An ex-Satanist who is now a Christian and oversees a ministry that reaches out to occultists believes that American society is "submerged in the occult."
Jeff Harshbarger, head of Refuge Ministries and author of the book Dancing With the Devil, told The Christian Post in an interview that characteristics of occult belief are commonplace in American culture.
"Our society is submerged in the occult; Harry Potter has filled the minds of our children for a decade and vampirism meets our teens with the illusions of grandeur. Witchcraft went mainstream decades ago, and Wicca is its offspring," said Harshbarger.
"'Christian' witchcraft is on the up-rise and new age spirituality fills the church pews. Time has come for the church to be equipped and be effective. This is why I wrote Dancing With the Devil."
Harshbarger does not consider this to be a recent problem, as he sees occultism as being "introduced in the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve to seek hidden knowledge, instead of walking in obedience to God."
Harshbarger's own experiences with the occult led him to open a ministry meant to reach out to those involved in practices like Satanism and Wicca. These experiences were written about by Harshbarger in detail in 2005 with the book From Darkness to Light and also mentioned in his more recent book Dancing With The Devil.
Harshbarger began his entry into the occult via the usage of a Ouija board. By the late 1970s, he was a practicing Satanist who lived with a group of likeminded people in Indiana. According to Harshbarger, he was possessed by demons and yet God still reached out to him. After much struggle and an apparent divine experience in the backyard of the place he shared with fellow Satanists, Harshbarger began to leave the practice.
"I wrote in From Darkness to Light that I had to go to six churches before anyone offered to pray for me. I walked into the churches a demon possessed individual looking for freedom. The church was unprepared to meet me where I was," said Harshbarger to CP.
"Thank God I met Harry and Jo Richardson who offered prayer and that prayer was the prayer that released me from my demonic bondage. We established Refuge Ministries in 2001 to do just that; to meet individuals who are trapped in darkness right where they are ... and to pray for them."
Harshbarger continued his efforts to help churches understand the nature of those involved in the Occult with his book Dancing With the Devil. Released in September 2012, the book is a collection of accounts from Christians once involved in some branch of occult practice. The preface and chapter one were written by Harshbarger. Other chapters were written by those who went through differing yet similar experiences with the occult in America. Many were brought up in Christian homes and had loving parents.
"Many people think they have to go out of their way to encounter an occult follower," wrote Harshbarger. "The truth is, we probably encounter someone who is or has been involved in the occult each day among the dozens of people we interact with. Dancing With the Devil was written to educate the body of Christ with the knowledge of who the occultist is and what they practice. It will equip believers to reach out and minister effectively to those in the occult."
"The church has to be prepared for anyone in all kinds of conditions to walk in their doors and be more effective in ministering to them. Not only that, but we must understand them in order to reach them where they are, if they don't walk in our door." Harshbarger told CP that since its release in 2012 the response to the book has been "tremendous."
"Dancing With the Devil has been in the top 100 Christian books in the U.K. and has been received in the U.S. in a powerful way. We are receiving responses daily from former occultists how the book has helped them," he said. "There was a young man who is simply on fire for God who took the challenge of the book very seriously. He read the book and the next day led a Wiccan to the saving grace of Jesus Christ! That is effectively reaching and ministering to those trapped in the darkness of the occult."