The New Satanic Panic - Word&Way

The New Satanic Panic

Roger Stone wants people to know two things. Jesus is Lord. And there’s a “satanic portal above the White House.”

Speaking at the ReAwaken America Tour event in South Carolina last month, Stone wove those two faith declarations together. He had recently mentioned the portal on a podcast, but now he doubled down on the claim as he shared the stage with partisan preachers like Greg Locke, self-proclaimed prophets blowing shofars, conspiracy theorists with PowerPoints about a “stolen” election or a “fake” pandemic, and other MAGA figures like Michael Flynn and Eric Trump.

Stone told the ReAwaken crowd he “had to pray” about sharing this “because I knew I would be mocked by the same people who mocked me when I declared my allegiance and my redemption in Jesus Christ, who said, ‘Sure, that’s an act.’”

“I don’t care what they think. I only care what he thinks. And, yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a satanic portal above the White House. You can see it! Day and night. It exists. It is real. And it must be closed. And it will be closed by prayer,” Stone said to applause.

He explained that one can see the portal on the livestream aimed at the White House. (Everything looked normal when we watched, so maybe we need to visit the eye doctor or get stoned.)

“Make no mistake about what we face,” Stone added. “This is not Republicans versus Democrats. This is not about some political squabble for a mess of pottage. This is an epic struggle between dark and light, between good and evil, between the godly and the godless. And if we fail, this nation will step off into a thousand years of darkness.”

It might be tempting to dismiss Stone as some quack with Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back (unlike the portal, we’ve seen the ink and it is indeed scary). But the political dirty trickster who worked for multiple Republican presidents has demonstrated throughout his career that he is dangerously talented at partisan politicking. And he’s also survived numerous personal scandals, from placing swinger sex ads for him and his second wife to threatening the elderly father of a political opponent to his firm helping brutal dictators in other countries.

Often Stone even spins his scandals for political success, like after he became one of nearly three dozen people indicted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Convicted on seven counts of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction, Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison. But Trump pardoned him, a fact Stone brags about in his speeches.

As he waited for Trump to save him, Stone also claimed he had a born-again experience at a Franklin Graham rally. But little changed other than he added more religious references in his speeches. He remains unrepentant about his dirty politics. And after his stated conversion, he spread lies about the 2020 election and even helped coordinate some of the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. That’s quite a first year as a “Christian”!

But our skepticism towards Stone doesn’t matter. He remains a popular speaker at conservative Christian events like the ReAwaken Tour that has been packing crowds in megachurches across the country. He draws applause and cheers with his partisan attacks on Biden, his hagiography of Trump, and his Christian Nationalism as he claims this is a “Christian” nation and urges people to “do battle for the Lord” by advancing the MAGA movement.

A key part of his rhetoric is framing partisan fights as spiritual battles against satanic forces, even quoting Ephesians 6:12 about fighting principalities and powers in high places. And he’s not alone. Rhetorical alarm about “satanic” forces around nearly every corner and behind nearly every policy pops up frequently in too many conservative Christian political circles today. So, in this issue of A Public Witness, we recall an earlier “satanic panic” before looking at the hellish impact that demonizing our political opponents has on democracy.

NOTE: The rest of this piece is only available to paid subscribers of the Word&Way e-newsletter A Public WitnessSubscribe today to read this essay and all previous issues, and receive future ones in your inbox.