It was a misty winter day on Main Street. Maria had just paid a fine. Her shoulders hung low as she walked slowly past the mattress store. That’s where she met Nick who was handing out leaflets. Normally, she would brush such leaflets aside and not even register people like Nick, but today was different. She took a leaflet and Nick took his chance.
“Hi. I’m with the Church of the Stolen Cross,” Nick explained.
“Really?” Replied Maria, “Can you tell me a little about that?”
“We fight Satan,” explained Nick, “and all his works.”
“Don’t all churches?”
“No. Only us.”
Maria paused. “I’m not sure I believe in Satan.”
“Do you not watch the news?” asked Nick. “Are you not aware of all the evil in the world – the disease, hunger, war?”
“Yes, I am aware of all of those things,” replied Maria indignantly,
“Then why are you trying to minimise them?” Asked Nick.
“Then why don’t you want to do something about them?”
“I do want to do something about them”
“Then you need to join us at the Church of the Stolen Cross.” Nick concluded.
“But why? Aren’t there other ways of addressing these issues?” Asked Maria.
“No. You are either a member of the Church of the Stolen Cross or you are a Satanist. Those are the only two options available.” Nick explained.
Maria was aghast. “What?! Are you saying I’m a Satanist? I was actually raised a Catholic although I’ve lost my faith these last few years. I’m certainly not a Satanist!”
“If I may say so,” observed Nick, “that is quite a fragile response. You need to stop centering yourself and your feelings. Satan is everywhere, not least the Catholic Church. And Satan is behind atheism. You don’t have to attend a Satanic mass in order to uphold Satan’s works – that’s just a cliche. Doing nothing supports Satanism. In these dark times – these terrible years – it’s time to pick a side. Fight Satan or be a Satanist.”
Maria pondered this for a moment. “So, Satan is everywhere and the only way to fight him is to join your church. Anything else is Satanism. Am I right?”
Maria hesitated. “I don’t know much about the Church of the Stolen Cross but I have heard you have some strange beliefs about women’s rights, gay rights, vaccines and other aspects of modern medicine. Is that right?”
Nick shook his head. “Our beliefs are not strange. They are all about fighting Satan.”
“Can you explain how?” asked Maria.
“I can do better than that,” Nick suggested, “I can provide you with a list of books to read that explain all of these issues with great clarity. It’s the same list of books I was given when I joined.”
“Did you read them?” asked Maria.
“Bits and pieces but that’s not really the point. When I knew there were a whole lot of books that explained these things then I new these things must have explanations and stopped worrying. The Church of the Stolen Cross aligns with the science – the best science – and it aligns with scholarship – the best scholarship. It’s beautiful.”
“Huh.” Maria processed this explanation. “So, if I did want to join – and I’m not yet saying I do – what would be the first step?”
Nick smiled. “Well, you would need to make a full, public statement expressing remorse for your sins and renouncing Satan and all his works. But you must not centre yourself. The focus must always be on those who are harmed by Satan.”
Maria’s gaze was fixed on the ground. “How can I make a full, public statement expressing remorse and renouncing Satan without centring myself?”
But when she looked up, Nick had moved down the street and was handing a leaflet to an old gentleman with a walking stick,
Maria turned and walked away.