Time Magazine (and everyone else) reports that the Satanic Temple in Detroit has unveiled a bronze statue of Baphomet, “the totem of contemporary Satanism.” How ought American Christians respond to this?
1. We are not in a monuments-and-statues race. God withdrew us from that competition when He gave Moses the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image”). The result was that Israel entirely conceded the arena of religious statues to all of the surrounding idolatries (or, at least, was supposed to do so). The same was true for Christians, who confronted Roman paganism not by building their own temples and statues but by championing the divine plan to make each believer a temple of the Holy Spirit and a monument to the power of the gospel. The Roman pagans had all the statues and all the monuments. Christianity still won, and won decisively. I’ll take a living God over a dead statue any day of the week.
2. Every idol is a satanic monument. Consider 1 Corinthians 10:19-22. There, the Apostle Paul told us that statues of Zeus and Aphrodite and Jupiter and Artemis were actually satanic statues. “What the pagans sacrifice is to demons.” Every golden Buddha in your city is a statue to Satan, as well as every Hindu idol. So, the fact that this statue is dedicated to Satan adds nothing new and only serves to make what God has seen all along obvious to everyone: There are satanic idols all around us.
3. Formulating a Christian response to idolatry is not a difficult task. This is one of those cases in which WWJD works out to be a pretty solid bit of guidance. What did Jesus do about a first-century landscape covered with idols? What did the Apostle Paul do in the Areopagus? The refuted idolatry and preached the gospel. Preaching from Isaiah 44:9-20 or Acts 17:22-31 will give you a good exegetical basis for proclaiming an appropriate Christian response. Neither Jesus, nor any of the apostles ever tried to tear down the idols in their world. They were more interested in changing people than in changing the landscape.
4. You know that your angry response is their objective, right? These “satanists” in Detroit don’t even believe that Satan is real. They’re in for the same shock that came upon the witch at Endor (1 Samuel 28:3-25): the discovery that what they tinkered with as a novelty or con-game is real and terrifying. They have no plans to worship this statue. They made it in order to enrage us. I’d encourage you not to give them the satisfaction. I think we shouldn’t take the bait.
The statue of Baphomet is more than “the totem of contemporary Satanism”; it is the totem of contemporary American culture. It is the same toying with spiritual realities as though they were pleasant (or unpleasant) fictions for us to use as we see fit, the same denial of ontological good and evil in favor of self-gratification, and the same angry, defiant fist raised against a loving God is the regnant philosophy of our people and our land.
We must ask ourselves if a bronze statue of Satan makes worse a nation that so clearly evidences the ongoing living work of the serpent from the garden. We must ask ourselves why we are sometimes more enraged and outspoken about a goat-head statue in Detroit than we are vigilant toward a real-live roaring lion seeking whom he may devour among our families and neighbors. We must take up the spiritual weapons of our warfare, and we must carry the good news of Christ’s victory over Satan to a perishing world.