“Science and technology have advanced our way of life to an almost unimaginable degree of physical comfort and well-being … [But to] have the many added comforts, conveniences, and luxuries that are available (mostly on the credit system) to almost all of us, most families find it impossible to meet expenses on father’s pay check alone. And so it is that mother too has had to go to work, and more often than not at a considerable cost to family life that no added pay check can compensate for. Children have been thrown more and more together and upon their own resources, in a life of their own that has set them apart from their elders. I hear ‘youth’ continuously spoken of as if it were a tribal organization precariously attached to some outworn and outmoded ‘traditions’ that have become no more than antiquated slogans of a dead past.”
“But this generation is immersed in wholesale rebellion … These interlocking circles of defiance produce an incoherent self-indulgence often wrapped around a dark faith. Meanwhile parents struggle to cope with the social implosion, most without realizing that something worse is coming …”
These days you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes (or play him in the movies) to be able to observe that something has gone seriously awry with much of America’s youth.
Linda Harvey, best known for her work as a reporter and commentator for Mission America (www.missionamerica.org), has written a book about a major aspect of youth’s cultural meltdown: a massive slide into paganism and the occult, fueled by novels, movies, television, music—and the public education system.
The Rathbone quote is pertinent because it shows that the seeds of this had already been sown, and begun to sprout, more than 50 years ago. Now, as detailed in Mrs. Harvey’s book, they have borne a strange and poisonous fruit.
How poisonous? As documented by Mrs. Harvey, this kind of pop paganism can lead young people into moral and intellectual confusion, drugs, promiscuous sex, unwholesome and unhealthy body modification, and even violent crime, murder, or suicide.
It would be easy to shrug this off as just another exaggerated, alarmist claim by just another Christian saying that the sky is falling. But it will be harder for you to say that, once you’ve read this book.
What is the nature of the problem? Why should it be dangerous for children and teenagers to dabble in spells, witchcraft, fortune-telling, and prayers to pagan gods and goddesses?
“[O]ur children are being convinced that truth is unknowable or irrelevant,” Mrs. Harvey answers, and being given “the notion of shaping and creating God by our actions” (p. 44).
As a substitute for truth, schools and the “entertainment” media offer rebellion for its own sake, an illusion of “equality,” promotion of “self-determination” for children, a grossly inflated sense of self-esteem, and all kinds of “spiritual” twaddle and humbug, whose function seems to be to occupy a mind that might otherwise be put to some constructive use.
It’s more than mere distraction. “There is no known precedent of a culture in history where the populace spent a major portion of its time immersed in the imaginary” (p. 74). But there must be a reason why young people should wish to be immersed in the imaginary.
Consider this, from one of R. J. Rushdoony’s several discourses on the use and nature of magic:
“The sum total of humanistic views and expectations can be expressed in the word magic … Magical beliefs begin with two basic presuppositions: first, a belief in the continuity of being, so that what man does can affect or govern whatever forces or beings are ultimate in the universe, and, second, a worship of power … The goal of magic is control and domination …”
So there is power in the universe, power apart from the will of a sovereign, personal God, that can be used by anyone who learns the right techniques.
This has always been the allure of the occult: an antidote to being powerless. And as if young people didn’t already have a bent for feeling powerless, today’s cultural molders and shapers have made it incalculably worse.
“God is our refuge and strength…,” says Psalm 46. “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”
But what if God is not your refuge? Bad news, alarming news, disheartening news gushes 24/7 out of our TV sets and radios. Change—technological, social, political—is imposed on us so fast, from so many different directions, that even a solid, sober adult can be dazzled by it. As the world around us grows daily more complicated, less scrutable, the public education system sinks deeper and deeper into failure, and the millions of children who attend the public schools are so poorly grounded in science, history, and the humanities—let alone Christian faith—as to be increasingly incapable of making any sense of it. No wonder they feel powerless.
Indeed, the formula for the spread of magic thinking among America’s youth seems absurdly simple. Dumb ’em down, pump ’em up with impossibly high expectations for themselves and the world around them, cut ’em off from God; and then, when they’re feeling totally lost, offer ’em an easy way to make their dreams come true—magic.
It will be easier to believe Mrs. Harvey if the reader pays a visit to the young readers’ section of the local bookstore. Two types of books predominate. One is more or less “realistic,” with an emphasis on sex. The other is out-and-out fantasy, of which J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are the best-known examples. You’ll be amazed at how many such books there are.
“Why is pagan fantasy the fastest growing genre in youth literature?” Mrs. Harvey asks. “Because it sells, big time. Publishers can flood the market as parents look the other way” (p. 85).
Then there’s the Internet. We visited one of the many websites mentioned by Mrs. Harvey, www.teenwitch.com, and wound up on a page instructing “teen witches” how to cast an “Isis Full Moon love spell.”
“Start by casting a circle. Draw down the strength of the Full Moon … After letting the water soak in the pure love power of the moon light, say a short prayer, spell, or chant to Isis requesting that she grant your request … Drink the magic water … Light a white candle to Isis …” And finally, “The physical thread that brings together the worldwide Isis Full Moon love spell is making a donation to Teen Witch … The exchange of energy through a donation to Teen Witch is a very powerful component of a spell.” One is reminded of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn sneaking into the cemetery in the middle of the night with a dead cat, to banish warts by magic. But no one asked Tom and Huck for a donation.
If you can’t see what’s wrong with this picture, there’s not much hope for you.
Occult books and websites teem with such fiddle-faddle, including spells to bring curses down on rivals or “enemies.” How can there be any kind of audience for it?
- Because “Christians who have not been faithful to biblical principles nor active in witnessing to their secular neighbors have left a vacuum for spiritual darkness to fill” (p. 23).
- Because “Christians have failed to preserve their influence in the culture” (p. 24), while more and more prominent, highly visible celebrities, news pundits, preachers, and even politicians either identify themselves as “witches” or at least talk and behave as if they were.
- Because orthodox Christianity has yielded too much ground to an ersatz Christianity full of errors—“Judge not” as the highest moral principle, “people are basically good,” “the Old Testament God is violent and oppressive,” and “Jesus approves of everyone and everything.” This is all discussed at length in Chapter 3, the point being that Biblically ignorant Christians who belong to doctrinally slipshod churches can’t tell the difference.
- Because public schools energetically promote a deconstructionist worldview that is hostile to Christianity and highly conducive to the spread of paganism. “Earth worship” is taught in many schools (p. 77), and Mrs. Harvey quotes a school textbook that blames “the Judeo-Christian view of humans as having domination over the earth” for the supposed ruination of the planet (p. 78).
- Because the church as failed in its role as “gatekeeper” for children (p. 90), failed to promote the study of the Scriptures, and taught heretical hooey like “the Divine meant me to be Bisexual” (p. 92).
And so it goes. If America had set out purposely to create an ideal culture medium for paganism, we could probably not improve on what we have today.
It may be drivel, but it isn’t harmless drivel.
Young pagans are “trapped in futile emotional and ideological patterns” (p. 96), pinning their hopes on feelings over reason, wishful thinking over thought-out action. One often finds a fetish for “body modification,” mostly piercings or tattoos, along with drug abuse and a habit of fantasizing about murder plots and suicide—fantasies that are occasionally carried out (pp. 97–98).
“[W]herever you find pagan beliefs,” Mrs. Harvey writes, “you will find kids being sexualized early.” “Outlaw sex as a pagan right” is often presented as “the key to knowing God” (p. 104). In service to an ideal of “the Pagan Pansexual … acceptance of homosexual behavior leads to complete license” (p. 108), moving on to cross-dressing and “sex-change” via surgery or hormone “therapy” (pp. 111–112). Yes—we are talking about “therapy” for the “problem” of having been born male or female.
And why not violence? The pagan subculture offers little, if anything, in the way of moral boundaries. Teens are encouraged to worship a goddess as “the sow that eats its own young” (can you say “abortion on demand”?) and elevate the individual as his own arbiter of “justice” (p. 114).
Here and there, Mrs. Harvey raises another matter of concern. “It is clear that some seekers do make spiritual contact” with demons or evil spirits (p. 32). “Others do attempt to contact the spiritual realm, and the more persistent succeed” (p. 37). And “Classic demonic activity is evident in American life today, especially among ‘superstar’ New Age personalities” (p. 58), all enabled by the “delusion that Satan doesn’t exist” (p. 60).
It is a flaw in her book that Mrs. Harvey does not back up these claims with verifiable examples. If such things are really happening, we want to know about it. Show us the cases of demonic possession ushered in by dabbling with a Ouija board. Name some names. It’s not wise to make such claims without exhibiting the evidence: secularists are bound to point to these passages as proof of sheer credulousness or even hysteria. And that can undermine our contention that Satan is real and must be taken seriously.
Otherwise, the rest of the book is solid, eye-opening, and painstakingly documented. Certainly we recommend it.
What to Do about It
Mrs. Harvey closes with a much-needed chapter on how parents can protect their children from being seduced by the occult.
Parents must “work on me first,” she says, making sure that they themselves know Christ as Lord and Savior, know God’s Word, study the Bible and pray regularly, and lead their children to Christ.
“Set up a framework for your child [to minimize] exposure to spiritual danger,” she advises. Above all, get the children out of the public schools! But also supervise and limit their use of television and the Internet, make sure the “youth activities” at their church are religiously sound, and “Encourage healthy friendships and discourage iffy ones.” Don’t let your child fraternize with homosexuals, drug users, or Wiccans. If you do, you’re asking for trouble, and you’ll get it.
Don’t allow your children to consume unwholesome “entertainment” in any form. In selecting movies, books, music, etc., try to choose works that honor God.
Make sure the children’s father really functions as a father, and not just a man who pays the bills. And, of course, pray—especially for your children.
How practical is this advice? After all, no parent is omniscient. We can hardly be expected to guarantee that every movie or TV show our children see is righteous. Given the extreme moral deterioration of our popular culture, it’s inevitable that some of the poison will slip past our defenses.
But getting the kids out of the public schools and into Christian education, either at home or in a real Christian school, is half the battle won already. Once you’ve done that, the rest will be infinitely easier. And you will have gotten them out from under the influence of ungodly “educators,” anti-Christian curriculum, and pagan peers.
The emphasis should not be on blocking paganism, but on opening the way for Christ. Be not reactive, but proactive. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). You can’t totally block out the occult, but you can labor conscientiously to give your child a firm foundation in Christian faith and doctrine. You can’t protect them forever, every hour of every day.
But Jesus Christ can.
 Basil Rathbone, In and Out of Character (New York: Limelight Editions, 1956; 1989), 272.
 R. J. Rushdoony, Exodus (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2004), 243.