BreakPoint: Consider the Pokémon of the Field

Children Are Isolated from Nature

Could our technology-filled lives be keeping our kids from knowing God and Scripture in a crucial way?

I doubt anyone listening to Jesus when He said, “Consider the lilies of the field,” scratched their heads and asked Him, “What are lilies?” But it’s not difficult to imagine a modern audience asking Christ to explain His flower references.

Writing at The Guardian, Robert Macfarlane spotlights a study published in “Science” by researchers from Cambridge. Using picture cards, these scientists asked children to identify common British animal and plant species like bluebells, herons, otters, oak trees, badgers, and wrens. The kids, who were between the ages of eight and eleven, couldn’t even identify half of the pictures.

They were then shown make-believe creatures from the Japanese card game and cartoon series, Pokémon. These included animated oddities like the Arbok, the Bulbasaur, and the Jigglypuff.

The kids were able to identify a staggering eighty percent of these imaginary critters, by name!

“Young children clearly have tremendous capacity” for learning about living things, wrote the researches, but they’re “currently more inspired by synthetic subjects” than by “living creatures.” This famine of knowledge about the natural world, they conclude, is linked to kids’ “growing isolation from it.”

Now why does any of this matter? Well, because a manmade world filled with manmade creatures is a world drained of wonder. Barely three generations ago, looking up at the Milky Way was a nearly universal human experience. Now only those lucky enough to have camped out West or spent a night at sea have beheld the stars as God created them.

That’s more than just sad. It’s a worldview problem. The Bible constantly refers to nature. We first meet God in Scripture not as Savior or Father, but as Creator. The Psalmist invites us to “consider the heavens” and writes that they “declare the Glory of God.” When he compares his thirst for God to the way a deer runs toward water, most people in the modern world miss the impact of those words. They’ve never seen a deer do that.

Much of Job is an appeal to nature as proof of God’s power and sovereignty. And Jesus Himself took scarcely a breath between natural metaphors. “Birds have nests and foxes have dens,” He said, “yet the son of man has no place to lay his head.”

For the modern reader—especially the modern child—many of these references lack their original power. Quite simply, our isolation from nature has become isolation from God’s Word. Cocooned in our manmade world of climate-controlled homes, cars, subways, and high-rises, we’re finding it easier to live as practical atheists. I suspect even those of us who believe in the God of creation lack the wonder our ancestors felt toward Him while lost in a starry sky, or stooped beside a flower.

Fortunately, the solution is as easy as stepping outside. We may have city lights and the glow of touch screens to obscure our view, but God’s world is still near at hand, even right here in New York City where I live.

So for you and your kids, simple things can make a huge difference. You can instill in them a sense of awe for the natural world by visiting a community garden. Pick up books on birds or plants from the library and take the time to notice and identify each living thing.

One of my favorite things about America is our breathtaking collection of national and state parks, many of which boast wonders the Psalmist would envy. So why not schedule a visit?

Do not underestimate the power of these experiences. They will shape your child’s worldview and yours. And they will inspire wonder in the God of creation as no Pokémon ever could.

 

Consider the Pokémon of the Field: Children Isolated from Nature

Take every opportunity to introduce your children (and other children!) to the wonders of God’s creation. Eric suggested some easy ways to re-connect the upcoming generation with the natural world around them–it’s also a great way for kids to learn about God our Creator.

 

Resources

Badger or Bulbasaur - have children lost touch with nature?
  • Robert Macfarlane | The Guardian | September 30, 2017
Nature Valley, Youtube video
  • Audrey Schmidt | November 23, 2015

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  • Jason Taylor

    Jesus’s father was a carpenter-in other words he was a technologist. St Paul was a rabbi. And the Bible is the WORD of God-and took a number of trees to produce it. If the idea is to know Scripture, behold Scripture is technology. The Chosen People were and are among the peoples least known for being in harmony with nature. And most famous for being in harmony with words which are the epitome of the creation of man.

    Appreciating nature, like appreciating art, literature, music, science, etc, is part of human flourishing. It is not however a moral virtue. Hubert was a Christian but so was Thomas Acquinas.

  • Arnold Kropp

    That’s what inspired me to write “Considering the Ant.” Sitting on the deck one day the line of ants caught my eye as they climbed up the seven-foot post to get some of the sweet stuff in the hummingbird feeder. Back and forth they went. Amazing, that as small as they are, they seemed to be able to smell, to find the sweet stuff.a long way off. I then envisioned myself standing on the sidewalk of the Empire State building smelling a cinnamon roll at the top and then scaling the outside to get some. Nature is amazing. Our intuitive gifts are amazing. Our ability to create is amazing. Turn off the technology for a moment and “Be still and know.”

  • Zarm

    I would argue that creation is not flawed in the way man and the things of man are; yes, it too is under the curse, but it still proclaims the glory of God. He still looked upon it and called it good. Jesus still pointed to it as, among other things, possessing a splendor which even the richest king in Israel’s history did not rival. I have not yet seen one of God’s creations that is made superior by man’s hands. Made useful? Certainly. Harnessed to good purpose? On many occasions. Possessed of such beauty as the finite and limited can create? Certainly, though nothing to rival the majesty of the great Creator. But improved? Mad better, more majestic, more splendid? Not once.

    And as for the artificiality of words, was not language itself God’s creation, at Babel? Did he not give Adam the privilege, before that, of naming all the animals? I think names mean a little more than is being credited here.

    And lastly, there is a difference between disparaging technology and expressing concern that we may be too involved with it to the degree of neglecting other things. The oak may yet be beautiful as the ship, but pity the man poorly educated enough not to know what the oak *is*. Ignorance is never laudable, and not meant to be an outgrowth of any technology.

    • Jason Taylor

      You are missing the point. Artificial is not an insult. It comes from the same root as artifice, artisan, and art. And being in harmony with nature which is not in harmony with itself does not make a person not ignorant. Few hunter-gatherers know who the heck Thomas Aquinas was.

      You have yet to see one of God’s creations made superior by man’s hands? You are seeing it now. Without man silicon would be just dust. One of the reasons God made man was to be a subcreator.

      In any case the articles I have seen here(on the internet!) to my mind have long ago crossed the line of disparaging technology. As for being “to involved” with it, it is impossible to avoid. Generally because everything humans do has to do with technology. And specifically because our religion has works of technology(specifically a book)closely involved with it.

      In any case how do you stop “neglecting other things” except by the use of technology? Last time I checked there was a parking lot near almost every campground in Oregon.

  • patgo

    Nature is God’s general revelation to mankind. I don’t understand your anti-nature bias. Jesus didn’t talk about technology. He talked about nature. The technology involved in carpentry is minimal, and carpenters don’t develop the technology; they just use it. Like I use my camera to bring pictures of nature to people who are shut in, or for other reasons cannot view this for themselves. When I share my photos, I do it “Soli Deo Gloria”. So what’s your beef?

    In fact, isn’t it true that God’s nature is used by God to bring people to Him? What of the person who lives in primitive conditions who seeks God because of what he observes in nature? For many people, nature is the only Bible they will ever see. God receives those who seek Him, but we cannot seek Him without Him first reaching out to us. And for some people, He does it through nature.

    Nature reveals the nonsense of evolution, and the reality of an intelligent designer.

  • patgo

    I have to say that I fail to see the utility of Pokemon in the life of a child. Seriously.

    • Jason Taylor

      Which is more then I know but brings up the point that it is a rhetorical trick as there is plenty of other stuff to be gotten on the internet.

  • Phoenix1977

    Recently a paper has been published about the benefits of Pokémon Go in the treatment of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, as well as the result of playing Pokémon Go in the battle of peripheral arterial vascular disease. Because people have to actually go outside to “catch them all” people (both children and adults) are moving around again, improving their weight, stamina and health.
    Somehow nature didn’t accomplish such improvements …

  • Jason Taylor

    In any case it is something of a rhetorical bait and switch to compare what the writer apparently thinks a contemptible example of one thing(now I have nothing to say about that having no knowledge of pokeman but plenty of people who make hasty judgements of other peoples hobbies) and a splendid example of another. Why not compare Vivaldi on the internet(which you can get for free) with lilies in the field? Or how about just lilies on the internet with lilies in the field?

  • disqus_MG7XgmMuEx

    Excellent article. I would add that experiences with the natural world would serve as a bulwark against practical Gnosticism as well as practical atheism.