Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What the Fetch?

One of my favorite shows to watch is Ghost Hunters. Every Wednesday, SyFy shows a marathon of the show from 7 p.m. - 12 a.m., and I keep it on even if it's just for background noise.

Ghost Hunters follows The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) as it investigates alleged paranormal activity, using everything from EMF gauges to flashlights to determine if paranormal activity is present. It is thrilling for me to watch this and see how the TAPS team works diligently to verify or debunk alleged activity, making no apologies for doing either. They do not hold seances, use mediums, ouija boards, or any other method to conjure spirits. They simply go to a site to see if anything paranormal is there, or if there is another source for the weird happenings.

Recently, my family shared with me that they had concern about my viewing of the show, particularly with having an infant in the household. My father shared with me that one of the local pastors related the following story to him.

The pastor also works as a third grade teacher. Earlier this year, he was approached by a child who urgently needed to speak with him. The child was shaking and frightened. The pastor was puzzled as to why this child sought him out, as this child was not in his class.

The child told the pastor/teacher that he had been awakened at 1:30 a.m. the previous night, and saw a racecar fly off of his shelf and begin going in circles on the floor. The pastor asked the child how long this went on, and the child said the car kept going in circles until about 4:30 in the morning. The pastor asked the child what he did while it was happening, and the child said he was too afraid to do anything.

The pastor, of course, wanted to know more about what was going on in the home. He asked the child if he had recently watched any scary movies or tv shows. The child said he had not, but then mentioned that his parents where a big fan of a show called "Ghost Hunters".

The pastor then said he knew exactly what was going on. He wanted to tell the child to stand against such activity in Jesus' name. However, as he was on the school's time and not the church's, he told the child that if it happens again, he is to go get his parents and tell the spirit that they weren't going to stand for what it is doing.

My family believes that watching shows such as Ghost Hunters invites spirits into the home. I told them that they have no idea what else is going on in that home, and I do not think that simply watching a TV show would invite paranormal activity into someone's home. I explained that I think there are things that only have as much power as you give them, and for all we know, that child's parents sent him to bed and said something like, "Now make sure the ghosts don't get you in your sleep!"

They did not agree, and continually restated their case. Ultimately, we were at a stalemate, and there was no reason for further discussion. I did not change my position, and they did not change theirs.

Here is my question: Did the pastor who made such assumptions about the show's power ever watch the show? If he did, he would know that TAPS routinely debunks claims of paranormal activity by finding other sources for the occurances. The source could be anything from a leak faucet to a faulty light fixture. TAPS has no problem with debunking such activity, and does not invent evidence for paranormal activity in order to please the client or increase the fear factor for television.

Do I think it's suitable viewing for a child? Well, I watch it with my child, so I obviously do. Before you make any assumptions, please continue reading. I think it's suitable viewing because TAPS does utilize a debunking process. They debunk unfounded fears. They debunk superstition. They debunk alleged paranormal activity where there isn't any. I think this is a good thing for my son to become familiar with, because there are a multitude of baseless fears that abound in our culture, particularly if we are people who chose to exist within a community of faith.

It is my experience that people of a religious persuasion, particularly Christians, are swimming in fear. We fear our shadows, lest our shadow be somehow offensive and anger God, or tempt demonic activity. While I was growing up, I feared everything, believing that God practically looked for reasons to pour out His wrath on me, and that demons lurked everywhere.

I know there are some who would disagree, and that's okay. I just do not think it is wise to cultivate fear in my child, and I think the best way to combat that is to show him that not all is as it appears to be. I think it is ignorant to assume that a simple television show could spark demonic activity in a home where the child is well guarded and shielded from the things that could truly harm him.

I have to wonder how many other things that Christians-at-large do out of fear. A good friend and I discussed this today, and I expressed that it is my opinion that obedience without understanding is no better than slavery. Certainly, there are things that we choose not to do because we know it is not in the best interests of becoming the human being God intended for us to be. However, it is my opinion that there are other things we avoid because we attribute power ot them where there isn't any. Some of our aversions are little better than the superstitions that have haunted religious sectors for centuries, leading to such egregious acts as the Salem Witch Trials. Have we truly not progressed at all?

How much of our "obedience" is done out of faith, and how much is done out of fear? I'd be willing to bet that Jesus probably wouldn't mind watching some Ghost Hunters now and then, and seeing how the TAPS team helps people understand how their own minds can be their worst tormentors.

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