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Occult Murder in a Small Missouri Bible-Belt Town

November 12, 1988

The series on devil worship among teen-agers in a small Missouri town was a vivid and wrenching portrayal of a disparate, alienated subculture existing within adolescent children everywhere.

Each of these teen-agers should be seen as a victim, not just the dead youth. Adolescence is often a confusing period of "searching" for the right identity. These were adolescents whose identification with the devil's "promise of power" and the strong need for control and mastery over their lives became an obsession.

The young people in the series chose a belief system which promised them the feeling of conquest and domination over the day-to-day frustrations of living. Ill-prepared for the doubts and insecurity of adolescence, the boys shared the common delusion that drug use and rock lyrics were the answer to the frustrations all children feel. Unfortunately, these teen-agers were very likely fraught with insecurity and feelings of powerlessness. So consumed were they that only by inflicting death on others could they feel impregnably alive.

The antithetical imagery of the power of Satan in the "God-fearing little town" shouldn't be forsaken by readers as a problem unique to Bible Belt communities or the strongly religious. Children everywhere lead fragile and uncertain existences which cause them to seek the foundation of hope for the future that will help them feel good about living and about themselves. This foundation should already be there for them by adolescence.

The sardonic reality in this case is that instead of achieving the desired personal and psychological emancipation during adolescence, many children are becoming emotionally entrapped by their powerful needs to "own" or "master" a belief system. As a society we owe it to them to provide a base-line set of values with enough structured freedom to explore the immeasurable variations of the values we instill. As people concerned with children we look toward the family to instill the sense of value and hope in teen-agers. It will not happen if children are left to themselves.

MICHAEL SEFTON

Garden Grove

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