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The Temple I’m Not Joining

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Department Of First Things First

Fifty-one years ago today, the blast that was heard around the world.   [1]

Happy Exploding Whale Day, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

In May 2014, The Satanic Temple scheduled a Black Mass to be held on the Harvard University campus, sponsored by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club; the event was forced to relocate off campus due to significant opposition by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and school administrators.
(Wikipedia, The Satanic Temple entry)

Department Of Arguably The Best Quote From A Documentary Filled With Zingers

“I think the participants felt discouraged after their permit  (to demonstrate) in Boston was denied.  And then it just occurred to me: this is the Catholic Church in Boston, which covered up decades of child rape, moved priests around, covered it up, let them continue their raping and child abuse… and then had the gall to say what *we’re* doing was sinful? I mean, fuck them.”
(a member of “The Satanic Temple” (TST), as quoted in, Hail, Satan?)

 

 

 

“The mission of The Satanic Temple, a religious organization, is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.
The Satanic Temple has publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when religious installations are placed on public property, provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women’s reproductive autonomy, exposed harmful pseudo-scientific practitioners in mental health care, organized clubs alongside other religious after-school clubs in schools besieged by proselytizing organizations, and engaged in other advocacy in accordance with our tenets.”
( mission statement, from The Satanic Temple website )

*   *   *

The Wiccan priest tried (unsuccessfully) to stifle rolling her eyes.  The man interviewing her had asked her to explain Wiccan beliefs but inserted a stereotypical inaccuracy before he gave her time to answer:

“So, you are devil worshippers?”

The Wiccan’s tone indicated that her patience was tried; obviously, this was not the first time she had been asked that question. She replied emphatically, and a bit wearily:

No, *we* don’t worship Satan.
*We* don’t believe in Satan, or devils or demons.
*Christians* are the ones who believe in the devil. Satan is a Christian god.”

 

 

 

The interview moiself  refers to happened many years ago, in a documentary I saw about the connections between Wicca and Paganism and Norse Mythology.  I thought of that interview last week when, thanks to daughter Belle’s recommendation, I watched Hail Satan?, the 2019 documentary which followed the rise of the grassroots activist organization, The Satanic Temple (TST).  Belle thought I would find the documentary entertaining and provocative – she was correct – and we had a fun back-and-forth texting about the subject matter.

Hail Satan?, as one reviewer put it, “puts the fun in satanic fundamentalism.”    [2]  In many places the film is downright hilarious…and also thought-provoking.

“For something that doesn’t move or talk, monuments have been the subject of much debate and deep feeling in recent years. And not just Confederate monuments, but also religious ones. And one of those debates played out in Arkansas, where State Senator Jason Rapert petitioned to erect a statue of the Ten Commandments outside the Capitol building in Little Rock. In response, a group called The Satanic Temple asked to have a monument of their choosing displayed on government property. It was of Baphomet, a goat-headed angel-winged icon. And let’s just say the offer wasn’t that well-received.

That fight and The Satanic Temple more broadly is the subject of a new documentary called “Hail Satan?” – that’s with a question mark. And it follows the founding of this group, which is bringing a puckish new voice to a very thoughtful and actually serious debate over religious freedom.”

( NPR, ” Filmmaker And Satanic Temple Leader Talk New Documentary,
 ‘Hail Satan?’  4-27-19)

 

 

Moiself  was chuckling throughout the film, especially at the moment whence the opening quote in this post is taken:  in Boston 2014, when The Satanic Temple had received permission to perform a Black Mass, and they were being picketed by Catholic priests and nuns and received so many threats they decided to call it off.    [3] A Satanic or Black Mass  [4]  is a grotesque mockery of the Catholic Mass, and is meant to be offensive to RC believers…but then, the Catholic Mass and other Christian churches’ communion rites – with their reenactments of ritualized cannibalism – can be offensive (or at least, bizarre and mystifying) to people of other beliefs.

So, there they were, in the middle ages twenty-first century, priests and nun in their robes, holding rosary beads, crucifixes,chalices, and other artifacts of “catholobelia”… [5]

 

 

and then you have the “Satanists,” in their robes and masks….

 

 

It was so funny, to see both sides in their respective, silly outfits.  Only the Satanists seemed to have any self-awareness about the whole thing – that this (religion) is all play acting/dress up.

Does moiself  think that any of those people involved with TST are, in fact Satanists – that they actually and sincerely “believe in” or “worship” Satan?

Hell no.

The impression I got was that TST organizers and the vast majority of members are part political/Constitutional/free speech activists, and part street theater/Merry Pranksters…with some Cosplay nerds devotees thrown in there as well.

Belle and I bantered with the question: Does TST do more harm than good, by using imagery and tactics that some people find sooooooooooooooooo offensive? Yes, and no.  And admittedly, there is a certain power to be had from disgusting, shocking, frightening, and angering your adversaries.  If you have personal, political, and/or ideological beefs with Christianity, what better way to get under a staunch Christian’s skin than to profess allegiance to that which they view as their polar opposite, whether or not you actually “believe in” your own silly deity (just as you don’t believe in their silly deity).

 

“Who you callin’ silly?”

 

And, analogous to how some rap stars often call themselves the N-word, many people believe that there is power in taking a pejorative which has been used against you and using it (on) yourself. As one of the TST members interviewed noted, for many Conservative and Evangelical Christians, any beliefs other than theirs are evil.  Thus, if you believe something other than their interpretation of their religion, you are under the influence of the devil – they are going to consider you evil or satanic anyway, so why not be proactive about it and claim the title yourself, under your terms, not theirs?

For moiself, one of the more uproarious moments documented in Hail Satan? occurred when TST took a page from the Mormon playbook of performing proxy baptisms (a ritual wherein a proxy for a deceased, non-Mormon person is baptized into the Mormon church   [6] ).  In order to incense and mock the notoriously homophobic Westborough Baptist Church founder, these antics ensued:

” A group of satanists say they’ve given the controversial Westboro Baptist Church a taste of its own medicine, performing a same-sex ritual at the grave of the mother of the church’s founder.
Members of the Satanist Temple performed on Sunday what its spokesman describes as a “pink mass,” an admittedly made-up ritual celebrating gay love, at the grave in Meridian, Miss.
Spokesman Lucien Greaves doffed a headdress made of horns as two male couples and a female couple recited scripture, lit candles, and made out over the grave.
Members then posthumously declared Catherine Johnston, the mother of Westboro’s founder Fred Phelps, a lesbian.”

(“Satanists Perform ‘Gay Ritual’ at Westboro Gravesite,” ABC news, 7-13)

Belle and I went back and forth re the tactics of TST, which we both found…the word “silly’ kept being used.   However seriously you do or don’t take TST, it seems to be a reaction to the abuse of power and religious discrimination promulgated by Christian culture and theology, rather than standing for something on its own.

However….

Many of TST‘s antics are actually well-informed public protests, and not just “giving the middle finger to the evangelical right.”  One high ranking TST organizer pointed out that “…we are really giving the state of Oklahoma a civics lesson,” referring to TST‘s fight to have their group’s goat-headed statue (“Baphomet“) displayed on public ground, after Oklahoma allowed Christian religious artifacts on the State Capitol lawn.   [7]

 

 

One lawyer quoted in the film said, “…from a constitutional law perspective I am really interested in the Satanic temple, because it is basically making these public bodies confront the real implications of their decisions to allow religion into the public square.”

 

 

The documentary gets into some very interesting, and serious and disturbing territory when it revisits the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s , a time when many innocent people’s lives were ruined via a series of bizarre, totally false and fabricated accusations of ritualized child rape. The founders of and teachers at the McMartin Preschool and so many others endured false charges of child abuse;    [8]   meanwhile, as records would later reveal, priests and other religious figures were actually abusing children, with impunity.

One TST member recalled how he, as a boy during the 1980s who loved to play Dungeons and Dragons,  was ostracized by his friends’ religious parents, who thought the D & D game had satanic connections:

“The ‘satanic panic,’ we now know, in an entirely verified and publicly known way, was projection.
*They* (Christian religious leaders) were doing it (abusing children).
I was playing D and D.”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Devil Made Me Do It Edition

I’m writing a book about a guy who peddles shoe parts to Satan.
It’s your basic, “Sold My Sole To The Devil” novel.

Where does the devil do his dishes?
Helsinki.

Why couldn’t the Devil find any cheese?
There’s no whey in hell.

How do I know that Satan works at the DMV?
Because a priest said the devil takes many forms.

If the devil were to go bald…
I bet there would be hell toupee.

I want to get a job as a stunt devil who lights his butt on fire.
It’s just something I asspyre to.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you keep in mind that the things you take seriously
may be silly – or disturbing – to others;
May you never attribute human failings – or successes – to supernatural beings;
May you honor Exploding Whale Day ® in your own special way;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Well, if your world consists of proud Oregonians.  And it should.

[2]Hail Satan? puts the fun in Satanic fundamentalism.”  The Verge, 4-17-19

[3] Actually, they moved it to another location.

[4] Which TST was going to perform in private, as in, not open to the public.

[5] My term (I think) for such accoutrements.

[6] Yes, this batshit crazyass rite in the LDS church is a thing.

[7] The Satanists won that battle in court, as per a 2015 Oklahoma State Supreme Court decision.

[8]  And were ultimately acquitted of all charges…after a trial that lasted SEVEN YEARS and cost taxpayers 15 million dollars.

The Woo I’m Not Speaking

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A blurb in the Sunday Oregonian‘s (3-30-14) arts section The Buzz claimed that James Patterson is the most “successful” author since January 2001 (my emphases):

“…which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been to the beach or walked down the aisle of a plane.  Patterson, a former advertising executive…has successfully branded himself and started several new product lines with co-authors.” 

Patterson has branded himself.  Yikes.  And, ouch. 

And he’s started “several new product lines.”  Literary integrity, schmegrity; Pulitzer, schmulitzer – it is every author’s dream, to have their own line of toiletries, kitchen cleaning supplies and/or energy drinks….

Well, no, it isn’t.  Or, at least, it didn’t used to be.  I have pissed and moaned about it decried this transformation before in these virtual pages, and will likely do so again, seeing as how, increasingly, fiction authors are advised or even expected to build “platforms” and establish recognizable “brands” – concepts once associated with shilling laundry detergent.

Oh, an elaboration/translation of the last term (“co-authors”), for those of you fortunate enough not to be able to recognize the literary shenanigans between the lines.  The reason there seem to be new “James Patterson” books out every four months is that James Patterson isn’t writing them.  He’s not the only “successful” author to go this way (yet another a dirty little secret in the best selling fiction world).  Patterson the newbie author did write his earlier works.  Now that he has established his genre and style and main/recurring character, and he comes up with an outline or premise for a new book (a 60 – 80 page “treatment,”) and those co-authors so casually mentioned?  They do the actual writing.

Co-authoring (a phenomenon akin to ghost writing ) will get you a work-for-hire-fee, while Patterson gets the credits and royalties. Occasionally co-authors get a cover credit [1](usually listed as “with” or “and “not “by”, as in Patterson’s latest credits, which feature his name prominently above the book’s title.

Not long after came across an article in a writer’s trade magazine about Patterson’s co-author arrangements, Patterson pledged to make a made a $1 million donation to independent bookstores around the country.  Nice move. So, now I have to grit my teeth and acknowledge that at least some of those trash royalties might be put to good use.

*   *   *

The connection explained.

Separated at birth?

A new phrase seems to have entered our ever-expanding lexicon.  By now some of the attention has died down, but last week you couldn’t swing a dead honey badger without hearing or reading about conscious uncoupling.

Don’t swing me.

Even diligent celebrity ignorers couldn’t hide from the torrent of talk show & social media quips re actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s and musician Chris Martin’s bemusing announcement, posted on Paltrow’s GOOP website under the heading, Conscious Uncoupling.

“It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate…. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.  Love, Gwyneth & Chris.”

A brief sidetrack:  more than one alert journalist has noticed that the vast majority of the scorn being heaped upon the producers of the prodigiously precious proclamation is falling upon Paltrow’s petite, porcelain shoulders:

 “…together for 12 years…by all evidence, equal partners in whatever was Project Paltrow-Martin…. Martin’s name and visage are attached to the “conscious uncoupling” letter.  And yet it’s Paltrow who’s received all the scorn for the admittedly deeply pretentious announcement, as she has throughout the pair’s marriage…. Why does every attempt to read into Paltrow and Martin’s marriage end with the takeaway that Paltrow is a villain and Martin a passive bystander?
(“Gwyneth Paltrow’s getting treated much worse than Chris Martin,” by Daniel D’Addario)

Once again, I digress.

Conscious uncoupling. The first time I heard the phrase it sounded, to my warped little mind, like the title for a course in the Zen School of Railroad Engineering. 

Now that we have mastered Mindful Milepost Marking, we graduate to Conscious Caboose Coupling.

My theory re why the Paltrow-Martin announcement received such scornful attention is three-fold:

(1) conscious uncoupling is the epitome of “woo-speak;” it is an amalgam of New Agey lingo meets politico-nonspeak, that obscures what it purports to reveal  (“The cars we sell are not used, they’re pre-owned”).

(2) P-M’s use of such a WTF?! expression draws attention to the form of announcement itself, rather than the information contained therein, and the announcement goes on to insincerely (if unconsciously) ask for privacy.

(3) number three has indeed folded.  Two folds are plenty.

Anyway and thus, the punk & Gwyn & Chris connection:  The punk’s painfully, exhaustively detailed bodily, hair and sartorial mutilations and modifications, in essence, scream, “Look at me!  I’m special!  Everyone, pay attention to ME!  Then, of course, when attention is granted, surly punk snarls, “What are you looking at?”

Gwyn & Chris, darlings: if you really wanted to do this with the least amount of fuss, y’all could have said nothing, or, released a brief but straightforward statement: we’re separating and/or getting divorced, and ask for space and consideration for our family during this difficult time.

*   *   *

Speaking of woo

Dateline: Monday, March 30, ~ 4:50 am. I am awakened by a loud, WOO-WOO!  I bolt upright in the bed, my heart pounding, and nudge MH.  “Uh…are you okay?”

MH chuckles softly (apparently, his outburst also woke his own self up). “It’s okay.  It was a dream. I was trying to scare something away.”

Moiself:  “Well, you scared me.”

MH pauses for a sec before answering.  “Then I guess it worked.”

*   *   *

Speaking of scary clowns….

Fred Phelps, vitriol-spewing head of the hate-mongering, gay-baiting, soldier-funeral-picketing Westboro Baptist Church, died March 19.  Let us pause for a moment of silence, or a chorus of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. I’m pro-choice; I’ll leave it up to you.

Ever since Phelp’s death I’ve noticed a higher than usual number of liberal-Christians-feel-good-about-themselves, rainbow-strewn, If you’re using the Bible to hurt other people you’re using it wrong” postings on Facebook.  The trouble with such a sentiment is that the people employing it are “using it wrong.”  The thing is, if you are using your bible, or any ancient “holy scripture,” as a life instruction manual, you will find plenty of commandments for believers to specifically hurt people.

The cruelties of the Old Testament [2] are sometimes acknowledged (and well known, at least by us happy heretics) but rarely cited by Christians.  When believers are confronted with scriptural depictions of their god’s barbarities, including but oh-so-not limited to…

☼  burning alive people who complain

☼   commanding the wholesale slaughter of a nation (kill all males and non-virgin females, but keep the virgin women for yourselves [3] )

☼   killing the new neighbors who have a different religion

☼   ordering the death sentence for a man who gathered firewood on the wrong day

☼   and also for children who curse their parents or are stubborn

☼   sending a bear to maul and kill youths who teased a follicularly-challenged prophet (they called him “baldy”) 

…their knee-jerk strategy is to claim that all those acts of mass and individual murder, rape and torture “don’t count,” because JC supposedly rejected the OT’s violent legacy. [4]

Cool story, bro.

However, Christianity’s own theology refutes this excuse.  The cornerstone of Christian belief, “the trinity,” avers that Jesus was/is god.  This means JC was/is also the OT god, that crotchety, short-tempered, “You kids get the hell off my lawn!” Yahweh – the same deity who ordered all those killings, the same credited author of the numerous, violent, repellent commands listed in the Torah (“the Law”).

In the New Testament scriptures, Jesus is quoted as strongly approving of the law and the prophets, and makes no exceptions for the absurdities and cruelties contained therein.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [5]

The NT also has Jesus claiming that he has come to destroy families by making family members hate each other. JC claims he has come “not to send peace, but a sword;” and that those who don’t believe in him will be cast into a fire to be burned; and that we should fear a god who is willing and “able to destroy both soul and body in hell” and who has the power to kill us and then torture us forever in hell. Oh yeah, and JC had no quarrels with the idea of drowning everyone on earth in the flood, and says it’ll be just like that when he returns, and that people who disagree with his followers will suffer a fate worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. [6]

And since scripture itself claims Jesus is always in perfect agreement with the Father, [7] believers cannot claim that war, murder and cruelties were only divinely willed in OT times, as, once again, their pesky scriptures claim that their “god does not change.” [8]

Look.  I’m glad that (most) contemporary believers don’t take their “holy books” seriously – as in, applying what their scriptures literally say – which enables them to pick & choose from among the “nice stuff” (e.g., The Sermon on the Mount & the Beatitudes).

But Fred Phelps also was a believer who picked and chose. He chose from among the “icky stuff,” true, but the ickies were scriptural directives nonetheless.  And Phelps had plenty of biblical ammunition for determining what and whom his god hates.

*  *  *

 You can choose your friends and you can pick your nose,
but you can’t choose to pick your friend’s nose. [10]

Do you like my earring? I picked it myself.

*   *   *

Someday I’ll write my own version of the Beatitudes.  In homage to my childhood summers spent at the beach, I’ll title them The Beati-Dudes: timeless wisdom channeled via The Chosen Ones of Southern California. [11]

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, ’cause…dude?  No way, man, it sucks to be poor!”

Surf’s up.  It must be time for the hijinks to ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

 

[1] Or not, as with sci fi author Ron Goulart, co-author of “William Shatner’s” Tekwar series.

[2] A (rather condescending) Christian term for the books of the Hebrew Bible.

[3] read Numbers 31 for the heart-warming story of the Midianites.

[4] The typical theological justification is that Christians are to read the OT stories “through the lens” of the NT.

[5] Matt 5:17 – 19

[6] Matt. 10:34-36; John 15:6; Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5; Matt. 24; Mark 6.

[7] John 10:30.

[8] Malachi 3:6; James 1:17.

[9] footnote  #9 is taking a break.

[10] Robyngwen 2:99.  I’m just sayin.’

[11] I mean of course, surfers.