Sam Smith: Parading Around as Satan Hurts the LGBT Community | Opinion

Pop artists Sam Smith and Kim Petras made history at Sunday night's Grammy Awards show as the first "non-binary" and transgender artists to win best pop duo. But the night won't be remembered for that or anything else about their award. Unfortunately, it'll solely be recalled for the fact that their live performance involved satanic worship—quite literally.

On stage, Smith was costumed as the devil. Meanwhile, as Newsweek reported, "Petras performed in a cage surrounded by flames while flanked by famed drag stars Violet Chachki and Gottmik, who were dressed as dominatrixes also sporting devil horns."

The entertainment press is lavishing praise on the duo and to be fair, their song, "Unholy," is very catchy. Petras's vocals are incredibly impressive. But I think the performance was tone-deaf, counterproductive, and frankly, remarkably unoriginal. There's a long history of entertainers incorporating Satan into their art and performances to be shocking and garner attention. It's not really some novel or boundary-pushing act, though it does still manage to get a rise out of people.

Many traditionalist conservatives freaked out in response to the performance.

"This... is... evil," Senator Ted Cruz tweeted.

"Don't fight the culture wars, they say. Meanwhile demons are teaching your kids to worship Satan," wrote conservative pundit Liz Wheeler.

"The elite in our society are fully in line with the ideology of Satanic fealty expressed by Smith and Petras," tweeted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.

Sam Smith
Sam Smith performs onstage during the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Arena on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Was much of this reaction overblow? Yeah, for sure. Under any definition of America's elite—journalists, politicians, corporate tycoons—you'd struggle to find any, let alone a majority, who truly follow an "ideology of Satanic fealty." And one Grammy performance that was obviously intended as hyperbolic entertainment aside, very few, if any, children anywhere in America are being taught to "worship Satan" in any meaningful sense.

But at the same time, while the response may not be entirely reasonable, it is entirely predictable. And that makes Smith and Petras's decision all the more questionable.

They claim to be champions of the LGBT community. Indeed, Petras even says their Satan-themed performance was intended to symbolize how they felt isolated and rejected by religion because of their identities. But if they truly care about LGBT acceptance, this was about the worst possible way to advance it.

While it might be easy for those who live in big cities or on America's coasts to forget it, many Americans do not personally know any gay, lesbian, or transgender people. Their vague impression of the "LGBT community" is formed in part by news headlines and celebrities.

See where I'm going yet? Roughly 10 million people watch the Grammys, but countless millions more see clips or coverage. An immeasurable but significant number of them will now be left with the impression, conscious or subconscious, that the LGBT community is not made up of mostly normal people like them with some differences, but a movement anathema to their values and even their god.

This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, a majority of LGBT Americans are religious, with Christianity being the most popular religion within the community. Meanwhile, almost none are actually satanists.

Publicly associating some of the most prominent LGBT celebrities with demonic worship, then, reinforces a wildly inaccurate perception of the LGBT community as anti-Christian, at the very least.

And it does absolutely nothing to further LGBT acceptance or tolerance. It serves only to inflame, divide, and, yes, deliver the attention they ordered.

Critics might argue that this amounts to saying LGBT Americans should cater to bigotry and ignorance. I'd answer that it's simple pragmatism: We've seen what works when it comes to promoting progress in gay acceptance. The huge gains that have been made were achieved by appealing to societal norms, like marriage and family, not by trying to destroy them.

I also think it's unfair to conflate Americans concerned by a twerking Satan on their TV screen with those who genuinely harbor hate or bigotry. And, regardless, if "catering to bigotry" is what ultimately makes life easier for more LGBT people, then, yes, it is exactly what we should do.

Smith and Petras clearly achieved their goals with the performance. It generated huge publicity for them and no doubt will send their follower counts soaring and their song surging further in the charts.

But it will do so at the expense of the LGBT community they claim to care about.

Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of BASEDPolitics.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.