Bullies and Boogeymen – BOO!

Bullies and Boogeymen – BOO!

This might be one of the most off-the-wall posts I’ve ever put up, but…I am who I am.  So here it is… It just kills me to see “Christians” who act as if the whole project of faith is to adhere to unwritten doctrines of the proper faith  and then to send out antibodies to destroy anything that might not fit neatly into the doctrines that they have tacitly sworn to defend.  Any time a cultural phenomenon arises that just doesn’t fit their neat little paradigm, they feel the need to attack it as a dire threat to civilization rather than to see it as a holy opportunity.  That just makes me crazy.  Dogmatics is not the wild, unpredictable, upside-down real presence of God, for crying out loud.  The evangelical history of interpretation of Scripture is not Scripture, after all.  Scripture is Scripture.  You cannot replace the real God…the one who is NOT safe and who we CANNOT control…with a set of doctrines.  THAT is crazy thinking.  Sometimes we act like a bunch of scared little school children who sell out to the bullies because the bullies will take on the boogeyman when we are too afraid to.  The trouble is that once the boogieman is chased away, the bullies are left in charge.  And that sucks.

Here’s one of the latest boogeymen that “Christians” have sent their bullies out to rid us of…as if we could.  One of the paradigm shifts that seems to be underway has to do with epistemology – what it is to “know”, or how we come to “know”.  More and more, particularly among the 20-somethings, we are seeing that folks put less stock in the methods of modernity such as scientific method that tell us that the only things that are knowable are things that are materially provable. In other words, the only things that are knowable are also provable, and thus are material in nature.  And even over and above that, younger folks are approaching scientific method from the hermeneutic of suspicion.  For more and more people, knowing involves experiencing.  “I won’t believe it unless I see it for myself.”  And, “If I see it for myself, I don’t care what other people say, I know what I saw.”  And there is arising a hunger to experience what was previously deemed unknowable.  One of those “unknowable” areas is the realm of spirituality.  Has anybody else noticed how many shows are popping up about ghost hunting, and psychics, and the supernatural? I think their popularity points with a highlighter to a felt need to come to grips with our mortality and to find hope that there is something that comes next.  Unlike many “Christians” who are up in arms about it…as if being up in arms about it can hold back the sea…I find this hunger to know about things of the spirit to be incredibly hopeful.  I find it hopeful because I believe in a ghost story, too.  I believe in the Holy Ghost story.

When Jesus is seen by Mary in the Garden of Gethsemane, what is it that we think she is seeing?  Jesus tells her, “Do not touch me because I have not yet ascended.”  She is seeing a risen being…a life beyond death…a ghost.  And she hears Jesus speak to her. Having watched a couple of these shows now, I know that there are terms for these things that these ghost-hunter folks use.  She saw a “full-body apparition” of Jesus, and she heard a “disembodied voice”.  It’s just that this “ghost” is unlike any other ghost.  This ghost is the Holy Ghost, and it has the power to give life and to change lives long before those lives ever become ghosts themselves. None of those other ghosts have the power to do that.  Spooks might be able to turn on a flashlight or throw some little stuff around.  But is that what people are really looking for? Is that nearly enough of what we need to know to invoke self-sacrifice, courage, and all of the other things that this life requires of us?  Can a spook who can turn on a flashlight – Oooooh! – take the urge to drink away from a fall-down alcoholic? Can a spook who can tap on wall change the heart of a corporate raider and turn them into a warm and generous benefactor?  No.

But, remember what’s going on now.  If people don’t experience something themselves, they will not claim to know it or put their trust in it.   So we can tell them until we are blue in the face ABOUT Jesus.  But people need an undeniable experience of the supernatural…of Jesus…the real one…in order to claim to know Jesus.  We need to be telling folks to ask God to reveal himself instead of just telling them about God.  Dare them to do it.  Don’t dare God, dare THEM.  Once people have answered the already answered question of whether there is life after death, there will be more important questions that stand a chance of being asked that follow from it.  It is those questions that give me hope.

Is there life in this life?  Is there something on the other side that is also on this side? Is that something good?  Is there something supernatural that makes not only the next life relevant, but that makes this life relevant?  I don’t just need to know that there is life after death.  I already know that. I don’t need to seek the living among the dead.  I need to find the Living One among the living, so that I can live now.  I need to know how to live this life in a way that is life-giving and transcending and powerful.  The “Ghost of Christmas Past” can’t do that.  Jacob Marley can’t do that. Fleeting images of lives gone by can’t do that.  I need to have a seance with the Living One, the Lord of Life…the Holy Ghost.  I need the Holy Ghost to visit me. Our faith offers that, for heaven’s sake.  We call it contemplative prayer.  I need to experience that in order to know it, and I need to know it in order really live in this life…and to live in the next. I might find some peace in a visit from my dead mother in knowing that she is okay.  But that will not help me to make real peace with the world that I live in that is so broken and so filled with suffering as to seemingly be beyond repair.

So, to my fellow Christ-followers, don’t be afraid of this phenomenon. It is what it is.  It is here whether we want it to be here or not.  It is a part of the context of our mission.  Seeking spirits is dangerous stuff.  It can open the door to things that are not human and were never human.  But the phenomenon is here nonetheless.  People are seeking answers because what we have offered as believers in Jesus has not answered their questions.  I dare say, it has not even listened to what they are asking.    If all we are offering people is a story about life after death, then these shows offer them evidence that our little tracts cannot offer.  If that is all we have to offer, if that is all we’re talking about, then we probably should feel threatened by it.    But this faith offers so much more than that.  This faith isn’t merely an answer to the question of, “Is there life after death?” This faith answers questions about, “Is there life in THIS life?” And the experience of transcendent life in THIS life gives people who are looking for evidence of life in the next life a taste of what that life can be like. This isn’t just about “believe in” as in whether or not something exists.  Heck, ghosts and witches and soothsayers and psychics and demons are all in the Bible.  But faith is about a whole lot more than that.  It is about finding something that you can invest your whole life in and know that that trust is not in vain.

Okay, all you Ghost Adventurers out there, it’s your turn.  What do you think?


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