We filed into the auditorium after lunch recess and took our normal spots. The first graders sat in the front with the second graders behind them and so on until the gigantic fifth graders had all sat down in the back row.
We had not been told what the assembly was to be about. Schoolyard scuttlebutt was that it was going to be an early Kit Sale. For those who did not have the privilege of a parochial school education, once a year we would funnel into the auditorium and be given cardboard suitcases with an assortment of cheap plastic merchandise inside to peddle to friends and family. You would get a prize when all was said and done that was based on the amount of junk you had guilted loved ones into buying. Say what you want about Catholic School, but I’m very secure that I can always use that education to be an Amway salesman.
How cheap was the merchandise in the kits? Well, the oven mitts were flammable and the flashlights ran on prayer.
But the assembly that day had nothing to do with whoring cheap products in a paper suitcase. A man we had never seen before had the microphone.
“I want you to raise your hands,” the stranger spoke softly making the microphone do most of the work, “if you have a close relationship with God.”
All the hands in the auditorium went up. Of course we had a close relationship with God. If we didn’t, we would fail religion class and be held back a year.
“And what if I asked you to raise your hand if you have a close relationship with Satan?”
Not one hand went up.
“Now suppose I told you that Satan was finding ways into your heart without you even realizing it?”
He raised his voice on the last few words.
Now that caught our attention. How could the Devil, the manifestation of pure evil, trick us into liking him? We started looking around at our friends suspiciously.
“The Devil has seductive ways to make you into his disciple. How many of you like music?”
Music? Music was good.
“Music is the primary way that the devil will try to get to you!!”
We all glanced over at Sister Mary, our music teacher, who suddenly looked a bit worried that 250 students were now glaring at her accusingly as if she was Satan’s concubine.
“I’m talking about Rock and Roll. Especially, Heavy Metal music.”
He then started listing bands that would be a one way ticket to hell if we bought or listened to any of their music.
Led Zeppelin was evil because if you played their music backwards the songs were actually prayers to Sweet Satan.
The Beatles were evil because they claimed to be better than Jesus.
Madonna was pure evil for taking the Virgin Mary’s name.
Black Sabbath was evil because they promoted a Sabbath for African Americans.
And he didn’t stop at music. It seems that the Devil was a conglomerate of evil enterprises.
Satan was trying to lure us through television shows, movies and even games. Dungeons and Dragons promoted the occult and the Devil wielded a d20 die. Much later I would come to believe that telling us not to play Dungeon’s and Dragons was reverse psychology to pique our curiosity and get us to play it therefore promoting the Catholic Church’s abstinence-only policy. But for the time being, the Devil would be our Dungeon Master.
We came out of the auditorium that day stunned. We had no idea that just about all of our hobbies and pastimes had been infiltrated by Lucifer and were being used against us in a battle for our puerile souls.
But shock soon wore off and disbelief started to set in. Music wasn’t evil. Was it? It was just noise. One of my friends brought a copy of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid over to the house that he had borrowed from his brother’s collection. This was one of the bands that the speaker had picked out as evil and dangerous. We had never heard of this villainous group before. My friend Jimmy produced a crucifix. We were not going into this battle unarmed. We hit play and jumped back. Sirens sounded from our boom box as the opening track, “War Pigs”, started. So far, the speaker was vindicated. This was an ominous song. The power chords of the guitar came raging through. This most certainly sounded like the soundtrack to the Apocalypse. Pure distilled evil bled through the speakers and reached into the depths of our nine year old souls. Actually, the song was quite hypnotic. We started tapping our feet and swaying our heads to the demonic rhythm. Fuck! This music was good.
“War Pigs” led to the faster moving “Paranoid.” We no longer even tried to contain our enthusiasm. Now this was music goddamnit. Dark, foreboding, and forbidden, this was the call we had been waiting for.
We devoured the album and listened to it several more times as we copied the tape for everyone. But our devil worshipping appetite had not been satiated. We craved more. We went to our friend’s house and raided his vast treasure trove of guitar grinding music. We feasted on Zeppelin, Kiss, Motley Crue and Iron Maiden who had the most evil album covers this side of Hades.
The Devil had us in the palm of his hand and we were his willing roadies.
There was one band that the assembly speaker had recommended. They were a good Christian band who would nurture our souls instead of rot them. Jimmy pulled out the tape he had bought using his allowance and put it into the machine. It was our last chance at redemption. Surely, a band endorsed by Jesus would bring us back into his flock. The light, after all, will always dissipate the darkness. If the Devil could be behind such primal and addictive music, then the Jesus’ rock music would be even more addictive and save us from an eternity of hell fire.
With our souls on the line, my friend pressed play and the music of Stryper started.
Thankfully, I was absent during the assembly about the evils of drugs.