What I Know About Satan

Chronicling my encounter with the Prince of Darkness himself!

by MATT STOKES | MARCH 5, 2010

The Devil walks among us, friends. I now know this for sure, for I have seen him with mine own eyes.

My previous encounters with the Dark Angel himself were, I must admit, rather questionable, as they mostly took place in front of a TV. Not anymore, however, not now that I know his secret. It’s important that you understand the whole picture, so let me first tell you about all the times I met the Devil in the past.

As a youth, you see, I never thought I would be one to encounter Satan. All I knew was that he was the reason my mom wouldn’t let me buy Slipknot’s album from Wal Mart when I was 13I)Ahh, the world pre-9/11. Life was so simple and beautiful. Slipknot was the biggest threat to mankind, what with their devil worshiping and animal sacrifice and pouring gasoline on a diabolical scientist in claymation… You’d have been scared, too. But, looking back, here was the weirdest thing about Slipknot, the clown masks and barcodes notwithstanding: They had nine (9!) members. Go back and listen to “Wait and Bleed” or “Spit It Out” or any of those old songs and I dare you to try and hear the other five members of the band. It’s baffling. What do the guys who aren’t the singer, guitar player, bassist, or drummer do? And does the guy who wears the clown mask and dances and occasionally beats on an oil drum with a mallet make as much money as the singer? I’m just wondering.. Not being one of the 22 members of Slipknot, logic suggested I would never know the Devil.

But, as I alluded to earlier, he started popping up seemingly every time I turned on the TV. One of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone is “The Howling Man,” from 1960. It’s the story of an American man named Ellington who takes a “walking tour” through central Europe, gets lost in a storm, and stumbles upon a monastery full of creepy and imposing monks. The head monk, Brother Jerome, tells the stranger a dark secret: That he has managed to find and capture the Devil. Ellington does not believe the story, however, and speaks with the prisoner assumed to be the Devil. The prisoner convinces Ellington to free him and proceeds to sprout horns and reveal himself as the Prince of Darkness.

Trust me, it’s much less cheesy than it sounds. The episode ends with Rod Serling narration: “Ancient folk saying: ‘You can catch the Devil, but you can’t hold him long.” I’m not exactly sure which ancient folk saying Serling is referring to, but the point is well taken.

Milton’s Paradise Lost, which I never actually read but feel I can still comment on, tells the story of Man’s early history with Satan. But before God created Man, He lived among His archangels. Lucifer, the bearer of light, was an archangel who refused God’s request to bow down before Man. This didn’t go over well with the Almighty, and a holy war ensued between Lucifer’s followersII)Siding with Lucifer would have been the Genesis-era equivalent of picking Northern Iowa to beat Kansas. Hey… and God’s Army. Lucifer lost and was cast into hell, where he became Satan, the Lord of the Demons; from hell, Satan vowed to exact his revenge upon mankind (Not sure what mankind did to him exactly, but oh well.), and would spend the rest of eternity leading men astray into war and deceit.

So far, so good. Milton apparently saw that episode of The Twilight Zone as well, because when the Devil escapes the monastery, he gets right back to work and causes the Korean War.

I know that Satan also has the ability to possess people, but he only uses it as a measure of last resort. Like when he possessed Judas Iscariot (It’s in the Bible, Luke 22: 3-6.) and had Judas rat Jesus out to the Roman authorities for money. Mostly, however, the Devil doesn’t bother with possessing people, he usually has his minions do it for him. If you watch The Exorcist, you’ll notice the demon that takes Regan MacNeil originally claims to be the Devil, and when Father Karass calls BS the demon admits to being just a demonIII)In the book version of The Exorcist, the ending is ambiguous about whether or not Regan was actually possessed or just insane. The movie leaves no doubt. I like the book better.. It’s demons that do the Devil’s grunt work, and they’re good at it; Pope Benedict XVI’s chief exorcist claimed to have performed some 70,000 exorcisms at the Vatican throughout the years.

And then of course we all know the Faust legend. The most famous adaptation of that story was done by Chris Marlowe in 1593, in his play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. This was the impetus for the thousands of “deal-with-the-Devil” stories we’ve seen through the years, from Washington Irving to Treehouse of Horror. In Doctor Faustus, the good doctor makes a deal with Satan wherein Satan receives Faustus’s soul in exchange for the knowledge of everything in the world, social significance, the servitude of a demon named Mephistophilis, and a future second-round draft pick. The deal seemed like a steal at the time, but Faustus eventually descends into despair at the prospect of serving Satan in hell for eternity, and never ends up doing much with his life.

As for Satan’s reign in hell, the extent of my knowledge comes mainly from Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno and South Park, where Satan takes as his lovers Saddam Hussein and, later, a hipster named Chris (South Park), and throws Super Sweet 16 parties (Dante).

All that, my friends, was until recently, when I discovered where the Devil has really been hiding all these years. No, not in hell, nor in the forests of Albania or the moors of Scotland… the Devil is in Christian rock music.

I’m scared out of my wits these days, I’m afraid the Devil’s a-gonna come get me in my sleep. That’s why I don’t sleep anymore, not since I stumbled upon this revelation of a book called Religious Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing by the prominent Christian evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. Swaggart’s book is an in-depth analysis and criticism of the Christian rock movement that took off in the 1980s, a movement he deems “a disgrace in the eyes of God.”

Swaggart is appalled by the sensuality and blatant sexuality, drug use, and crude language employed by so-called Christian rock musicians at their concerts. He questions the efficacy of marketing Christian music on Christian radio stations and in Christian book stores when the aim of the music is to convert the non-believers. He decrees the most popular Christian pop artists as career-minded and driven by money. And, most damingly (heh) of all, he says that the entire Christian rock industry is the work of, that’s right, Satan.

Egad! I told you Satan walks among us, and he’s more powerful than ever now that he controls a segment of the music industry.

I sense, unfortunately, that Jimmy Swaggart hasn’t won many of you over. Maybe you’d be swayed if you knew more about the man. If anybody in the world should know something about the Devil, it’s him. He’s had countless encounters battling the wretched beast. You see, in the 1980s, Swaggart was the most popular and powerful evangelist in the United States. Based in Louisiana, his Christian empire grew to such extents that he was, at his height, preaching to 500 million people around the world at once [Citation needed.]. His sprawling community in Baton Rouge erected several towers on Bluebonnet Boulevard where they stood for many years, you know, spreading the word of the Lord. That was before the Mall of Louisiana moved in and ruined that part of town.

Anyway, Swaggart grew so powerful that he began to develop enemies, namely, Satan. So one day in February of 1988, the Devil came in the form of a prostitute and led Swaggart to a sleazy motel on Airline Highway in New Orleans. Swaggart was discovered there by the local tabloids, who photographed him and caused a tremendous scandal.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Jimmy, how could you? How could you have fallen for one of the Devil’s many tricks?” He wasn’t proud of it, I tell you. He even went on television and issued a now-famous apology, saying, through teary eyes, “I have sinned against you, my Lord!”

The man has actually dealt with Satan firsthand. He knows his shit. Still don’t believe me? Well how about this: Three years later, Jim was caught with another prostitute, this time in California, and this time in a car. But he didn’t give Satan the satisfaction of a televised press conference, instead saying of the matter to his congregation, “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.”

When a man of Christ, a man who has dedicated his life and career to spreading the word of the Lord, can succumb to temptation, we have to listen when he warns us of the evil lurking out there. Even when that evil is Christian rock. Maybe my mom was on to something when she wouldn’t let me buy nu-metal CDs when I was in junior high. She just didn’t go far enough.

Footnotes

I Ahh, the world pre-9/11. Life was so simple and beautiful. Slipknot was the biggest threat to mankind, what with their devil worshiping and animal sacrifice and pouring gasoline on a diabolical scientist in claymation… You’d have been scared, too. But, looking back, here was the weirdest thing about Slipknot, the clown masks and barcodes notwithstanding: They had nine (9!) members. Go back and listen to “Wait and Bleed” or “Spit It Out” or any of those old songs and I dare you to try and hear the other five members of the band. It’s baffling. What do the guys who aren’t the singer, guitar player, bassist, or drummer do? And does the guy who wears the clown mask and dances and occasionally beats on an oil drum with a mallet make as much money as the singer? I’m just wondering.
II Siding with Lucifer would have been the Genesis-era equivalent of picking Northern Iowa to beat Kansas. Hey…
III In the book version of The Exorcist, the ending is ambiguous about whether or not Regan was actually possessed or just insane. The movie leaves no doubt. I like the book better.