by Phillip Luke Sinitiere
This week Baldblogger interviews Scott Poole, a history professor at the College of Charleston and author of the new book Satan in America: The Devil We Know, just out with Rowman & Littlefield. So while this week is filled with trick-or-treating, ghosts and goblins of various kinds, fall festivals, and haunted houses, give Satan his due by reading Poole's great new book (or surprise those unsuspecting trick-or-treaters by passing out copies of Satan in America!)
Baldblogger (BB): Satan seems to be an ever present interest, preoccupation, even obsession in American history and culture. What inspired your interest in this subject? What were the origins of this fascinating project?
Scott Poole (SP): I have joked with my parents that I probably would never have needed to write a book about Satan if they had let me get ticket to that Ozzy concert in 1986 or not cut off access to Ghost Rider comics around the same time. I don’t know if I’m entirely kidding. I did grow up in the 80s when, as I describe in the book, a wave of irrational paranoia about the influence of the Devil in popular culture, a “satanic panic” swept the country. Evangelicalism’s rather gaudy and dark symbolic world that imagines Satan in the lyrics of heavy metal music and heading up a worldwide conspiracy that will lead to the emergence of the Antichrist held and still hold, enormous fascination for me.
I also think that scholars of American religion have avoided this topic for too long. It seems to me that beliefs about the Devil shaped American religious practice as much, and sometimes more, than beliefs about God. Some wonderful historians, including some that have been very influential on me like Christine Heyrman, have looked at this as part of their larger work.
Finally, I have to confess that I’m an inveterate consumer of low and high-grade pop culture, in massive, possibly unhealthy, quantities. It makes me happy to connect my scholarly life with this other pretty important part of my life.
Read more of the interview here, and look for additional posts on Wednesday and Friday.