On the New Satanism

At last night’s Grammy Awards, there was an act that was Satanic in the most literal sense, with costumes, makeup, and fire all in a celebration of the Devil.

This is part of a continuing trend giving prominence to Satan. Musicians like Lil Nas X made some waves with his Satanic music video. Groups like the Church of Satan are recently sued the State of Idaho to stop its anti-abortion laws. Heck, there is even a television show called Lucifer that ran for six seasons where Satan was portrayed as the hero.

So what are we to make of this latest crop of Satanism embraced by the pop culture?

First of all, it is important to remember that this embrace of Satan is nothing new. I am not trying to downplay its maliciousness. But it is important to remember that this is not a new problem. Besides actual Satanic worship, people have often looked to Satan as a symbol of rebellion. The Romantic poets like Byron saw Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost as a tragic anti-hero rather than the embodiment of evil. In modern times, heavy rock and roll acts would embrace a Satanic theme in order to seem rebellious and tough. We saw this with Ozzy Osborne, Marilyn Manson and the like.

Another thing to keep in mind is that much of this embrace of Satanism is symbolic. I would imagine that those who performed at the Grammy’s yesterday were not doing so in devotion to their belief in the reality of the fallen angel. Instead, embracing the Devil is a thumb in the eye to Christianity. Since Christianity calls mankind to repentance of sins to embrace God, this new Satanism is a way of saying that traditional morality and God are things to be rejected the Lucifer did.

I remember a few years ago there was a pro-life demonstration where the people were singing amazing grace. One pro-abortion counter protester looked into the camera of the person recording and shouted “Hail Satan!” and the screamed like a lunatic. I cannot know for sure, but my instinct tells me that this person did not have any kind of true devotion to the devil, but instead wanted to shock and offend those on the side of God.

What most of these people want is to remake themselves in their own image. This is the Original Sin from Eden. Notice the dialogue between the woman and the serpent:

Now the snake was the most cunning* of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?”
The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
a it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’”
But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die!
God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know* good and evil.”
(Genesis 2:1-5)

Notice that Satan does not tempt the woman to Devil-worship, but self-worship. He tempts them to replace God with her own ego. I believe this is at the heart of most of this Satanism: a desire to be our own god and decide for ourselves good and evil. After all, we live in a world where the most basic truths about life, marriage, and even our God-given sex are called into question. This seems to be the goal of those who promote Satanic imagery and not actual devotion to the Devil.

Again, do not misunderstand: anything that glorifies Satan is wrong and dangerous. Even if those who engage in this symbolic action don’t actually believe, it does not change the fact that Satan is real and seeks to corrupt us. A child may play with a parent’s loaded gun because he wants to look tough, not thinking that it will actually hurt someone. But that does not change the fact that a loaded gun can still do great harm. Playing with demonic things, whether you believe them to be harmful or not, can lead great harm as well.

So what are we to do about this new Satanism?

This final section is a matter of opinion. Please feel free to use your own wisdom to disagree if you wish.

There is one school of thought that says that we should ignore it. I do not want to dismiss this out of hand because there is some merit here. The purpose behind using Satanic imagry is to provoke a strong reaction in Christians. Like rebellious teenagers, they want the negative attention and desire to get under your skin. In some way, even the writing of this article gives the performers last night what they want: attention.

But I’m not sure that ignoring it is exactly the right call. Again, this only my opinion. I think outrage on our part is the fuel that they want to continue stoking their hellfire. But ignoring it may give the impression that we give tacit acceptance to upholding evil.

In my opinion, we best keep in mind the thought of St. Thomas More who said that Satan “cannot endure to be mocked.” If we respond with righteous anger it will only encourage more outrageous behavior. But if we point out the ridiculousness of their antics, this takes the wind out of their sails. I’m not saying that this will result in a complete rejections of this new Satanism, but it will help.

If instead we respond with dismissive derision instead of explosive anger, we withhold the fuel they need. I don’t mean that we attack the person, who is made in God’s image and likeness. I mean that the behavior itself is to be mocked as ridiculous. If we point out the childish, adolescent nature of the behavior we can treat those engaging in it with the same pity we extend to children who desperately try to shock us with their behavior.

Because behind all of these outrages displays of Satanism, there is a broken child of God who is desperate for love and acceptance. Maybe if we can disarm them with our good natured humor, we can reach the person that Satan is trying to damn.

Copyright 2023, WL 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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