answer. If it was, the problem would have been solved long ago. The answer isn’t to make any surface level change. The answer is reconciliation. The answer is respect. The answer is dialogue. The answer is to value others. And as a Christian, I believe the answer begins with a biblical worldview.

The Bible informs Christians (and Jews) that all of humanity comes from the same family tree. Taken back enough generations, we are all related! No one tribe, tongue or skin pigment is superior to any other. The imago dei rests upon all of humanity. That is, we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image transfers a high value! It is because of that image that we will argue for the personhood of unborn children. It is that imago dei that informs us when we care for those who may be discarded otherwise. It is that image of God that is denied by our culture, undermining the very reason why humans have a greater value than other living creatures.

Police officers have a difficult job. Some of them have reported a disproportionate number of violent incidences with minorities. I’m not here to judge the chicken or the egg. I do believe that we need to stop denying the shared imago dei of humanity. That would be a good start. Once we understand that we are all share equal value and that skin color can not inform anyone of your expected behavior. That will also allow groups of people to respect officers as they perform their duties.

Through the infamous Dred Scott case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that African Americans had a value equal to three-fifths of the value a Caucasian person. I add this to show that the devaluation, the dehumanization, of others is nothing new in this country. There is a history of denying the imago dei, and this is to our shame. We can shout that all people have equal value. We can recite the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

But without a heart change it will continue to be lip service to the real problem of the heart. And the only one capable of changing a person on that level is God. And the only way to God is through the finished work of Jesus, who bore our sins to Calvary and then rose from the dead on the third day.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(Isaiah 53:5-6 ESV)

#BlackLivesMatter. From conception to natural death. They matter just as much as other races. And they need to be treated with the equality that they deserve. And finally (FINALLY!) we need to stop thinking in terms of “they” and start thinking in terms of “all of us.”

I want to close with a news interview of the responsible gun owner who was briefly labeled as the most wanted man in America. If you’ve read this far, you can take a few minutes to hear his plea: