Parkdale Religion

I should know better by now than to go into the McDonalds at King & Dufferin. Every time I do, someone harasses me. As soon as I sat down at my little table in the corner, I became the audience for the gospel as spoken by Darren and his girlfriend. They looked normal, unremarkable, just another happy couple. He was wearing a white shirt and brown tweed sport-coat which matched his hair and beard. She had dull blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, and a white sweatshirt. They were a few tables down from me, across an aisle. That was close enough for them to strike up a conversation which started innocently enough but escalated quickly. Darren informed me that I looked like someone he knew. Usually when a guy says something like that my guard goes up, but he was with his woman and I wasn't getting that vibe from him anyway, so I continued to eat my fries and replied, "oh." I guess my 'oh' sounded really friendly because he continued to talk.

"You know, I could sense you were a friendly person. I have a gift for that sort of thing. I can tell if a person has goodness in their heart. Often I'll be somewhere, like at this one concert I went to, and I'll be getting into the music spiritually, and I'll strike up a conversation with someone who ends up being from Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, which is where I'm from. It's not a psychic thing, but it's a gift. All of those gifts, whether they're musical, or the gift of gab... they're all the work of God."

I looked over at his girlfriend, a sort of mousey, slouchy, puffy girl in glasses, and she was nodding and staring at me. Darren was looking at the sky, or what would have been the sky if it wasn't blocked by the ceiling of the McDonalds. He had this look on his face that suggested he was already experiencing the Rapture. I knew I was in the presence of a serious nutbar. This was going to be prime lunch entertainment. I unwrapped my first cheeseburger. He went on.

"The two of us have read a lot of books, about World War II, and Hitler, and how he was a terrible man and hurt so many people. We didn't know a lot of the stuff before reading about it, and now we preach that that kind of thing is terribly wrong. He was possessed by evil. A lot of people every day are possessed by demon spirits, and they're very bad people, but they pretend to be nice. Just a few minutes ago an older man was sitting where you're sitting right now, and we began to preach to him and he got very angry. But that's Satan's effect. He doesn't want you to listen to the truth. The man kept saying to us, "But I'm a nice man - I'm a good man!" but I could tell he was Slavic and they're all bad." Darren wrinkled his nose as if the Slavic man was not just bad, but smelly too.

"The more full of the greatness of the Lord you become, the more of an effect you will have, casting demons out. They'll just rise up and out of people. Why, just the other day, we got on a streetcar, and we were just looking at this one man, and he suddenly began to SCREAM at us - "WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT???" and the whole streetcar was in an uproar. That's what the Lord Jesus can do, when you're full of his goodness. Some people can hold the devil inside for a while, but eventually it just rises up and out of them."

At this point, the girlfriend chimed in. Till now she had been content to nod vacuously yet zealously at everything Darren said.

"Hitler, he pretended to be nice. He would go around, shaking people's hands, acting as if he was in everyone's best interests. But in reality he was making murderous plans. He persecuted homosexuals, lesbians, Jews... and even though Jews are greedy, that doesn't make it right. Two wrongs don't make a right. And now the German people feel bad; they suffer from that history."

Back to Darren again.

"And God knows a lot about love too. He knows how to match people up. For example, he put [I've forgotten her name] into my life to ease the suffering I feel in my flesh. You see, my mother abandoned me when I was just 6 years old, and I was very upset my whole life. And [whatzername] is like my mother in so many ways. Knock and the door shall be answered! Seek and you shall find! I think God matches you with someone that rubs you a little bit the wrong way on purpose, so that each of you rub each others' bad parts out and learn and grow as individuals. But I have a brother who looks like her, and instead of choosing the path of the Lord, he chose the path of money, and his heart is cold inside."

[whatzername]: "And I have a girlfriend who is similar to Darren, but she chose the path of money also and she's very unhappy in her life. You see, there are only two paths: the path of the Lord or the path of money. You can't go both ways because money is the root of all evil and if you pursue it there's nowhere else you can go. I get disgusted at the churches these days that just pass around plates for people to empty their pockets. The Word of God was not meant to be turned into a business and those men are evil. Like we were at this one place the other day - the Prayer Palace. And they had a BUCKET THIS BIG [whatzername indicated about 15" with her hands] for money. That is not the goodness of God; that is not what he intended. Those people are really going to get it from God when the time comes."

By this point both of them were speaking rather loudly and were the centre of attention of all the locals in the McDonalds, who walked by, casting them sidelong glances and of course looking at me as well, no doubt trying to guage by my facial expression whether I was a fellow crazy. I was in fact calmly eating my fries, finding them highly amusing, and I didn't even know they'd hardly gotten revved up yet. Plus I was still mentally reeling from all the racially motivated judgements they were making. So I might actually have appeared crazy.

"Because you either suffer in the flesh or you suffer in the afterlife. It's one or the other. And even when you work hard to let the greatness of the Lord in, you are still suffering in this world from all the evil around you. My father was in the war, and I don't know but I think he killed a lot of people and shed a lot of blood and I still suffer in my flesh from that. He never said anything to me; he hid it from me, but I found out about stuff like that in all the books we have read about the war."

At this point I made a comment about war being a little bit more complicated than that, and that even though I did not presume to know her father, I didn't think that just because he was in a war made him evil. But that just made her more insane. The enjoyment (?) of my second cheeseburger was interrupted.

"THEN HE SHOULD HAVE DIED! He shouldn't have killed just to save his own skin. It's not right! He should have let his life go rather than bowing to evil and doing the work of Satan. If he really had the spirit of the Lord inside him, he would have refused to do those things. And I still suffer from them, the killings. Now Darren and I, we won't be a part of that. The era of the Antichrist is around the corner, and the government will make all citizens get a computer chip planted in either their arm or their forehead - the number of the beast - 666 - and the computer network around the world is the work of Satan. But Darren and I are going to refuse, and we're going to trust in God to provide us with food and protection during that time of darkness."

What could I do but nod dumbly? The tendons in the woman's neck were tight, her eyes were set on me, and I certainly didn't want to say anything that would work them up enough to come over to my table. I was relieved to notice that she seemed to tone right down after her revelation.

Soon after this, they gathered their stuff up and left, bidding me good day and commenting on how nice it was to talk with me (at me). I watched them walk out of the McDonalds and then looked around the room to see everyone's pitiful glances directed my way. I ignored them and finished my fries.