Demystifying symbols: suggestions for christians

Adapted and Expanded from Marcia's book,
SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today's Kids
Article by Marcia Montenegro, February 2012

Symbols are sometimes viewed by Christians as evil in and of themselves, but a symbol is just that -- a symbol. A symbol represents something and cannot in itself be evil. Also, it is often the case that an occult meaning is read into an innocent design. Without proper context or further information, it is wise not to declare symbols as representative of anything evil or occultic.

Rather, Christians should be prudent and controlled in their approach to symbols; such a posture is more in keeping with a Christlike character than are alarm or panic. The following points on symbols may be helpful.

Symbols fluctuate in their use and meaning

The meaning of symbols depends on the culture and time in which they exist, and on the meaning ascribed to them by the group using the symbol. The backgrounds of many symbols are murky or disputed, and often the use of a symbol changes or crosses over from one culture or belief to another.

For example, the pentagram or pentacle, which is widely used by witches/Wiccans today once represented the five wounds of Christ.

The swastika of Nazism comes from many ancient cultures, including Hindu beliefs, and stood for various things--the motion of the sun through the sky, the four directions, the sun's rays, and so on. No one is sure of its true origins.

Animals have been used as symbols in many ways. The phoenix, stag, and unicorn have all been used as symbols in the occult practice of alchemy, and also became Christian symbols. It is impossible to say, for example, that the unicorn or the phoenix always symbolizes the same thing. Symbols must be taken in context of time, culture, and use.

There is disagreement on the occultic nature of some symbols as well as their meaning

For example, the ankh was depicted in Egypt with gods and goddesses and was thought to represent immortal life and the union of male and female. Today the ankh is widely used by those in the New Age and Witchcraft as well as those in the vampire subculture. Its original meaning may not be known, and even now its meaning may vary depending on the beliefs of those who use it.

Religious symbols can be used by any culture and are sometimes misinterpreted by those cultures.

The yin-yang black and white symbol comes from the Chinese religion of Taoism and signifies the Taoist views on the two opposing but complementary forces of the universe, from which everything is composed. But this symbol is often misused in Western culture to represent balance or harmony, or even health.

If it indicates balance, it is in the Taoist sense of the term, which means one must practice various things to balance the yin and yang and to facilitate the flow of chi (universal life force) through diet (such as the Macrobiotic diet), certain spiritual exercises such as Chi-gong (Qi-gong), and other spiritually related practices.

The original meaning of any symbol may or may not be retained. Therefore, it is wise to be careful with any symbol and not assume anything without first looking at the history, cultural context, and present use of that symbol.

Symbols are used by some in pop culture in order to be provocative.

Many performers wear jewelry with certain symbols or singers may place symbols on their album covers. Sometimes this reflects their true beliefs. But many times, they do this to be provocative, merely indicating a flamboyant persona and/or a rebellious attitude toward society typical of many artists and performers.

Before one labels any of these people, more information is needed about their beliefs and philosophy. It is better to investigate than to overreact without substantiation.

A symbol by itself is merely a symbol.

What matters is what the symbol signifies and how it is being interpreted in the present culture. A five-pointed star, a pentacle, is merely a geometric shape and is not inherently evil or dangerous. It is one of many geometric shapes created by God. This shape is also used for stars or snowflakes as Christmas decor, or even a sheriff's badge, though it often looks different from jewelry by a Wiccan.

To be clear, Christians should not wear or display known symbols in the culture that represent beliefs opposed to a biblical worldview. Such symbols would include popular ones such as zodiac sign symbols, the Yin Yang depiction, pentagrams, the Om symbol (looks like a large backward E), ankhs, or depictions of Buddha. The reason is not due to a danger to the Christian, but because it misrepresents Christianity and can be misleading to non-Christians.

Since most symbols originated in the pagan world, then most symbols will have a history of pagan associations. There are a limited number of possible shapes and geometric figures; therefore, many times innocent logos or designs are unfairly linked with occult or pagan systems or beliefs. This has led to unfair and false accusations against people, businesses, or organizations. Christians should remember that bearing false witness violates one of the Ten Commandments.

Being wise about symbols

This essay is not giving the message that symbols are meaningless or that it's innocuous for a Christian to wear an identifiable non-Christian symbol like a pentagram or Yin-Yang emblem. On the other hand, people should remain calm and not misinterpret certain shapes or designs nor make inaccurate misrepresentations or charges.

What is more significant is how and where a symbol is being used, and if it has a meaning in the present time and culture. Unless it is widely recognized, a symbol does not have much meaning. And if it is a symbol being used by occult or non-Christian groups, then Christians should focus on the message or content of the belief represented by the symbol, and respond with truth and love rather than hysteria, fear, or condemnation.

[Note on Peace Symbol: This is often explained as an upside-down cross; however, the ancient origins of this symbol, if there are any, are murky. The modern use of the symbol was designed in 1958 by someone in the nuclear disarmament movement, and comes from the semaphores (flag symbols) for N and D (Nuclear Disarmament).]




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