This week, the Grammys were held in Los Angeles. They featured a star-studded cavalcade of singers who can’t sing, songsters who require a team of dozens to write their songs and dancers who can’t dance. They also featured a full-on satanic ritual onstage, starring used-to-be-just-a-gay-dude-then-genderqueer-now-gender-nonbinary singer Sam Smith and transgender female (translation: biological male) Kim Petras. Their song, “Unholy,” won them Best Pop Group/Group Performance. Their performance, in which the tubby Smith donned a Satan outfit and top hat with horns while Petras gyrated in a cage surrounded by Satan-costumed strippers, made headlines for its transgressive imagery.
The goal, of course, is to tweak people of traditionally religious bent, draw a response and then act offended. “Why can’t you just leave us alone?” cry our cultural elites as they demand our attention.
We’re all supposed to be shocked, of course. That’s the point.
But the fact that the performance is so un-shocking should be the true shock. The Grammys were sponsored by major corporations. Shadow president of the United States and world’s greatest physician Dr. Jill Biden showed up to present an award. And CBS tweeted in anticipation of the Satanic routine, “We are ready to worship!”
But the truth is that Satan is so in right now.
After all, Satan’s message has become our society’s: personal “authenticity” requires the destruction of all traditional mores and the trashing of all intermediate institutions of Western civilization. To be “free” means to live without rules or boundaries. And our truest heroes are those who say, as John Milton’s Satan did, “better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.”
Milton meant his Satan to be a villain, rejecting the Good, True and Beautiful in favor of personal power. But we have followed the path of dissolute romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who argued, “Milton’s Devil as a moral being is as far superior to his God as one who perseveres in some purpose which he has conceived to be excellent in spite of adversity and torture.” Sure, Milton’s Devil provided no good to anyone, including himself -- but he stood up to the strictures of an outside, objective moral code. It was Shelley himself who argued that “religion and morality, as they now stand, compose a practical code of misery and servitude: the genius of human happiness must tear every leaf from the accursed book of God ere man can read the inscription on his heart.”
How different are the musings of Shelley from the less-sophisticated musings of Smith and Petras? As Smith says, “It really is just about how I feel.” Or Petras: “it’s a take on not being able to choose religion. And not being able to live the way that people might want you to live... I was kind of hellkeeper Kim.”
God makes demands of us. God suggests that there is a higher Truth to which we are subject, rules and roles we ought to obey for purposes of societal strength, spiritual durability and personal fulfillment. Satan makes no demands of us beyond the surrender of our reason, our higher aspirations and our souls. Milton’s Satan rebelled against God. Today, those of Godly bent are increasingly fighting a rebellion against the truly dominant spiritual power of a narcissistic culture that prizes self above all, celebrated by a transgressive monolithic culture.