Paranormal Activity in New Ulm

Maybe that title line got your attention, but I’ll confess that I have no knowledge of ghosts, goblins, extraterrestrials, or any other “unexplained phenomena” going on in New Ulm. So you can forget calling the Fringe Division, or opening the X-Files, and you certainly don’t need to contact the Winchester brothers. You might, however, want to keep your Sword of the Spirit handy.

Actually, I’m bringing this up because just yesterday my wife showed me the upcoming Summer Reading Program schedule for the New Ulm Library, and there were some things I saw on there that gave me pause.  On June 13th they are going to have paranormal researcher Chad Lewis (not the football player) come and speak to children ages 9 and up about “Digging Into the Unexplained”. What kind of unexplained? Well, a little googling and I found his website, Unexplained Research, and it looks like he has specialized in looking into haunted houses, cryptozoology (study of “uncatalogued” animals like Bigboof, Nessie, and the like), UFOs, and more. Perhaps he should spend a little more time researcher best practices for web presence – he apparently doesn’t know that MySpace is a little out of date.

About a week after that presentation, on June 21st, local high schooler Gabby Budenski is going to be presenting on “Supernatural for Teens”, and it sounds like she’s specifically talking about the CW show that is so popular these days. Good for Gabby putting herself out there and being a part of the community. However, I’m not so sure about the subject matter.

The fact is, there is such a thing as a supernatural world. Indeed, we are not alone! But it isn’t spirits of dead people walking around, or bizarre beasts, or aliens from another world we need to worry about. It’s much worse than that.

Scripture points us to a bigger danger:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” -Ephesians 6:12

Paul warns us that there are real beings that exist outside the physical world, and that they want to do us harm. There is a devil, he does have servants, and they do want to destroy us. That’s scarier than any horror film.

The fact that our culture is so fascinated with the supernatural is evidence that we know there is a spiritual world. Even those who choose to deny the existence of God still can’t help but be interested in stories of the unexplained. In reality, it is their natural knowledge that there is something beyond this world.

Does that mean, though, that fascination with the supernatural is always a good thing? Not necessarily. In the Bible, demons aren’t just little pests, like some cartoon figure with a red jumpsuit, a pitchfork and a pointy beard. No, they are vicious spirits that at times possessed people, causing them to harm themselves and others. And their leader, Satan, is described as a “roaring lion, searching for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). In Revelation he is called “The Dragon” and “The Ancient Serpent.”  Scripture is pretty clear – you do not want to mess with these guys.

In one story, there is a man who we’re told hung around in the crypts and by the tombs. When Jesus encounters him, the man is possessed by a demon, and only the Son of God himself can command the evil spirit out. While it’s not clear whether the man was possessed before or after his hobby of grave-dwelling, there may be some subtext there worth payin attention to – obsessions with dead things isn’t very healthy.

So, it is wise for us to approach the whole topic of the unexplained and supernatural with a good measure of caution. I’m not saying that movies, TV shows, and books that deal with the supernatural are always bad. Some of them are very good stories, and provide fun entertainment. But two important things we have to remember: 1) Those are just stories, and 2) Satan and his demons are not just stories. It’s also good to bear in mind that entertainment can be a powerful thing – we easily get sucked into TV shows and book series, and when we do, we can quickly lose sight of the lines between the real and the make believe.

We get to a whole new level when we start actually investigating what we believe to be real supernatural phenomena. I’m concerned that this presentation by Chad Lewis may spark an interest in such things. What if some of the “ghost encounters” or “alien encounters” people have had are actually encounters with evil spirits seeking to deceive people and keep them from faith in Christ? Is that really something we want to play around with?

I suppose I should be careful not to judge Mr. Lewis. I don’t know much about him. I am going to attend his presentation, for the simple fact that I want to know what he is going to be telling the children of our community. If you are a parent and your child is hoping to go to this, I hope you’ll make sure you go along as well, and can talk to your child about what is said.

If you have a child who shows signs of fascination with the paranormal, the supernatural, and the unexplained, I would urge you not to ignore it. Don’t freak out, and don’t go stomping in ready to put a stop to it. You might just end up with a rebellion on your hands, which could make matters worse. But do talk about it. Find out what your child finds so interesting. Maybe read a few of the same books, or watch the TV shows or movies, and then you can speak from an informed position. Discuss with your child the real spiritual dangers, but also keep perspective that entertainment is, after all, entertaining, so don’t make assumptions until you know your child’s heart on the matter.

I’ll follow up on this sometime in the end of June, when I’ve had a chance to take in these presentations at the Library. Until then, keep this last piece in mind – no matter how powerful, no matter how scary, no matter how evil Satan and his demons are, Jesus is bigger. He is stronger. And he is good. He does not want to see his children harmed by the devil. He conquered Satan by his death and resurrection, so that now the devil only has as much power over us as we let him. We need only speak the name of Jesus, and the devil goes running.

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