Op-Ed – Is Marilyn Manson Turning to Christianity + Why Does it Matter?
Reports of Marilyn Manson’s appearance at Kanye West’s Sunday Service sent the internet into a frenzy of chaos and division and now some are questioning whether the self-professed Antichrist Superstar’s unexpected turn to Christinaity has ulterior motives. Manson, whose career has been partly defined by criticizing and rejecting Christianity, was spotted at Ye’s Sunday Service not only as an attendee but as a participant in a prayer with Ye and Justin Bieber.
This was a rare public appearance for Manson following a series of allegations made against him by several people, including his ex-partner Evan Rachel Wood’s who claimed Manson had been “horrifically” abusing her during the course of their relationship from 2007-2010.
Ye’s Sunday Service has been described as “religion for the social media age” – a combination of performance, music and fashion that’s so exclusive, attendees and choir must sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) for their attendance, as Fader reported. But the topic for widespread conversation across social media was Manson’s appearance and engagement in practices that had the many fans he’d cultivated through his anti-religious music and art scratching their heads, unsure if this was a PR ploy to deflect from damning allegations that have seen Manson lose out on many opportunities.
Marilyn Manson’s Past Religious Views
“Hypocritical,” was the buzzword floating around the internet in response to this. There’s plenty of famous and well-loved Christian rock bands, so why is it any shock that Manson is turning a new leaf?
Manson’s complex relationship with religion goes as far back as the ‘90s. He built a career on the grotesque and obscene. He piggybacked off a decade of religious Satanic Panic, which made him the perfect target for worried churchgoers to assume his behavior was devil-like. And Manson didn’t dismiss these claims — some would say he leaned into them to provoke these claims even further. “Hopefully, I'll be remembered as the person who brought an end to Christianity,” he said in an interview on The Phil Donohue Show in 1995.
In 1994, he accepted an honorary priesthood within the Church of Satan. While it was merely a symbolic gesture, it made it harder to dismiss his ties to Satanism. If that wasn’t getting the message across, who can forget his infamous 1997 MTV performance of “The Beautiful People” that included a highly criticized speech where he said, “We will no longer be oppressed by the fascism called Christianity.”
There’s many examples to pick from Manson’s past that make his recent holier-than-thou move a questionable one.
Rolling Stone wrote that, in 1994, Manson had a woman perform a fake abortion onstage alongside him as part of his show. And remember when he seemingly mocked Paris Jackson’s suicide attempt onstage? One might go as far to argue that this is just another attempt at Manson’s infamous shock value tactics. But, instead of turning against Christianity, he is now embracing it with open arms which, in turn, is even more shocking to some than his previous antics rooted in blasphemy.
This religious route isn’t unfamiliar at all, however. It’s well documented that Manson grew up in a religious environment and engaged in religious practices in his youth, which he has mentioned in previous interviews. When PEOPLE asked a representative for Manson if he had turned to Christainity, the rep responded that it’s “nobody’s business,” and stressed that Manson was an “integral part” of the ceremony.
It’s still understandably shocking for anyone who grew up listening to the musician's countless songs that criticize religion. The songs “Rock is Dead” told us our TV is now God and “I Don’t Like The Drugs” ridiculed Christianity — so why the sudden change of heart?
Marilyn Manson's Allegations
Manson’s appearance at Sunday Service has led some online critics to assume that this is a “last-ditch effort” for public remorse following a slew of allegations against him that began in February 2021. These allegations of abuse led to him being dropped from his label, Loma Vista Recordings, and he also lost out on TV and film deals with Starz and AMC.
Between the years of 2016-2019, Manson’s ex-partner, Evan Rachel Wood, spoke on numerous occasions about a previous relationship she had been in that subjected her to abuse, grooming and rape. The actress even testified in court back in 2018 in an effort to get the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights passed in all 50 states.
At no point did she name her abuser — the media and public were only left to presume who it could be based on her previous, publicly-known partners. On Feb. 1, 2021 “she put a name to a face” as Vanity Fair detailed.
In a statement posted onto Instagram, Wood named Brian Warner (Marilyn Manson’s birth name) as her abuser and alleged that he groomed her from an early age and “horrifically abused me for years. I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission.”
In the following days, Manson denied these claims, and shared a statement on his own Instagram that dismissed these allegations as “horrible distortions.”
Several other women have since come forward to share their own instances of abuse while working or socializing with Manson. Phoebe Bridgers and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Roswell both made public statements — Roswell claimed on Twitter that he allegedly upskirted her and Bridgers said Manson had told her about his supposed “rape room” when she was just a teenager.
One of the survivors, Ashley Morgan Smithline — who claimed Manson wouldn’t allow her to “eat, sleep, or leave the house” and later sued the singer on claims of physical violence and sexual abuse — spoke with PEOPLE regarding the musician’s apperance at Sunday Service. “It was just like being re-traumatized, it’s just showing the point [...] you can do whatever you want, basically, if you have money, you're a guy, and you're famous."
This isn’t the first time singers in rock and metal music have been accused of serious crimes (some have also been proven guilty of these various crimes) and later found religion and used it as a blanket to muffle any responsibility and accountability.
One Twitter user wrote, “Here’s your reminder that [ex-Of Mice & Men vocalist] Austin Carlile is a predator who seeks asylum in the facade of religion and god instead of owning up to him preying on almost 20+ women and girls.”
Carlile, who’d been accused of assault by multiple women (he's denied these allegations), is just one of many artists within alternative music who have leaned heavily into faith when faced with allegations.
Front Porch Step (aka Jake McElfresh) faced similar allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women and minors. He took to social media in 2019 to express how “the best thing” to ever happen to him was realizing “how absolutely vile and disgusting I am. And to simultaneously be given the understanding of a God.”
Is It All For Shock Value?
While there’s still much progress to be made, alternative music has faced its own reckoning amid the Me Too era. As time goes on, more artists with long-standing histories of abuse are finally being held accountable and exiled from the community.
It wouldn’t be too outlandish to theorize that perhaps Manson saw the astounding backlash from these allegations coming forward and swiftly shifted to something that would completely contradict his alleged behavior, thus causing more conversation and chaos around him.
Even if this is a legitimate turn to Christianity, which, again, wouldn’t be too surprising given his religious upbringing – this will never expel or overshadow the allegations made against him — the two aren’t even intertwined.
It would be a mistake to assume that any turn to religion is indicative of Manson asking for forgiveness for these allegations and turning over a new leaf, because as it stands Manson still denies that these allegations are true.
Perhaps his recent fall from grace has made him want to pursue more positive environments, and Christainity serves that purpose for him. But for a man who claimed he’d bring an end to christainity, it is doubtful.