When the Devil Dares: Teenagers and Satanism
By Bob and Gretchen Passantino
Copyright 1994 by Bob and Gretchen Passantino.
Parents, teachers, and law enforcement personnel in Monroe County Michigan knew something strange was going on with local high school students, but they couldn't figure out what. One boy, who lived with his grandmother, took all her religious pictures off the walls, turned her crucifixes upside down, and then beat her up. Two boys fought in the high school cafeteria and the winner jumped up and flashed a strange hand salute, a clenched fist with his index and little fingers sticking up. The art teacher couldn't figure out why so many kids drew pictures of demonic-like men with goat's heads. And the occult books kept disappearing from the school library. The adults knew something was wrong, but they didn't know what.
The teenagers were flirting with satanism. The power, the magic, the mystery -- for most it was fun and exciting. For some, it was serious, deadly serious to Lloyd Gamble, who lost his life in a satanic sacrifice. After Lloyd's death, and his younger brother's arrest for the murder, the adults learned to understand the signs that had been so mysterious before: The "devil's sign" hand signal, the two fingers representing the horns of the "goat" image of Satan; the goat's head baphomet pictures symbolizing the dark lord; and the books that fed the teenagers' imaginations, rituals, and spells. Across America, fascination with satanism is infecting our schools and enticing adolescents into destruction with false promises of power, control, and excitement. In a contemporary society where Christian beliefs and morals are ridiculed, and self-indulgence and self- gratification are worshipped, teenagers are easy prey for the Prince of Darkness. Christian educators, parents, pastors, and youth leaders, like the adults in Monroe County, too often have been tricked by the Deceiver's sleight-of-hand to focus on the sensational, the false rumors, and the conspiracy mirages while signs of typical teenage satanic involvement escape our notice. It shouldn't take a tragedy like the killing of Lloyd Gamble by his brother to shift our focus.
Equipped with sound information and good answers from God's Word, educators can recognize the danger signals of teenage satanism, and take positive steps to intervene for a troubled student who has turned to satanism to solve his or her overwhelming problems. Satanic involvement does not occur in isolation from other problems. Most teenagers who practice satanism also abuse drugs and alcohol and are sexually promiscuous. As with drugs and sex, satanism is an indicator of serious personal dysfunction, and the teenage satanist will not be truly free of occult bondage unless his or her underlying problems are recognized and resolved. Occult expert Dr. John Cooper notes, "Satanism blesses and encourages the expression of all that is natural to adolescent development -- rebellion, defiance, and specialness -- yet it lacks a positive, rational framework and totally disregards relational, social, and religious boundaries and values".
First, recognize that satanism appeals to teenagers who have significant problems dealing with the world and who are convinced that satanism is their solution. Eight major risk factors often accompany teenage satanism: (1) extreme alienation; (2) morbid fascination with horror, death, and pain; (3) drug and alcohol use; (4) difficulty conforming to the system (whether in school, at home, or on the job); (5) a frustrating sense of powerlessness; (6) an excessive need to control; (7) high intelligence and creativity that often is used destructively; and (8) unnatural attraction to the mysterious, the occult, or the magical. Each of these risk factors are experienced to some degree by all adolescents, but for the teenager who gravitates toward satanism, these factors are consuming motivators.
Second, be aware of specific signs of satanic involvement. Watch for the teenager who seems obsessed with power, both exerting his own power over others and rejecting power over himself. Watch for the teenager whose words and actions display unusual destructiveness, who openly defies authority, and who seems almost consumed by feelings of vengeance and hate. Notice the teenager who seems absorbed with himself or herself, preoccupied with self-interests and self-indulgence.
Third, recognize that for most teenagers, satanism is an expression of rage, hostility, and self- indulgence more than it is a developed religious conviction. Most teenagers have little exposure to Christianity other than the mocking of television or the movies. Strong belief in a literal powerful spiritual person called Satan is usually as ridiculous to them as belief in some omnipresent God in heaven. Consequently, while all teenage satanists "worship Satan," most conceive of Satan as a self-serving natural force, or a symbol of their own rejection of authority. As one satanist proudly declared to us, "I am Satan and I worship myself!" Little wonder that Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible, declares that the satanist's own birthday is the most important "unholy" day of the satanic calendar!
Fourth, physical clues are important. Although occult symbols and signs are scattered throughout contemporary music, videos, movies, television programs, comic books, and video games, the teenager who exhibits some of these signs and also uses occult symbols on papers, notebooks, jewelry, tattoos, and clothing is probably involved in satanism. The most common symbols are the pentagram, an inverted five point star in a circle; the baphomet, or "Goat of Mendes," representing lust; the inverted cross, and words written backwards, such as "redrum" (murder) or "live" (evil). Satanic literature is as close as the nearest discount bookstore or public library, and almost all teenage satanists use Anton LaVey's The Satanic Bible as their satanic handbook. Satanists compose their own rituals and ceremonies and add to them their satanic "prayers" and writings in a personal "Book of Shadows." This may be a simple spiralbound notepad or an elaborately handtooled leather diary. Frequently the writing is coded or backward. At home, the satanist will have ritual tools such as an altar (even a black cloth over a card table will do), a black robe, candles (especially black and red), bells, a chalice, a sword or staff of "power," and a dagger. Not all teenage satanists have elaborate and extensive ritual aids, and they are extremely good at hiding them, so concerned parents must look carefully. As a concerned Christian educator, you can intervene to help the troubled teenage satanist.
Six elements are key to successfully rescuing a teenager whose personal problems have driven him or her to cry out with destructive satanic involvement. First, be committed to helping through listening, educating, talking, praying, working with parents, disciplining, and offering better solutions to the individual problems experienced by the satanists. Second, seek professional help from responsible, non-sensational books (see sidebar), experienced pastoral counselors, and youth workers who specialize in out-of-control teenagers. Since most teenage satanism is symptomatic of broader problems, you don't need expertise in satanism as much as expertise in adolescent problem solving. Third, intervene in appropriate and constructive ways to turn the teenager from satanism and toward good solutions. Intervention varies by case, and may range from forbidding occult symbols, terminology, or themes from classroom work to working with parents, juvenile authorities, and your school administration to enforce consequences on continued teenage satanic destructiveness. Fourth, expose the ultimately self-destructiveness of satanism and its false promises. Fifth, offer better solutions, problem solving techniques, and lifestyle choices. This includes being a good role model so the teenage satanist sees that constructive commitment is far more personally fulfilling than the abandonment of destructive occultism. Finally, pray and enlist the prayers of friends, colleagues, and family. Be confident that "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4) and "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16b). When the smoke and trick mirrors are removed by the power of God's truth, Satan's allure is exposed as an empty shell of broken promises. Teenage satanists are looking for truth and life -- show them the One who is Truth and Life (John 14:6).
Teenagers and Satanism: Danger Signs
- Satanic and/or occult symbols on schoolwork, clothes, personal belongings.
- Attitudes of extreme isolationism, hatred, vengeance, and personal destructive power, all seemingly without remorse.
- Obsession with death, violence, evil, the mysterious, and the occult.
- Concurrent drug, alcohol, and sexual activity.
- Reputation among peers as someone to be feared or catered to because of his/her personal power. (Or, appears to follow someone with such a reputation.)
- Self-proclaimed satanist, devil-worshipper, or "witch."
- Preoccupation with colors red and black (such as clothing), knives, candles, and other occult paraphrenalia.
- "Book of Shadows" (secret ritual book), backward writing, occult-themed writing.
Suggestions for Intervention
- Approach student with confidence, honesty, and genuine concern.
- Work with student on areas impacting his/her school work or school participation.
- Try to discover student's fundamental problems (which he/she is trying unsuccessfully to solve with satanism).
- Offer better, more successful, and more constructive ways of solving those problems.
- Point out the destructiveness of satanic involvement and its ultimate spiritual and emotional bankruptcy.
- Involve parents or another responsible adult the student trusts if you can enlist their sensible cooperation.
- Pray for the student, the family, the student's fundamental problems, and those who are encouraging the student's satanic involvement.
- Be a good role model with consistent Christian maturity -- show how Christians successfully meet life's challenges with the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
- When the Devil Dares Your Kids by Bob and Gretchen Passantino (Servant, 1991)
- The Black Mask by John Charles Cooper (Revell, 1990)
- The Psychology of Adolescent Satanism by Anthony Moriarty (Praeger, 1992).