Hail Satan fiendishly chronicles the establishment and growth of a contemporary ideology searching for national pluralism. Who or what is Satan? Decades of media representation, including film, television and illustrations, perpetuate the “demonic prince of evil spirits” to be the villainous archetype within religious foundations, primarily denominations of Christianity. The antithesis of God’s teachings. From a traditional perspective however, the etymology behind Satan derives from the Bible, the very passage of text that Christianity was founded upon. A fallen angel who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven, becoming an adversary in the process. An opposite. An entity that challenged God and his ideologies. Given the naivety and susceptibility of modern societies, the core original depiction of Satan’s creation and dogma was, ironically, casted out and instead opted for the the crimson red horned demonic villain that epitomised the sins of humanity.
But forget about the religious pretext. God versus Satan? Let’s ignore that. Many countries in the world are fortunate enough to have religious freedom. Pluralism. The ability to believe in a religion that does not conform to the national faith. Secularity. The United States believed its constitutional rights were founded upon Christian commandments, which is factually incorrect, and therefore the state has endorsed the privilege of the Christian right. Christian theocracy slowly relinquishing the power of democracy and transforming its freedom into the tyranny of totalitarianism. The Satanic Temple, the organisation that director Lane follows for her documentary, recognise this as a fundamental declination in societal power. Their primary motive is not to “rape and murder children” or “drink the fresh blood of humans”, as the media might suggest. No. To follow modern Satanism is to preserve the separation of church and state. To embrace equality. To reassure freethinkers. What initially was conceived as a practical joke, harnessing the rebellious nature of its members to produce mischievous humour (such as enabling same-sex couples to kiss over the gravestone of the founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church), soon became a religious movement. A battle for social justice. Thousands joining a civic crusade, enclasping the iconography of Baphomet.
Given my personal preconceived notions regarding the codification of Satanism, which undoubtedly conformed to devout Christian society’s general consensus, Lane’s documentary unequivocally changed my perspective on, well, everything. Through an intelligently constructed narrative, that chronicles the conceptualisation and progression of such political activism, and humane method of granting her interviewees, members of the Temple, characterisation through light-hearted conversations, Lane successfully conveys their motives whilst challenging the current state. A broad documentary tackling the foundational roots of the American constitution, the widespread view of “Satanic panic” (laughably angering now considering the uncovering of Catholic priests molesting children), the arduous battle for pluralism against a theocratic state and the inner workings of the Temple itself.
The wide scope of related strands connecting the organisation to the viewer, is regrettably too extensive for such a short runtime. Some elements, notably the sociopolitical duels and the blatant propagandistic history behind the American constitution, were highly engaging due to the meticulous usage of consequential footage and proposed narrational social perturbation. Others, such as a Temple member inciting extremist behaviour to skew the organisation’s non-violent methodologies and the declaration of the “Seven Satanic Tenets” (undoubtedly a superior modernisation of the Ten Commandments), were underdeveloped and diminished the longevity of the more captivating aspects. Lane incorporates a swift pace that moves every strand along briskly which, as mentioned above, is unable to substantiate the more menial interruptions.
Regardless, Lane has accomplished the near impossible. To pragmatically allow an organisation to promote egalitarianism, the jurisprudential concept of Disestablishmentarianism within the US and to invoke social justice. By giving co-founder Lucien Greaves (pseudonym for safety precautions) a platform, Lane has granted him and his benevolent organisation an opportunity for their articulate voices to be heard. Whilst the documentary itself may be uneven, the ideology remains intact. A freedom that, today, seems more apt than ever. And with that, there’s only thing left to say. “Hail Satan!”.