Why does hell seem like a welcoming place? I've had this subconscious thought that I didn't explicitly think about until until Lil Nas X released his Montero music video last week.
Lil Nas X Dances with the Devil
Nas' music video is for his latest song, Montero (Call Me by Your Name), has finally been released after an almost year of teasing. In the later part of the video, Nas slides down a stripper pole down to hell, twerks on Satan just before snapping the devil's neck and wearing his horns. Apart from the video, Nas also released Satan Shoes with a bronze pentagram and a drop of human blood (Read CNN Style's Lil Nas X releases unofficial 'Satan' Nikes containing human blood. Needless to say, these actions created online controversy, particularly from those of Christian faith.
Lil Nas X has replied to several tweets on the topic. In particular, here is one of his tweets:
"i spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay. so i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves."
27th Mar 2021 on Twitter
This resonated with me because, growing up, I also hated myself. I didn't want to be doomed to hell. That internal conflict led me to more than two years of severe depression, a suicide attempt and a two-day stay at the hospital (no, it was not a pleasant vacation). All because I was gay and I was taught to not want to be that way.
Hell as a Place of Hope, not Fear
For a long time, hell was described to us as torture, as the worst place imaginable. The image of an eternal hellfire scorching me for the rest of my soul's existence did not sound appealing - it was the thing I wanted to avoid most. And from a place of fear, trying to save myself from hell was more important than being myself.
It took years of self-torture to break out of my Catholic beliefs and realise that being gay is not a sin. I do not even equate sex as sinful or evil in any way, and the threat of an eternal doom is not something I worry about anymore. So, with such a fear gone, are things all good?
No - unfortunately, we are still not yet accepted or celebrated for who we are by a lot of populations, including the Church. I cannot speak much about other religions or cultures, as I can best speak from my experience. However, it seems that I still need to redeem myself, to live a life of abstinence if I would like to earn a place in Heaven. I'm still treated differently by my mother, even if she does it subconsciously. I am indefinitely inferior as long as I am gay, and I am at risk of eternal damnation, something that causes her a lot of unnecessary worry.
When the Church does not give you a home, what does? Hell. Think about it, if all the gays go to Hell, it must be a very queer place. We are welcome there, and even celebrated for our sexuality. I mean, if the devil's job is to make us sin, he will appreciate and encourage me having sex with other men. From this perspective, Satan is not a punisher of sin, but an enabler, and why wouldn't he want us to continue to sin in hell once we get there?
And what if I somehow got to Heaven, would I want to stay there? The queer would be straightwashed, and I would be surrounded by all the people that made me hate myself. No thanks!
The Queer Obsession with Satan
Perhaps it is a natural path of healing from all the Christian pain, but I've met a lot of queer people who in some way glorify or fantasise the devil. One of my past friends and lovers has seen himself as a devil, and has had sex dreams about himself and the devil. He would not be the only one - there seems to be a narcissistic pleasure from identify as a devil, corrupting another guy with sexual desire. There's a liberation of sorts. And perhaps this is also why Lil Nas X kills Satan to become the devil himself.
Moreover, it seems that most of the queer folk I know really enjoy watching series like Lucifer and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in which the devil plays prominent roles. One way or another, a lot of us seem to gravitate towards these shows without much hesitation; they are presenting to us an alternative reality in which we do not need to be afraid. Hell is not so evil, and in truth, going to Church is more hellish than hell itself.
The Unholy Healer
Speaking for myself, seeing the devil as a Daddy (I mean it, both as a sexually attractive figure, as well as a fatherly figure that accepts me for being queer) is not necessarily an act of worship. I would not belong to a Church of Satan and neither do I participate in Satanism - something I am not quite knowledge about. However, it provides emotional healing, finding a refuge away from The Church which I grew up in.
The Church has put this path onto us: stop being gay, or else go to hell - literally. And the decision to embrace myself means that I, as a by-product, have also accepted hell as my fate. So why should I not start loving the place that will my by eternal home? The devil is the father figure that I have longed for all my life. On one side, I had God watching all I do, judging me and looking down on me, and on the other there's the devil, cheerleading me to take it as deep as I can. That's the kind of support system everyone deserves to push us into achieving the most that we can.
It was not easy to run away from core beliefs that were indoctrinated upon me ever since I was baby; or in actuality, from before I was born. I cannot just unlearn my past, I cannot undo all the pain inflicted on myself. My dance with the devil remains as a constant way of remembering who I am, that I can be loved (even if in the 'wrong' places), and perhaps a good reminder to not expect self-worth from an outside source. I am just happy to know there is a place in which I belong, despite how queer and unique I may be.
For some, hell is the most terrifying place. For me, it's a paradise in which I can truly love and embrace myself.