I love Pokemon Generations. If you haven’t been watching it, do it now (it’s free on the official Pokemon YouTube page). No, really.
Pokemon Generations includes a number of side stories set in the Pokemon game universe. This includes some looks into Blue, the collapse of Team Rocket, and some inside looks into the minds of the members of Team Aqua and Magma. A common theme in the Pokemon games as well as this series is the concept of evil teams. The evil teams are run by a charismatic leader, generating a fanatical following among it’s members. With Team Rocket, we have Giovanni, who in Episode 2 we see fleeing while the entire Team Rocket stands their ground, cries out to Giovanni, and are unwilling to sell him out to the police. In Episode 7, Courtney has a vision about Maxie’s plan for Team Magma. In said vision, Team Magma’s plans will fail and only darkness, violence, and destruction follow. What does she do after seeing this vision? Continue the mission blindly and madly, as a person who’s lost all sense of self to the cult she has joined. In Episode 8 we get Team Aqua’s madness, blindly following Archie to complete destruction of all land. The common thread among all these episodes is a strong cult of personality which, at it’s core, is a religion based upon a single, central person as the focus of worship.
I am saying that Teams Rocket, Magma, and Aqua are cults where the members worship their leader. It sounds crazy to think of it that way, but it’s what man was designed to do. We were designed to worship, and so we latch on to the things we find which seem to deserve our worship. In the form of charismatic leaders, that worship goes to the leader. These members put their lives on the line for their leader. They are willing to die for their leader. They are willing to see all humanity destroyed to see the goals of their leader accomplished. They blindly support, without caring about the consequences. They want someone else responsible, someone else in control. These leaders were being given all their followers time, treasure, and their lives. They were being revered as their purpose for life and reasons for living. They were idols.
Cults of personalities always evolve into the creation of idols. We see this in reality with cults of personality in politics, business, relationships, and in social cults. People put these leaders on pedestals, treating them as objects of worship, putting them above all things, putting their hope in these leaders. Human leaders are fallible and flawed, so they will fail. In 2008 we saw that with some supporters of Barack Obama and today among a subsection of supporters of Donald Trump. In each case, this small cross-section of supporters have placed their hope in a politician to solve all their problems. They placed their dreams in a politician putting them as a savior for whatever ailed them above all else. In both cases, these political leaders will never be able to solve all people’s problems. They will fail you. They will falter. They are not perfect, far from it. They are mere mortals who desire to serve in a man made position of power.
We don’t always think of humans, of leaders as idols. We think of man made statues or aspects of nature, but if we’re honest with ourselves we will realize that whatever we put before all other things is an idol. Remember – if it’s first, it is what we worship. If it is before God, we are making it more important than our God. As a Christian, I worship a jealous God, who does not want us to worship anything ahead of Him. The Bible condemns idolatry continuously (here’s an assortment of verses on the matter). Christians should take those condemnations to heart.
But, as individual people we get drawn in by others. It’s easier to get drawn into a cult of personality than you realize. While you may think the Team members in Pokemon are all crazy by putting their hope in leaders, they’re not – they’re merely human. Many of us have done this at one point. I know I have, spending months years ago in a warped relationship where I had placed my girlfriend at the center of my universe treating her as a cult-like object of worship. Maybe for you it was a friend. Maybe a child. Maybe your parents. Maybe a politician. No matter who it was, if your hope, dreams, future, reason for living is that person above all else – you worship them. Stop because they are imperfect and will fail.
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One thought on “Newman’s Nook: Personality Cults”
There are those who believe that putting all your hopes, dreams, and worth (“So everything that makes me whole I will give to you now”) in any single subject, including God, is what the problem is. They’re generally called agnostics, or sometimes atheists. I’m not one of them, but I can understand their point. While God as an entity can’t let you down, you can often feel in life as if God has let you down. There’s the sense that maybe we would be better off if we didn’t deify ourselves, or others, or any one ideal of perfection we call a god.
But we do, and so here we are. As long as there are humans to worship things, they will worship. And I find that it adds a certain layer of deep-seated meaning and purpose to my life, that’s not really quantifiable.