Beware of the New Occultism: Charlie, Charlie Challenge

Title: Beware of the New Occultism: Charlie, Charlie Challenge
Text: 1 Samuel 28, Philippians 4:8-9, James
Time: June 2nd, 2015

During the past week I learned of an Internet craze sweeping the nation that teaches young people to try speaking to a supposed spirit of the dead in order to ask it questions and get answers. It’s called “The Charlie, Charlie Challenge” and it consists of taking two regular, ordinary pencils and stacking one upon the other in the form of a cross over a piece of paper with the words “Yes, No, Yes, No” written on it. Then the young people ask the so-called spirit a question and wait for the top pencil to rotate and point to either Yes or No. When I first heard about this I immediately, I mean immediately, recognized it as an instrument of the occult world. No question. It’s nothing but a modern day Ojai board stripped of all the additional add-on extras. But an even closer parallel is the old folk practice of using a whiskbroom straw piece for picking a watermelon at the fruit market. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this, but in older days some people would pluck a straw strand from a whiskbroom and place it on top of a watermelon. If it moved, then it was thought the mellow was a good one. Now I never understood the principle behind the practice but I’ve seen it done a few times in my lifetime, although I’ve never done it myself. Now why are these examples of the occult? Because they purportedly work by means of an unknown power. It’s the same with the so-called water-witching practitioners who use a stick that’s supposed to lead them to water in order to show you where to dig a well. There are people who make a living finding a suitable place to dig a well using the water witch – they’re that good at it. So far, there is no known scientific reason why some kind of a stick should be able to point out a source of water. So then what force or power is behind it? It sounds like occultism to me, having researched the matter for a number of years now. What is occultism? It’s contacting or tapping into a secret, hidden spiritual reality that doesn’t originate from God through prayer or divine miracles, but instead comes from fallen spirits or otherwise known as demons. The Internet craze called “Charlie, Charlie Challenge” fits into the same pattern. It’s so blatantly and obviously occultic. For example, the Charlie Challenge plan says to speak to the so-called spirit – who by the way, as the story goes, is the departed soul of a little Mexican boy named Charlie, and ask questions. That’s clearly of the occult – asking questions of a “spirit.” But let me explain in a little more detail why playing the “Charlie Challenge” is a bad idea and what possibly could be going on with it by examining an Old Testament Bible passage, 1 Samuel 28. First, it could be fake. 1 Samuel 28:6-7, “He (Saul) inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium (witch), so I may go and inquire of her.’ ‘There is one in Endor,’ they said.” The first king of Israel, Saul, due to disobedience to the Lord had lost the ability to receive revelation from God through the typical means, leaving him blind and clueless as to when and where to fight his military battles against the enemies of Israel. In one of his truly obedient acts he expelled all the spirit mediums or witches from the land, but now when he finds God not answering his prayers or speaking advice through the prophets he seeks a witch to consult. Bad idea in many ways, but what it definitely shows is that there was a widespread understanding that these spirit mediums or witches really could answer questions from the spirit world. Saul’s problem is that he had gotten rid of all of them according to the Word of God, yet there must have been at least one straggler who didn’t get the memo to leave or who thought she’d corner the market on spirit readings and monopolize on the occultism in her area and make a fortune. In either case, she was still in business. Now the big question is, were all these spirit mediums actually trafficking with departed spirits? Were they legit? Did they possess the ability to talk to the dead? Were they the real deal? Or were they all fakes? Was it a scam? We could ask the same question today. If you visit any city you’ll probably find some storefront sign promising to read your fortune for a small fee. In Western New York there’s the town of Lily Dale that hosts the largest occult gathering in the country during the summertime. Spirit mediums live and practice there for months and months as visitors and tourists come to supposedly connect with their departed loved ones. Do these mediums really communicate with spirits? Probably not in every instance. Probably most of the so-called “readings” are imaginary, staged, faked or creatively orchestrated. In other words, not real. And that’s probably what’s happening with most of the “Charlie, Charlie Challenge” activity taking place. The wind or air current in the room is blowing the pencil to move and point to the letters on the paper. If the upper pencil is stacked perfectly balanced on the lower pencil then it makes sense that if only a little air current blows it would move. Or maybe some minor vibration in the room might cause the pencil to move being so precariously balanced on the bottom pencil. This is probably the explanation that can account for 95% of all movement. That is enough, however, to fool most people and scare them and mess with their mind. If this were the extend of the Charlie Challenge then there’d be no problem, spiritually, with it, outside of the fact that it might frighten us and, like I said, mess with our minds. But there is also a darker side that we need to talk about. Second, it could be real. 1 Samuel 28:11-13, “Then the woman (the witch) asked, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’ ‘Bring up Samuel,’ he (Saul) said. When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.’ The king said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid, What do you see?’ The woman said, ‘I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.’” Now Saul obviously seeks out this spirit medium or witch and asks her to contact the departed spirit of the prophet Samuel. So she does, but suddenly is surprised that a spirit actually shows up – which leads me to conclude that this woman was usually accustomed to there being in reality no real spirit, no real departed soul contact, and that “business as usual” for her was in scamming people into thinking they were hearing from a departed soul when in fact it wasn’t really taking place at all. In other words, she was probably one of the majorities of so-called mediums who make money off people’s gullibility or desperation. She was probably all set to carry out her “shtick” or act out her role as fortuneteller or medium or whatever – when all of a sudden, quiet unexpectedly, the real thing showed up, a departed spirit appears. We know this because she was caught off guard, she was surprised, shocked. Now if she were truly used to trafficking in the spirit world she wouldn’t have been so shocked or surprised. She called upon the spirit, it came, so what’s the big deal? The big deal was, even though she normally called upon the spirits to come, evidently, normally, nothing would ever happen, no spirit would actually show up. But in this instance, a real spirit, that of Samuel the prophet, actually appeared. And it scared her. That’s what happens, I’m afraid, with the so-called “Charlie, Charlie Challenge” Internet craze sweeping the young people of our nation. Most of the time, probably ninety-five to ninety-nine percent of the time there’s a perfectly natural explanation why the pencil spins and points at the Yes or No – air current in the room, or floor vibrations, and so forth. So we can laugh it off. But it’s the five or so percent that just might be the real thing that we have to be very careful about. It’s that five or so perfect real that makes playing the Charlie, Charlie Challenge dangerous. It’s occultism pure and simple. Kids ask the spirit a question and the pencil moves and points to Yes or No. Was it moving by accidental or deliberate natural means or was it moving through the power of hidden and secret occult spirit contact? The possibility of really contacting a spirit makes it a dangerous practice, one that should be discouraged and avoided. Third, it should be avoided. 1 Samuel 28:20-21, “Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and night. . . . The woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken.” We see the results of the whole séance or spirit reading – fear and distress. And that’s usually the result of a modern day attempt at contacting departed spirits. There’s usually nothing good that comes of it, while there is usually much mischief that comes from it. In the case of the Charlie Challenge even if it’s fake, even if someone in the room is deliberately manipulating the pencil to answer questions in a certain way by blowing air through a straw of simply causing an air current by moving around or causing vibrations in the room by walking around, even if the pencil is moving through natural means, it can still cause people to be fearful who aren’t aware of what’s happening. And the psychological damage, or potential damage, done by having what someone thinks is a real spirit answer their questions in one way or another is real. If someone really thinks that a departed loved one said Yes or No to some question they asked, that can greatly influence their actions in life, depending on how big an impression the experience left. The potential for great harm is clear. Not to mention the ever-present fear factor. The occult world, real or fake, nearly always leaves us with a fear factor. What if what the spirit or alleged spirit said comes true? What does that mean? What if just a part of what the so-called spirit says comes true? The psychological risk is great. In other words, just going through something like a Ojai board session or fortune teller visit or playing the Charlie Challenge is enough to mess with our minds and bring fear, anxiety and doubt about what could or might happen next in life based on what was said or communicated in the occult contact. We don’t need such influences in our life. The Bible actually teaches us against doing things like this. In addition to teaching us to avoid the occult world, the New Testament teaches us in Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” The Bible teaches us to live in peace, and that is possible by praying to God and going to God for all we need. There is absolutely no reason why we ever need to contact the occult spirit world for information or guidance. God is all we need. There are many reasons why we should avoid contacting the occult world, in addition to outright disobedience to God in doing so, it brings fear and anxiety into our lives. We should warn people about all occult dangers, including the Charlie Challenge. We should stay clear of it and warn others to do the same. The Charlie Challenge is just the latest version of occultism to emerge in the modern times. In fact, because it seems people are prone to abandon traditional or classical Christian beliefs and practices in the modern world, we might actually begin to see an increase in these types of occultic practices. Augustine, an early Christian leader in the church, once said we all have a God-shaped vacuum in our souls that only God can fill. If we deny God entry into our soul we’ll then fill it with some kind of idol or some substitute god. For many people today who think they are too sophisticated or modern for God they will turn to the false idols of occultism because it gives them some kind of spiritual experience. The Charlie Challenge for some is that substitute god experience. In many people’s lives because they’ve rejected or turned away from God they are left with nothing spiritual or profound in their lives, so they reach out to the world of the occult because it offers something mysterious and interesting although they think they are still in control. The problem is that the occult can quickly become a form of slavery because it begins to control a person’s thoughts and emotions. We can easily imagine how a person could become obsessed with the Charlie Challenge or become frightened or anxious about it. Once the idea that it’s real or might be real attaches to their brain, it can be hard to shake off. An interest in the occult can quickly spread to other occult practices. Soon the person is reading books, attending classes and involving him or herself in the world of the occult as a hobby. Before they know it their life is controlled by the occult world and occult spirits rather than God. This can lead to death and destruction. So the best policy in dealing with any form of the occult is to avoid it as much as possible. It isn’t a game, although many are sucked into the world of spirits through what appear to be harmless games, such as the Charlie Challenge and so forth. The world of the occult is a deep, dark area that God forbids his children to enter. Instead, he invites us to pray and read the Bible and attend church and reflect on his truth. He promises to be with us through the Holy Spirit. We have all we need in God. There is no reason we’ll ever need to seek any other form of guidance or information outside of God. The best defense against the world of the occult is to draw close to God. As James 4:8 says in the New Testament, “Draw close to God and he will draw close to you.” That’s the answer to the occult craze. Follow God not occult fads.

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