This post is meant to precede a series of my thoughts on religion in the U.S. today. I would draw your attention to this article found on the NeuroLogica Blog. It's an interesting description of how psychics ply their trade (i.e. dupe people so they can make money).
After reading the article linked above I felt creeped out. This is not because I ever believed in psychics. Personally, I think it's all hogwash. This is because I have known preachers of Christianity who have employed the same methods to get money from people and have called it the gift of prophecy. I do believe that God can speak to us today. I am not denying his power. But I also think that most people who claim to be prophetic and then utter vague incantations that could be applicable to anyone are frauds. Most of what they say is geared to get a bigger offering. Or they might actually believe they are prophetic. That is possible. Let me try an example to help you understand. If you tell a Christian that she "reads the Word a lot" and "should remain strong in the Word to accomplish her destiny" then you are certainly not saying anything new or unheard of. Chances are if the person identifies herself as a Christian then she does read her Bible a lot. The whole thing about "destiny" is vague and inscrutable. It does not mean anything. For the record someone who claimed to be a prophet actually gave me the above "prophecy." Personally, it did more harm then good. I went around wondering what the heck that meant and where that left me for a couple years after that. I could have actually been doing something useful. But no, some weirdo said something that didn't make sense and my upbringing had taught me not to ignore such people.
Now, however, I am a different person. Aside from the fact that in Revelations it suggests that prophecy has ended, it's illogical to pay attention to every bit of reasoning that comes from the mouth of someone who claims to have a prophetic gift. Many Christians act like someone is an "unbeliever" if she questions the words spoken by a "prophet." I would say no. Paul did tell us to test the spirits. I consider it a matter of common sense. Why believe everything someone says? Especially when there is no way to prove them wrong. People who claim to be prophetic are often believed -- for a while at least -- by evangelical protestants. I have seen this time and again. Someone claims to have this "gift," stands up and makes a prophecy. The time for the prophecy runs out and nothing happened. Unless, of course, you search the news and stuff. You can always find something that will coincide with the prophecy and could be what the person meant. Yeah, I call bullsh**. If there are multiple events that could be interpreted as the prophecy, but nothing definitive than it's obviously not sensible to go on listening to every word that person says. Furthermore, I have known several people who actually make stuff up to reinforce others opinion of them. They lie. It's a sad commentary on today's religious culture in the U.S.
My favorite of the methods some so-called prophets use to gain credibility is the argument against those infernal "unbelievers." The person will hold their religious meeting -- seance-- and then they will see someone walk out of the meeting less than halfway through. The person will then come up with multiple stories concerning people who "don't believe" and who have "already gone home to gossip about this meeting." Essentially, the "prophet" wants the followers to realize that they are special for believing in his meeting. Frankly, it's creepy. People who have to put others down in order to reinforce their own reputations are up to no good.
On the other side of things I have known people who are overly critical of other Christians beliefs. Again, sad commentary on today's religious culture. But perhaps not completely. The fact is, we have the freedom to believe what we want to believe in this country. That is a huge plus. So long as we have that freedom I cannot dismiss everyone I disagree with. Religious freedom is one of our most important rights. So go on, believe what you believe. I would never make a law against your gullibility.