Image by Esther Samuels-Davis
As a young Christian growing up in Michigan, Jex Blackmore decided to leave the church after making a stunning realization: Satan was actually the good guy.TRANSCRIPT
Jex Blackmore: Comrades, you have been invited to join us this evening as a method of deprogramming. Many of you are here seeking a spectacle. We are not here to entertain you and we are not seeking followers. We are seeking collaborators. Tonight in this room, we are connected. We are each bodies. We are sexual, possess envy and curiosity, hate and compassion, selfishness and altruism. We are simply and beautifully human. We are powerful and wild, capable of creating entire worlds and equally as capable of destroying them.
Jex Blackmore: It was early in our collective history that those who were privileged to positions of power realized that to sustain their authority is to control the nature and mythology of man. Who taught you to be ashamed? Who taught you to apologize, to serve and confess, to ignore and repress, to carry on despite the injustices against who you are? Yet within this fiction the path to liberation has been written.
Nick: From Luminary, you’re listening to Love + Radio. I’m Nick Van der Kolk. today’s episode, The Fruit of Knowledge, featuring Jex Blackmore.
Nick: How’s Detroit? Did you grow up there?
Jex Blackmore: Yeah, so I actually was born in Southfield, but my grandfather and my father owned a funeral home in Detroit so I was spending a lot of
time there with them. My sister and I had a little space set up in the room where they had caskets for display and we would watch cartoons while laying
in the caskets and eating snacks.
Jex Blackmore: I definitely had a curiosity about death. I spent a lot of time watching embalmers put makeup on bodies and I found it to be very
relaxing and peaceful to kind of watch the process of kind of turning a body into something that resembled someone who was alive and loved at one point.
I found a lot of my understanding of the human body came from old textbooks about embalming and disease that my dad had kept around. It changed my perspective a lot on our physical bodies and the ways in which we develop relationships with a physical body that will eventually just decay and be
Jex Blackmore: I had a really serious fascination with religion in general when I was young, in elementary school and it maybe that had to do with my
experience in watching different types of funerals happen and different ways of mourning. I got really into getting books about the occult and about Judaism and Christianity and different expressions of Buddhist and Muslim faith. My teachers were perplexed by this interest and I think by my parents
were as well.
Jex Blackmore: My parents were both pretty absent. My mom was a social worker and then as I said, my dad was a mortician. They’re both very busy and neither were very religious with the exception that for my father’s business, we attended church to kind of connect with the community that would
eventually reserve and need funeral services later.
Nick: As a networking opportunity.
Jex Blackmore: Essentially, yeah. We would always show up at the very end, so we could at least shake everyone’s hands and sneak in in the last Pew.
Speaker 3: We are all part of ultimate statistic. We all come from different places.
Jex Blackmore: It was this beautiful church that was supposed to look like an ark upside down so it was all wood inside and had this beautiful peaked
top and a massive concrete Christ that was elevated above the congregation. I have one sister and my parents made us dress up and it was very
uncomfortable. Something about it felt very institutional to me, just it seemed like nothing about it was genuine to me at the time and it just felt
like a kind of meaningless charade.
Jex Blackmore: There is this part at every service where you kind of shake the hands of your neighbor and I think you say Christ be with you or something similar to that. It was very uncomfortable and nobody really wanted to do it and I thought that was so strange because there’s this kind of ritual of community, but it had no meat to it, no truth. In part, because lot of the people that came to the church didn’t seem to get along and didn’t seem to like each other. And there would be rumors going around about the neighbor and their family or who showed up or what they wore and then we stopped going as much, or I had the option not to go as I got older.
Speaker 3: That wonderful story that ends well for us and you need to take advantage of it.
Jex Blackmore: But interestingly, I had a really difficult childhood and my parents were often fighting in the house and it was pretty brutal. And one of the places that I found myself was in a contemporary church when I first started high school. I think I was about 12 or 13. I started going to a very hip church that was kind of held outside in fields and then in schools that didn’t have a location. There were kids in my school that had Mohawks and they went to the church and I wanted to be their friends.
Nick: What’s what’s the name of the church?
Jex Blackmore: It’s not around anymore, but it was a Wesleyan church. My mom always said that she thought it was a cult, which I don’t agree with, but I it’s a more biblical based approach. The idea is that if the words of the Bible are true, no matter what, it’s just kind of our interpretation of them. But to say that the idea that some of the Bible is just a story or just not true, is offensive to people of the Wesleyan faith. And so I found myself there because I was looking for a place to escape, to get out of the house. It was one of the only ways I could get away.
Jex Blackmore: I think my initial reaction was one of feeling accepted and I think that feeling accepted and cared about is really important when you are a young teenager. I really tried to go deep in understanding this Christian worldview and philosophy and thought that Jesus was all knowing, omnipotent character that had my best interest in mind and I had to have a relationship with him. And I think that I, in earnest when I was about 14, tried really hard to do that. And I failed, I think. I tried to pray every night and my parents would say, “You’re in a cult,” and were not into seeing me really try to do that.
Jex Blackmore: And I would read the Bible and I read books about becoming a godly woman or a young woman who had good values and would save herself for marriage. And I think that as I started to go deep into what that really meant to live as a Christian, I started to feel very bad about myself. Things really shifted for me away from feeling comfortable in a community that I thought was taking care of me to feeling like a failure and feeling very ashamed.
Nick: In what ways did you feel like you were a failure?
Jex Blackmore: I was just like any teenager, very lustful. I remember attending a sermon that was about how masturbation was a sin and that you have to refrain, which was a big problem for me as a teenager. I was very curious about sex at the time and I think that was a huge sticking point. I also had some queer friends growing up and I was troubled by the kind of demonization of gay people. All of these things and a lot of it had to do with sexuality to be honest, really felt uncomfortable to me. And was told often that I should pray if I feel like defiling my body with sex. That I should pray for forgiveness and pray for guidance.
Nick: And did you?
Jex Blackmore: I did. I certainly did. I felt very bad about myself I think. I felt like I could only be redeemed through prayer and that inherently I was a bad person and weak because of being subjected to worldly sins. I also, I think experienced and went into a very serious period of my life where I became severely depressed and suicidal. Part of it was because of my home life but I think also I was looking to a community of people that were supposed to be there to help me, who made me feel ashamed of myself, who made me feel like I didn’t have control over my own life, who made me feel like I was imperfect.
Jex Blackmore: I attended a series of sermons on demons and possession. They read from a text that describes people who were under the influence of demons and some of the characteristics they described were things such as being a rebellious woman who defied the men in their life. Also another one was sleeping with dead people, which I had taken lots of naps in rooms with dead people growing up so that felt really weird to me. I just felt like all these descriptions of being possessed by demons and under the influence of the devil resonated with me much more than being a Christian.
Jex Blackmore: The church teaches that Adam and Eve were made in the image of God and they kind of existed in paradise and bliss and complete ignorance of any pain in the world and we’re forbidden from accessing that information by God. They were under kind of a fascist regime, unable to know truth and unable to know the depth of reality until Eve was quote unquote tempted or offered the choice to know these truths. She throughout history has been the epitome of sin for wanting to know the truth. And I think there’s something telling when, what is deemed the most harmful is enlightenment. We talk about the Devil as this great sense of temptation. Somebody that offered humanity choice, who offered Adam and Eve knowledge, who offered Jesus in the desert, water. It starts to seem like the devil is actually much more reasonable. And you read the story, I think it’s Abraham who’s asked to sacrifice his son.
Speaker 4: When I look on this boy, I see goodness. I see your promise fulfilled.
Jex Blackmore: What a moral dilemma that is. How do you reckon with murdering your own child to please God? And where is the moral truth in that?
Speaker 4: Oh when I put an end to such delusions.
Jex Blackmore: There is a clear moral truth, it’s don’t murder your child. The most reasonable rational, natural choice always comes back to the Devil.
Started to realize that Satan, Satanism and the values that were decried by the church was something that would bring the fall of humanity was actually
quite the opposite and I started to call myself a Satanist shortly after.
Speaker 5: When I was a young man, my father took me to a place in central Ohio where he showed me a satanic church. There, the windows were
blacked out, the walls were painted black within, there were demonic on the interior on the walls, satanic priests wore hooded robes.
Jex Blackmore: There are people who define themselves as theistic Satanists. Those are people who believe in a literal devil and a supernatural being.
Speaker 5: They use a satanic bible.
Jex Blackmore: Who meddles with our affairs here on Earth.
Speaker 5: Weird things to the point of blood being used for communion. But I hate to tell you this, that’s not really his goal for your life.
Jex Blackmore: Non-theistic satanist, which is the realm that I fall into, I believe in Satan as a metaphorical figure representing enlightenment and
Speaker 5: See, many of us don’t do what we do because Satan wants us to, we do it because we want to. Nobody here said, “I think I’ll get drunk
for Satan.” No, you get drunk for you.
Jex Blackmore: For me as a satanist, I fundamentally believe that my humanity is natural.
Speaker 5: He wants you to do what you want.
Jex Blackmore: Is natural.
Speaker 5: Say what you want.
Jex Blackmore: Is normal.
Speaker 5: Feel what you want. Think what you want.
Jex Blackmore: Is powerful.
Speaker 5: Take what you want.
Jex Blackmore: And something to be embraced.
Speaker 5: You do what you do because you want to do it.
Jex Blackmore: Dear friend, you’ve been invited to join us this evening as a method of deprogramming. Many of you here are seeking a spectacle but we
are not here to entertain you and we do not seek followers. We are seeking collaborators.
Jex Blackmore: One of the first rituals, public rituals that I wrote was in a loft warehouse in Detroit.
Jex Blackmore: Tonight we acknowledge your courage and value your trust in us.
Jex Blackmore: When people entered the room, we marked their foreheads with an X as a rite of passage.
Jex Blackmore: This building is ours. You have entered a consecrated space.
Jex Blackmore: We had a massive display of fruit and sweets. A four foot sculpture of a phallic image, essentially a huge ice penis next to a room
showing a goat giving birth on repeat and church pews, to transform a space into a zone where we controlled the aesthetic and created the kind of church
where we wanted to worship.
Jex Blackmore: Let us feel an acknowledge the heat of our own bodies. If you are able, place your hands together and generate friction, skin against
Jex Blackmore: I spoke at a podium as a pastor would. Brought up participants as in a traditional religious ceremony at a Christian Church. You might
have different priests. In this case, they were nude participants who choked visibly on gallons of wine.
Jex Blackmore: Who taught you to be ashamed? Who taught you to be embarrassed by your sexuality?
Jex Blackmore: We talked a lot in the ritual about how wine is symbolic of the blood of Christ and how the blood of Christ is suffocating us and we are
drowning in this moral rhetoric which is harming us. And we literally can’t breathe because of this dominance and influence over our bodies and our
Jex Blackmore: Your body is your power and it is a weapon.
Jex Blackmore: Near the end of the ritual, the wineglasses are smashed and the nude performers engage in sexual acts.
Jex Blackmore: Feel the weight of your flesh.
Jex Blackmore: And dancing ensues as a celebratory form of ritual resistance.
Speaker 6: There’s a new religion in America, the Satanic Temple is now designated as an official church. The IRS gave it tax exempt status like
many religious institutions in America. The Satanic Temple was founded about six years ago.
Jex Blackmore: The Satanic Temple was founded by a group of men who wanted to create a satire group to be litigious.
Speaker 7: It’s a question of First Amendment rights here at the state Capitol tonight after a satanist group announced it will erect its own
holiday display, just steps away from the Capitol Christmas tree.
Speaker 8: Is it really just a way to troll Christianity?
Speaker 9: No, that can be part of the fun, but it’s certainly only just part of it.
Jex Blackmore: At the time, right before I joined, I was writing a blog called Raw Pussy and I was really into radical taboo thinkers and artists
challenging these oppressive norms. And so I reached out and realized that my perception of Satan at the time closely aligned with their values of being
Speaker 10: Jex Blackmore is the founder of the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple. On the line with us right now, Hello Jex.
Jex Blackmore: Hi, how you doing?
Speaker 10: Thank you for coming on.
Jex Blackmore: I took on organizing on defensive gay rights and defensive of abortion.
Jex Blackmore: I would say that we employ radical political theater to draw attention to the absurdity of the pro-life movement.
Jex Blackmore: Getting together with groups of people and saying this particular issue is wrong. How can we challenge this?
Jex Blackmore: I attended a gay rights rock against racism event that friends of mine and organized and a local church group came out and protested. A
man called me a whore and spit on me. I think at the time I had made a comment that if he spat in my asshole it would have felt better. He didn’t know
what to say and it felt really good. To me it was quite funny because it’s such a small taboo reference to sex that made someone so uncomfortable and I
realized that what they were trying to do is to make us feel ashamed of our sexuality but in reality, they were so afraid of their own.
Jex Blackmore: Modern satanism has been historically over the last 30 years, dictated and controlled and the figureheads have all been men. And you see
that in the subculture as well. In heavy metal music and black metal music, in the Temple of Set, the Church of Satan, these are all groups run by men.
Women tend to participate in ways that lend themselves to being a prop, essentially naked, acting as altarpieces. All the decision making was made
primarily by men or by maybe a group of women that were sleeping with men. All the money was managed and donations were managed by men, which I think
really replicates a power structure of sexism that we see in many different organizations, but it’s certainly disappointing in one that I think should
oppose kind of these traditional structures perpetuated by the church.
Jex Blackmore: I have a position of evolution and revolution and the Satanic Temple has a position of reform. The Satanic Temple is very much invested
in engaging in lawsuits to forward their political mission and I was very much interested in empowering the freaks on the street. And because of that,
we really started to be at odds with one another. They took issue with a political performance that I did on my own terms where I think that the point
that they called out was that I said presidents should be executed. I had stepped down as a chapter head in Detroit, but I still had a strong community
of people that I was working with as an artist in Detroit and we wanted to engage in a ritual focused on political rebellion and solidarity. We occupied
this space in this unused warehouse in the middle of Detroit that was unheated and it was the middle of a massive snowstorm, the biggest snowstorm of
Jex Blackmore: After centuries of biblical patriarchal dominance, the annihilation of native and diverse cultures, the propagation of racism and
homophobia, we are all oppressors. We owe them hostility, inextinguishable justice and uncompromising destruction.
Jex Blackmore: A couple hundred people showed up, which was really amazing considering the weather and the fact that it was freezing cold. We literally
smashed an entire set of lights that lit up to look like prison bars.
Jex Blackmore: They have built a system that grinds us down and they tell us to swallow our grief and our rage in the name of responsibility.
Jex Blackmore: And pointed out that we actually have the rights to rebel and to challenge these injustices through creative means.
Jex Blackmore: We are the model. Who taught you how to protest? Who talk to you how to get mad? Who taught you how to speak up? Because we are going to
disrupt, distort, destroy and bring flames, bring death and rebel. We are going to storm their conferences, kidnap executives, release snakes in the
governor’s mansion, execute the president. Hail Satan.
Speaker 11: Hail Satan.
Jex Blackmore: Hail Satan.
Speaker 11: Hail Satan.
Jex Blackmore: Hail Satan.
Speaker 11: Hail Satan.
Jex Blackmore: Hail Satan.
Jex Blackmore: But this was an action that was seen as a threat to TSTs. It could be a liability to TST legally, which I disagree with. And I also
think is a very dangerous place to be because if you aren’t breaking the law, then I certainly don’t think that you should step any further back from
that line out of fear that you might get in trouble for something that you’re legally allowed to do.
Nick: One thing you did say, as I recall, you did say execute the president, not execute presidents generally.
Jex Blackmore: Yeah, definitely. But I think that something that I hope people understand is that every single line and word in a ritual has been
meticulously chosen and thought about throughout the writing process. If anybody who knows me or knows my philosophy or has followed my work should
know, at least I hope, that I don’t have a political problem with Donald Trump specifically, but that I think that the office of the presidency should
be abolished. I don’t take issue with one particular president because I’m a liberal or something. I oppose the entire structure. And so there’s a
reason why in that ritual, I did not say President Trump. A very specific reason, because it doesn’t just end with President Trump. It ends when we
change the entire structure of our political system. Even saying, “Execute the president,” there’s nothing wrong with that. Legally in fact, you have to
make a very specific threat on an individual that had possible real ramifications for it to be considered a legal threat.
Jex Blackmore: This is not a legal threat. We have the right to say, “Execute the president.” More people should maybe start saying it because we
should not be afraid of challenging people in power or even making them afraid, especially since people like President Trump have engaged in violent
speech against the people. The question really is why is the violent rhetoric and violent speech that is utilized by the president of the United States
or particular politicians, somehow deemed appropriate and legal but when the people speak out against those individuals, is it deemed something so
unacceptable that we have to silence it?
Jex Blackmore: We must engage in so called radical speech if it is the truth. If people are offended by the images of nudity and choking on wine, I
would say that I’m equally as disturbed and bothered by men holding bread over an altar and drinking literal wine that they claim has been turned into
the blood of Christ or the body of Christ, engaging in cannibalism and in doing so on the platform that people like me are evil. The idea that you
should confess your sins in a private room with a man who has a high likelihood of being a sexual offender is outrageous to me. Who gets to determine
what is violent? And who determines what is just and right? Course when you have the police executing citizens in the street, it’s still taboo to
somehow say that that’s wrong. That’s very frightening because we should be able to say that’s wrong.
Jex Blackmore: It’s very personal to me, the fact that people in positions of power, people who represent me in the government, people who are in
charge of our justice system, people who educate us, believe that because of my lifestyle and by the very nature of who I am, am evil, sinful, deserve
to be punished for an eternity is not only offensive, but it’s personal. Practicing independence from that is liberation, personal liberation and
political liberation. And to me, you do need both.
Nick: I can’t believe it only just sort of occurred to me now, but I’m struggling to think of another religious movement that is based in opposition
to another religion, if that makes sense. It almost strikes me as like if Christianity were to disappear tomorrow, it seems like Satanism would go away
too. Even if a lot of the fundamental ideas obviously would still remain, the trappings seem to be irrevocably tied to Christianity.
Jex Blackmore: Yeah. I think that’s true. I’ve heard people ask this question before and question the kind of foundation of this belief as being tied
to the thing that it opposes. But I do think that the amount of power that the Christian Church has is undeniable and has been for hundreds and hundreds
of years. And it is kind of a futile act to pretend or to imagine a world without it, because the reality is that our political and cultural landscape
has been and continues to be shaped by the worldview of the church. To ignore the power of the Christian Church is to give it continued power to say,
“Well, I don’t believe in that so it doesn’t apply to me.” But it actually does apply to all of us. To me, it wasn’t enough just to say, “I don’t
believe in supernaturalism. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in the values of the church,” because to do that means to be a satanist in the eyes
of the church. And so instead of rejecting that, I decided that it felt much more natural to me to own it.
Jex Blackmore: It amuses me that I am the embodiment of what they fear. It seems so absurd because I’m just a normal person. And I think this is the
part where they would say that that’s the devil being deceptive.
Jex Blackmore: Satan to me represents the inherent nuances of our humanity that has been reduced to simplistic binaries by people in power to control
and manipulate the public.
Speaker 5: I’m going to give you the three simple steps that Satan lures you into thinking…
Jex Blackmore: To embrace those nuances in our humanity, to embrace the complicated nature of ourselves, is to more fully understand what it means to
be human and to understand our relationship to power and to each other.
Speaker 5: I will not explain something to you here, Satan did not have a Satan to tempt him to do wrong.
Jex Blackmore: And to ultimately accept the nature of the rebel as ascribed by the church as a defining feature of ourselves.
Speaker 5: At one time, Lucifer was an archangel in Heaven. He was there with God but suddenly something began to happen.
Jex Blackmore: The devil has been described time and time again, as the ultimate rebel.
Speaker 5: He want you to do what you want.
Jex Blackmore: The deceiver.
Speaker 5: Feel what you want. Think what you want. Take what you want.
Jex Blackmore: Calling people to question the superiority of God.
Speaker 5: You do what you do because you want to do it.
Jex Blackmore: And to me, that is a positive characteristic about the Devil and deserves to be celebrated rather than ignored.
Nick: That’s it for Love + Radio. This episode was produced by Nicki Stein and Steven Jackson, who also did the sound design with help from Nate
Jackson. Special thanks also to Penny Lane who provided a recording of one of Jex’s performances. Her documentary Hail Satan goes into way more depth
about the activities of the Satanic Temple and it’s a fantastic watch. Check it out.
Nick: For more information about the music we feature on the show, stunning episode art and transcripts, please visit our website, loveandradio.org. Love + Radio’s producer is Phil Dmochowski, Steven Jackson is our contributing editor. We are brought to you by Luminary and made possible thanks to its subscribers, thank you. One last thing, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our brand new Secrets Hotline podcast online at secretshotline.org on Instagram @thesecretshotline, on the Luminary app, of course, and for free wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Nick van der Kolk. Thanks for listening.
Nick van der Kolk, Host and Director
Nicki Stein, Producer
Steven Jackson, Producer
Phil Dmochowski, Managing Producer
Sound design by Steven Jackson