A Seductive Bridge Between Two Worlds
By Berit Kjos, 1999
"We have the holiday back again.
These pagan calendars are imprinted in our genes.
They cannot be taken away." Wiccan author Zsuzsanna Budapest
"You love evil more than good..." Psalm 52:3
In honor of the Halloween season, the last week of October has been declared "Earth Religions Awareness Week" in Asheville, NC. The mayors proclamation explains that Earth-centered beliefs, are "among the oldest spiritual systems on the planet" and that pagan practitioners "have given us practical knowledge of herbal remedies, midwifery and alternative forms of healing."1
That may sound good to all who have embraced the new global spirituality touted in schools, movies, and the wildly popular Harry Potter books. But some of the local pastors were understandably alarmed. Concerned that such a government endorsement could speed the spread of witchcraft, they led a group of 25 Christians to City Hall. "We just wanted to counter that by making a positive statement that we believe Jesus is Lord," said Pastor Ken Lewis of the West Asheville Baptist Church.
Mayor Leni Sitnick apologized, but refused to rescind the special designation for the week of October 25. "I don't tell anyone how to believe, but I support everyone's right to freedom of religion," she said. "Being aware of different religions, of all religions ... should not be feared." Of course, a government proclamation is far different than public awareness. But never mind. These days, facts and logic seem to slip away from ideological conflicts.
PAGANISM IS IN. This irrational twist in the changing view of "the separation between church and state" demonstrates the new public attitudes toward occult thrills and earth-centered values. Since a multicultural perspective is fast becoming a graduation requirement in school districts across the country, educators look for creative ways to immerse students in various earth-centered rituals and experiences. So its not surprising that a Wiccan priestess was allowed to present "a program designed to dispel witchcraft myths" at an Asheville elementary school -- something she has done every October for the past four years. After all, earth-centered religions fit right into the envisioned global spirituality needed to "re-connect with the earth" as Al Gore and other leaders have proposed.
The new public attitudes toward earth-centered celebrations fueled an interesting conflict in our California school district a few years ago. A simple request that Halloween festivities be held after school rather than during class time to free some Christian children from a duty to participate exploded into a major community feud. Most parents were angry. They simply couldnt understand why some children would choose to avoid the traditional in-school celebration of a "harmless holiday." Why worry about the small minority who felt offended by its ancient link to a "dead religion?"
To resolve the conflict, a large public meeting was held. Only a few minority voices were heard. A former Wiccan priest explained that the old Celtic witchcraft that gave birth to Halloween is anything but "dead." Flourishing in today's pagan revival, it has become an official religion with tax-exempt status.2 A few Christian parents shared their concerns about programs that compelled children to celebrate occult themes. They knew well that pagan symbols and occult amusement were desensitizing children to a fast-spreading subculture obsessed with death, spells and black magic -- not just at Halloween but all year long.3
The majority booed, jeered, and refused to listen. "These are religious objections to secular events," declared Phil Faillaice, the president of the board. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that a different minority had, only nine months earlier, banned Christmas songs as offensive to their beliefs. But times have changed. By the end of the evening, the pro-Halloween group had won its case, and the media spread the "good" news from coast to coast.
"We have the holiday back again," declared Bay Area witch, Zsuzsanna Budapest. "These pagan calendars are imprinted in our genes. They cannot be taken away."4
"It's hard to give up a good party," added Daniel Melia, UC Berkeley professor of Celtic languages. "Satan is a Christian notion. This is a pre-Christian celebration."
He was wrong about Satan. The Old Testament mentions Satan fourteen times, and that doesn't include all his other names. From beginning to end, the Bible shows how Lucifer has always been stirring rebellion against God and hatred for His people -- even as he masquerades as an "angel of light." But then as now, the good news outshines the bad: the evil one could never cause more trouble than God would allow.5
THE ROOTS OF HALLOWEEN. Few understand the spirit behind Halloween better than Valerie Duffy, a former witch. (You can read her amazing testimony in A Twist of Faith). "The feast of Samhain (sah-ween) is an unholy Sabbath observed by occultists worldwide," she explains. Freed from the demonic forces that once controlled her life, she now lives in an "upstate New York" community that often publicizes Wiccan coven meetings and "full moon" celebrations. Each October, she fights -- and wins 6 -- a spiritual battle against oppressive forces that intensify their attacks near the Wiccan holiday.
Valerie knows all too well why Neopagans love Halloween. The old Celtic "sabbat" is their main feast -- a window of time when the walls between the physical and spiritual worlds supposedly become thin enough to allow easy crossovers. This was the time to catch up with one's ancestors and other spirits from the underworld. 7 But don't think the Vigil of Samhain was just a fun holiday. The "Lord of the Dead", Samhain himself, is no deity to laugh at. Valerie explains why:
"On October 31, black-cloaked Druids bearing torches would go door to door to select humans for their New Year's sacrifice to the Lord of the Dead. In return for the child or infant, they would leave a hollowed turnip with candle light shining through the carved face -- a satanic counterfeit for the biblical Passover.
"In the reveling that took place on that night to Samhain, the demons supposedly loosed for the night would pass over the homes "marked" by the carved lantern. Those families had provided the required gift or sacrifice. Other homes could be hit -- sometimes with sudden death.
"The children selected for sacrifice were tossed into a bonfire. The Druids called it a bone-fire since only the bones were left. From the agonizing screams of the dying, the divining priests would foretell the future of the village."8
Does the last statement sound familiar? Remember how the shaman or medicine man in Disney's Pocahontas read the future in the smoke from his ritual fire. When you look behind today's idealized images of the world's pagan religions, you find some awesome similarities. Small wonder since Satan, the mastermind behind the Druid rituals, has been repeating the same basic strategies throughout history.
Those who are captivated by occult thrills and symbols become blind to the dangers they have embraced. Images that once drew shudders, now produce laughter. I stopped by a large bookstore one day and discovered a huge new display inside. Startled, I stared at a child-sized open casket filled with vampire books. The wooden casket was leaning against a large imitation stone altar. On it stood an embellished cross with candles on each side. In the center, displayed like a Bible, lay a large book. Sickened by the mockery of Christianity, I checked the cover and found Memnoch the Devil, the latest top-selling vampire book by Anne Rice. On the gray cathedral-like wall above the altar hung a cross. I hurried out of the store.
THE PARADIGM SHIFT. This decade's culture clash may be more evident in October, but Halloween's celebration of occultism is only a symptom of a spiritual battle that rages all year. Most of us were grieved by this past year's school and church massacres -- horrendous symptoms of a rudderless society. Yet, murderous eruptions of violence have been increasing year by year at a pace that parallels the accelerating shift from Biblical truth to an irrational emphasis on self-esteem. For instance, some years ago, three teenage boys shamelessly stabbed, strangled, and beat a 55-year-old man crippled by multiple sclerosis -- then feasted on the spaghetti in his refrigerator. He "didn't have a chance," concluded the Newsweek story. "The boys who allegedly attacked him. . . were ruthless."9
Girls are fast catching up with boys. In New Orleans, a 13-year old schoolgirl pulled out a knife and plunged it into a classmate's back. "You name the crime, we have it; you think about the worst scenarios and we have them here,"10 said Edward Cue, an official with California's "hard core" Youth Authority school in Ventura.
The lack of remorse baffles law officers. Why are both children and adults losing the old sensitivity to the horrors of evil? Why can't they tell right from wrong? The New York Times cover story that declared "evil is back," raised the same questions: "What does it mean? Violence? Mindless wickedness? Malignant wickedness?"11
The answer is: all the above. People love evil. Children gleefully watch televised death scenes that might have shocked hardened spectators in the old Roman coliseum. The lure of cruelty, violence, and occult horrors sell some of the most popular children's books as well as supermarket tabloids. By its mere exposure and availability, evil has been reinvented. Now it feels good, not bad -- exciting, not repulsive. And Satan grins.
Fictionalized evil -- the kind children enjoy in books and movies -- separates people from the reality of human suffering, which is just what the evil one intended. Many become spectators rather than participants in real community life. Eventually, both real and imagined violence becomes significant only as entertainment.
Some years ago, a car hit an elderly couple in a busy shopping complex. A crowd was already gathering at the scene when I happened to come by. It didn't take long to see the streams of blood from both their heads, yet no one had bound their wounds or covered their shivering bodies. I cried out for blankets or jackets, scarves -- anything to stop the bleeding and slow the shock. Nobody responded -- neither men nor women. When I tried to stop the bleeding from the woman's broken skull with a tissue from my purse, the spectators just stared with blank faces. I called to the owner of the car for a blanket or clothing. He didn't move. When I ran to his car and grabbed some dry cleaned clothes from his back seat, he protested. I suppose he didn't want blood on his clean clothes. Eventually an ambulance came and took the victims away.
The Bible mentions people who act like animals. "What's wrong with that?" some might argue. "Animals are nicer than people."
Those who study animals see the harsh nature behind the soft fur, brown eyes, and flattering media images. An anthropologist had been studying a group of monkeys for some time when a party of chimpanzees invaded the territory. "The results were devastating," he wrote. "During the hour-long hunt, seven [monkeys] were killed; three were torn apart in front of me. Nearly four hours later, the hunters were still eating. . . while I sat staring in disbelief at the remains of many of my study subjects."12
Were these animals evil?
No. Evil is unique to humanity. We alone are given a moral choice and God's Word to help us resist temptation. Animals are expected to follow their natural instincts, but humans are held accountable to God's standard. Ignorance of that standard doesn't cancel the consequences for not heeding it. "They are without excuse," the Bible tells us. And so we all face the consequences of the cultural slide best described in Romans 1:21-32:
" although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator . Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness to vile passions . [and finally] to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit...."
Does that list sound familiar? It goes on to describe those who despise God's truth. They are "proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."
That's why Christians have faced persecution somewhere in the world most of the last 2000 years -- and why we can expect a revival of the same kind of hatred in this nation. But in the middle of it all, God reminds His followers, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) The disappointments, divisions, slander, and hatred that uncompromising Christians face today may break our hearts and test our faith as we try to serve our King. Yet they serve God's purpose, for they help us see the malignancy of what God calls evil. Better yet, they also prompt us to trust God rather than our feelings, to exercise the faith and discipline needed to respond with love, and to make every effort to avoid the consequences of tolerating evil. Thus evil, when seen from His perspective, becomes a catalyst to make us strong in Christ, not in ourselves.
"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." (2 Corinthians 2:14)
Three cultural paradigms*
showing the spiritual transformation of America
BIBLICAL ABSOLUTES & VALUES RELATIVE VALUES GLOBAL ABSOLUTES & VALUES The Bible reveals reality Science alone explains reality Feelings and experience prove reality God is personal (loves us) and greater than His creation God is a crutch, an illusion An impersonal universal god (pantheism) makes all things one (monism) Teach personal responsibility Teach human rights Teach collective duties or responsibilities Don't tolerate sin (but love sinners) Tolerate all lifestyles Don't tolerate dissenters (zero tolerance) Trust God Trust self Trust the state * A cultural paradigm is a social awareness, a worldview, a pattern or framework for understanding reality, a point of view that determines how the general public evaluates good and evil, right and wrong. A paradigm shift means a cultural transformation, a total change in thinking, seeing, and evaluating social issues.
Much of the above information has been excerpted from A Twist of Faith
1. "Ministers decry mayor's proclamation honoring 'Earth Religions'," The Charlotte Observer, October 21, 1999
2. "Witches use taxes to gain public OK," The Journal (Providence, RI), August 14, 1989.
3. While the Bible warns against any contact with witchcraft, magic, spells, and spiritism (Deuteronomy 18:9-12), the obsession with occult books and games (Magic: the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, occult computer games) and youthful covens of witches practicing black magic, is multiplying from coast to coast.
4. Annie Nakao, "Pagan Ways Live On," San Francisco Examiner, October 22, 1995.
5. Job 1 shows how Satan had to ask permission.... God reigns, and He always does what He pleases. Therefore some who don't understand His ways, blame Him for evil or call Him weak for not ending it. How can you eliminate evil without turning humans into puppets without any free will?
6. The spiritual battle is won through memorizing, trusting, speaking and living God's Word. Valerie "puts on the full armor of God".
7. Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979), 110.
8. Merle Severy, "The Celts," National Geographic (May 1977), pages 625-626, describes "the eve of Samhain... the start of the Celtic new year: "According to the Dinshenchas, a medieval collection of "the lore of prominent places," firstborn children were sacrificed before a great idol to ensure fertility of cattle and crops. Samhain eve was a night of dread and danger. At this juncture of the old year and the new, our world and the otherworld opened up to each other. The dead returned, ghosts and demons were abroad, and the future could be seen.. . . Behind such Halloween games as bobbing for apples lie Celtic divination arts to discern who would marry, thrive, or die in the coming year. Behind the masks and mischief, the jack-o'lanterns and food offerings, lurk the fear of malevolent spirits and the rites to propitiate them." Page 601 gives additional insight: "Tacitus tells us of the bloodstained Druid altars of Anglesey in Wales. Caesar describes mass human sacrifice in Gaul: 'Some of the tribes make colossal wickerwork figures, the limbs of which are filled with living men; these images are then set alight and the victims perish in a sea of flame.' " For more general information about Celtic religion and Samhain, see Encyclopedia Britannica.
9. Barbara Kantrowitz, "Wild in the Streets," Newsweek (August 2, 1993); 40.
10.Connie Leslie, "Girls Will be Girls," Newsweek (August 2, 1933); 44.
11. Ron Rosenbaum, "Staring into the Heart of Darkness," The New York Times Magazine (June 4, 1995); 36.
12. "The Circle of Death," The American Enterprise (September/October 1995); 11.
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