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Bob and Gretchen Passantino:
Comments on the Satanism and SRA section of their Answers In Action website

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2004 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

Gretchen Passantino and her late husband Bob are among the very few evangelical Christian writers who really do seem to care about truthfulness regarding other religions. In the early 1990's, they took what was then a very courageous stand against the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare. They and their webmaster John Baskette wrote articles exposing some of the earliest alleged cases of SRA (Lauren Stratford and Rebecca Brown) as fraudulent. Some articles of theirs were published in the evangelical Christian magzine Cornerstone, whose staff writers Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein debunked Mike Warnke's "ex-Satanist" claims in 1992.

I very much do appreciate their work in opposing the SRA scare. Most of the articles on their Satanism and SRA page are well-researched critiques of various SRA scaremongers. There's also a very informative article Satanic Ritual Abuse in Popular Christian Literature, Why Christians Fall for a Lie Searching for the Truth, containing a brief history of the SRA scare in Christian literature.

However, their article When the Devil Dares: Teenagers and Satanism contains quite a few questionable claims of its own.

"When the Devil Dares" contains lots of generalizations about teenage Satanists. (Examples: "Most teenagers who practice satanism also abuse drugs and alcohol and are sexually promiscuous," and "satanism is an indicator of serious personal dysfunction.") I wonder where all these generalizations came from, and what they were based on.

I'll give the Passantinos the benefit of the doubt and assume that they used the best information that was easily available to them at that time.

It would be very difficult for anyone to do a truly scientific survey of teenage Satanists, given that most Satanists -- especially most teenage Satanists -- have existed only as isolated individuals and small groups. The few public "Satanic churches" were not representative of all Satanists, and it does not appear that the Passantinos' article was based on them anyway. Only now, thanks to the Internet, is a larger community of Satanists in general -- including theistic Satanists -- finally starting to emerge. Perhaps a truly scientific survey of Satanists may finally become possible, for the first time ever, in a few years from now.

Most of the older studies about teenage Satanists were based primarily on either (1) those who had gotten into trouble with the law or (2) reports by psychotherapists about those teenage Satanists who were seeing therapists. In either case, the sample is quite biased.

I'm reminded of the studies of homosexuality that were done back in the days before there were a lot of out-of-the-closet gays. Most of these studies, too, were based almost exclusively on people who were either in prison or seeing psychotherapists. No wonder there seemed to be a very high correlation between homosexuality and "serious personal dysfunction."

Satanists, including teenage Satanists, vary quite a bit in their lifestyle and habits. Some use drugs, some don't. Quite a few Satanists - especially LaVeyans, with their emphasis on worldly success - make a specific point of rejecting drug use.

Satanists vary quite a bit in their sexual lifestyle too. As far as I can tell, not very many fit the stereotype of perpetual orgies. Some are swingers, but there are also quite a few Satanists who have no interest in sex outside the context of a loving relationship.

I don't claim to know what the percentages are, lifestylewise. But most Satanists would probably say that it is up to the individual to choose one's lifestyle and to accept responsibility for the consequences, whatever they may be.

The focus of "When the Devil Dares" seems to be on teenagers who have gotten into trouble with the law -- and who are assumed to be representative of all teenage Satanists. They are not. As far as I can tell, based on what I see online, there do exist plenty of law-abiding teenage Satanists too.

The Passantinos insinuate that Satanism itself (or, at least, "serious" Satanism) leads to criminal activity and general "destructiveness." (Example: "For some, it was serious, deadly serious to Lloyd Gamble, who lost his life in a satanic sacrifice.") This is NOT true in general. I don't deny that we do have some violent criminals and other generally nasty people and groups hanging around the Satanist scene. However, it should not be assumed that all or most Satanists outside the "Satanic churches" are criminals, or that they are "destructive."

On another, relatively minor issue:  "When the Devil Dares" contains the statement, "Satanists compose their own rituals and ceremonies and add to them their satanic 'prayers' and writings in a personal 'Book of Shadows.'"

The term "Book of Shadows" is more commonly used among Wiccans and Wicca-based Pagans than among Satanists. Perhaps some Satanists do use that term too, but I personally have never heard it from a Satanist.

I have written to Gretchen Passantino about these matters and have not yet received a reply.

I hope she will decide to update her knowledge of Satanism. The public Satanist scene has changed quite a bit since the mid-1990's.

Since she's an evangelical Christian, I certainly don't expect her to approve of any kind of Satanism. But, given her own past opposition to the more blatant nonsense about Satanism, I do hope she'll strive for greater accuracy and make a greater effort to avoid unwarranted conclusions and insinuations.

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