Recently I bought and read a book called ‘Law & Disorder: Inside the Dark Heart of Murder’ by John Douglas, a pioneering FBI profiler. In one of the cases he covered in the book, he touched on the one-time hysteria over the concept of Satanism and Satanic murders.
At the height of the craze, Satanic ‘experts’, often Evangelical pastors or laymen, claimed that there were fifty thousand child abductions a year, mostly, it was implied, due to Satanists and their blood lust. Douglas said the statistic was about right, but the majority of those cases were kidnappings by a non-custodial parent.
Satanic ‘experts’ kept the fear up by making lists of Satanic symbols, many of which had other purposes, confusing Satanism with Wicca and Neopaganism, and declaring that young persons who were fans of Heavy Metal music, or who played games such as Dungeons & Dragons, were probably doing so because such things were ‘Satanic.’
The reality, as John Douglas’s FBI statistics show, is there was NOT ONE case in which one or more persons in a Satanic group or coven conspired to commit a murder. There were individual killers, such as the Night Stalker, who claimed to be inspired by Satan or who had Satanic-seeming tattoos, or who said that the Devil caused them to commit the crime in question. But these loners were nothing like what the Satanic hysteria claimed was happening.
The problem is that many Christians, particularly Evangelical ones, read books or heard sermons that made them believe in the Satanic ritual killings theory. Some took ‘facts’ from this and put them into spiritual warfare stories. Others to this day believe it because a sweet old pastor told them it was true back in the day, and their sweet old pastor, now gone to his reward, would not have lied to them.
But sweet old pastors and devout Christian mentors can be mistaken. If the pastor heard false information from a Christian source they felt was trustworthy, they may have passed it on thinking it was fact. In the same way, a sweet old lady teacher I had in a Christian school once told me that God refuses to listen to the prayers of Catholics because Catholicism was so ‘unchristian.’ While I am convinced that this lady would not have lied to me, I now believe her belief was wrong, that God would not have allowed Christianity to vanish from the Earth from the Early Church days until the ‘Reformation’, and that God listens to all prayers, even those from persons who have very little knowledge of religious truth.
Now, I know Spiritual Warfare novels are popular among some Christians. But the facts are important. While I was a Neopagan and rejecting Christianity, I read a book by Frank Peretti which seemed to me to be demonizing Neopagans and was very ill-informed. This book pushed me even further away from Christianity by these errors. Not, I expect, the effect the writer was going for.