How Memphis’s After School Satan Club Schools Christians

Jan 5, 2024 by David Fowler

How Memphis’s After School Satan Club Schools Christians
This week The Satanic Temple plans to launch its first after-school program in Tennessee at an elementary school that is part of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) system. It’s called the After School Satan Club. Rather than decry that such a group and such a program could be allowed in a government school, Christians should see this as an opportunity to learn something they may have forgotten.

The natural reaction to such a program is to get Christians to rally against the Club, and, indeed, a group of Shelby County ministers held a press conference and denounced it. Now that this public calling of the Club to our attention is over, I think it is time for pastors and Christians to get to work.

Notice How the Club Is Described

I loved this description of the club presented by the Satanic Temple:
The organization claimed that it offers a ‘non-theistic religion’ with Satan present as a metaphorical literary figure, and that its after-school clubs don’t attempt to convert children to any religious ideology.
Even as Bible-believing Christian I think the description of the Club by the Temple is brilliant. If I were a member of the Temple, I would have wished I had come up with that description. It is just the kind of thing C.S. Lewis would have had Screwtape suggest to Wormwood as a good strategy for keeping Christians off their mark and sounding unintelligent.
If you have no clue what the Temple is saying or have no idea how you would meet the club’s “religious ideology” head on, do not feel badly. I could not have done so two years ago. That’s why the organization I lead hosted a half-day seminar entitled “A World Ends When Its Metaphor Dies.” I encourage you to listen to the abbreviated podcast version of it or read my previous commentary on the importance of metaphors.
Description Exposes a Myth
For fifty years Christians have defended what they want to do in the public square, including public schools, by relying on the myth of religious neutrality or, alternatively, viewpoint non-discrimination. The former is said to protect against a First Amendment Establishment Clause or Free Exercise problem; a law is not a religious problem if it is “neutral.” The Free Speech Clause protects religious speech from discrimination by allowing Christians to express their viewpoint if others can.
What makes the Temple’s description of its Club so brilliant is that it blows Hell right into the myth of religious neutrality—it’s impossible—and simultaneously blows up the ravelin behind which Christians have retreated and hidden for so long.
The Club’s “non-theistic” religion is either pantheism or a stealthy way of espousing Deism, a theism whose god takes a hands-off approach to everything. Neither is Christian in any sense of that word.
Of course, the phrase really cloaks the Club’s atheism. Given the prefix “a” means “not” or “against,” atheism is certainly non-theistic! Christians need to hand it to them for creativity in not saying what they really are.
But here is the point: When Christians use neutrality myths to advance their cause rather than  gospel truths, they wind up with their hands tied and nothing to say other than, “We got hoisted by our own petard.”
But the metaphor reference is the most brilliant part of the attack on Christianity.
Sticking It in the Eye of Christians
Until the Enlightenment cosmology won the day over the Christian cosmology developed from the 13th through the 17 th centuries, the metaphor for making sense of the cosmos—the kind of place we live in, what it is for, and how it works—was Jesus Christ. He was the foundation for the original creation and for the new creation (Colossians 1:15-18), which is being worked out in time and space by Christians with a view toward eternity.
But notice what the Satan Club has done. It effectively relegates Jesus Christ to a “literary figure” who in times past had a metaphorical character that helped us make sense of the cosmos.
The Club is saying that for modern man the new metaphorical character that should serve that purpose is Satan. That is who the Club wants as the prism by which our children, who will eventually lead us, and everyone else to think in terms of. Thus, I don’t think the problem is as much the Club as what it tells Christians about the nature of the real problem.
This is what I think the Satanic Temple and its Club are telling Christians:
Your cosmology and your metaphorical grounding for understanding and interpreting that cosmology has been so eradicated by your foolish embrace of the myth of neutrality that your view of the world and Jesus Christ as its central organizing figure is gone from the public imagination as real and vital. He should be replaced by Satan; he is the central organizing figure now, and that is what we are sticking in your face!
The Short-Term Solution to the Problem
For the Club to be eliminated as an option in public schools, Christians are going to have to get out from behind their ravelin of neutrality, since it’s a myth anyway, and learn the real history of the First Amendment’s religion and speech clauses. Then they will need to use what they learn.
“Using it” means some legislative body, either a school board or the General Assembly, will need to take an action that puts those clauses in the crosshairs of current constitutional interpretations, and that body must also be willing to spend taxpayer dollars to defend that action and others like it as many times and in as many ways as necessary to get the Constitution back in order.
Think First (and Pray) and Act Later
Right now, though, the research necessary to draft a good legislative proposal and provide a good defense of it is not complete. For that reason, I hope no Christian in our legislature will take on this issue during the upcoming legislative session, and I hope no pastor will urge one of them to do so.
Acting and losing is not a problem unless it is because Christians have made a poor and historically uninformed legal and constitutional argument that is also devoid of any long-term strategy. As a friend once said, “Stupid for Jesus is still stupid.”
The Long-Term Strategy to Address the Problem
More important than acting is the need for Christians to see that they live in culture and under a legal system every bit as pagan as that of the ancients. Therefore, the way toward a long-term solution is to start where Paul started on Mars Hill, namely, by taking on the cosmology that dominates current culture and law. See Acts 17:28.
In other words, the cosmology of the Temple of Satan expressed in the description of its Club needs to be challenged head on so parents will know why they should not let their child attend that club.
But parents also need to be told that if they don’t like what Christianity proposes, the alternatives—"mere” humanism and Enlightenment thinking or its alternative, nihilism—are kissing cousins of Satan by marriage. Turning from the true and living God ends in death whether one takes the route proposed by the French philosophes of the 18th century, by Nietzsche and Derrida of the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively, or by the Satan Club of the 21st century.
Wanting the government to “do something” to “stop” the Temple’s Clubs is a convenient way for pastors to avoid doing this kind of hard and controversial work. Of course, better than doing it by themselves, they could equip their parishioners to do it with them. But I submit that until this work is done, nothing will change long-term, and if Christians continue to rely on the ravelin of neutrality, it will protect fewer of them until it protects none.
When that day arrives, and it will if Christians continue to refuse to do the hard work ahead of them, they will need to paraphrase and reconceptualize what Thomas Jefferson wrote about the relationship between spilled “blood” and the “tree of liberty”: the blood of Christian martyrs will be needed to restore a true and right understanding of liberty in our nation.[i]
So, let us get out from behind the ravelin while the going is still comparatively easy and get to work.

[i] Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, the son-in-law of John Adams, dated November 13, 1787: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

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