By John W. Kennedy
July 17, 2011
Uncertain times call for faith in God, not reliance on horoscopes
Professor Parke Kunkle of the Minnesota Planetarium Society caused an uproar earlier this year by suggesting in a Minneapolis newspaper interview that shifts in the Earth’s orbit meant stars no longer aligned the same as when the zodiac calendar originated centuries earlier.
Thousands of angry and panic-stricken horoscope followers took to Facebook, fearful that their sign might change under a redesigned system.
Horoscopes indeed have a grip on many people. According to a 2009 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life poll, 1 in 4 Americans — including 1 in 3 adults under age 30 — claims to believe in astrology. The overall figure represents more than 1 in 5 people who call themselves Protestants.
For decades, horoscopes have been part of many daily newspapers. In recent years, numerous entertainment and women’s magazines (28 percent of females take horoscopes seriously, compared to 21 percent of men according to the Pew poll) have joined the club. And the Internet is rife with advice sites devoted to astrology, with some around-the-clock hotlines charging nearly $20 a minute.
Multiple astrological websites are wrapped in a cloak of spiritual lingo, with catchwords such as truth, wisdom and prayer, and even expressions like “God bless you” sprinkled throughout.
“Many people think how-to tips must be OK if it appears spiritual,” says Phil Steiger, pastor of Living Hope Church Assembly of God in Colorado Springs, Colo. “It’s brilliant marketing in a culture that likes to be vaguely spiritual.”
Searching for answers to life’s dilemmas increases in the midst of economic uncertainty or in the aftermath of natural disasters, according to Gabriele Rienas, a licensed professional counselor in Beaverton, Ore.
“People are disillusioned and afraid,” says Rienas, whose husband, Werner, is pastor of Life Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Aloha, Ore. “They search for ways to feel more comfortable and to relieve stress and anxiety.”
Robert J. Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, says millions of people dabble in astrology out of curiosity, although hardcore followers are fewer in number.
“Most people do not have a deep-seated belief that where Mercury is relative to Mars at a given time is really going to determine whether they are going to find love or get a better job,” Thompson says. “Yet there is a substantial amount of people for whom this is an important part of their lives on how they should behave.”
Thompson notes that network television shows in recent years — such as The X-Files and Medium — have presented the inexplicable as something interesting and fun.
Nevertheless, the Bible warns against any fascination with psychics, clairvoyants, soothsayers, fortunetellers, stargazers, sorcerers or palm readers (Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Isaiah 47:13-15; Acts 19:19; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 22:15).
“Many passages of Scripture denounce occult practices that seek guidance or knowledge through sources other than the God of the Bible,” declares the official Assemblies of God position paper on astrology. “The Word of God is definitive: The practice of astrology and other mystic activity is wrong.”
“It makes no sense for Christians to look to astrology to try to make sense of their lives,” Steiger says.
Thompson says those who check a horoscope just for amusement still might be swayed by its message — particularly if it offers hope of overcoming an illness, finding true love or securing better employment.
“Astrology presents the idea that there is a system — based on the sun and planets — to try to make sense of the chaos around you,” Thompson says.
Steiger says people who rely on astrology aren’t yielding to the will of God. By seeking someone who supposedly can foretell the future, those who desire comfort to placate fears about the future are relying on a false hope, he says.
“Any season of life where we feel like we can’t manage what’s going to come tomorrow, we’re tempted to find a means of manipulation,” Steiger says. “To go to someone else to try to control events for us displays a lack of trust in God.”
Certainly it’s part of human nature to want to know if what we are doing in life is valuable and whether our time on earth is making a difference.
“Everyone wants to know the future and is looking for hope,” Rienas says. “If people don’t have rock solid faith that gives them meaning, they will search somewhere else.”
Rienas says those who consult psychics or horoscopes frequently are trying to fill a spiritual vacuum. But rather than providing a meaningful relationship with God, a psychic reading gives a client a feel-good catharsis that eases stress, she says. Visits with a psychic prompt no change in behavior, contrasted to Jesus’ admonition of daily sacrifice and accountability (Luke 9:23).
“Astrology is a false view of spirituality,” Steiger says.
While only 8 percent of Protestants who attend church every week give credence to astrology, Rienas says Pentecostals must be on guard against falling prey to false teachings. The line between the paranormal and the supernatural can seem blurred to the undiscerning.
“Because we believe in miracles, we have to be careful that we aren’t seeking signs and wonders, but rather that we’re seeking God’s truth,” Rienas says.
Not everything that appears spiritual is from God, Steiger warns. Spirits must be tested to ensure that the supernatural is in line with Scripture and that the message leads to Christ, he says.
Rienas says many who look to astrology for guidance accept the advice as truth, but it has no substance.
“There are demonic powers behind it,” Rienas says. “People need to stay away from it.”
Steiger believes church leaders need to find ways to connect seasoned followers of Christ with new believers who may be confused about astrology. Through small groups, discipleship mentoring and one-on-one friendship, newer Christians can be kept from wandering down the wrong spiritual path, Steiger says.
“In the end, when you’re going through a divorce, when someone in your life has died, when you’ve lost your job and have no funds in your savings account, only faith in God will sustain you,” Rienas says.
JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.
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