When children open the Sunday newspaper, according to a recent newspaper industry survey, the first (and usually only) section they read is the “funny pages”. Among all other demographic groups, the daily horoscope section is the most faithfully read. Why are horoscopes so popular? Change is never easy, and even the possibility of knowing what will happen tomorrow is very alluring!
But are horoscopes the place for Orthodox Christians to turn? No!
Many people throughout history have believed that the events of their lives were determined by or reflected in the movement of the stars and planets in the heavens. They thought that by studying the heavens at the time of a child’s birth and throughout his life, his entire future — his social standing, occupation, material worth, etc. — could be accurately foretold. This pseudo-science is called astrology, and it was a vital part of the cultures of the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans, to name just a few. The famed Gaius Julius Caesar, 100-44 BC, even held the office of Pontifex Maximus (high priest) during his life, and was responsible for reading the auspices at important events for the Roman Empire, like the installation the newly-elected consuls each year.
One of the things that set the Jewish people apart from the pagan nations around them — including the Egyptians and Romans — was their belief in only one God, the Creator of all. As the Old Testament records, the Jews got into trouble whenever they “forgot” their God, and listened to the predictions of the pagan gods’ priests and augers. Ultimately, they even worshipped these false gods, because they told them what they wanted to hear most (see Jeremiah 14:11-16)!
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught His followers to distinguish true prophecy (that is, predictions made by men commissioned by God Himself to speak) from false prophecy, such as astrology:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
If predictions from one source come true again and again, He says, the source of the predictions is ultimately the all-knowing God — these are the “good fruit”. If the predictions fail, the source is not God — and the predictions are “bad fruit”!
But our Lord includes a warning, too! False prophecy is enticing, because it often says what we weak and sinful humans want to hear: our daily horoscope promises us that we will be successful, come into a huge amount of money, or find true friendship or romance today.
At the worst, this type of prophecy looks like a harmless diversion or amusement: “Will the predictions come true? Let’s see!” But our Lord points out that the lure of false prophecy is destructive, wolfish. False prophecy takes our focus away from God, the all-powerful Creator, and the choices we must make carefully every day if we want to come closer to His kingdom.
According to Fr. Stanley Harakas, when we pay attention to horoscopes, palm readings, tea leaves, and the like, we deny both the Kingship of God and the fact that He created each of us in His image — complete with the free will to accept or reject Him by choosing to do right or do wrong. He did not create us to be victims of the stars. Astrology “is a denial the fundamental truths of the Christian Faith… [and] of the Christ-like way of living — something to be rejected as un-Christian!”
You can help your teens debunk the horoscope myth with the following week-long activity:
|a pack of oversized index cards|
|your daily newspaper’s horoscope column for seven consecutive days (or printed versions from the internet)|
|glue or tape|
Don’t look at your horoscope at all this week. You’re going to keep a journal instead, to see if the horoscope predicted the events of your week.
Using a new index card each day, write down the things you do during the day. If something especially good or especially bad happens, make a note of it. Jot down the names and birthdays/zodiac signs of new people you meet and people who play a big part in your day. Write down any significant numbers you notice (e.g., your math quiz had seven questions, or you made four goals in the soccer game).
At the end of the week, spread out the twelve index cards with the horoscope entries for each sign on the kitchen table. Make sure that the backs of the cards (with the signs written on them) are not visible.
Ask your teen to read through each card without peeking, and compare the events predicted for each day with his/her journal entries. Ask him/her to choose the index card for his/her zodiac sign, and then discuss:
|Could you tell right away which was your zodiac sign?|
|Are there any events that were described perfectly by your horoscope?|
|On any given day, was your horoscope mostly true or mostly false?|
|Do the writers of these horoscopes depend on coincidence and “wishful thinking” to keep you coming back?|
|Read and discuss Fr. Stanley Harakas’ article, “Astrology and Our Faith,” Contemporary Moral Issues Facing the Orthodox Christian, Minneapolis, Minn.: Light and Life Publishing, 1982, pp. 24-26.|
|Discuss other activities that could take the place of daily horoscope reading at the breakfast table, including prayer, singing the troparion for the day, reading the daily epistle and gospel, etc.|
|Research and discuss God’s use of the stars and planets for His own purposes, starting with His star in the East, which led the three wise men to the newborn Savior (see Matthew 2:1:12)|
|Prepare for the Great Fast and Pascha by studying the book of Isaiah together as a family this year. It is full of predictions about the long-awaited Messiah that are perfectly fulfilled by the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. These ancient predictions are read in Church during Holy Week, so we can see their truth for ourselves.|
by Nichola Toda Krause
© 1999-2000 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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