Useless Satanic panic

David Disney, Lode Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

If there’s one thing people are good at, it’s panicking. Mix in the prospect of both eternal damnation and their kid buying a Slipknot album and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

For whatever reason humans seem to be born with a fascination for the taboo. Whether it’s a teenager sneaking out to a Nirvana concert or a group of abolitionists dumping tea into Boston Harbor there is an instinct to rebel in all of us. To those we rebel against, it can be downright devilish.

Fast forward to America in the 1970s. Disco is on the rise and popular culture is getting more and more shocking. Movies like The Exorcism are scaring the nation and the Manson family cult was fresh on the minds of the population.

As we all know, however, when one popular trend arises in a culture another usually rises to oppose it. As popular culture grew increasingly edgy, a force did rise to oppose it. Countless evangelical speakers stepped up to speak out against the evils found in modern pop culture. This culture war was dubbed the “Satanic Panic,” and it did a better job scaring suburban soccer moms and highlighting hypocrisy in Christian media than it did fighting the forces of Satan.

I don’t think I’m being controversial when I say Satan is bad, I mean, he is literally Satan. That being said, you have to draw the line somewhere. When does something like The Hobbit change from a fun adventure to Satanist propaganda? This cartoonish paranoia about media converting your kids into Satan worshippers only served to drive more people to commit heinous acts, like reading Harry Potter!

One of the most interesting figures in this strange story was Jack Chick. He was a cartoon artist who made what he called “Chick Tracts,” little comic strips that would educate children about the evils of satanic activity. In reality, though, these strips only spread a paranoid message that seemingly everything in modern media would send children to Hell. Some notable examples involved stories about Dungeons and Dragons causing teenagers to kill themselves, and modern education systems lying to children about dinosaurs.

With all this said, I don’t want to come off like I’m speaking out against Christianity, in fact, it is far from it. Churches can be a vital pillar for any community, helping with everything from food pantries to child care. However, the people who preyed and profited on the fears of a population were not good people.

There were people during this time that did commit heinous acts in satanic rituals, however. Many small cult-like groups sprang up. For example, take the Jonestown Commune, a cult formed around this time that resulted in the deaths of over 900 people via mass suicide/poisoning. Not to mention several serial killers who claimed satanic influences.

What can we learn from all this though? To me, the lesson to take away is that anything people say should be taken with a grain of salt. Many times good intentions can lead to real harm, and other times a smiling face can mask harmful actions. The only thing to do is stay true to yourself and keep a clear head.

*Note: This story ran March 7