Since the 1970s, maybe starting with the film “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), Satanism as a religion has been severely misunderstood. “Hail Satan?” a documentary by Penny Lane (“Our Nixon”) sets the record straight. While the layman may be compelled to giggle and guffaw, this documentary is vividly informative and raises questions about equality in the eyes of a dominantly Judeo-Christian nation.
Satanism, under the Satanic Temple organization headed in Salem, Massachusetts, was co-founded by Lucien Greaves, a formidable looking young man who is actually quite nonchalant and gentle. The religion does not worship Satan. Rather, Satan is seen as a positive archetype or symbol, a voice for the voiceless. That being said, the religion relishes performances to give their position a vocal platform. They dress in black and frequently wear goat horns, glutting themselves on wine or milk—blatant acts of provocation and blasphemy under the views of most.
Though out of the norm, most members do not have obscure backgrounds. One is a radio host, one is a former Christian Conservative, and another a Muslim who yearned for more meaning. The religion has grown like wild mushrooms from a small number of 3 to 50, 000 non-divisive denizens.
The central issue of the film is the right of Satanists to be equal and on par with Christianity. Greaves intends to erect a Satanic monument of Baphomet, given the fact that a monument of the Ten Commandments stand on the grounds of the Arkansas and Oklahoma Capitols. This gives rise to a cat and mouse between Sen. Jason Rapert (R.) and Greaves, a most intriguing and compelling part of the film.
The film rightly points out that Thomas Jefferson expressly wrote for a clear and definitive separation of church and state. In the 1950s, this fixed concept eroded and became weakened with the sight of “In God We Trust” printed on money. The Satanists strive (along with other issues) to ensure this separation.
But not is all blissfully black within the religion.
During a meeting, Jex Blackmore called for the murder of Trump and got thrown out of the ST. As she says in the film, she went to extremes. One of the tenets of the religion is that “one should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.” The Satanic Temple is a non-violent group.
The religion unanimously agrees that they have been grossly disrespected during the “satanic panic” of the 80s, which stated that Dungeons and Dragons and heavy metal music was responsible for a supposed rise in devil worship.
Given that the members are in favor of inclusion, freedom of thought and unbridled expression through the body, it is difficult not to consent, chuckle and champion them as the film progresses.
The members are clearly shown to have humanistic concerns. They give to the homeless and initiate free-thinking after-school programs for children, encouraging them to think differently.
In watching the film, one is startled to realize that the Satanic Temple acts much in the way of a mainstream church, delivering supplies for the betterment of humankind.
Though offered with a fair amount of quirk and camp (almost in the manner of John Waters in the initial moments), ”Hail Satan” is a serious film about the need for alternate beliefs to attain equal representation, under the iron cross of a roseate and conforming status quo.
Some will ridicule these ebony-cloaked emancipators, but through humor and stern spirit, they uncover the forever rebel that resides within the hearts of many.
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