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Satan to Rise in OKC Civic Center!

8:20 AM EDT on August 31, 2010

I hate The Phantom of the Opera as much as anyone, but when I read the headline, I felt The Oklahoman was going too far in calling it a "Satanic group."  Then, I actually read the article to learn that an actual group that worships the arch-angel had rented a room at OKC Civic Center.

The group, led by James Hale, a man who shares a name with a guy I once considered to be Satan, is holding an event that is parodizing (if that's a word) the Catholic tradition of demon exorcism.  In essence, their goal is to unleash the devil onto the world.  It's probably just me, but I assumed this happens in Oklahoma on the eve of every college football season when Sooner fans offer to sell their souls for another mythical national championship.  The fact that this one is being organized by someone who can be confused with the Burger King-swindling OU recruiting guru only reinforces that belief.

The real issue at hand, though, isn't that a group of atheists are trying to get a rise out of Christians.  What will really be interesting is how the Christians handle it.  While introducing the story in last night's broadcast KOCO's Paul Folger told us, "tonight some Christians are outraged."  In the piece that followed, I could hear the seething as they interviewed one Christian--a pastor at Trinity Baptist.  Baptists, Satanists--that sounded like a recipe for some great overreaction.  Here's what Jeremy Stowe had to say:

Their desire to get their message out, it doesn't surprise me...[We need] to show the community how to engage people who are different than us.   Not in protest, or crazy rallies, but in shining the light of Christ and loving them just as Christ loves us.

That's the most subdued outrage I have ever heard, and it makes me think Eye Witness News 5 was a bit lazy in their reporting.  First of all, it should not have been difficult to locate a loony Christian to flip out and pretend these Satanic jokesters were an actual threat to society.  Folger obviously figured his reporters had done the grunt work to find one of those people.  Instead they found a reasonable, eloquent guy--from an uber conservative denomination, no less--who had a message all Oklahomans should heed.

It will be interesting to see if this issue blows over, or blows up.  As someone who has witnessed Edmond Public Schools remove Harry Potter books from their libraries because of an urban legend that claims a witch coven meets in the rural part of their city, I suspect the latter.

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