This is an attention grabber: In response to a monument honoring the Ten Commandments on the lawn of Oklahoma’s state Capitol building, numerous “faith groups” have insisted on their place in the sun. Among them is the Satanic Temple of New York City, which submitted its proposed design last week—a disturbing image that immediately popped up in news outlets internet-wide, including WORLD. The response was by the numbers: cries of outrage from Christians, snarky rejoinders from skeptics and atheists, and lets-be-reasonable questions from the murky middle. The questions were all variations of the same point: In a pluralistic society, what right has any belief system to take precedence over the others?
Outrage is proper, and snark is only to be expected. For Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves, the statue offer is an opportunity to grab some free publicity and tweak the straight-laces of Middle America. And make a point, of course: “Allowing us to donate a monument would show that the Oklahoma City Council does not discriminate and both the religious and the non-religious should be happy with such an outcome.” The really bad news is, most of America seems to agree with him, or they can’t think of a good reason not to agree. That’s why the powers that be at the Florida State Capitol could think of no good reason to ban a tribute to the Flying Spaghetti Monster in its Christmas displays last month. Of course, no one really believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the founders of the Satanic Temple don’t “really” believe in Satan. They see him more as a symbol of free thought.
If they want free thought, try Athens, where its celebrated Golden Age lasted only about 40 years before the intolerant Spartans pounded it into irrelevance. As for a pluralistic society, the last one of those was probably first-century Rome, where everyone was free to worship anything, including the emperor (or his horse). Law did not prevail, only whim—and whim, unsurprisingly, can’t keep a society afloat. The church put Western civilization back together when it collapsed, and may be called upon to do it again.
A replica of the Ten Commandments can be seen not as an endorsement of religion, but as a representation of the United States as a nation of laws, not men. But there is no enduring law without an enduring Lawgiver, and there’s the rub—everyone wants to do what’s right in his own eyes and be his own law. Surrendering to the pluralist argument is an admission of defeat. More than ever, we must speak truth in love, for eternal consequences are at stake. Lucien Greaves may not believe in Satan, but Satan believes in Lucien—and licks his chops in anticipation.