He was a tall, dark, and handsome stranger standing in front of me in the grocery store line. He was “Oh my goodness fine.” But, I was cool, thumbing through a special edition of Rolling Stone about John Lennon.
The man said something out loud, and I looked up. He seemed to be reciting his grocery list.
“Excuse me,” I said.
“Oh no. It’s nothing. I am talking to myself,” he said.
“That’s fine. As long as you do not answer yourself, you are ok,” I said looking back at the magazine.
“And if I do answer myself?” he asked.
“Then I would suggest to you that you seek professional help.”
We both laughed.
“I suppose that may not be a bad idea,” he said.
“Absolutely not,” I replied. “More people in the United States of America ought to seek professional help. If you are not already crazy, this country, especially now, will make you crazy.”
“Sign of the times,” he said.
“Look around. Violence, drug and alcohol abuse. We all need to have a mental health primary care doc the same say we have a physical primary care doc,” I said.
“I think you may be right,” he said. “Are you a Beatles fan?” he asked noticing the magazine.
“”I am,” I said. “I am especially interested in John and his opposition to war in general and to the Vietnam War in particular.”
The line had moved forward, and he not only paid for his groceries but he paid for mine as well. I protested, but he insisted. So, I just said thank you.
As we were leaving the store, he asked me out to dinner, saying he would like to talk some more about my ideas on war and peace and John Lennon. My shields went up. I was at once wary and intrigued. What is the deal with this handsome stranger who just paid for my groceries?
“You ought to know that I am a personally conservative and politically radical,” I said. This was my way of saying that he had not bought a sexual encounter.
“That sounds interesting,” he said. “I tell you what: let me give you the name of a restaurant that I like and if you want to join me for dinner, say Saturday night around 6, then come. If you do not come, I will not be hurt.”
He did not ask for my number. He did not say that he would text me. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a small notebook and a very expensive pen and wrote down the name and address of a very expensive downtown restaurant. He handed me the paper with a smile. A beguiling, charismatic, intriguing smile.
“I will think about it,” I said. “What is your name?” I asked.
“Belial Set,” he replied.
I told him my name. We shook hands and parted ways.
“Belial Set,” I thought. “This is a strange name.” I said it to myself a few times because I did not want to forget. The moment I got home, I would Google him.
When I did Google him, I found a connection to the devil, but nothing else. Set was the Egyptian god of chaos. This man was not real. He could not be serious. “Who would name their son Belial?” I thought. Maybe he is crazy. I thought and thought for days until I finally decided to go. There was room on my credit card to pay for a nice meal at an expensive restaurant and to get myself there and home.
Saturday night came. It took me a minute to decide not to wear the high heels with my going out to dinner at a nice restaurant little black dress. I have decided to unbind my feet from high heels, so I chose the rose gold flats. I powdered my nose and was out the door.
He was at the restaurant when I arrived, waiting at the bar looking as handsome, no as beautiful, as I remembered. He waved me over and we did not have to wait at all for a table. We were seated at a very nice table. The wait staff at the restaurant knew him well. I was intentional about paying attention to this man, how he walked and talked and interacted with people. There was something different about him, but I could not quite put my finger on what it was. He was alluring.
“I Googled you,” I said. “But, did not find out much. What do you do, and why do you not have an Internet footprint?”
“You could say that I am in mergers and acquisitions,” he replied. “I have an Internet footprint, just not the kind you are accustomed to finding because I am Satan aka Lucifer.”
“I am out to dinner with a crazy man,” I thought. “How am I going to get myself out of here quickly and safely?”
“You think I ought to seek professional help, don’t you.” he said flashing his lightning bright compelling smile.
“Well, I am not crazy. I am who I say that I am. I Googled you too. I know that you are a scholar, a writer, and a moral philosopher. I know that you think that Jesus is the human incarnation of Divine Love. I also know that you believe in the unity of believers with Jesus and with the Creator, who is Divine Love. Why would it be difficult for you to believe that I am the opposite, the human incarnation of deified evil?”
“Is evil not simply the privation of good as St. Augustine taught?” I asked.
“No. If Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, why is it difficult for you to believe that there could be a human incarnation of deception and death? If Jesus came to make people choose, I am necessary for there to be a choice. We all have free will to choose, even me, especially me. Islam is right. I chose not to bow to humanity, but to make humanity bow to me. I feed their pride and envy and fear. Look around you. Consider the state of the world. My handiwork is everywhere.”
I was intrigued. Even if this handsome charismatic man was crazy, he was an interesting crazy, so I decided to stay and to see where the conversation would take us. We ordered dinner and talked about war and peace and John Lennon and Aretha Franklin.
Toward the end of the meal, over the most delicious chocolate mousse I have ever tasted, he told me his greatest achievement.
“So-called Christians voting for Donald Trump,” he said with a smile. “I am a liar. I am a trickster. I am a slanderer, an accuser, Jesus was right about me. I am a liar and the father of lies. The trick to getting people who claim to be the people of God to do my bidding is to give them a cause that becomes more important to them than God, more important than the Word of God and the teachings of that Son of Man, Jesus.”
“So what did you do?” I asked.
“I made them pro-life. I gave them a mandate to protect unborn life. The result is that they will form political coalition with anyone to achieve that goal. The Supreme Court has become their golden cow. Think about it. They support a man who you call, and I quote, ‘a lying bigot birther sexual predator Russian asset unindicted co-conspirator moron idiot 3rd grader minority president.’ And, you are right. They enter into coalition with the fossil fuel industry that is causing global warming, with the rich who are getting tax cuts that are causing a budget deficit as far as the eye can see, with people who want to take away healthcare coverage, who never did expand Medicaid to the poor because it was the proposal of a black man.
“They are in coalition with the NRA and with people who separate children from their families, with white supremacists and neo-Nazis. They have a one-dimensional concept of pro-life.”
At this point my fascination started to turn into anger.
“And Brett Kavanaugh. The good Christians supported another liar, a drunken frat boy who has no business on the high court.” He laughed a laugh that sent chills down my spine. “I am sitting on my porch cross-legged.”
“Do you know what you are doing?” I asked, my blood running hot then ice cold. “If Roe v Wade is overturned, women will suffer and die. If the political coalition you just described wins elections, there will be rising seas, more toxic algae polluting beaches, more protected federal lands given over to the devastation of fracking. We are seeing the end of treaties intended to stop or at least slow down nuclear proliferation. We are talking about the shredding of the social safety net and more. People will die.”
He smiled his beautiful smile. “We are all going to die anyway. I do not care if people die. I am interested in suffering, in confusion, division. I want people afraid of each other and not talking to each other. My goal is dystopia and the good Christians are going to make this happen in the name of Jesus.”
“Don’t you understand that if you give the government permission to force a woman to have a baby that the government will have the power to force a woman NOT to have a baby?” I asked.
“Exactly,” he said. This time he laughed out loud. “These people think in decades. I think in centuries, in millennia. They have forgotten that the first shall be last and the last first. There will come a time when governments will force abortions on women because they have given the government power over women’s bodies.”
“The future you want is one where there is war of all against all with small arms and nuclear weapons, where humankind is living on a dying planet.”
He nodded yes.
“Why are you telling me all this?” I asked.
“Because you already know.”
“And suppose I tell other people what you have just said to me?”
“Whoever you tell will advise you to seek attention from a mental health professional.”
I immediately said good night and took an Uber home, walking away, running away from deified evil incarnate in the most handsome man that I had ever met.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”