On the Subject of Dangerous Books and Movies

Or, "My Encounter with the Satanic Bible and A Plot to Kill God"

Years ago, I served as chaplain at a boarding school. One of the staff members called me, having confiscated a copy of The Satanic Bible from one of the students. The staff member, a retired drill sergeant, was very concerned; as a young priest in his first call, I remember a thrill of fear and excitement: my first confrontation with the Evil One! Had we uncovered a coven of practicing Satanists in our midst? I imagined finding myself in a student’s dorm room, chanting, “THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!” while the student projectile-vomited pea soup at me.

I was somewhat disappointed when the drill sergeant handed me a dog-eared paperback. I had pictured something leather-bound (or bound with something worse), covered with ancient sigils, not a mass-market paperback published by Avon. Opening the book was cause for further disappointment. Instead of ancient rituals in an archaic language (Nicol Williamson in Excalibur comes to mind), there are simply instructions on how to be self-centered and self-involved; how to get ahead by stepping on people. It was a frappe of Ayn Rand, Machiavelli, Tyler Durden (minus the wit) and Donald Trump—with, of course, the requisite goatee and upside-down star tattoos. (Also throw in a smattering of Wicca and a lot of pre-Christian symbolism).

Is the Satanic Bible a “Dangerous Book” for boys and girls? Just how dangerous is it to write or read a book that advocates worship of the enemy of all humanity?

There is another book that has been referred my way by concerned parents: The Golden Compass. It is, apparently, a book about killing God—or at least, about challenging an oppressive fictional religious institution. Soon, it will be a movie about killing God—a movie that will be marketed towards children—along with its own line of action figures. Good thing, too, because my brother and I shot up all our Star Wars figures with a BB-gun about 20 years ago.

Did I miss something? Didn’t we already try to kill God a couple thousand years ago? How did that work out for us again? Didn’t God show us that He is willing to take the worst we can throw at him, and still He comes back at us with love and forgiveness?

There will likely be an uproar about The Golden Compass. Christian groups will protest; people will be offended. Somebody will undoubtedly shout, “WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN??” Pat Robertson will organize a Prayer Sunday to reduce ticket sales. The actors involved will be seen as suffering for the cause of secular humanism. Bill O’Reilly will have a field day in between harassment suits. Stand Firm will have a “humorous” article comparing the movie to the Episcopal Church.

All the while, the Christian community will continue to show the rest of the world that it has no confidence in God. We fear that the Satanic Bible will corrupt our youth. We fear that young children, having seen a movie about killing God will go out and actually “try this at home.” We fear that the Gospel message itself is so unappealing that we must actually try to stifle the “competition.” All the while, we are diverted and distracted from preaching the Gospel, because we are so focused on showing everyone else what is wrong with them.

We become so distracted by the sins of others that we miss the true “Dangerous Books” in our midst: The Left Behind series (an utterly non-Biblical account of how Kirk Cameron Saves Christmas, with comic book and movie spinoffs). The Purpose-Driven Life—a really good idea rendered completely unreadable by its host of advertisements and plugs for other Purpose-Driven Products. (If I just buy this Purpose-Driven Bible Reference Card and these Purpose-Driven fuzzy dice for my car, I will be SAVED!!!)

(Yes I have read the books).

We miss the most dangerous, most truly Satanic idea of all—an idea that has derailed the church militant for centuries: we can bring about the coming of the kingdom ourselves, on our own terms, and in our own time. And when (not if, but when) we do so, we ourselves will claim a place at Jesus’ right and left hands. In short, the Most Dangerous Idea is that we are more important—and more effective—than Jesus.

Let the world make its movies about killing God. Let the world publish its Satanic Bibles. We can spend our time reading, studying, and preaching a truly dangerous book—a book that challenges the powers of this world: the Bible.

If we Christians actually ever focused on this dangerous book, we might actually understand what Christ wants us to be about.


Alcibiades said...

A huge THANK YOU for this message of straight forward Christian common sense.

In a world where infants die from easily treated diseases it the monotonous outcries against the latest "work of satan" to be published has always struck me as offenssive & stupid. Either God is big enough to not be threatened by whatever nonsense is the latest 9 days' wonder (in which case why worry?) or God isn't (in which which case we've got bigger problems than a book/movie/whatever).

Whichever is the case, resolving the tangible issues we can address (like sanitation and health care) makes a whole lot more sense than throwing tantrums about the less tangible (and quite possibly non-existent) ones.

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