Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fairy Stones

(I wrote this for the Presbyterian Church of Canada. It's published on their devotional website today).

Proverbs 22:28 - Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers. (NIV)

They call them "fairy stones" in Scotland. One sees them in the middle of fields. The owner of the field works around them and tries not to disturb these very large boulders, for fear of bringing a curse upon his farm and family. The farmers believe that the faeries who circle the stone on moonlit nights would be angry if the rock were moved. Most of the farmers know it's only a superstition, but because they depend upon the fortunes of the weather and the intricate cooperation of nature to grow large crops, they won't test their luck by removing the boulders.

They are ancient stones, which were probably left by a receding glacier, but somehow the local Scottish people attached to them superstitions and folklore that have survived many generations. The stone does nothing for the farm and only causes bother when working around it, but it takes a brave and reckless farmer to remove one. And, if he does, then every piece of bad luck, blighted crops, or personal tragedies are blamed on the removal of the stone.

The ancient Hebrews were warned against removing stones from their land, but not for superstitious reasons. The stones that they set up were used for land measurements, separating allotments, and for marking historical or religious events. A stone was an enduring witness to the claims of local landowners. They also marked the times of deliverance that the people experienced from God. Removing these ancient stones was prohibited because such would lead to property disputes and make the people forget God's great deeds of the past.

Christians talk more about rocks than they do of stones. We call Christ our Rock and our Redeemer, implying that His work of salvation endures generation after generation. He doesn't get in the way, for He is our way. He isn't an obstacle to work around; He is the centre of our lives. And because He is our Rock, we can rely upon Him for strength and support, stability and assurance. We don't need to lead our lives fearfully and be subjected to ancient superstitions. We can walk in faith and be fortified by His power.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Rock of Ages and the Living Stone of faith. We depend upon You for every blessing under the sun and every moment of our days. We praise You for being our solid Saviour and resourceful Redeemer. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie is the writer of the Heaven's Highway and Stushie's Stuff blogs that are linked to this page.


John Shuck said...

I think this is the pot calling the kettle black. Christianity is as superstitious as all the rest. What could be more superstitious than a belief in a deity who becomes a human born of a virgin, who walks on water, is raised from the dead, flies off to heaven, where he will return as a cosmic superman in the clouds and send all those who don't believe in this superstition to eternal hell. In the mantime you can get in contact with him because when you say magic words his body becomes a cracker. Given that scenario, fairy rocks don't seem that incredible.

Anonymous said...

John, are you stating that Christianity is a superstition and that Jesus is a mythical character? I don't quite fully understand your comments.

John Shuck said...

Yes. On what grounds is your superstition superior to the superstition of fairy stones or of Islam or the myths of Zeus or Poseidon?

Anonymous said...

John, are you still pastoring, or have you taken up a new profession?

To believe that Christianity is a superstition, and that Christ is a mythical character, would probably affect your membership of your local PCUSA Presbytery. Are you just having a bad day?

John Shuck said...

Not a bad day. Ain't leaving the church. But I am about being honest. What is the difference between faith and superstition? Very little. Superstition is a pejorative word for someone else's faith. Both are beliefs that cannot either be verified or falsified by evidence.

Christianity, particularly beliefs that Jesus is divine, was born of a virgin, was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and will return cannot be falsified or verified by evidence.

Since you live in Knoxville, take a walk to the University of Tennessee and ask the history professors whether or not what I wrote above about Jesus can be verified historically. I'll save you the trip. They will say, "Of course not."

They know the difference between history and superstition (or faith if that word sounds nicer).

The people in Scotland whom you wrote about believe that stones are surrounded by fairies and protect the crops. Also, their beliefs are no different than beliefs about Jesus. Their beliefs cannot be verified or falsified. It is all the same, faith or superstition, depending upon your perspective.

If Christianity is going to continue to be credible, it needs to be honest with what is history and what is myth/faith/superstition--whatever word you want to use.

Some may say that myths can be true. Fine, but that simply defines truth in a different way.

I find many of the superstitions/myths about Christianity to be quite charming, even inspiring, including Christmas.

My beef with your article is that you criticize the fairy stone believers for believing in superstition (true enough), but they could very well say the same for your beliefs. Your beliefs and theirs are no different in kind. The pot calls the kettle black.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, John, you should take your beef to Holston Presbytery. I am pretty certain that they won't put up[ with it for long.

John Shuck said...

My beef Stushie is with your comment not with Holston Presbytery. We all get along just fine. Now two comments in a row from you have illustrated nothing except power and implied threat. You can't seem to answer a question, all you can do is to suggest that somehow if I keep writing the way I do I will get in trouble with the authorities, the guardians of the gate, the true believers who keep out anyone who challenges anything. original question:

"On what grounds is your superstition superior to the superstition of fairy stones or of Islam or the myths of Zeus or Poseidon?"

Didn't Paul say something like be ready to explain your faith?

John Shuck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I guess John that I find it amazing that someone who believes Christ to be a myth, and Christianity a superstition, still professes to be Presbyterian Pastor.

I would have thought that G-1.0100a from the Book of Order is an essential matter of faith -

"All power in heaven and earth is given to Jesus Christ by Almighty God, who raised Christ from the dead and set him above all rule and authority, all power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. God has put all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and has made Christ head of the Church, which is in his body."

I also believe that the above doctrinal statement also gives you the perfect answer to your questions about the superiority of Christ and Christianity.

John Shuck said...

That proves nothing. That is simply a statement of faith. The Fairy Stone folks can do the same. Give me a reason why I should believe your story over theirs.

Anonymous said...

It's called faith, John. You've either got it or you don't. I feel so sorry for you.

John Shuck said...

You have proved my point exactly. The Fairy Stone people live by faith as well. You cannot prove it nor disprove it. You certainly cannot with integrity use scientific explanations to disprove another's faith if you cannot apply the same standards to your own.

I certainly don't need your pity.

Anonymous said...

I guess you can enjoy your QED, John. Me? I prefer IHS.

As for Fairy Stone people - Proverbs 14:12 says it all.

John Shuck said...

Well, I guess we have hashed this one over pretty well.

Peace Brother,

Anonymous said...


2 Peter 1:16

16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.


Julie said...

Hi, My husband and I adopted two special needs children. We are a christian family. My daughter loves collecting crystals and we recently discovered the fairy cross which came from Fairy Stone State Park in Virginia. The "fairy stones," as they were called by Blue Ridge mountain people, were considered good luck pieces and were worn or carried to ward off illness accidents and denizens of the nether world. Early Scots-Irish settlers also brought to Virginia the concept of trolls, spirits, and fairies. A mountain myth suggests that the brown, cross-shaped stones were fairy tears shed at the time of Christ's death and the tears turned to crystal when they fell to the ground. The manner in which the crosses were formed is better understood now. As the earth's crust heated, folded and cooled during the formation of the Appalachian Mountain range, iron aluminum silicate- the basic ingredient of fairy stone crosses crystallized into six-sided shapes. The staurolite crystals, like quartz and diamonds, are harder than surrounding materials. The crystals therefore erode slower and come to the earth's surface, retianing their original shape, as softer surrounding material washes away.

All little girls love fairies and other mythological creatures. I know I did. It is harmless.. In this myth, my daughter can reach for a cross and enjoy the wonder of it. It also facilitates conversations about Jesus Christ. And though I certainly understand the science behind the creation of these lovely stones, I would like to believe that our creator gave us these stones as a reminder of Christ's sacrifice.

And isn't that the point? To believe in something good and provide that belief system in your children while not extinguishing their natural curiosity and imagination.

Peace, Julie