Okay, hear me out on this one— don’t jump to conclusions.
Here in Chesapeake, VA (temporarily here for a few months) there has been a bit of a stir as a group called the “After School Satan Club” (ASSC) has put in an application for after school activities utilizing public school properties. Obviously, many Christians (and non-Christians) are up in arms about this. Curiously, one Christian organization has been very supportive of their efforts.
This is “Child Evangelism Fellowship” (CEF). This is a group that my wife and I have worked with on the periphery for a number of years. It is Evangelical and tending more to the conservative side of Christian faith and values. At first it may seem like this is a very strange response for them.
However, as one reads more about it, it is clear why CEF is supportive.
First of all, the ASSC is a movement that only seeks to put in after school programs where there are pre-existing religious programs. According to the ASSC website, “The After School Satan Club does not believe in introducing religion into public schools and will only open a club if other religious groups are operating on campus.”
And then as one looks just a wee bit deeper one finds that the ASSC does not believe in Satan, does not worship Satan, and does not have temples despite the logo (see below):
Years ago I had a friend (or at least a friendly acquaintance) who described himself as a Satanist. However, he was an atheist and did not believe in the existence of Satan either. There are religious Satanists apparently, but it seems as if my friend was a Hedonist who wanted to appear “edgy.”
In the case of ASSC, I do think the “edgy” aspect is important. As a local volunteer for ASSC said, “We are non-theistic. I understand the apprehension behind the satanic name, but he is just an imaginary figure that we look to because he is the eternal rebel that fought for justice and humanity.”
Putting their statements together, it is pretty clear that ASSC is essentially a group that opposes religious groups having access to public schools and so has chosen a symbol that they don’t believe — and not using it for its symbolic power to them, but for (reactive) power it has to their opponents.
Many of you may remember the “SATANIC PANIC” of the late 1970s and early 1980s when there were fanciful stories of satanic cults doing horrible things right under our noses. Think of the movie Hot Fuzz (or consider the wildly unlikely QAnon stories that have been circulating this decade).
Christians reacted quite predictably with… panic, anger, and opposition. Understandable. However, being predictable has its problems. Christians in the US like to fall back on a certain unspoken “dominionism.” We want Bible Clubs in the public schools but feel like these should be permitted while keeping out other religious groups. For years, I have had friends who were desperately trying to return (formal, public) prayer in government schools. I really was not one of them. For close to a year I lived in a city that was over 2/3 Mormon. I was quite aware that any formal public prayer brought into the schools would be a prayer very much of a different nature to what I would consider a prayer. And maybe that is okay. I don’t think, however, that was what my friends were envisioning. One cannot pick and choose how “equal before the law” is applied.
In Baguio City, I recall American missionaries and local pastors downright gleeful in opposing the building of a mosque in our city. Of course, that opposition really is out of touch with the religious freedom that the Philippines seeks. It is also out of touch with the consternation felt by the same Christians when churches are not being allowed in some other parts of the world. The opposition to a mosque being built in Baguio was essentially in support of what was illegal so (not surprisingly) the delay on the construction of the Grand Mosque and subsequent additions of little mosques in the city was slight. Frankly, if you as a Christian want to support the free exercise of your own faith, one of the best ways to accomplish this is support the free exercise of other faiths as well.
CEF with its “Good News Club” is aware of this. They know that Equal Access means, well… equal access. To respond predictably (opposing the so-called “satanic” group) means to give schools the justification to say that the only way to provide equal access to all religious groups is to deny access to all religious groups. In this, the ACCS would win since they have already said that they don’t want to enter schools that have no religious groups since they themselves don’t want religion in the schools.
There are times when it is good NOT to be predictable. When one is not so predictable, it is harder to be manipulated. If you freak out when people do things with the intention of getting you to freak out, they have won on some level.
And sometimes, the win is even bigger. Years ago there was the push for gay marriage in the US… not simply as a term, but to make it indiscernible from heterosexual marriage before the law. Many Christian groups opposed this. However, predictably, Christian groups were not willing to give up the legal privileges associated with marriage (even though in the Bible, marriage is more of an activity before God and family, not the government). Also not surprising, because of this disconnect, those groups that were in favor of gay marriage were able to get it approved through the courts under equal protection under the law. IF gay marriage is really something to be strongly opposed (and I have no interest in that topic at all one way or the other) then the way to do that was not to (a) live under a system of equal protection and rights before the law, with (b) a desire to keep things unequal.
Christians need to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I have heard many commentators struggle with this one. I am not sure I understand it myself. However, I THINK Jesus meant exactly what it sounds like He says. We need to be holy before God but not foolish in regards of how we deal with the world around us.
CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) did a story on this case. They, commendably, did not devolve into hysterics. This is a low bar to achieve but it is something. I do think CEF did better.
Recommended article on this: https://www.wavy.com/news/investigative/christian-group-disagrees-with-after-school-satan-clubs-beliefs-but-supports-its-right-to-meet/
3 thoughts on “Are There Times When “Supporting Satan” is a Good Thing?”
Great piece. Thanks for offering an alternative perspective for Christians. By the way, I have podcasted at Multifaith Matters with the co-founder of The Satanic Temple on this issue, and have upcoming conversations with a Child Evangelism Fellowship and After School Satan Club representatives.
Thanks. I will look up your podcast.
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