Sam Smith’s devil-themed Grammy performance with Kim Petras ignited a wave of conservative backlash, but it turns out, the Church of Satan wasn’t too impressed either.
The Grammys saw Smith and Petras perform their song “Unholy,” with Smith dressed in a discount devil costume with dinky, plastic horns poking out of his top hat, as though they had made a hasty detour to Spirit Halloween right before a costume party.
It wasn’t a particularly inspired costume, but it was enough to spark the ire of right-wing influencers, who expressed outrage that Smith, who is non-binary, dared to appear on stage dressed like the devil.
Many seemed to view the performance as a literal Satanic ritual, and some even attempted to connect the song to the earthquakes that ravaged Turkey.
In an interview with TMZ, David Harris, magister for the Church of Satan, was less excited, describing the performance as “alright,” and “nothing particularly special.”
The dismissive reaction stands in stark contrast to the horrified reaction from politicians such as Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. On Twitter, Cruz described the performance as “evil,” while Greene connected the performance to anti-vax conspiracy theories that describe vaccines as the Biblical “Mark of the Beast.”
Greene wrote: “The Grammy’s featured Sam Smith’s demonic performance and was sponsored by Pfizer. And the Satanic Church now has an abortion clinic in NM that requires its patients to perform a satanic ritual before services. American Christians need to get to work.”
Conservative influencer Robby Starbuck agreed with Greene, writing: “Sam Smith’s satanic performance at the Grammy’s ended with a Pfizer commercial. You can’t get it more on the nose than that. Pfizer and Hollywood deserve each other.”
Greene’s tweet mentioned The Satanic Temple (a separate organization from the Church of Satan), but Harris didn’t appreciate the reference, stating: “It’s sad when politicians on a national stage use someone’s religion as a punchline.” Harris went on to denounce Cruz and Greene as “delicate snowflakes.”
On Twitter, commentators pointed out that today’s Satanic Panic feels a bit sad, an exceedingly stale culture war.
Despite the paranoid delusions of Satanic Panic, Satanism has nothing to do with devil worship; it is a nontheistic religion that emphasizes the importance of compassion, reason, and self-determination. Many Satanists have taken steps to educate the public on their practices and beliefs.
The devil isn’t as one-dimensional as Evangelicals make him out to be; he is a folkloric figure who often represents rebellion against unjust authority, and has appeared in stories ranging from Dante’s Inferno to South Park. Recently, Satan has become a common reference for queer artists pushing back against archaic social norms, often enforced by religious authorities.
Kim Petras, who is a trans women, explained how her and Smith’s identities inspired their performance, stating: “I think a lot of people, honestly, have kind of labeled what I stand for and what Sam stands for as religiously not cool. I personally grew up wondering about religion and wanting to be a part of it, but then slowly realizing it doesn’t want me … it’s a take on not being able to choose religion and not being able to live the way that people might want you to live.”
Famously, Little Nas X sparked a similar backlash to Sam Smith in 2021, after his music video for “Montero” depicted him descending to Hell and stealing Satan’s crown, a performance which earned Harris’ approval.
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