A Satanist holiday display scheduled for exhibition this Christmas in the Florida state capitol rotunda is a "spiritual danger" that "could literally cost someone their eternal soul," a Southern Baptist pastor who was involved in Satanism before his conversion told Baptist Press.
The display - which depicts an angel doll falling from clouds made of cotton into flames made of construction paper - "is bringing religion down" and "saying, 'Anything can be a religion,'" Gwan Garrison, pastor of Franklin Baptist Church in Bainbridge, Ga., said. Garrison also works as special projects coordinator for nearby Leon County, Fla., where the capitol building in Tallahassee is located.
Sponsored by a group called the Satanic Temple, the controversial holiday display will appear Dec. 22-29 in an area of the capitol designated as an open forum for private speech, the Washington Post reported. The display includes the greeting, "Happy holidays from the Satanic Temple," and the words of Isaiah 14:12, which many Bible scholars believe describes the fall of Satan from heaven.
Last year Florida officials rejected a similar display proposed by the New York-based Satanic Temple as "grossly offensive during the holiday season" but granted approval for this year's display following threats of legal action, the Post reported.
The power of Satan is real, but the power of Jesus is ultimate
Gwan Garrison, pastor of Franklin Baptist Church
Among other displays approved this Christmas are a banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and multiple nativity scenes, the Tampa Tribune reported. Past holiday displays have included a six-foot "Festivus Pole" made of beer cans and inspired by a made-up holiday from the television show "Seinfeld" and a "Pastafarian Flying Spaghetti Monster."
Earlier this year, the Satanic Temple proposed to erect a 7-foot statue of Satan interacting with children at the Oklahoma state capitol. At the request of Oklahoma's attorney general, a moratorium has been placed on new monuments at the capitol - including the Satan statue - while a lawsuit concerning a Ten Commandments monument is adjudicated, a capitol spokesman told BP.
The Satanic Temple does not literally worship Satan but uses Satan as a symbol for its belief in "rational inquiry removed from super-naturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions," the Post reported.
Garrison explained that Satanists generally do not worship Satan like Christians worship of God. Instead they reject God's authority and at times seek to harness Satan's power to fulfill their own desires. Garrison acquired satanic paraphernalia and attempted to cast spells before experiencing salvation at an Easter drama in 1994.
"I disregard this demonstration, and I don't feel that it has a place there," Garrison, who works two blocks from the Florida capitol, said of the upcoming display.
The Satanist holiday scene poses a spiritual danger because it could make non-Christians feel secure in their lost condition by "giving acceptance to the rejection of Jesus Christ," Garrison said. "That's the true dastardly deed that's being done here."
In the end though believers must realize that while Satan is powerful, he cannot do anything without God's permission, Garrison said.
"The power of Satan is real, but the power of Jesus is ultimate," he said.