Editor’s note: Glenn Goree is an employee assistance counselor for J. P. Morgan Chase and an international consultant for Overseas Incident Stress Debriefing. He is also the director of the counseling program at the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas.

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:5 – 7, NIV).

soldierThe Japanese were notorious night fighters in the Pacific during World War II. They waited until the pitch of night to employ deadly skills in the art of night combat. Some stripped naked except for a loin cloth and special boots designed for stealth. Others wore a Marine helmet or uniform to infiltrate the front lines unnoticed. Their weapons were not guns but knives, bayonets and hand grenades, because their smokeless rifles made noise revealing their location. It is no wonder Marines were exhausted as much from sleep deprivation as actual combat.

I think Christians are on the front lines of spiritual combat. Paul writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV). Like these Marines of the Pacific war Christians can become spiritually exhausted. It is tiring to “Be self-controlled and alert” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV). Like the Japanese, Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV). He is also good at disguising himself, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14, NIV).

I believe a dark deception is hidden in plain sight. It is like the ignored family secret not open for discussion. It is like a criminal’s brazen walk concealed in a crowd. It is like self denial of succumbing to temptation with rationalization for sin’s consequence. There are many “deceptions” that may be healthy and entertaining, such as Halloween, ghosts and goblins complete with witches, demons and skeletons. Novels like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia illustrate the eternal struggle between good and evil. Who has not seen horror movies about Frankenstein, Dracula, and werewolves?

However, in counseling young people since the late 1990s I have noticed an increasing intoxication in their naïve curiosity with life’s hidden darkness. I do not know what else to call it except a dark deception hidden in plain sight, but its behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs are pursued by youth out in the open. Parents do not pay much attention because they feel it is harmless, innocent fun. Yet I believe there is an insidious darkness unseen beneath its smiley, happy face. It is like a parasite growing for decades before its host becomes aware of its inhabitation.

This interest in darkness is more than a passing childhood fascination. It is a focus on life after death in the wrong direction. It is a macabre intellectual, sometimes actual, probing into Satanism, demons, witchcraft, tattoos, and dark spirits. There seem to be several interwoven dark themes. First, there has been a growth of wearing black apparel. Probably the most noticed are the Goths. Second, the lyrics of hard rock music are obsessed with the glorification of death and suicide. Third, youth rebel by nature and inclination. In this hidden darkness rebellion is extended to anarchy. Fourth, they “call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20, NIV).

In the literature about Harry Potter and company there are good and bad witches. But the lines between light and darkness are clearly drawn. Right is still right and wrong is still wrong. In this case the difference between right and wrong is not being challenged, but reinforced! However, the hidden deception wants youth to believe dark can be light. Once this is accepted it is not long before dark is chosen over light. “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men” (Psalm 12:8, NIV).

In Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 18 there are six explicit statements on this topic. Practices of witchcraft, divination, sorcery, mediums, casting spells, interpreting omens, consulting the dead and tattoos were all forbidden. Israelites who practice those things were to be executed by stoning. God used words such as defiled and detestable as His attitude toward these practices. In Leviticus 20:6 God warns, “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people” (NIV).

Why does God have a zero tolerance stance on seemingly innocent interests? I think God recognizes covert danger in human curiosity particularly in youth. Like a good parent he warns us of concealed risks we cannot detect. His commands are nothing short of, “Don’t reach on top of the stove.” The Japanese general commanding the Tarawa Island fortress said the Marines could not take it in a thousand years. The Marines conquered the island in seventy-two hours. What is God protecting us from? It is not what but whom — Satan!

Here are two thoughts. First, all that glistens is not gold. What more efficient way to lure youth into darkness than by seemingly guiltless attractions. These tickle human nature’s fondness of flirting with enticements in the gray areas of life. Contemporary society’s view of them is that they are neither expressly forbidden nor fully acceptable. Secondly, if you play with fire you will be burned. The problem with being young is that young people do not believe this statement. They believe they can play with fire and not be burned. Then when they are burned they blame someone else rather than accepting responsibility.

These two realities of the flesh work in tandem to draw youth away from God and toward Satan. This is what Paul was warning Timothy about when he hoped, “… that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26, NIV).

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