Soon: Chapter 19: A Christian Grieves

TW: Attempted suicide

Paul heads back to the Demetrius building at six-thirty.  The vault is on a timer and can’t be opened until eight, but if he came back closer to the time, Paul wouldn’t have a chance to witness what he’s about to witness.

So, apparently there’s a glass pyramid, five stories tall, that makes up the very top of the building.  The top of the pyramid is where the brothers’ offices are. 

I have to mention this because Arthur Demetrius is about to throw himself from the balcony of his office:

Paul jumped and looked up just in time to see a dark form tumbling down the side of the glass pyramid.

Everyone around Paul froze.  People gasped.  The body rolled, skidded, and then slid all the way down to the flat roof of the skyscraper.  People pressed up against the glass to look.  Some clung to each other.  Paul fought through the crowd and searched frantically until he spotted a fire door, sprinted toward it, and burst out onto the roof.

Two things of note about this.  One is infuriating, the other just kinda dumb.

FIRST THING OF NOTE: Paul’s reaction:

Running to him, Paul was inexplicably overcome with grief.  Why should he care?  With Arthur Demetrius in a heap, Paul realized that here too was a man God had loved.  Arthur may have thumbed his nose at heaven, but he was still a lost soul, someone who needed forgiveness and salvation as much as anyone else. 

Why should he care?  Well, maybe because Arthur’s a fellow human being and human beings often feel empathy for each other and…

Oh, I forgot.  Atheists don’t have those emotions.  Sorry, Jenkins, forgot myself there for a minute.

Don’tcha just love it?  RTCs tell atheists that we can’t really know what love and joy and sympathy and grief are, and now the best reason Paul can dig up to care about Arthur Demetrius is that God loved him.

“Why should he care?”  It is a statement like this that takes this book from being merely a dumb, ill-researched ride into a dystopian future, and turns it into something ugly and offensive.

What must it be like to think this?  To think that people who aren’t Christians can’t feel anything when another human being is injured or killed?

Oh, and isn’t Paul a prince?  When he was talking to Arthur before, he certainly didn’t consider that “here too was a man God loved.”  It took Arthur throwing himself off a building for Good Christian Paul to give a damn.

And then he only cares because Arthur “needed salvation.”

If that’s your empathy, Paul, you can have it.  This heartless atheist doesn’t want any.

Okay, Ruby, deep breaths.  Go to your happy place…

That’s better.

SECOND THING OF NOTE: Another miracle.

I mean, ZOMG IT’S TOTALLY A MIRACLE THAT ARTHUR SURVIVED OMG OMG OMG

 Paul reeled, off balance, and tumbled to his seat at finding not just a heartbeat, but a robust and fast one.

Impossible.  No one could have survived that fall.

Think again, Paul.

Hell, I once met a man who had fallen sixty feet and lived to tell the tale.  Yes, the odds are against surviving such an event.  But “beat the odds” =/= “miracle.”

And let’s bear in mind that Arthur didn’t fall five whole stories.  He jumped off a pyramid, so actually fell a very short way before landing and rolling and sliding the rest of the way.

“It’s a miracle,” Paul said.

Arthur’s eyes grew wide and he reached for Paul. 

Oooo, baby…

Sorry, that was inappropriate.

He wrapped his arms around Paul’s neck…

OH COME ON, JENKINS, YOU CAN’T JUST HAND THEM TO ME LIKE THAT!!!

…and pulled himself to a sitting position.

Oh.

Shocked that he survived his really ill-conceived suicide attempt, Arthur TOTALLY CONFESSES TO EVERYTHING!!!

Okay, not really.  He doesn’t have much to confess to: he still doesn’t know where his brother or the hell-threatening employee are, though his worst fear is that Ephesus killed her.

And he kindasorta confesses to the whole corporate-crime thing:

“I was evil too, ruthless about the silver…Once the truth comes out, I’m ruined.”

Um, okay.  I’m not sure that’s exactly a confession to illegal activity.  Being “ruthless” does not necessarily lead to a conclusion of illegality, though “evil” might. 

But in light of what’s to come, I’m a bit surprised that Jenkins would have him be actually guilty of this illegal cornering of the market.

Ah, well…

“Arthur, clearly you weren’t meant to die.”

Unlike Coker and the nameless SWAT officers and Donny Johnson and the other atheists who have died so far.  They all deserved it and (let’s not forget) are presently being deep-fried in Hell.  But Arthur is special:

“People have been praying for you.” [said Paul]

“I knew it!” Arthur whispered.  “Something has been tormenting me for days.”

Arthur’s being pursued by the Hound of Heaven!

So the rich man is an extra-special snowflake who doesn’t deserve to die and be roasted like all those Other atheists.

Now, you’ve just seen a man fall, roll, and slide down a five-story glass pyramid.  He has survived!  Do you:

A) use your skull-phone to summon medical assistance

B) wait for one of the dozens of onlookers to summon medical assistance, and concentrate on making sure the victim lies very still so as not to exacerbate any injuries

C) walk with him to his den and sit in an easy chair while you threaten him with Hell

If you guessed (C), then you too can be the next Greatest Christian Writer of All Time!

“Oh, Dr. Stepola, I don’t want to see what’s in the vault.  What if it is that woman…or what if it is something supernatural?”

“You cannot escape it, Arthur.  But whatever is in that vault cannot compare to the coming judgment.  Jesus said not to be afraid of those who want to kill you.  They can only kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.  Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Once again, citing Jesus doesn’t mean a whole lot to atheists in Atheistopia who barely know who he is, let alone consider him an authoritative source.

Oh, and notice they are “Dr. Stepola” and “Arthur.”  Guess Paul’s over that whole “wealth is so awe-inspiring” thing, and has realized that Arthur is just another sinful NotSaved.

Next time: On to the vault! 

What will they find???

Stay tuned!

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Posted on August 30, 2011, in Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. TW: Discussion of suicide

    FIrst: FIREFLY! It is awesome ^_^

    Second: I don’t even understand why Arthur is trying to kill himself so clumsily, unless Jenkins has read some basic suicide psychology books and found that in a lot of cases people who commit sucide are trying to get people to pay attention to whatever their problems might be.

    Otherwise, it’s, as you say, a rather egregious indulgence in sympathy fail, since Paul Stepola shouldn’t be even considering the hey-you-might-be-destined-for-Hell thing until after he’s been checked over by competent doctors and perhaps done some counselling, as well.

    Third: Wouldn’t Paul just need to get a warrant to bust into whatever that vault thing is? Instead of guilt-tripping Arthur for access? IDEGI.

    • Yeah, this whole attempt has “cry for help” written all over it.

      Besides, even it had been a straight five-story drop, that’s only 5d6 worth of damage. Arthur is a level 13 securities broker, and he’s also Greek so that’s +1 to Constitution; he’ll be fine. (Don’t give me that look. Heck, the firm is even called D&D.)

      I’d ask where the Demetrius & Demetrius security guards were, that it fell to Paul alone among the building’s occupants to perform the rescue, but it could be that Arthur ordered them elsewhere before making his attempt, so I’ll allow it.

  2. I’m seriously unimpressed with the “miracle” of his survival. Not only was it more of a tumble than a fall, but I can top your real life window washer example. People have survived falling from airplanes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Chisov
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Alkemade
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Magee

    You’d think the book would manage to come up with one impressive miracle, if only by accident, but no, all it can manage are really, really, unimpressive “miracles.”

    However, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Paul would care more about his investigation than Arthur’s health. Paul isn’t known for caring about anything besides himself.

  3. Should Arthur ever wish to off himself he has the money and the contacts to do it in all sorts of ways, each one of which will definitely result in him ending up dead. For instance, if he doesn’t want to invalidate his life insurance, he could arrange his own murder by an expert assassin. Or take his high-performance cart for a spin on some icy mountain roads. Or he could have a flying accident. Or, if he’s not worried about the life insurance, he could just take the time-honoured path of pills and booze Yet he decides to instead fling himself from the top of a five-story pyramid, that’s set on a flat roof, in front of hundreds witnesses???

    And just why should he want to kill himself anyway? Sure, “something” has been “tormenting” him for a few days, but Atheistopia’s mental health experts undoubtedly have something for that.
    The only explanation that fits is that it was all a ploy to get himself into Paul’s manly arms…… And it succeeded!

    • Jenkins really does have a knack for setting up the slashfics.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Yeah. Left Behind had a rep for most Unintentional Canonical Slashfic Setups per page (more than in any fanfic version of Ponyville), and it looks like it’s a generic Jenkins thing.

  4. I was pleasantly suprised to see Paul leap into action to help for once, but Jenkins artfully ruins it with his needing to rationalize it.

    What’s worse, this reasoning might have sounded reasonable if Arthur had been an enemy of Paul of some kind. Perhaps Arthur could’ve been cracking under stress when he saw an Atheisapo agent question him. He’d get angry, defensive, already showing signs that he was consumed by guilt over his actions (though frankly, they seem kind of tame. He has had nothing to do with his brother or the woman and only suspects the former may have killed the latter. Unless there were several “accidents” neccesary in his plan for cornering the silver market, it sounds a bit much for a suicide attempt), and trying to hide it by lashing out. Paul could’ve tried to witness to him, which Arthur then could have latched on to and threatened to use it against Paul if he would try to expose his crimes. Then cut to Paul leaving, meeting the woman and seeing Arthur jump. His “Christian compassion” would have seemed more impressive to us, and to Arthur as well. Again, this is pretty corny writing, but IMHO a great improvement. Now, the entire interaction was Paul getting a comfy chair, Arthur answering his questions and Paul being generally impressed with Arthur and his office. It’s “Second Glance” all over again (Someone at IMDB liked it, and was pleased it was not a proper non-offensive Christian message. If replies were possible, I’d have made a top-5 insults).

    Oh, and “Fear only God”. Glad to see some honesty at least. That is the main emotion RTCs feel we should have toward God. The others (Love, Gratitude) are not only secondary, but are generally motivated by Fear of what he’ll do if we do not give him Love and Gratitude.

    • There are so many ways this could have gone in the hands of a better writer. I really like Ivan’s suggestion. Here’s another possibility. The scene could have played out nearly identically, but with just been a bit more introspection on Paul’s part, it wouldn’t have been so horrible.

      I’m willing to believe Paul’s first reaction on seeing Arthur’s fall could have been indifference/glad he’s finally dead/glad he can’t threaten to expose me/etc. That would certainly fit with what we know of his (Paul’s) character so far. Then he could actually look at himself and his motivations, realize they’re so far off from what they ought to be (as a Christian and as a human being) that it’s not even funny, and utterly horrify himself. At that point he could sternly remind himself that Arthur is a fellow child of God and Paul’s “neighbor”, and that he therefore has a duty to love Arthur as he loves himself. Admittedly loving someone because it’s a duty is pretty sad, but I honestly think it would be a step up in Paul’s case.

      Then, during the scene in Arthur’s office, Paul’s internal dialogue could be a long string of, “Oh, no! What do I say? He just tried to kill himself – I’m not a qualified psychiatrist! But the modern psychiatrists will completely rewrite someone’s personality if there’s something so “wrong with them” they tried to commit suicide. Either that or they’ll say that we shouldn’t get in the way of a person’s self-determination, so they’ll kill him themselves! I can’t let them do that. I’m supposed to be a Christian – what would a good Christian say here? Why would God ever put the fate of this man’s soul into my hands? I can’t do this! If he goes to hell, it’s my fault!” etc., etc., etc. Quoting Jesus could then be a desperate attempt not to say the wrong thing from a man who’s just realized he’s never been the sort of person to whom it would ever occur to try to say the right thing and who therefore hasn’t the faintest clue what the “right thing” would be.

      But that would show their protagonist having doubts, and Christianity as a learning process, and people not magically becoming “perfect” after saying the magic words, so the author(s?) can’t have that. Not to mention Paul would then love *everyone* and mourn any time *anyone* died, which would put a real damper on all those eeeevil atheists getting their totally just and righteous comeuppance.

      The rest of the book could follow Paul beginning to love people more and more for their own sake rather than because he’s supposed to, culminating in him sacrificing some of his own desires for the happiness of others.

      All that would actually give us a character we could root for, whose growth felt meaningful and real (and like there was any growth at all). Yet none of that happens. Paul doesn’t actually care about others, he doesn’t realize he doesn’t care about others, and the authors reinforce that – the only times he does something even remotely nice he either does it in such a way it becomes abhorrent, or he’s so instantly rewarded he seems to be doing it just for what he can get out of it. And, after reading the entire three-book series, the only introspection I can even remember on his part is from the third book: (rot13) vf vg ernyyl evtug gb cenl naq nfx Tbq gb xvyy nyy gur svefgobea fbaf bs aba-Puevfgvnaf? Jul, lrf. Lrf vg vf.

      • That’s beautiful, Heather. It could also lead into Paul going too far in the other direction, as you say, “mourning everyone”. That could result in Paul understanding the limits of human ability learning to “trust God” and which I think fits into Jenkins theology.

  5. Oh, man. FIve-storey glass pyramid? Think of the heating and cooling bills!

    And really you don’t throw yourself off a pyramid so much as down one.

    I think there may only be three types of non-RTC in the RTC mindset, and Arthur goes through all of them:

    * Mocking enemy, the default;
    * Safely dead, “what a shame we didn’t get to him in time”;
    * Salvation Fodder!

  6. “People have been praying for you.” [said Paul]

    “I knew it!” Arthur whispered. “Something has been tormenting me for days.”

    What the fuck? So do RTCs think their prayers actually torment sinners and non-believers to the point where they might actually kill themselves? What are they, like the Christian version of the Furies or something? Am I going to have to change my response the next time one of my Christian friends says “I’ll be praying for you?”

    • Something like… Being an atheist means that you’ve rejected god, and embraced sin. Sin is, by nature, destroyed by god, so if you’ve filled your soul with sin, then any contact with the divine radiation is unbearable. Prayer… Focuses holiness, I guess? Like directing sunlight through a lens? So if you’re an atheist, when people pray for you, it feels like all the corrupted parts of your dirty, heathen soul are being burned away, until you’ve been sufficiently freed from evil that you can see the error of your ways. Or you double-down on the sin, replacing the worn-away evil with fresh, new evil, until there’s nothing left of you but sin and all god can really do with you is burn you in hell forever.

      Your Christian friends might not have the same blindly hostile concept of atheism that JJ does, and they might not subscribe to quite the same idea of sin, or any number of significant little details that makes JJ’s theology quite so reprehensible, so it’s not like they necessarily believed they were causing you pain. Then again, I’ve always found someone offering unwanted prayers to be rather… Irksome, for a whole other set of reasons, so I don’t know how much that could really make you feel better.

      • Thanks for explaining that. Unfortunately Arthur’s response still doesn’t make sense in this context. Why would Arthur in Atheistopia think that someone praying to an imaginary being could have any effect on his mental state? Actually I take that back. We’ve already been given some hint that Arthur is superstitious and the employees bible quoting was described as cursing. So maybe when Paul says people have been praying for Arthur he interprets it as people have been cursing him and being superstitious he assumes the curses are working.

        It’s still unintentionally hilarious to follow “people have been praying for you” with “I knew I was being tormented!”.

        • Diona the Lurker

          Maybe the people praying for Arthur are actually doing toxic prayer? Here’s a definition taken from Dark Christianity Wiki (http://dark-christian.clanxanadu.org/Main/Glossary):

          Imprecatory Prayer / Toxic Prayer
          Prayer in which one asks for bad things to befall a certain person. Sometimes certain individuals call for imprecatory prayer upon government leaders whose decisions and actions they oppose, such as so called “activist judges”.

    • Gives new meaning to the usual “I’ll pray for you!” snarky rejoinder I’ve heard some fundamentalists use. (O_O)

    • God hurts you because he loves you, Evil Paul. If you’d only obey him it wouldn’t hurt as much.

      • If you’d only obey him it wouldn’t hurt as much.

        That’s what my dentist says too, but I still make him give me the gas.

  7. Falling down a five story pyramid would be like falling down a hill. There’s nothing miraculous about it.

    Frankly, I don’t think Jenkins is saying that atheists don’t care about people because they are people, he’s inadvertently admitting that he doesn’t care about people because they are people. Which makes a good deal of sense, given his writings. (The more I write, the more I discover that if you want to know what you think, write fiction. Then read what you’ve written and you’ll figure it out.)

    • I’ll buy that. I look over the major themes of what I’ve been writing recently, and my social alienation/confusion issues are sticking out like a sore thumb covered in neon paint. Also I’m pretty sure the parents of one of my characters are thinly veiled versions of my own…which is not necessarily a bad thing, mind.

    • Of course Jenkins doesn’t care about people. If he did, he could never inflict this much horrible writing on the world 🙂

  8. Hmm, I left (or thought I left) a comment about people who’ve survied falling from airplanes. I don’t know whethre the spam filter ate it or I forgot to hit submit.

  9. Never mind, it’s there. I swear it wasn’t when I checked a couple hours ago. Clearly, I’m losing my mind. Someone must be praying for me! Oh noes.

  10. Next time: On to the vault! What will they find???

    Al Capone’s dead mistresses?

    • What was left of Geraldo Rivera’s career after the stupid vault stunt?

      Oh, sorry, you wouldn’t need a vault for that. A shoebox would do.

  11. Of course a man whose only motivations are the desire for power/elite status and the fear of punishment would start a conversion talk with how you should fear God above all else. You’d never find someone like Paul trying to talk to a potential suicide…person (victim? Perpetrator? What word do I use?) about how there is a being out there who does care about them, who loves them no matter what, and thinks that they are worthwhile just for being one of his children. Love is for those pussy liberal atheists. RTCs only care about who’s the biggest bully on the block.

  12. Is Jenkins still trying to parallel Paul of Tsarsus or has he given that up by this time? Because you could actually sort of make this work if the Demetrius’ are stand-ins for 1st century Romans. Romans were I think superstitious and big into astrology -so the books makes sense. Arthur could become paranoid and start seeing signs everywhere that eventually drive him to suicide. Then the bit about fearing the vault would make more sense (as would a later conversion).

    What does Paul mean by “But whatever is in that vault cannot compare to the coming judgment.”? Is he supposed to have knowledge of an impending apocalypse already? Or is that just how Jenkins style Christians make small talk while waiting for the EMTs?

    • Rest assured, the answer to your last quesiton is yes. Go visit Rapture Ready, see what kind of ‘casual discussion’ entails there. And given Buck’s insta-knowledge upon conversion, the answer for question 1 is probably also yes.

      • I bet Jenkins is loads of fun to sit next to on a plane!

        • Perhaps one could get him put off the plane as a potential terrorist. I mean, he keeps talking about how we’re all going to die! (Sadly, I think that only works with non-pasty-white people. *sigh*)

          • Actually, have you looked at Buck and Ray’s behavior? None of his main characters seem inclined to preach unless they get a huge opening for it, and even then they sometimes don’t take the shot. It might affect their job, or their standing in society, or just help someone they don’t like very much.

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