Sympathy for the Devil

This past Sunday our director of music (the wonderful Dr. Steve Katzenmoyer) and I did a duet in church. The song, “Salt of the Earth”, is one of the lesser-known cuts off of the Rolling Stones’s amazing album, “Beggar’s Banquet”. Released at the end of 1968 (not long after the release of “Their Satanic Majesties Request”), this album caused furious speculation about the hidden evil agenda of the Stones and rock music in general. The best song, in my opinion, was “Sympathy for the Devil”, and magnificent piece of writing that takes a deep dive into the nature of evil. Neither album is an homage to Satan; they are both deeply critical and amazing works of art.

Earlier this week singer Sam Smith performed on the Grammys with their own bizarre performance, using simplistic themes about hell that were sure to set people off. And while Jagger and Richards were delving into human nature and God, Smith just wanted to make people mad. Full disclosure – I don’t watch shows like the Grammys. If I want to see narcissists on parade, I’ll watch Fox or CNN. (Okay, that was a low blow – they aren’t all narcissists). I saw the articles full of indignation and shock as people reacted just as Smith probably wanted them to. I watched part of the amateurish performance and shook my head in – I’m not actually sure how I feel about it or exactly what bothered me. A transwoman in a cage? Smith dressed up like a cartoon devil? Fire belching dangerously close to scantily clad women? It all felt like a middle-school boys video game, full of extreme images meant to titillate. As my friend Ard Smith wrote, it was pretty tasteless, given the setting.

I do not believe in demons, nor do I believe in a physical former angel calling himself Satan (or Beelzebub or any other name). And as far as Newsweek’s take (that this is bad for the LGBTQ community) – grow up! There are hetero people making fools of themselves every day and nobody is saying they are bad for the straight community (whatever that is). What is saddest for me is Sam Smith himself. When he released the remarkable and challenging song “Take me to Church”, I applauded. As a person who believes that all sexual orientations are a gift from God, I grieved with Sam and every other person who has been tormented in the name of God. Their cry of loss and pain in that song are palpable and meaningful as they point fingers at self-righteous wolves wearing sheep’s clothing. This raunchy and raucous display of pretend demonology is a far cry from the artistry Smith has shown before.

If this immature display at the Grammy Awards insulted or offended you, please grow up. If you support what they did, I will say the same. They meant to rile everyone up, and they did that for most people. To me, though, it is just a sad attempt to bring us down and divide us more. Sam couldn’t be the grownup in the room, so we must be.

Prayer – Holy God of every person, forgive us when we overreact or condemn others. Help us to find spiritual maturity in all we do. Amen.