Checking out your
horoscope? God advises you to skip it
By John W. Kennedy
As an impressionable
teenager in the late 1960s, Lindi Johnson had an aunt who wouldn’t
get out of bed in the morning until she consulted a daily horoscope
from a monthly publication purchased from a supermarket’s
magazine rack. Johnson, seeing the confidence her aunt placed
in the forecasts, began reading from the periodical about the
characteristics found in people born under her zodiac sign.
The ritual insidiously
altered Johnson’s daily life. She began to stay away from
people born under certain signs because the horoscope characterized
those people as incompatible. A prediction regarding people born
under her sign from one horoscope proclaimed they couldn’t
finish projects they started. Sure enough, Johnson found herself
unable to complete any sewing or crocheting projects she began.
When Johnson became
a Christian at 16, she stopped reading horoscopes after learning
of numerous biblical prohibitions against consultations predicting
the future. But in her late 20s, one day at the break table at
work, Johnson read her horoscope in a newspaper for laughs. That
moment fascinated her and renewed an eager anticipation for daily
advice dispensed from a horoscope magazine.
Astrology is a pseudoscience
in which practitioners claim that stars and planets influence
personalities and activities, with the position of celestial bodies
at specific times purportedly foretelling a person’s future.
Horoscopes are popular because so many people are searching for
the right career move or the perfect romance.
Daily horoscopes —
or other related products by clairvoyants, tarot card readers
and palm readers — pervade American society. Since the end
of World War II, hundreds of daily newspapers have carried them.
Now entertainment-related magazines include them. They are on
numerous Web sites, with “certified psychics” offering
“personal service” 24 hours a day to those willing
to shell out up to $4.99 a minute. “Psychic reader”
commercials frequent late-night television. Disclaimers (“For
entertainment purposes only”) protect “psychics”
from facing liability when their predictions create problems for
Researcher J. Gordon
Melton, head of the Institute for the Study of American Religion
in Santa Barbara, Calif., says as much as 20 percent of the population
read horoscope columns in daily newspapers. A much smaller clientele,
between 1 and 2 percent, seek personalized horoscope information.
“There is a big gap between those who have adopted astrology
as a language to use in a secular, pluralistic culture and those
who seriously follow it as something that affects their lives,”
says Melton, 60.
Nevertheless, a 2001
Gallup poll reported 28 percent of Americans believe astrology
can affect people’s lives.
Randy Walls, 46, director
of continuing education at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
in Springfield, Mo., says those who give credence to horoscopes
display a lack of allegiance to God.
is about trying to manipulate your own destiny and not placing
trust in God,” says Walls. “Astrology essentially
says I want to manipulate the results of my life for my best interests.”
“It can become
a significant faith issue because it shows a lack of confidence
in God,” says Los Angeles-based author Bill Myers, whose
books include The Dark Side of the Supernatural.
Myers says Isaiah 47:13,14
likens stargazers to stubble that is burned. Christians shouldn’t
be duped, Myers says, because it’s difficult to find two
astrologers who give the same advice on the same day to the same
group. “It’s really fortunetelling — turning
to sources other than God for our hope, future and well-being,”
says Myers, 49.
Most part-time astrologers
are in the business for a quick buck. But a minority believe planet
alignments carry supernatural meaning essential for harmonious
daily living. Some religious groups, such as Wiccans, use astrology
as a major faith component. The Church of Light in Los Angeles
is a training ground for astrologers through correspondence courses.
Those who do take astrological
stargazing seriously (not to be confused with the legitimate science
and hobby of astronomy) often join a local astrological club,
which are present in nearly all major metro regions, according
to Melton. There are between 1,000 and 2,000 full-time astrologers
in the nation, Melton estimates, with several thousand more doing
it on the side as weekend and evening jobs.
Myers says horoscope
readers risk losing their free will because they put their trust
in astrologers. “People feel they are no longer responsible
for their decisions. ‘It was in the stars,’ they say.
‘What else could I do?’ ”
The tenuous times in
which Americans find themselves could lead to an increased interest
in astrology, according to Myers, as non-Christians look to supernatural
counterfeits as a way to fill a spiritual vacuum.
The proliferation of
horoscope information has furthered a sense among many Americans
that astrology is a harmless activity. Even some Christians glance
at the daily forecasts, viewing the activity as innocent curiosity.
They may even see it as an innocuous way of dabbling in fortunetelling
without visiting a sorcerer.
“The Word of
God should be more important than the sign of Leo,” Walls
Lindi Johnson put away
horoscopes for good at age 30, when she believes God warned her
of astrology’s ensnarement in a dream. In the dream she
sank in mud up to her thighs at the bottom of a lake. Although
she never reached the point of having an astrologer chart her
future, Johnson, now 49 and a member of First Assembly of God
in Bentonville, Ark., says reading the daily horoscope influenced
her in subtle ways. “It was a chain that was binding me,”
she says. Now free of astrology’s influence, she also has
no problems finishing tasks. “Now if anybody asks me my
sign, I say it’s the sign of the Cross.”