Bewitched. Bothered. Bewildered. The Guise of the Supernatural

Banner Image Cover Story War Cry October 2018

A recent Gallop poll shows that 73% percent of Americans believe in at least one aspect of the paranormal, such as witchcraft, ghosts, channeling with the dead, etc. Still another poll finds that 80% of Americans believe in God.

Little wonder, then, that the overlapping which undoubtedly results can only mean that most people—born-again or no—are left bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by it all.

The devil is alive and well in Hollywood. He’s been using the media to further confuse and even frustrate those who only seek the truth. Movies (The ExorcistThe OmenPoltergeist), television shows (Crossing OverThe Vampire DiariesGhost Adventures), and even pop music (Dancing With Ghosts; Deal With The DevilDeath Knell) all contribute to taking our attention away from the things of God.

And it’s so easy. The diversion can be so subtle.

We are told that there’s little or no harm. It’s like the frog who would never jump into a pot of boiling water, but when placed in cold water can easily be deceived by slowly turning up the heat until it’s too late.

I remember when as a boy in the early 1960s the television show Bewitched premiered. Elizabeth Montgomery played Samantha Stevens, a witch who falls in love with a “mortal,” marries, has children (who also turned out to possess magic abilities) and settles in to a domestic life in Suburbia.

All she had to do was twitch her nose to make something happen. It was an entertaining half hour of comedy that seemed harmless. Truth be told, nothing controversial was ever raised in any episode, and the public took in the premise with a grain of salt.

A couple of seasons ago, the series Lucifer premiered. We’ve come a long way from Bewitched.

In 1973, the blockbuster The Exorcist hit the big screen. True, this wasn’t the first time Hollywood released a movie themed on demon-possession. The Exorcist, however, came across in a gory, perverted way that portrays evil as more powerful than faith.

Across the nation, church groups demonstrated in front of movie theaters.

Movies these days make The Exorcist pale in comparison. We’ve come a long way, unfortunately.

Music is another genre that seems “hell-bent.” Lyrics that mock our military and police are brainwashing our youth. Rape and murder are themes now seemingly embraced by a growing segment of the public.

We’ve come a long way from lyrics like, It’s very clear our love is here to stay (Nat King Cole).

Dungeons & Dragons™—and hundreds of video game imitators—have escalated violence, murder, and even suicide, especially among school-aged children and young adults. To my knowledge, some of the school shootings we’ve witnessed on the news have had some connection to a video game that glorifies violence in the worst ways.

Remember Columbine? Our nation watched in horror as high school students had to be led out, single file, with hands above their heads. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.

Gradually, school and church shootings increased—until at the time of this writing (the summer of 2018) we’ve already had 18 such incidents since January 1. That averages about one every 11 days. Something must be done, because we shouldn’t be having to live in fear like this.

Cue the frog.

“My two main concerns are desensitization and glamorization,” says Marcia Montenegro, a former professional astronomer and a born-again Christian since 1990. “I believe that the massive amounts of books, TV shows, and movies that promote occultism and heroes/heroines who have occult powers have desensitized the culture as a whole. No longer is it seen as a bad thing for a child to pretend to cast spells, for example; now that is viewed almost endearingly. It is easy to become desensitized to the fact that these activities are evil.”

Ultimately, being desensitized can lead to acceptance of New Age or occult beliefs, which in turn can lead to disinterest in or rejection of what God has to say about false beliefs. That acceptance can lead to active participation.

According to the Gallop poll, Americans admit to belief in some type of paranormal existence. The media has found an opportunity to make money preying on that ever-so-slight open window. With a public’s increasing appetite for more and better special effects, the money continues to roll in.

Proponents of the paranormal argue that many of these phenomena exist in the Bible. True. But not to the extent we see around us today.

Jesus cast out demons on several occasions, so we know that demons exist.

Witchcraft is also nothing new. In fact, it was the witch of Endor to whom King Saul went for a divination (I Samuel 28: 7-25). What happened next proves that these fortune-tellers are phony. In the mood for a ghost story that is true?

In a town called Endor, southwest of the Sea of Galilee, a nameless woman made a living practicing witchcraft. She claimed that she could conjure spirits from beyond the grave. That is not unique. Many towns back then had at least one such “diviner” (and there are a lot of them around today).

The practice was such a problem that King Saul outlawed it. God makes it clear that we must avoid such evil, which would only affect negatively our relationship with Him.

Nothing’s changed in 2018. That requirement still stands.

Unfortunately, Saul’s heart later spiraled away from God. I Samuel 28 records where Saul is at his lowest. Feeling that he could never turn back to God, Saul does the unthinkable. He consults a witch, hoping to speak to the ghost of Samuel to ask advice about an upcoming battle.

On this one occasion, God allowed Samuel to return with a chilling message for Saul. By the way, the witch freaked out when Samuel appeared—which tells us she had no such power.

Saul did not want to hear Samuel’s message: “The Lord will deliver Israel with thee into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me.”

Saul was terrified. Little wonder. And God was true to His word—the next day Saul and his sons perished. The real tragedy is that it didn’t have to end that way. Saul’s pride kept him from confessing his sin. Saul could have repented long before, thus avoiding this nightmarish end.

Regardless, nothing in the Bible supports the belief that disembodied spirits can remain on earth to “haunt” us. Instead, the Bible is clear that “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Jesus raised people from the dead—but they weren’t zombies. He raised them by the power of God. They were dead, one even was buried for four days—but Christ brought them back to life, a normal life.

The Bible also makes it clear that there are spirit beings—angels and demons. The angels serve God. They are ministering beings created and sent by God “to serve those who will inherit salvation” (1:14).

Demons, on the other hand, are fallen angels under the control of Satan. They roam the earth looking to destroy God’s children (I Peter 5:8).  They are cunning and wise to our weaknesses. They know of our human nature to desire anything that meets our self-gratification.

Enter the media’s role to bewitch, bother, and bewilder God’s children.

The adage that “if it’s online, it must be true” certainly extends to the media’s exploitation of the unexplainable. “If I see it in a movie” or “I read about it in a book and it made sense”—then it must be fact.

No doubt the paranormal activity we read and hear about today are hoaxes played on a public that is eager to believe. My experience is that there is a logical explanation for much that gets passed off as “paranormal activity.”

I do caution, however, that where there is genuine spiritual activity going on, it would have to be the work of demons. After all, there is that thing about the spiritual battle constantly fought over us:

“For we are not fighting againsflesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil
spirits in the heavenly places.” — Ephesians 6:12.

The devil is a liar. He is a deceiver. He will use every trick in the book (or movie screen, etc.) to rob us of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

The devil employs the “dark forces” at his disposal in this world, which he temporarily controls. That, by the way, will someday end.

Christ came to destroy the devil’s work (I John 3:8). His death and resurrection accomplished that. Jesus walked out of His tomb alive forevermore. His post-resurrection appearances were witnessed by hundreds.

Furthermore, His disciples carried His message to the ends of the earth. All but one died a martyr’s death, maintaining to their last breath that what they had witnessed really happened. I can imagine one or two holding out on a lie—but not eleven, and that doesn’t even count many others we don’t know about in the first century church.

As His followers in 2018, we must constantly remind ourselves of the gravity of sin that ultimately led to our Redeemer’s great sacrifice.

So, don’t be confused. God is in control. His will is being done, on earth as it is in Heaven. There is no hocus-pocus. No mirrors. No sleight-of-hand.

The Gospel is the one thing we can totally rely upon.

Major Frank Duracher’slast appointment before entering retirement was as assistant editor-in-chief for the Publications Department at National Headquarters.