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Talk to Teens About the Occult
Popular culture acknowledges and celebrates the supernatural realm of the occult. The Christian Church needs greater awareness of its dangers.

Imagine visiting a shop when two intangible voices scream, “Get out! Get out!” A stiff blow to the gut, an unseen physical assault, hastens your exit.

For me, supernatural encounters like these began with my teenage involvement with the occult. I don’t frequent psychic fairs or bars. These encounters have happened to me in innocuous places such as country fairs, craft shows and shopping malls.

Dr. Roy Matheson, a professor emeritus at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, explains that such sensitivity is not uncommon among “those previously involved in the occult. This may be due to the fact that their experience has shown them the reality and power behind it.”

Popular culture acknowledges and celebrates the supernatural realm, delivering alarming messages of control and power. Try a simple Internet search or examine your television listings. Yet many churches seem silent on this issue. Matheson, who has taught around the world, argues: “You do not have to convince people in the rest of the world about its reality [the supernatural and the occult] because it is part of their world view. Only in the West do many not take it seriously.”

American pollster George Barna reports that 54 percent of teens who attend evangelical youth groups are “moderately involved” in witchcraft and psychic activities. (The 2006 study, Ministry to Mosaics, involved 4,000 teens in the United States.)

He defines “moderate” as five points of first-person contact, excluding television and daily horoscopes.

When I was a teen, adults warned me about strangers, unprotected sex, drugs and alcohol. I never partied or got high or drunk. I was an athlete, honour roll student and citizenship-award recipient. No cautioning words were said about the unseen dangers in the occult world.

Between the ages of 13 and 16, seeking power and control, I played Ouija, dabbled with dream interpretation and astrology, participated in séances, palm reading, tarot cards and auras. Premonitions were common to me, even telepathic communication.

A desire to learn more about “god” led me to a local Christian youth group. I attended weekend trips and sat on the youth leadership team. Living with a foot in two worlds – attending youth group Friday nights, honing my psychic powers on Saturday – opened me to spiritual attacks that lasted almost a year.

What I was living with wasn’t discussed or mentioned: nightmares, dark premonitions, awakening invisibly bound and then violated by the evil in my own bedroom. At 17 I didn’t know any adult to talk to who would take this seriously.

Believing home to be the problem, I took a summer job at a Christian conference centre where I was insulated from these violent disturbances. One time, driving back after a visit home, I was given a vivid vision of my own suicide: a Mack truck’s chrome grill through the windshield of my Chevette. Understanding that “god” wanted me to kill myself, I wandered the grounds after curfew feeling trapped and powerless. I was taken to the guest speaker. His low voice is clear in my memory.

“Satan wants you dead,” he said. My stomach was in knots, like wet laundry twisted too tightly. My hands were cold, the joints stiff, fingers curled into my palms to stop the shaking.

“But God is a God of love. There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear,” he said. What? I wondered, my head throbbing. The “god” that wanted me dead, that had me living in fear, was not the God of the Bible?

I had been deceived about the very character of God. But after much prayer, I accepted Christ that night.

Are Canadian teens informed enough about the occult? Matheson doesn’t think so. “I do not believe teens are adequately taught about the dangers of this area. Many church leaders seem to feel demonic activity is something that happens somewhere else but not here. Or they see the dabbling that youth do as basically harmless when it can open doors to the Enemy. We don’t want to be paranoid but neither do we want to be uninformed.”

The occult tempts teens by offering immediate results and the illusion of power and control. But I testify that encounters with God, with Jehovah, have surpassed all of my occult experiences.

We all need to share our God-experiences with teens. Had I been armed with the truth in Scripture, the lies I believed would have been exposed. Perhaps a good way to open the subject with teens is to ask about occult examples from popular culture and then listen openly to what they’ve seen and to the experiences of their friends. If someone like Dr. Matheson had been available to me, perhaps the consequences of my occult experiences would be less invasive today.

Lisa Hall-Wilson is a freelance writer in London, Ontario.

Originally published in Faith Today, September/October 2009.

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