Why Hogwarts — Not Heaven?–Plight of the Spiritualist
By Bill Byrnes
Illustrated by Rich Gowran
“There will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke: 15:7
“I’m a Spiritualist–I believe in life after death–but I don’t believe in God” and/or “I believe in a power that is universal love but I don’t believe in any religion!” I know we’ve all heard this plenty of times from various sources–and quite possibly it describes YOUR way of thinking. Many years ago, it described my thoughts. But, in retrospect I can say that, overall, it’s a good sign–that’s right–a good sign.
Recently, I’ve had conversations with some Christian friends. The conversation drifted onto this topic. They thought that these feelings are really a “cop-out” that people who think this way are afraid to confront religion, and, at least, to avoid talking about it any further. To some degree, I can agree with that, however, we must keep asking the question of what feelings those thoughts really hide.
Now, I believe that this type of thinking is a good sign because people who espouse this already believe in two of the main tenets of Christianity–universal love and existence after death! It’s up to us to nurture them just a little further in their belief “system”–not to convert them! No, just nudge them towards God (or Jesus), and believe me, HE will take it from there. This begs the necessary question: “Ok, just how do we do that?”
It’s a simple answer. We must get them into the Bible. Notice I used the word “simple”–not “easy”. We’ve got to begin by probing into their past feelings about religion. Understand, this is no easy process–the critical word is timing. Paul spoke of this in his letter to the Colossians: 4: 5-6: “Walk in wisdom towards the non-believers. Let your speech be always with grace–seasoned with salt, that you know how to answer every man.” So, in
other words, know when to “lighten-up” when trying to convert your non-believing friends. Perhaps what Paul was trying to say was that we should be friends first (and always) and patiently wait for situations that would be conducive to a discussion on salvation. We just have to show some patience!
Getting people into the Bible is simple, but it is not easy.
Paul, throughout his letters to several “new” Christian churches, discussed this notion of converting non-believers: 1 Corinthians: 3: 5-6: “We are simply God’s servants…Each one of us does the work the Lord gave us to do. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but it was God who made the plant grow.” What Paul might have been trying to say here is that no one of us should try to do too much. It’s quite possible that trying to verbally “beat” someone into submission would be the worst thing to try. Nobody likes a high-pressure sales job–even if the product is eternal life! Maybe someone tried that before and that’s one of the main reasons your acquaintance turned off to religion. Possibly another reason is the hypocrisy of religious zealots. It’s very easy for a non-believer to justify their way of thinking when confronted with the antics of right-wing extremists–especially if you follow the US political scene. And of course, let’s not forget the “fire-and-brimstone” T.V. evangelists–the same evangelists who get caught-up in huge scandals, and are seldom heard of again. Jesus Christ seemed to have this very behavior in mind when he warned: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, can it gain back its saltiness? No–from then on it is good for nothing, but to be cast out, and be trodden under the feet of men.” Matthew: 5:13.
So, we must be careful of what we say and when we say it. And quite possibly, the best thing to do is to say nothing! Maybe we should just help to move our friends into a position where others might make a better, more articulate case. Okay, maybe they’re not ready to read the Bible yet. This is when we should have other options, like a list of books dealing with the Bible–with applying Biblical teachings to modern-day situations. This is why we must have a bibliography ready, and no, I’m not talking about giving out a list of books. But if we have a few favorites on hand, it’s always easier to lend a copy to a friend in need. Then, if that has any success with your friend(s), it might be easier to steer them into some appropriate Biblical passages. Try to forget the phrase “Oh, don’t worry–the answers are in the Bible”. We know that they are, but there’s approximately 1,400 pages in it–so where do they start? It’s good to refer them to individual chapters. For instance, if someone’s depressed–refer them to the Psalms, in total or by number (23, 37 etc.), and how about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? Doesn’t it make more sense to get people into the Bible using this method than to just say, “Don’t worry–all the answers are in the Bible–just start with Genesis and if you read a few pages a day–it’ll only take a year to finish!
(** NOTE: If you would like a short list of books–use the “comments” section after this article & ask for it. I‘ll be happy to share some with you. Don’t forget the “Good Books” section of this site!)
There’s always a case where your friend might be open to your suggestions–but he, or she, is not much of a “reader” (yet). Here, you must be ready to refer them to the spoken word. God will change them into a “reader” once they’ve made even “1 ounce” of effort towards him. You’ve got to cultivate your own list of TV ministers. There are several good Evangelists on Sunday morning TV (hopefully, you have cable or satellite). And, they do come and go frequently. So, do the “legwork” and develop your own list. Use their websites to purchase copies of their sermons (printed & DVD). I can’t say enough about this source. Many times, people would rather conduct passive research, rather than committing the effort to sit down and actually read something. And, if you purchase any of their DVDs, it might even be better to loan them out. But, again, I must emphasize using caution. Several excellent preachers have gotten into right-wing politics during this Presidential campaign–so, follow them for three or four sermons before putting them on your list. Remember, it’s ok if a good speaker occasionally drops a political word into his sermon. But, avoid the pastor who refers to it in every sermon!
Some final thoughts about the Spiritualist: I’ve often wondered why some people would rather pay “lip service” to Hogwarts and not to Heaven; why they’d rather extol the adventures of Harry Potter–and forget about the trials of Jesus Christ; and why they believe in the strength of Hagrid, and not of the Holy Spirit? Now, don’t get me wrong, I can’t say enough good things about the Harry Potter series–especially in a world devoid of literature that appeals to all ages. And, I think that author J.K. Rowling authored a marvelously creative series of stories. But, is it necessary to lose one’s sense of personal identity and notion of “purpose” in anything that is fiction? Again, keep in mind that I’m just using the Potter books as an example–I am NOT singling it out. Other similar examples include “The Twilight” series (vampires), and a recent one–“Hunger Games”. Anyway, I think a strong possibility that might explain this tendency of Spiritualists to form semi-religious schema based on popular fiction can best be summed up in one word: control.
The toughest thing about being a Christian is in having faith. Faith means you believe in certain foundational beliefs without any corporeal proof. That means there’s no way any of our senses, or sensory mechanisms, experience anything that could possibly prove basic Christian beliefs such as the existence of a loving God; or the existence of Heaven and Hell, the resurrection of Jesus, or in the immaculate-conception itself. For various reasons, a Spiritualist might feel uncomfortable with not being able to see, or understand every aspect of their belief system. Possibly, it’s also the notion that the outcome has some personal responsibility involved–and that it is not guaranteed–like the “happy” endings they see in popular stories. Most assuredly, we will all come to judgment, so all I can say to that is, “Welcome to the world of faith. That’s why it’s called faith, not ‘guarantees’ or ‘predictable’ endings.”
J.K. Rowling shared her own feelings on this subject: “I believe in the permanence of the soul. I believe in God though I do struggle with it at times.” Thank you Ms. Rowling! That is something we all struggle with at times: it’s called the human condition, and it comes complete with its own set of doubts and fears. But after all, aren’t doubts and fears some of the main components of faith? Don’t they make faith stronger? Hopefully, they do! Doubt, fear, depression, isolation–these can all be potent seeds of faith.
Spiritualist or not, sometimes any or all of us, have to hit “rock-bottom” in order to see the light. Let me paraphrase one of my favorite Christian authors, Rick Warren, who said in his blockbuster work, “The Purpose Driven Life”: “We realize God is all we need when we see that God is all we have left!”
Think about it! It’s never too late!