The food was distributed around the table and, thoughtlessly hungry, I took a couple of bites.
It was a kind of record-scratch moment I guess because everyone paused and looked at me in horror. The matron of the house sternly told me “we haven’t prayed yet.” The shock made her eyes widen and she spoke through clenched teeth, so I knew I had broken a fundamental rule.
Worse yet, she told me that any food eaten before prayer “went to Satan.” Holy Crap, I’d really done it now.
When I was a child, my family often had dinner at the house of a family we went to church with and that is where the above event happened. The whole household was very fundamentalist, as was the rest of my church, i.e. most of the people I knew. I suppose that, technically speaking, we might have been called Evangelicals, but the low-church fundamentalist protestantism of my denomination was also light years away from that world, culturally speaking. It was a bit cloistered in a superstition-heavy religion, under the powerful sway of dispensationalism, Chick Tracts and Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness.
So while the memory of my dinner-table snafu is a particularly vivid one, it was not an isolated one. Much of my memory of church from those days is set at night, and I’m sitting in thinly padded pews listening to speculation about how News Event X fit into the Great Tribulation narrative. This religious upbringing surely formed my imagination, both theologically and otherwise. From as far back as I can remember, I’ve loved monsters, tales of the paranormal, and horror films. I guess I feel at home with them.
I often think back to this particular event as it uniquely triggered my imagination. If what my family friend said was correct, I had actual power over the forces of evil in the universe. If that food went to Satan, then Satan somehow needed food. I didn’t imagine the food I’d sent his way as part of some ritual sacrifice like one sees in the Old Testament. No, I got the distinct impression that the Son of Perdition had dietary requirements. I was convinced that he needed his three square meals a day to maintain the strength to deceive humanity on its way to eternal destruction.
So I had an idea.
If I, as a savvy eight-year-old, could somehow make sure every bit of food was blessed, before consumption, then we as a race could starve the Devil and then go ahead and live happy lives. And it would probably only take a couple of months. Heck, I even factored in the possibility that since he was a supernatural being with incredible abilities, it might even take six months. But still, with just a little bit of discipline for a small amount of time, we could solve all the problems of the world.
I spent a few days planning this (being sure to pray before every bit of food).
This was, I suppose, my first attempt at organizing.
I began problem solving. I was sure I could get my parents involved in this effort; they already did this anyway, except for fast food pickups at the drive-thru. The church was also doable, though more difficult. I trusted that most of them would have been on-board with the concept, but I couldn’t practically monitor their devotion. I was sure that most of the older kids in the teen group wouldn’t even try.
But then what? My town? Let alone the state and rest of the nation. There was no internet and I was no Greta Thunberg anyway so how could I rally millions of people to this cause? And all those complications paled in comparison to what to do with the people of other faiths or even atheists, who I knew from Chick Tracts existed though I hadn’t really met one yet.
And then there was the science behind it all. I knew so little about Satan’s physiology. He as a snake at one time, I knew, and I knew that a snake could live off of one meal for months. What if a single person in some far-off corner of the globe had an apple without thinking? That might blow the whole project. And there was still the issue of all those atheists.
In the end, I sadly decided that this was a silly waste of time, though I still wonder if it isn’t a darn great idea.
This was, I suppose, my last attempt at organizing.
To read more installments of Danny Anderson Writes Into The Abyss, and to keep up with the other writing and podcasting I do (over at The Sectarian Review). Click the link to subscribe to a free, weekly newsletter. And if you like this, tell a friend?