While many Christians today are closely monitoring the growth and activity of Islam, especially after 9/11, another religious movement has been steadily growing "under the radar" and could become among the largest religions in the United States in less than five years.
"Wicca is the fastest-growing religion in America, set to be the third largest religion by 2012," claims Marla Alupoaicei, who co-wrote the recently released book "Generation Hex" with fellow Christian author Dillon Burroughs.
"The numbers of adherents are doubling every 30 months," she says.
Furthermore, every major city in the United States has networks of Wiccans, adds Burroughs.
"Certain parts of the country, such as the Pacific Northwest, the mountain states (New Mexico and Colorado) and areas near Salem, Mass., are the strongest in the U.S.," he says. "However, I live in Tennessee and have found pockets of Wiccans in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia to interview. I didn't have to travel far or even outside of the so-called Bible belt to find Wiccans."
On Wednesday, Alupoaicei and Burroughs were the special guests at Abunga.com's weekly "Authors at Abunga" chat, which connects avid book readers with their favorite authors.
During the hour-long chat, the authors fielded questions submitted to them regarding their new book, Generation Hex, which informs and equips Christians – especially parents – about Wiccan and New Age teachings.
To write the book, the authors interviewed neopagan conference practitioners, travelers to Salem, Mass., and current and former Wicca followers.
"We … talked to over 20 Wiccans in the process of Generation Hex to be as authentic as possible about the movement," Burroughs noted during the chat.
"The catchy title, Generation Hex, reveals that this current generation is the first to grow up with witchcraft as an accepted part of the culture," added Alupoaicei, who was inspired to write a book about Wicca after not feeling equipped to engage in a spiritual conversation with a Wiccan girl she encountered.
While "Harry Potter" and other media like "Charmed," "Buffy," "Sabrina," and "The Craft" have skyrocketed witchcraft into the public eye, the authors both agreed that among the biggest draws to the Wiccan culture is how community-oriented it is.
"Many involved in Wicca come from lonely backgrounds or difficult relationships and find new friends in the Wiccan community who embrace them (sometimes better than Christians do)," explained Burroughs, who served as a youth pastor for about a decade and said he was asked by students about Wicca and witchcraft more than any other religious movement.
"As our culture becomes more and more isolated and busy (and as real relationships are replaced by texting, IM, etc.), young people are starving for real relationships and true community, as well as for a powerful experience of faith," Alupoaicei added.
"People want a supernatural experience," she said.
And while the Christian life is an abundant, supernatural life in which the power of God can be experienced, Alupoaicei said Christians are not communicating that very well to the world.
Furthermore ignorance and misunderstanding within the Christian community has prevented people from drawing near to Christ and leaves them looking for something else.
"And, ironically, a desire to uphold Scripture," Alupoaicei added. "The Bible does say that Christians should not be involved in witchcraft, but that doesn't mean that we should not reach out to those involved in this practice.
"God loves every Wiccan and every pagan just as much as He loves every Christian. He does not want ANYONE to perish, but ALL to come to repentance," she added, referring to 2 Peter 3:9.
She recalled how one person that she interviewed said she was thrown to a sidewalk as a teen and told she would burn in hell.
"This is inexcusable," she said.
"Second, many Christians simply avoid Wiccans," Alupoaicei continued. "People tend to avoid stuff they don't understand."
The authors urged for more engagement from the Christian community, and more long-term engagement at that.
Burroughs said the number one complaint they received from Wiccans about Christians was that they would befriend them but later desert them if they did not convert in a short period time.
"To change this perspective, we must decide to love Wiccans whether they ever become Christians or not," Burroughs stated. "Only this long-term approach will work with many Wiccans."
Alupoaicei also advised Christians to simply take the time to listen to Wiccans instead of starting out using terms that might alienate the person or keep him or her from sharing his or her story.
"Many Wiccans/pagans had a specific triggering experience that caused them to turn toward Wicca or paganism. You could ask, 'What led you to embrace Wicca? What do you like about it?' and use that as a steppingstone to talk about your own faith.
"Most people love to talk about themselves," she added. "Why not ask them to share a bit about themselves with you?"
As for parents who think that their child may be getting involved with witchcraft, Burroughs also encourages them to first hear their child's story.
"They may be exploring their spirituality and see Wicca as a real option," he said. "If you listen first, then they are more likely to listen to your concerns as well."
Burroughs further encouraged parents to build a Christian worldview into their kids from the earliest time possible.
"I can't catch every idea my son or daughter will hear, but I can help them know God's Word so they can spot ideas that are not consistent with it," he explained.
Other topics discussed during the one-hour chat on Wednesday included Wicca's foundational creed and belief, the practicing of chants and spells, and the Wiccan belief in reincarnation and The Summerland – the Wiccan equivalent of heaven.
Published as media reports have claimed the existence of more than 700,000 Internet sites for teenage witches, "Generation Hex" has been described by its promoters as "perfect for personal study or as a gift for anyone interested or involved in Wicca" and a book that "identifies with the spiritual hunger of a generation seeking truth, authenticity, and hope in a fragmented world."
Burroughs says part of the goal with Generation Hex is awareness.
"People tend to avoid stuff they don't understand," he said during the chat. "If you know what Wicca is, maybe you won't be so scared to strike up a conversation with someone wearing a pentacle or pentagram."
Generation Hex was published early last month by Harvest House Publishers and includes a foreword written by Dr. Ron Rhodes, one of the world's best-renowned scholars in the field of apologetics as well as the author of over 40 books, many of them bestsellers.