The Gospel of Augmented Reality: What Pokemon Go and the Jesus Movement Have in Common

It’s here. No, actually, it’s been here. This month Pokémon released it newest version of gaming-meets-community-meets-adventure. Pokemon Go, the newest, trendiest, most-culturally revolutionary game since…well, since who knows..will forever change the landscape of how technology can mediate digital reality, community and life in the real world.

Let me put it this way: if Facebook provided a digital-real social network and Facebook Live! opened the door for people to broadcast real life events as they were happening, Pokémon Go is changing the way people see and experience the very reality of the world around them — physically and digitally. It’s more than just gaming, it’s seeing. It’s more than just exploring, it’s community. It’s more than just a game for kids, it’s a reality augmenting experience that is getting people up-and-out by virtue of the challenge to see more to the world than is actually there.

Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.

In Gospel of Luke, Jesus sends his disciples out in the hopes that they too will unlock a world of peace and generosity that they may not see until they go. He sends them out empty handed into a harsh world as carriers of peace and healing (good news for all outcasts) saying,

“Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

The truth of the matter is: the Jesus movement (@iamepiscopalian) has long wanted to augment the realities of its adherents for peace, love, and justice. But…and it is a big BUT… Christianity has never had a vehicle like Pokemon Go to game people’s imaginations in the real world. Rather, like all old school forms of community and religious life, the Jesus movement has to rely on training in virtues through reading and practice. It has had to attend to the distillation of values through families and working for the common good. And, when the going gets tough, Christianity has had to depend on that ol’ pesky Holy Spirit to show up in tangible and intangible ways in the lives of the faithful to prove God when God seems lost to the world.

Don’t get me wrong, Pokemon Go is not Pokemon God. I know that the work of the Holy Spirit and the gospel is powerful to create real change in the world. If you don’t believe me, just ask a few of these folk: Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Harriet Tubman, the apostle Paul, Gandhi, Bono (U2) or Marian Wright Edelman (@ChildDefender) . None of these saints of the faith had Pokemon Go but all of them had their reality augmented by the power of the gospel in their lives. They simply saw things differently and responded to it. For their part, the old lines of “in and out”, of “us and them”, of “love and hate” became background clutter in a world marked by a new way of seeing. This new way of seeing and of walking around in the world led them to places they would never have gone, and to the discovery of good news in people that most of us could never unlock.

The kingdom of God (or kin-dom of God) much like the world of Pokémon, exists in every frame of our lives. While for the most part our mobile devices won’t necessarily show it (though I believe you can discover/share it in bits and pieces on YouTube Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat) it takes the medium of our bodies and our lived experiences of faith — through our very eyes, heart, hands and mind- to discover and find the seeds of the gospel as they reside at every intersection of our lives.

The question is: will you dare to have your reality augmented?

Should you choose to play Gospel Go you won’t unlock any Revives or Potions, but you may discover community capable of releasing you to be your best self. Should you choose to join Gospel Go you may find yourself walking around your neighborhood at 2am and bumping into others who are also looking for something more to life — and it may smell like Incense, but its really purpose. Should you choose to play Gospel Go you may not accumulate any Razz Berries or Lucky eggs for your self, but you may change the whole world for someone else.

For my friends, Gospel Go, this life of faith deployed for goodness is about more than helping a digital narrator explore the nuances of an unseen world. This life, your very life, is about joining with others and the source of all Life in order to change the world for the sake of all that is Good.

So go! “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to you,” Jesus said. Go and search. Go and play. Go and let peace fall upon all of those whom you meet. But most of all, Go! because goodness needs to be found in places where people could never imagine it residing — and it may take your augmented journey to find it!