I was driving in the parking lot of the grocery store looking for a place to park. As I was rolling past a large SUV, I noticed the space beyond it was empty. I almost noticed too late. But I took the tight turn, and pulled into the space. I turned off my car, opened the door, and got out.
“I almost got you there, brother!” came the cheery man’s voice. He had just gotten out of the SUV. “I nearly clipped you with my door!”
“Oh, goodness, I’m sorry…. I didn’t even see you!” I said, immediately apologetic.
“No, no, it’s fine! I pulled back in time. The Lord was watching over us, so everything turned out ok!”
For a millisecond, my smile was frozen on my face while I tried to decide what to say next. I went with: “Well, I’m happy for your reflexes! It’s amazing all these little near-misses that happen every day, huh?”
“The Lord is protecting us in ways we don’t even realize!” he suggested. At this point we were walking side-by-side, both obviously going to the grocery store, so we had no choice but to spend the next 20-30 seconds of our lives together.
“It’s a beautiful day out!” I said.
“It sure is,” he replied, “And it’s supposed to stay that way the rest of the week!”
“Is it? That’s wonderful!” I opined, “And people are saying it will be a mild summer, as well.”
“Lord willing!” was his reply.
We reached the entrance to the store. He started to walk in, and I paused to pick up a basket. As the distance between us grew, I called out in parting: “Have a great day!”
“Have a blessed day!” he replied with a smile. Again, there was a millisecond pause where I considered how to reply… but then the moment was past, the opportunity was lost. He was gone.
A part of me felt bad, like I had missed a perfect chance! Something simple, like a parting, “Hail Satan!” — spoken with a genuine pleasant smile, of course. I played out that scenario in my imagination. How would he have reacted? There is no way of knowing for sure. Fear, anger, and attempt to get into a philosophical debate? Who knows. Perhaps he would simply have laughed, thinking it was a joke.
Would he have recognized that I was mirroring his own behavior: offering a pleasant parting remark, in soothing tones and with a smile? Would he have seen my “Hail Satan” as the exact functional equivalent, socially and psychologically, of his “Have a blessed day”, except expressed through the language of a different symbolic system? Would he then have taken the comment in the spirit in which it was intended, and smiled in return?
That is what I did in my response to him. I could have said, “What God?” or elaborated more specifically: “I don’t believe in God.” But I understood how he meant his remarks, I felt instinctively that he meant me no ill will. So I replied to what I thought his underlying intent was, rather than to his words. Would he have done the same for me, if I had wished him a parting, “Ave Satanas”?
“Oh come on!” the skeptic might reply, “You know darn well how people will react to Hail Satan! The only reason you could have for saying that is to provoke! Don’t try to pretend your ‘Hail Satan’ would be just as innocent as his ‘have a blessed day’.”
But this is the real root of the issue. Being a Satanist, there is literally no way for me to use a “phrase of blessing” that is true to my own religion without also being aware that it is a confrontational act. If you want to openly be a Satanist in today’s world, you are forced to embrace the aspect of Ba’al. You cannot simply be.
For a Satanist, some acts are simultaneously sincere expressions of deeply-held feelings, and at the same time are also acts of defiance. Like an interracial couple holding hands in public in the 1930’s, saying “hail Satan” is not just one or the other. It is both.
Today, my opportunity was lost. I took the higher road that I never expect others to take. And the man I met has no idea of the path the conversation could have taken. Maybe some day he will feel what it is like to be on the other side of that equation. Maybe some day he will have to pause for a millisecond to think about how he should react, when someone smiles and with a genuine open heart says,