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Teens want to know: Can the dead speak?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In a small Iowa town, a high school student’s interest in the occult became stimulated by a discussion of ghosts and spirits in one of his classes. It was reported that the ghost of a little girl had been seen at the town cemetery.

“Several of the students had already been into spiritism,” the student reported, “but it was new to me. I started to read about it out of curiosity. I went to the public library and pulled out everything I could find on spiritism and ghosts. I was really interested, but never thought I would actually become involved in the occult.”

The student was persuaded by a group of fellow students to visit this graveyard late at night for the purpose of raising the spirit of the young girl. One boy, whose family had a history of involvement with the occult, agreed to be the medium (one who uses his body to establish contact with the spirit world). The student continued, “Our medium lay down on the grave. We sat around him in absolute silence, and he seemed to go into a trance. At first there was some giggling and laughing, but no spirit appeared.” Time passed, and then things happened quickly. According to the student, “We recited several incantations (a special word or words asking for a sign). And it came. The medium’s body began to rise from the ground,” the student recounted.

At about that time one of the girls, terrified, screamed and pointed to the tombstone where, approximately 15 yards behind it and by a tree, stood a small, pale girl, dressed in white.

The students ran in terror from the graveyard. As the youth who was relating the story and another boy looked back, they noticed their friend still lying in a trance on the grave.

“He was never the same again, even after psychological care,” the student continued. Even now his friends say he sometimes goes into a trance and appears to lose touch with reality.

The student wisely concluded that experimenting with the occult is dangerous, and one should not become involved in it. And yet many teenagers today are fascinated with spiritism.

Spiritism is a practice designed to conjure up spirits of the dead. It is hard for teenagers today to avoid exposure to one or more aspects of the occult. Advertisers routinely use occult-related subjects to promote everything from rice to insurance to chewing gum.

Television programs like “Charmed,” “Angel,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Dead Zone” and countless others have a strong following among television viewers, a substantial number of whom are teenagers. Even the soap operas, such as “Passions” or “Days of our Lives,” have not escaped occult influence. Movies such as “Dragonfly” and “The Craft” have helped promote occult themes.

The subject of communicating with the dead has been growing both in popularity and acceptance. A 1998 USA Today poll revealed that belief in spiritism increased from 12 percent to 52 from 1976-1998.

Teenagers are drawn to spiritism for many reasons, including:

— Curiosity. Is it really possible to contact someone who has passed on? Many teenagers “innocently” play with the Ouija board today, but the Ouija board often serves as a gateway to the dark world of the occult.

— Mystery. It defies rational explanation. It is like an adventure, a thrill.

— Instability in the world today. 9/11, terror alerts and increasing crime rates all contribute to a world where teenagers may look for answers in places they would not normally go.

— Extreme loneliness. Teenagers often state that “no one knows how I feel” or “no one cares about me,” reflecting what is called the world’s most common mental health problem. Teens active in church are not necessarily immune to loneliness.

— Pressures. Increased pressure to have the “perfect body,” to excel academically, to “stand out” athletically or in some particular talent, widespread acceptance of drugs, sexual pressure and so forth can contribute to an overwhelming sense of failure and leave teenagers vulnerable to desiring “control” over their future.

— Popularity. When other kids are involved in it, it becomes “the thing to do.” Not everyone is willing to be on the outside looking in.

— Music and/or video games. Music that glamorizes occult practices and video games that stimulate occult interest can push teenagers into spiritism.

— Decline of the family. The traditional family is now the minority among families today. The increase in divorce and the fact that more mothers are having to work to make ends meet can lead to teenagers having more unsupervised time, which can give them the opportunity to explore the spirit world.

Interestingly, the Old Testament is filled with references to avoid spiritism in any form or practice. Leviticus 19:31 states, “Do not turn to mediums or consult spiritists, or you will be defiled by them; I am the Lord your God.” The prophet Isaiah reminded us, “When they say to you, ‘Consult the spirits of the dead and the spirits who chirp and mutter,’ shouldn’t a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19).

The New Testament is equally explicit about the spirit world. There are 150 references to the spirit world in the Gospels and approximately 178 references in the rest of the New Testament.

Jesus empowered His disciples to battle against the spirit world (Matthew 10:11) and did so Himself (Matthew 15:22,28). The Apostle Paul reminded us of our battle with the powers of darkness in Ephesians 6:10-18. He also put into perspective why spiritism continues to become more popular: “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Parents can help their teens avoid this spiritual pitfall by monitoring their teens’ television habits, music and computer games. Parents should be as informed as possible about spiritual warfare and their children. Books like “Preparing for Battle” by Mark Bubeck, (Moody Press, 1999) and “Victory Over the Darkness” by Neil Anderson (Regal, 2000) can be helpful. Parents should look for teachable moments to explain the occult and the dangers of spiritism.

The battle is constant and often subtle for parents seeking to protect both themselves and their children. Isaiah reminded us to focus our minds on the Lord when he wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace the mind that is dependent on You, for it is trusting in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Adapted from the article, “Teens Want to Know: Can the Dead Speak?” in the October issue of Living With Teenagers, a magazine published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Subscription information can be obtained via e-mail to [email protected].

    About the Author

  • William C. Viser