Members of The Satanic Temple (TST) call themselves Satanists, but they don’t worship the devil. Instead, they deploy his iconography to rile America’s right-wing Christians, and to protest the creeping coalescence of church and state. Led by Harvard graduate Lucien Greaves, they believe in goodwill, benevolence, open-mindedness and free expression. They support LGBT+ rights, and embark on charitable missions: litter-picking, giving dry socks to homeless people, donating tampons and sanitary towels to women’s shelters.
Penny Lane’s documentary is a wry, amusing exposé of this underground religion/political movement, and its impact on the easily outraged. TST’s creed is strictly non-violent, which repeatedly wrong-foots their targets, whose expectations are based on hysterical horror-movie imagery. Angry politicians don’t know quite how to denounce these gentle, mild-mannered ‘Satanists’ with their reasonable demands and humanitarian goals. It’s hilarious to watch.
There are some serious points being made. One TST adherent recalls being rebuked by his Catholic church for playing Dungeons and Dragons and listening to heavy metal. But, as he points out, while he was just a kid listening to music and playing games, real evil was being carried out by priests, and covered up by those in charge. The fingers were pointing in the wrong direction.
It’s a fascinating watch, told with engaging lightness and a sense of frivolity, but actually showing how provocation can be an effective form of activism. Fundamentalist Christianity can’t be allowed to dictate laws, and TST are determined to prevent them from doing so.