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On a Wednesday evening, the Rev. James Pigg stands at a podium speaking to the 18 people gathered in the basement of Hallelujah House, the Maryland Heights church he founded 19 years ago. It is another session of the weekly Bible study, and most of the group, ranging in age from 14-60 years, have brought along their big, well-thumbed Good Books. Although Hallelujah House calls itself nondenominational, it is, according to Pigg's daughter, Karen Stewart, ideologically affiliated with the Pentecostal religion. "We simply believe the truths in the Bible," she says, "all the way from Genesis to Revelation."
This night the charismatic pastor, 69, expounds on a variety of topics, including the difference between love and lust: "Most men lust, not love, their wives," Pigg declares. He then makes a confession about a woman in provocative attire whom he saw in Target: "I wouldn't look ... but I did." This Jimmy Carter lust-in-my-heart admission elicits some chortles, for Bible study doesn't have to be so serious, and Pigg, looking like a more rotund Kenny Rogers with his long white mane and trimmed beard, does indeed inject some levity now and again.
Another topic is bad spirits, the ones that worm their way into our souls, causing alcoholism, thievery and worse. These spirits, says the Rev. Pigg, can be "called out" by laymen with the proper mixture of zeal and prayer. One woman raises her hand: "Don't we have to know what that spirit is before we can call it out?"
"No, you don't have to know its name," he assures her, adding that personal demons are as common as dust balls under the bed. And although we may possess these demons and try to exorcise them, we should not think less of ourselves. "You're not a second-class citizen because you've got demons or demons have got you," he says.
These days the pastor himself is bedeviled by a host of little creatures that go by the names of Pikachu, Psyduck, Laa-Laa and Tinky-Winky. The seemingly cute and lovable characters of Pokémon and Teletubbies, allege Pigg and other right-minded individuals, are hell-spawn, sinister agents planted in the fabric of American culture by the Deuce and his minions.
"'Pokémon' means 'pocket monster,' and I believe truly that it is demonic, and I told my people not to buy them or partake of it with their children," notes the pastor. "Anything that just swoops worldwide and becomes a fad overnight, you've got to at least suspect it."
Others sounding the alarm include Regina Ruiz, a talk-show host on WGNU (920 AM), and Stephen Dollins, a traveling lecturer on things satanic and narrator/producer of The Occult in Your Living Room, a video that, as far as the 75-member congregation of Hallelujah House is concerned, offers incontrovertible proof of the inherent evils of such popular kiddie toys as Pokémon trading cards and Teletubbies plush dolls.
When Ruiz went to hear Dollins speak at the airport Howard Johnson's last month, she came away feeling good and vindicated. "God put it in my heart to hear this man," she says, "because I knew in my heart for a long time that Pokémon and Teletubbies were from the devil." She then broadcast these newly affirmed sentiments on her Sunday-afternoon radio show, Talk to Me. Ruiz concluded by saying that if listeners wanted to know more about the diabolical plot to corrupt youth, they could seek out Pastor Pigg at Hallelujah House: He was the local point man on the subject.
The created-for-television Teletubbies have previously come under fire from the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who branded the purple member of the quartet, Tinky-Winky, gay because he carries a purse and wears an antenna on his head that resembles an inverted triangle, a symbol of the gay-pride movement. According to Ruiz -- again, repeating the gist of Dollins' video -- gender ambiguity is the least of their sins: "The Teletubbies are four babies who run around with no authority figure and take their instructions from a horn that comes up out of the ground. God's voice doesn't come from underground, but Satan's does. Then they have a form of sun worship. There's a baby that has his head in a sun frame. If the baby's happy with what they do, the baby giggles, and when they do something the baby doesn't like, then the baby frowns. So they're trying to please the god of the sun."
Ragdoll Productions Ltd., which owns all rights to Teletubbies, has a much different take on these bizarre beings with TV screens built into their tummies. By way of introduction, a small card attached to each doll reads, "Tinky-inky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are the four technological babies who love each other very much . They live happily together in their world of childhood imagination -- Teletubbyland."
If, in the feverish imagination of the Religious Right, Teletubbies are demonic, Pokémon characters are even more so. After all, there are 151 of them. Joseph Chambers of Paw Creek Ministries has a virtual manifesto on the evils of the game. A recent visit to the church's Web site (www.worthynews.com) revealed 16 pages of vitriol directed against Pokémon characters. "The entire method and purpose of the game is to induce the possession of the player by devils," the site rails. "It is sorcery, clear and simple." Paw Creek Ministries links Pokémon to other occult games such as Magic: The Gathering and the original role-playing fantasy game, Dungeons & Dragons. Although the cute little Pokémon creatures look nothing like the dark, demonic entities of D&D, don't be fooled -- they're just as sinister. Fantasy role-playing, the hook of Pokémon, is dangerous for a child, Paw Creek maintains, because it creates psychological addiction: "The Pokémon mantra, 'gotta catch 'em all,' fuels the craving for more occult cards, games, toys, and comic books. There's no end to the supply, for where the Pokémon world ends there beckons an ever-growing empire of new, more thrilling occult and violent products. Each can transport the child into a fantasy world that eventually seems far more normal and exciting than the real world."
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