The devil isn’t in the details anymore. No, he’s up on the stage in full view, performing at the 65th Grammy Awards, and getting broadcast by CBS into millions of homes across our nation on primetime TV.
I am, of course, referring to Sunday night’s Satanic-themed serenade by not one but two sexually transgressive pop stars — Sam Smith and Kim Petras — during the performance of their Grammy-winning song “Unholy.”
Sam Smith, a biological male, nonetheless identifies as “non-binary” and uses “they/them” pronouns. I can’t help but point out that the only time we meet an individual identifying with something close to what might be considered “plural pronouns” in the Bible is when Jesus confronts the demoniac in the Gerasenes (Mark 5, Luke 8). When asked for his name, the demon-possessed man responds, “My name is Legion…for we are many.”
Kim Petras, born Tim, is a “transgender woman” — which is just a complicated way of saying he’s a man pretending to be a woman. While the notion of transgenderism, or better yet, transsexualism, is so insane that the ideology of it is worth mocking, the sad reality is that so many trapped in the lies of this system are being victimized and have been since a young age. Petras’s story is particularly heartbreaking. He was actually permitted by German authorities to procure “sex reassignment surgery” at the age of 16, legally still a minor. He was then touted as the “world’s youngest transsexual.”
Fast forward to the present day and the now 30-year-old Petras was locked in a cage up on a stage, dancing and gyrating in the most obscene fashion, while Smith stood on the center platform, dressed in red, surrounded by flames. They were obviously paying homage to the Prince of Darkness with this performance. But if there had been any doubt about who exactly was being worshipped, Smith donned a hat with devil horns while his cadre of backup dancers bowed down before him.
“Unholy” is exactly right.
Writing for the Daily Wire, Amanda Harding noted that “Smith’s performance is being lauded by legacy media despite the overt Satanic imagery.”
That’s unsurprising. What is surprising — or fitting, depending on how you look at it — is that this performance was actually sponsored by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. Harding recorded some of the reactions to this tidbit of information:
“Music fans made their opinions known on Twitter, noting how Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ hell-themed performance of their award-winning song, ‘Unholy,’ immediately preceded a reminder that Pfizer was financially supporting the whole thing.”
Remember how public Christian figures told Christians to “Love your neighbor, get the shot!” Well, it turns out that Pfizer took those Christian dollars and decided to spend some sponsoring the most blatant demonstration of devil worship we’ve seen on primetime TV in recent memory. Good job, BioLogos.
But what does this Pfizer-funded, CBS-broadcast, Grammy-sanctioned Satanic worship ceremony teach us about the current state of American art and culture? And how should Christians respond? Here are four suggestions.
First, we must remember that Satan is real and he hates God — and man. I realize it can be somewhat tempting to write off the performance as some over-the-top grasp at making a few shocking headlines. Sam Smith in a horned hat isn’t exactly frightening. If you press past the vulgarity and sexual immorality, the hellish themes of the performance were sort of hokey. But that doesn’t make it any less serious or less deadly.
The “cultured elites” in our day and age are happy to put on a show of worshipping Satan because they don’t actually believe he is real, just like they don’t believe God is real. As Christians, we know that Satan is real — and he is a real danger to all those in this world who are currently in rebellion against God. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Whether the world realizes it or not, devouring is what was on display on Sunday night at the Grammys. Consider the sordid backstory of Sam and Petras’ confused and transgressive sexual identity. Have they not been devoured already in their attempt to “unmake” themselves? In their fist-to-the-sky pursuit of the self-annihilation that is the transsexual path? God made them men, but they have bought the devil’s lies of becoming self-made…somethings…instead.
Second, because Satan is real and he works evil, Christians shouldn’t just protest the demonic display, but we should also pray for those involved in this wickedness. Paul commands Christians to take up weapons against the devil that are not forged in this world — they are weapons of faith. In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul writes,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
If our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of darkness (which was on full display in this performance), then we must wield spiritual weapons in response. And what is that weapon? Prayer. Satan would love nothing more than to keep you on your keyboard and off your knees. Wesleyan Methodist minister Samuel Chadwick had this to say about the power of prayer:
“Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
So don’t just prayerlessly protest this troubling sign of the times. Hit your knees and get to battle — pray for the salvation of Sam Smith, Kim Petras, and everyone involved in the performance. God works wonders beyond our feeble imagination. Those praising Satan this past Sunday could very well be praising Christ next week.
Third, regarding our culture, this performance shows the utter banality of transgressive art. Once you reject the pursuit of art as the pursuit of the “true, good, and beautiful,” it’s a short, slippery slope to non-binary performers praising Satan on the main stage. And the sad truth about this form of “art” is that it is only “cutting-edge” for the fleetest of passing moments.
What shocks people today will be boring tomorrow. Thus, the displays of transgressions must always get more sexual, more ugly, more abnormal, weirder, darker, wilder, and more grotesque.
Indeed, the “telos” — the end — of ungodly art like this must be Hell itself. It has no other destination to aim for. It may shock for a moment, but it can never truly inspire. Real art orients people upwards, in a transcendent pull towards the font of all that is true, good, and beautiful — God Himself.
This trash? Well, you can see quite clearly where it takes mankind instead.
Fourth, and finally, remember that Satan is most dangerous not when he is most obvious but when he is most disguised. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 warns us that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.”
You might think of the Grammy performance as a bit of bravado from the Evil One, but it was more of a celebration of how far America has fallen than a wily scheme to ensnare more souls. That’s because when Satan comes for souls, he is far more subtle.
Allie Beth Stuckey rightly warned,
“I am less worried about Sam Smith’s satanic worship service than I am about the far more insidious and effective ways the devil tries to trick people, including Christians. Satan is much more influential disguised as an angel of light than he is dancing with horns on stage.”
Satan is infinitely more deadly when he gets pastors to whisper about the sins which God shouts about. He’s more dangerous when he gets publicly professing Christian figures to abandon the clear teachings of the Bible because they have a “gay friend.” He’s more deceptive when he gets people to mix just a little error with the truth — a little poison with the meal — knowing that it will bring them down to Hell all the same as parading in a horned hat at a music awards show.
As C.S. Lewis warned in The Screwtape Letters, speaking through the sulfuric mouth of that aged demon Screwtape to his understudy Wormwood:
“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Sunday night’s Satanic performance was a milestone, a signpost, a sudden turning. But beware of the gradual road of spiritual deception that leads to the very same place. Pray that God would spare our nation the horrific future that awaits us if we press on this road, despite the warning signs. Pray for repentance, revival, and renewal. Pray for a future where God, not the devil, is worshiped during award ceremonies on live primetime TV. Pray that such worship might even be led by new Christian converts Sam Smith and Kim Petras — and don’t doubt for a second that God could bring such a beautiful thing to pass.
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