By now many of us heard about artist Sam Smith’s musical number at the Grammy awards: a choreographed “dance” of a satanic ritual.
Smith performed his song “Unholy” dressed as the devil and bathed in intense red light while dancers ritualistically undulated around him.
On national TV.
The Christian response was swift and blunt: What the world watched was evil.
Political commentator Matt Walsh stated, “It’s not surprising to see a satanic ritual at the Grammy’s. Satanism is the worship of the self. Much of modern pop music is satanic in this sense. Leftism is satanism. The only change is that now they’re being more explicit about it.”
Conservative Charlie Kirk tweeted with more than a little sarcasm: “Definitely not a spiritual war.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz stated, “This…is…evil.”
The Christian response was expressed in no uncertain terms. And having viewed the video myself, I completely agree. Although I can’t ignore the irony that Satanists also weren’t too thrilled with it either. The portrayal of Satan and hell was more of a caricature, but the imagery was present. (Although can someone please tell me how total separation of God includes dancing women in cages?)
I am going to go out on a limb and say the Smith’s ultimate goal for this number wasn’t to promote Satanism and proselytize young minds into worshiping the Dark One.
I think Smith’s objective was two-fold: shock and awe. The shock materializes in the collective gasp in Body of Christ, while the awe rises from the uber-trendier folks in the media who will describe the production with adjectives such as edgy, daring, and provocative. If that was his objective, he succeeded.
Honestly since first hearing of Smith’s performance, my cynical filter went down. I couldn’t help but wonder if we’re being played.
I have seen this game played before. Frequently.
I have a couple of reasons for thinking this way.
First, the entertainment industry has been hemorrhaging audiences and therefore dollars. Over the last several years, entertainment award shows—including the Grammys—have consistently receive lower and lower ratings to the point of irrelevance. Box office sales are down. Creativity seems to have been exhausted. Celebrity interviews are generally received more and more with a collective “meh.”
To an industry packed full of manical egomaniacs, this is Defcon 5, the apocalypse, the worst case scenario. It’s like taking meth from an addict.
Like addicts, they need a fix. The entertainment industry’s fix is attention.
And the most popular method to do that is to one-up the last shocking event, whatever that might be. For example, over the decades, the singer Madonna has become an expert at reinventing herself every few years, each time becoming more and more provocative than the last time. Each year, TV networks produce more and more sensational violence and sex, and when that doesn’t do it enough, they make a character come out as gay, or they rebrand a favorite character as the opposite sex.
But, the industry shrugs, we’re talking about it.
Negative attention is still attention.
That’s the feeling that kept creeping up in me the week following the Grammy performance. What’ll it be next time? Human sacrifice? Showing Jesus as a transvestite? What can the industry do next to keep people talking about them?
The second reason for my somewhat cynical response has to do with a relatively new element in the industry called something like interactive art. Basically, this claims the audience’s reaction is, in and of itself, a part of the art.
In 1989, an artist named Andres Serrano, using taxpayer’s dollars, photographed a crucifix soaking in a glass filled with urine, calling the exhibit “Piss Christ.” Naturally, the outrage among Christianity was deeply felt and widely expressed.
However, to the artist, that offensiveness was to be expected, thus making the Christian’s response to this photo an integral part of the exhibit.
Needless to say, the entertainment industry’s default is to try to get a rise out the body of Christ. Their game plan seems to be: 1) be as offensive as possible; 2) use Christian outrage to add to their straw man that Christians are judgmental, uncultured prudes.
I sense when Christians respond, we’re playing into their hands.
This begs the question: how should a Christ-follower respond to blatant acts of evil and offense?
Part of me thinks to just ignore it. Don’t play into their hands. This is the way the world is, and we shouldn’t be surprised. Satan has been defeated—nothing can undo that. However, that doesn’t mean Satan is not present. His purpose in his final days is to create chaos, and truthfully, I don’t think he’s all that intimidated by our social media posts.
On the other hand, quiet prayer within the Christian community will stop Satan in his tracks.
That, of course, seems like the quintessential Sunday School answer, but nonetheless it is true. You believe in the power of prayer, or you don’t.
What do we pray for? Sam Smith for one. Kim Petras for another. The producers and participants of that musical number. The viewers that watched it. Jesus died for all of them. All of them are redeemable.
In addition, we should pray that Jesus shows us Christ-followers how to respond and/or what we should say.
This will be followed with more occurrences in which the world will push our buttons.
We shouldn’t be shocked by the world’s actions.
Perhaps it would be more productive to respond not with outrage but with sympathy.
Sympathy for those who know not what they do.
 Dani Di Placido, “Sam Smith Grammy Performance Criticized by Conservatives and Satanists,” Forbes. February 10, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danidiplacido/2023/02/10/sam-smiths-grammys-performance-criticized-by-conservatives-and-satanists/?sh=42241e7730b1