[NOTE: If you consider yourself a fan of Marilyn Manson, I'd like to hear from you. Please email me from this site and let me know why you like Manson and what his impact on your life has been. Thanks.]
Although there are rock groups in the past and present that used satanic lyrics and symbols, none have seemed to have actually created a cult following among teenagers and young people as has Marilyn Manson. Named Best New Artist of 1996 by Rolling Stone magazine, Manson's third album, "Antichrist" Superstar," which sold more than 1 million copies, reached No. 3 on Billboard magazine's survey.
Not just a shock-rocker, Marilyn Manson the singer espouses a philosophy and promotes it during concerts. An honorary member of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, Manson (whose real name is Brian Warner) told a writer for The Black Flame, a magazine published by the Church of Satan, that his name comes from Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson because he admired both of them and they both represent "diametrically opposed archetypes" (Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, p. 4). Earlier band members also combined the first name of a popular cultural icon with the last name of a serial killer, such as Twiggy Ramirez (Twiggy the model/star and convicted serial killer Ramirez, the Satanist Night Stalker). Manson credits Nietzsche, Aleister Crowley (a sorcerer/occultist who died in the 1940's), Anton LaVey, Darwin, and Freud as some of the major influences on his philosophy. His lyrics and behavior in the past have been openly sexual, often with bizarre effects.
Manson told Rolling Stone that his band is designed to "speak to the people who understand it and to scare the people who don't," (1-23-97, p. 50ff). He told The Black Flame that he took the role of the Anti-Christ on "Antichrist Superstar" and that "it will scare America, and rightfully so," (p. 5). His magazine interviews reveal at least a passing knowledge of such occult systems as the Kabbala and numerology, and the band chose one of its members partly because he was so expert at the dark strategy game, Dungeons and Dragons.
A misfit who decided he would be bad because he could never be good enough for society, Manson appeals to teens and others who don't fit in. He accepts them: "These people who...think that they have no way to fit into society now realize that society can fit into them," (guitar school, February 1997, p. 25). His overall attitude seems to be a split between modesty and defiance, compassion and scorn, philosopher and performer. He acknowledges heavy drug use, depression and self-mutilation. During concerts, he has rubbed broken glass onto his chest, usually spits on the audience and simulates sex acts. Most of his interviews allude to the negative influence of a grandfather whose deviant sexual behavior caused Manson to feel he lost his innocence at age 12.
Manson likes to call everyone else a hypocrite, especially Christians. He attended a Christian school for several years where he did not fit in; he claims was mistreated as an outsider. However, because he sees himself as one who promotes total honesty, he claims that his values actually are something "that Jesus might have preached," (Guitar World, December 1996, p. 56).
LaVey's Church of Satan actually does not believe in a literal Satan. Rather, Satan is viewed as a representation of pleasing and serving self. Some of the teachings of this group call for treating kindly only those who deserve it, vengeance instead of "turning the other cheek," indulgence instead of abstinence, and sins that lead to self-gratification. The Satanists of this church, like many other Satanists, are atheists, seeing themselves as superior to the masses of humanity who believe in a deity. They consider themselves independent thinkers who don't need anyone else, especially a god, since they are their own gods.
Manson's mixture of music, shocking lyrics, defiance of all authority, serious philosophizing, and the parading of his own outcast-style persona has enormous appeal to young people, particularly those from troubled homes, those with emotional problems, and the "unpopular" kids who are different because of intelligence, high creativity, unusual talents or looks. These teens are prime prey for Manson's philosophical declarations and extreme behaviors.
Many kids who like Manson now do not dress extremely as his earlier fans did. Some may just wear more black, or dress in Goth-style clothes. Others may dress nondescriptly. Manson's music now is not always as dark as his earlier music, and his appeal reaches a broader audience. However, he still manages to retain some hard-core followers, and he is still the person who defies convention.
Response to Manson: Rather than protesting at Manson's concerts or pointing to him or his fans as "evil", adults need to see what lies beneath Manson's words (read the lyrics to "Antichrist Superstar") and need to look beyond the behavior and dress of those who like him.
What is needed is outreach, not protest.
Although what Manson often declares is at odds with Christian belief, we Christians must be careful not to self-righteously condemn him, nor should we turn our heads away when we see teens dressed in bizarre outfits. What kind of message does this send? It only seems to prove Manson right in what he says about Christians. This attitude is alienating. What good is it to reject those who already feel rejected, or alienate those who feel alienated?
Instead, we should ask teens why they like Manson. Is it just the music or is it also the attitude and message Manson has? Be willing to address the issue of hypocrisy. There is hypocrisy in society and in the church. Why? Discuss this and listen. Be willing to admit some of what Manson says is true, because it is.
For anyone ready to put down Manson or the kids who like him, read First Corinthians 13. All your knowledge, words and faith mean nothing without love; you are as a "clanging cymbal." Keep in mind that Jesus hung out with all kinds of people when He was on earth, including many that were treated as outcasts by the culture of that day. Would not Jesus maybe be hanging out and talking with these teens who are Manson followers, if He were here today? I think so.
The Black Flame, Vol. 6, Numbers 1& 2
guitar school, February, 1997
Guitar World, December, 1996
Rolling Stone, 1-23-97
The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey
The Washington Post, 4-16-97, p. B1