It used to be Satan was kind of a bad guy. Remember those days? The prime suspect of nightmares, the harbinger of death. Consigned to horror movies, basement black masses and guitar-grinding death metal bands.
Not any more. As if the TV series Lucifer wasn’t enough. Or that The Guardian and the LA Times have declared that Satanism is “the unlikely spiritual antidote to the Trump era.” Satan has always been a bit player in the popular music scene, but in the last few years he’s been recast as a kind of rebel god, a misunderstood creative genius, the way so many pop stars see themselves.
You don’t hear his name spoken aloud very much. But you’ll see how they adorn themselves with his symbology: pentagrams, 666, Baphomet, the Eye of Horus, pyramids, serpents, devil horns, upside-down crosses, blood soaked performance art, ritual sex magic, witchcraft…all of which find their inspiration in the Prince of Darkness.
You see it in their performances. Ariana Grande turned DaVinci’s Last Supper into a lesbian orgy in a performance of God is a Woman at the MTV Music Awards. Nicky Minaj enacted an exorcism at the Grammys in 2012, complete with dancing, gyrating satanic priests. At the 2014 Grammys, Katy Perry did a witchcraft-inspired rendition of her song Dark Horse, dancing with demons, a red cross emblazoned on her chest. Madonna outfitted herself as a priestess of Kabbalah in the 2012 Superbowl Show. And Maroon 5’s blood-soaked sex video for the song Animals is just…disgusting.
Yet no one does it quite like Lady Gaga, the Queen of Bizarre, who sings of being in love with Judas, among other things. She’s also dabbled in something called Spirit Cooking, which just seems extremely gross.
Pop stars have always been coy about their fascination with Satan. Some deny any sort of faith, while others express their openness to all forms of spirituality. Besides, this stuff sells. It’s just harmless, profitable fun, right?
The Great Beast
A brief history lesson. Back in the 19th century, the fledging New Age movement rebranded Satanism as “Luciferianism,” using one of Satan’s so-called names, meaning “Light-Bearer.” Lucifer, in this context, is the “true God” as opposed to Jehovah. (For a deeper explanation of the roots of Satanism in the New Age movement, watch this excellent video by Steven Bancarz.) It was Aleister Crowley, the self-styled “Great Beast 666” along with Anton LaVey of the Church of Satan and others who through their occult writings and activities transformed Satan from a destructive, death-dealing devil to the ultimate wellspring of creativity and freedom of expression.
Crowley in particular enjoyed a wide popularity among rock stars of the 60s and 70s, including Jimmy Page, who bought Crowley’s house, the Rolling Stones, Ozzy Osbourne (who wrote a song called “Mr Crowley), The Doors, and the Beatles, who put him on the cover of their Sgt. Pepper album. Even David Bowie:
Crowley had a major influence on David Bowie, a musician who had been interested in the occult since he was a young teenager playing with Tarot cards and performing exorcism rituals. Bowie paid tribute to Crowley in his 1971 song ‘Quicksand’, while in 1976 he admitted to Rolling Stone, “Rock has always been the Devil’s music…I believe rock’n’roll is dangerous. I feel we’re only heralding something even darker than ourselves.”
Crowley’s mantra, “Do What Thou Wilt” (translation: Do Your own Thing) embodies personal empowerment and rebellion against the stifling rules of traditional morality. It exalts the Self as the manifestation of the god within, waiting to be discovered and let loose. Musicians and other artists, naturally creative and spiritually-minded, have latched on with all ten fingers.
It’s the same old Satanism wrapped up in shiny new packaging.
But those who know the Satan of the Bible know he is not a creator. He is an imitator. A deceiver. Jesus called him a “liar and the father of lies”:
“He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” (John 8:44)
Interestingly, Lady Gaga opens her concerts with a bizarre proclamation: “I hate the truth.”
Kind of ironic, right?
Many of these artists profess to being Christians. Beyoncé spoke with great emotion about her faith in God in a 2013 HBO documentary. Nicky Minaj has expressed how God was her guide on many occasions. Even Lady Gaga often talks of her faith in interviews.
“How did this happen? Who created this? I didn’t create this…it’s God. It’s for sure Jesus. It ain’t me. I’m not that powerful.”
There’s footage of her praying before her concerts, sometimes even weeping, though her prayers are rather self-promoting: “Teach us to know our own greatness.” It’s clear that Christianity is a very fluid notion for Gaga and includes…whatever she wants it to include.
Whether they believe it or not, what these artists fail to grasp is that the demonic world has power. Both Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande claim to be haunted by demons. Gaga demanded her assistant sleep in the same bed with her, because she was too scared to sleep alone. Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears have spoken of having their bodies taken over by spirits during their performances. Nicki Minaj believes a crazy boy named Roman lives inside her (hence the exorcism.) Then there’s Kanye, who thinks he is God and Jay-Z, who calls himself Jay-HOVA—get it?
This doesn’t even take into account the effect all this kooky stuff has on the fans, most of whom are young teens or pre-teens. This is from a FoxNews report on pop artists embracing satanic imagery:
According to developmental psychologist Shoshana Dayanim, who studies the effects of media on children… “At a time when risky behavior is often part of identity exploration, the idolization of satanic imagery can serve as an impetus for risky behavior. If a teenager relates a satanic image with something cool — or someone they aspire to be — even if they do not understand what it means, they may later come into contact with the ‘real’ thing and transfer those desires of who they wish they could be to unhealthy, risky and dangerous behavior.”
Lester Crow, the rock star character in my novel Forsaken (and named for Crowley), foments satanic worship in his songs and stage act, though he doesn’t believe in it himself. He has no idea that his fans have totally bought into his “act” and have taken it to the next level.
The Church gets into the act
Perhaps the Church has contributed to the problem by not drawing a clear line between sacred and profane. Some megachurches, have dispensed with talking about sin and hell and repentance. They focus on lifting people up so they can “be all they can be.” Joel Osteen’s latest book “The Power of the I AM” talks not of God’s identity (the I AM of the Bible) but of personal identity.
“I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am successful.” “I am victorious. I am talented. I am creative.” “I am wise. I am healthy. I am in shape.” “I am energetic. I am happy. I am positive.” “I am passionate. I am strong. I am confident. I am secure. I am beautiful. I am attractive.” “I am valuable. I am free. I am redeemed.” “I am forgiven. I am anointed. I am accepted.” “I am approved. I am prepared. I am qualified.” “I am motivated. I am focused. I am disciplined.” “I am determined. I am patient. I am kind.” “I am generous. I am excellent. I am equipped.” “I am empowered. I am well able.” “I am a child of the Most High God.” ”
Whoa. Osteen has not-so-subtly transferred the title “I AM” from God, the Creator, to human beings, the created. People have become their own gods.
This is the sin of the Garden. The sin of the Watchers. The sin of the nations at Babel.
Sounds a bit Satanic to me.
An Episcopal Church in San Francisco has gone even further off the deep end. They have a “Beyoncé Mass” where Beyoncé songs are sung in worship. Says the pastor: “Beyoncé is a better theologian than many of the pastors and priests in the church today.”
At the opening of an exhibit called “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” at the Met Costume Institute, Rihanna came dressed as a pearl-studded pope and Jared Leto was a “Gucci Jesus.” But no sacrilege here—the Catholic Church was in full support and Church officials even attended.
Does anyone else find this disturbing?
Seeing the Light
Black Eyed Peas lead singer Fergie said she was having visions of demons that nearly drove her crazy until she found relief—at church. Now she attends regularly. “I had to really work hard at telling the visions, the spirits, to go away,” she recalls. “I had to say it out loud – ‘Leave me alone. I choose the good.'”
Katy Perry, the former Christian singer turned sexed-up pop star, has shown signs of wanting to return to her “real” self, Katheryn Hudson, and the faith of her childhood. Her beautiful 2015 song The Grace of God, details how God saved her from suicidal depression. In an instagram post of her “Jesus” tattoo she wrote: “”my brokenness + God’s Divinity = my wholeness.”
Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber and others have told similar stories.
There are those who would say these artists are just exchanging one lie for another. So what’s real? What brand of faith can be trusted, if any at all? Is there no difference anymore between Christianity and Satanism or Scientology or Kabbalah or any faith system one chooses?
This is, to my mind, Satan’s strategy. Confusion. Chaos. Replacing the truth with a beautiful, tantalizing lie.
The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. –The Usual Suspects (1995)