This week, the Grammys were held in Los Angeles. They feature a star-studded cavalcade of singers who can’t sing, songwriters who need dozens of teams to write songs, and dancers who can’t dance. They also performed a full-on satanic ritual on stage, starring gay-friend-then-genderqueer-now-gender-non-binary singer Sam Smith and transgender woman (translation: biological male) Kim Petrus. Their song, “Unholy,” won them Best Pop Group/Group Performance. Their performance, in which Tubby Smith donned a devil costume and top hat with horns while Petrus was locked in a cage surrounded by devil-costumed strippers, made headlines for its transgressive imagery.
The goal, of course, is to tickle people of a traditionally religious bent, create a reaction, and then act disaffected. “Why can’t you leave us alone?” Our cultural elites cry because they demand our attention.
We’re all supposed to be shocked, of course. That’s the real thing.
But the fact that the performance is so un-shocking should be a real shock. The Grammys were sponsored by major corporations. The shadow president of the United States and the world’s greatest doctor. Jill Biden was in attendance to present an award. And CBS tweeted in anticipation of Satan’s routine, “We’re ready to worship!”
But the truth is that Satan is now so.
After all, Satan’s message has become our society: personal “authenticity” requires the destruction of all traditional things and the trashing of all the institutions of Western civilization. To be “free” means to live without rules or boundaries. And our true heroes are those who say, as John Milton’s Devil did, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
Milton intended his Satan to be villainous, rejecting the good, true, and beautiful in favor of personal power. But we follow the path of the disaffected Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who argued, “Milton’s Satan as a moral being is far superior to his God who perseveres in a cause which he conceives as excellent in spite of adversity and torture.” Of course, Milton’s devil did no good to anyone, including himself — but he stood up to the rigors of an external, objective moral code. Shelley himself argued that “religion and morality, as they now stand, compose a practical code of misery and slavery: the genius of human happiness must be that of God.” Every page must be torn from the cursed book until man can read the inscription on his heart. “
How different is Shelley’s musing from the less sophisticated musings of Smith and Petrus? As Smith says, “It’s really how I feel.” Or Petrus: “It is an acceptance of not being able to choose religion. And not being able to live the way people want you to live… I was hell Kim.”
God makes our claim. God suggests that there is a higher truth under which we must obey rules and roles for the purposes of social power, spiritual stability, and personal fulfillment. Satan makes no demands on us beyond our reason, our high aspirations, and the surrender of our souls. Milton’s Satan rebelled against God. Today, those who turn away from God are increasingly fighting a rebellion against the truly dominant spiritual forces of a narcissistic culture that rewards itself above all else, celebrated by a transgressive monopolistic culture.