Quick Critique: The Passion of the Christ

Watched The Passion of the Christ for the first time tonight.  I’ve always felt I should see it, as a good little atheist, but I didn’t want to pay for it and never got around to ordering it from the library.

Ten years out, there’s not much (if anything) I can say about the hugely controversial movie that hasn’t already been said:

Yes, it is bloody.  Really extraordinarily so.  Like, the bloodiest movie you can think of, the one you would never show a kid?  (Robocop, of course, comes trippingly to mind.  And now I really want to watch Robocop.)  Yeah, Passion is way bloodier.

So, as if we didn’t know, Mel Gibson wants to make sure we get it: being beaten and scourged and crucified would suck.  A lot.

It’s really gross.  And I have a pretty strong stomach, so that’s saying a lot.

Gibson also proves himself a fan of slo-mo.  As in, the guard will sloooowly rear back, and sloooowly whack Jesus with a stick, and the blood droplets will sloooowly fly away from Jesus’ back.  It’s all filmed very lovingly.

Meanwhile, the Evil Jews sloooowly watch the whole thing, while Androgynous Satan sloooowly wanders around amongst the Jews.  Just so we get how evil they all are.

So yes, the movie is just as anti-Semitic as you’ve heard.

It’s also quite homophobic.  I’ve mentioned in the past that the Left Behind series surprised me by being even more anti-Catholic than anti-atheist.  And Passion surprised me in a similar way—I mean, I had heard about the anti-Semitism and expected it.  I hadn’t heard about homophobia, but…well, if you are inclined to watch this movie, pay attention to the Herod scene (it’s hard not to do so).  You’ll see what I mean.

I suppose one cannot expect much surprise from such a well-known story, but I just could not connect with the characters (the one exception being Judas, for the few minutes he was onscreen).  The reaction I had was visceral, not emotional.  As in, yes, it is awful that this guy is going through all that pain.  But it would be awful for anyone.  I felt just as bad for the two thieves (we didn’t see them actually being staked, but they were).  I winced several times—the weird whip-with-barbs thing would catch on Jesus’ back, I would wince.  They staked his hand, I winced.  But (I don’t know how else to put this, though I know I’ll sound like a jerk), I didn’t care.  That is, I didn’t care about the character Jesus, being unjustly tormented.  I cared because holy crap, ouch, I can hardly believe that anyone could do this to another person.

It takes forever for Jesus to get out of the city.  Which I guess it would, but this is the part where I really started to get bored.  Jesus walks…and walks…and people are generally jerks…and some dickweed kicks Jesus, and Jesus sloooowly goes ass over teakettle.  Why this in slow motion, Mel Gibson?  Like it wasn’t enough that the poor dude’s back was ripped to shreds, now some dickweed makes him trip?

Anyway, as we all know, some random from the crowd is dragooned to help carry the cross.  Initially reluctant (who wouldn’t be?), he ends up doing it in pretty good humor, all things considered.

I kid, but the guy has one of the few emotionally-resonant lines in the whole movie.  As they get out of the city gates, he helps Jesus up (again) and says, “we’re almost there.”  It’s pretty sweet, actually.  Like, I’m not sure this can be seen as good news (c wut I did thar), but at least he’s trying to be comforting.  He’s a nice guy.

The actual staking to the cross was a bit anti-climatic after the beating Jesus got, although, as I mentioned above, the first stake through the hand was a wince-inducer.

Oh, and one other bit stood out—although most of the gore effects were good to excellent, the spear-in-Jesus’-side one was laughably bad.  As in, I actually laughed.

I also laughed out loud when God’s tear caused an earthquake.

As if there was doubt, I am totally going to Hell.

A few other observations:

We only really see three of the disciples: Judas, Peter, and James.  I liked the actor who played Peter.  He portrayed Peter much as I’ve always seen him—as a big, whiny, self-important baby.

Judas was pretty cool, too.  I wish the whole movie was about him.  I also thought he was kinda cute.

Speaking of which, James is an absolute hottie.  Unfortunately, he seems, at most, mildly put out by the whole situation.

Mary Magdalene was gorgeous.  I can see why Jesus was into her.

The one vaguely interesting bit was the aside about the origin of the Shroud of Turin (fake though it is).

Anyway, just a quick pre-Easter mini-critique, as I just saw this on TV, and thus have no means to watch it slowly and multiple times, the way I usually do.  Have you guys seen Passion?  What did you think?

Silenced: Chapter 27: Less Than Masculine

A thought has occurred to me as I near the ending of the book, guys.  I’ll get to it in a few minutes, and it will become clearer as The Big Event draws nigh.

In the meantime, Jae arrives in Paris and spends an entire page putzing around the hotel room.  Paul, who is “busy” with the SWAT dudes and dudettes getting ready to nab Styr Magnor, has left Jae instructions to watch the TV news.  The bores the crap out of poor Jae, so she decides to nose around in Paul’s computer instead.

She shouldn’t be snooping, Jae decided, but on the other hand she was here on the NPO’s nickel, and that was what they expected of her.  That was, plainly, rationalization…

A distant memory made her wonder if Paul had ever changed his password.  He had once used her first name, followed by the last digit in the year of each of their births—his, hers, Brie’s, and Connor’s.  She tapped it in.  Bingo.

Paul is the most incompetent super-spy in the history of incompetence.  I mean, seriously?  He keeps his password the same for this many years, and it’s something that anyone, let alone his wife, could crack in three minutes?

So of course, Jae happens upon Paul’s drafts of the Christian manifesto.

She could come to no other conclusion than he had flipped.

OH, YOU THINK???

Jae moved in and out of the various rooms in Paul’s suite, banging the walls, pulling her hair, grunting in frustration.  Why couldn’t he be here?  Why did he have to be gone?  Why could she not know where he was?

God, women are so whiny all the time.  Good thing Jae has a Christian husband’s strong hand to guide her.

Of one thing she was certain, there would be no more cat-and-mouse games between them.  As soon as he walked through that door, she would put it to him.  She wanted to know.  He had to tell her.

I find it hilarious that Paul continually congratulates himself, and Jae is continually grateful, for Paul’s changed-man-edness, yet this is the first time Jae determines that they should have an actual direct conversation.

***

Speaking of manliness and womanliness, Paul is planning things out with the “major general of the International Government of Peace, in charge of special weapons and tactics.”  He’s an Indian man named Garuda “Gary” Vibishana, and has the following strange take on the site of the meet-up with Styr Magnor:

“…I cannot be [inside the pub] unless there are customarily people of color in that establishment.  I’m guessing there are not, and thus I would stand out.”

“I’m afraid that would be an understatement,” Paul said.  “A blue-collar pub would likely be a holdout against political correctness and diversity.”

Bwah?

Okay, first of all, is Paul saying that political correctness and diversity are good things?  Because he might have to turn in his RTC card now.

And isn’t it just like those silly blue collar workers, eh?  So unenlightened.  It’s not that I’m surprised that Paul is this classist, given his covetousness and near-worship of the rich, but this is pretty blatant.

(The above link reminds me that I like to picture Berlitz Decenti being played by Martin Freeman.

And finally, why wouldn’t this working-class pub in London have patrons who are people of color?  Especially Indians, who are the largest group of people of color in the city.  Remember, Atheistopia is a liberal paradise, with stupendous medical advances and an end to homelessness.  The world is united—one government, one currency.  And Paul and Gary still think it impossible that a dark-skinned man would patronize a pub?

Sigh.  Whatever.

Oh, and not only are blue-collar workers insular and bigoted—they also smell bad!

Because Paul’s stinky clothes make a comeback:

Paul dug through he stuff and pulled out the bag containing what he called his drinking outfit.

“Perfect,” Vibishana said.  “It even smells.”

“That’s from wearing it during half a dozen workouts and never washing it.”

That is so gross.  How has Jae ever shared a bed with this man?

Also, these two men think that an Indian would be less accepted at a pub than a white man who smells like a hockey bag?

But race relations and foul clothing aren’t the only things Gary Vibishana discusses:

“My best camouflage is a slight limp,” the Indian said, “making me look less than masculine.  Harmless.”

Wow.  Dude.

Because disabilities make you look, what, womany?

Okay, fine, I’ll play along.  But first, check this out:

(Approximately 298,000 times manlier than Vibishana and Paul combined.)

(See all those people frozen in place, Vibishana/Paul/Jenkins?
That man in the wheelchair did that.)

But who cares about stereotyping the disabled when there’s more clothes drama???  The SWAT team assembles and is comprised of both Manly Men and members of the weaker, womany-er, child-bearing-er sex.

…the personnel—men and women—immediately stripped to their underwear where they sat and changed into their getups.

So Atheistopia is basically Battlestar Galactica.

Frakking brilliant.

Paul was intrigued by where they found to hide their firepower.

Oh, was he?  I’ll just bet he was, eh?  Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, say no more.

So, they’ll all hang at the pub (I guess Vibishana is the only person of color on the team of thirty) and Paul will knock over a glass when he sees Magnor sit down.  I don’t care.

***

Back in the hotel room, Jae muses:

Was this how God revealed Himself to her?  By discovering that her husband was a secret believer?  And what did that prove?  Because Paul had turned, did that make it true?  Did that make God real?

Oh, I’m sure it does, Jae.  After all, it’s important for you to submit to the headship of your husband, so whatever he believes must be true.

And this brings up my thought from the top of this post:

As far as Paul knows, Jae is still an atheist, albeit one who is listening to the New Testament.  And the clock is ticking on God’s judgment on the firstborns of nonbelievers.  So why isn’t Paul terrified for the fate of his son, Connor?  (Indeed, he hasn’t spared a thought for the boy in…well, longer than I can remember.)  Connor, after all, is 50% the child of a nonbeliever.  Shouldn’t Paul be just a tad concerned at this point?

He’s not, and I have my suspicions why, but I’m looking forward to seeing your reactions as the judgment goes down, and some males (but not others) go down with it.

 

Silenced: Chapter 26: Theme Music

Ranold drops Jae at the airport (two hours from D.C. to Paris, we’re informed by the ever-helpful Jenkins), and gives her a bug to plant on Paul. (Since the bug Bia planted was such crap.)

“And what about my allegiance to Paul?”

Ranold sighed. “If he proves worthy of it, then it’s not misplaced, is it? If you find he’a not worthy of it, I’m trusting you to act the way you would with any other traitor to the cause of liberty and freedom.”

Cue the theme music. [thinks Jae]

YOU DO NOT TALK THAT WAY ABOUT RANOLD!

Oh, and Jae? I have a great theme song for you and Paul.

Meanwhile, Paul calls Ball Dangler’s private skull phone. Inexplicably, the chief of staff answers this, because Dangler’s too busy with the media. I don’t get how any of this is even possible, but the important part is that Paul gets to berate the hapless chief, because “I need to talk to [Dangler] right this second.”

***

On the short flight (damn, you could make a day trip to Europe!), Jae prays. We all knew this was coming, but that makes it no less tragic.

God, she said [to herself], if there is a God, would You reveal Yourself to me somehow?

Jae didn’t know what else to say. In her listening one night, a verse had flown by that struck her as odd. Well, they all struck her as odd. It was something about never being able to please God without faith. And that anyone who wanted to come to Him had to believe there was a God. She would have to find it and listen again, because she was certain there was some kind of promise about how God would reward those who sincerely looked for Him.

Jae had added the condition “if there is a God,” and she wondered if that proved she didn’t have faith, that she didn’t really believe there was a God, that she was, in essence, hedging her bets. But what about that promise?

It is indeed a conundrum, Jae. Almost as though the God of the Bible is a big jerk with a narcissistic need to have everyone think exactly as he wants them to.

But it couldn’t be that, right?

***

Paul gets on the line (or skull, whatever) with Ball Dangler, and they have the following exchange:

“First, sir, I know that you understand many of the intricacies of international intelligence and espionage, but I would like the liberty of walking you through a few reminders. May I?”

“Please.”

Oh, yes, DOCTOR Stepola, please do condescend to me. It’s not like I have anything more important to do with my time on one of the most momentous days of my career.

Not to spoil the fun, but Paul doesn’t reveal any great “intricacies” of espionage and intelligence. He just reveals that Styr Magnor is Steffan Wren of Angry Storm. And then he asks to be put in contact with “your top military strikeforce leader” so they can take him down. Dangler agrees, because he’s just that kind of dude, and he’s been blinded by Paul’s “brilliance.”

“…we will remove the threat that looms at midnight tomorrow.” [says Dangler, who still thinks Magnor is just going to start murdering young men]

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. [Paul thinks, like the snide jerk he is]

Haha, still sucks to be you, Dangler! Your son’s gonna die, and my bully’s gonna be the biggest on the playground. Sure, I could reveal I’m a Christian and take credit for my own manifesto and try to mitigate the damage my God’s gonna do just me for, but where would be the fun in that?

***

The rest of the chapter is really boring, as Paul makes contact with the main SWAT dude and they plan to secretly meet Magnor at the pub. With stealth and stuff. It should be interesting. It’s not.

Sorry for the delays in posting lately, guys. Got some stuff going on, so we’ll be taking a few baby steps towards the horror of the end. But it’s coming. God’s big bullying climax is coming.

Silenced: Chapter 25: Brilliant!

“Ranold,” Margaret called out, “the message light is blinking on the phone.”

The message is from Bia.

International counter-terrorism: best left to answering machines.

Bia’s carrying the Idiot Ball right now: she totally bought Paul’s “Bia’s great and loves her kids” fake-out.  Seems a bit out of character for Bia to fall for such an obvious ploy, but she is a woman, amirite?  So much as mention her kids, and she’ll be putty in your hands.

Jae realizes what Paul was doing, but is pissed:

[Paul] was a master, but if his brilliance had cost her the chance of seeing him over there, she was not going to be happy.

For those keeping track, this is the second time in seven pages that Paul has been called “brilliant.”  Repeat a lie enough, right?

But Ranold is still suspicious, because fool him once…  (Also, though he doesn’t actually say so, I suspect that he hasn’t forgotten that Paul has been jealous of Bia since the moment they met.)

***

Ball Dangler makes a statement that they’re not going to negotiate with terrorists (meaning Styr Magnor, but he might as well be talking to Paul and Co.), and Paul reflects on Dangler:

…while Paul was diametrically opposed to his worldview, it had not always been that way.

“Good thing I stuck Jesus into my heart six whole months ago!  Otherwise, my kid might be dead tomorrow!  Oh well, I guess that’s just what everyone else (who’s grown up in a world where religion is outlawed) gets!  Sucks to be you, almost everyone on the planet!  Can’t make an omelette, right?”

Styr plays some more Telephone with ChappellShow, with Paul directing ChappellShow’s end of the conversation.  It’s all pretty boring and redundant, but ChappellShow manages to set up a meet with Styr at a pub in Shoreditch.

So soon we get to see Paul’s mad spy skillz in action again!

Silenced: Chapter 24: It All Comes Together, Sorta

Hey guys, sorry for the delay—hopefully this extra-long chapter makes up for it!

This chapter bounces around a bit, reminding us of little bits that we need to be thinking of in light of the upcoming slaughter.  (Or “holocaust,” as we might have it—after all, that’s how Paul refers to the killing of FIVE Christians in Soon.)

Jae convinces “the kids” that it’s okay she’s going to Europe because she’s going to try to convince Daddy to come home.  I’ll note something here that has struck me in the past—it’s usually “the kids,” rarely “Brie and Connor.”  When I think of how may parents referred to my brother and I, growing up, it was usually the reverse: “Ruby and Angus,” not “the kids.”  Maybe it’s no big deal, but it feels to me like just another way to think of the kids as props (especially props to keep Jae and Paul’s marriage together, because you absolutely can’t divorce if there are kids, right?).

Anyway, Brie and Connor are mostly okay, since they’re still riding the wave of happiness from Uncle Berlitz and Aunt Aryanna taking them to the football game.  That is so incredibly sweet.  I kinda love both Berlitz and Aryanna, and am sad that Berlitz was created to be destroyed by God/Jenkins.

It’s especially sad in light of the fact that this seems to be the only attention that Brie and Connor have enjoyed from adults in a long, long time.  Berlitz and Aryanna seem charmed by the kids, and genuinely interested in their lives and happiness.  Meanwhile, Paul can barely remember their names and Jae is simply too preoccupied with her own unhappiness and, oh yeah, the fact that she’s still married to a serially-cheating asshat.  (Only difference is, now Paul’s cheating on her with Jesus.)  Oh, and also the fact that Jae has been tuning out the kids to listen to the New Testament, but surely that’s not neglectful!

Warning Paul about the bug had been the right thing, regardless [of Jae's own uncertainty].  Jae was his wife, first, and even if it turned out he was guilty of treason, she owed him the benefit of the doubt initially.

Ah, what a good little RTC wife.

Also, I’m trying to think of a time when Paul gave Jae “the benefit of the doubt” about ANYTHING…and nothing is coming to mind.  Hell, Jae is giving Paul the benefit of the doubt when it comes to TREASON, and Paul didn’t give Jae the benefit of the doubt when she cleaned up stuff he had thrown on the floor.

After a bit of a break, Jae is back to the New Testament, now in Hebrews.

How Jae wished God would talk to her that way, and even wishing it made her realize she was making a huge assumption: that God was real.

Really?  Hell, I could wish that a leprechaun would leave a pot of untaxed gold on my doorstep, but that doesn’t mean I am assuming that leprechauns are real.  Kinda depends on the wish, no?  I could wish to win the lottery, which is real, and I could wish for a pet wolpertinger, which is not.  For someone with an advanced degree, Jae’s reasoning skills need a bit of a brush-up.

But Jenkins is going to get this girl RTC’d, gorramit, SOMEHOW.

The rest of Hebrews 1 is about how angels aren’t God, which I don’t care about, and I guess Jae doesn’t, either, since Jenkins just quotes the whole section and then cuts to the next scene, with no comment from Jae.

***

But who has time to think about the Bible when we can hate on Bia Balaam?!

Paul takes Bia to the airport in the pre-dawn hours (really, no electric airport shuttle service in four-star Atheistopian hotel?).

“You look great,” he said, and she did, especially for that time of day.  She was not a young woman but her unusual height made her look perpetually trim.

Okay.  So, if Paul’s only measurement (har) of womanly beauty is trimness, shouldn’t Bia look great all the time to him?

(Honestly, I think Paul has been attracted to Bia for a long time.  He just won’t admit it, even (especially) to himself.  In my experience, when a man is not attracted to a woman, he just stops thinking about her looks.  He doesn’t spend all his time cataloguing her every hairstyle and outfit and nuance of expression.  The asshat doth protest too much, methinks.)

They chat pleasantly on the way to the airport (oh, wow, Paul is such a great double agent!), and on the way back, Paul muses about Jae some more:

Niggling at his brain was the prospect of Jae’s showing up late that afternoon.  He longed to see her, to hold her, touch her, kiss her.  What he really wanted to do was tell her the truth about himself.

Much as Paul claims, again and again, that he’s a changed man who cares about his wife more than ever before, what he wants to do to her (not with her, mind), is look, touch, talk at.  Mind you, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing at all for a man to want to kiss his wife after a week or more apart.  Not at all.  But Paul  doesn’t want to have a conversation unhindered by miles or bugs or nosy relatives.  He doesn’t want to interact with her as a partner in their shared lives.  Nope, it’s still All About Paul—what he wants to do and what he wants to say.  Jae’s needs and desires remain irrelevant.

But he had no idea whether it would be prudent.  Was she really believing in Paul at this point, or was that just something she had to say?  She had saved his life by warning him of the bug, but she remained the most dangerous person in his life.

AND HE STILL DOESN’T TRUST HER AFTER ALL THIS.

He prayed for her as he drove.

You smug, condescending ass.

***

Over at the French Super Sekrit Hideout, ChappellShow is upset because Styr Magnor called yesterday and he (ChappellShow) hung up on him per Paul’s instructions.  (I don’t know how you “hang up on” someone on a skull phone call.  There are a series of finger taps, as discussed in the first book.  Do you clap your hand to hang up on someone?

Kinda sad, really.  So much drama has been lost from our lives because we can’t plunk the phone back into the cradle, angrily or otherwise:

So Magnor has not called ChappellShow Back yet, so ChappellShow has no idea if he’ll have anyone to take to the Spring Formal.

But Paul knows what’s truly important right now:

“What’d you think of the manifesto?”

“Brilliant.  That your work?”

Paul nodded.

So humble, he is.  Oh, and we learn something new about the French underground:

“All our groups get printable versions [of the manifesto], our e-mail contacts get a Net version, and all our press contacts get both.”

The French Underground Christians have press contacts.

Okay, so why then does Straight know next to nothing about them?  Why aren’t they better organized, more vocal?  What a bunch of idiots.

Of course, just at that moment when Paul arrives, Styr Magnor calls back.

[ChappellShow] hit a switch on his earphone that allowed Paul and Lothair to hear without it sounding to Magnor as if he was on a speakerphone.

EARPHONE WUT???  Look, you jerks, do you have skullphones or don’t you?

As they talk, Paul realizes that Styr’s voice sounds familiar, and that he hates Chancellor Ball Dangler.  Styr hates Ball Dangler, that is.  Though Paul hates him, too.

…Paul was desperately trying to remember the name of the Scandinavian cell group that vehemently opposed Baldwin Dengler’s appointment as head of the International Government.

Ah.  So Magnor is really involved in a political grudge, and is a political terrorist, not a religious terrorist.

So that’s one less religious terrorist we have, just leaving Paul and Straight and…well, every other Christian who’s sign on to the “brilliant” manifesto.

And then it came to Paul.  Angry Storm the group called itself.  They had pushed for the mayor of Oslo, Erik Buri, to assume leadership of the International Government, and he had come within a few votes of recalling Dengler and doing just that.  They vowed revenge, even though the Dengler choice would prove providential, as Buri died two years later.

That seems like a weird reading of “providential,” unless Atheistopia expects its elected officials to be immortal.

Paul grabbed a pen and a notepad and scribbled Angry Storm to show Chapp.  But as he wrote it, something else hit him.  He played with the letters.

Oh.  Of course he did.  This is a Jenkins hero.

Okay, guys, take a guess right now if you like, before reading the next paragraph…

And…

Styr Magnor was an anagram for Angry Storm.

OF COURSE IT IS.

“Huh,” Paul thought.  “And Stepola is an anagram for Apostle.  My world…imploding…”

And wait, so this Scandanavian dude anagrammed his name into English?  WHY???

Paul crossed it out and wrote, CR, ask the origin of his name.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you, Styr.  What is the origin of your name?”

Dude, really?

Okay, to be fair, it probably is difficult to work such a question gracefully into a conversation about international terrorism.

But Magnor bites:

Magnor means ‘fighter.’  It describes me perfectly.”

“And Styr?”

“I don’t know.  It’s from Norse legend.”  It was clear Magnor was bored with this and even suspicious.

GEE I WONDER WHY

And what the hell difference does it make?  He’s the political guy or not, no matter what the name really means.  And those are real names, so what is Paul trying to do?

The conversation ends with nothing really changed in the relationship, and the Christian terrorists still having no idea where the now-possibly-political terrorists are.  But at least we know Styr Magnor isn’t RTC?  I guess?

***

The announcement is made, the manifesto goes out, Ranold is pissed but fighty (love that dude), and Paul and the other terrorists snack on fruit and cheese because it’s France.

Styr gets back in touch with ChappellShow.  He knows that the manifesto is (sorta) ChappellShow’s doing, but claims credit for it himself.  There is panic in (some of) the Atheistopian citizenry, “who feared a repeat of the L.A. fiasco.”

Yep, a “fiasco.”  That’s what I always call it when millions die.

Then again, plenty of eeevil atheist citizens tell Ball Dangler that he should just sit back and let 40 hours pass, then laugh together at the mean ole religionists and their failed campaign of terror.

Too bad they don’t realize they’re the mob in an Apocalyptic Novel with a thuggish god.

Paul Googles around (since I guess he has nothing better to do, and finds out that “Magnor” means “supporter of Erik.”  This sounds wrong to me, especially since my own quick Googling reveals that Magnor does indeed mean what Styr said: fighter.  So maybe it’s a misprint, and Paul means that Styr means “supporter of Erik.”  But either my Google-fu is off today or I’m just lazy, because I’m not seeing that either.

Meh.

Either way…

That cinched it for Paul.

He knew who Styr Magnor was.

Goody.  I can’t wait until Paul has his final showdown with Styr Mag—

Silenced: Chapter 23: Next Manifesto

In a passage that mirrors the one in Soon, the manifesto against the evil atheists is written.

But Paul has Grown in the Faith, I guess, seeing as how he’s penning this one all by himself (the Soon manifesto having been written by “Old Carl”:

This he would send to Straight, who would run it past the underground leadership in Detroit, Washington, L.A., Bern, Rome, Paris, and all the other contacts around the world.  Each faction would be free to copy, forward, and disseminate the document as far and wide as they dared, including to all the major news organizations in their respective countries.

Straight has never even spoken to anyone in any of the European underground factions.  Just saying.

We aver that the current world system, which has banned for nearly four decades the practice of religion by people of faith…

Wait, so the practice of religion would be fine by people of no faith?  Glad they put this non-writer in charge of the statement.

…is an abomination in the sight of almighty God.

Too bad God let it happen, and has let generations of children grow up with no access to religion, only to be dessicated…wait, this is coming out wrong.

We ask that you rescind immediately the decree announced today and put a moratorium on laws prohibiting the practice of religion until you can determine how people of faith can peaceably live in this society without fear of reprisal.

Okay, this seems a pretty reasonable request.  I can’t see how—

We are beseeching our God to act in judgment, should this request not be carried out within forty hours of when the decree is announced, or midnight, Bern time, Tuesday, January 22.

FORTY HOURS???  Less than two days?

Okay, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.  This is actually an improvement (by a factor of FOUR) on the timeline in Soon.

We respectfully warn that you will regret ignoring this request…

This is some new, passive-aggressive permutation of “with all due respect,” is it?  Bless their atheistic hearts.

We refer you to the Old Testament account of the ten plagues that God unleashed against Egypt.  There are those among us who are asking God to eschew the first nine plagues…

There we go, guys!  This is what we’ve been building to!  Kill the firstborn!

Gee, isn’t it FUNNY how we’ve been introduced to a lot of young men who didn’t make an appearance in Soon?  (Berlitz and Taj especially, though BallDangler also mentioned that he had four sons.)

…and to refrain from hardening your heart…

“It’s almost as though we feel it was unfair of God to harden Pharoah’s heart the first time around, as though God was stacking the deck or something…nah, “God is never wrong.”

Short of this, we fear that God may not limit this plague to the seat of government but rather that it will affect the entire world.

We hope…er, fear—FEAR, that’s it…that God will rain his deadly judgment down on the entire planet.

To our brothers and sisters around the globe, we remind you that you need not feel bound by the Old Testament caveat of protecting your own households by sprinkling blood on your doorposts to identify yourself.  We believe the blood of Christ has already been shed on your behalf and that God knows his own.

“Also, that whole ‘sprinkling blood’ thing is just GROSS.  Geez, God, what were you thinking?”

After finishing the manifesto, Paul actually has a very brief moment of almost-remorse.

Paul didn’t know how to pray—that God would do it or not do it.  Such a catastrophe would eliminate any hope of these millions of slain firstborn ever entering the kingdom.

I’ve probably just been listening to too much Christian Talk Radio, but I feel like the RTC answer to this is that God would have already planned that all those firstborn sons would not be among the “elect” in the first place.  They would never have chosen to become RTCs.

(Of course, these firstborn sons, many raised in a world which has outlawed religion, have had so much opportunity to learn about Jesus and convert.)

Anyway, Paul’s brief moment of near-humanity is spoiled by stupid ole Jae, who calls Paul at that very moment…to warn him.

Kinda sad, really.  The Christians are praying for millions to be killed, and atheist Jae is risking her freedom (or, at the very least, her relationship with her parents) to save one horrible asshat.

Jae also mentions that she will be in Europe soon, and tells Paul about the entrapment with Calandre and the bug.

“Paul, hear me.  I’m on your side.  I believe you’re playing up to the underground to infiltrate them.  If I’m wrong, well, then you’re going to take me down with you.”

“Just like you’ve always done…”

Now knowing about the bug, but not wanting to make the sounds of finding it, Paul decides to “use it to his advantage.”  First, he calls Straight to warn him that he (Paul) is bugged.  Then he calls Bob Koontz (yanno, his boss in Chicago, the guy he should be reporting in to regularly?) to say nice things about Bia Balaam:

“I know Decenti sent her to keep an eye on me, but the more I think about it, the less it bothers me.  She’s good people, and if I were in the old man’s shoes, I’d probably do the same.  Did you know she’s got kids?”

“I didn’t, Paul.”

“Yeah.  A grown daughter and a son at Georgetown.  Pretty proud of ‘em, and rightfully so.  Well, hey, just wanted to keep you in the loop, Bob.”

“Sorry this is the first time I’ve ‘kept you in the loop’ since leaving Chicago, Bob.  And hey, that Bia, she is some incredible gal, eh?  I’m sorry for every dirty look and snide comment I ever made about or to her.  Sorry, am I speaking too softly?  Feels like I’m kinda speaking softly.  BIA BALAAM IS THE BEST.  Oh, and have I mentioned to you lately how much I love my wife?  I love her so much, I would never dream of banging some hot French chick while I’m here.  So, hey, go atheism.  Um, bye-bye, Bob.”

Paul is such an amazing covert operative.  How did Atheistopia ever suspect anything?

Silenced: Chapter 22, Part 2: Instant Replay and Then Some

The reason Chapter 22 is so long is that Jenkins reproduces, almost word for word, the interaction between Paul and Calandre, this time with Bia and Ranold and Jae listening in.

Once again, the Decenti landline is used, and Ranold and Jae hover over it as “speaker mode” is used.  Turns out the awesome Bia planted a bug on Paul during their small talk session!

Hmm, maybe if Paul had been paying a bit more attention to what was going on, he might have noticed…

But he was just too blown away by the fact that Bia actually spawned a couple of kids.  What with her being so tall and angular and overdressed and all.

“I fear the bug was either malfunctioning or he was out of range all day.  You’re going to find this strange and out of character, General, and you, Mrs. Stepola, may be encouraged by it.  But don’t be fooled.  One bit of intelligence we did pick up from Ms. Caresse is that Paul emerged from a car that was not issued to him by the French Bureau.”

“Is that so?” Ranold said.

Gee, if only we had had Paul followed, we might know more!

Jae was still stewing about Paul’s being out of character and her expecting to be encouraged by that.  Maybe he was in character; had they thought of that?

Well, probably not.  I mean, Bia is well familiar with Paul and how he has cheated on Jae right under her nose for a decade.  She’s talked to Trina Thomas and seen the pictures and everything.

Then again, Bia doesn’t know that Paul once carried the luggage.  So he’s a Changed Man now.

So we have to suffer through rereading the whole scene.  Well, you guys don’t, but I do.  It’s also quite excruciating on the audiobook, FYI.  (Of course I’ve listened to the audiobook of Silenced.  Don’t be silly.)  Oh, and we get play-by-play:

Laughter.  Footsteps.  Elevator noises.*  A door opening.

Jae was dying.

*I guess Jenkins forgot that he created “jetvators” in Soon.

“I am more than a girl, Ray.”

Jae closed her eyes and actually wished for the first time that she was a praying woman.

Sigh.  She already believes.  Because why else would you wish to be a praying person?  No matter how bad things have been in my life, I have never wished to be a praying person.

“You know what?” he said.  “I’m not going to do this.  Don’t make me insult you or appear ungrateful for the offer, but I’m leaving.  Thank again and good night.”

Good night and good luck.  Wow, that is just as nasty the second time around, Paul, you ass.

“That’s all there is,” Bia said.  “A bit of TV noise in his room after that, but that’s all.”

Jae felt as if she could fly.

Which, right there, shows that Paul is not in character.  If someone behaves in character, you don’t become elated when they do what you expect them to do.  I mean, if my dad turned down the advances of some random woman, I’m pretty sure my mom would be like, “Um…yeah.”  Because that is what you are expected and supposed to do.

Oh, and just at that moment, Paul makes a skull phone call, so they can all listen in!

It’s Straight, of course, though they don’t know that.  (This actually makes sense this time, since even a bug probably wouldn’t pick up an incoming skull phone call echoing in Paul’s ears.)

“It’s time to marshal the international underground church, everybody, to again pray that God will act.” [says Paul, to Straight, on skull phone]

“This could be huge.” [says Ranold]

OH, YOU FRAKKING THINK SO, GENIUS???

Seriously, they officially have enough to just Kill Him Now.

Oh, but it gets better.  They get to talking about Jae:

“You’re kidding…You did?  I know you told me God puts it on someone’s heart and—it’s just that when He was prompting you to pray for me, He was prompting me to pray for Jae.  Go figure…Yeah, well, maybe He is working in her life.  Nothing would make me happier.” [says Paul on his skullphone]

“Big question now is, has he flipped, or is he infiltrating the underground?” [says Ranold]

Oh fer…

Reaction GIF: facepalm, Jensen Ackles, Dean Winchester, Supernatural

Gorramit, I love you, Ranold, my man.  I hate it when Jenkins makes you stupid.

“Sounded pretty convincing to me,” Bia said.

Breaking Bad High Five

THANK YOU, Bia.

I mean JESUS, can we please get with the program, here.  Y’all should’ve had Paul disappeared like, months ago.  Now you have actual evidence.  I mean, why is it so hard for you guys to pull the trigger, both literally and figuratively?

Good grief.

Anyway, Jae figures this is her chance to get to Europe, so she fake-reluctantly volunteers to go.  Ranold, to give him credit, at least suspects that Paul was talking to Straight.  Not that he intends on bringing Straight in for any intense questioning or a show trial or anything.  He’s just sticking by his theory until they can get more info.

Man, the NPO is just so decent and open-minded and evidence-oriented and committed to innocent-until-proven-guilty.

Worst evil dictatorship ever.

Silenced: Chapter 22, Part 1: Calandre Caresse

Time for Jae to be a total jerk again!

I feel for her, I really do, puppet as she is to Jenkins’ notion of what constitutes an amoral atheist slowly navigating her own way towards good little RTC wifedom.

But…

…[Jae] found her mother more maddening than ever—her docile take-life-as-it-comes attitude, letting Ranold get away with whatever craziness he dreamed up.

Huh.  A docile wife letting a husband do whatever he likes, no matter how many people he hurts?  Hit a bit too close to home, Jae?

I wish I could believe that’s what Jenkins is doing here.

Anyway, Jae’s all-over-the-place emotions are just a lead-up to Ranold telling her all about the woman who will be luring Paul to his doom sex.

And with all this hanging over her head, Jae feels the need to play Jenkinsian word games with Ranold:

“Name’s Calandre Caresse, and we’ve used her before.  Shes–”

“Come on, Dad.  That’s not her real name.  That’s a stripper’s name.”

Oh, like you’re a one to talk about weird names, Jae Decenti Stepola/Apostle.

He cocked his head.  “Far as I know, that’s her name.  She’s classy, discreet, and can be trusted.”

“Listen to yourself!” Jae said.

Ranold looked genuinely puzzled.

“All right,” she said.  “let me ask you something.  How would you describe me?”

“Smart, pretty, loyal.”

“You’ve said that before.  Be more creative.  Am I classy?”

“I’ve always thought so.”

“Discreet?”

“Sure.”

“Trustworthy?”

“You bet.”

Heh, don’t bet the farm there, Ranold.

“Dad, you just described a woman who lures men to her bed for a living the same way you would describe me.”

Um, not really, Jae.  Because despite your instruction that Ranold be “creative,” you fed him all the words.  Face it, Jae, you’re just looking for ways to trap your dad.  Now, if you’re upset about this whole scheme, that’s fine, but don’t make the problem into that of Ranold thinking of a Fembot the same way he thinks of you.  Because he quite clearly doesn’t.

Also, why is this scheme even taking place?  Again and again, we see that for all it’s “sinful” acceptance of such things as homosexuality, prostitution, and pornography, Atheistopia is oddly marriage-oriented for such a supposedly amoral society.  So many questions remain: why, in this world, did Jae and Paul both stay in a loveless marriage for so long?  Why are the NPO agents just as offended by Paul’s marital infidelity as by his betrayal of the organization and the “world system” itself?

Actually, Ranold clarifies why they’re doing this:

“You deserve to know what he really is, Jae!  All this phony Paul’s-a-new-man malarkey…if we do decide to send you over there, I want you clear that Paul is the target, the enemy.”

Poor Ranold.  For ten years, he has watched the marriage of his little girl die death by a thousand cuts (of Paul’s asshattishness), and he is now making one last effort to make Jae see the truth.

Of course, Jae then determines that she needs to get to Europe to SAVE PAUL, even if she has to lie to Ranold to do so.  Which doesn’t seem very RTC of her.

***

Paul and ChappellShow have some Man Time alone together.  Naturally, ChappellShow thanks Paul for humiliating and berating him in front of the people he’s supposed to lead.

And they talk about entrapping Styr Magnor.  BORING.

***

Back to Ranold’s wondrous scheme: as Paul is returning to his hotel (WHY HASN’T PAUL BEEN TAILED GORRAMITALL???), he sees “a dark, attractive young woman heading for the door of Le Hotel Boutique across the street.”

No doubt next door to Le Bakery Baguette on one side and Le Gallery Monet on the other.

Anyway, Calandre pulls the INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS ploy of tripping over her own feet, which of course prompts Paul to play white knight and rush over to help her up.  And she clings to him and mews and touches him.

Paul did not reciprocate but couldn’t say he found her touch unpleasant.  He had been away from home too long.

I…really don’t think it’s been that long, Paul.

Hilariously (well, not really), Paul introduces himself as “Ray Decenti.”  The two go to the bar in the hotel (no doubt called Le Lounge Champagne), and Calandre gets wine and Paul gets coffee, because good little RTC boys don’t drink.

Then she invites him up to her room.

And he goes.

Um…why???

Is Jenkins making the point that Paul can expose himself to so much temptation and still remain “faithful” to Jae?  Because honestly, this all just makes Paul look either dumb, or like a big tease.

In the “palatial” hotel room (which no doubt has Le Bed Immense)…

He moved away.  “You don’t fancy me?”

“Actually, very much.  You’re really a beautiful girl.”

“I am more than a girl, Ray.”

“You know what?” he said.  “I’m not going to do this.  Don’t make me insult you or appear ungrateful for the offer, but I’m leaving.  Thank again [for the coffee] and good night.”

Fun fact: you know what words Paul didn’t say during this entire episode?  “I’m married” or “I’m in love with my wife.”

I mean, why would he feel the need to insult Calandre?  Just tell her the truth.  Isn’t that the Christian thing to do, after all?  And if you were so annoyed that she wanted to sleep with you, (again) why go to her room at all?

I don’t get it.

In any event, Ranold’s plan failed because he didn’t know his target well enough.  As we discovered in Soon, Paul doesn’t like take-charge women with attitude like Bia Balaam and Calandre Caresse.  He prefers them half-drunk.

Next time, we’ll see why Chapter 22 requires two parts, and see Jae’s reaction to all this.

Poll Results: Calling It

Okay, so it’s been just over a week since the Palate Cleanser News and Poll, so I am calling time!

Poll Pic

I’ll tell you what: I totally thought I, Saul would be the runaway winner.  But the clear winner is MOAR MOVIES.

And I’ll tell you what else: I would have been happy to do any of these, but I am kinda psyched to do some movies.  Especially Pamela’s Prayer, which was one of my first Christian Films and has a special place in my heart.

Plus, that movie is FRICKIN’ NUTS.

30 Rock

Can’t wait.

So, after God/Jenkins unleashes his righteous wrath on the atheists in Silenced, we will do Belle and the Beast, then a few other movies, including Pamela’s Prayer, at least one of the Teenage films (by request!) and maybe another Christiano creation or two.

Thanks for voting, guys!

 

Silenced: Chapter 21: Promiscuous Rascal

The aftermath of the call, on Jae’s end, is pretty unremarkable.  Ranold is a bit bitter that he couldn’t listen in, but why should he care?  Were those “incidentals and courtesies” really so revealing of Paul’s traitorism?

The only weird part is that Jae refers to Paul as a former “promiscuous rascal.”  Which seems an awfully cutesy way to refer to the behavior that broke her heart and nearly broke their marriage (and probably should have).

***

Over in France, Paul attends the meeting of the underground Christians, pretty much for the sole purpose of scolding their leader, ChappellShow.  Because nothing works better in a resistance group than an arrogant foreign stranger showing up to shame your leader.

Paul began quietly, earnestly, planning to warm to his topic as he took cues from the body language of his audience.

I wonder if their body language would be to slap him, since they’ve been loyal to ChappellShow for years and have known Paul for maybe two hours.

“Chappell,” he began, “what’s happened to you?”

“You’re folding your tents, man.”

“Chapp, are you done?  Are you finished?  Should the torch be passed to Lothair or one of these other younger, braver, brasher people?  Because your intensity is just a memory now.  If I were part of the leadership team here—and worse, if I were part of the rank and file—your example would inspire me to do what?  Oh, I don’t know.  Quit?”

It is hilarious that Paul refers to these strangers, some of whom have been Christians for longer than he has been alive, as the “rank and file.”  How respectful.  No doubt this will win them all to his way of thinking.

He’s so winsome!

Actually, what wins over the French Christians is, once again, Paul talking about his own life.  Specifically, his time in L.A., and how God showed his loving mercy by slaughtering millions.

“[The L.A. Christians] prayed that God would smite their enemies.  And then they told their enemies they had prayed that and warned them that if they didn’t stop killing believers, God would act.  And He did.”

Which would have been great if the only people smited were the army and law enforcement.  But, as we’ve discussed, those were the people who were most able to get out of L.A.  The true smited, the children and elderly and hospital patients and the poor, had little to nothing to do with killing believers.

And hey guess what??? Paul wants to go on that ride again!

“Chapp, if you could ask God to do in Europe something like he did in Los Angeles, what would it be?”

With Paul’s insistence that “God woos his own in love, but He judges his enemies in wrath and anger,” Chapp admits that though he is “in the flesh,” he wants “a plague on the house of our oppressor.”

And, as we shall soon see, God interprets the word “house” very liberally.

***

Meanwhile, back in D.C., Ranold reveals to Jae that the NPO is setting up a little sting for Paul, to make sure he’s “behaving.”  And by “behaving,” Ranold mostly means “not sleeping around.”  Jae is pissed, and I’m rather amused that we are meant to feel sorry for poor ole Paul, being entrapped like this, as he envisions a judgment for Atheistopia straight out of the book of Exodus.

Remember, it’s Ranold who’s the bad guy.

I have to remind myself of this all the time.

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