If you don’t have anything to do this September 21st, perhaps you can go to Oklahoma City (only 3 hours and 11 minutes from Joplin) to attend a special event:
As you can see, the Black Mass is being offered to curious Okies (or anyone willing to shell out 15 bucks) by Dakhma of Angra Mainyu, which “is a religious and educational church dedicated to Angra Mainyu (Ahriman).” Yeah, I know what you mean. I had never heard of the group or Angra Mainyu. I’ve since learned a little and guess what? Just like all things having to do with invisible or otherwise out-of-reach beings, it is complicated. For shorthand, just think of Satan or the Devil or, since we are talking about Oklahoma, Beelzebubba.
In any case, having an anti-sacramental Black Mass in Oklahoma City (albeit a more tame and legal version accompanied by a local band apparently known for its “dark, turbulent music”) is, as you might expect, not going over well with Christian folks. But a spokesman for the Civic Center Music Hall told a right-wing news outlet that,
since the center is a city-owned facility, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not allow us to turn away productions based on their content.
The Civic Center apparently has in the past hosted church services, as well as other “religious-themed events.” So, what’s it to ya if Satan gets in on the act, even if it is a sacrilegious act?
Well, some locals are quite upset. NewsOk pubished a piece (“Catholic archbishop decries plans for satanic Black Mass in Oklahoma City“) that began:
A local group has rented space in the Oklahoma City Civic Center for a satanic Black Mass, prompting Catholic Archbishop Paul Coakley to issue a statement questioning whether that is an appropriate use of public space.
“We’re astonished and grieved that the Civic Center would promote as entertainment and sell tickets for an event that is very transparently a blasphemous mockery of the Mass,” said Coakley, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. “The ‘Black Mass’ that is scheduled for the Civic Center in September is a satanic inversion and distortion of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics, but of all Christians.”
Now, I find it amazing that the archbishop is worried about the “appropriate use of public space” when it comes to religion in Oklahoma, since I can’t find anything he might have uttered when a Ten Commandments monument was put up on Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City in 2012 (you may remember that the un-spell-checked monument featured, “Remember the Sabbeth day…”). I’m guessing Archbishop Coakley considered that monument appropriate use of public space, even though the ACLU didn’t and brought suit. Also, a group called Satanic Temple has built its own monument of the Devil (complete with stately goat’s head) and expects to have it sitting on the Capitol grounds real soon. Here’s what it looks like:
A spokesman for Governor Mary Fallin said a couple of months ago:
There will never be a satanic monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol and the suggestion that there might be is absurd.
Obviously there is no good reason why that God-awful statue of the Devil shouldn’t sit on public grounds—if other, admittedly more popular, religious monuments are put there. This issue isn’t about popularity or heritage or any other excuse right-wingers have for stamping government with their religious seal of approval. It’s about, as Archbishop Coakley said, the appropriate use of public space. And it should not be appropriate to litter the lawns around any Capitol building, in separation-of-church-and-state America, with monuments to religious belief—or unbelief.
As for that Black Mass at the Civic Center, Christians should get used to the idea that if we are going to open up our public venues for church services or other religion-inspired events—my old church held services for a while in a community college auditorium—then sometimes some folks who don’t much like Christianity might decide to go public, too.
I, for one, wish we would lock the doors to all public buildings, put “keep off the lawn” signs in all public spaces, when it comes to purely religious expressions. There are more than 320,000 churches in the United States—heck, Subway, the world’s biggest restaurant chain, only has around 26,000 stores!—and I ask: isn’t 320,000 churches (and 2100 mosques and 3700 synagogues) enough tax-exempt real estate on which to erect monuments and in which to hold religious services?