Pastoral Procrastination

It might be shocking to hear this, but pastors procrastinate.

Sometimes.

Not very often.

Just a teeny bit.

I am, at this very moment, procrastinating.  I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.  I should be making a phone call but I’m reticent to.

This past year in particular has been a year of paranormal possibilities – asserted or feared demonic activity in various people.  I have an old high school friend who makes occasional noise about me coming out to do a house blessing/exorcism on a property they own in another state.  I don’t think that will ever really come to anything, but it’s out there.  I was asked to investigate and respond to possibilities of ghosts in the home of a member late this spring.

And I was referred to a random person calling with concerns about their son who they have reason to believe is dealing with demonic possession, in addition to drug and alcohol abuse.

This is the phone call I need to make but keep putting off.

The ghost issue was pretty straightforward.  I don’t think the Bible permits us to assume that ghosts are something real.  Yes, there’s 1 Samuel 28.  But I don’t think that this is enough to assert that ghosts are real, or put more theologically, that the spirits of the dead are at liberty to be summoned for our purposes, given permission to wander for their purposes, or are otherwise left unattended, forgotten, and left to fend for themselves.  We may think we see/experience ghosts, but the only thing Biblically that matches this sort of thing would either be angels or demons.  Not the spirits of the dead, but completely different spiritual entities from us.  And of the two, only one I believe has an interest in leading us to different conclusions about their identity.

And it isn’t angels, in case you’re wondering.

While I think ghosts are pretty easy to deal with Biblically, there is confusion.  Consider this little article I found online from a Catholic web site.  In part it’s helpful.  I do believe that how we feel around something we consider to be paranormal can be a clue as to whether it is angelic or demonic.  Yes, natural causes and other explanations for sensory miscommunication should be seriously considered.  Our bodies are weird, fallible things and sometimes they hiccup and convey something to us that just isn’t real.  Not just non-corporeal, but rather actually a non-event.

The article assumes (I assume) that drugs or alcohol or other mind-altering substances aren’t at work, but that’s another major issue to consider.   When I consulted someone I consider to be well-versed in these arenas regarding the possible haunting issue this spring, that was the first question he asked – are there medications or other substances involved, and is there any history or evidence of anything we could term mental illness.  Both of these arenas are often rich grounds for misinterpreting reality.

I have no idea about the article’s reference to ‘a “soul of a saint in heaven” as a possible explanation for the incident.  Where in Scripture do we hear anything about the souls of the saints coming back to us for some reason?!?  Same with the issue of a “soul from Purgatory”.  Again, where in the world does Scripture give us that sort of idea?  And why are the lives of saints a better indication that this may be a reality not covered in Scripture?!?

The possibilities of actual demonic activity are always real.  I believe demons exist.  I believe they wish us harm, and if they can inflict that harm either in the short-term or the long-term by leading us to believe they are the souls of our dearly departed, I have no doubt they will attempt that.

But in the case of the procrastinated phone call, there are so many issues to sort through, both to define what’s going on and then to deal with it.  A person with mental illness needs good professional help as well as theological support and prayer.  A person who is not willing to attempt recovery from drugs and alcohol is not in a condition where some sort of intercession is likely.  And of course, if there is demonic activity, then those other issues are going to remain unresolved in an effort to protect their work and presence.

So I procrastinate.  I’m sorry for that, truly.  I say this to the man who’s son is suffering.  I don’t know that I can help the son, given all of the above issues.  But I can and will pray and show love to his father as he tries to help and love his son.  It’s a hard situation, but one that deserves more  than procrastination.

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