“Hail Satan?” The Scud Missile that is “Amazing Grace” – UPDATED

Saw a lot of fluttery twitter reaction to this last night (twitter is a bastion for fluttery reaction, as fits tweets and bird logos) with people freaking out. Facebook is more staid, marginally.

Deacon Greg calls it a must see. Is it? Like Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, I was first skeptical.

When people assured me it was true, I didn’t have to see it last night to go to bed understanding why I had felt compelled to write this, before turning in.

That Strange God — the idol that is the idea of I — has the full force of the press, the United States Government and a lot of mindless, deluded sloganeering drones, who have no notion that they are no further enlightened than Eve; that they are standing in Eden, before a slithering hisser of lies, who introduces death to their hearts and souls with a single promise, “consume it and be like gods…”

You get a gang of already pumped up, hysterical (and in some cases terribly, terribly young) idolators fully indoctrinated to the creed and the church of the Idol-of-I, and start singing “Amazing Grace” you’re striking at a jugular vein of the idol and the hysterics — having nothing to fall back on but the empty creed of self-worship, which contains no grace at all — have no depth in their recourse. All they have left in their bag of tricks is shock and chaos.

Last night they fell back on “shock.” Chaos will come later, and believe me, a mindless, stupidly spiteful chanting of “hail satan” won’t be the half of it.

They know not what they do, though — very likely those who are not being paid to be useful idiots for The Party are members of The Church of What’s Happening Now, who can’t resist an urge to participate in this week’s “be-in”. You know they understand almost nothing about anything when they’re bringing little kids to a protest (against abortion at six months) and having them hold up wire hangers. I personally think it would be a mistake to over-react to this chant. Undoubtedly, some will. Some Christians and Republicans will try to exploit the moment for political gain — they’ll hyperventilate and get dramatic and push their face into a tv camera and look so deranged that people watching or reading will say, “well, it was a stupid, spiteful chant, but I don’t blame them for it…”

Which is why I rather concur with this guy on Twitter:

Or, as Andrew Klavan says, “Satan Schmatan!”

Da Tech Guy doesn’t quite agree.

When the Christians began to sing “Amazing Grace” they had to know it would foment a reaction. The hymn strikes a chord of mystic understanding. It is listed as an “American Folk Melody” but that melody is African — probably anciently African (sometimes I wonder if it was not the melody hummed by the Hebrew slaves, the soundtrack to the exodus) — and it seems to touch a sinew of recall and reclamation in all of us, in the same way, perhaps, that our cells can hold memory. Think of the first time you ever heard it; you already knew it. It is something primal, earthy and familiar to us: it is life, strain, yearning. The cross.

“Amazing Grace” is a psycho-spiritual weapon. When it is deployed, people cannot be shocked at what weapons others will use in response.

We are in for a very long, increasingly harsh battle. Keep your powder dry and don’t flip out at these first tactics.

Meanwhile, Amazing Grace. I wonder if it was the sound that accompanied the moment when Adam first stood erect and encountered consciousness.

Lots of discussion in the comments section about the melody for “Amazing Grace” originating in the British Isles. I’m aware that this is the accepted understanding. I’ll still hold my position that it is African in origin, as are — says science — we all. If people want to trace the tune to the Isles that’s fine by me, but given the (entirely possible) tradition that the Tribe of Dan passed through the British Isles and Ireland before settling north of them, it’s as likely as anything that they brought that melody (and other great “bog-tunes”) with them from Africa! :-)

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Kim D.

    “Amazing Grace” = the ecumenical equivalent of the Rosary?

  • DaTechGuy on DaRadio

    I have to disagree Elizabeth, I think every pol who went on the air to cheer Senator Davis and her red shoes and encouraged crowds to protest should be asked directly if they support and endorse the protestors or not.

    Politics aren’t beanbag and we make a grave mistake to allow people to do the work of Satan without owning it.

  • MeanLizzie

    Pete, I am not talking about calmly asking politicians if they support it. Sure, why not? I’m talking about the kind of crazy hyperventilation I’m seeing on twitter (and here and there on FB). All the press needs is a couple of meltdowns on camera to get people to shrug the whole battle off and turn the channel.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    My hunch is that they were being intentionally provacative to irritate the pro-lifers. But then again all those tattoos does have a satanic appearence. That is a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    “African”? I don’t suggest you say that in the presence of a Scot.

  • Nicole Resweber

    Great piece. I love the image of that melody hummed and chanted by God’s people throughout the ages.

    I will admit to certain bleeding heart tendencies that make me wish for more nuance from the pro-life crowd, but I do not wish to align myself with those who would reach for a bitter, mocking “hail Satan” in response to Amazing Grace.

  • Jim Kennedy

    Amazing Grace is a truly wonderful hymn. They played it at my Grandfather’s funeral.

  • Gail Finke

    I agree that people should not make too much of it — but at the same time, DO take note. There is a kind of mindless rage behind this stuff that Elizabeth is right about — we’ll get to see it very soon. I’m sure those people were yelling “Hail Satan” to show that they DON’T believe in Satan or in anything, but that kind of rage and chaos has a source, even if they don’t believe in it. Killing your own children is horrific, and anyone who praises it owes that praise to someone — again, whether they believe it or not has very little to do with that source, which is not like fairy dust and doesn’t require belief. It just is.

  • Marie

    I’ve been sidewalk counseling and praying outside of abortion clinics for about 25 years now. Frankly, this was pretty mild.

  • http://www.parafool.com/ victor

    ALSO – you can sing the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island” (and vice versa) which, if it is such a powerful song, so deeply embedded in our collective psyche, might explain the popularity of that show; nothing else can.

  • James Q

    The tune, New Britain, which has come to be most associated with Amazing Grace is unlikely to have a connection to Africa – it is an Appalachian tune and is commonly thought to have its roots in the British Isles.

  • Truthie


    I refuse to watch the first video on the principle that I don’t expose myself to such wickedness unless necessary, and it’s not in this case…I’ll take your word for it.

    That being said, here are my thoughts:

    1. That evil chant reflects the truth, because abortion is the work of the evil one, and those who promote it are working for him and, in effect, following him, even though most of them do not know it. We must pray for them, really pray. Their souls are in grave peril. That anyone would be willing and able to say such a thing, at all, is a hideous sign of spiritual decay. That it’s not received with utter horror by others is not a good sign either.

    2. Those who say this little event is no big deal are wrong. It is one among many signs of a kind of dark, very dark, mentality further taking over the hearts and minds of people in our nation. And that is a concern. What is happening is that the real spirit behind abortion (among other evils) is coming out in the open. The more we oppose it, especially if we succeed, the more virulent the response is going to be. Nothing enrages evil like having the truth of its deed exposed. Those who are spiritually blind often experience the rage without knowing where it comes from. Doesn’t keep the rage from harming them or others, though.

    3. All of this reflects the deeper spiritual reality that is at work in the world, which most people have no clue about. St Paul, Ephesians 6:12: “…our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.”

    Praise be to God we know that Christ has already triumphed, and we are living through the outworking of that triumph…but:

    4. The kind of darkness of heart and mind that leads people to be able and willing to chant such a thing on the spur of the moment, is the same kind of darkness that can lead them to physically attack us in the future.

    If we think it can’t happen here, we are fools. It happened here before, in other eras in US history…at least to Catholics it sure did. Lunch mobs burnt down convents, Jesuits were banned from Massachusetts on pain of death, Catholics were forbidden even to hold political office prior to the Bill of Rights. Persecution unto death, at the hands of fellow citizens, is happening today in many places. It has happened in countries that at the time were much stronger in the Faith than we are now (Mexico, Spain, France, anyone?).

    5. So prepare yourself. There are many currents in our society today that point to a potential persecution, in the full, violent sense of the word, in our future. If you think that is alarmist, do some more reading in the history of European nations and Mexico in the era before persecutions broke out there, before the Nazis took over Germany, or of Russia as the Bolsheviks took over, and you will change your mind.

    Anyway…decide now if you intend to follow Christ to the very end, no matter the cost. Pray, fast, and detach your heart from all your comforts. Because some of us living today in the US may have the opportunity to make that choice. May God give us the grace not to waver. Our future, like that of Christians in other places and times, may involve mobs of hysterical, darkness-blinded fellow citizens who become self-appointed lynch mobs. We need to be alert.

    All these conclusions from a group of apparent wingnuts chanting something evil? Yep. Because added in with all the other freaky evil stuff going on in this nation and in the West, you have to be able to see the forest, not just the trees.

  • MeanLizzie

    Interestingly, what I’ve read about it is that it was heard from the bowels of the slave ships, where the prisoners were shackled down — if its roots are in the British Isles then perhaps it first came to them via the Tribe of Dan passing through. (Or, when Jesus visited ala “Jerusalem” ;-)

  • Kamilla Ludwig

    I’m ambivalent about how we should react. I think it doesn’t hurt to put the video out there and let it speak for itself without adding much further commentary.

  • Anglican Peggy

    Does anyone here recall a PBS documentary on Amazing Grace? I remember dropping everything to watch it because I literally couldn’t tear myself away from the TV. The doc had multiple and widely diverse versions of the hymn for its soundtrack. If it was any other song, that might have gotten old by the end but in this case, it just kept pulling me along, deeper and deeper into a bright and bouyant meditative state. Later on in my life, I would experience that same thing by learning and participating in the Mass. But I didnt realize that connection until just now listening to the choir sing and recognizing that state as one and the same. Amazing Grace is undoubtedly a mighty work of the Spirit.

  • Dale

    Here in the US, when a police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty, having a bagpiper play the tune at the funeral.

    In fact, the first time I heard of this tradition was during a Star Trek movie, when a piper played the tune during Spock’s funeral. I was so astonished to hear “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes! My date (yes, I am old enough to have seen it in the theater) had to inform me that the tune was actually “New Britain,” and also about the custom.

  • asa2222

    agree – keeping calm is almost always a good idea

  • MSpector

    There is nothing like a gospel choir, and no hymn like Amazing Grace. Truly a transcendent moment in an otherwise ordinary day. Thank you, Elizabeth!

  • Billiamo

    In other words, “Keep calm and stop carrying on.” :)

  • Lissa Janknegt

    I was there the first day… We (150 Catholics) processed from St. Mary’s Cathedral (2blks from the capitol) praying the rosary as we went. We arrived at the East entrance and after going thru security. There was a young woman who led us in singing Amazing Grace. A tall man held he crucifix aloft and we followed them down the long east corridor to the 2nd floor of the rotunda…. Where many of our Protestant brothers and sisters were already positioned… The entire level was covered in blue. We continued singing Amazing Grace… Just the first verse. Everyone joined in…it united us. Then the pro-abortionists showed up and began their chanting and screaming. We kept singing. We sang for over an hour…just verse one. The opposition screamed their chants… But they couldn’t maintain it….we kept on singing. Finally we were directed to our next step on the agenda & we went out still singing. As I walked out of the capitol, there on his knees, rosary in hand was a Knight of Columbus. Those who old lined the east and west sidewalks that surrounded the pro- abort rally in progress… There were families on their knees praying… We all had there’d tape with Life printed on it across our mouths… Silently praying and standing as witnesses. My friend who is leading the group the next day went to pray with her teenaged son and our daughters. She was asked to lead the group there in the Lird’s Prayer and a song… She continued with v. 1 of Amazing Grace…. Elizabeth gets it… Day 2 was way worse than day 1. day one was pretty bad. Thank you Elizabeth, you nailed it! You got it! You got what was going on with the singing of Amazing Grace… And the grace to do all we did was amazing! Truly!

  • Joseph Posavac

    I agree with those who say that the pro-abortionists (yes, they are pro-abortion; it isn’t natural to be so obnoxious in defense of something you’re “personally opposed” to) were chanting in defiance of the pro-lifers, baiting them. I would say the best response is to ignore them and let them show the world what kind of people they are, if only it got more media coverage. If the pro-lifers chanted something so provocative, you know it would make headlines.

  • FW Ken

    Calling the singing of Amazing Grace a provocation is akin to blaming a rape on the woman’s dress, or her walking alone at night, or some such foolishness. The inner hate and rage of pro-choice activists is their rage, not the responsibility of pro-life activists.

  • Joseph Posavac

    Let’s say there are two opposing rallies. One is a Tea Party rally, the other is composed of Tea Party-haters. The opponents compare the Tea Partiers to Nazis, and the TP members respond with chants of “Heil Hitler” to mock them. That is precisely the sort of thing that happened in Texas. The only difference is the media coverage would be merciliess.

  • uncorrectedvision

    I believe “Amazing Grace” does provoke precisely because it is a song about a forgiving and redemptive God who welcomes even those whose sins seem unforgivable. It is a good kind of provocation.

  • uncorrectedvision

    One can be effective by using these disturbing events without appearing overly aggressive or unduly hateful. That is why singing “Amazing Grace” is provocative, because it isn’t mean or angry. One can throw a hard-ball at a politician in such a way as to provoke with out appearing angry or mean. This event is a perfect opportunity.

  • Robert F

    The Idol-of-the-I is the theology of Satan; it is also the unveiled reality behind every form of idolatry. Satan worships himself; these protestors worship themselves. Ultimately, they are all in competition with each other, and that’s the nature of Hell. But as long as they have an enemy to react against, its produces the illusion that they have solidarity. Christians need first of all to firm up their own faith, and then to present an authentically loving, non-panicked face to the haters and to the world. Remember, Jesus is Lord, now and always.

  • HymnGeek

    Re: some of the comments concerning the origin of “Amazing Grace”:
    First, we need to separate the hymn (that is, the words) from the tune. The text (not the music) was written by John Newton (1725-1807), an English sailor who once sailed on slave ships, had a dramatic conversion, and became an Anglican clergyman who wrote numerous hymn texts. Hence, the association with slave ships.
    James Q. is correct regarding the tune NEW BRITAIN, to which the hymn is sung today. (Hymn tunes are sort of “generic,” in the sense that they can be used for any number of texts having the same metrical structure.)
    It is worth noting that Rev. Newton–an 18th-century Englishman–wrote “Amazing Grace” before NEW BRtTAIN–a 19th-century American tune–first appeared in print. Therefore, his congregation would have sung his hymn to a different tune,

  • Suburbanbanshee

    I love you, ma’am, but you aren’t correct. There are a lot of Scottish and English tunes with similar features to “New Britain,” and most of them aren’t even hymn tunes. The only connection to slave ships is that the lyricist was running said slave ships. It doesn’t sound African, or Jewish, or like Gregorian chant. It sounds like a bog-standard English folksong tune (and here we mention modes). It’s just a darned good English folksong tune. And it’s very standard, because part of the whole Methodist movement was Wesley and his bro and his buds writing hymns to the tune of English and Welsh folksongs. Common Meter tunes, like “New Britain,” were the most popular.

    Here. I’ll make up a folksong. Sing it to “New Britain.”

    “My love, he is a sailor bold/A sailor on the sea/And till my love comes sailing home/There is no rest for me.

    No rest for me, on sea or land,/No rest at night or day/Because my babe is in my arms/But he is far away.”

    “Amazing Grace” is special. But grace works through nature. The nature of “New Britain” is that of a folksong from the British Isles.

  • Steve

    I think Amazing Grace was written by an Englishman, John Newton. Not American or African, but the guy was an ex-slave trader

  • Yasha Renner

    Beautiful music. It’s all so horrifically sad.

  • Barbara Bowman

    I have a copy of the documentary. One of the best I’ve seen. The song means so much to so many.

  • MeanLizzie

    Almost nothing impresses me less than Christians hauling out the moneychangers in the temple as justification for wrath and the raining down of judgement upon others. Jesus spoke and acted with the authority of God, who named him as Judge. You and I are not he. Jesus, in fact, is explicit when he says we are not to judge. He says “go learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy.’”

  • MeanLizzie

    But for all you and I know the nature of ALL folksongs from the Isles are rooted in the travels of the Tribe of Dan. From Africa. :-)

  • Paul

    Yes, keep calm.

    Like when they nailed Him to the cross.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I agree to some extent- but neither can I ignore a genocide of 56 million and claim that just because the other side has killed off their human consciences that they should be ignored.

    Give them mercy when they ask for it- absolutely. Hand out all the Project Rachel pamphlets you can- support Birthright, Pregnancy Resource Clinics, Homes for Unwed Mothers.

    But to call those who chanted that phrase I can’t even bring myself to type anything other than truth tellers about where their side is coming from, would not be honest ourselves.

  • Klawnet

    That’s a great analogy, except that Amazing Grace doesn’t have anything in it about calling people Nazis. Or even babykillers. Or anything that’s not uplifting. You might want to work on that.

  • Joseph Posavac

    You’re missing the point of my analogy. I wasn’t trying to compare singing “Amazing Grace” to calling people Nazis or anything else. Quite the opposite. That Tea Partiers would be savaged in the media by responding in such a way (even though mockingly) to name-calling, while pro-aborts respond with chanting to the devil (also mockingly) to a song about redemption through Christ and escape scrutiny except in mostly conservative blogs, that was the point. Granted, it’s hypothetical, but very recent history shows that’s what would happen. I was doing what Liz and many conservative bloggers sometimes do when they write “if it were a Republican…”

  • Strife

    He wasn’t calm – He was in agony: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

    What you really mean – is passive and silent. And that’s is fine if only our own fate hangs in the balance. But to remain so milquetoast and passive when the fragile lives of the defenseless innocent unborn are at risk – is an abdominal sin unto itself.

    I’m afraid you’re confused.

  • http://madamescherzo.tumblr.com/ Mme Scherzo

    It’s the pentatonic scale which is the common link to celtic, african and even chinese music. (You can play Amazing Grace on nothing but the black keys of the piano. It’s a pentatonic scale)

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    Sweetly ecumenical… a song that is among the chief treasures of Evangelicals, sung in the face of the World, the Flesh and the Devil by Catholics carrying crucifixes, while one of them prayed the rosary. In the face of the enemy we find out how much we have in common.

  • no good deed

    Commentary is not really necessary. I would be most pleased if all of the pro-life groups simply stood strong and silent in their prayer. Let the pro-death groups scream and mock while we stand united in a silent scream of anguish for the lives that have been needlessly sacrificed at the alter of “I.”

  • PBuchta

    Sure abortion is evil, and the temperament of the singers is unjustified, but the pro life movement does not offer solutions that allow poor women moral or financial support, or the education to make wise choices. Instead, federal programs are removed or downsized that would assist women to make intelligent decisions about their bodies. Among those should be education and goal minded programs for all women, and free healthcare, after school programs, daycare, meals for women who have children. One side is as bad as the other. What do you expect when both sides act irrationally. You want rational people on your side, then you better pony up a better solution then just getting rid of Roe vs. Wade.

  • Janet Ann

    Anchoress, I first heard Wintley Phipps explain the connection between Amazing Grace and Africa 10+ years ago at a Prison Fellowship event. It gave me goosebumps and always stuck with me. After reading your post I went to YouTube and found video of him telling the story. It rings true for me. I dont know if this link will work but you can go to youtube and search for wintley phipps amazing grace. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AVcjnNry4do

  • bystander

    Learn your history please. “…Lunch mobs burnt down convents, Jesuits were banned from Massachusetts on pain of death, Catholics were forbidden even to hold political office prior to the Bill of Rights.”

    The persecution you describe was one kind of Christian persecuting another. Not persecution by atheists or “satanists.” Our country has a successful democratic history because the founding fathers remembered the religious wars of Europe and created a secular nation. When Christian religious fanatics win back government, they will be killing each other for power like protestants killed catholics in the 30 years war or like Sunnis kill Shiites today.

    You should realized that you were pranked when the the girl shouted “hail satan.” But I don’t think you can admit that possibility. Don’t ruin your religion by turning it into a system of domination.

  • jason taylor

    The term provocation is being used in the context of a political struggle in which case provocation is not necesssarily blameworthy especially when the provoked party makes a propaganda blunder.