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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Satanists At Large

I've been doing some research lately on the history and practice of Satanism. I just finished Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism, in which the author, Gareth Medway, argues that there is no proof of any satanic crimes or ritual abuse/murders, as was the scare in the 60s, 70s and 80s. For the longest time, it was frequently reported that covens were sexually abusing, torturing, and murdering children and adults in Black Masses or other satanic rituals.

You can see evidence of this popular fascination with Satan by the way scary movies changed in the 1970s. In the 30s, horror films dealt mostly with mythical and literary figures. In the 40s and 50s, the struggles with fascism and communism were mirrored in alien invasion pictures. Also in the 50s, a string of atomic mutant films emerged with giant ants, Godzilla, etc. But in the 60s and 70s, the horror themes became much darker. That's when satanic conspiracies were in the backs of peoples' minds, i.e. The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, The Omen.

Medway posits that this is a phenomena akin to people who talk about being abducted by aliens: lots of reports and rumors with scant physical evidence.

Certainly, we saw lots of "survivors" of ritual abuse and former high priestesses on Oprah and Sally Jessy Raphael. In the 70s and 80s, a popular evangelical preacher/comedian named Mike Warnke made an impression on me. I had some of his comedy tapes and I thought he was hilarious. But then he would become serious and talk about his years as a satanic high priest as his evangelistic hook. The trouble is that he made it all up. He was exposed as a liar and fake. Medway points out that this is the pattern with most of these scenarios.

Gareth Medway is not unbiased. His inclinations are easily apparent. He reveals upfront that he is a practicing pagan. And it is evident that he believes that followers of dark spiritualities have been persecuted by narrow minded Christians. Indeed, many innocents have had their reputations destroyed by the conspiracy theorists.

I don't know if he's right or not about satanic crimes and ritual abuse. And it is helpful to distinguish between Wiccans, neopagans, Church of Satanists and run-of-the-mill devil worshippers. What is crucial, I believe, is that the Christian Church have a clear understanding of the person and work of Satan. Out of sight, out of mind. But this mustn't be out of our mind. If the sensational stories are mostly bunk, there still is a rebellious spirit who oppresses the earth and all upon it.

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Bob Hunter said...

I believe Gretchen Passantino has done some research into Satanism as well.

VirginiaLutherans said...

Usually Satan isn't too obvious, he comes in the quiet. For example, what about Dr. Leonard Sweet being invited to talk at the theological convention in Aug (see the "Reporter", March edition)? If this guy isn't a unionist and syncretist, I don't know who is.

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