Monotonous Autonomy

Feast of the Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

heroes-2-IN.jpgIN THE LATE 70s I heard that, on Easter morning, a Catholic priest in Dallas had himself taken up the main aisle of his church, elevated on a fully extended palette loader. Apparently he wanted to teach his flock something about the meaning of the Resurrection. And clearly the priest was a literalistic boob who lacked the means to preach about the central mystery of the Church in a believable manner.

If the Church can thus fail the world, it’s no wonder that Satanists, too, might similarly be capable of only self-mocking gestures. Thus it happened that the Satanic Temple of Detroit countered the local Protest Planned Parenthood gathering on August 22nd with bargain-basement street theater and illiterate commentary thereon.

The coordinated PPP protest took place in 356 cities as part of the growing wave of disgust over the Planned Parenthood staffers and officials caught surreptitiously on camera at their official and crass worst by the Center for Medical Progress. But in Detroit, the Satanists stood near protesters holding real photos of dismembered babies to enact a bogus ritual with the production qualities of a high school pep rally. As the Temple’s website put it:

satanists-ambush-anti-planned-parenthood-protests-with-theatrical-milk-bath-1440516057.gifThe Satanic Temple of Detroit interrupted the pro-life national day of protest against Planned Parenthood at the Detroit and Ferndale, Michigan locations. The Temple employed radical political theatre to illustrate the theocratic agenda imposed upon female bodies.

With wrists bound in prayer, two women were drowned in milk at the hands of male clergy. Their bodies callously veiled by the maternal bath. An American flag furnished with a symbol of The Satanic Temple framed the scene, followed by a message: “AMERICA IS NOT A THEOCRACY. END FORCED MOTHERHOOD.”

I come up with at least ten empty gallon jugs of milk at the feet of the “male [and female!] clergy” involved in the depicting of the “theocratic agenda.” No pewter pitchers with pentagrams for these “priests”; just a straight run from the dairy section to the street, magically to transform otherwise freely roaming women into the lactating slaves upon whom “FORCED MOTHERHOOD” has been imposed. The Satanic Temple of Detroit is for nothing if not autonomy—and science. Its website continues:

The Satanic Temple’s core tenets outline the following points:

(1) One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

(2) Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.

Those busy tenets, when not outlining points, otherwise seem little different than the slender content of the vademecum of the average post-modern Westerner. She—or he—has so often heard “Our bodies, ourselves”; has so often been reminded that, in the words of Mr. Justice Anthony Kennedy, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” that it is unthinkable, and forbidden, to think differently. Despite the fact that so few conceptions occur through parthenogenesis, “one’s body is . . . subject to one’s own will.” One may preserve or violate one’s own body, as one’s own will dictates. One may similarly infer what another would do with his body if he can’t express his Baphomet-Statue.jpgwill—especially if it’s convenient for you to kill him. And forget all the protests of the past insisting that science or knowledge, and belief or faith, are two different things; just form your “beliefs” in conformity with the “best scientific understanding of the world.” And what better symbol of disinterested scientific knowledge could there be than Baphomet?

In Belgium, the day before the Planned Parenthood protest/counter-protest, three young Americans didn’t use many words when they expressed their freedom of action. Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos charged the would-be jihadist who had produced an AK47, pistol and box cutter on a high-speed train. Stone and Skarlatos are in the US military and thus might be expected to have had training that helped them respond automatically in a threat situation. Still, it takes deep habituation—virtue—to enable an unarmed man to charge another holding an automatic weapon.

Perhaps the three young Americans were formed in the virtue of courage and the proper use of freedom in their school years. They met while attending Freedom Christian School in Fair Oaks, California. The website of Freedom Christian has a prominent but unattributed quote at the bottom of its homepage; perhaps it is the school’s motto: “Freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want, but the power to do what you ought.” The sentence seems a variant of similar phrasing in Lord Acton, Luther, Epictetus and probably numerous other writers in the great tradition. It is unlikely that its counterpart is to be found among the intrinsically and exclusively self-indulgent followers of Baphomet. But Old Scratch can certainly recognize anyone singing his song.


John Traffas writes from retirement in Atchison, Kansas. He spoke about music and mystery during the 2015 Eighth Day Institute Symposium on “Whatever Happened to Wonder? The Recovery of Mystery in a Secular Age.”

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