I absolutely love a good ghost story. I always have. Especially this time of year.
As a Christian, I’ve always felt a tiny bit guilty about my enjoyment of the horror genre. Christians are not supposed to love dark, violent stories. We’re supposed to devote ourselves solely to ideas and stories that are happy, joyful, light-filled.
Yet weirdly, I’ve always felt that my interest in the macabre is the perfect complement to my Christian beliefs. I believe in the supernatural, and I’m always looking for ways to express and symbolize that belief.
There are spiritual forces completely outside of our narrow physical range of experiences, and I want to learn as much about these as I possibly can. And stories (whether happy or scary) give me new ways of thinking about the life of the spirit.
If you think about it one way, the entire gospel is a spine-chilling, supernatural narrative. I like to think of it as a mirror reflection of a good ghost story. Instead of being haunted by a specter of death, the characters are haunted by a spirit of life. Instead of doors creaking open or spooky figures appearing in a mirror, they got miraculous healings and the sight of Jesus transfigured on a mountain. Instead of confronting their own gruesome death, they came face to face with immortality.
It has always seemed to me that the month of October is a time when people are more open to the spiritual world. Many of us believe that the veil to the spiritual world becomes thin at this time, that it’s a time when we can communicate more easily with deceased loved ones.
It astonishes me, though, that we find it so easy to believe in the darker aspects of the supernatural world, yet we are hesitant to believe in God.
Why is that?
Maybe we feel that God will demand too much of us. Maybe we feel that telling ghost stories or holding a seance are just passing amusements, while a life of Christian faith feels like a burdensome chore. And there is probably a lot of truth in that.
Yet what do ghost stories really do for us? They demand nothing from us, but neither do they offer any real hope. They exemplify everything about death which scares us most. In the world of a horror film or a ghost story, there is no heaven. The only eternal life available is through reliving the grisly moment of our death repeatedly as a ghost, wandering around seeing people who react to us not with love or affection, but with terror. Ghost stories take everything about death that we most dread and give that dread a concrete life of its own.
The gospel story is similar to a ghost story in a way. It too portrays death in its most fearful aspect, showing Jesus’ horrific death on a cross. Like a good horror film, it allows us to experience our own death from a safe and distant vantage point. But then, it does something completely different. It offers hope.
In the gospel story, the life of the spirit does not take the shape of some gruesome wraith wandering eternally through the darkest reaches of experience. The life of the spirit comes with joy, with victory. Rather than the most fearful aspects of death enduring for eternity, the most wonderful aspects of life are the things that endure.
If we can be open to supernatural events in our favorite ghost stories, why not open our hearts to the supernatural events that God makes possible for us in the here and now?
The rewards are much greater and more lasting than simply the passing fascination of a good story.