Friday, June 22, 2012

Understanding the Appeal of Believing in Ghosts

By Rev. Mark Hunnemann

In the not so distant past, interest in ghosts and contacting the dead was relegated mainly to fringe cultic groups.  I think it is important, especially for those who do believe in earthbound spirits (ghosts), to realize just how recently this popular belief has exploded into the mainstream.  It is so hard, but so important, to stand outside our own culture and analyze the flow of history.  I’m not talking about merely sitting around the campfire telling ghost-stories…most of us did that - even in the Boy Scouts!  No, I’m talking about what has become so enormously popular today…serious belief in trapped spirits.  In the span of 15 years or so, the paranormal has become the new normal.  Pop culture is immersed in spiritism.  Why?  What is the appeal?

First, there was the influx of eastern religions in the 1960’s.  It has been said that the New Age was conceived in the 60’s but was born in the 1990’s - a 30 year gestation period.  I have corresponded with Dr. Peter Jones (NT professor), who I have mentioned before had been desk-mates for several years with John Lennon.  They also both came over here for the first time within months of each other in the mid sixties; Jones to seminary (I think), and Lennon to world-wide fame.  Ed Sullivan...haha, what a trip he was!  Anyway, the Beatles were a huge catalyst to the infusion of eastern thought forms and practices.  This move away from physicalism (physical is all there is) has made our cultural landscape fertile ground for the growth of belief in spirit-beings.  After gestating for three decades, Demi Moore and Patrick Swayzi made a movie, and Hollywood has never been the same - and neither has American spirituality.  During this gestation phase, a paradigm shift was occurring; a dying Christian worldview was being replaced by something that re-introduced spiritual reality.  Magick was back!  The spiritual bankruptcy of materialism created a yawning void which eastern religions seemed to fill.  Which brings us to the second reason for the appeal to spiritism…

Sadly, tens of millions of Americans have become interested in the occult (and belief in ghosts is occultic) due to being burned out on traditional religion.  Four years ago I was seriously seeking to start a new church, under the auspices of my denomination.  During this time I went door-to-door, not to evangelize but to ask people why they thought so many folks were leaving the church, and what they would like to see in a church.  Irrelevant sermons, focus on money, and a lack of spiritual reality and observable love were some of the main reasons my neighbors gave as to why they had given up on the “hidden” God of Christianity.  But being made in God’s image, they still had a visceral longing for spiritual reality.  Imagine the electricity when they see real supernatural activity on TV?!  That is massively appealing to spiritually starved people.

Thirdly, folks find ghosts appealing because we live in an experience-oriented society.  As Dr. Ron Rhodes says in his excellent primer, The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums and Psychic Phenomena, on the paranormal in general, “Rather than embracing an objective, factually-based faith, resting, on divine authority, many today are seeking mystical and emotional experience.” Folks will go to great lengths to experience spiritual reality, and in so doing they often become non-discerning regarding supernatural reality.  Such is the overriding nature of the obsession with experience.

Surely a powerful appeal of ghosts is the fascination with the supernatural.  Most of us were afraid but strangely drawn to ghost stories or scary movies when growing up.  This natural fascination with the paranormal has led many people to mess with Ouija boards, conduct séances, or talk to the dead.  However, they often don’t realize the Bible condemns such practices.

The fifth reason the notion of ghosts is so appealing is the desire to have evidence of the afterlife.  Unless Jesus returns first, all of us will die.  Though we speak of death as being natural and normal, it is not; it is the violent disruption of the vibrant flow of life.  We were made body/soul composites which were originally designed to stay together.  The Bible says we “have eternity in our hearts.”  The paranormal community loudly and proudly proclaims that irrefutable evidence of ghosts gives irrefutable evidence that we continue to live after we die.  It’s hard to illustrate just how exaggerated and appealing this aspect of alleged existence of ghosts can be.  Many paranormal investigators get involved, at least in part, to answer the nagging question of whether there is evidence of life after death.  It needs to be pointed out that the most compelling evidence of supernatural beings does NOT prove the afterlife; it simply proves there are supernatural beings, whose identity is demonic.

The longing to communicate with deceased loved ones is another very appealing aspect of the notion of ghosts.  It is also the primary reason psychics and mediums are so popular.  They routinely say that ALL of our dead loved ones on the other side want to communicate with us.  Having lost both of my parents, as well as four siblings and a granddaughter, it is understandable to me why this desire to communicate is so strong.  Frequently people will claim that a deceased loved one appears to them, years after they have died, in the form of a ghostly apparition.  Again, it is hard to express just how exaggerate this aspect of ghost appeal has become.  It has caused many people to do what they know is wrong (attempting to speak to the dead…Deut. 18:11-14) because of the intense desire to make contact with a lost loved one.

The seventh reason ghosts have become so appealing is that they allegedly answer life’s deeper questions.  We noted already that evidence of ghosts supposedly gives evidence of life after death.  And since psychics/mediums say all religions are the same, then it would not matter what you believe in order to go to heaven.  If their view were correct, we would all live with confident joy and not fear death.  Is it becoming clear now why I keep saying that the notion of ghosts raises questions of titanic importance?

A feeling of control can be tied to belief in ghosts and communication with them.  Not just lonely teens, but many adults as well, experiment with paranormal phenomena in order to control or influence their circumstances for the better.  As Dr. Rhodes says, “This gives them a false sense of control and a misguided sense of significance.”  Communicating with spirit guides and lost loved ones has become a new way of determining how to navigate life.

I am sure that you could add reason upon reason why the belief in ghosts is so appealing.  This is not meant as an exhaustive list, but as an attempt to explain the explosive new popularity of belief in ghosts.  I can, on a visceral level, understand why the notion of ghosts is so appealing.  However, objective truth is what defines reality, and not what my desires are…no matter how strong the feeling might be.  The question we should be asking is not “is the notion of ghosts appealing?” but rather, “What does God’s word have to say about ghosts?”  In the final analysis, it is not any of these notions by themselves that have caused the belief in ghosts to skyrocket; it is Satan craftily working WITH them in his grand dark conspiracy.  Are you an honest seeker for truth?   Then realize the power of wanting something to be true could be affecting your ability to discern supernatural evil.  Conceived in the 1960’s but born in the 1990’s (at least in the US), this is certainly one of Satan’s most successful global deceptions of all time.