When former House Speaker John Boehner called Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh” on Wednesday, many of Cruz’s opponents cheered in delight. One fiercely anti-Cruz group, however, was not so pleased: the Satanic Temple, the United States’ leading Satanic sect, which gained prominence during its successful legal battle to include a Satanic diorama alongside religious holiday displays in the Florida capitol. Satanic Temple spokesman and co-founder Lucien Greaves quickly dismissed the comparison, criticizing Boehner for equating “Cruz’s failures of reason, compassion, decency, and humanity” with Satanism. I spoke with Greaves on Friday to discuss why Cruz’s positions are incompatible with the Satanic Temple’s beliefs. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What’s your immediate reaction to Boehner’s swipe?
I find the statement to be indicative of a dysfunctional way of thinking. When anything goes wrong according to their Christian faith, they put it on the side of Satan. It’s a nice way of not taking any ownership of the odious, deplorable activities of people on their side of the culture wars. That method of thinking has sustained this kind of witch-hunting demonology that Christians have put forward for some time, in which they can maintain that they are the ultimate arbiters of moral correctness and any time they go wrong, that says nothing about where their values have failed them or whether they should revise their thinking. They just conveniently relegate that to Satan.
Do you think Boehner was incorrect to compare Cruz with Lucifer?
Yes. If there’s anything honest about Ted Cruz, it’s that he is honestly a Christian who thinks he’s advancing Christian values. And so calling him Lucifer is radically inappropriate. It furthers this notion that, so long as you’re Christian, you’re correct, and anyone who does anything rotten must therefore be the devil. That’s an affront to symbolism that we value. It’s also a dysfunctional way of thinking. We need to consider that hiding behind a cross doesn’t make you a good person, or better person than somebody who subscribes to an alternative or oppositional religion.
Writing off a highly Christian character like Ted as “Lucifer incarnate” reaffirms the idea that Christianity can do no wrong. But Christians can’t just push Cruz off on Satanists. We don’t fucking want him.
Sounds like you are offended by Boehner’s comparison.
I really think it’s indicative of a destructive, harmful, archaic way of thinking, in which you can demonize somebody for the symbolic religious structure that they maintain and hold dear. We have our own values, which we think are very humanistic and pro-social. Satan speaks clearly to our deeply held beliefs as the opposition, the rebel against tyranny. That, to us, is what Satan represents. So it’s not that we worship evil or cruelty or would look fondly upon a disgusting shithead like Ted Cruz.
In other words, you think Cruz’s policies are antipodal to Satanism.
There is nothing Satanic in Ted Cruz’s apparent motivation to install a theocracy in the United States. That’s everything we stand against. It’s very clear to me that Ted Cruz wants to impose his religious values upon the rest of the nation, from abortion restrictions to his bizarre ideas of religious freedom. I’m not really sure where Cruz has stood on the homosexual issue, but—
He’s vehemently opposed to gay rights. He has also suggested that trans people should be barred from using public bathrooms.
I find those kinds of statements to be tyrannical in nature, and very much in opposition of the individual will of other people. There is absolutely nothing of the Satanic philosophy in any of that. We’re very much focused upon bodily autonomy, personal determination, and individual will. To have somebody trying to impose restrictions like that—that’s not us.