Archive for category Supernatural

If Jared Loughner is not evil, then who is?


Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.  –President Barak Obama

And if you read back my statement of defense, it wasn’t self defense. It was defending those who are innocent, talk show hosts, talk show host listeners, those who have nothing to do with a crazed, evil gunman who killed innocent people. –Sarah Palin

For once, Obama and Palin agree on something. But they are both wrong. As awful as this shooting is, as tragic the deaths, and in spite of what some are saying, it cannot be denied that Jared Loughner is a mentally disturbed, obviously delusional, and probably psychotic young man.  Perhaps this could be said of anyone guilty of such an act. So is there such a “thing” as evil? Well, apparently some very powerful  people think so.  In addition to Obama, both George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were outspoken in their shared belief that evil exists, particularly in the guise of heinous tyrannies.  Were they correct, or were they falling back on centuries old superstition?

In 2009, Roger Simon, of Politico,  talked about how, though once a skeptic,  he now believes he has literally met evil,  in the person of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. In another article two days ago, he wonders whatever happened to a general belief in evil and why so many are willing to accept an ‘insanity defense’ for Jarred Loughner’s actions:

Which leaves me with just one question: Whatever happened to evil?

Why have we rushed to the judgment of insanity? Legally, very few defendants are found guilty of insanity.

We know that anybody who guns down innocent people or sticks dead bodies under his house or eats them, for pity’s sake, has got to be crazy.

And we believe that because we do not want to believe, as our ancestors believed, in evil. Evil is even more frightening than madness. Madness can be treated. All we need is early intervention and clinics and more resources devoted to the problem.

We hope. We live in an age in which virtually all our problems have been medicalized. Not that long ago, compulsive drinking, compulsive gambling and even compulsive eating were looked upon as human weaknesses. Now, we treat them as medical problems.

Evil has been medicalized (sic) into insanity. But only up to a certain point. There seems to be a correlation between the number of people you kill and whether you are called insane or evil.

Loughner allegedly kills six and is insane.

Hitler kills more than 6 million, and he is evil. The same is true for Stalin and Mao. We don’t say they needed the intervention of community health clinics, we say they were the ultimate examples of evil on earth because they murdered tens of millions of people.

Is the difference just numbers, however? You kill a certain number of people, and you are nuts — but you cross the line and kill more, and you are evil? Is that how it really works?

Or, in our modern times, are we embarrassed by the term “evil”? To some, it seems too primitive or too religious, or both.

And we would much rather believe that all sick people can be cured by medical intervention.

Because that is a lot less scary than believing that evil walks among us.

Simon raises some interesting questions. But I think the ultimate conclusion he comes to is incorrect.  Perhaps there is is such a thing as evil. But there is a significant difference between the Tuscon killings and those committed by the regimes of  Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and Saddam Hussein.  Infamously atrocious acts but,  at the risk of offending some,  I would like to add to this list the American enslavement of black Africans, the genocides of  Sullivan’s March, Wounded Knee, Rwanda and Dar-fur, the horrors of Andersonville, the Rape of Nan King, and the indiscriminate bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Maybe even the corporate dumping of toxic waste like what the Hooker chemical company did at Love Canal.  If the definition of evil requires that violent or harmful actions be premeditated and that the actors be perfectly sane, placing their own well being above the suffering of innocent people, then all of the above certainly qualify.

The difference between Jared Loughner and Adolf Hitler is not just about the numbers, although the real difference certainly would certainly seem to result in many more deaths than otherwise might take place.  The real difference here is that in one case we are talking about the tragic work of one lone madman as opposed to  institutionalized murder, which requires the wholesale complicity of a nation, a political party, a corporate entity –  a community.  The difference between the compulsive behavior of the delusional versus the calculated and coordinated machinations of those who certainly should, and do, know better. When we blame ‘evil’ for violence and murder we tend to deflect the focus away from the real causes, in which we might possibly even play a part. Which is a lot more scary than believing evil walks among us.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke

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My Real Ghost Story, Revisited


In keeping with the spirit of the season I though that it would be worthwhile reprinting this story from last year. It’s absolutely true. Cross my heart.

Ghost Story

ghost womanMy wife and daughter share a casual interest in accounts of the supernatural. They love to watch those ghost shows on the cable channels, the ones where the paranormal investigators check out allegedly haunted houses. Although they are not in the least way obsessed with the idea of supernatural contact, they both find it entertaining and have adopted a “who knows?” attitude. As for myself, I am a born skeptic and have little time for these ‘reality’ TV programs.

Last Sunday Bev and I took Dot, our 19 year old daughter, and her best friend Bekah , out to enjoy an afternoon’s drive through the countryside at autumn’s peak. It was a classic fall day, a brisk wind pushing gunmetal clouds across a blue sky. The sunlight had that watery feel to it, softening the bright colors of the leaves. Later that afternoon we wandered into  Gettysburg, an old town that is famous for being  the center of a Civil War battle. Dot mentioned that the town was considered a favorite haunt for many ghosts, apparently due to the thousands of violent deaths inflicted in the battle.

Since it was such a beautiful day we were surprised that only a smattering of restaurants in town were open. Of those few, we chose a busy place on the square. Most of the buildings in town looked quite old yet well maintained, and this one was no exception. There was a 20 minute wait for a table so I took my pager outside and sat on a bench. My wife darted into an antique store to check out their advertised “dental artifacts” while the girls ran to the lady’s room, upstairs in the restaurant.

Ten minutes later the girls burst out through the establishment’s doors, laughing and giggling. When I asked about all their joviality, Dot held out her phone to me. “Listen” she said.

The traffic noise was loud on the square but I could just make out Dot’s voice saying; “Is there anyone with us today? If you’re here we would like to talk to you.” There was a long pause full of static, then Dot saying; “You can talk to me (garbled)?” Pause. “ You don’t have to be afraid of us. You can talk to me. My name is Dot. Pause. Allright, bye- bye.” This was followed by the sounds of both girls giggling. .

(I knew just what they had been up to. Recently we watched the movie “White Noise” on DVD. In it, Michael Keaton is contacted by souls who have gone over to the ‘other side’. They reached him by laying their voices down on magnetic recording tape. Upon playback these spectral voices could be heard for the first time. Called EVP – Electronic Voice Phenomena- it is taken very seriously by some people, the foremost experts being Lisa and Tom Butler of AAEVP, consultants on the film. [ http://www.aaevp.com/ ] I thought it was a fair movie, but like most ‘scary’ movies you need to suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours. My disbelief in the paranormal returned before the credits were running, My wife and daughter maintained their “who knows?” perspective. and after the movie they excitedly exchanged stories of other EVPs.)

Back on the town square, I smiled and handed the phone back. One should never underestimate what Dot might do. Then, just as Bev was walking up, the restaurant pager went off. We went inside, enjoyed a good meal and within a couple of hours we were back home. That night, in the quiet of our living room, Dot listened to the recording again. Excited, she had us listen to it as well.

In the middle of the second pause of scratchy white noise a woman’s low voice could be heard whispering what sounded like “Kitty, kitty, kitty”, followed by a very soft chuckle (or sobbing, perhaps?). I immediately suspected the girls of playing a prank but Dot was able to quickly convince me of their innocence. I know my daughter, and that’s not her style. She insisted that they were completely alone in the ladies room (she would never had attempted this stunt otherwise). I asked her to send the voice message to my phone and the next day I had some co –workers listen to it. Eyes were wide when they put the phone down. You can hear the recording by going to the following link: (Turn up your volume and listen carefully)

Kitty, Kitty’s dead.

Creepy, huh?

Going to Google, I started to search for more information and eventually found what I was looking for:

In 2001 this restaurant burned down to the ground and it had since been rebuilt to the original specifications. During the reconstruction the body of a recently murdered woman had been discovered at the building site, where she reportedly had been left to die. (I have yet to find any other information). The restaurant staff says that the spirit of this woman haunts the building, open and closing doors and windows, with most of the activity taking place in the kitchen and in the ladies room.

OK. I can’t explain this. Is this the result of some elaborate hoax being perpetrated by the operators of this restaurant? It’s not as if they promoted any haunting – it was not easy finding the story of the dead woman’s body. Could it be the tortured soul of someone named Kitty, somehow trapped in this house? Or, as my daughter suspects, was the spirit mocking Dot, comparing her to someone who casually calls for a pet, not knowing what they are really dealing with? Is Kitty someone we should be praying for?

At one time I would never seriously consider such a thing as supernatural phenomena, but for over the past 5 years I have been immersed things spiritual. As some will say, who knows?

What do you think? Do you have a similar story to share?

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13 Comments

Relax; It’s Only Make Believe


While looking for fundamentalist arguments against Halloween, I was surprised to find a very sensible article on the subject by Andy Freeman, over on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network website. I present you with the piece in it’s entirety. It’s called The Enemy’s Victory: Darkened Homes and Harvest Parties.

I realize this column is going to bring down the wrath of Preacher, teacher, and parent alike. But someone has to break the illusion. Here goes.

The biggest trick played on Halloween is Christian kids and adults being bottled up inside churches or homes all night. That’s right! Hiding from the devil in the family life center and surrendering the neighborhood to little Ghouls, goblins, and witches is a victory for old Beelzebub. He’s got the church right where he wants it: inside the four walls, hunkered down behind the stained glass.

Think about it. How many chances do you get to mix with our neighbors during the year? At my house we are blessed with a 4th of July block party. Otherwise, Halloween may be it for many of you. And what is your relationship evangelism strategy? Either hustle the kids over to church before nightfall or worse, you turn out the lights, don’t answer the children at the door, thereby demonstrating your Christian love and hospitality. But if you do encounter a child in a pink bunny costume it goes something like this:

“We don’t celebrate Halloween! There’s no candy here for you, kid! Now get out of here”.

And the parents of the pink bunny waiting at the foot of your sidewalk say:

“Boy, honey. There’s something really different about that mean family that sits in the dark every Halloween. I really want what they have in their life.”

Isn’t it time to turn loose a few of those little Moses and Davids into your community?

Imagine the shock when an Angel instead of a devil greets the nice lady down the block. A child who says “please”, “thank you” and yes, even “Jesus loves you” and “God bless you” as they receive their mini-Snickers or Candy corn. And please, please, please you well-meaning brethren: give the kids that come to your door the best candy treat on the entire block along with that tract. Some of you give six years olds a little “be warm and filled” treatment every Halloween. Give them something sweet for the palate as well as the soul.

Never forget: Jesus came to serve the sick and broken. He loved being at the well, by the sea, and in the marketplace. He would never have said “run and hide, its Halloween!”

Don’t teach children to fear Satan. Help them understand Christ has overcome the world. He has made us victors in Him. He loves all of His creation.

Remember what He said:

” You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket (or in a dark house, or at a harvest party with church kids)! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father”. Matthew 5:14-16

Jesus wants us to engage our neighbors and culture not hide from them this October 31st.

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Can You Smell the Light?


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Ah, the smell of cookies baking in the oven! There’s nothing quite like it.  Along with millions of others during the days leading up to Christmas, our culinary class baked batch after batch of homemade cookies.  Their aroma overflowed the kitchen and into the hallways, making it a challenge to keep the safe for the school’s Holiday Party. Of course by then the cookies would have cooled, no longer the source of such an intoxicating fragrance.  Rule of thumb; the desirability of a cookie is directly proportional to the strength of its smell.

Later that same week the cafeteria manager presented me with an over abundance of fresh basil.  He had ordered only one bunch but was delivered six. Snipped basil is notoriously perishable and, this being the last week of school, presented us with a predicament; what do you do when God hands you too much fresh basil? Why, you make pesto, that’s what.

Some parmesan cheese, a few cloves of garlic, a dash of sea salt along with a couple handfuls of walnuts (pine nuts were not handy) all  tossed into the Robot Coupe with our basil then blended with good olive oil and Presto! – Pesto.  Removing the food pestoprocessor’s lid I was suddenly struck with the over powering pungency of green.  The pesto smelled so green, so grass-like that it immediately conjured up images of summertime – a freshly mown lawn, my hammock swinging in a warm yellow shaft of sunshine, softly singing birds drinking at the bubbling back yard fountain.

 

Christian songwriter Chris Rice sings;

Cause I can sniff, I can see, and I can count up pretty high; but these faculties
aren’t getting me any closer to the sky,
but my heart of faith keeps poundin’ so
I know I’m doin’ fine but sometimes findin
you is just like tryin to smell the color nine.
Smell the color nine…”

Unless we have a condition known as synesthesia we are bound to be frustrated as well when we try to ‘smell the color nine’.  But I think Rice might be looking too closely at the problem, trying to put his senses to ‘logical’ use in order to encounter the sacred.  While it may be difficult to invision God intellectually we may actually open more of ourselves up to him when using our senses synergistically.  

Not long ago I found myself sittin in a dark wooden pew beneath towering white stone arches. In front of me a shining marble altar climbed up towards a large burnished crucifix that was hanging from the ceiling.  This was the century old chapel sanctuary of St. Mark’s Catholic Church outside of Baltimore and I was attending the funeral Mass for my Uncle Jim.  After Holy Communion was shared the priest began to gently wave the brass thurible by its chain, the burning incense inside tossing wreaths of smoke around my uncle’s casket. The smoke writhed slowly heavenward, flickering through narrow shafts of colorfully stained sunlight.  Breathing in deeply, the scent of burning pitch pine instantaneously transported me over 30 years back to when I was an altar boy.  Quickly, a series of brief snapshots of my days as a Catholic youth replayed in my mind; the times I spent  on the altar during Mass, wearing a black cassock and white surplice, nervously ringing the hand-held Sanctus bells. Kneeling with hands clasped tightly, in the pews with friends and family (including my uncle), taking the Communion host on quivering, outstretched tongue.  Pictures that I had not seen in decades, dark and dusty, suddenly brushed off and brightened by the merest whiff of this sacred odour.

thuribleAgain I was reminded of what the Catholic church does so well. They understand that we encounter God in many more ways than just our intellect.  Joyful sensations are not solely reserved for the sense of hearing as when we sing hymns, recite prayers or listen to sermons.  God’s presence abounds through the sounds of small bells and rustling fabrics, bright colors, gleaming sunlight, guttering candles, deep and heavy drapes against hard marble, boisterous song, the soft and familiar  intonations of common prayer as well as the aroma of ancient incense. As a younger, more arrogant man, I wrote off these deeply ingrained practices as the lingering primitive habits of a superstitious and overly ritualistic people.  I now see the beauty of these sacred traditions. They point to God as they proclaim the reality of the supernatural among us, the familiar rituals helping to bridge the divide between our meager comprehension and what lies beyond.  An atmosphere of the sacred permeates these places.

Using all of our senses, often unconsciously, we encounter the tangible presence of God in much the same way that the atmosphere of a fine restaurant enhances the experience of the diner. One need not focus too closely on the mechanics of the environment to enjoy all those sensations that go into creating an atmosphere of  sensual and spiritual delight.

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24 Comments

Ghost Story


My wife and daughter share a casual interest in accounts of the supernatural. They love to watch those ghost shows on the cable channels, the ones where the paranormal investigators check out allegedly haunted houses. Although they are not in the least way obsessed with the idea of supernatural contact, they both find it entertaining and have adopted a “who knows?” attitude. As for myself, I am a born skeptic and have little time for these ‘reality’ TV programs.

Last Sunday Bev and I took Dot, our 19 year old daughter, and her best friend Bekah , out to enjoy an afternoon’s drive through the countryside at autumn’s peak. It was a classic fall day, a brisk wind pushing gunmetal clouds across a blue sky. The sunlight had that watery feel to it, softening the bright colors of the leaves. Later in the afternoon we ended up in an old town that is famous for being at the center of a Civil War battle. Dot mentioned that the town was considered a favorite haunt for many ghosts, apparently due to the thousands of violent deaths inflicted in that battle.

Since the weather was so nice and the trees so beautiful we were surprised that only a smattering of restaurants in town were open. Of those few, we chose a busy place on the square. Most of the buildings in town looked quite old yet well maintained, and this one was no exception. There was a 20 minute wait for a table so I took my pager outside and sat on a bench. My wife darted into an antique store to check out their advertised “dental artifacts” while the girls ran to the lady’s room, upstairs in the restaurant.

Ten minutes later the girls burst out through the front door, laughing and giggling. When I asked them what was so funny, Dot held out her phone to me. “Listen” she said.

The traffic noise was loud on the square but I could just make out Dot’s voice saying; “Is there anyone with us today? If you’re here we would like to talk to you.” There was a long pause full of static, then Dot saying; “You can talk to me (garbled)?” Pause. “ You don’t have to be afraid of us. You can talk to me. My name is Dot. Pause. Allright, bye- bye.” This was followed by the sounds of both girls giggling. .

(I knew just what they had been up to. Recently we watched the movie “White Noise” on DVD. In it, Michael Keaton is contacted by souls who have gone over to the ‘other side’. They reached him by laying their voices down on magnetic recording tape. Upon playback these spectral voices could be heard for the first time. Called EVP – Electronic Voice Phenomena- it is taken very seriously by some people, the foremost experts being Lisa and Tom Butler of AAEVP, consultants on the film. [ http://www.aaevp.com/ ] I thought it was a fair movie, but like most ‘scary’ movies you need to suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours. My disbelief in the paranormal returned before the credits were running, My wife and daughter maintained their “who knows?” perspective. and after the movie they excitedly exchanged stories of other EVPs.)

Back on the town square, I smiled and handed the phone back. One should never underestimate what Dot might do. Just then, as Bev was walking up, the restaurant pager went off. We went inside, had an enjoyable meal and within a couple of hours we were back home. That night, in the quiet of our living room, Dot listened to the recording again. Excited, she had us listen to it as well.

In the middle of the second pause of scratchy white noise a woman’s low voice could be heard whispering what sounded like “Kitty, kitty, kitty”, followed by a very soft chuckle (or sobbing, perhaps?). I immediately suspected the girls of playing a prank but Dot was able to quickly convince me of their innocence. I know my daughter, and that’s not her style. She insisted that they were completely alone in the ladies room (she would never had attempted this stunt otherwise). I asked her to send the voice message to my phone and the next day I had some co –workers listen to it. Eyes were wide when they put the phone down. You can hear the recording by going to the following link:

Going to Google I initiated a search for more information and found what I was looking for:

In 2001 this restaurant burned down to the ground and it had since been rebuilt to the original specifications. During the reconstruction the body of a recently murdered woman had been discovered at the building site, where she reportedly had been left to die. (I have yet to find any other information). The restaurant staff says that the spirit of this woman haunts the building, open and closing doors and windows , with most of the activity taking place in the kitchen and in the ladies room.

OK. I can’t explain this. Is this the result of some elaborate hoax being perpetrated by the operators of this restaurant? It’s not as if they promoted any haunting – it was not easy finding the story of the dead woman’s body. Could it be the tortured soul of someone named Kitty, somehow trapped in this house? Or, as my daughter suspects, was the spirit mocking Dot, comparing her to someone who casually calls for a pet, not knowing what they are really dealing with? Is Kitty someone we should be praying for?

At one time I would never seriously consider such a thing as supernatural phenomena, but for over the past 5 years I have been concerned with things of a spiritual nature. As some will say, who knows?

What do you think? Does anyone have a ghost story to share?

ghost-at-window.jpg

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60 Comments

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