I guess it’s hard enough to raise your children right without having to send them off to a Satanist every weekend. That was the dilemma a group of women had when they filed suit against the one thing they all had in common with each other—an ex-husband named Jamie. Jamie was a thirty-year-old factory worker, and he’d led a rough life. Then he wound up in court trying to convince a judge he was fit to have parental custody of his children. It all came down to a tattoo.

Jamie had a cross on his arm, embedded in ink in his skin. That might not seem all that controversial, except that the cross was upside down. And it formed the “t” in the word “Satan.” Jamie’s attorney said this was a simple religious liberty issue. He was a member of the Church of Satan and shouldn’t be discriminated against because of his beliefs. The Devil’s advocate called a satanic priest as an expert witness to provide the crux of their argument: satanism doesn’t have anything to do with the Devil. The satanist said that their religion doesn’t believe in a real, personal devil or in any god or supernatural power. Satanism instead worships the ego, the power of the self. That’s what the upside-down cross is about, the turning on its head of the Christian values of humility, meekness, and servitude. Satanism isn’t really devil worship, he said, since Satan is just a symbol for “pride, liberty, and individualism.”

Now, as I’m sure you can already tell from reading this far in this book, I disagree with the occultist about the existence of Satan. But let’s give the Devil his due. It would be hard to find a more biblical definition of devil worship than the worship of pride, liberty, and individualism. As I read about somebody like Jamie, I’m always curious as to what happened in his life. After all, devil worship, like all forms of occultism, tends to show up, after a series of dark and dreadful steps, in the life of someone with almost nothing left to lose. Powerless people tend to be drawn to the occult, whether that’s the pimpled teenage boy reading sorcery books to fend off the bullies or the middle-aged divorcée who finds self-confidence in her New Age earth religion or the coven of cultists drinking each other’s blood. Those who have been hurt and marginalized can be drawn to the consolation of dark magic. For the rest of us, though, our quest for power tends to accept a subtler shade of Satanism.

I’m prideful, and so are you. Some of those who are reading this (maybe my grandmother) are probably mouthing the words, “Oh, he’s not prideful at all. He’s so sweet.” That’s just it, though. Many prideful people are so prideful they don’t seem proud. We are disgusted enough by arrogance to want never to seem like the peacock poseurs we all have in our lives. But every human being bears the sinful tendency toward pride and exaltation of self. We express it in different ways, but we all crave power for ourselves and the freedom that seems to come with it. That’s why Jesus went into the desert for us, to wrestle with our common temptation to worship the satanic world system around us.

Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).

This article excerpted from Tempted and Tried.

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