I’ve been having some awkward conversations with Christians lately. Concerned friends are trying to pose something of a gentle intervention, lovingly telling me that I am in an unhealthy religion. The unspoken implication is that I’m in a cult that will suck me dry.
I ask what it is about my religious affiliation that so alarms them. “You work so hard” they respond. “You are so often exhausted from your work in Satanic communities.” That, it seems to me, is the crux of it. I’m frequently working hard for a community that seems alien to them.
I’m a Minister of Satan in The Satanic Temple. As a minister, it’s incredibly easy to over-extend myself. A huge portion of being a minister is navigating that constantly shifting line between enough and too much. Yes, I’ve come close to burnout in the service of a community I love, and managing the threat of burnout is a constant puzzle. I’ve had to institute very hard boundaries for myself: no work after a certain time each day, for example. These boundaries are hard-won and enable me to continue doing the work I love for the people I love. My Christian friends see this ongoing negotiation with stress and over-work and assume it’s because I’m in a toxic religion that demands too much of me.
Before I was a Satanist, I was a Christian. I’m the son of two pastors, and before my change of faith, I spent my entire life either working in Christian ministry or surrounded by it. I’ve worked in numerous different settings in various forms of ministry, ranging from conservative to progressive.
One theme holds true for all ministry I’ve ever been involved in, no matter the tradition: it is brutally hard work. Every minister I’ve ever known has been on the brink of burnout multiple times in their career, and navigating the stress is an ongoing challenge.
When I worked hard for mainline religions, I was praised for doing good, respectable work. When I put in an equal amount of work for a spooky minority religion, I’m in a cult. The irony here is that Satanism treats me far better than Christianity ever did. My mental, emotional, and physical autonomy as a minister is respected far more than it ever was in Christian settings. I’ve never felt freer to think my own thoughts, ask my own questions, and protect my own boundaries. Grueling though it may be sometimes, it might be the healthiest work I’ve ever done in ministry.
But for my Christian friends, the pall of spookiness and alienation reframes all of that. Because I’m in a religion that creeps them out, hard work as a minister becomes evidence not of passionate service, but of abuse.
I find it fruitful to identify these subconscious biases and expose them. In doing so, I hope to encourage greater respect and understanding between religious traditions.
But that’s just me. What do you think? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts. I love hearing back from my audience.
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