When they call you the antichrist, you know you've made it

When they call you the antichrist, you know you've made it

CultureJuly 26, 2019 By Reilly Capps
[Cover photo: Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves in "Hail Satan?" Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures.]

In the bible, Satan has an obscure backstory. What did he do in heaven? Why'd he get kicked out? What's with the horns? 

Lucien Greaves, too, has a murky past. He won't say how his face got scarred and his right eye mangled, turning cloudy and off-center. 

Greaves is shy about the spotlight. He's the reluctant star of a new documentary now rentable on your major services, including Amazon, iTunes and Google Play. It's called "Hail Satan?", about the rise of The Satanic Temple, perhaps America's fastest-growing religion. (Or, "religion.") It has a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been called the "feel-good satan movie of the year." 

Greaves is the co-founder, leader and spokesperson of the temple. But he doesn't want Satanism to be about him. So he won't say his real name, or much about his childhood … or why his eye is messed up, beyond saying it's an injury. 

But, in a symbol of how big his temple has gotten and how much blood the temple has boiled, a few Twitter users think they know why Lucien's eye is off. A prophecy in Islam says the false messiah — the Dajjal — will be blind in his right eye.

"It's great," Greaves laughs by phone from Salem, Massachusetts, about being the man Twitter thinks will hasten the end of the world. "It's nice." He'll tell his grandkids about it. 

He laughs again. But Greaves also sometimes wears a bulletproof vest.

When Christians warned you the Satanists were coming, I'm sure you didn't picture them as being as entertaining as they appear in "Hail Satan?", which was directed by the great Penny Lane. The Satanic Temple have been some of the greatest real-life trolls in the history of America. Their signature move is to demand that Satan goes everywhere God does.

So if there's a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma or Arkansas state capitols, the Satanic Temple insists there be an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed demi-god dude, right next to it. All religions must be treated equally in America, the temple argues (rightly). So if there are after school Christian clubs in the schools, the temple demands there be After School Satan clubs. And if the Phoenix City Council has prayers before meetings, the temple insists there be a satanic prayer, too, horns and robes and all.

You may have read about these pranks, and how the temple wins a lot of these battles. (Phoenix no longer does prayers; Oklahoma no longer has a Ten Commandments.) But with the movie, you can watch in real time as Christians lose their minds, watch preachers, local news anchors and town councils rattle off all the reasons why America is a Christian nation, dedicated to the peace and nonviolence of a loving Jesus, and anyone who disagrees should be shot.

To be clear: the Satanic Temple doesn't believe in evil, or superstition, or an actual dark lord with horns. The word Satan means "the opposer," and temple members see him as a symbol of rebellion against the sucky authorities who usually run the game. So, for example, these satanist don't believe the Garden of Eden story really happened. But they believe it would be messed up if a god told two dumb naked people not to eat an apple because it would make them know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and all of a sudden had to put on pants. Satanists support the snake who opened Eve's eyes. Metaphorically.

Concretely, the Satanic Temple has seven crazy reasonable tenets, about compassion, reason, science and justice.  They believe in kindness to gays and trans folks and they're not fans of the kid-rapey Catholic Church.

Most members are actually atheists. But as one dude in the film says, "Atheism is so boring." As another atheistic Satanic Temple member says, "I don't want to go so far as to say that this gives my life purpose, but this makes life fun."

photo - Los Angeles Satanic event

[A Los Angeles ritual in "Hail Satan?" Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.]

Greaves says he's excited to keep pushing limits, keep pushing back against the godly folks who run things, keep being the opposition.

Greaves won't say what the temple's plans are, but you can see lots of possibilities. For example, the Satanic Temple's Third Tenet says you own your own body. A member could use that belief to tell cops they get to do what they like with their bodies. I'm just spitballing my own ideas here:

  • Follow the "Church of Safe injection" in Philadelphia. They're trying to have a safe space for addicts. They argue their Judeo-Christian religion makes them "preserve life" — clean needles save lives. Satanists could likewise say their tenet of bodily autonomy gives them the right to use have a safe injection site. 

  • In the 40 or so states where recreational marijuana is illegal, grow it and smoke it anyway. And the other drugs, too. 

  • Openly practice prostituion. 

  • Pay people to give away their extra kidney. This is illegal, but it would save lives, and not hurt the donor. 

photo - Lucien with statue

[Lucien Greaves delivering a speech in front of the state capitol building in Little Rock in "Hail Satan?" Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.]

As the film, "Hail Satan?", has made its way around festivals like Sundance, it has already brought a "massive swelling" in membership, Greaves says. There have been lots of requests for new chapters — they already exist from South Africa to Australia to Colorado. Greaves and his team can't keep up.

This is all a huge vindication for Greaves. He felt, at the beginning of this "longshot project" of starting the Satanic Temple six years ago, that it was doomed to fail. When he dangled his nutsack on the grave of the mother of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, "It really felt like I had committed suicice in a metaphorical sense, forsaking my reputation, my hopes of a normal career and life."

Now, the temple he co-founded is a legitimate worldwide religion. And as the film is shown on TVs across the country and the world, Greaves expects the ranks of minions to grow.

"I would never have imagined this in my wildest imaginations," Greaves says. "A lot of this has played out to the best case scenario."

When they call you the antichrist, you know you've made it