I wasn’t going to write about the death of attempted evangelist John Chau on Sentinel Island two weeks ago. Most of Atheist Twitter beat me to it with–yes–arrow-swift wit.

But then along came Virginia preacher Garrett Kell, who evidently refuses to let the matter die. Martyrs come and go, but trust the people to reliably resurrect a bad idea.

Kell speculates that despite pointed indicators to the contrary, someone maybe should go back to Sentinel Island with Bible in hand. I suspect he will not volunteer for this service himself.

In truth, there is a religious lesson in the death of John Chau, though not what Kell thinks. Namely, we must accept that there is such a thing as a losing proposition.


John Chau Missionary Satanism

“Maybe this actually is the time and place for the blame game.”


According to the BBC, John Chau was a 27-year-old evangelist from Alabama. In November he illegally trespassed into North Sentinel Island, a remote redoubt in Bengal Bay.

Apparently he planned to try to convert the local Sentinelese tribes to Christianity. He wrote in his journal, “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold?”

Couple things, John: 1) no, and 2) do people like you ever realize how you sound, or is this another Dunning-Kruger thing?

As you know, the Sentinelese opted not to listen to Chau’s preaching but instead to kill him on the beach.

This was so predictable that Chau could have written his own obituary in advance. As the North Sentinel Island info site explains, “The Sentinelese have lived in isolation for 60,000 years. When someone wanders to their island, they relentlessly murder them.” You don’t say?

The site also explains “their hostile attitude towards strangers probably saved them from extinction over the centuries.” Remote as they are, it’s possible something as simple as a cold could wipe out the population.

John Chau, far from being “well intentioned,” made a fair bid at killing the Sentinelese with this stunt. Remember that when someone complains about the jokes at his death.

This is all old news. What’s new is Garrett Kell, pastor of the Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, who seems determined to answer any number of questions about Chau’s death that nobody asked.

In a Friday entry to his blog “Desiring god” (which sounds like it’s coming on pretty strong), Kell wondered of Chau’s death “What god might do with Satan’s arrows?”

I might suggest precisely where “god” can stick them, but apparently he already knows.

Not content with just one tragedy of errors, Kell seems to hope others also attempt to fuck Sentinel Island via missionary positions.

“Could god be using the death of John Chau to stir the souls of more missionaries to take the good news of Jesus to the Sentinelese people?” Kell wonders.

Again, I strongly suspect Kell will not test this hypothesis himself. 


John chau sentinel satanism

“Your example is far more inspiring from back here.”


To bolster his indecent proposal, Kell cites the example of Erromango, an island about 570 miles west of Fiji. The people there also were in the habit of killing missionaries, but Bible-bearing colonizers eventually got their hooks into the place.

“To this day, faith in Christ is thriving on this island once filled with pain and anger,” Kell gushes.

But as historian Sara Lightner writes in A Century of Population Decrease, before the introduction of smallpox and measles, Erromango had a population of at least 5,000 and maybe as many as 20,000.

Now the Vanuatu National Statistics Office estimates it’s fewer than 2,000. So it looks like Jesus isn’t the only “thriving” import.

Kell’s problem–other than that he’s an idiot, and possibly motivated by latent (or not?) racist and colonialist tropes–is that he’s hemmed in by the idea of infallibility.

If John Chau managed to preach to the Sentinelese, Kell would consider that a win for Jesus. (The likely plague deaths that would follow apparently notwithstanding.)

But since he didn’t, Kell has to contort this into being somehow actually what “god” wants, and therefore in a grand way somehow not a mistake at all. Anything else risks apostasy. 

As Satanists, we have to exorcise this kind of thinking. Admitting error sucks, but it’s part of what makes us human. Which is to say, what makes us Satanic.

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the fallen angel Moloch tries to convince Satan to wage endless war with heaven, “desperate revenge and battle dangerous to less than gods.” But Satan is wise enough not to retread previous failures.

Similarly, the Seven Tenets of the Satanic Temple advise, “If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it.” 

And even old Anton LaVey warned, “When you’ve painted yourself into a corner and the only way out is to say, I made a mistake, then do it.”

Satanism is a religion of universal fallibility. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow. But as John Chau learned, the alternative is no day a the beach either.


John Chau Missionary Satanism

The Wood of Error furnishes a lot of arrows.