Team Rocket Fangirl
Happy Sunday morning!
As you may know, I've been taking medication for the past couple of weeks, and it's making me sleep a lot. Along with those many hours of sleep are outrageous dreams. Recently in class, we were tasked with creating a video of us preaching the Gospel in a message. I racked my brain for ways to share, and apparently this was really on my mind, because in one of my crazy dreams, I had a dialogue with myself regarding Pokemon and the Gospel message.
I didn't end up using this for class, as it didn't quite seem appropriate since the age range within the class is quite variant (or maybe it would have been awesome, I don't know how much of a sense of humor my professor has), but I thought I'd share this little nugget of silliness here.
So how many people remember the actual cartoon for Pokemon? I was obsessed with Pokemon, and I can probably tell you all the different Pokemon up until the Battle Frontier season. I shipped Ash with Misty (and was rather sad when Mae replaced her), wanted to see Brock finally get a girl (which I found out did happen in later seasons), and absolutely loved Team Rocket.
In my dream, that was the root of the Gospel message. Team Rocket, I mean, not the romantic dilemmas of the original main characters. I asked myself, why? Team Rocket is the antagonist of the series, but for some reason, I found them so lovable. Sure, they provided comedic relief, but I've always been a bit of a serious kid. Their continually failed endeavors and affinity for blasting off again wouldn't have sparked in me enough laughter to constitute them becoming my favourite characters.
As I contemplated out loud to my clone, I realized that I found them very relatable to myself, and also to what the Gospel message is. For a long time, Japan has been closed off to evangelism, because of a mass suicide committed by a cult. To this day, a lot of people are wary of evangelists and missionaries, and in that context, I felt like Team Rocket was really a light-hearted way of addressing cults. (This might not be the original intent of the writers or translators, but this is what my loopy, sleepy, overanalytical brain was thinking)
If you look at their (original) motto: Prepare for trouble! Make it double! To protect the world from devastation! To unite all people within our nation! To denounce the evils of truth and love! To extend our reach to the stars above! Jessie! James! Team Rocket blasts off in the speed of light! Surrender now or prepare to fight! Meowth! That's right!
you can really see the heart for evangelism, as their hopes is that in spreading what they believe, they'll be ridding the world from devastation and unite everyone within their nation. That sounds a lot like what Christians believe, right? In spreading the Gospel message, we are hoping to give others the opportunity to enter Heaven as opposed to Hell (devastation), and are trying to "make disciples of all nations". This is a basis that a lot of cults understand and utilize to share their beliefs.
Of course, the part about denouncing the evils of truth and love are rather ridiculous - most people recognize that truth and love are not evil, but that's the scary thing: sometimes what we learn to believe can teach us to believe in lies and hate. To cultivate a thought process that allows for voluntary mass suicide, there has to be the belief in the lie that life on earth is not precious, and that somehow, certain people are more worthy of love (whether dead or alive).
Now, let's take that to the context of Christianity, and how cults can re-develop Christian ideals. As Christians, we are called to die, and be resurrected; to leave behind worldly things and give up our lives to live for Christ; that we can rejoice in death, because we will be with God. Surely through God, resurrection can physically happen even today as the Bible documents, but the Bible teaches us, and the Holy Spirit gives us discernment to understand that this does not mean committing suicide to obtain eternal life (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). To spiritually die and become resurrected and made anew is to gain a new perspective (Romans 5:12-21) - that the things this world can give us, whether in suffering or happiness, is nothing compared to what suffering Christ had gone through by being tortured and hung on the cross as a sinless and guiltless man, and what joy awaits us at Heaven's gates (Philippians 3:10). Our eternal life does begin in our physical death, but that does not mean our life here on earth is not precious: we are called to be in the constant state of preparing ourselves and encouraging others to prepare for eternity . This preparation only ends when God takes us home to be Jesus' bride, not when we try to control it for ourselves. Think of it this way: Heaven is the venue for your wedding day with Jesus, and God has the appointment book. Your time here on earth is for working on becoming the perfect bride and wife. You can't just barge in half dressed and try to get married when it's not your appointed time yet. It doesn't work that way. In fact, that's how you get banned.
"Extending their reach to the stars above" definitely sounds a lot like what happened with the Tower of Babel, when mankind tried to build a tower high enough to reach the Heavens. They felt that by works of man, they would be able, and God humbled them by scattering everyone through different languages to evoke confusion. There's a lie that man began to believe the moment that Eve believed Satan - that somehow, (wo)man can become like God. Humans were already made to the likeness of God, and the original relationship was between that of Creator and created. There was meant to be love and respect for God from man and woman, not too unlike that of love and respect we should have for our parents who birthed us (or donated a sperm cell, but let's digress and not go there). Since then, humanity has multitudes of theories on how to reach Heaven (or some equivalent to Heaven, nirvana, etc.): through good works, through rituals, ceremonies, superstitions, mummification, you name it. And Team Rocket is none different.
I know I went on a huge semi-tangent there, but hear me out: Team Rocket's motto itself shows that they are broken people, seeking for purpose and to become something greater than they believed themselves to be at that moment. It's not that they're bad people, they've shown in many episodes that they're extremely compassionate, and chooses to help people. They themselves often break the fourth wall and call themselves "the bad guys", but there's so much more to it than that. We learn about their different backgrounds - James as an over-protected super rich mama's boy who walked away from inheriting everything because he felt like there had to be more to life than marrying a crazy girl for wealth. Team Rocket gave him the chance to work for a purpose. Jessie grew up very poor, and fought tooth and nail to prove herself as worthy, and ended up dejected because her background was "just not good enough". She joined Team Rocket as she sought for something that she could excel in. As for Meowth, he changed everything he was as a Pokemon to impress a girl Meowth, who called him a freak show for learning how to walk and talk. He joined Team Rocket because Boss saw something unique and special about him being able to talk as a Meowth.
How many of us want to seek better purpose in life, because we realize some of the things we have or want are empty? Or how many of us want to just prove ourselves to others, because we feel like we were dealt the hard cards, and we just gotta make it somehow? Or like Meowth, how many of us fall easily for praise because we ourselves don't know how to love ourselves? It's when we believe the lies - that our purpose is found in our works, that we need the affirmation of others, that we aren't worthy of love - that we fall into traps. Like cults.
Imagine if James heard the Gospel message - that yes, Christ calls him to leave behind his wealth, but his purpose is to live for Christ, who gave his life for him. That finding a purpose in life is as simple as sharing the Gospel - maybe through sharing his family wealth with the poor. That if he doesn't want to marry Jessebelle, he can have direct communication with God for guidance - maybe he'd end up marrying her anyways and lead her to Christ and lead a not-so-scary-stalker lifestyle. Or maybe by following God's example of giving and sharing in his wealth, Jessebelle leaves because she wants to marry a rich guy. Who knows? God would have the situation under control.
Imagine if Jessie heard the Gospel message - that she is enough. She is enough for Christ to come down to earth from Heaven as a blue-collar worker. She is enough for Christ to have lived a sinless life and still take the torture and humiliation of His crucifixion. She is enough for Christ to have literally died to fight sin, and return to gift her with the opportunity of reconciliation with God and salvation. She's worked hard, and did everything she could. That is enough. Imagine if Jesse understood that God put her in her home for a special reason - that she was able to learn what it takes to survive under horrible, impoverished circumstances, so that she could be compassionate towards others. That instead of seeking affirmation from people and trying to prove herself, she can glorify God for giving her strength to go through countless exams, and endure through interviews with class-ist CEOs that gave the job to the rich, hot girl living next door to James. And that her testimony, however God would have led it, would give hope to others. Maybe she finally hits it big in a great job, and she is able to share with people how God led her to the perfect place. Or maybe because she is used to living on nothing, she ends up becoming a backpacker throughout Europe as a super-low budget missionary. I mean, low-budget backpacking to spread her beliefs is kind of already her current job, right?
And Meowth, imagine if he knew - okay, so he's a cat. But let's pretend for a moment that he's human - imagine if he knew that he's created perfect as he is by God Himself, and is created in God's image. That whether if he was mute or crippled (using these as analogies for having Poke-speak and walking on all fours), he is worthy of love. It doesn't mean that everyone on earth will love him, romantically or otherwise, but that he is loved by God. And not only that, but God encourages us to love ourselves. Our hearts are the temple of God, and our bodies house this temple - and therefore we must learn to worship our bodies as a form of worshiping God. And what if he heard the Gospel message after he had already transitioned to becoming a walking and talking Meowth? Well, first of all: he's a talking Pokemon. Other than Mewtwo who uses telepathy, no other Pokemon is known to be able to do that! His tenacity and hard work is a show of the gifts that God has given him, and if he learned to appreciate and glorify God for these, how great would his testimony be? Once rejected, but accepted through Christ and reminded that he is wonderfully and fearfully made, just as he was knit in the womb and just as he is shaped by God.
So basically, my reasoning for loving Team Rocket is because they're so relatable - there are so many places in my life where I can relate to wanting to find a greater purpose, wanting to prove myself, and craving love. Even now as a Christian, there are times I struggle with these thoughts and feelings, but ultimately, I know that God has already redeemed these qualities of purposelessness, unworthiness, and un-lovableness. God continues to remind me through His Word and Gospel that I can let these go and surrender my sinful nature of seeking my own abilities, and instead lean on His faithfulness and strength.
And for all of you OG Pokemon fans out there, maybe this is something you can relate to. Or if you hated Team Rocket, maybe you can respond with a reflection of why :) I'd love to hear! But regardless, I hope that you can be invited to also surrender any feelings of needing to live for a purpose, to prove yourself, or find love. You have a purpose: for Christ. You are worthy: through Christ. And you are loved: by Christ. And all He asks is that you know that, believe that He died on the cross for our sins, and resurrected on the 3rd day to prove that He is God and has defeated sin and death for us, so that we too can be sinless and resurrected after death and enter Heaven.