Notes to Pilgrims #14
I was first introduced to the practice of knocking-on-wood as a young elementary school boy curious about the supposed forces at work in the unseen world. Around the same time, my friends and I noticed “strange” and “bad” things happening on Fridays that fell on the thirteenth day in a month. To counter these bad vibes, we got to talking about the many different folk countermeasures a mortal could take—aside from the international practice of knocking-on-wood, there was also the more local version of keeping a handkerchief with a lizard’s broken off tail on one’s person, or saying “tabi, tabi, po” before urinating on a tree stump, or—the one we seem to encounter more often these days with our infant—saying “puwera usog” after complimenting a baby on her super cuteness. These and many more are what behavioral scientists term ‘avoidant acts.’ We know them as superstitions. And while most modern people would rightly dismiss them as silly figments of previous generations’ imaginations, many still actually engage in these practices for pragmatic reasons (e.g. “there’s nothing to lose if I do it”). But the fact is, not only is there no such thing as bad luck (or good ones for that matter!), superstitious actions/beliefs actually function as Christ-substitutes in one’s life.
You see a superstition (i.e. avoidant act) is nothing more than a Christ-substitute that a person can maneuver to suit one’s agenda. By it, one is able to maintain a semblance of being under forces beyond human control (e.g. luck) while at the same time being able to manipulate these same forces like a sailor does the sails in his boat when the wind blows. Take horoscopes for example. Many people—some Christians included—deem zodiac predictions harmless, reasoning that they just consult them “for fun.” But the reality is that whatever one reads about one’s own sign—no matter how vague and ridiculous sounding—tends to create a doubt in one’s mind of, “what if it were true?” One can try as hard to deny it, but this mindfulness eventually affects the way that one lives. Perhaps avoiding this or that thing that the prediction said one best avoids. But what is happening here? The person, who reads the prediction and believes it, essentially puts his or her faith in the prediction and seeks to obey it lest untoward consequences ensue.
And here lies the problem—superstitions tend to hijack one’s faith in Jesus and His sovereignty over all things. Whenever a person resorts to avoidant acts, the heart chooses to trust in that act more than it does in the Lord Jesus. So dear Christian, consider the gravity of damage avoidant acts may have on your soul. When we (mindlessly) succumb to superstitions, we are really letting our hearts choose an idol to displace King Jesus in our lives.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
—Pastor James (firstname.lastname@example.org)