The video for Lil Nas X’s new single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” has everything: alien sex, snake-licking, pastel Marie Antoinette wigs, Greek references to Plato’s Symposium that a grand total of three people watching the video will be able to read and understand. But perhaps its most prominent character is the Prince of Darkness himself: Satan, whom Lil Nas X seduces with a lap-dance in the video after riding a stripper pole to hell, then steals his horns.
Watching the rapper twerk atop a swole zaddy Satan in the video is redolent with symbolism: as Lil Nas X put it in a press release, it was intended as a nod to homophobes who accuse gay people of going to hell, with the dethroning of Satan as a means of “dismantling the throne of judgment and punishment that has kept many of us from embracing our true selves out of fear.” (It also appears to be a fuck you to those on the far right who accused Lil Nas X of Satanism back in 2019.) Mostly, however, it’s just badass.
The video has received widespread acclaim on social media for its sumptuous, provocative imagery, as well as the expected condemnation from those on the right accusing Lil Nas X of indoctrinating innocent children into becoming….lap dancers? Classics scholars? Wig enthusiasts? It’s unclear. However, the question remains: what do actual Satanists themselves think of the video? Does Lil Nas X’s flame-licking lap dance constitute little more than Satanic cultural appropriation? If he isn’t canceled by Republicans, will Lil Nas X be canceled by Satanists first?
As it turns out, at least one Satanist loves “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”: David Harris, magister for the Church of Satan (essentially, the Church’s equivalent of a Catholic cardinal). “He obviously did his homework,” he tells Rolling Stone. “Whether he consulted with us directly or did his own research, he clearly put a lot of effort into this video.” (Harris was also a fan of “Old Town Road,” in case you were ever wondering how Satanists feel about the yeehaw agenda.)
Founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey, the Church of Satan does not actually believe in a Christian version of Satan or worship Satan as a deity. Rather, the Church of Satan is more humanistically centered, with members referring to the organization as “the world’s first carnal religion.” “Basically we worship ourselves. We refer to ourselves as I-theists,” says Harris. “We see ourselves as our own god.”
Indeed, the ending of the video, in which Lil Nas X snaps Satan’s neck and puts the horns on his own head to crown himself as a god, is what struck Harris as “the most Satanic part of the video.” “We view ourselves as the most powerful beings in the world. The fact that he crowned himself as Satan — now, that’s Satanic,” he says, noting it’s especially empowering in the context of Lil Nas X making a statement about his own journey as a black gay artist who has faced bigotry.
As for the infamous intratheistic lap dance, far from being sacareligious, Satanists believe in all forms of consensual sexuality, so “someone giving a lap dance to anyone who wants one is obviously more than welcome within the confines of Satanism,” he says.
So there you have it: Lil Nas X has the Church of Satan’s stamp of approval. As one Lil Nas X fan summed up on Twitter, in response to tongue-clucking over the androgyny and lurid sexuality of the video: “Either you getting piped by satanhimself or u ain’t livin right.”
Correction Fri., March 26, 2020: An earlier version of this piece misstated David Harris’s last name. We regret the error.