Several weeks ago, as I was preparing to go on a road trip with my family, I stopped into a discount store to purchase some road trip entertainment for the kids, things like crossword puzzle books, word searches, and coloring books. I found a long area in the middle of the store that had all kinds of children’s activity books and early reading books as well.
However, as I was searching for what might entertain my children on the drive, I noticed that a majority of the books were somehow related to the occult. There were books about using the stars to guide your life, discovering the healing power of crystals, painting the zodiac, and reading the zodiac signs in friendships. There were books giving guidance on casting spells, instructions for reading tarot cards, a handbook for psychics, how to use vibrations for healing, and several astrology journals. There were books for recipes for healing from the witch’s herbal apothecary, a cookbook inspired by your tarot card reading, and even two books for recipes and spells from Hogwarts. The table was covered over with these books, several of them intended for children.
While the occult is nothing new, I do think the widespread fascination and normalization of the occult is new. How did we reach a place where the only table of books in this store held more books on astrology and witchcraft than any other subject? The only books not dealing with the occult were children’s early reading books and puzzle books. Those were the only options.
As a believer, it should not be surprising when the world delves into these things for entertainment. I mean, take a look at the latest Grammy’s performance this year by Sam Smith and Petra. Actually, don’t take a look at it because it is pretty repulsive. But the performance involved Sam Smith dressed as a devil, bright red suit and a hat with horns to go along with it, while singing a song entitled “Unholy.” It was rather perverse. But again, that’s certainly not the first time that perversity has been on display for a Grammy’s performance. That seems to be their specialty.
Predictably, Christians have spoken out against the performance, saying that isn’t something that should be shown on television, especially if children are watching. Ironically, the best response to that came from an atheist hosting the YouTube channel, The Young Turks. Addressing what she calls the “religious nuts” in an uproar about the performance, she suggested, “Just turn it off.” Sage advice, I say. Her co-host mocked the religious response as well, stating it is ridiculous for Christians to be outraged at the ”devil” dancing on stage since, to him, the devil isn’t even real. As John Wilkinson said in 1836, “One of the artifices [deceptions] of Satan is to induce men to believe that he does not exist.”
It makes sense that if the devil is no more real to you than unicorns, then you certainly don’t have a problem with someone dressed as the devil dancing on stage at the Grammy’s. The bigger problem our culture has with the devil right now is not a costumed singer with a pitchfork and tail singing a very anti-God song on stage. While there is no way I would allow my children to watch that, it is a cartoonish image of what the devil really is. The bigger problem facing our culture is that table of books at a discount store. Our culture is making the occult look appealing and enticing – or worse yet, harmless and normal. People are not drawn into Satan worship through that Grammy performance, but people are drawn away from God by the appeal of the occult. Satan doesn’t need us to fall down and worship him; he just needs us to stop worshiping God.
God addressed those practices to the Israelites before they entered into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 18:9-13, God said, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.” Like I said, the occult is nothing new.
The fact that God prohibited this practice indicates people around them were practicing these things (otherwise, He wouldn’t need to forbid it). God wanted His chosen people to stay away from those things because He knew it would draw them away from the truth. Those types of endeavors are not from God and can never be glorifying to God. So when Paul writes in Colossians 3:23 to do all things as unto the Lord, it eliminates any engagement in things like witchcraft, divination, or sorcery. You cannot practice what God calls detestable and think it honors Him.
In Acts 19, the people in Ephesus begin coming to faith in Jesus and turning away from their magic practices. It says in verse 19, “And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.” Notice, once they realized the truth of Jesus, they burned their books related to magic. They knew the magic arts they had been practicing was a lie, and they could not follow Jesus and practice magic at the same time.
Granted, most believers are not struggling with the practices of the occult. So how does this really apply to our daily lives? Well, it comes back to entertainment. How many of us are being entertained with things of the occult? When we watch movies that deal with sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, we are filling our minds with things that God finds detestable. And media now has taken a seriously dark turn in the past several years. It doesn’t just show witchcraft and sorcery, but holds it up as good and illustrates it in much darker ways – and I don’t mean just low lighting scenes. It is no longer a silly cartoon image of a devil with a pitchfork, but the imagery embodies a true demonic aspect to it.
Now, I understand there is always an element of fantasy and make-believe in so many things that we read and watch. Disney stories have fairy godmothers; DC and Marvel characters have super-human powers; the Lord of the Rings has wizards. Even C.S. Lewis had a witch in his Chronicles of Narnia story, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (however, in his allegorical narrative, the witch was the evil one, the deceiver who came only to steal, kill, and destroy). Should all of those be thrown out as well?
That is where we need to have discernment. The spiritual world is not make believe, unlike what the YouTube channel host believes. The devil and demons are real whether people believe they are or not. So it is not necessarily wrong to depict the spiritual world. It depends on how it is being depicted and what the end purpose of it is. Is the portrayal of the spiritual world to entice us into the dark arts? Is the purpose to normalize practicing the occult? Is it to cause us to see the presence of evil as good? Then we ought not to be filling our minds with those things.
But what if we say “it’s just entertainment”? Does it matter if we just watch these occult-type things as long as we are not engaging in them? I’m not so sure. We do have to be mindful of how we choose to spend our time and what we choose to focus our minds on. If we are to take every thought captive into obedience unto Christ, then it is exceedingly important what kinds of thoughts are generated by the things we listen to and watch. While I do like the imaginative side of certain story lines and films, I do come back to the question: is watching this necessary? Should “being entertained” be our top priority? Or maybe like the atheist YouTube host said, we should just turn it off.
God never said in His Word that He hopes we have a well-entertained life of relaxation and chill time. His Word never encourages us to see how many shows we can binge watch. His Word tells us quite the opposite. The chief end of man is to know and glorify God, which doesn’t come from watching whatever we can find on TV. I’m not writing this to rail against a certain movie, television series, or popular book series. I’m just wanting to encourage you to think more discerningly about what we choose to spend our time on. Is it something that draws us away from God? Is it something that celebrates the things that breaks God’s heart? Then we must ask ourselves, why do we invest so much time on those things?