The co-founder and presiding reverend of the South African Satanic Church has turned his back on Satanism, claiming that he has had an encounter with Jesus.
Riaan Swiegelaar, who registered the church in February 2020, said he had wanted to “slip out the back door quietly” after receiving hundreds of queries about his decision to leave Satanism.
In a Facebook video, Swiegelaar said he had been an atheist most of his life and a Satanist in the last 4-5 years despite being involved in Christian ministry 20 years ago.
“I was very sad and very broken, without realizing it. I think a lot of people resonate with Satanism when they come from a very broken place. I have met thousands of Satanists over the past year and they are extremely hurt and broken — that’s the one thing we all have in common,” he said.
One reason for his change of heart, Swiegelaar said, is when 4 Christians showed him unconditional love.
“I've never unknown unconditional love in my whole life and up to today, there's only 4 Christians in my whole life that have shown me what unconditional love is… It is not a simple thing. You have showed me everything. You have showed me the love of Christ. I have seen it in you,” an emotional Swiegelaar said.
Swiegelaar said that during a Cape Talk interview 2 months ago, he told the interviewer: “I don't believe in Jesus and I don't believe Jesus Christ exists.”
Afterwards, a lady staffer came to him “and she hugged me and she held me in a way that I've never been loved.”
“That's all she did. She just said it was nice to meet me in person. A week later, I saw on WhatsApp that she is a Christian. I've never had a Christian showing me so much love and acceptance unconditionally. That stayed with me," he said.
After his interview, Swiegelaar had a meeting with Satanic Church council members about conducting an occult ritual that would help him “ascend” and gain more influence and power.
It was during the ritual, he said, that Jesus “appeared” to him.
“I was extremely cocky and I said: ‘Whatever. If you are Jesus, you need to prove it.’ And he flooded me with the most beautiful love and energy and I recognized it immediately because that woman at the radio station showed it to me. That's how I recognized the love of Christ because 4 Christians showed it, not the others,” he said.
He also claimed that for the last month, he has had “real conversations with God.”
“I've had people say it's cognitive dissonance, whatever...I have been an atheist most of my life, a satanist in the last 4 or 5 years so I understand where those people are coming from. But when you experience it, it is something different. And again, I am not here to attack people but I want to get a few things off my chest. I have for a long time believed that I am not worthy of God's grace because I am gay and I have certain abilities. People made me believe for a very long time I am not worthy of that.”
“Let me tell you something: the kingdom of God is not a gated community. The kingdom of God is open to everybody. It's called grace, people.”
Swiegelaar said the South African Satanic Church, a registered non-profit company not affiliated with The Satanic Temple in the United States, will continue to operate despite his resignation.
“Most likely it will and it's OK. It's people's choice. People have to make their own choices. I am choosing light,” he said. He refused to identify high-profile Satanists who are members of the church.
A statement on the South African Satanic Church website said Swiegelaar resigned as presiding reverend of the church last May 30, 2022 and stepped down the church council “as well as dissolved his membership with the organization.”
"We as the SASC Council would like to thank him for his contribution both as the Reverend and Co-Founder of the Satanic Church. We wish him success with all his future endeavors," the church said.
Swiegelaar also said he will not be joining any church “because I've never experienced Christ's love in a church, in any of the churches. I will not go there.”
“I've been hurt so badly by it. The thousands of applications for membership to the South African Satanic Church that I've seen was, majority was, 'I've been hurt by Christians, I hate God' because that's been their experience. That's how people get lost.
Instead, he said he will focus on “healing people and having a space for people who were hurt by other religions and people.”
“God's grace is available for everybody but it is our choice if we want it or not but we constantly get opportunities for that. This was my opportunity and I took it. I made the choice. I choose light. I am living for light and it is because of that grace that I can do that.”
“My prayer is for everyone to ask if you are a believer, ask God to show you that grace.”