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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Ghost Stories
March 22, 2007

      Last night, while a few of us went on patrol with the ANA, we had a chance to tell ghost stories.  It was late at night, the stars were out with no moon, and we had our vehicle parked, lights and engine off, while we waited to stop potential ACF (anti-coalition forces) wandering through our AO (Area of Operations).  So we were killing time.

      We had our interpreter with us, and I asked him if Afghans liked to tell ghost stories.  He surprised me by replying yes, and that he had some to tell.  The most surprising part of his ghost story was that it wasn’t like our ghost stories, which are usually fictitious - his stories were about some of his relatives and some extraordinary events in their lives.

      He told us that Muslims believe in jinns, which are like demons or spirits.  They also believe in dreams and angels.  He shared a story of two dreams he had.  The first one was about a time before he took his faith seriously - he dreamed he was in a deep pit, and could not get out.  People at the top looked down at him, but he could not get their help.  He asked his local mullah (Muslim religious leader) what his dream meant, and the mullah told him he was not following Islam faithfully - he needed to pray faithfully and live rightly
      Later, he had another dream, where he was flying on a flying carpet.  Below him were people asking for help, but he was not suffering as they were - they were reaching up, trying to pull themselves up on his carpet, but could not reach him.  They were in trouble, but he was not.  He asked the same mullah what this dream meant, and the mullah answered that he had obviously changed his life for the better, and now was living above the lifestyle of the unfaithful.

      One of our team members then shared how he and his wife sold their house because they were convinced it was haunted.  Lights went on, and one time they felt something in their bed one night.  It was unnerving, to say the least.

      I have long been convinced there is another dimension to our world, a spiritual dimension perhaps parallel to ours, that we cannot see.  However, from time to time we perceive this world through means other than our senses (after all, if this world is actually another dimension, our senses could not perceive it, anyway - our senses can only perceive this world, the world we are in now).  Dreams, intuitions, and sometimes visions can be ways we receive messages or insights about this spiritual world.  As a Christian, I believe God has created this spiritual world as well as our own, and even lives there.

      Our interpreter told us how many mullahs have followings of Muslims who build mosques and homes for them, and feed them and the mullah’s family.  It sounded very much like how we treat Christian clergy.  Our interpreter said he thought many mullahs were more interested in being taken care of than in the spiritual welfare of the Muslims in his mosque.  Again, I noted the similarity to many Christian clergy, unfortunately.  Lastly, he claimed that many mullahs were working up their followers with wrong doctrine - another unfortunate parallel that can be found in some Christian churches.

      Our interpreter is educated and well-mannered.  He has not been swayed by some of the anti-American mullahs who often preach against us and our country.  He went on to say that he believes God has some place for Christians who live rightly, with care and compassion.  I hope he is right!

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.