Monday, April 19, 2010

Selling Satan: The Tragic Story of Christian Evangelist Mike Warnke and Why It Is Worth Remembering

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, Christian speaker Mike Warnke was a hot item. His albums, a blend of comedy and powerful Christian messages, propelled to #1 on the Christian charts. His books sold in the tens of thousands, and he was first on the Christian speaking tour in terms of bookings. Mike Warnke was on top of the evangelical world.

Mike Warnke presented himself an ex-Satanist. He was the expert on Satanism and the occult in the Christian world. Churches looked to him as an authority, law enforcement agencies even used him to help train officers about the occult, and the world came to know how evangelicals viewed Satanism through the writings and messages of Mike Warnke. He was a spellbinding orator. He could make people laugh, and in the next minute have them crying. His testimony was absolutely riveting. He told how he was heavily involved in Satan worship as a youth, and then eloquently identified his own personal participation in the black art. Mike enraptured audiences with his biographical story. What was particularly moving for conservative evangelicals was the manner in which Mike Warnke moved from his own story to exalting Jesus Christ by presenting the gospel message. "If Christ can save Mike Warnke from the depths of committed Satanic worship, then for heaven's sake, Jesus Christ can save you!" Powerful, right?

Well, not really. You see, Mike Warnke fabricated the depths of his involvment in Satanism. Oh, he seemed to have dabbled a little in Ouji boards. Sure, he looked and dressed a little weird in high school (who didn't in the 60's and 70''s). But by no means was Mike Warnke ever a devout Satanist. He lied about his background. He lied about his family. He lied about his experiences. He lied just about everything. Why? Well, back then Satanism was something people were scared about--and Mike saw an opportunity to present himself as an expert on the subject. So he presented himself as a former leader of a coven of youth heavily devoted to Satanism. One of Mike's high school friends, who knew the real story of Mike's youth, put it like this:
“I always wanted to write him a letter and say, Mike, when were you able to have this coven of fifteen hundred people? About the most exciting thing we used to do was play croquet.
Cornerstone Magazine put an end to Mike's lies. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty. But every evangelical ought to read the article by Cornerstone. As a wise man once said:

"A people unfamiliar with their own history are destined to repeat the mistakes of their fathers."