The Satanic Temple’s “Snaketivity” display, up close and personal
In case you haven’t already heard, the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple successfully mounted a Satanist holiday display at the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing. And contrary to what some folks might expect, this wasn’t an act of vandalism (though many people might like to think it is). After learning that some guy from out-of-state had arranged for a Christian nativity display to be mounted at the Capitol, Jex Blackmore (a spokesperson for the Satanic Temple) fought to have a Satanist display mounted as well. It turns out that the rules for holiday displays require their owners to take them down every evening, which ironically caused the out-of-state Christian’s plan to fall through (since the guy doesn’t even live here). This meant that for one hot second, only the Satanist display would be mounted! But fortunately for Christians, state Senator Rick Jones (a Republican) managed to whip up a nativity display in the nick of time.
Naturally, Jones is complaining that the Satanists are “attacking” Christmas and trying to “steal” it from its “rightful” owners. Jones said:
They could have put theirs up in July or April or sometime. They didn’t need to put it up in the Christmas season. [. . .] That’s OK. We’re going to ignore them. I’m not afraid of the snake people. I’m sure that Jesus Christ is not afraid.
(Yes, Rick, I’m sure Jesus isn’t afraid. But the fact that you would even feel a need to say this indicates that you might feel a little uncertain about Jesus’ position on this matter, and maybe that’s something you should work on. Furthermore, this whole situation has predictably motivated Christian groups all over Michigan to step up their evangelism this Christmas season, which just reinforces my belief that Satan and Yahweh are really in cahoots with each other. “Satanic activity” always leads to a sharp increase in baptisms and Bible sales, so really, Senator Jones should be thanking Jex and her associates for bringing more business to his church.)
What Jones fails to understand, of course, is that this holiday season is not the sole property of Christians (and it never was). Many cultures have an end-of-the-year festival that’s celebrated in December and that usually coincides with the Winter Solstice in some way. Many of these festivals celebrate the fact that the nights will now be growing shorter again by lighting displays and exchanging gifts. The birth of Jesus was originally celebrated at a completely different time of year, and Christmas was only switched to December 25 by the Catholic Church to win more pagan converts (who refused to let go of their “wayward” winter holiday traditions).
This, in fact, is the Satanic Temple’s entire point in mounting this display in the first place. They aren’t attacking Christianity so much as they’re trying to point out that this time of year is sacred for many different people, and that our government is required by law to accommodate all religious traditions (including Satanists). If it doesn’t want to allow a Satanist holiday display, then by definition it can’t allow a Christian display, either. The fact that the Michigan Capitol has decided to allow this display is a victory not only for Satanists, but for Christians and all other religions as well. It is proof positive that the First Amendment and the separation between church and state are good for everyone.
Right here in Lansing, Michigan!
Yesterday, me, my wife, my brother Patrick and my sister-in-law all drove to Michigan to see this amazing feat. Quite frankly, I never thought I’d see the day when a Satanist holiday display could be mounted proudly and without fear on public property. And damn, did Jex and her associates do a fine job! The snake coiling around the Sigil of Sulfur is just beautiful. It actually doesn’t look very offensive at all; there are no inverted crosses, no eviscerated Christs, absolutely nothing that people who don’t know any better would probably expect. And the message of the display – “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge” – is something that even non-Satanists can agree with. As Brother Patrick put it, it was a wise choice on the Satanic Temple’s part to choose such a tasteful display. Who needs decapitated goats’ heads when you already have Christian motorcyclists running around the property, acting all spooked and drawing attention to themselves from the cops? (Yes, this was a thing, it actually happened; I saw it.)
A Lansing resident checks out the display.
I’m well aware that there are people out there who will just never understand Satanism, who are incapable of seeing this “Snaketivity” scene as anything other than an affront to Christianity, and who will misunderstand my own support for this display as something bad. I know there are also Pagans out there who think that we should have nothing to do with Satanists, and that supporting their legal battles will just make us look worse to the outside world. But the fact is that if Satanists aren’t protected by the First Amendment as much as anyone else is, then the First Amendment means nothing. This particular case is a major achievement for all minority religions, for if the Satanic Temple can succeed in putting up their display, there’s no reason why a Wiccan or Kemetic group can’t do the same thing. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we start seeing more non-Christian – and not just Satanist – displays next year as a direct result of this.
Happy Holidays everyone, and may the Gods bless you all.