Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum, in vanum laborant qui aedificaverunt eam - "Unless the Lord has built the house, they labored in vain who built it" Psalm 127

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Satan Club: One H*** of an After School Club for Children

An earlier version of this Worth Revisiting post was first published 7 October 2016 . To enjoy the work of other faithful Catholic bloggers see Worth Revisiting Wednesday, hosted by Elizabeth Reardon at theologyisaverb.com and Allison Gingras at reconciledtoyou.com.


There's A New Club In Town


    Here’s some happy news: the Nehalem Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, has approved a “Satan Club” for its young (i.e., pre-teen) students.  The club is sponsored by a group going by the felicitous name of The Satanic Temple. Does that, or does it not, sound uplifting?
Charming illustration from "Educatin With Satan" website
    I don’t doubt that there are some people who do consider it good news that there will be a club upholding the Prince of Darkness as a role model for youngsters.  In particular, some of a more secular bent may appreciate that this puts those of us in with, shall we say, more traditional religious views, in something of a bind.  After all, aren’t we always carping about religious freedom, and complaining about efforts to exclude religious belief from the public square? Don’t we claim that government has no business deciding what is legitimate religion and what is not?  Are we not, in fact, hypocrites if we try to prevent the satanists from sharing their enthusiasm for Lucifer with the boys and girls at Nehalem Elementary School?



Keeping The Satan In Satanism?
    The answer is, I think, simpler than it might at first appear.  We absolutely ought to oppose as strenuously as we can anything as poisonous as a “satan club” in schools, and no, there is nothing whatsoever hypocritical about it.  Consider the following:
    The satanists themselves make it clear that they are not really a religion.  For instance, The Satanic Temple is also trying to install an after school club in the Seattle, Washington area. The Seattle Times (story here)  quotes Tarkus Claypool, campaign manager for the group in that area, as saying: “We don’t worship a deity . . . We only see Satan as a metaphor for fighting religious tyranny and oppression.” This is a fairly common trope among Satanists, one you might have heard before.  There was a similar quote in the original Fox News article about the Oregon satan club.  That quote has since been removed, perhaps because the spokesperson in Portland also added that most satanists are really atheists, which tends to undercut even further their claim to religious status.
Illustration from the "Educatin With Satan" site
    So, if the satanists don’t really believe in Satan, what is the purpose of their club? “Our curriculum is about teaching them logic, self-empowerment and reasoning”, according to Claypool,  “The most Satanic thing about it is in the healthy snack — we have an apple.”  Finn Rezz, speaking on behalf of the newly-approved Nehalem group in Oregon, adds that, in addition to “science and rational thinking”, the club will promote "benevolence and empathy for everybody."
    If only that were true.  After all, if  all they wanted to do was to promote rational thinking, why not a “Reason Club”? Why not a “Science and Empathy Club”?  Those are perfectly legitimate viewpoints. Why not even an “Atheists Club”?  However much we believers might dislike it, the same laws that allow Christian clubs on school grounds also protect the nonbelievers.  The Satanic Temple has chosen a different route, however, and their choice of the Prince of Lies as their public persona tells us what they’re really about; it has nothing to do with reason or benevolence.



The Devil Is In The Details
    To begin with, let’s talk about Satan.  He has a track record: he’s been a public figure, so to speak, for millennia.  If you were to go out on the street and ask people at random what the Devil represents, what responses will you get?  Most people will, of course,  answer "evil", "sin", "death", "corruption", etc.  How many do you think will say “a metaphor for fighting religious oppression”?  There may be a few, perhaps, but a very few indeed. No, Lucifer’s image has remained true to the source that introduced him to us, the Scriptures.  There we read:


He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. (1 John 3:8)
He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14)
Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)


How rational is it to hold up as a paragon of “reason” a figure who is the enemy of truth, a born liar who hides his true nature?  How appropriate a personification of “empathy and benevolence” is someone known as a murderer who seeks to “devour” the unwary?  My purpose here is not to make a Biblical argument against the satan club, I’m simply pointing out who and what its patron has always been known to be, and what he actually represents. One doesn’t need to believe in the truth of the Bible to recognize that Satan represents the exact opposite of what the satan club claims to promote.


Reason and empathy? A science Lab?  Botticelli, Dante's Inferno Canto XVII


"By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them"
    In fact, their choice of the universally acknowledged personification of every evil as their public face brings to mind another applicable scripture passage: “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-17).  That’s just common sense, isn’t it? And what are the "fruits" of the satan club advocates? Do the satanists act like people committed to reason, love, and kindness, and do their own self-explanations emphasize any positive message of their own . . . or are their fruits of a different kind?  Let us look again at what they say about themselves.  Seattle satanist Tarkus Claypool says of the satan club, “It’s designed to be a counterpoint to the Good News program.” Portland Oregon’s Finn Rezz says that their satan club "will be held on Wednesdays once a month at the same time as the Good News Club."  In fact, if we look at the FAQ page from the satanists “Educatin With Satan” website, we find that they really have more to say about this “Good News Club” than they do about their nominal patron demon, and certainly more than they do about reason, science, benevolence, empathy put together.  In several places they cite the Good News Club as their reason for being, and they even advise those who might wish to establish a satan club (my bold):


Please keep in mind that The Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club. However, The Satanic Temple ultimately intends to have After School Satan Clubs operating in every school district where the Good News Club is represented.  


Seattle area Satanic Temple members (Seattle Times photo)



    Now, if their reason for existing were really simply to spread reason and goodwill they’d want to do that everywhere, don’t you think?  By their own admission, their true purpose is to antagonize the Good News Clubs.


Good News: What's Not To Like?
 
    What are these Good News Clubs that so exercise the good people at the Satanic Temple? The Good News Clubs are a ministry of the Child Evangelism Fellowship.  From CEF’s website they appear to adhere to a fairly traditional Evangelical Protestant understanding of Christianity.  They describe the purpose of their Good News Clubs as follows:


Our ministry teaches morals and respect for others, helps build character, strengthens families, assists schools and encourages children. We frequently receive comments of support from school officials, bus drivers and parents which complement the positive change in the behavior of the boys and girls who attend Good News Clubs. Our mission is to serve the children, their parents, the school and the community.


They also give a succinct explanation of their methodology:
Photo from CEF website
. . . trained teachers meet with groups of children in schools, homes, community centers, churches, apartment complexes, just about anywhere the children can easily and safely meet with their parent's permission. Each week the teacher presents an exciting Bible lesson using colorful materials from CEF Press. This action-packed time also includes songs, Scripture memory, a missions story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson's theme.


As with all CEF ministries, the purpose of Good News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.


Here and in numerous other places they emphasize that they only meet children with their parents’ permission, and do not seek to supplant their family’s church. Also, while they are straightforward in proposing sin as something that infects everyone, they at the same time emphasize Christ's saving love and forgiveness: "Now, because of what Jesus has done for you, you can have your sins forgiven. Read on to see how!"



J'Accuse!

Most fair-minded people, even if they take issue with the Child Evangelism Fellowship on some points of theology and ecclesiology, would have a hard time objecting to this program. Perhaps you won’t be surprised that the Satanic Temple doesn’t take a positive view.  On their FAQ page they say:


[T]he twisted Evangelical teachings of The Good News Clubs “robs [sic] children of the innocence and enjoyment of childhood, replacing them with a negative self image, preoccupation with sin, fear of Hell, and aversion to critical thinking . . . ”


Forgive me for observing that this angry, accusatory smear seems neither rational nor objective, nor terribly benevolent or empathetic.  In fact, it reminds me of nobody so much as the satan clubs’ standard bearer, of whom I observed in an earlier post:
For this reason he is called “the Devil”, from the Greek διάβολος (diabolos), which means “slanderer, perjurer, false accuser, and can also mean “deceiver, one who misleads”.  It derives from the verb διαβάλλω (diaballo), whose original meaning is “drive through”, or destroy.  Satan seeks to destroy us, eternally, by using falsehood and deception to separate us from God.


Isn’t that just what the satan club is about?  They pose as “angels of light” with their talk of empathy and science, but it’s clear by their own words and deeds that their true agenda is to disparage and harass a particular Christian group, and separate Christian children from the religious beliefs of their families; the only plausible reason to choose as their public face Satan, the personification of mindless hatred, untruth, and evil from the Christian Scriptures, is to taunt and insult Christians; their stated policy is to form their clubs only where they can target the Evangelical Christian Good News clubs.  Clearly, their purpose is not to promote a religion they assure us they don't believe, and they manifestly don’t model the virtues they claim to advocate.  They are in reality a hate group dedicated to denying Christian students the right to exercise their own right of free expression in their own clubs.  Far from being hypocrites, we have solid legal and moral reasons to work to deny them access to public facilities.



   

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