Monday, January 6, 2014

In Oklahoma City, Opposites Attract

In a few of my post lasts month there was discussion of dualism and Manichaeism—the notion that good and evil are inextricably mixed, yet always at war with each other.  It is an important theme in A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool, for example, and many other horror stories.  So the timing was perfect for a news item from Oklahoma that was reported around the 9th of December.  I saw it on first on Fox News—so it must be true, (or at least ‘fair and balanced’). 

Some readers have probably heard about the legal battle underway in Oklahoma City over placement of the Ten Commandments on the state capitol grounds.  The story is not really horror, science fiction, or fantasy—though it might be to some people.  It is more likely familiar comic relief for the interminable culture wars afflicting the nation.  These seem to reach a highpoint during the Christmas season, but an update today on the Fox News website will keep the battle going well past the holidays.

One of the groups now seeking to place an expression of its religious beliefs on the capitol lawn is the New York based Satanic Temple.  The organization wants to place a monument next to the Ten Commandments, and is considering various designs.  The monument will cost about $20,000, and may depict the devil himself—“an homage to the historic/literary Satan…”  Other options being considered involve either a pentagram or an interactive display for children.  Who knew that Satanism could be fun for the whole family? 

(The monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments cost only $10,000—about a grand for each commandment, though a few, being longer, ought to have been more expensive.)

One suspects the long arm of the ACLU is at play.  Ever since the display of the Ten Commandments appeared on the capitol lawn in 2012, the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has been taking legal action to have it removed.  But the Satanists and their supporters have a reasonable argument:  if the state allows one group’s religious beliefs to be advertised on public property, it cannot deny this opportunity to others with alternative views.  Of course, if that view prevails, mowing around all those statues on the capitol lawn will be quite a challenge, given our multi-cultural, multi-theistic society.

 (The ACLU recommends that no one be allowed to use state property for this purpose, which is the ideal solution in their opinion.)  

Supporters of the congressman who lobbied and provided the funding for the monument of the Ten Commandments argue that Oklahoma’s Judeo-Christian heritage ought to be celebrated.  But it seems that Satan is every bit as much a part of the Judeo-Christian heritage as his principle rival, and might be the more appropriate of the two to adorn a political institution.  Some politicians are asking that a Christian chapel be built inside the state capitol building, and that nativity scenes and other religious-themed symbols be allowed in the local public schools.

In today’s update, Fox reports that a design has finally been selected by the Satanic Temple.  It will be a seven foot tall statue of a goat headed divinity.  Satan will be seated on a throne, surrounded by statues of happy, inquisitive children.  The throne will be decorated with a pentagram.  Mercifully, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission has placed a moratorium on all new requests for monuments.

Why not have the Ten Commandments on Oklahoma’s capitol lawn?  Why not have Satan there as well?  Given the nature of what probably goes on in that capitol building, why not both?  In my view it makes perfect sense to put them both in very close proximity.  We need each one to vividly remind us of the other.

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