“Standin’ at the crossroad, baby, risin’ sun goin’ down
– Robert Johnson, Cross Road Blues
Robert Johnson is often considered to be the first rock musician and one of the godfathers of the Mississippi Delta blues. Though his entire recording career spanned a mere seven months between 1936 and 1937, and though he achieved relatively little commercial success in his lifetime, Johnson is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Legend has it that this relative unknown met the devil at a crossroads and traded his soul for musical talent. He sang about it in his 1936 song “Cross Road Blues.”
Whether or not Mr. Johnson actually met the devil at a crossroads and traded his soul for fame is debatable. More recent interviews with musicians, like the 2009 60 Minutes interview with Bob Dylan, fuel the fire on discussions of whether or not men can trade their literal souls for earthly fame. Whether merely a metaphor for trading all of one’s self for stardom or a literal Faustian bargain, few would debate that there is a soul-sucking element to fame that robs the famous of their humanity.
A troubling aspect of our national culture is an ever-creeping slide into debasement. In this slide, we traded a cultural soul in pursuit of wholesomeness for a much darker version. There was a time when Elvis gyrating on television was on par with the red light districts of Amsterdam. Today, artists performing ritualistic, occult ceremonies is chalked up to marketing.
Last year, rapper Lil’ Naz X of “Old Town Road” fame performed his song, “MONTERO”, while giving a homo-erotic lap dance to Satan. To promote his video, he sold customized Nike sneakers with literal human blood in the soles. What once was chalked up to shock value has become celebrated. What once was limited to music genres like death metal found a home in bubble gum pop and rap.
One can find similar dark and occult symbolism throughout popular culture. From celebrity Celine Dion’s children’s clothing line Celinununu to Disney’s FX cartoon program Little Demon about the rise of the Anti-Christ, celebrating the occult has become standard fare. Perhaps this is all a marketing ploy to draw attention to one’s products, or perhaps there is something more there?
They say politics is downstream from culture, and our politics have born that out. Our leftward American creep reflects a society in pursuit of and driven by the culture. From the celebrity cult-like following of the Obamas to electing a literal celebrity in Donald Trump, the line between culture and politics has largely disappeared. This is also reflected in the overlapping social circles of celebrities and politicians.
Nowhere is this mingling between culture and politics and a slide into debasement more evident than in the macabre performance art of Serbian-born artist Marina Abramovic. Abramovic is most famous for her performance pieces that dabble in occult ceremonies with celebrities like Lady Gaga and political audiences like those of John Podesta. From her Spirit Cooking pieces, where she summons the spirits of the dead over dinner by painting incantations in human blood and semen on the wall, to guests consuming depictions of the human body lying in pools of blood at celebrity galas, Abramovic takes the macabre to the next level.
Historically, one might associate this cultural debasement as Satanic in nature, and they would be correct. Where they would be incorrect is assuming that they necessarily assume worship of some dark and fiery horned figurehead with a bifurcated tongue. In the Bible, Satan was an angel of God and the most beautiful of them all. It was his love of self that he thought of himself as God and was cast down from Heaven. This is the true nature of Satanism: a worship of self. Thus, the ultimate expression of ego is to give away our very souls in exchange for personal glory.
Our society has been referred to as a selfie generation, a picture of our fascination with ourselves. Facilitated by our screens and devices, we shunned the surrounding world until the world came to surround us, literally and figuratively. Our politics are just a reflection of that.
Identify any cause of cultural import on the right, such as opposing abortion or transgenderism. You’ll find a slew of half-hearted activists in a hurry to virtue signal their bona fides without intending to become tangibly involved in their local pregnancy or crisis counseling centers. Our slacktivism is another promotion of self and contradicts God’s command to practice righteousness without an audience.
Observe the same causes from the left spectrum, and you’ll find a more evident promotion of self. Abortion, which is sold as a medical necessity, has become a tool of convenience and self-advancement. Transgenderism may be the height of self-interest, as it requires the surrounding world to reject objectivity to adopt the self-image of the afflicted.
If politics is downstream from culture and our cultural woes stem from an infatuation with ourselves, then it stands to reason that fixing our politics requires first dying to ourselves. The Bible says that the last shall be the first, and the first shall be the last. While there is no panacea for an increasingly narcissistic humanity, only a commitment to others without reservation can begin to heal our cultural decay.