SatanCon and the Kingship of Christ
The last week of April, The Satanic Temple (TST) tried to set a Guinness world record for the largest gathering of satanists during the 10th Annual SatanCon with its “Witches Night” theme in Downtown Boston (reportedly packing hotels throughout the city).
The sold out conference featured myriad satanist rituals and educational sessions such as, “Sins of the Flesh: Satanism and Self-pleasure,” “Deconstructing Your Religious Upbringing,” and “Reclaiming the Trans Body: Atheistic Strategies for Self-Determination.” It also offered a satanic marketplace of 50 vendors to the public and the Little Black Chapel to administer satanic rites and weddings. (TST also has filed religious freedom lawsuits in various US states arguing that abortion bans violate the rights of pregnant women to engage in satanic religious abortion rituals.)
Boston, where I minister in Cambridge, was claimed as the host to this notorious assembly largely due to its ongoing tension with the TST. Last year, SatanCon was held in Scottsdale, AZ, for a similar reason.
SatanCon is a publicity stunt. Nevertheless, people gathering in mass in the name of Satan naturally shocks the Christian community. It seems a serious scandal for a historically Protestant nation like America. It feels like a rebuke to the relatively recent political surge of evangelicals. But Christians in Boston and throughout the country should not become anxious; we have much better responses. We should act as if Jesus is King here in America.
First, let’s understand what the enemy is doing. The kingship of Christ should give us the courage to look at matters closely and see them for what they really are, not merely accepting the media’s (social or otherwise) representation. TST is not an occultist organization. Ironically, The Satanic Temple does not believe in spiritual beings, including Satan. They are radical secularists who adopted a sensational aesthetic and a religious veneer to achieve public recognition and to mock faith. Their key doctrines are individualism, secularism, rationalism, and materialism. Their ethic emphasizes the “religious” right of abortion, atheistic education, and the elimination of corporal punishment. In other words, this is a group with mainstream American beliefs who have named themselves “satanic” to ridicule and rile Christians. In a double irony, TST proves itself to be truly satanic in spite of only using the name in mockery.
Second, let’s remember that prayer is our first and best response. Prayer must not be our last resort. Considering it “all we can do” reveals just how alike we are to American secularists. Jesus is enthroned in Heaven and talking to Him is no small assault on the power of the evil one. In the face of a satanic surge in our society, churches should gather together to pray. They should pray according to the instruction in Westminster Shorter Catechism 102. Let’s pray together that Satan’s kingdom would be destroyed, that the kingdom of grace would be advanced, and that the kingdom of glory would hasten. Jesus is the King and He told us to pray “your kingdom come.” Let’s believe that following His instructions will work. A sabbath-day prayer meeting is the most politically powerful gathering in America.
Third, let’s submit to Jesus’ providential plans. Communal prayer accumulates passion, stirring us up to love and good works. It harnesses and tempers our ambitions, making us sensitive to the Spirit’s work. King Jesus already has all authority in heaven and earth and it’s His Father’s pleasure to give us the kingdom. He has already dispatched His church militant to the battlefields of His choosing. So, let’s choose our battlefields wisely. SatanCon is a mass gathering intended to acquire publicity and belittle Christianity. Instead of playing into their hands with counter-protests, Christians can reverse the strategy. Use their publicity to start conversations with neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Stay engaged in their existing callings and communities, clarifying Satan’s true nature and highlighting how Jesus is the answer to the world’s darkness. All politics is local. The salvation of the nation begins with sharing salvation with the neighbors.
Fourth, and finally, let’s understand what Jesus is doing. SatanCon is merely the fruit of a much deeper root. Congregations and denominations need to wrestle more intentionally with the big questions: How did this happen? What is the biblical mandate regarding freedom of speech or religion in civil society? How much should we care about political issues and what can we do about them? Our history of America and of Christianity in America needs a good cleansing. We all too often make too much of one or the other and miss Jesus’ royal work entirely. Our political expectations need a baptism in biblical teaching. Jesus is reigning here and yet will rule further still. The Bible does not leave Christians without answers to our political and social concerns–Jesus’ kingship, both in its reality and in its otherworldliness, should shape and influence our engagement with them.
The Satanic Temple’s religious ambitions are thrice ironic. Superficially, they label themselves “satanic” in order to oppose the spirituality of religion. More deeply, they unwittingly admit that individualistic rationalism is “satanic”. Ultimately, they expose how deep into secularism American Christianity has sunk. Our instinct to protest rather than pray lays bare our misplaced faith in presidents or people instead of the Prince of Peace. Resorting to political action against such gatherings reveals our tendency to overlook the reality of spiritual warfare. We struggle to keep in step with the Spirit. The disturbing, appalling nature of a public gathering of so-called, and actual, satanists shows we need to recover the Christian conviction that Jesus is head over all things to the church, including the nation and its various conventions. Jesus is King here and we need to act like it.
If we believe Jesus is King of Boston and America, then we will enthrone Him. We will enthrone Him over ourselves by beginning our politics with collective prayer. We will enthrone Him over our lives by initiating our politics in the communities and callings we have already been sovereignly assigned. We also will enthrone Him over our nation by advancing His grace and His glory into public places, expecting Him to subdue people to Himself, to rule and defend His people, and to restrain and conquer all His and our enemies. Jesus is King; let’s live like it–and watch the demons cower before Him while begging to flee into swine where they belong.
Nota bene: Special thanks is owed to Thomas Fisher and Todd Friel for help with these thoughts.
Noah Bailey is the pastor of First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Cambridge, MA. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Lydia, and they have six children, three girls and three boys, in alternating order. Originally from a New York dairy farm, he has two B.A.s from Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA, and an M.Div. from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.