It was dark. The kind of back-road Southern dark where the devil growls a low country blues and cicadas chirp like Hell’s own minions. I was driving back from a late meeting with a co-worker and we had spent a couple of hours in the kind of small talk that people make when the road is long and the real conversation ended a ways back. You know: colicky kids, my-mom-is-more-of-a-doting-grandmother-than-yours, pet stories.
Into one of the longer silences, she speaks. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the end lately.”
Oh no. I play stupid. “The end?”
“You know, the End. Of. The. World.”
I sped up around a curve, catching sight of a church sign. Jesus is Lord here. Good thing. I need a little Lordship about now.
“Why is that?”
“It’s just that. Well, I don’t know how you feel about Obama. Or I guess I do. “
“Well, you’re a Democrat.”
This causes me to launch into a long monologue on how the last time I was registered as a party member it was as a Republican, not mentioning that it was a long time ago, and it was solely as a technique to be able to vote in primaries, since the Democratic party was even deader in that place than it is in South Carolina. She doesn’t buy a word of it.
“Okay, well anyway. It’s just that Obama fulfills all the signs of the Anti-Christ.”
Anti-Christ. Oh, that. Yeah.
“Really?” I grip the wheel so hard, we drift slightly to the right and the crunch of the gravel restores my sanity. “Like what?”
“Like doing away with the dollar and attacking Israel. And also, he’s a Muslim.”
“The Bible says the Anti-Christ is Muslim? I thought it said the Anti-Christ was a Gnostic.” (2 John 1:7)
“No, not an agnostic. You see he’s going to install a One World Government and make people take his mark so they can’t even buy food. I thought you were a minister? How can you not know that?” (“Are you a teacher of Israel and you do not know these things?” Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:10)
“It’s not that I don’t know it. I’ve studied it. I just don’t think it’s true.”
I switch the headlights to bright and they dance off the trees lining the road. The red eyes of the demons in the branches mock me. We will get you, liberal. You will burn with us.
“Look, do us both a favor. I want you to read the best book on the Anti-Christ ever written. it was written by a young Lutheran pastor who looked the Anti-Christ in the eye and resisted him, even though it meant his death. The book is Ethics, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Read that and then, let’s talk.”
She is quiet again for a long time. I can hear my heart beating over the whine of the tires on asphalt. We are getting close to her house.
“I’ve never heard of him. Have you read Left Behind?”
I want to scream, “Yes, goddammit! It’s stupid, heretical crap designed to relieve of your money and any good theology you might have ever learned!” But I only nod.
“It was kind of poorly written. I liked Harry Potter better.”
“Oh.” We pull up into her driveway. “Thanks for the ride. Talk to you soon.” The door thuds, a bit too hard. I wave goodbye and drive off into the night, the terrors of Armageddon fading back into the mist.