Soon: Chapter 1: Our Hero and His Godly Wife…Sorta
Well, there’s no putting it off any longer–time to introduce our “hero.”
As I’ve mentioned before, it appears to be Jenkins’ intent in these early chapters to make Paul Apostle as unlikeable as possible, so that his conversion from the evils of atheism will be that much more dramatic. Problem is, Paul is just as much an ass after becoming a Christian.
But not to worry–he’s quite a big ass right now, too.
Paul has been married to his wife, Jae, for ten years. They have two kids: Brie is seven and Connor is five. Paul’s job, working for the National Peace Organization, keeps him on the road frequently, which leads us to Paul’s Big Sin: he’s a serial adulterer.
But here’s the interesting thing: read these paragraphs, introducing Paul’s “indiscretions,” and let me know who you think Jenkins thinks is behaving worse: Paul or Jae…
Complicating this year’s festivities for Paul was that Jae was again on his case about the time he spent on the road–her code for not trusting him. He had been caught in an indiscretion, which she persisted in calling an “affair,” more than six years before. At thirty-six, a muscular six-foot-three, and possessed of a quick wit, he had always been attractive to women. Often when traveling he would have dinner with a female colleague who, after a few drinks, would radiate the signals of invitation, sometimes even brazenly. If the women was appealing–and not infrequently she was–Paul didn’t say no.
These encounters were mostly one-time, no-strings flings that livened up the boredom of travel and, to Paul’s mind, had nothing to do with his marriage. But Jae sifted through his luggage like Sherlock Holmes and quizzed him relentlessly. Her jealous obsessions and tight-lipped silences were wearing him down. Paul used to love merely gazing at Jae. Now he could hardly stand being in the same room.
So, the lines are drawn. Jae is the one who is obsessed and relentless. Paul is the one who simply doesn’t say no–and who can blame a witty, handsome guy like him, right, when appealing, brazen women are throwing themselves right into his arms? I mean, he might have to duck and let them fall, and that would be very un-gentleman-like.
(Oh, and naturally, Paul is very tall. LaHaye and Jenkins’ heroes always are.)
There is so much to break down here. Between having their two children, Paul was caught in an affair. Being caught did not stop him from engaging in numerous other “indiscretions” between the time his daughter was an infant, and the present. And the fault for all this lies, in the words of the author, with brazen Other Women and a jealous, tight-lipped wife.
Rayford Steele is starting to look like a paragon.
Heck, Paul doesn’t even get what Rayford gets–interest in only one woman, while unhappily married to another woman who constantly guilt-trips him and their daughter about religion. There’s nothing wrong with Paul’s wife, nothing wrong with their marriage–at least, nothing is mentioned beyond mere boredom.
And here’s the strange thing. The really strange thing.
Jae has stayed with him.
Through six years of infidelity, she has stayed married to Paul. It’s not like they have some sort of agreement or arrangement, and she’s not in the dark (far from it). She’s stayed, desperately unhappy, with a husband who can’t stand her.
Jae is an atheist.
Doesn’t this seem just a bit odd? By RTC lights, aren’t atheists supposed to be amoral seekers of selfish, hedonistic pleasure? Yet Jae has not slapped Paul to the curb and struck out on her own. She has not sought revenge by having any “indiscretions” of her own. She seems committed to the marriage, to the point of not leaving when her husband a) cheats on her (many times, with many women) and b) can’t stand her. (Oh, and we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of the contempt and loathing Paul has for Jae. Compared with what’s to come, the serial cheating is nothing. And again, it gets no better post-conversion.)
This is really the first (though by no means the last) instance of Jenkins’ characters interfering with their religious roles. Jae is playing the role, as The Slacktivist once put it, of “the good, godly wife,” who stays in her marriage no matter what because God Hates Divorce.
Except Jae doesn’t believe in God.
In Left Behind, LaHaye and Jenkins (through Rayford) excused Hattie Durham’s lack of concern about his married state because “she claimed no moral or religious code.” Rayford himself wasn’t concerned about his married state until after he got religion. So why here, in an atheistic dystopia where Christians are burned alive, are the morals which are supposedly exclusive to Christians being held by atheists? Could Jenkins actually be saying that atheists care about marriage, too? Or is Jae just a prop, something Paul can cheat on now so that he can’t cheat on her after his conversion?
Which brings us back around the circle. Paul needs to be Christian in order to be faithful.
Why doesn’t Jae?