A while ago I ran across Glenn Hobbs, who made the rounds in the twilight years of the Satanic Panic claiming that he had totally been a Satanist who’d done Satanic things before being converted to TRUE CHRISTIANITY™. I want to show you today how Glenn Hobbs’ claims line up with our checklist for the Cult of “Before” Stories–and what happens to one of these people after their gravy train jumps the rails for good. We’re going to see a lot more of these people as Christianity continues to decline, and I want us prepared for them.
Everyone, Meet Glenn Hobbs. He’s a Liar-for-Jesus.
My involvement with Satanic worship was–I was involved in it as a child. Of course, I was a generational Satanist, what they call a generational Satanist. (long blink) What that means is that my family was involved in it, and their family before them. Now, my earliest rememberings of Halloween and some of the things that were involved was–it was a very dark time for me as a child. It was something that, um, I didn’t enjoy.
Glenn Hobbs, “Halloween: Trick or Treat?” (1991)
A group called Jeremiah Films put out a video in 1991 called “Halloween: Trick or Treat?” as part of their “Pagan Invasion” series. The video is simply intended to get Christians all super-excited and scared about Halloween through fanciful “re-enactments” and blatant liars talking about their “testimonies.” I wrote about this video at greater length last Halloween, but I knew I’d want to circle back to the guy we’re discussing today.
This video features an interview with a fellow named Glenn Hobbs, who claimed a standard-issue Satanic Panic past in Satanism: child sexual abuse, ritual sacrifice, horrifying abuse of all kinds, which he relates in a complete monotone. (He also appeared in another movie from Jeremiah Films in 1989’s “Devil Worship,” this time without the splotchy beard.)
Oh! He must have felt so excited to be put up alongside such Satanic Panic luminaries as “ex-totally-a-witch” Doreen Irvine and “ex-totally-a-Freemason” Bill Schnoebelen. Maybe he even dreamed of becoming another “ex-totally-a-Satanist” like Mike Warnke by parlaying his tooooooootally dark and nefarious past into a big-time preaching career.
That was not to be, however. The game was already finished in 1989; the players just hadn’t realized it quite yet.
“The Pulling Report” came out in 1990, laying waste to all those rumors Christians spread and enjoyed about Dungeons & Dragons-type roleplaying games. Then, in 1991, Mike Warnke’s fake testimony was debunked hard enough that it made both him and all his imitators look complete conjobs. A 1994 piece from Washington Post would only have hurried along this cottage industry’s demise, as well, but by then we’re just talking about a clean-up on Aisle 666.
The inestimable Kerr Cuhulain covered that Halloween video back in 2002, including a lengthy and, one might add, humiliating debunk of everything Hobbs claimed in his interview.1 But by 2002, our boy’s career as a Satanic Panicker had long disappeared from the rear-view mirror.
Ultimately, the evidence suggests that Glenn Hobbs just didn’t enter the game early enough to build a name and a following before the game ended. Mike Warnke and the rest have maintained small niche careers that way; Hobbs never got that big though.
(Here is the full “Halloween” video that goes along with Glenn Hobbs’ interview, by the way, and it’s just nonstop hilarity. It’s gloriously bad.)
The Cult of “Before” Stories.
A long time ago, I wrote about “The Cult of ‘Before’ Stories” as a term for Christians who get really, really into conversion narratives featuring outlandish elements and miracles. The more outrageous the pre-conversion past, the more excited this fanbase gets. But by the same token, they never actually ask for evidence for the claims made in these testimonies. They literally don’t care. If anyone dares to try to ask for evidence, or to goes so far as to debunk the claims made in these 100% made-up fake testimonies, these Christians get angry at the person who has cast doubt upon their idolized stories.
The most popular of these stories all shared very similar elements:
- We’d hear a claimed past in whatever was the current big boogeyman du jour of fundagelicalism.
- This past would be completely alien and foreign to audiences’ own experiences and reality.
- Lurid, even titillating claims about that past didn’t match up at all with the real situations and groups that the claimant said they’d belonged to but which matched perfectly what fundagelicals thought those situations and groups were like.
- There’d be a huge, big, miraculous event at the time of conversion.
- It’d be followed by quite a lot of pontificating about the great and glamorous danger that this central situation/group still represents to Christians today.
- Lastly, the testimony would feature how incredibly happy and fulfilled the claimant is today and how perfect life is now (OR, subverted slightly: life’s really rough, but the claimant is really happy despite that hardship because of Jesus).
Any time whatsoever you see a big dramatic testimony featuring these elements, you are very likely looking at a Liar-for-Jesus seeking status and power by tickling Christians’ ears. (Nobody ever went broke that way!)
The payoff for the Christians hearing these stories is very simple: they get to hear their most dear and favorite claims confirmed as reality. They get to hear about a big dramatic world outside their insular Christian bubbles that somehow doesn’t compete with TRUE CHRISTIANITY™. They get to hear about their enemies being real, and also (and most importantly) being easily-defeated by their brand of woo.
So they’re very quick to brush off the “boring Christian testimony” that doesn’t tickle their ears so much, even though those are probably the only really honest ones that exist in the religion.
Liars for Jesus Don’t Ever Die; They Just Reinvent Themselves.
I wondered what became of Glenn Hobbs after those heady Satanic Panic days. I wrote to him after I wrote that Halloween piece, asking him if he’d consent to an email correspondence to answer questions about his claimed past in Satanism, but he never responded. Sad, really; this could have been quite an opportunity to clear the air. Clearly, my fatal flaw was assuming that of course a guy claiming to follow a god of justice would want to do that!
It didn’t take much to find him, though. The clincher was finding a Rosetta-Stone-like bridge: both the guy I found and the guy in the video share the same name, general appearance, and date of conversion: December, 1980. And they talk alike, as this video shows. He’s lost some weight, shaved off the beard, and gotten a lot older, but this is Glenn Hobbs in all his glory.
As far as I could find, he’s never disavowed his past; he just appears to have forgotten he ever claimed it at all. Now he’s the Assistant Pastor of Elsinore Christian Center, a smallish basic-fundagelical church in a smallish resort town located a decent drive east from Los Angeles in California.
His most recent sermon appears to have been given on Sunday, February 4, 2018, a time in which he was filling in for the main pastor of his church. In it, we learn that he’s still a reeeeeeeeeeally bad, indeed a truly purely cringeworthy public speaker–and that he still appears to have next to no self-awareness or sense of humor.
Exhibit 1 in defense of that assertion: that sermon is called “Every Christian’s Struggle” and somehow it is not about masturbation.
Instead, it’s a rambling, shambling, unfocused demand that Christians figure out how to forgive others.2
And in it, at 4 minutes in, he refers to a lesson that his mother gave him about forgiveness. He says that this lesson occurred “when I was a little boy” and surrounded by siblings in a huge family “and one bathroom.” He says that his mother tried hard to impart lessons about conflict resolution and forgiveness, but he had particular trouble with her demand that he kiss his sisters to make up to them after their constant fights, which is surprising given that his childhood was taken up with Satanic rituals and abuse. You’d think a kiss on the cheek given to one of his own sisters would be damned near meaningless after everything he so earnestly talked about in his interviews with Jeremiah Films.
(It’s really hard to imagine the Satanist parents doing the “Raising Hell” podcast ever advocating this approach to solving children’s conflicts. This tactic sounds a lot more like something a Christian parent would advise, given its absurd emphasis on a form of faux-forgiveness that is more an outward show of compliance than a genuine patching-up of differences. And, too, his mother’s insistence on humiliating but ultimately meaningless displays sounds far more Christian than Satanist.)
Hobbs describes another normal-sounding childhood incident toward the very end of the sermon: an anecdote about seriously hurting himself while riding his bicycle. Somehow none of the emergency-room people noticed anything amiss in this deeply traumatized child of Satanic Ritual Abuse, momentarily away from his cruel parents and community and hovering on the cusp of near-freedom from horrendous, horrific abuse.
In fact, nowhere in that sermon does he mention that his parents were leading Satanist rituals and committing grotesquely-evil abuses upon their children as well as constant murders.
The Last Cry of a Dying Industry.
So to me it looks like Glenn Hobbs failed to create a lasting Satanic Panic career and found a regular Joe job in ministry. He was always, and continues to be, an absolute nobody in Christianity–reaching for the top yet always failing to reach it.
In a lot of ways, this whole story echoes that of my then-husband Biff, back when I was Christian; it’s breathtaking to imagine many thousands of Biffs and Glenns struggling in similar fashion to find a place for themselves after staking out a spot on the Satanic Panic mountain.
But make no mistake: there are many thousands of Biffs and Glenns doing exactly this.
Any minister in his late-40s to late-50s who’s been Christian since the 1980s is a small part of the tapestry of the Satanic Panic–either as a greedy, eager participant or audience member, or else as an assistant to spreading the panic by featuring speakers who claimed these pasts. Very, very few pastors in fundagelicalism, maybe even in Christianity itself, spoke out against the Satanic Panic while lives were being destroyed by it–and those are the few that can wear their distinction with a pride, though I’ve never seen one do so!
One can almost see why most Christians would rather just ignore that past than engage with it. In terms of testimonies, a good Satanic Panic testimony had it alllll, baby. I’d be hard-pressed to think of any major evangelists’ testimonies I’ve heard since then that even came close. Tony Anthony’s testimony is probably the most dramatic testimony I’ve heard of since then–and you have to admit, being a globe-trotting kung fu assassin and bodyguard would certainly be a very unfamiliar set of experiences for 99.9% of modern fundagelicals!
And ya know, I think I knew when I first heard of Tony Anthony that the time of the Cult of “Before” Stories was winding down. It’s just too easy to debunk these stories; the world is connected now in a way that just didn’t exist back in the 1980s and even 1990s. And today’s fundagelicals, especially their young people, aren’t quite as eager to buy into those sorts of purely-obviously-wackadoodle claims.
The Satanic Panic was hugely destructive to American culture, yes. It was also one of the last cries-from-the-heart of that wild-and-woolly Christian frontier where someone could literally say anything and millions, even hundreds of millions, of Christians would eagerly gobble it down. Now the penny-ante Zachary Kings of the world can inhabit only the fringe. Christian leaders have to be a little more careful now about what they claim–in an age of cell phones and 24/7 social media, it’s simply too easy to debunk claims that get too far outside of reality. Tony Anthony got quickly unmasked when he strayed too far into mainstream Christianity; Zachary King will face the same fate if he ever hits the big time. Glenn Hobbs didn’t only because he never achieved that kind of popularity.
To these Satanic Panickers, downplaying their onetime participation in that fake moral panic that hurt so many people, we say: we have not forgotten, and we have not missed the most important lessons of that drummed-up culture war.
That said, though, the same gullibility is still there. The same eagerness to see one’s delusions played out in reality still compels Christians today as it did decades–and centuries–ago. The same ache for evidence still exists. It’s just preyed upon by different people in different ways now. The same testimonies still reach fundagelicals today; they just feature fewer and less outrageous elements. Now we’re far more likely to hear a Christian evangelist claim a past in mean ole atheism until a miraculous event spurred them toward belief.
As Christianity continues to decline, this dishonesty is going to come to the forefront more and more often, too. See it for what it is: another point defining a trend-line, a line that has decades if not centuries of points defining it by now. No gods are involved in this religion; it’s all lies, all the way down to the beginning.
We have a few things on the agenda next week, including a most interesting study I ran across, but I want to dive into fundagelicals’ Israel Boner soon. See you next time!
1 Internet Archive linky-link here in case Witchvox goes down, which I hope it won’t because everything Mr. Cuhulain has written there is pure gold; we’ve corresponded a couple of times over the years and he’s just as knowledgeable and as kind a fellow-traveler as you could hope to find on this good dark earth.
2 Here’s a Lee Stoneking sermon if you want a contrasting example of a very good preacher. This was probably one of his last sermons. The highlight of his preaching career was without a doubt speaking before the United Nations, where he trotted out a particularly dishonest sermon.
Endnote: I’m listening to the sermon from Feb. 4th and said out loud to Mr. Captain, who was playing a Vive game behind me: “This guy is talking about forgiveness as this hugely difficult thing for Christians to do, as something they’ve always had trouble doing. And he’s right. It is. But why is it so hard when they’re inhabited by a god of mercy and forgiveness?” Mr. Captain replied, “This may be news to you, Cas, but Christians know deep down that this stuff isn’t true.”
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