by John Rose
So I guess now we’re talking about Satan, or specifically, After School Satan. I suppose in some ways After School Satan is different from Regular Satan in that Regular Satan has a major beef with humanity and the world, while After School Satan just wants to wear jammies, eat junk food, do your hair and talk infernally about boys.
Anyway, The Satanic Temple, a nontheistic religious organization, is now starting the After School Satan Club in at least ten schools around the country. The idea behind this is to compete with the Good News Club, which is an evangelical, Bible-based Christian afterschool program. After School Satan Clubs do not teach religion or how to perform Satanic rituals to kids (they have cable TV for that); instead they teach rational thought and trying to understand the world around us.
This is not a defense of it. This is simply an explanation. Basically, the Satanic Temple doesn’t even believe in Satan; instead Satan is simply used as a symbol against “tyrannical authority.” If you read the story of what happened to Satan in the Bible, then it states that what was going on (in at least one interpretation, lame though it may be–heh heh) was an employee/employer dispute, followed by a failed attempt at a coup and then a removal of a number of employees, including the one who started the whole mess in the first place.
But I can see how a person with a rebellious mindset would gravitate to this. Mostly, the Satanic Temple is just getting on people’s nerves by trying to force questioning about things in the world, and some of this is done by standing around shouting “HAIL SATAN.” Of course, no one seems to understand that you could just as easily get on TST members’ nerves by standing outside their services with a friend shouting “HAIL STAN” and when someone asks what you’re doing, introduce them to Stan and pass out pamphlets and literature explaining Stan’s backstory and why he’s such a great guy. (Most people who are really serious about any sort of religious outreach to others are markedly deficient in humor, and I know this due to the blank looks I would receive from other Baptist Student Union attendees in college when I talked that one time about getting a T-shirt made that said SATAN STOLE MY LUNCH MONEY.)
Having come from an evangelical Christian background (or at least a Christian background that started getting evangelical after they realized that being a jerk about where other people went to church was not helping them to win friends and influence people, plus Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell started telling them to do more outreach), I have a few thoughts on this.
First of all, the basic idea when I was a kid was that there would be no more prayer in public schools, that it would be completely removed because it wasn’t fair to other people who did not practice religion to make them say a prayer. So, they removed prayer from public schools, supposedly.
Trouble is, YA CAN’T.
People within a school setting pray on an almost constant basis, and I know this because I used to be a teacher. Students pray to pass tests, to avoid bullies, to not freeze up when talking to that cute guy/girl they like, to have things be better. Some students pray about some really dark things going on in their lives that I won’t go into here. Teachers pray too: for the bell, to make it through the day, for their students. Principals pray: to meet their budget, to GET their budget (in some cases), to keep their cool when dealing with parents/kids/teachers/whatever. Coaches pray for winning seasons, for their players, before and after games. Few of these prayers are ever said out loud, because no one has to actually pray out loud, or say some words, or kneel down, because most of what is actually required to speak to God is a thought, a whisper, an effort of will.
At the risk of sounding completely and brutally un-Christian, PEOPLE PRAY ALL THE FRIGGIN’ TIME IN SCHOOLS ACROSS THE NATION EVERY DAY AND MOST PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW IT.
Second, people have a problem with Satan, mainly because he’s Satan. Satan is supposed to be the Adversary, The Father Of Lies, The Devil, The Ruler Of Hell, and so on, etc. etc. (Incidentally, have you got a few minutes to talk about Stan? He’s a peach!) Satan is not seen as someone who is very “good” or forgiving; instead he wants to apply laws to get his way and make deals. God is shown as more philanthropical (even if He is a bit selective about it), while Satan is more of… A LAWYER. (Yeah, I said it.)
So anything Satan is kind of going to be a hard sell to the average person. But this is where the Satanic Temple diverges from what people normally think of as Satanism (sacrifice, ritual murder, reruns of Kardashians episodes, etc. etc.), mainly because of their Seven Tenets, which is part of the TST religious belief. The seven tenets are as follows:
1) One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason. (Basically, don’t be a jerk.)
2) The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions. (Sometimes true justice works a little differently than a law or an institution, and understanding this is part of not being a jerk.)
3) One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone. (If you don’t poke or hit or mess with people then you’re seen as Not A Jerk, and that’s a good thing.)
4) The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own. (Most real jerks in history have usually been dictatorial and unwilling to allow others to have or share in freedom.)
5) Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs. (Science is notoriously not jerky.)
6) People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused. (If you act like a jerk, say you’re sorry and seek forgiveness, and don’t act like a jerk no more.)
7) Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word. (See interpretation of Tenet #1.)
So that’s kind of the thing: both the Satanic Temple tenets and the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments all boil down, in one way or another, to DON’T BE A JERK. So either the Devil has gotten even BETTER at fooling people or these Satanic Temple people just really don’t believe in the Devil at all and it’s just a bunch of people who don’t like evangelical church. So, why is that?
Well, that’s another thing: Christianity, or at least the thing that a lot of people are calling that now, has gotten a great deal more exclusive than it used to be, and a great deal more obsessed with money, especially getting a lot of it in one place, which is usually the pastor’s new 60-room mansion. More and more people are turning away from the church simply because they do not feel welcome there or as if they belong there or are accepted there, which is the reason we have ended up with stuff like the Satanic Temple. And the truth of it is that the Good News Club is kind of like Extra Church, and the After School Satan Club is more like After School Single-Parent Children Club, by the sound of it. It’s just that people want to argue religion in schools now because the Internet apparently didn’t have enough room.
Also, while all the adults are sitting around arguing “my rights” and “the law” and so forth, no one has really asked any children how they feel about this at all, and the truth is that most kids are not given to the kind of philosophical discussion that these people want to foster. If you tell a little kid about After School Satan Club, most of them are going to think that you get to dress in red union suits with horns and jab each other in the butt with forks, while older kids are going to think that you get to listen to heavy metal records and argue the finer points of Slayer versus Venom and is Black Sabbath still relevant, or maybe watch all those horror movies that their moms won’t let them watch on cable.
But it’s all still kind of like having Satan in our schools because it’s called After School SATAN Club, so what should we do about After School Satan Club? Well, probably nothing, because at some point in the school year After School Satan Club, along with just about every other after-school activity (except for sports), is going to get totaled in favor of testing prep for standardized tests. And if anybody was really willing to do the legwork and research on the whole standardized test thing and what it’s done to American education, then maybe they would realize that Satan got in the schools a long time ago.
There you go. Hail Stan; he’s just marvy fab.
Published with the kind permission of John Rose, author, minister, and all-around awesome guy. You can find him at the included link on the byline to his FarceBlört page.