I had expected to critique Steve Russo's Protecting Your Teen From Today's Witchcraft on purely theological grounds. I'm not Christian or Wiccan, but Ive been to Sabbats and sermons and have friends on both sides of the debate who can offer lucid and compelling arguments. I thought I was ready for whatever theories Russo might suggest.
I was wrong.
Mind you, Russo offers plenty of material for anyone who feels like challenging his reasoning. If you've ever read bad apologist works before -- or even a Jack Chick tract -- you'll know what to expect here. There's the standard condemnation of other faiths based on anecdotal evidence, the blatant double standard for proving Christianity, the irrelevant moral platitudes trying desperately to pass themselves off as scientific fact, all framed in a vague nostalgia for some nebulous good old days. Any junior-high debate club member could demolish all of Russo's proof for Christianity in five minutes. It's disappointing, predictable, and an easy mark.
But I couldn't challenge any of it, because I was too busy laughing. The very first sentence in the book commends the reader for daring to pick up this blood red tome, perhaps out of concern that the Halloween title font will scare readers away. From the unintended humor of the introduction to the last outdated attempt at teenage slang, Russo provides high humor value. His emphasis on the many ways Satan can lead teenagers to witchcraft and darkness lead to rich descriptions of all manner of pop culture, most of which Russo himself has not seen. This is easily justified by his belief that seeing evil leads to becoming evil, so he can only report on such dangers as Buffy the Vampire Slayer secondhand. He greets the Wiccan suggestion that you can do what you like, providing you harm none, with shock and outrage, not for the permissiveness, but because he apparently
doesn't know what harm means. Anyone of the so-called reality-based
community will find ample entertainment in Russo's endless descriptions of supernatural beliefs and activities. Did you know that astral projection exposes you to leprechauns? That Harry Potter offers Satan a foothold in your heart? Where Russo's bald assertions fail to provide humor, his clumsy prose offers assistance. His book about witchcraft warns that Satan may influence you if you read a book about witchcraft. The evils of meditation are proven by Deutoronomy 18:10-11: For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. Truly, words for us all to live by, as soon as we can catch our breath.
But funny as Protecting Your Teen is, the overwhelming message of the book is fear. It's a superstitious paranoia that more rational and. yes, more faithful people left behind with the end of witch trials. It's a fear that sees Satan lurking in every movie theater and Internet chat room, in every printed word not found in the Bible. Even in the slim confines of Protecting Teens, this fear becomes a corrupting influence. When everything is a threat and magic is real and all malign, there is no safety; and without any sense of safety, theres no sense of proportion. It's a fear that lets Russo earnestly see the trauma of a girl's gang rape as disappointment with God while insisting that a newspaper
horoscope will distort a teenager's worldview. It's a fear that offers
absolute obedience as the only alternative to moral destruction.
Perhaps worst of all, it's a fear that blinds Russo to the strength to be found in his own faith. Christianity, whatever its faults, is a powerful faith. It has shaped governments, informed revolutions, and helped uncounted individuals find the strength to place their moral convictions ahead of their earthly concerns. Yet in Russo's fear, the faith of millions is scant competition for the influence of a newspaper horoscope.
And that's not funny. It's just sad.