Dancing with the Devil

Some may have taken note of the Satanic goings-on in the world at large.  In particular there have been a number of news stories about the large Baphomet (an idol of Satan) statue that was unveiled in Detroit.  Is this the beginning of a new trend?  Is Satanism gaining hold?  What should Catholics do?

My response here is not based on strong sociological research.  But I am going to share my anecdotal experiences and insights.

A few years ago at my school, there was a small group of students that were passing around some pro-Devil messages.  These weren’t dark incantations or anything like that.  They were sarcastic lists and memes from the internet as to why Satan was better than God.  The messages said things akin to “Satan never flooded the whole world drowning children.”  Or “Satan didn’t murder the first born of a whole country.”

Did these students actually believe in the power of Satan over the power of God?  No.

I don’t think they had any real faith in the existence of God or the Devil.  So why was there such a fixation on Satan?

Because, as the current practitioners of Satanism believe, the Devil is the ultimate rebel.  He is a symbol of turning away from authority, because the authority he defied is Authority Itself.  Founded by Anton LaVey (who looks exactly like Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon), the Church of Satan is actually not about communing demonic forces.  The trappings of devil worship are there to mock the aesthetics of the Christian faith.  In other words (and pardon the crude metaphor), much of modern Satanism in pop culture is simply a way to give the middle finger to Christianity.

Take for example the video on the internet a few years ago at the Texas State Capitol.  A group of pro-life demonstrators were singing Amazing Grace.  Throughout the song, pro-abortion protestors shouted and booed.  And one woman in particular shouted loudly as she tried to disrupt: “Hail Satan!”

Does this woman literally worship the Devil?  I would guess not.  But knowing how devoted her enemies are to Christ, she said something outrageous to to shock and to upset.

I think that this is the case for many who speak this way about Satan.  Are there people who actually commune with demonic forces?  Of course.  But my experience tells me that most of those involved in things like the Baphomet statue in Detroit are doing so mainly to shock and upset Christians.  If you’ve seen pictures of the Baphomet statue, it is very much modeled on Christ the King, only the head is replaced with a goat wearing a Satanic seal on his forehead.  This is the equivalent of someone taking a photo of one of your loved ones and drawing a “Hitler mustache” on it.

It is a very adolescent mind-set.  The need to rebel in teens can be out of proportion and directed against the wrong things.  And some people never outgrow this need to “blow your mind” by how “radical” they are.  The Church Satan in Detroit plans to have the statue placed alongside the 10 Commandments displayed in Arkansas.  Why?  To shock and upset us.

 So how should we respond?

Before answering that question, it is important to remember that things like this come up each generation.  A few decades ago, Marilyn Manson was tearing up Bibles on stage.  Before him, Ozzy Osborne tried to make Satanism cool.  These fads come and they go, just as the teenage need to rebel lessens over time as adult responsibilities kick in.  How many of us went through a dark phase in high school?  We may not have gone full-blown Satan, but most of us grew up and out of it.

So should we simply ignore it?  Absolutely not!

The root cause of demonic infatuation may be mere rebellion, but that does not take away from the real danger.  Experience tells me that most people who dabble in these things do not believe that Satan is real.  But that is like juggling with live grenades.  Even if you don’t believe they can blow up in your face, it won’t stop them from doing so.  People who play around with Satanism are playing around with hellfire.

First, we need to be aware of our response.  As I’ve repeated many times, Satanists want to shock and upset you.  They want you to respond with fear and, more importantly to them, anger.  Like a child who shouts “I hate you,” to a parent, an angry response would only confirm the child’s distorted image of their parent.  Turning to the Satanist with outrage and anger gives them the knowledge that they have gotten under your skin, which is what they want.  Instead, we should respond with overwhelming kindness and gentle affection.  St. Augustine once said that when you are nice to someone who is attacking you, it is like heaping hot coals on their head.  I am not saying we want them to feel fire on their faces, but by returning hatred with love we imitate our Savior.

Second, we must be ready for the intellectual jousting that may occur.  I don’t think I am controversial when I say that we have a poorly catechized world.  It baffles me how so many of our high school students come into the 9th grade after years of Catholic education and still do not know the basics of the faith.  I do not blame them.  But think about their plight: they have been inundated by the pop culture and society at large to reject much of traditional faith and morality.  Often they never hear the reasons for our beliefs (Any positively portrayed opponents of “gay marriage” in TV or movies?  Anyone?).  But I have found that if there is even the slightest bit of openness, straightforward answers are a great help.  And in the classroom, when a closed-minded student tries to pick a fight without listening to the answer, it is important that I still give a reasoned response so that the rest of the students who are not closed-minded can hear the that reasoned response.

Third, and MOST important: we need to pray.  Our battle is not with a lifeless statue of a goat/man.  Our battle is with a real spiritual malignancy.  Jesus said we have to fear the one who can kill the body and the soul (Matt 10:28).  St. Paul writes, “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Eph 6:12)  The war is for the souls of men.  Prayer is our weapon.  Prayer is our shield.

Particularly, I would recommend a renewed devotion to St. Michael the Archangel.  My wife and I pray the St. Michael prayer every day:

St. Michael the Archangel, 
defend us in battle. 
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. 

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, 
and do thou, 
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, 
by the power of God, 
thrust into hell Satan, 
and all the evil spirits, 
who prowl about the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Even though many who play around with Satanic trappings may not think they are doing anything dangerous, they are wrong.  They are opening a door to a world of darkness they may not be able to close.

Because when you dance with the Devil, he always takes the lead.

Copyright 2015, W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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