Theologian Al Mohler has cautioned Christians against giving too much or too little attention to the “occultic, the demonic, the satanic,” emphasizing that the devil achieves victory by either being “made too important or by being ignored.”
On Monday’s episode of The Briefing, Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, examined an article published at Vox that investigates the societal fear of the occult that has impacted the United States and other parts of the world for decades.
“Satanic Panic” truly began in the 1960s and 1970s — and received heightened attention well into the ‘80s and ‘90s — Vox wrote, adding that society’s fear and obsession with the occult “never really ended."
“Satanic Panic never truly went away. It’s alive and well today, and its legacy threads through American culture and politics,” Vox added.
Though events like the Manson murders and the release of the film "The Exorcist" exacerbated people's fears, Mohler explained that what was actually behind the so-called “satanic panic” was a “sense of America going out of spiritual control.”
“There was a concern about the growing presence of cults and sects in the United States, S-E-C-T-S. Cult and sectarian movements that included everything from the Moonies of the Unification Church to Harry Krishnas. You could go on and on,” he said.
But as a Christian theologian, Mohler noted that Christians are “always looking at a dual danger.”
“The danger is giving too much attention to the occultic, the demonic, the satanic, or too little,” he said. “When you look at the victory of the devil, that victory comes by either being made too important or by being ignored. The Bible doesn't ignore and the Bible certainly does not make the demonic, does not make Satan himself, does not make demons, does not make the occultic anything larger than that over which Jesus has triumphed.”
Still, Mohler said that the Vox article and the “reality behind it that spans several decades” is also an artifact of “a secularizing America, that is simultaneously secularizing and becoming more and more theologically confused.”
“If nothing else, this reminds Christians of a great opportunity and indeed a profound responsibility ... to look at the world, including the United States, the nations of the West, the entire world as a mission field that calls us, a mission field in which the reality everywhere is spiritual confusion, confusion that must be confronted with the clarity of the [G]ospel of Jesus Christ everywhere to everyone until Jesus comes.”
Mohler’s comments on society’s fear of the occult come on the heels of the recent controversy surrounding Lil Nas X and his latest music video “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” in which he descends down a pole and gives Satan a lap dance.
In collaboration with the Brooklyn-based company MSCHF, the singer also released 666 pairs of limited-edition blood-infused Nikes dubbed “Satan shoes.” The shoes are decorated with a pentagram pendant and a reference to Luke 10:18: “And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’”
Both the release of the Satan Shoes and the music video, announced ahead of Palm Sunday, drew criticism from conservative and Christian leaders from Franklin Graham to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, with the former condemning what he dubbed as "a dangerous marketing endeavor.”
In an op-ed for The Christian Post, Michael Brown, host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program, stressed that Christians “must not underestimate Lil Nas X’s influence on children in general” and called the sneakers “a momentary (yet demented) publicity grab.”
Still, he advised readers to “concentrate on the real satanic evil in the world around us.”
“I’m talking about the sexual trafficking of children. About rape and murder. About hatred and violence and injustice. About abortion and the destruction of the family. About deception and spiritual delusion,” he wrote.
“So while it is understandable that the sneaker announcement has garnered attention, we should keep our focus where it belongs, namely, on combating the real work of the devil in our society.”
Brown pointed out that “there will always be something sensational related to Satan,” and “something satanic will be in the headlines.”
“The reality is that these occasional, sensational stories will always be here. Let them be a reminder of the devil’s real presence in society rather than a distraction from his evil agenda,” he wrote.