Tag Archives: Christian Response

Bowie’s Blackstar: A Star With No Light

After initially posting this article, I realized that I may not have been as clear as I could be. I am not saying that Bowie knowingly poured all the meaning into this song that I am implicating. What I am saying is that there my have been dark forces working through Bowie to send a message. Bowie had an obsession with the occult, including occultist Aleister Crowley, who was a very dark individual and practitioner of magic and demonology. Bowie was also deeply fearful of evil spirits, and used various occult methods to ward them off. Whether or not each of us personally believes in a dark supernatural realm, Bowie most certainly did. As he said himself, “Rock has always been the devil’s music, you can’t convince me that it isn’t. I honestly believe everything I’ve said—I believe rock and roll is dangerous… I feel that we’re only heralding something even darker than ourselves” [DAVID BOWIE, Rolling Stone, February 12, 1976, p. 83].

Like many people, I recently heard the news that David Bowie had died. I decided to check out his final album entitled Blackstar, released a week ago. What would his final message to the world be?

What I found was alarming: a farewell address so dark, so disturbing, it would seem connected to a diabolical realm. I wrestled with my observations and decided that the best way to distill these thoughts was an analysis of the song. Is there a sinister presence underlying the elements of Bowie’s parting work? You decide.

The title track Blackstar begins with these lyrics:

“In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen”

The word Ormen is the Norwegian word for serpent and also the name of a village in Norway. Apparently there was a Viking king there who cursed the name of Christ. Based on the historical context, this seems like a reference to the Biblical depiction of the serpent of old, also known as Satan. If you want to take the meaning more literally then, the lyric would read,

“In the villa of the Serpent,” or “in the house of Satan”

Unlike many of Bowie’s lyrics which were artistically nonsensical, this song’s vision seems intentionally conceived. I realize the video’s director Johan Renck denies the song was trying to convey a particular message, and I accept that. However, if that is the case, why do both lyrics and images not only follow Biblical texts, but seem to be attempting to reverse them? Whether or not the meaning was intentional, the meaning comes through.

One of the opening scenes of the video is that of a deserted, gloomy planet. In the background is the sun, blacked out by another sun – or star, which covers it up – the blackstar.

Scripture calls Satan the “Day Star,” who was cast out of heaven. Scripture also refers to Jesus as the light of the world, as well as the literal light source in heaven, transcending even the concept of a sun. In this visual metaphor then, Satan – or the darkness, would be obscuring Jesus – or the light.

blackstar shot

Like the blackstar, Satan has no light of his own but can only try to cover up the light of Christ that already exists, by heaping lies onto the gospel of Christ.

The song’s lyrics continue:

“On the day of execution, on the day of execution
Only women kneel and smile, ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, at the centre of it all
Your eyes, your eyes”

Overlaying these lyrics we again see the planetary scene and a woman walking up to a lifeless astronaut’s form. She opens his mask to reveal a skull adorned with elaborate jewels. She then removes the skull and carries it through what appears to be the ancient city of Jerusalem. High above the city on a hill, we see a modern, tower-like structure, with light emanating from behind it.

Jesus was crucified on a hill just outside of Jerusalem called Golgotha, which means “the skull.” Could the song be making a connection between the skull and the physical location of Christ’s crucifixion? In ancient pagan history, sacrifices and worship often took place on the “high places.” If this is a reference to the place where Jesus died, it is interesting that all we can see is a new monument, obscuring the cross from sight.

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The light emanating from behind the new structure echoes the image of the blackstar covering up the sun. The contrast of the new buildings against the ancient city also seems like a reference to something “new,” versus something “old.” Could this be a commentary that Satan, the new, is replacing Jesus, or the old? We know from scripture that Jesus alone establishes the new, through the power of his blood and resurrection.

Another image we see in this section of the song, is that of a group of women gathering together for some kind of occult ceremony. The women begin to shake as if possessed as they dance and kneel before the skull. The song’s lyric says:

“on the day of execution only women kneel and smile.”

These women are not sad, but happy on this day of execution, seeming to be witnesses of something great.

In the Biblical account of Christ’s crucifixion we also see a group of women present, who follow Jesus, weeping after him. Later, some of these same women are the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. How interesting that while they were witnesses of the life that overcomes death, the women in this song are witnesses to death only. At one point the women begin to levitate together – a clear reference to witchcraft and the occult, which amounts to rebellion against God. Could this also allude to a different kind of “rising,” in contrast to resurrection from the dead? 

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The lyrics continue:

“Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried (I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)”

The video now shows Bowie with his mask off, as he raises a book with a pentagram blackstar on the cover. He shifts in the opposite direction, holds his position, then shifts back. This is the clear, pivotal moment in the song and seems to signify that some kind of positional transference has occurred.

The lyrics describe someone who died, rose, then stepped aside. I believe this is a clear reference to Jesus, while mocking his resurrection by claiming that that he merely “rose a meter.” This would imply not a raising from death to life, but a rising of an object a short distance. The image of Christ on the cross, being lifted a few feet off the ground comes to mind.

Again, as with the image of the blackstar positioned in front of the sun and the new monument positioned in front of the cross, we now see the concept stated blatantly: Satan positioning himself in front of Christ. It’s also interesting that as he assumes Christ’s position, the blackstar makes a declaration of himself. How very different from Jesus’ example, humbling himself by taking on human form, and being obedient, even to the point of death on a cross.

The lyrics continue:

“How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangster)”

Scripture describes Satan as the first angel to fall. The description of him trodding on sacred ground paints a picture of one who mocks what is holy. The blackstar’s declaration of who he is in disrespect of who God is goes even further in the next section, saying,

“I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar)
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar)
I’m-a take you home (I’m a blackstar)
Take your passport and shoes (I’m not a popstar)
And your sedatives, boo (I’m a blackstar)
You’re a flash in the pan (I’m not a marvel star)
I’m the great I am (I’m a blackstar)”

If the meaning of the song wasn’t clear before, it is now. In the final statement, “I am the great I am,” the blackstar makes the overt, blasphemous claim to be God. This is a direct reference to Exodus 3, where we learn that the God of Christianity is the one true God, whose name is the great “I Am.” Jesus also claimed to be “I Am” and one with the Father.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he offered him the the kingdoms of the world in exchange for his worship. Satan’s attempt to take God’s position is nothing new. Indeed, it is the original lie the serpent told Eve in the garden of Eden, when he said that she could be like God.

In the rest of this section the blackstar tells us that we should follow him blindly “home.” If the blackstar is indeed Satan, then this home would refer to hell. The mention of passport and shoes makes it clear that this is a long journey, and “sedatives, boo,” to me implies that where those who follow the blackstar are going, drugs won’t help alleviate pain. The blackstar’s taunting statement “You’re a flash in the pan,”reveals that he, like Satan, cares nothing for our lives.

I also find it interesting that the echo-statements of “I’m not a filmstar… popstar… marvel star,” etc. are, in fact, being sung by a bona fide pop star in the person of Bowie. The blackstar no longer minces words: while we may think that what we’re beholding are pop and film stars, or the gods of our culture –  what we’re actually gazing upon, even in this song, is Satan himself at work.

The final lyric I’d like to address is:

“I’m not a pornstar, I’m not a wandering star
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)”

The book of Jude specifically mentions “wandering stars,” as those who teach lies, and as such, have been sentenced to gloomy darkness forever. How interesting that the blackstar is another kind of star – yet he too will face eternal punishment in the lake of fire.

At this point in the video, we see three scarecrows hanging crucifixion style. They gyrate seductively, straw spilling from their clothing. Their eyes too, like Bowie’s, are covered with gauze. I think this crucifixion scene is undeniably another reference to Christ. The fact that “Jesus” appears in the form of a scarecrow implies that he is powerless, nothing more than a joke. The straw filling implies that Jesus is empty, but we know that all the fullness of God is in him. And while the mask implies Jesus is blind, we know that he actually came to open the eyes of the blind.

At the end of the video we see a demonic looking rope-creature approach the scarecrow “Jesus” and bow before him mockingly, the scarecrow in turn spewing back. The rope-creature then strikes his heel with a hand resembling a scorpion’s stinger, and the scarecrow cries out in agony. The Bible refers to Satan and his demons as serpents and scorpions, whom Christians have power over in Jesus name.

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This calls to mind the biblical prophecy that Satan would strike Jesus’ heel and that Jesus in turn would strike his head. How interesting that one injury is a temporary setback, while the other is a fatal wound. How amazing that we as Christians have assurance that the victory belongs to Jesus! How amazing that God had a plan of salvation, from the very beginning!

This video and song come as no surprise. In this life, we can expect to encounter attacks from the evil one. Yet, it is not people we contend with, but spiritual beings. As Ephesians 6 says:

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

In conclusion, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you: should we admire an artist or stand with a culture that promotes such things? Or should we, as scripture says, stand apart? Is the content of this song tame or ambiguous? Do you think my interpretations are outlandish? Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask you to prayerfully search your hearts with these questions. Because a time is coming when anyone who calls themself “Christian” will have to take a greater stand than this.

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Why I’ll Be Wearing The Armor Of God This Halloween

When I was a kid, like most people, we celebrated Halloween. And I loved it. I mean, what kid doesn’t like to dress up and gorge on candy? My first memory of Halloween was in Germany, when I was about 6 years old. They call it Fasching there, and people wear masks and have a parade through town. That year I was a sorcerer, and my outfit was replete with a magic wand, a wizard’s hat, and a robe, covered with moons, suns and stars. It wasn’t until some years later that our family stopped observing Halloween, making the switch over to the “Fall Festival” themed celebration. But I had been exposed to the occult. I had been introduced to images of evil in the context of light-hearted fun.

As I grew up, I encountered the occult periodically in different ways. When I would go to sleepovers, the other girls would play “light as a feather, stiff as a board,” play with ouija boards or chant “bloody Mary” into mirrors. I didn’t fully understand that levitation was an actual occult practice. I didn’t grasp that the Ouija board and bloody Mary were conduits for spiritual contact and opening oneself up to demons. But I knew those things were bad, so I didn’t participate. My parents probably gave me that impression – but I also just knew. I had trusted in Jesus at age seven, and the Holy Spirit was living inside of me, convicting me and protecting me from harm.

But I would be lying if I told you that I came to the conclusion to not observe Halloween, purely on the basis of the Word of God. While the words God has spoken are enough, and must be enough for the believer, sometimes it does take an encounter with the demonic to sober us up into reality – God’s reality; the true world that is seen, not with natural eyes, but spiritual ones. The apostle Paul said, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (1)

Despite the fact that I was a Christian as a child, I still encountered the demonic. When I was about eleven, in the weeks leading up to her salvation, my sister went into a trance, saying the word “Beelzebub” repeatedly – another name for the devil. It scared me, but I prayed to Jesus, and clung to him in my fear. On another occasion, I was sharing the gospel with my best friend, and a similar thing happened. One minute we were carrying on a conversation, and the next minute she was somebody else, with a different voice and different movements. I didn’t understand it at the time, but she was possessed. The demon in her spoke disturbing words about blood and death. I fell to my knees and cried out to Jesus. That night she became a Christian. A few years after that, I had another friend who confided in me that she saw spirits constantly, to the point of becoming suicidal. Sometimes she would call me sobbing, saying that her doors were opening and closing, and closet lights going on and off… She was torchered and scared, but I prayed for her as best I knew how. She too put her trust in Jesus, and from that point on the visitations stopped. Years later, I also learned about the reality of Satanism, through a friend who had been trafficked for ten years as a child, and forced to partake in Satanic ritual abuse. She saw babies murdered, and other things too terrible to mention. Sadly, I have another friend who had a similar experience as well.

I realize that for many people, these things are hard to grasp. I understand the difficulty in wrapping your mind around the reality that this stuff goes on all the time. And many people just don’t believe it. But it’s real. It’s so real, that we have to face it. The Bible says that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (2) But do we believe that, brothers and sisters? Do we believe that Satan is hell-bent on destroying us and stealing souls? Yet we needn’t be afraid of him, because Jesus has conquered our enemy, and it is finished. Jesus taught us so much, when he told his disciples, “…do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (3) As amazing as it is that we are fully-equipped to stand against the evil one, it is even more wonderful that we are bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus! And there is literally nothing Satan can do to take us away from him or to change that. We belong to the Lord for all eternity.

There are many more instances I could refer to, but I don’t want to be gratuitous in the details of these accounts. I don’t want to draw any more attention to Satan than he is already getting at this time of year. But I do want to draw out the fact that while there may be a lot of cutesy depictions of the occult this October, as Christians we need to be sober minded, on guard, and remember that the spiritual realm is real. It’s not a joke or a game – its an all out war. If you wear the name Christian, then you know that when the Son of God walked the earth, he cast out demons as often as he worked healing miracles. As he said himself when he quoted the prophet Isaiah, he came to set the captives free – not just from bodily illness, but from spiritual bondage: the lies of the enemy that attempt to squash the truth of Christ. (4)

In my post My Life As A Christian Mystic, I talked a lot about my own involvement in the occult, and what it was like to be traumatized by spirits. But I didn’t talk about how hard I tried to fight the enemy, for so many years. I tried casting demons away from me, I tried “claiming” my healing – I even tried telling Satan off (which isn’t a Biblical method, by the way). I would find prayers for the purging of specific spirits, and pray them, in hopes that by saying some special series of words, God would finally free me this time. I didn’t understand that by the very fact that I was seeking methods, I was necessarily using magical thinking, not a regenerated mind. It wasn’t until I finally understood that all I need for spiritual warfare is Jesus, that I experienced freedom. I was grasping for a fix, but I didn’t get the gospel. All we need for warfare is right there in what Jesus did! He already conquered Satan, so we don’t have to! We just have to believe that Jesus did it, and rely on him and what he accomplished. Trusting Jesus to save me from the evil one has set me free. I don’t need a particular prayer. I just need to believe that Jesus conquered death and Satan on the cross, and put my faith in him. We have such a treasure in God’s Word, and when Jesus taught us how to pray, he told us to daily ask God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (5) Jesus was not only teaching us how to talk to God, but emphasizing how serious, how imminent and how present evil is. We would be foolish to overlook it.

But while we may be able to make certain decisions for ourselves, it can be nearly impossible to shield a child from everything out there that could be categorized as evil. What I’m not advocating is the sheltering of our children to the point of absurdity. But I am exhorting us as Christians to take it to heart that Halloween is a holiday that exalts demons, witches, darkness and evil. We need to prayerfully consider the passages of scripture that plainly describe those things as detestable to God. (6) (7) And we need to pray about the very real possibility that Satan, if he could have his way, would love for Christians everywhere to let down their guard, even if for just one day. Wouldn’t he be thrilled if Christians took a break from lugging around that unweildly spiritual armor, and made excuses for him – just this once?

I remember a friend of mine telling me of an encounter she had on a plane once. She happened to sit next to a very friendly Satanist, and proceeded to have a conversation about both of their religious beliefs. I was shocked to hear of one thing in particular that the Satanist disclosed to her. They said that the Church of Satan was praying corporately for Christian marriages to fail.

For me it comes down this: I have experienced so much darkness in my life – why would I ever want to return to it again? As the apostle Paul said, “now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (8)

Halloween evokes images of hell, and seeks to draw me back to that hellish space I used to exist in. But now that I am in the light, and the light is in me, I want nothing to do with the darkness anymore. “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?(9) Let’s not lift up the things that are set against our Lord. Let’s lift him up, unashamed to stand apart from our culture. We don’t have to have a separatist attitude. We don’t need to look down our noses at the world. But we should freely and joyfully proclaim the power of the gospel, making no excuses for doing so. And we should pray for the strength to do it. Daily, we should put on the whole armor of God:

“… that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (10) 

In the words of Romans 13:12, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”  This Halloween, I’ll be wearing the armor of God.

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If you want to hear a fantastic lecture on the reality of evil from a Biblical perspective, listen to this talk by the late Walter Martin.

Scripture References:

1. Put on the whole armor of God – Ephesians 6:10-13
2. The devil seeks to devour – 1 Peter 5:8-10
3. Don’t rejoice that the spirits are subject to you – Luke 10:17-20
4. Jesus came to set the captives free – Luke 4:16-21
5. The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:5-14
6. Divination, magic and demon worship is an abomination to God – Deuteronomy 18:9-13
7. You can’t drink the cup of God and demons – 1 Corinthians 10:20-21
8. Don’t be enslaved to the world once more – Galatians 4:8-9
9. Light can’t fellowship with darkness – 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
10. Putting on the whole armor of God protects us from the evil one – Ephesians 6:10-20