“Well, isn’t this special?” A group headquartered in NYC, called the ‘Satanic Temple’, is anxious to gift to Oklahoma’s State Capitol in Oklahoma City, a statue, illustrated above, depicting the god of the underworld, formerly known as the artist named Prince of Darkness. This is one of those newsy tidbits with so many shiny threads to them, that I find it extremely tempting, although it is somewhat hot to the touch – “ouch!”. I’ll be damned if this isn’t a crazy story. No doubt this is freaking out or soon to freak out many of my fellow Christian colleagues and readers. I have a somewhat different interpretation of how the situation might play out and why this might not necessarily be the dreadful, abominable event that it might seem at first crimson blush. I’ll get to that in a moment, but meanwhile, let me outline the events that led up to this.
Probably the prime factor in this is the debacle we all recognize as the controversy of the ‘Separation of Church and State’. It rears its ugly head in legal Armageddons in such diverse locales as Montgomery, Alabama and San Diego, California and has resulted in religious freedom proponents and the American Civil Liberties Union locking horns in Federal courts. Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, was swept from the bench by a state ethics panel for defying an order to remove the Ten Commandments statue in front of the courthouse. Amazing isn’t it? An ‘ethics panel’ and the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, rejecting the Ten Commandments and its champion? And then, there is the matter of Christian symbols, most notably, the Cross, on public land.
San Diego actually has a number of crosses, but the two that sparked multi year legal wars, were the ones on Mt. Soledad and Mt. Helix. The Mt. Helix issue has been resolved, by virtue of the land beneath it being sold by the city to a private organization – the Mount Helix Park Foundation, whereas the Mt. Soledad matter is still winding it’s way through the court system. The ‘Mohave Cross’ issue was also interesting, as described to us by ‘Death Valley Jim‘ (no-that’s not another Satan reference):
“In 2001, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a man living in Oregon, that was offended by seeing the cross on federal land. A lower federal court would order the removal of the cross, and blocked the ability of the land to be transferring to the Barstow chapter of the VFW in exchange for land privately owned within the Preserve by one of its members. Liberty Institute would get involved and file an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the VFW, The American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart and American Ex-Prisoners of War.
The cross remained in place during the duration of the legal battle, however it spent a number of those years boarded up inside of a box in an effort not to offend those passing by. In 2010, the Supreme Court reversed the lower courts ruling and declared that a law passed by Congress in 2003 was constitutional. This would allow the transfer of the memorial, and the land, to the VFW in exchange for private land that was within the National Preserve. Days after the verdict, on May 10th 2010 the cross that had been battled over for 10 years was stolen. Despite the missing cross the land exchange was official in April of 2012. In November of the same year the Mojave Cross was found along a road in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco. It was attached to a fence post with plastic ties and a note that simply read, “important historical artifact.”
Remarkable how the Frisco Bay Area (I love to say ‘Frisco’, it pisses them off up there so much), winds up inserting itself into that saga.
But back to the main topic. Religious symbols situated on public property are a guaranteed legal dustup. The Satanic Temple’s ‘Baphomet‘, presumably their corollary to the Lincoln Memorial or Lady Liberty, is no exception. “The monument has been designed to reflect the views of Satanists in Oklahoma City and beyond. The statue will serve as a beacon calling for compassion and empathy among all living creatures. The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation,” spokesman Lucien Greaves explained. Compassion and empathy – Satan? What are they smoking in that Temple back there in NYC?
Satan, even seated, is 7 feet tall. Why the heck hasn’t someone from an NBA team tried to sign him? He’d be a cancer in the locker room? Bloomberg Business Week reports that even more diverse organizations are lining up to get into the act. PETA wants to hang a banner that encourages people to stop eating meat, the Universal Society of Hinduism wants to donate a statue of the Hindu deity Hanuman, and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (say what? – somebody has lost their noodle!), wishes to donate a pasta-related memorial. Oklahoma, according to Bloomberg, is not amused. In response to the flood of unusual memorial requests, the state voted to place a ban on new statues at the statehouse. My guess would be that this is a tactic designed to freeze out ‘old Scratch’ from setting up his throne on the Capitol lawn.
Bloomberg also interviewed Lucien Greaves, the co-founder of the Satanic Temple and the Devil’s spokeshole. Here is the conversation:
Bloomberg: First, tell me a little bit about the Satanic Temple. What do you guys believe in?
Lucien: We organized in the beginning of 2013. Thousands of people have joined officially online, but of course their level of activity ranges dramatically. There’s a core group of us who are actually active. We look at Satan as a literary construct, not so much in line with the Christian demonology but more as he is in Anatole France’s [1914 book], Revolt of the Angels, where he rebels against arbitrary authority in favor of personal sovereignty. (Editor’s note – so now Satan is being re-cast as a ‘Tea-Partier’ or Libertarian?)
Bloomberg: So do you “slaughter goats and drink their blood in public,” as a religious panel on Fox News implied?
Lucien: Oh, no. Not at all. I think we’ve made that clear. I’m atheist, myself.
Bloomberg: OK, so tell me a little bit about this monument. How did the idea come about?
Lucien: We have members in Oklahoma. They reached out to us and told us about the Ten Commandments statue being placed there. When the ACLU sued, the state responded by saying it had actually envisioned a monument park and additional monuments could be added. We felt that was an invitation for more statues, so we decided to donate one.
Bloomberg: How did you raise the money?
Lucien: We have an Indiegogo campaign and hit our fundraising goal [of $17,000] yesterday morning. Right now we’re over $22,000, and people are still donating, so the monument will definitely be made. We have a 3D rendering of what it’ll look like, and we’re currently shopping around to find out where to get it constructed.
Bloomberg: The statue depicts a goat-man and children. What does it mean?
Lucien: Originally I had this idea of a four-legged goat creature with a saddle that children could sit upon, but it ended up looking a little too silly. So we went with this. It’s an image of Baphemot, the occult figure that the Knights Templar were (editor’s note – falsely) accused of worshiping in the 12th century during the crusades. In a way, it represents the hysterical witch-hunting fears of the past and our new empathetic drive to look more rationally at things.
Bloomberg: How have people reacted to all this?
Lucien: Surprisingly, the flood of support we’ve gotten far outweighs the hate mail. A lot of e-mails we get from people start out with them letting us know that they consider themselves Christian but support us on the basis of constitutional freedom. They understand we’re not assaulting them. We’re upholding our freedom to maintain a pluralistic nation where all voices can be heard and where we don’t discriminate on the basis of religion or creed.
Bloomberg: What do you think about Oklahoma’s moratorium on new statues?
Lucien: We haven’t been made aware of it officially. When we decided to donate a statue, we went through all the proper channels. We submitted a letter to the Capitol Preservation Commission, and they sent us back the paperwork we needed to fill out. All this happened before the moratorium, so as far as I’m concerned it shouldn’t apply to us retroactively. I’m not sure if the Hindus or PETA got in before the moratorium passed, but we did. No one has told us that there would be a change in our application status.
Bloomberg: I have to be honest with you, it seems unlikely that the Oklahoma government is going to erect a statue to Satan in front of its capitol. What will you do if you get denied?
Lucien: That would be then something for the lawyers to hash out. But if we fight the battle to the bitter end, and it turns out we can’t have our statue, we’ll try to place it elsewhere. We’ll move on to the next place (Obama’s Presidential Library in Chicago?).
Bloomberg: So you’re willing to go to court on this?
Lucien: Oh yeah.
Alright, now I get to throw my 3 cents in on all this and I know I’m going to catch Hell on it, but that’s O.K., I can take the heat. Would we ideally, just as soon not see a statue of the fallen angel nataS, (allegedly) spoken of in ‘backward masking’ on 70’s era rock albums, or depicted on countless death metal album covers? Of course not. But it might happen, no matter what. Remember, the Bible speaks of Satan as the ‘god of this World‘ (2nd Corinthians 4:4), so despite his sordid reputation, maybe we could take a Lemon here and make Lemonade out of it.
We used to take family trips across the country when my son was young and on one occasion we followed the Southern route back to the Cornhusker State, where my wife is from. You take old Highway 54 for a good part of the way, through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and then into Kansas and Nebraska. If the statue of that Old Serpent, the father of lies (not you, Barack, but nice try anyway), had been at the Oklahoma capitol at that time, why we might have added a couple hundred miles to the trip, just to go there and check it out. What better way to illustrate to your children that if they don’t accept Jesus, they could wind up hanging out for eternity with that stinkin’ piece of spiritual garbage? Not to mention the fact that Christian groups are always keen on finding appropriate settings for confronting sinners with the consequences of unrepented sin. Talk about low hanging fruit! What could be more ideal that to use Slewfoot’s graven, grotesque and repulsive image as a counterpoint to the good promises of the Gospel? Civics groups and history buffs could conduct tours discussing the origins of politics. I don’t mean to unfairly demonize anyone here.
Aside from that, it would no doubt give Oklahoma a tourism shot in the arm and the next time a tornado rolls through and wreaks massive devastation, people can chalk it up to Satan’s presence in their midst, and even possibly drag the Satanic Temple into court for their role in introducing this monster, to whom various and sundry evil happenings could be attributed. The sponsors of the statue admit that they are a religious sect, even though Mr. Greaves, (whose name would be even more interesting spelled Graves), claims to be an atheist. And of course, Satan himself lays claim to be a religious cult figure – sorry once again, Mr. President. Therefore, it is probably not legally possible to exclude ‘the Adversary’ from situating himself on Capitol grounds, due to his rights under the 14th Amendment. Hey, if corporations can be people, why the devil can’t the devil be a people? And, one more plus, it might be better to have Beelzebub out in clear sight where we can keep an eye on him, instead of him ‘living in the shadows of society’.
Put a fork in me, I’m done.