I could think of a more elite and smug audience than a bunch of “industry” types sitting in a movie theater in Park City Utah at the Sundance Film Festival, but I’d have to work at it. What began as a vanity project of a Hollywood superstar has morphed over the decades into one of the most important festival locations in the world. 

It is a place where careers are made, unmade, salvaged and sabotaged as independent films as well as major studio offerings scrounge for the festival’s imprimatur. The Council of Trent had less drama than the average Sundance Film Festival.

What comes out of Sundance is what the prevailing culture either wants to promote culturally, or what it believes will garner the biggest ROI. Either way, it influences the great unwashed who spend their money via movie theater tickets, streaming services, or satellite TV subscriptions.

News media from across the globe and in every format, print, television, and electronic, descends on the festival looking for breaking news and what movie or star is making the biggest impact. One correspondent from an internet entertainment sight uncovered something outright satanic…and he was thrilled.

According to his article, the documentary hit of the festival is called “Hail Satan.” It follows the exploits of a new avant-garde group of activists known as “The Satanic Temple,” or TST for short. The movie chronicles the exploits of this “religious”/political activist group as it attempts to shine the light of “truth” on creeping Christianity in public life. The center of their gravity is the placing of a weird, kitschy goat-headed devil statue as close to any rendering of the Ten Commandments they can find on public property. I didn’t know you could find a rendering of the Ten Commandments on any public property, but maybe I just don’t get out enough.

This group is almost as self-satisfied as the author of the review of their documentary when he waxes glowingly about the real aim of the organization, which is not anything near devil worship but rather a more important objective. “The real goal is to help good citizens realize that the Ten Commandments have no business on government grounds…”

Now we could probably argue over whether the presence of the Ten Commandments constitutes state endorsement of religion or if the extra-constitutional musings of Thomas Jefferson, which gave us the language “separation of church and state,” carry more weight than any other thoughts not specifically stated or implied in the U.S. Constitution. But that will produce the same harvest as arguing with a die-hard conspiracy aficionado whether there was or was not a gunman on the grassy knoll in Dallas in 1963.

But the writer of the review of the movie certainly thinks de-Christianizing things is the way to go. Of course, you can’t talk about the devil (even when your premise is that he is just as make-believe as God) without bringing the Church into things. And the Church is in for a beating as the review marks one of the largest “applause” breaks from the Sundance audience during a “succinct summary of the Catholic Church’s failings to prevent the kind of sexual abuse it has accused unnamed Satanists of propagating.” I can almost picture Lucifer sitting in the back row enjoying his handiwork of humiliating the Church via cooperative humans and their sexual sins.

I realize one of the premises of the Second Vatican Council was that we as Catholics must be engaged in the world around us and not holed up in a self-constructed physical, spiritual, or cultural ghettos, but if the culture we find ourselves in has documentaries espousing the beauty of faux satanism while at the same time political heavyweights who maintain their Catholic status as they celebrate statutes that allow for the killing of unborn children of any gestation to the applause, cheers, and ear-to-ear smiles of their base, it may be time to google ghetto floor plans.

This documentary won’t be seen by a lot of people. But it will be seen by enough people. It will be seen by someone who is under-catechized or someone who is already predisposed to believe, thanks to the never-ending drumbeat of elite higher educations systems that the truth is relative and that if we are searching for “our” truth, that is all that matters. The black void that sentiment, coupled with playing at Satan worship, opens up will swallow souls whole and I have a sinking idea who is at the other end waiting to receive them.

Robert Brennan is a weekly columnist for Angelus online and in print. He has written for many Catholic publications, including National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He spent 25 years as a television writer, and is currently the Director of Communications for the Salvation Army California South Division.

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