Soon: Chapter 30: Anger and Inhumanity

We’ve been noticing all the way along that Paul has little to no introspection regarding his activities while an evil Christian-killing atheist.  Although passing mention was made back in Chapter 17 of Paul’s “futile” prayers “about his remaining sense of guilt over killing people he knew were now his brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Not only does such phrasing imply that it is more wrong to kill Christians than it is to kill anyone else, but this is yet another case of Tell, Don’t Show.  We are told that Paul has guilt over his murders (four fleeing civilians), but we never see any real effect this has on his life and thoughts.

Now that Ranold and Bia have executed their “holocaust,” consisting of exactly one more victim than Paul alone killed, he is having some…well, not deep thoughts.  But some thoughts:

He felt sickened by what he’d witnessed that afternoon.  Was I ever that bad?  He feared he had been. 

PROGRESS!!!

It had been a thrill to pull the trigger in San Francisco; he had felt justified executing Christians.  He had entrapped Stephen Lloyd, then stood by without lifting a finger as Donny Johnson beat him to death.  Even that agent, Jefferson, was offended.

Wow, more progress.  Even an admission that an evil atheist, Jefferson, was not as bad.

I was acting in anger, not from inhumanity.  At least I hope I was.

Um, okay.  Not so much with the progress, here. 

This whole anger vs. inhumanity thing is a strange little conundrum with which Paul presents himself.  I suppose one could argue that anger is a very human emotion, and that it is wrong to do bad things without emotion, i.e. in an inhuman way. 

Then again, how is it so much less wrong to act in anger?  Paul thinks about Ranold and Bia and how much he hates what they are doing, but it is made very clear that Ranold, at least, is acting almost entirely out of anger.  We got the scoop on that way back in Chapter 1, when it is revealed that during WWIII, Ranold was the commander of the U.S. Army of the Pacific (just go with it), and lost everyone under his command when Hawaii was destroyed by a tsunami (again, just go with it).

This was during a devastating war that was, mind you, caused entirely by religion.  So Ranold could be argued to have more reason than most to be FRAKKING PISSED. 

Not that Paul gives a thought, during his thirty seconds of navel-gazing, to how alike he and Ranold really are.

As for Bia, she bears the brunt of Jenkins’/Paul’s contempt.  (I know, shocking, right?)  If Paul is desperate to see himself as not inhuman, Bia is the one who is inhuman.  Only one chapter ago, “she looked nearly inhuman.”  She is objectified as much as possible with her eyes like pools of mercury, “psycho eyes,” as The Dork Too Stupid called them way back in the Prologue.  She has been portrayed from the beginning as either a psychopath or an “I was only following orders” type.  And Paul seems to see this as infinitely worse than Ranold, who is alternately portrayed as either a buffoon, or a bloodthirsty monster.

Paul’s navel-gazing continues.  Now that his nanosecond of reflection on his own bad acts is over, he can focus on his newfound morality and how hard it will be to keep said morality a secret around the others.

*cue world’s smallest violin*

Paul prayed he could keep cool enough to make some positive impact on what appeared to be a hopeless situation.  And his father-in-law–Ranold was merciless, Paul knew, but how could he endure Ranold’s bloodthirsty glee the whole time he would be stuck at Tiny’s?

Paul:  Man, and here I thought being a double-agent would be so EASY!

If Paul couldn’t contain his disgust, what suspicions might that arouse?

Bit late to be thinking about that now, Mr. Holocaust.

Even so, Paul could never keep quiet about the killings.  I’ll have to maintain the courage of my convictions–stay steadfast in my faith–and take my chances.

Yeah, that’ll work so well for you, Paul.  If your goal is to GET CAUGHT.

Honestly, in all your years at the NPO, did nobody ever teach you how to keep your emotions in check?

Look into it.

Try a little think called ACTING!

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Posted on January 29, 2012, in Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. *sigh* I think Jenkins really wants readers to pretend they’re just like Paul. As long as they have an inkling of the Biblical story and they go just on what Jenkins SAYS about Paul, or what Paul thinks about himself, it’s a marvellous escapist fiction for RTCs who follow the LaHaye type of Christianity.

    It’s kind of like how Left Behind seems cool on the surface, but scratch it even a little and it’s total crap.

  2. I don’t think Paul can act. To some RTCs, acting might be like lying because you’re pretending to be someone you aren’t or you’re pretending to be in a certain situation that doesn’t exist. (I’ve run into a couple who won’t imagine hypothetical scenerios for that reason. I imagine they’d feel the same about acting.)

    Anyway, if Jenkins’ characters could act then Call-me-Buck and Fully-Loaded would have had far less angsting to do while working for Mount Fogo.

    • Oh well, at least Mrs. Cameron as Hattie was willing to act. Very badly mind you, but still, she was trying to pretend to be a filthy slutty harlot (i.e. was willing to go out on a date with someone she wasn’t married to).

      • A part of me rather sadly wonders if Kirk Douch– uh, Cameron and Chelsea Noble had fights about her playing Hattie and not Chloe.

        • Given their comments about how few RTCs there were on-set, they may have agreed that she should play Hattie in order to prevent casting from bringing in someone who might actually be as much of a “filthy slutty harlot” as her character… Can’t have someone willing to *date* on the set, now can you?

        • People, have you not read the article that Matt Taibi* (sp?) did on Christian Hell Houses? ALL the girls wanted to be the slutty teen having an abortion. Playing bad is so much more interesting than playing good. I’m betting Ms. Noble demanded to play Hattie.

          *I’m about 80% sure it was written by him.

    • I don’t think Paul can act. To some RTCs, acting might be like lying because you’re pretending to be someone you aren’t or you’re pretending to be in a certain situation that doesn’t exist. (I’ve run into a couple who won’t imagine hypothetical scenerios for that reason. I imagine they’d feel the same about acting.)

      Reminds me of one time when I was a kid in a church-run elementary school – 3rd or 4th grade. I’d forgotten I had a book report due, so when the teacher called on me to stand up in class and give an oral report, I just went with the book I’d read most recently – Black Beauty. No problem, right? It wasn’t a book I’d gotten from the school library, but no reason it shouldn’t be acceptable. And the other girls in class shouldn’t give me any grief about it – they’re all horse-crazy.

      I kinda described the story, including one spot where the horse is warned by some others that there’s danger ahead. And immediately after class, a couple of the other girls come over to me and very accusingly said something like “You KNOW that book is WRONG, don’t you?”

      Um, what? You mean I described it wrong?

      “That book is WRONG.”

      It’s fiction…

      “Horses CAN’T TALK. Everybody KNOWS that.”

      Well, my animals communicate something to each other – maybe not in English. But come on – animal’s “talk” to each other.

      “A horse can’t warn another horse about danger. That’s WRONG.”

      At which point I finally realized that these little girls didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t understand *fiction* or *imagination*, and just did my best to stay away from them after that.

      I wonder what kind of people they’ve grown up to be?

      • yowsa. Those girls . . . they make me sad.

        The Duggars on their show did something like that. They didn’t want to act out the story of Jesus and the woman at the well and did a sort of *mumble mumble*actingiswrongbecauseit’snotreal*mumble mumble* (‘course, in the end, they caved. Gotta keep those ratings up!)

      • I’ve spoken with people like that. They don’t understand that there is a difference between Truth and truth and that the first can be found even in fiction. They won’t try to understand allegory, or myth, or metaphor, or symbolism even when you explain it. The conversation always ends with a snide, “You know it’s not real, right?”

        The thing is, these people were also the most likely to believe in supernatural influences over every day life, e.g. Satan being responisble for their computers not working. Personally, I think there is a relationship between the two. Our brains desperately need creative outlets and strict literalism denies them that. I think they try to find stimulation where they can and it leads to a somewhat different world view.

  3. I think that much of the appeal of RTCianity is its privileging of the unexamined life. No need to worry about anything ever! Just pray about it.

    I think the “anger vs inhumanity” thing may be a way of saying that doing bad things doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. I’m sure the people whose lives Paul has ruined or ended would feel much better knowing that.

  4. The anger vs. inhumanity is a weird thing. I’m guessing it’s like manslaughter vs. murder one or something? Anyway, Paul, if you want to ‘hope’ you were acting out of anger, it probably isn’t a good thing that your previous thought was the ‘thrill to pull the trigger in San Francisco; he had felt justified executing Christians.” That doesn’t sound like anger to me. That sounds like enjoying killing. That sounds pretty inhuman to me (well, if we define human as by what we should be and wish to be anyway).

    I have to admit, those few lines are still what I was waiting for. As clumsy as it is handled, I did want to see Paul reflect on his own actions through his condemnation of Raynold, and we got that. It isn’t done well, but it’s done. For this writer, that is also progress.

    His struggle with his convictions is the almost mandatory two steps back to the one step forward. This is even worse than in Left Behind. Here Paul is a member of a task force who’s sole job seems to be the extermination of all religion, and it does so openly. At least Nicky Mountainrange was still pretending he didn’t want to kill all RTCs, not that that makes it any smarter to fly your RTC flag openly in his face. But no, Paul can’t compromise his beliefs. I really think this bit is in it for the his martyr-complex audience. That Jenkins and his readers only marginally register a difference between the way Christians are treated by the rest of the world in this novel and how they’re treated in the U.S. right now. So obviously, Paul must stand firm for his beliefs right now, otherwise some of those poor persecuted RTC readers will get a message that it’s okay for them to slack off from their conviction by not loudly denouncing atheists, gays, muslims and democrats.

    • So obviously, Paul must stand firm for his beliefs right now, otherwise some of those poor persecuted RTC readers will get a message that it’s okay for them to slack off from their conviction by not loudly denouncing atheists, gays, muslims and democrats.

      Don’t forget the in-laws, or that girl your son is dating, who aren’t members of the right church. I mean, it would be downright hypocritical (possibly even sinfully deceptive) to sit there and be civil to them over Thanksgiving dinner without asking probing questions about whether they’ve seen the light and decided to join you in saying the King James Standard magic words rather than insisting that their New International Version nonsense will suffice.

  5. I read a critique of the Fantasy genre a while back that very pointedly argued the traditions of the genre were really just hackish, bad-writing-enabling tools. Things like “prophecy” and “destiny” were really just cheap work-arounds to avoid needing consistent characterization or rational motivations or plot lines that made sense. Why did that indifferent Duke suddenly give the hero what he wanted? It was Fate! Why is the most powerful relic in creation on a distant island surrounded by horribly expensive and complicated traps? Because of Prophecy!

    I’m not saying that it’s always true, but a lot of bad writers lean heavily on these cheesy, heavy-handed plot devices instead of using good writing, reason, and characterization. Which brings me to that particularly odd theology of many RTCs that involves “the Will of God”.

    Paul doesn’t need to learn how to “act”. He doesn’t even need to learn how to control his outbursts of obvious sympathy with his alleged enemies. Why not? Because “the Will of God” protects him! How could his co-workers, his superiors, his wife, his father-in-law, all miss his obvious and blatant shifting allegences? Because “the Will of God” protects him!

    It’s hack writing, but what I find unsettling is that this particular plot-crutch is drawn from ‘hack theology’. I don’t want to believe that there are people out there for whom “it’s God’s Will” is a legitimate explanation for other people’s behaviors or actions. But it explains this like Rick Santorum’s “when life gives you rape, make rapeanade” remarks.

    Hmm… I seem to have wandered from my original point… anyhow, Paul doesn’t need to act, any more than Frodo needed a road map to the forging temple in Mount Doom. Because the writer God wished it to be so.

    • Character plot armor is undoubtedly the Hero’s most valuable possession. It’s light-weight, invisible, and inpenetrable.

  6. “I was acting in anger, not from inhumanity. At least I hope I was.”

    The only thing I can take from this is that we are meant to see atheists as inhuman, and only have humanity thrust upon them when the Pray the Magic Words.

    Stay classy, Jenkins!

  7. Hmm, I seem to have missed or forgotten an important plot point.

    Why would Paul be acting in anger? Anger over what? His father? That’s the only connection with Christianity that I can think of, except for Paul’s theology degree. And didn’t Paul find out his father was Christian recently or something?

    I wonder (and I apologize if I’ve wondered this before) if the plot of LOTR would be this hard to follow in a similar format or if Jenkins just really can’t hold a plot together.

    • The idea might be that Godless Heathens (defined as non-RTCs; neither godlessness nor being a heathen is an actual requirement) are angry all the time, unlike Christians who’ve accepted Jesus.

      It’s why we spend so much time making up revenge fantasies in which the righteous heathens kill the Real, True Christians in the most gruesome ways we can think of. If we’re feeling really angry, or the RTCs have provoked us by being especially peaceful and inoffensive, we might keep them alive for a while so we can get some torture in.

    • Okay, speculation based on nothing but reading these recaps, but my take:

      Paul’s angry because he found out his dad was Christian and found out his former mentor was a Christian – and because his father-in-law knew that the mentor was Christian when Paul didn’t. This anger is recent, personal and petty. Paul doesn’t think before acting on it.

      Killing Christians as a result of this anger is … apparently somehow understandable or maybe even humanizing. I don’t really know why, except that the story calls for Paul to be a good guy despite having killed Christians for being Christian, and the writer couldn’t come up with a good reason for him to have done it.

      Ranold’s angry because (as far as he’s concerned) years ago, a lot of good men died because of the beliefs that these underground Christians are perpetuating. He has reason to believe that if these beliefs aren’t wiped out, they will fester and spread, and one day the violence will return. Next time, even more people could die. This anger is old, and Ranold has had time to think about it. He isn’t acting out of some petty selfish rage, he’s angry at the people that he sees as a danger to the world. Rather than acting on emotion, he is using the emotion as a drive, but he’s thought through what he’s doing and why.

      When Ranold kills, he doesn’t do it out of that immediate feeling of anger. He’s doing it because of his reasoned belief that these people are a danger – both immediate and on-going.

      I think that the author intends for the reader to think that a person who kills because he intellectually believes it is necessary to save the world is *worse* than the person who kills because he’s having a tantrum that daddy had a life that didn’t revolve around him.

  8. Whatever anger Paul was supposed to have been feeling, I find it a less interesting motivation than if he’d been “inhuman” or whatever. Two reasons:

    1. Because the use of “it’s personal” in fiction is overused and trite. Why does the pretty female-lead entomologist in the killer bee movie study bugs for a living? Because her dad was stung to death by bees when she was six. And she still thinks she can make it better, dammit! I’m not saying these career-making vendettas never happen in real life, but in fiction they often function as a plug-and-play motivation for when cheap drama is required.

    2. Having Paul be a regular guy doing his job opens a window to the larger society. Through him, we see what the average person in Atheistopia feels about religion, the perceptions and prejudices of society that bring jobs such as Paul’s into being. Saying “Paul was angry” reveals nothing about anybody except Paul. Everyone in Atheistopia can’t be angry all the time. What motiavtes them, I want to know?

    • 2. Having Paul be a regular guy doing his job opens a window to the larger society. Through him, we see what the average person in Atheistopia feels about religion, the perceptions and prejudices of society that bring jobs such as Paul’s into being. Saying “Paul was angry” reveals nothing about anybody except Paul. Everyone in Atheistopia can’t be angry all the time. What motiavtes them, I want to know?

      I think in a different scenario a good author could have had Paul be our glimpse into the average atheistopian, and then showed how Paul was affected by his experiences, and how he changed (despite himself) into an RTC.

      But that “good author” would have had to have an understanding of … anyone … that doesn’t fit his definition of RTC. So we can really only get two categories of people – RTC and notRTC. And given the quality of description and characterization we get of RTCs, how good could the notRTC characterization be. When I think about it, maybe I should have ended the first sentence of this paragraph at “anyone”.

      And I think that it would take a different scenario because if Paul were *truly* an “average atheistopian”, changed almost against his will by his experiences – well, then, the number of unchanged atheistopians who presumably wind up going to hell says more about the deity that changed Paul than about the atheistopians who didn’t get the personal sales push. Doesn’t it?

      As it is, I think our best stand-in for “average atheistopians” would have to be Ranold. I would add Jae, but we haven’t exactly seen all that much of her, have we?

      • Jenkins couldn’t make Jae an average Evil Atheistopian, though. She stays with her cheating husband, even though marriage and fidelity are exclusive to Christians according to Jenkins’s worldview. Jae’s like the thirty-year-old virgin; she’s a sinner, but because an actual sinner is too, well, sinful for Jenkins’s audience, she’s unusual by sinners’ standards. She doesn’t quite fit in anywhere in this world until she converts.

      • Or an even cleverer writer could show how Paul *wasn’t* changed because of his experiences, much as O’Brien points out to Winston in Nineteen-Eighty-Four that in fact, his attitudes and responses are no different after becoming an opponent of the regime than when he supported it; his anger and blind obedience have just found different targets. One of the things that struck me when I read the New Testament was that Paul wasn’t actually that different after he converted, he was just on a different side.

      • There’s definitely a third category: the protoRTC. The thirty-year-old globetrotting virgin reporter, the wise rabbi who will realize who the True Messiah is, the reporter (again) who doesn’t believe in Santa.

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