By Kristen Bialik
In 1989, Reverend, televangelist and Founder of the International School of Exorcism Bob Larson sat down for a friendly interview with two people who represent everything he opposes in life. Those two people were Nikolas Schreck and his wife Zeena, daughter of Anton LaVey -- the founder of the Church of Satan. Together the Shrecks were black magicians and leaders in the Church of Satan's Werewolf Order, which they defined as a "magical resistance movement, esoteric research network, and radical ecology faction." As the daughter and son-in-law to Anton LaVey, the Schrecks were arguably (outside LaVey himself) two of the closest people to Satanism. In a way, they were connected to the very reason it exists, to the movement that was giving a name and strength to all that Bob Larson believes is wrong with the world. At any given point in time, the interview is any combination of openly aggressive, passively aggressive, shockingly civil, shockingly lucid, hard to watch and completely riveting.
The problem from the get-go is that Bob Larson believes himself to be, by virtue of being in the media, a part of the objective journalistic press. He simultaneously confirms and undermines this posturing when he says things like, "I'm trying to remain as academically detached as I possibly can, but what you're saying is so absolutely disgustingly outrageous." As a man who built a career on exorcising and destroying what he sees Zeena and Nikolas to represent, he has, of course, come with an agenda. He wants to put them on display as evil for his fans, and then either let their responses exorcise their ideas for him or give them an out, a chance to show that behind the scary Satanist layer there's a kind-hearted Christian underneath. When neither of those things happens, Larson grows increasingly frustrated.
Larson thinks he has the upper-hand because he's right. Zeena and Nikolas Schreck think they have the upper-hand because they're right. Welcome to religion. Larson has to stop at times because he finds the beliefs and comments of the Schrecks so unbelievable he either has to repeat them or stop to laugh. He pauses at one point to chuckle and say, "Excuse me, you just did that roll of your tongue like 'hey a black magic ceremony for Satan.'" This coming from a man who believes he exorcised a demon named Satam (which he points out is the name of one of the Saudi Arabian terrorists who hijacked a plane during 9/11) from an ancestral alter named Elijah (who is apparently a Muslim who lived in France in 1760 after migrating from Saudi Arabia) living inside a woman named Avery in Denver, Colo. I also have to point out that Larson has trained a band of teenage girls to become a trio of demon-fighting exorcists. I would watch that reality show. I would also like to mention that Bob Larson already has one.
It's interesting to watch how the belief systems of each side shapes the way they respond to attack. When the Schrecks are under Larson's line of fire, they immediately go into offensive mode and aggressively so. At one point, Larson expresses surprise at Schreck's extensive knowledge of denominations of Christianity and Schrek replies, "I wish I didn't know anything about them, but I'm forced to deal with them. So I know every kind of idiocy that is called Christianity." This should come as no surprise. Pride and vengeance are two of the nine satanic statements. Their whole lives, Zeena and Nikolas have learned that when you are attacked, however you are attacked, you return the blow in equal measure.
As a practitioner of love, forgiveness and humility, when Larson is attacked he immediately goes on the defensive. He turns to the word of God and the overarching philosophy of Jesus for explanation. He says, might I add very defensively, that he does NOT approve of bingo games or raffles. And when Zeena and Nikolas confirm that, no, they would never shelter or feed the homeless; Larson visibly bristles and retorts, "No one's defending welfare!" This is how the interview plays out, one second they're talking about bingo games, the next, sexual cohabitation with demons.
No matter what the topic, another central issue is that Larson demands yes/no answers to questions of morality and doesn't understand when Zeena and Nikolas can't give those to him. He wants black and white answers, and the Schrecks can't understand why he doesn't see validity in their grey area. He asks is it wrong to murder? Was Hitler evil? But what if you're wrong?
Larson has a tendency to move toward extremes, to dangle the most repugnant example he can come up with and see how the Schrecks react. If it's a discussion of satanic marriage, Larson asks if Joe Schmo can marry his dog. If it's a question of the satanic tenet in indulgence, Larson asks if that means pedophiles can indulge in children. If the Schmecks assert that people can and do create their own realities, Larson responds, "Sure, tell that to the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto ... Hitler created a reality. Was it evil?" Larson wants and expects a yes, and can be forgiven for being shocked when Nikolas responds, "Hitler was a masterful black magician. Of course he created a reality. Was he evil? I'm telling you I don't believe in good and evil."
Nikolas asserts that history, good, evil, right and wrong is subjective. "Everything changes with the cultural tides. Morals change with the weather," he explains. But don't mistake his acceptance of a grey area for a lack of prescribed opinions. He and Zeena boast about the non-dogmatic rituals and tenets of Satanism, but it's one argument that falls short. Sure, Satanism is built on the idea of individualism and thus, any satanic ritual can be highly customized to mean or be performed however the member chooses. They say there are no hard and fast rules, which is true compared to more directive religions. But there are rules. And there are satanic sins -- nine of them: stupidity, pretentiousness, solipsism, self-deceit, herd conformity, lack of perspective, forgetfulness of past orthodoxies, counterproductive pride and ... lack of aesthetics. There are also Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, which are much like the rules of any religion -- namely, don't be a horrible person. I guess the only really unorthodox one is, "If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy."
What comes across the most is each side's rigidity. They believe so firmly that they are wise, their opponents are fools and that the other is a scourge on the planet Earth. But for all their stubbornness, beliefs do change. Larson himself alludes to the fact that he was not always a practicing Christian. The Schrecks eventually abandoned the Church of Satan for their own Tantric Buddhism movement. Yes, people change, beliefs change and over the long course of history religious institutions change. When the interview was released in 1989, those interested in Christianity or the Church of Satan had churches or Bibles. Today, there's an official Church of Satan website and Facebook page. The official Church of Satan even tweets! Then again, so does the Vatican. Either way, however far from reality these social media pages may be, it is telling that when it comes to Twitter, the official Church of Satan and the Vatican draw thousands of followers, but they follow no one.