For most of us, witches and warlocks are the stuff of fantasy novels and movies. But studies show modern practitioners of witchcraft, or "Wicca," are on the rise in America -- especially among women and youth.

How can Christian parents and churches effectively address this growing fascination with a decidedly unbiblical belief system? Cultural experts Dillon Burroughs and Marla Alupoaicei, co-authors of the newly released book Generation Hex (Harvest House), believe we need to throw away simplistic stereotypes and become educated on the true nature of Wicca and New Age beliefs. In writing Generation Hex, Dillon and Marla set out to do just that -- interviewing real-life Wiccans, researching the historical and current practices of Wiccan organizations, and examining the modern cultural influences that increase Wicca's appeal to seeking souls.

In a recent Crosswalk interview, Dillon and Marla discussed some surprising facts about Wicca and gave tips to parents and pastors on becoming effective witnesses for Christ:

CrosswalkI found Generation Hex fascinating. You two have done a lot of research. You point out that while Wicca is fast growing in popularity and membership among Americans, most Americans know very little about it. Could you define Wicca, and explain how it differs from Christianity?   

Dillon Burroughs:  The way I explain it is that Wicca is the most popular form of American witchcraft. It started in Britain primarily in the 1960s, even though they will tap into history that is much earlier than that. In the past generation, it has grown exponentially. It is to the point that it could be the third largest religion in America by 2012.

What amazes me is that I could speak to youth groups or college groups and say, "How many of you know someone involved in Wicca or witchcraft or have participated yourself at some point, perhaps? Raise your hand." Most of the people do. If I go to a church, and I ask the people in the church or pastors or church staff how many of them know someone involved in Wicca or witchcraft, very few even know what it is. So, there is this huge awareness issue. 

Marla Alupoaicei:  [Wicca] is an earth-based religion, and it's polytheistic, which means they worship a variety of gods and goddesses. The primary god has a cohort, who would be the goddess. So, [Wiccans] really look at beauty as being two parts of a whole, the god and goddess, which is why it appeals to women so much. They want to be elevated to the place of being a goddess.   

CW:  I visited some of the websites you guys cite in the book. I noticed on the website for the Church and School of Wicca they say that they are not connected with Satanism. Would you two agree with that?   

DB:  That is what you will hear consistently from people involved in Wicca. I thought going [into this project] that it was very connected with Satanism and satanic rituals. That is very much not the case with mainstream Wicca. They do not even believe in Satan, so they certainly do not worship him or do sacrifices to him in any way, shape, or form. They see Satan as a Christian concept, and the ideas of personal sin, hell and judgment are all outside of what Wiccans traditionally believe. Of course, there are exceptions, but what you see today in the media is often a stereotype.   

CW: Another common theme in Wicca is a real emphasis on promoting diversity and tolerance. Marla, you have a background working with intercultural marriages. Any thoughts on that?   

MA:  Well, that is a great question. It is interesting, because my husband is actually from Romania, which has kind of a legendary history of being involved in witchcraft, although the Transylvania image is pretty much just a myth -- it is nothing like the way it is portrayed in movies and books. 

I have seen our culture become more focused on diversity and acceptance, tolerance of all views and [the idea that] all ways lead to God. [These concepts] appeal to a lot of people. So, it is really endangering our position as the church if we embrace that too much because Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). We try to take an open position in the book, try to create open dialogue with Wiccans, but our theology is conservative. We believe the Bible. We believe in God. We believe Jesus is who the Bible says He is. There are limits then to what we can accept or tolerate just from a biblical standpoint.   

There is a difference between cultural diversity, which of course we support, and the diversity of just accepting every person's belief as being true. 

CW:  Definitely. Speaking of taking a clear stance on Biblical truth, I recently encountered a "Christian" website for young adults advocating goddess/saint worship. What's going on there?   

MA:  Well, there is actually a movement called Christian Wicca, in which elements of Christianity and elements of Wicca are combined. It is a syncretistic belief system, where it is taking both and linking {them] together. However, in order to do that, you really have to set aside a lot of what the Bible says because there are a lot of beliefs that are incompatible.   

For instance, in Christian Wicca, they believe in reincarnation. They believe that the Bride of Christ is the goddess of Christ. They care a lot about creation, which is a positive aspect of it.  They see the Holy Spirit, though, as being feminine. So, you can see how they are going the goddess route.   

I would say even aside from the Christian Wicca movement, we can see how Wicca, New Age and pagan philosophy are really finding their way into the church and into our culture. One great example is Oprah Winfrey. This year, she is having her Soul Series Webcast where she is introducing many New Age teachers. Many of the views she espouses show she does have a Christian spiritual background. Yet she is leading people away from that by bringing psychics, meditation teachers, people teaching New Age philosophy onto her show and espousing those beliefs.   

That is seeping into the church. In many contemporary Christian books, you will see [authors] combining Christian and biblical principles with New Age principles, and many of them don't even realize that they are doing that.   

CW:  So, one of the main reasons you did all this research was to help guide parents. Dillon, you have worked a lot with youth. What is it about Wicca that attracts youth, specifically?   

DB:  There are a couple of things. One is that it is being promoted in the media more than ever before as an acceptable lifestyle or practice. So, you read a Harry Potter book, you watch Supernatural, you see a film on witchcraft, and you go, "That looks interesting. I wonder if that is true or what that is about." So, you can hop online, type in a few words on Google, or you can go to your bookstore [where] there is an entire New Age section.   

In the process, some teenagers are going that next step … becoming involved as a solitary practice. Some even go further to joint covenants and become more of the mainstream movement because they find relationships which they didn't have, and they were seeking. They find what they see as a purpose for their life and a destiny. 

They also see a spiritual power that they did not have in the past, and they did not see in Christianity. Unfortunately as Christians, we do not [always] show the real power that we have in the Spirit of God.   

CW:  You mention Harry Potter - a concern for many parents. 

DB:  You have to be careful with Harry Potter, because we can't blame all the problems on J. K. Rowling and the effect that she has had. [But] she writes stories about witchcraft targeted toward children. That is the concern. If you are 8 to 12 years old, and you read a story that is fascinating about aspects of witchcraft, you want to know more. So, I don't recommend [Harry Potter] for children, necessarily.

CW:  So, what are some signs parents can look out for that their teen might be involved in Wicca, and how can they steer their kids back to Christ?   

DB:  Certainly, you are the adult here as the parent. That is first and foremost. So, you help control what your child is exposed to, whether it is films or online viewing or beyond.   

The second thing: You have to have a trusting relationship with your child. Because when they come into this stage of life, when they are questioning their beliefs, they are looking at alternative ideas. They are going to ask someone questions about that. You want that person to be you, as the parent, versus someone online or a friend at school who may be involved in Wicca or witchcraft of some form.   

Beyond that, there are some signs you can be looking for --

If they are keeping some kind of secret diary they are not willing to share. Sometimes that has nothing to do with witchcraft, but [can be] one indicator because the Book of Shadows is a very common practice. Another thing is if they spend an inordinate amount of time online [googling] witchcraft and … sites, such as Witchvox.com or the Witchschool.com. We have used those for our research but they can have a very harmful influence on a teenager or young person.   

If you see these kinds of warning signs, there are things you can do. There is a ministry called Covenant Eyes (Covenanteyes.com), and they originally started as a group for parents to filter what their children view online in terms of pornography and sexual content. They also have resources to do the same thing for viewing occult type of materials. 

Then, in your churches, you have to talk about the subject. A Barna study on the supernatural showed that fewer than 20% of teenagers are exposed to any kind of teaching involving the paranormal. So, we have to at least address it, not be afraid of it, because if we do believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the power that we have in us is greater than the power of the world.   

CW:  There's a lot of good information in Generation Hex, and I know we haven't covered it all here. Is there anything else you'd like to share with readers before wrapping up?

MA:  Sure, I just wanted to share about our approach. There are many books out there that just say, "Witchcraft is wrong, and her is why. The Bible says, ‘You are going to hell.'"  We didn't want to take that approach. We wanted to be able to talk with real Wiccans and create an open door rather than a closed door. We found that many of these people have been very hurt and persecuted by non-Christens and by Christians, and that really is heartbreaking because we are called to share the Gospel with every person.   

God loves these people, and he is drawing them to himself. I am not afraid to share [the Gospel] with a Buddhist, why would I be afraid to share with a Wiccan?   

DB:  In one of the chapters in the book we talk about how studying Wicca has strengthened our faith in Christ. It seems like such a paradox when you put it that way, but what we mean by that is as we studied Wicca, we saw time and time again people we interviewed who were very open about their faith in paganism and the god and the goddess that they worship. We thought, How many Christians are really that open about their faith, who aren't afraid to share about what they believe?    

It was a wake-up call to me -- to see other people who believe something strongly [who] are willing to stand up for it. As Christians, we should not fear doing the same thing, not be ashamed of the Gospel, but do as the apostle Paul said -- to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)  We have a message that is exclusive, that is tough, that stands for Jesus only, but at the same time we have to communicate that in the context of love. It will make a difference in the lives around us. 

 

For more information on Generation Hex, click here.