Category Archives: Occult

Should Christians Watch Game of Thrones?

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As always, I’m a bit behind when it comes to the latest movies and TV shows. For instance, I finally broke down and watched season 1, episode 1 of Game of Thrones last night. Season 6 just premiered recently, so that shows you how much and how often I watch TV. But everyone seems to love the show, including Christians, so it piqued my curiosity, despite the gratuitous sex, nudity, buckets of gore, and extreme violence that I had heard about and read about.

However, after listening to a Catholic radio program where the hosts mentioned that they watched the show regularly, I thought, What the heck. If they, respected Catholic hosts, watch it, then maybe I should give it a try.

I have always been a fan (not quite geek-boy status) of anything involving the fantasy genre. I played D&D throughout high school, skipped college classes to play Dragon Warrior on my brother’s Nintendo, played World of Warcraft religiously (until my free trial ran out!), and now I am an avid player of the Pokemon card came with my sons.

Regarding Game of Thrones: Boy, was I disappointed. The show is well-written, a serial where the story arc expands over an entire season. And, yes, I’m aware that it was only the very first episode of six seasons so far. Nevertheless, I was sickened and appalled.

Am I telling you not to watch Game of Thrones? No. You can make up your own mind. Am I telling Christians not to watch it? No. Pray about it and follow your own conscience and convictions.

Here are the reasons that I will not watch a single episode more:

 

The Gratuitous Sex

Seriously, I haven’t seen so much doggie-style humping since I took our new pet to the dog park. I mean, it makes The Discovery Channel seem like Sesame Street.

There was even one scene where a fair-skinned maiden from one kingdom was married off to a barbarian. He practically ripped off her clothes, put her on her hands and knees, and started ramming her. Mind you, the whole time the young woman/girl was sobbing (rape, anyone?).

And the pointless nudity. Oh, man. In particular: The scene where the brother is caressing his younger sister’s nude breast? I thought that was only found in the manga that I saw when I lived in Japan. Sheesh. Was I aroused by all this? You may be wondering. Not really, just perplexed.

 

Severed Heads Rolling Everywhere

If I wanted to see chopped-off heads impaled on spikes or gory beheadings, I could just watch Daesh (ISIS) videos on Youtube. I mean, come on. Do the American people want to see more of this in their nightly entertainment? We have become neo-Romans in that case.

If you want to read about the above-mentioned points, then read the Bible! There, I said it. But, the Scriptures are based on true events. Does that give you the right to say the Bible is acceptable and Game of Thrones is not? No. Not really. But Thrones is written for shock value I believe.

Even the website DenOfGeek.com mentioned that the series is full of “gratuitous violence” by the way.

 

And, finally, to a lesser extent…

 

The Portrayal of Religion

In season 1, episode 1 (the only episode I’m going to watch), there is a scene that begins with what looks like a Catholic church, bells tolling away. Inside, stained glass is seen from a distance. Images of Jesus or the saints? I highly doubt it. Turns out it’s a pagan temple resembling a church in architecture (to me anyway). The priests look like they’re the latest incarnation of the Nameless Ghouls in a Ghost video, complete with paper-looking miters emblazoned with pentagrams. Oh, brother, I thought. Really? It’s a fantasy world. At least be creative and make it look like a funky fantasy temple, for crying out loud.

 

And there you have it. So, you decide. You have read my take. As they say in the fantasy world: What say you?

~t


Should Christians Listen to Ghost?

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Ghost (formerly Ghost BC in the U.S.) is a hard rock/metal band from Sweden. I started listening to them when I discovered their debut album, Opus Eponymous, on iTunes; it was rated best metal album of 2010. Back then my Catholic faith wasn’t very strong, so I looked past the whole anti-Catholic/Christian/religion image of the band.

Their music wasn’t run-of-the-mill rock/metal; it was good: a retro 70s vibe, and the mood and lyrics were haunting, like my Halloween trick-or-treating experiences from my youth.

However, the more my mental illness was taking me to those dark places (as mentioned elsewhere on this blog), the more I realized that, tongue-in-cheek stage gimmick or not, Ghost’s lyrics and inverted crosses just weren’t conducive for my walk with God.

Now, before you brand me a “typical Christian right-wing-nutjob-prude,” consider this: I have been a metalhead since the 80s. My first concert was KISS, and Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil was the first cassette (an early version of a CD for you young’uns out there) that I ever owned. One of my favorite live shows in the past couple of years was Kvelertak at a hole-in-the-wall booze hall in Dallas. My latest CD purchase was Cattle Decapitation’s The Anthropocene Extinction.

And I own all of Ghost’s CDs. I even have tickets to see them live in October.

And you still call yourself a Catholic, Topaz?

Yes, I do. And that’s why I finally came to the realization that I had to write this blog post and (reluctantly) cut off ties with this band once and for all.

Since their debut album, I have used every excuse to listen to and jam out to Ghost’s CDs.

Oh, fans say, the Satanic Pope imagery, ghoul robes, masks, and Satanic lyrics are all part of the fun. It’s no different than watching a horror movie.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But my conscience is finally taking the bull by the horns… since my intellect sure as hell isn’t.

Lucifer

We have come

For your praise

Evil one

These are the opening lyrics from “Con Clavi Con Dio,” the first track off their debut album. Oh, it gets worse than that.

I’m not here to rail against Ghost or to tell you not to listen to them. Believe me, up until today, I have found every excuse to listen to their songs. Hell, I even had two different Ghost t-shirts up until last year when my wife finally made me get rid of them.

I could quote all kinds of Bible verses about reasons not to listen to this sort of band. But I like the simple mathematic formula-style argument that my college students are so fond of:

Blatantly Satanic lyrics + anti-Catholic/Christian imagery = not a good idea for Christians to be involved with

I keep telling myself: Just go to the show. You’ve already bought the ticket. It’s on the mezzanine level! Take some Christian tracts and go under the guise of “meeting sinners where they are.”

But that’s just a bunch of BS. I would be going for my own selfish reasons whether I wanted to admit it or not.

Plus, with my fragile state of mental health, anything dark or negative sends me over the cliff. (Actually, I was just there this afternoon, contemplating suicide again.) As I said, I could quote all sorts of verses; however, there is one quote by Alice Cooper, the classic shock-rocker, that states it better than any verse I can think of:

Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.

~t


Me(n)tal Health: Christianity, Depression, and Metal Music

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Before I finished my intensive outpatient program at the psychiatric hospital, I had to fill out a worksheet that was sort of a plan of action: list three individuals whom I would contact if suicidal ideation came back, list ten coping mechanisms for me to implement when I have problems, and list all things that would act as triggers for me.

Some triggers that I listed included people (the lady who I used to be infatuated with), places (the bar where I had carried out my plan), and things (music).

“Music?” the counselor had asked, perusing my worksheet.

“Yes. Certain kinds.”

“Such as…?” He lowered his glasses a bit and peered at me from the top of them, eyebrows raised.

“Just some types of metal.” I didn’t want him to know exactly. I needed my music. It was a coping mechanism!

“Scott. Spill it.” The counselor was a former drill sergeant in the army, so the next step probably would have involved shouting.

“Okay. Black metal.” There it was, out in the open. People unfamiliar with this subgenre usually assume it involves the musicians’ skin color.

The counselor continued staring at me. Explain! his eyes were saying.

“It’s, uh, dark, gloomy, and anti-Christian.” I averted my eyes from his.

“Scott, you are Catholic. Why would you listen to that?”

I wanted to tell him that black metal lyrics were usually written in Norwegian or Swedish, so I couldn’t understand them anyway. I wanted to tell him that I connected with the raspy vocals, insane drum beats and eerie walls of guitar noise. I wanted to tell him that the inverted crosses and pentagrams were purely for shock value. But I didn’t.

After I was released from the outpatient program, I quickly lost all desire to listen to black metal. Is it truly satanic? Is it anti-Christian? Is it steeped in pre-Christian Scandinavian paganism? Yes, yes, and yes.

Am I being judgmental like the fundamentalists who burn virtually all kinds of records in bonfires? No.

Sounds like it to me.

Well, then here would be my (hypothetical) response: In any search engine, enter the term ‘black metal,’ then look at the satanic imagery, scan some of the lyrics, and read about the beliefs, practices, and/or criminal acts of a lot of these bands.

It’s not judgmental if it’s fact.

Anyway, last night I received a brief text from a friend with whom I have had zero contact with for the past year. He’s extremely intelligent, has a high-paying job in the IT industry, and is a loving husband and father of two.

Besides the latter point, we also have had one other thing in common: We both loved extreme metal including black and death — and other sub-subgenres that I’d rather not get into.

Hey, Scott. How are you doing?

It was good to hear from him, so I happily replied.

Then another text from him: Do you want to meet me at the Slayer* show next month?

Uh-oh. One of my all-time favorite metal bands (up until 12 months ago) was touring again?! Then I tried reasoning with myself: Slayer has been around forever. The members are all fathers, and the band has become so commercialized. They sell Christmas ornaments with the band logo on them, for cryin’ out loud!

Looking back, I can’t believe that I had considered it. Commercial or not, stage theatrics or not, stepping into the world of Slayer, even for just a few hours, would take me back to that dark, miserable place inside my head.

Not to mention the fact that the band still uses satanic imagery:

Credit: slayer.net

I politely declined, and we mentioned that it would be good to meet up again at some point. I felt a bit guilty, though.

There are two reasons why I stopped listening to certain types of metal:

1. It damages my relationship with God.

Being a Christian means dying to self and living for Christ. He has a special plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). In order for God’s will to be done in our lives, we have to give ourselves over to Him.

Black metal — and other types of extreme metal — has turned me off because it goes against everything that God desires for me.

I don’t want to befriend someone who is constantly talking bad about my wife. When a person begins to know the joy and riches of the Lord’s grace, worldly desires pale in comparison.

2. It damages me.

In my very first computer class back in college, one of the first things we learned was GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). I used to be so confused as to believe that the darker the music, the more it would make me stronger. That was a lie straight from the depths of hell. The music and the live shows were feeding my negative thinking, and I didn’t even realize it.

The forces of evil are powerful indeed. Don’t open yourself up to its influence. Personally, I don’t want to be antisocial and depressed anymore. Believe it or not, some people actually do want to be miserable; I know because I used to hang out with them.

In closing, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Bible passages:

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus… (Hebrews 12: 1-2)

~t

* Slayer is considered a thrash metal band.


Jenny

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The following is a piece of fiction that I wrote about the dangers of the occult. If you are easily frightened by supernatural stories, then you may want to think twice before reading any further.

It’s been a while since things have stopped. I still take sleeping pills every night and leave the lights and TV on. Five years is a long time, but it’s nowhere near enough to erase what happened from my memory; it will haunt me until the day I die.

I can trace it all back to the Ouija board. It had all the features of the old thick wooden ones you see in horror movies: a flat board with the alphabet and numbers inscribed across it; the ominous words goodbye, yes and no at the bottom; and the small triangular planchette, or pointer, as we called it, that the spirits use to communicate with the living.

But mine wasn’t all that mystic-looking; it was made by Milton Bradley, for crying out loud, and the planchette was made of cheap plastic with China stamped on the underside. I bought it at the mall toy store with money from my minimum-wage job at the time. I was actually disappointed because I did want an old one from a dusty antique store, but the picture on the flat rectangular box sort of made up for that. It showed a gray-haired Gypsy fortune-teller hunched over a talking board in a candle-lit room.

I couldn’t wait to show my girlfriend. I brought it home one day – without the box of course; I didn’t want her to see that it was made by the same company that produced Candy Land.

We went into the bedroom, turned off the lights, and closed the blinds. It was afternoon, so the room was still as bright as ever. So much for the ambience.

“If we place our fingertips on this triangle piece and ask a question,” I told Jenny, “the board will give us an answer. A male and female are ideal because of their energy balance.”

“Oh,” Jenny responded, her eyes growing larger. I didn’t tell her that I had read all that on the instruction sheet inside the box.

“Ask it something,” Jenny said, urging me in a hushed tone.

“What do you want me to ask it?” I replied, not taking my eyes off the black letters and numbers on the beige background.

“Um… Are we gonna get married?”

I stared at the planchette.

“Ask it!” Jenny said impatiently.

“You just did,” I replied.

Jenny sighed.

“Okay, okay.” In a solemn voice, I asked the board the question.

We both gazed at the planchette, making sure not to apply too much pressure so that the spirits could move it.

Nothing happened.

“Why don’t we ask something personal about the spirit? You know, an icebreaker question. Maybe we have to get to know it first. Each board is inhabited by a different ghost,” I said, dropping some more knowledge; this time it was from a movie.

“All right. How about its name?” Jenny suggested.

I nodded, took a few seconds to compose myself, and then asked the question. Oh great, I thought when the planchette still didn’t move. What a bunch of garbage.

Just then, the plastic triangle moved slowly but steadily beneath our fingertips. We both gasped at the same time, my pulse throbbing.

“Stop moving it!” I whispered to Jenny, my voice filled with panic.

“I’m not!” she whispered back, equally freaked-out.

I could not comprehend the sight before me. The planchette moved methodically to three different letters and then stopped, pausing only a second at each one. It had spelled out the name Sam.

“How did you die?” Jenny asked next, her voice quivering. The planchette slowly spelled out car.

“Do you mean a car accident?” I asked. The pointer moved down and stopped at  yes.

I continued, mesmerized, drawn into this bizarre conversation. “How old were you?” Our fingers moved, along with the planchette, to the number 2. We gotta get out of here! My mind screamed out.

Jenny asked the next question excitedly. We were on a roll. “How can you spell if you’re only two years old?”

No! I thought. Now she’s angered the spirit.

The planchette crept along the board, this time straight downward. It stopped at the bottom, on the word goodbye.

“Why—“ Jenny started. I quickly put my hand on her arm.

“Goodbye, Sam,” I interrupted, my heart racing inside my chest like an engine.

As I closed the board and set it aside, Jenny looked at me, eyebrows raised. “What happened? Why did we suddenly stop?”

“The Ouija board – I mean, the spirit – gets tired or whatever and decides when it’s time to stop. If we keep asking questions when it doesn’t want to answer…” I trailed off. “We wouldn’t want that.”

Jenny sat looking at the floor, her arms folded. I shivered; the air seemed colder.

#####

The sounds started a few nights later after we first contacted Sam. I awoke from a light, restless sleep. The moonlight shone on the bed from between the slits in the blinds, illuminating Jenny’s face. Apparently she didn’t hear anything. Lucky her. The fear was too much for my mind. I felt like I was on a roller coaster going down the first big dip.

The noise was just outside the bedroom in the hall – it sounded like a child’s tricycle: the squeak of the wheels against the metal frame, the slight rumble as it rolled along the wood floor. Jenny lay peacefully, a faint smile on her lips. Man, how I envied her at that moment. “Jenny,” I whispered urgently, shaking her. She groaned and turned over.

“Who’s there?” I called out into the darkness. No answer. I suppressed an urge to scream as the sound of the tricycle stopped and started. I could hear the muted grunts of a child straining to turn the pedals.

I frantically recited Hail Marys and Our Fathers, dusty prayers from my youth that came back to me so easily now.

Sometime later, I drifted off to sleep.

Around dawn, I awoke from a nightmare. Without thinking, I jumped out of bed, grabbed the Ouija board box from the hall closet, and ran outside to the dumpster. I tossed away the box and walked back to our apartment.

#####

Jenny’s voice was muffled and faraway. My eyes popped open, remnants of ice still in my bloodstream from late last night.

“Hey, have you seen my white blouse?”

“No,” I muttered, bleary-eyed and groggy. Everything was all right; maybe it was all just a dream. “Did you hear anything last night?” I called to her, slowly sitting up on the bed.

“Yeah,” she said, walking into the bedroom. “Just your snoring as usual. It’s a wonder you didn’t wake yourself up.”

“What? You were sound asleep all night!”

Jenny smiled, her perfect white teeth and sea-green eyes melting me. “Like always,” she said, embracing my neck. Wrapping my arms around her slender waist, I pulled her closer. She giggled as her long auburn hair tumbled over her forehead, obscuring her radiant face.

I don’t remember hearing the tricycle again.

#####

A few nights later, I was awaken by Jenny’s sudden movement. Suppressing an urge to scream, I turned to her. “What’s wrong?” I called out. She didn’t move. I sat up and followed her gaze, and that’s when I saw it.

A figure of a woman, her hourglass figure etched by the faint moonlight, stood a few yards away from Jenny. The woman wore a long black dress and a wide-brimmed black hat with a thin veil covering her face.  Jenny remained motionless, transfixed by the sight before us.

“Go away!” I screamed hysterically, and the woman instantly vanished. Jenny, her daze broken, turned on the bedside lamp while I scrambled to flip on the overhead light switch, horrified beyond words. “We’re not staying here!” I bellowed. “Things are getting stranger—“

–and closer,” Jenny added, shivering.

“What’s wrong with you? How can you be so calm?” I yelled.

“I don’t know…” she replied, struggling for words. “I guess I didn’t feel threatened. Peace. I felt at peace.”

I shook my head. The Ouija board was long gone. So why was all of this still happening? I shuddered at the thoughts zooming through my head.

#####

We ended up moving into a smaller apartment closer to downtown, thinking that the constant bustle of the city would make us feel better than in the quiet suburbs.

The first night was normal; so normal that we ended up turning off the lights and TV. “I think we left it behind,” Jenny said the following day while unpacking.

I grunted, helping her unload the rest of our junk. As I got to the bottom of one of the boxes, panic grabbed my heart with ice-cold hands. I screamed as my eyes locked onto the rectangular box with the Milton Bradley fortune-teller on it.

Jenny came over and put a hand on my shoulder. “What is it?” she asked, alarmed.

I didn’t have to tell her. She looked down at the ominous words on the board game and let loose with a terrifying shriek.

“I—I threw it away. I remember!”

Ripping open the lid, I took out the fold-up board and tore it in half along the crease and took everything outside. I ran down the steps two at a time, headed for the huge dumpster on the far side of the property. The late afternoon sunlight looked hazy and surreal around me, like I was running through a nightmare.

But that night, nothing. Only quiet.

#####

Watching TV with my feet propped up on the coffee table, I barely heard Jenny’s soft voice in the other room. “I’m going to bed.”

“All right,” I said without looking away from the screen.

After the movie was over, I began clicking through the channels to see what else was on. The sudden shrieking from the bedroom startled me so badly that I dropped the remote and froze. It was Jenny, but I had no idea her voice was capable of such madness.

My mind spun with horror. No matter how hard I tried, I could not move my body. Am I dreaming? Finally I pried myself off the sofa and struggled with each step toward the bedroom, my legs feeling like cement.

At the doorway, I stood transfixed as Jenny thrashed on the bed, her arms and legs pinned down by invisible straps. “Help! Please, no!” she screamed, her voice growing more and more hoarse with each word.

As I drew closer, I saw that her bare arms and legs were covered with long, red scratches. Her eyes, bulging with insanity, darted from side to side.

My bladder unloaded as I witnessed fresh scratches forming on her cheeks. No, this isn’t happening! I thought. Gasping for air, I mustered every ounce of strength and grabbed Jenny by the shoulders and shook her violently. “Jenny! Jenny!” I shouted. She didn’t acknowledge me at all.

Cursing and crying now, I tried pulling her off the bed, but she wouldn’t budge. Whatever was holding her there was too strong. Then, before I realized it, she became still and her cries tapered off. Jenny lay on her back, panting, staring at the ceiling. “Sam,” she gasped between deep breaths.

I hugged her sweat-drenched body. After a moment, her breathing stopped and she went limp in my arms.

#####

I can’t believe it’s been five years already.

I still see her in my dreams every now and then. She never talks, though; only smiles. That wonderful, gorgeous smile. I try to reach out to touch her, but each time she fades away like a mist.

Perhaps she will come tonight. I lie back on my pillow, squinting at the glare of the overhead light. The sleeping pills start to take effect, and I become oblivious to the blaring TV.

“Jenny,” I whisper to the empty room as I drift off to sleep.