CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) — Walter Slonopas has a simple philosophy of life.
Do one small thing for God.
And God, he says, will take care of the rest.
“If you do something for God, I believe that God never leaves you alone,” he said.
Slonopas made headlines worldwide in 2012 when he quit his job at a Clarksville company over the number 666 appearing on his W2 tax form. The number — which is mentioned in the Book of Revelation — had previously shown up on his ID badge twice.
Accepting that number, Slonopas felt at the time, would have been disrespectful to God. He still feels the same way.
“I knew it was the devil’s mark and I could not accept it,” he told Religion News Service during a recent interview.
Quitting his job turned out pretty well for Slonopas, now 59.
A few months after he quit, he got a job offer and a raise in pay from another local company. He eventually made $12 more an hour than his previous work. Meanwhile, his former employer shut down its Clarksville facility not long after he left.
He doesn’t think the notoriety surrounding his departure had anything to do with the factory closing. Slonopas said it was a difficult decision to leave. But he was glad for a chance to do the right thing. And in the end, Slonopas said, God did not forget him.
“Looks like I got my blessing,” he said, with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eye.
Slonopas felt at times that people misunderstood his reasons for leaving his old job. When the story first made headlines, he spent time reading some of the comments left by readers at news websites.
Most commenters — even some of his fellow Christians — thought he was an idiot, he said. And he was disappointed that so many of the commentators didn’t seem to share his beliefs about God.
His decision was more about being faithful than about claiming his former employer had done something evil. It wasn't that the 666 on his tax form was what the Bible calls “the mark of the beast” — which some Christians see as a sign of the end times — he said. But he called it "the Devil's number" and felt that he would betray God by accepting it.
Slonopas said that since as a Christian he works for God, he couldn’t stay at the job.
“If you believe in God,” he said, “you have to resist a devil.”
Slonopas said that at first, he enjoyed doing interviews about his story. But that got old pretty quickly. Being famous, he said, is for the birds.
“I don’t want to be a Hollywood man,” said Slonopas, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s.
He said there’s much more to his life than 666.
Faith has long been a lifeline to his family. His mother and grandmother — “a big believer in God" — were imprisoned by the Nazis in their native Poland during the Second World War. Slonopas grew up in the Soviet Union, which annexed part of Poland after the war, and he said his family members kept their faith despite the Soviet Union’s official atheism.
When Slonopas was a teenager, he and a friend were looking through a barn and came across a crate of books from the pre-Soviet era. Among them was a book about the life of Jesus, which he gave to his grandmother, and some missionary magazines. Finding those books made him think someday he could publish books of his own.
He eventually started a ministry producing a series of books in Russian, titled “What the Bible Says About.”
The books came about after a series of conversations with his son about the Bible and faith. He said that growing up, his kids had questions about faith and he spent a lot of time researching the Bible for answers. Slonopas thought that other parents might find the information helpful and turned his research into books, which he and his wife give away.
There’s no charge for the books, which Slonopas funds by using about 10 percent of his salary.
“That’s God’s money,” he said. “So why I charge you for something that God paid for?”
Slonopas and his wife recently returned to Tennessee after spending several years in Virginia, helping out with the grandkids. He said the 666 story has stuck with him — almost anyone he meets soon learns about the story.
When they meet him, Slonopas said, most people realize he’s not an idiot. And he’s still outspoken about his faith. He said sometimes churches stress forgiveness but don’t ask people to mend their ways.
“We have to repent and follow God's help to put our faith back to God,” he said.
Slonopas plans to start a new job after the first of the year. He hopes go to on working for God as long as he can.
“Now you know the rest of the story,” he said.