Meet Joseph Rose, founder of Satanic Delco.
• The devil is not in the details: “We definitely do not worship Satan. We have no belief in the supernatural. No God, no Satan, no Santa Claus, none of it.”
• The dogs abide: “I have two little Boston terriers named Donny and Walter after the characters from The Big Lebowski.”
Members of Satanic Delco were distributing tote bags of food, water, and hygiene essentials to people in need around the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby on a recent Saturday as part of their “To Hell with Homelessness” campaign, when they ran into street preacher Mike Stockwell.
Stockwell, of Long Island, N.Y., was wearing a shirt that read “KNOWN BY GOD” and was passing out fliers that said “Are you born again?” to passersby when he stopped members of the group, who were dressed mainly in black Satanic Delco shirts.
“Your good deeds are filthy rags before God,” Stockwell said. “You will go to hell.”
Joseph Rose, founder of Satanic Delco, nodded.
“We’re just willing to take the risk, I guess,” he said.
Rose, 42, of Ridley Township, who founded Satanic Delco in February, doesn’t believe in hell. Or heaven. Or even Satan.
While not affiliated with the Satanic Temple — a Salem, Mass., group that is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) religious organization — Satanic Delco members subscribe to the Temple’s seven tenets: reason, responsibility, compassion, justice, freedom, science, and autonomy.
“When I found the Satanic Temple a few years back and read the seven tenets, that was the wake-up call,” Rose said. “It was so obvious to me. They basically sound like seven ways not to be an a–hole.”
Satanic Delco members don’t believe in the supernatural but instead believe in “a science-first viewpoint.” They invoke Satan’s name in their own, Rose said, because Satan is “symbolic of the eternal rebel.”
So why not call themselves James Dean Delco?
“There’s certainly a lot of 21-year-olds who might not be as hip to James Dean as they would be to Satan,” Rose said. “He’s certainly about as well-known as you could want to be.”
When people ask why the group would name itself after Satan if it doesn’t believe in him, Rose said it automatically begins a conversation about what members do believe in.
“It’s encouraging people to do what we believe they should do — ask critical questions — and it invites critical thinking,” he said.
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Often, though, people don’t buy the answer.
“Pretty commonly, they say, ’Of course that’s what he’d have you say!’” Rose said. “There’s a group of people who will never accept us. And that’s OK.”
In fact, Rose said, many of Satanic Delco’s members have experienced some type of outsider status and appreciate a group that challenges the status quo and people’s perceptions.
“When we get together and share stories of how we found ourselves here, people share these deeply personal, intense stories of their history, sometimes with tears in their eyes,” Rose said. ”
In the early 1990s, Rose himself was an outsider at Ridley High School.
“I walked through the hallways to a chorus of ..... freak or devil-worshiper because I had long hair and wore heavy-metal T-shirts,” he said.
Today, Rose is a father to a 13-year-old son and the owner of a small stationery business, which he operates out of his garage with a 100-year-old printing press. He also hosts a podcast called The Grunge about the music of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana (though he loves Black Sabbath, Tracy Chapman, and Sade, too).
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Rose participated with the Satanic Philadelphia group a bit, before deciding to start Satanic Delco.
“I know that a lot of people in Delaware County just don’t want to go to the city,” he said.
Rose had low expectations when he started the group and began posting about it on Delco neighborhood Facebook pages in February, but he immediately began receiving messages from people interested in joining, along with those who told him, in no uncertain terms, to go to hell.
“The Media [Facebook page], those guys would have burned me at the stake if they got their hands on me,” he said. “Whereas Springfield, on the other hand, was pretty open and even welcoming.”
Rose said there are 300 members of Satanic Delco, from medical professionals to moms (”We’ve got a lot of moms”), but the group has no physical site. While COVID-19 put a damper on their activities, members were still able to collect items for the group’s first official action, its “To Hell with Homelessness” campaign.
“I wanted us to serve a purpose,” Rose said. “This is a way for us to show you what we’re about because this is what we do.”
On Aug. 22, 14 members — with tattoos ranging from the leg lamp in A Christmas Story to a quote from Rage Against the Machine — came together to hand out 50 brightly colored tote bags filled with essentials on the streets of Upper Darby.
They didn’t even get out of the parking garage before they encountered four people in need.
Rose handed a blue tote bag to an older man with a white Santa Claus beard and explained what was within.
“This will help us more than you know,” the man said. “Thanks for the help. You guys are awesome.”
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