Monthly Archives: July 2013
So I forgot to mention in the last chapter that Rome was bombed, too.
Basically because Jenkins devoted several pages to Big Ben and the plight of Chubby Charlotte, and one sentence to Rome:
In Rome, the former zoological gardens (which for fifty years had been a Bio Park containing endangered species) had been nearly obliterated, the animals killed or scattered, and hundreds of visitors killed or wounded.
Presumably, Jenkins means the Bioparco, though he doesn’t use its real name. We know it’s an evil, atheistic place, though, what with trying to preserve endangered species and all. Kinda funny that Big Ben gets over two full pages, and the Bioparco gets one sentence.
Anyway, Chapter 2 hits a point mentioned in Soon: that Jae dislikes being a stay-at-home mom, and would rather be working. (Don’t worry, she’ll be taught how wrong she is in two separate ways.)
Also, she is very upset about the disasters in London and Rome: not because of the horror and loss of life, but because it means that Paul will probably have to go overseas and track down the evil religionists who did it.
Things were going so well. Part of her wanted a pledge from him that he would remain faithful to her, but another part of her knew that if she had to require that, they weren’t healthy.
She resolved to bury her worries and suspicions and concentrate on loving and supporting him.
The fact was, he had so far succeeded only in softening her and persuading her that he was trying. If he cheated on her again, she would not be able to forgive him, even if she wanted to.
“I swear, Paul, the other thirty-eight times were one thing, but number THIRTY-NINE???”
Paul gets home from work and reveals that yes, if something else happens, if Styr Magnor bombs just ONE MORE PLACE, he will be sent to Europe. Because there is apparently no one else on the PLANET who can do what Paul does (absolutely nothing but pal around with the zealots and pray for atheists to die, but the NPO doesn’t know that).
“Oh, Paul! We were just getting back on track.”
“Barely tolerating each other and revealing none of our personal thoughts or opinions to each other. Never laughing or having any fun together. We were SO on track!”
And again, Jenkins makes sure we understand that cheating can ALWAYS be laid at the wife’s feet:
She would never again allow herself to take the blame for Paul’s indiscretions, but she knew a bad attitude on her part had to contribute.
Of course it did.
Paul explains the situation to Jae, because wimmins don’t understand manly endeavors like politics:
“The initial posture is to wait, to see whether the response from the chancellor cools things. Face it, he laid down the gauntlet. If he will not negotiate with this terrorist, what will he do? Dengler is the ultimate peacenik. Could be whoever’s behind this will push him to violence, even to war.”
Peacenik. How long had it been since Jae had heard that archaic term?
Man, Paul is one cold bastard. His father was killed in action in the last war this world saw, yet he gets down on the leader of the world for not wanting war.
Also, Jae does not pursue this line of thought. Huh, my husband, who has worked for the National PEACE Organization for his entire career, is using a derogatory term for someone who wants…peace.
Speaking of the NPO, Paul reveals that if another attack happens, he will head to Bern, Switzerland, to meet with Baldwin Dengler himself, and NPO International.
So, National Peace Organization International.
And, of course, another attack happens. Like Chubby Charlotte but unlike the Bioparco, the destruction of the Eiffel Tower follows one of the victims, Gabriela Negrutz of Romania, and her husband and two little boys. They are business-tripping/vacationing in Paris and the one thing Gabriela wants to do is go up in the rebuilt Tower, which…
…had been destroyed in World War III before Gabriela was born. The rebuilt tower, made of gold-plated steel and iron and porcelain, was three times the height of the original and had become the tourist attraction of Europe. Critics of its garish look and monstrous size called it the Awful Eiffel.
Well, those who spoke English, anyway. Otherwise the alliteration doesn’t really work.
The little boys are inexplicably blasé about going up in a tower that is a half-mile tall, but Gabriela’s husband is awesome:
“Your mother has been planning this day for months, and this is the one thing we will do together that she wants to do.”
Yep, the family that stays together…dies horribly when the Eiffel Tower is bombed. They are in the jetvator, past the halfway point, when they hear a boom and the Tower leans waaaaaay to the side, then falls. We are then treated to a detailed description of nearly everyone in the jetvators being suffocated or crushed to death before they even hit the ground.
Fun fact: just like Chubby Charlotte, all the victims are going to roast in Hell forever!
And hey, check it out: there is plenty of footage of the Eiffel Tower being destroyed, too!
Quick note: I am still trying to figure out Jenkins’ anagram for Ranold B. Decenti. I am so sick of anagrams!
Jae ponders all the changes that have taken place in Paul over the past few months. And Jenkins takes the opportunity to muse on how wives should treat their
worldly masters husbands.
Jae still didn’t know what to make of the new Paul. She was grateful, no question. They had not raised their voices to each other in weeks.
But this trip, he was truly deferential, helpful, kind, as he had been since their return from California.
That’s a strange way to phrase their narrow escape from death by dehydration. The death that thousands of other human beings suffered. And we all know why Paul was in such a good mood at that time—he was celebrating.
Even so, this passage hardly seems a description of a happy and healthy marriage. Paul may not be yelling at Jae anymore, but their relationship seems to have died down into that of two people politely tolerating each other. Again, the question arises: why didn’t Jae divorce Paul years ago? She has a supportive family, an advanced degree that could make it very easy for her to earn a comfortable living, and this is a world of secular humanists, and we know how little they value marriage, right?
But no, they’re still together. And here are the money quotes:
It wasn’t that any weakness revealed itself. He wasn’t throwing aside his maleness. He was being a different kind of man, not too big to keep an eye on the kids, help with the luggage, take charge by serving her, doing for her.
Here that, husbands? Don’t just charge ahead in the airport, keeping fifty paces ahead of your family while the little woman hauls the suitcases off the belt and nurses a baby at the same time. TAKE CHARGE by serving her. Because…wait, isn’t some of that luggage his, too? Has Paul really lived his whole marriage making Jae do everything?
She recalled many times having stood waiting, giving him an expectant stare as if silently demanding to know whether he was going to shoulder his part of the load or let her do everything. It was no wonder he seemed to do it begrudgingly. But now she didn’t have to wait or wonder, and thus there was no need for the look.
See, husbands??? Just treat your little lady like a human being, and she won’t be a nagging harpy! At least not openly or out loud!
There was a request for more on Berlitz Decenti, and as it happens, he and Jae have a conversation. Of course, the conversation is about Paul, the most important human on the planet:
“Hey, Berl,” [Jae] said. “You guys solve all the problems of the world already?”
“Ah,” [Berlitz] said. “You know Dad. I am one of the problems of the world. Always comparin’ me to Paul. Paul this and Paul that.”
Jae knitted her brow. “He did that with Paul there?”
“Not in so many words. C’mon. You know how he is. Oozing disgust for the no-account son.”
“That must’ve made Paul terribly uncomfortable.”
“Paul? What about me? I was the target. Paul is the model.”
That’s a damn fine point, Berlitz. I get that Jae feels she needs to be loyal and sympathetic to Paul, but Paul’s not even there. It’s just the two of you—show some sympathy for your brother who loves you.
The conversation continues, with Berl expressing his liking for Paul (he clearly doesn’t know him well), and Jae expressing liking for Aryana.
And then this odd little aside, after Berl stumbles drunkenly off to bed:
…[Jae] had to chuckle at her own brother’s name. It was her father’s mother’s maiden name, but still…to lay that on an unsuspecting son and expect him to deal with it his whole life. Well, it spoke volumes about her father.
It’s probably just my heathenishness coming out, but I think Berlitz is a kinda cool name. Beats the hell outta “Ranold,” anyway.
Both Paul and Jae have (separately) mused on the stupidity of Berlitz’s name, which is weird for a few reasons:
“Jae” isn’t exactly the most common name in the world, either. I imagine that Jae has spent a lot of time explaining to people that she is not “Jane.”
Paul has the opposite problem: a very common name. Paul was probably “Paul S.” in school.
Of course, if Jerry Jenkins was serious about having timely names for his characters, we’d be reading about Jayden S., the underground zealot.
Berlitz was born around 2007, Paul and Jae around 2010. Ranold and his wife, Margaret, are presumably of my generation: born between the Gen-Xers and the Millenials, around 1980. (Note: I have never met a Margaret my own age. There were, however, always many Pauls in my classes.)
All this to say that Paul and Jae need to frack off: most have a problem with their name.
After Jae pities Berlitz (in her head) for his name, Paul comes to bed and pities Berlitz (out loud) for not being able to measure up to Ranold’s expectations.
“Couldn’t you encourage him, Paul?” [Jae asked]
Why didn’t you encourage him, Jae? HE WAS RIGHT THERE TEN MINUTES AGO.
“I could try. I don’t want to offend him though. He’s older than I am, you know.”
Who was this sensitive, new man? Jae loved him.
Oh Jae, you poor sap.
Also, Berlitz is, like, three years older than Paul. With both men in their late thirties to early forties, does a few years really make so much difference? It’s not like they’re 12 and 15 years old. RTCs are so weird when it comes to age.
We cut forward to the day poor, chubby Charlotte met her end, this time from Paul’s perspective, watching it in his Chicago National Peace Organization office, after New Year’s. Paul has just finished verbally sparring with his “tall, black, and direct” secretary, Felicia, last seen debating “King Day” with Paul in Soon.
Anyway, a Norwegian guy names Styr Magnor has taken credit for the bombing, on behalf of “the millions of underground believers throughout Europe, brothers and sisters to the oppressed in the USSA, and followers of the one true God who had judged the wicked of Los Angeles.”
Paul has to act like he is as outraged as everyone else in the room, even though he doubts Magnor is really Christian underground. Because since when have Christians ever harmed anyone? (Los Angeles, of course, doesn’t count. God did that, not the Christians, so even though they prayed for it, they are totally blameless. Totally. Just keep celebrating, Paul.)
So, now we know that Paul’s globetrotting adventures will take him to London! It’s so sad that the NPO, wanting only to stop this terrorist, thinks having Paul out there will help at all.
Keeping up the tradition of Soon, Silenced begins the story proper during the Stepola/Decenti celebration of Wintermas. Last year at this time, Paul was an emotionally abusive, lying asshole who also happened to be an atheist. This year, everything has changed, because Paul has “undergone the greatest transformation a man could“: he is now an emotionally abusive, lying asshole who happens to be a born-again Christian.
…there were days when he wondered how long he could go on. That wasn’t like him. He had been military, a man’s man…
Heh, therein lies much of the problem, methinks. Atheist or Christian, Paul has never been a good fit for a world in which women are the equals of men.
…he could think of nothing he would rather do than tell his wife and children and include them in his new life. But he could not. Without knowing in advance Jae’s reaction, or whether she would tell her father, Paul could not risk it.
Yet Paul is, of course, insufficiently self-aware to realize that had he only treated his wife like a human being over the ten years of their marriage, they might have a trusting enough relationship that he could tell her anything and feel safe.
But Paul is too busy patting himself on the back for being a New Man:
For all Jae knew, their reconciliation and renewed attempts to repair the marriage were her ideas. He was finally ready and even equipped to make the changes, but she had to wonder why. If only he could tell her.
Like last year, the Stepolas are spending Wintermas at Jae’s parents’ home in Washington, D.C.
Oh, and Jae’s brother and his wife are there, too.
What, didn’t you know that Jae had a brother? Well, neither did I, because he is not so much as mentioned in the first book, even during the Wintermas celebration.
He’s Jae’s older brother.
Now, I may have mentioned this before, but I am usually not that great at figuring out the endings of stories. I rarely guess the killer’s identity, for example. Yet the character of Berlitz Decenti is so clunkily inserted, his age so ham-fistedly emphasized, that I called exactly what would happen in the final chapter.
And it did.
Okay, I’ve given you all the clues. Any guesses?
Back to the fraught Wintermas celebration: Paul is all butthurt because he can’t celebrate what he wants to celebrate:
…he wished he could sing what was in his heart, that he could pray aloud, that he could celebrate the birth of Christ rather than “the bounty of the season.”
All the while he was privately celebrating the events in Los Angeles, but of course that could never come out.
Well, yeah, I guess. I mean, Paul would seem pretty awful, celebrating the deaths of thousands, if not millions, of innocent men, women, and children.
And bear in mind that it has been months since the dessication. And Paul is still celebrating the death and destruction.
What a nice guy. What a New Man.
And how suspicious of his wife, who has found it in her heart to forgive him for his serial cheating and years of emotional abuse:
For Jae’s part, she seemed genuinely appreciative of the new Paul. She commented more than once about his getting along with the difficult personalities and his attentiveness to her and the kids.
“It’s not me,” Paul wanted to say. But all he could do was smile. How could he know if she was genuine? Was she onto him, looking for ways to trip him up?
Huh, it’s almost as if Paul has given Jae no reason to trust him, ever. But again, Paul doesn’t make any connection between his past treatment of Jae, and his distrust of her now. He simply puts Jae into the same box as everyone else in his life—someone who might be “onto him.”
Paul spends the evening in the den with Ranold and Berlitz, and we see that Berlitz is not to be trusted, what with being short and “spiky-haired.” But even if Ranold and Jerry Jenkins are no fans of his, I kinda like him: he is good at his job (salesman), and seems to have a decent relationship with his third wife,
Margene Aryana. He’s also witty and unafraid to stand up to Ranold (much less afraid than Paul, that’s for sure).
Ranold seemed embarrassed when his son was gone [to bed]. “Don’t let Connor grow up to be like that,” he said.
Paul couldn’t imagine it.
I bet he couldn’t. I imagine Paul “shooting a double take.”
“Connor? Oh, Connor. My son. Sure. Of course. Him.”
Suspecting Ranold of also being Onto Him, Paul heads off to the comfort of his despised wife’s bed.
But more on that next time.
Welcome back, Paul Stepola. I think you were actually kinda missed.
Having caught us up on the ramifications of dessicating Los Angeles, the rest of the prologue takes us to London, where we follow a young woman named Charlotte Ian to her job as a tour guide at Big Ben.
Charlotte’s great concern in her life is her weight. And for a guy who has been pretty open about his own struggles in that area, Jerry Jenkins seems singularly unsympathetic to Charlotte’s chubbiness:
Her uniform was only slightly askew, though embarrassingly tight…
By her three o’clock tour…the hard-boiled egg and two ounces of chicken she’d scarfed at noon had long since worn off.
Huh. So in Atheistopia, we’ve cured cancer and mental illness, but the big weight-loss cure is still to starve oneself? I’m not buying that for a second.
We also learn that Jenkins is no fan of ponytails:
…her hair was up in back like a prancing horse’s tail…
Or, at least, it’s clear he’s no fan of chubby atheist Charlotte.
But that’s okay, since Charlotte is killed when a bomb is set off, destroying the iconic landmark.
Though not for the first time:
Jenkins knows how to start his stories with a BANG. Ha! I make puns because I am an evil atheist who is dead on the inside…
My first post on Silenced will go up in a few days, but it’s not really my first.
You seen, Soon, the first book in Jerry Jenkins’ Underground Zealot series, ended with a sorta-cliffhanger: the city of Los Angeles had just been stripped of all water by a loving God, at the behest of his loving followers. The book ended only a moment after the dessication occurred, so readers (either of the books themselves, or this blog) would have to wait for Silenced to learn what happened in the wake (har) of the lack of water.
And I didn’t want my loyal readers to have to wait!
So, I covered most of the Prologue of Silenced here.
Also, if anyone is new around here or would like a refresher on one Paul
Apostle Stepola, you can check out my entire critique of Soon here. For an even quicker refresher, the series has a TV Tropes page!
Back in the diner, having left Jesus speechless with the question of whether he will go to Hell when he dies, Larry reads the little tract aloud to his friends. It’s very basic, boilerplate stuff: Adam and Eve, everyone’s a sinner. And, probably because it’s so basic, Larry reads it rather boredly and sarcastically. Which is fine if Larry is what I think he is, a jaded anti-hero, but doesn’t so much work if Larry is supposed to be like someone from the Christian-free town of Waterloo, NY, who doesn’t know anything about God or Christianity.
Of Larry’s two friends, Mike is the more anti-religious of the two (yet, strangely, the more curious about religion), repeatedly calling Hell “a lie” and adding that even if one accepts the idea of sin, that doesn’t make Hell a real place.
Yeah, Mike kinda rocks.
This, however, sends Larry into a thoughtful soliloquy on Hell. So deep is this speech that it silences everyone else in the diner:
“I betcha there’s a lot of people there right now, screaming like crazy. I betcha there’s a lot of church people there, wondering where they went wrong.”
Sorry for interrupting, Larry…
“Now they’re…burning. Burning and screaming. Burning and screaming. Wanting to get out, but they can’t. Hoping it’ll end, but it won’t. Never will. Yeah, if Hell’s real, it’s loaded with people. And [unintelligible] of them were church members.”
“But, since Christians don’t believe in Hell, why should we?”
Okay, it is very clear that Larry has given Hell a helluva lot more thought (har!) than many Christians.
Which raises a question I have always had: If someone really does believe in Hell, how does he ever get any sleep at night? How can he, knowing that billions of innocents are, at that very moment and at every very moment, being tortured without end?
Larry switched gears (and moods) immediately after this speech, sarcastically opining that Jesus needs to eat quickly, so he can go out and preach and “get some people newborn.”
And AGAIN with the sarcasm! Look, either Larry is totally uninformed about who God and Jesus and Christians are, or he knows full well but is jaded and cynical about the whole thing, but he can’t be both at once. And if Christiano wanted Larry to be the former, he did a really bad job of writing Larry’s character and directing Heller, who portrays Larry as knowledgeable and quite articulate about his problems with religion.
Jesus corrects Larry:
Mike, of all people, expresses genuine puzzlement over the term, but Larry seems quite familiar with the whole thing, calling it “big business for those religious guys.”
Seriously, Jesus, Larry was being sarcastic with the whole “newborn” thing. HE WAS TRYING TO BE FUNNY. (IMHO, he succeeded. I chuckled the first time I heard the line.)
Anyway, the question of being Hellbound kept Jesus quiet, but he has plenty to say about being born again:
“Everybody in the world is born a sinner. And because of that, they’re spiritually dead. A dead man needs life.”
Ohhhh, so this is why Jesus is out so late! He’s got a resurrection shift at the local graveyard!
A dead man needs life—THE HELL???
“Needs to be born again. It’s a spiritual birth.”
Larry has a pertinent question for Jesus:
“What kind of God makes everyone a sinner right from the start?”
That’s a pretty good and valid question, under the circumstances, and Jesus responds:
“Most people don’t know they’re spiritually dead. And because they’re spiritually dead, they don’t think about it, they just don’t know.”
In what universe is that an answer, Jesus? Look, I have no problem with you ignoring Larry and Mike and Vince, but if you’ve now decided to engage with them, you should at least try to answer their genuine questions.
But Jesus isn’t interested in addressing the question of whether or not his God is good—he’s more interested in talking vaguely about sin and how everyone’s a sinner and sin is “fatal.”
Apparently realizing they’re not going to get a straight answer out of him (you’re 0 for 2, Jesus!), the guys switch gears again to mock TV preachers and faith-healing.
Mike, however, still seems genuinely confused and curious, but Jesus still refuses to address his questions head-on, leading to this priceless exchange:
Mike (confused and disappointed): Man, I don’t understand what you’re saying…
Larry: He doesn’t understand what he’s saying.
I don’t care what Christiano or anybody else says: Larry is the hero of this story.
The best Jesus can do for Mike is pull a Kirk Cameron:
“You need to seek God. Read the Bible.”
Jesus cites the book of John. And not to give pointers or anything, but citing the Bible doesn’t do a whole lot of good when the person you’re talking to doesn’t accept the Bible as an authority. But in all these movies, and all these books, I have never once seen a Christian even attempt to show someone why the Bible should be believed.
And indeed, Jesus’s citation to the Bible fails completely.
“There they go with those verses again…”
But no worries, Vince and Mike—I’ve read the Bible!
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
Or how about—
Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
Or, even better:
Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open.
Well, that’s always fun, but back to the story…
The movie mentions Catholics!
“So, what religion are you, man? You a Baptist, a Catholic, a Holy Roller?” [Larry asks]
“Those are denominations. They’re meaningless the day you die and stand before God.” [says Jesus]
Also, I almost wrote “Jesus answered,” but I realized that once again, he didn’t.
As an opening to get the subject of the End Times in, Vince mentions that Riley told him at work that Jesus was coming back. So does Riley do any work at work? Or does he just wander around and preach at people all day? Not that their boss cares, I’m sure.
Riley’s a nice Christian guy!
Anyway, Jesus gives the standard bad-times-they-are-coming speech, to which Larry’s awesome response is:
“Oh, like we’re scared, now?”
To which Jesus responds:
“Well, you should be.”
Yet, curiously enough, Jesus takes issue with Larry’s comeback: that that’s what religion is, “a scare tactic, so that people can make a buck.”
Again, Jesus has no way to address Larry’s very legitimate criticisms, the same way that he didn’t address the issues hypocrisy and whether or not most Christians really believe in Hell. So he falls back on Kirk Cameronism again:
“You read the Bible. God’ll show you the truth.”
One wonders if Jesus has read the Quran or the Book of Mormon or the Tao Te Ching or Vedas and if so, how he determined that the Bible was truth and those not truth.
But Larry doesn’t ask. He stomps back to his booth as Jesus gets his food. (Fracking finally, Jackson, Jesus Christ! What, did you have to drive down to a farm and slaughter your own chicken or something?) Vince urges moderation…
“Let people believe what they wanna believe, man—so many wackos out there.”
But Larry has officially Had Enough, and crosses the line from not-so-friendly debate to actually invading Jesus’s personal space. He stalks back over to the counter and grabs at Jesus’s fries and sammich, to which Jesus barely flinches.
(It is here, by the way, that some Christian reviewers start to take issue with the movie. And I can’t help but agree—it’s one thing to engage someone verbally, but once you start touching their food (ewwwwww)…well, that’s crossing a line. And I have seen more than one Christian opine that Jesus is wussing out, rather than turning the other cheek, by not even protesting Larry’s actions.)
Larry, Mike, and Vince giggle like a bunch of obnoxious schoolboys at grabbing-at-fries hijinks, and their laughter maniacally echoes in Jesus’s mind. So, he abandons the sandwich he has waited for the entire movie, and puts on his jacket.
But rather than protest Larry’s actions, Jesus decides to take the more Christian route—and get in the last word.
“How old are you, Larry?”
“Add a hundred years to your life. How old will you be?”
“A hundred and thirty-two.”
“Where will you be?” *long pause* “God loves you.”
A couple of things:
First, I’m pretty sure Larry’ll be dead, unless we perfect suspended animation in our lifetimes or something. And not that I can speak for Larry, but I’ll most likely be dead in a hundred years, too. And…why shouldn’t I be? We all die, and since I don’t believe in your God or your Heaven or your Hell, I’m not sure why I should be worried. I wasn’t conscious of not existing the first time, and I have no reason to believe that things will be different the next time I don’t exist.
Second and entirely other point: Jesus isn’t playing it too smart here. I don’t want to sound like I’m victim-blaming here, I really don’t, but Jesus knows that Larry is getting more upset, not less, the longer their conversation goes on. Is it really worth continuing to argue the “Jesus loves you” point with an unrepentant heathen when he’s been the one escalating things since you walked in the door?
I guess I just don’t think Jesus should be surprised by what happens next.
Larry simply points out that there is no way God loves him. And Jesus just keeps going. Seriously, they get into a “Yeah-huh!” “Nuh-UH!” about it. Jesus, honestly, man, it is time to drop it and get a to-go bag from Jackson.
But no, Jesus just keeps up with the “Jesus does SO love you,” until Larry starts in on his speech. You saw a piece of this in the trailer—it’s the part where Larry grabs Jesus’s collar and yells at him.
Don’t get me wrong—this is NOT COOL. Larry has no right to make this into a physical confrontation.
But I can hardly fault him for his words, which I can only hope make just a bit of an impression on Jesus:
“You think God loves me, huh? You tell me how. How come my old man walked out on me when I was seven years old and I haven’t seen him since? But you tell me that God loves me, huh? How come my mom spent her whole life scrubbing toilets just to pay the rent, but you’re telling me that God loves me? How come I’ve been in and out of jail my whole life, more times than you can count, but you tell me that God loves me? How come I been working in some factory my whole life, but you’re telling me that God loves me? How come I ain’t got no wife, I ain’t got no kids, I ain’t even had a girlfriend, but you’re telling me that God loves me, huh? How come my life has been trash ever since the day I’ve been born [this is where he grabs Jesus’s collar] but you tell me that God loves me? Tell me how!!!”
I know we’re supposed to feel for Jesus in this scene…
…and never say I don’t play fair…
…but I can’t help but feel for Larry instead. Now, I could point out that there is no shame in factory work (my grandfather did it for forty years!) and that 32 is plenty young to find yourself a wife and have some kids. I could point out that “in and out of jail” makes it sound like Larry is a chronic probation violator (which would certainly fit with his antiauthoritarian tendencies) but I’m mainly going to point out that Jesus hasn’t answered a single one of Larry’s substantive questions about God and Hell, and that he has had a shitty day, and (yes, I shall now compare Larry to King Lear) he is more sinned against than sinning.
Oh, and I shall ALSO point out that some Christians have a problem with this scene, too—specifically, with the fact that Jesus just stands there are TAKES IT LIKE A WUSS when Larry grabs his collar and screams in his face.
And as much as I’m lo0king forward to the comments about Larry and Jesus and who’s right and who’s wrong, but let’s get this done:
Jesus leaves the diner, but not before having a mumbled conversation with Jackson.
Mike gazes out the (shuttered) window and points out that Jesus has no car and is apparently walking home. Which…so? As far as we know, Larry, Mike, and Vince didn’t drive there, either.
Vince points out that “he never answered your question.” Which, I love you, Vince, but let’s be clear—Jesus never answered any of Larry’s questions.
And Larry has some sort of second thoughts or remorse or some Christian-y feelings or somesuch, and starts to go after Jesus, but not before trying to settle the bill.
BUT JESUS ALREADY PAID THE BILL
Ohhhh, I get it—because paying for one dinner for three guys is totally like being tortured and crucified!
So, cut to Jesus wandering down the street, as the music of reflection plays. Fade to black as Tract Guy intones, in his why-doesn’t-he-just-leave-me-alone voice, “God loves you, man. Don’t you know that God loves you, man…”
I admit, there are plenty of things to like about this movie. Some of the performances, the moody atmosphere, the acceptance that low-budget Christian films just cannot compete on the special effects front, so the attempt to rely on storytelling and writing.
Of course, it’s rather spoiled by the fact that this gentle, “humble” Christian thinks his just and loving God is right to torture people for eternity. Still, though, it’s an interesting step up in Christian cinema.
Whaddaya guys think? Yes, no, somewhat?
I’m not too surprised (but I am very pleased) at the wide variety of reactions to Late One Night, and especially to the character of “antagonist” Larry.
Ivan, for example, finds himself more in sympathy with Jesus than Larry, pointing out that Larry is engaging in the very behavior for which we criticize evangelical Christians: aggressively pursuing a debate about faith when the other person just wants to be left alone.
Nerrin finds the Christians who work at the factory to be hiding behind their religion (and even finds some sympathy for Larry going through Jesus’s pockets!).
And Vermic brings up the Magical Negro problem in a movie that, unlike so many Christian movies, has multiple characters who are POC. (Although it should be pointed out that all of the POC are black men between the ages of 30 and 50.)
For the record, the four POC in Late One Night are smarmy factory worker Riley, diner owner Jackson, Larry’s friend Mike, and Tract Guy. Of these four, I would count two of them (Jackson and Tract Guy) as candidates for the Magical Negro title. Riley may say he is trying to help possible-anti-hero Larry, but he is taking way too much pleasure in preaching at him and shooting down his hopes to qualify for the trope. And Mike, like Larry’s other friend Vince, acts more as a sounding board than a font of wisdom.
So, yeah, complications in a Christian film! This is…new.
Time to figure this stuff out! As much as I like Larry’s character, as much as I appreciate complicated and damaged anti-heroes and would love to think this is what Larry is meant to be, I suspect I may be grafting my own atheistic hopes onto the story.
But perhaps we can figure out exactly what is going on—because I have the DVD of Late One Night, which includes interviews about the movie!
And so, we will have an intermission before Larry totally loses his shit and grabs Jesus by the shirt.
The first thing you need to know about this interview is that it cuts between only three people: writer/director/producer Dave Christiano, and actors Josh Gaffga (Jesus) and Hugh McLean (Jackson).
Yep, Brad Heller is not there. But his spectre looms large: the Late One Night cover/poster is in the background. Heller may be conspicuously absent from the proceedings…but he is there.
Dave Christiano explains the why of Late One Night, while Brad Heller’s stolen soul looks on.
“My vision for doing the movie Late One Night was—it went back to when I grew up in upstate New York. I lived there for 19 years, it was a great place to grow up, but I never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, I never knew a Christian, never met a Christian, didn’t know what a Christian was. It wasn’t until I moved out of New York, down to Arkansas, when I, you know, heard about Christ and became a Christian. So I wanted to shoot a film that would explain to people that I grew up with in New York State, what a Christian was, what it meant to be born again, so they could hear the gospel, hear the truth about Jesus. And that’s the whole purpose behind this film.”
I’m sorry, but that is (how shall I put this nicely) highly unlikely to be true. I have harped on this point many times before, but it is almost impossible to grow up in the United States and not know about Christianity. Hell, I was raised in a secular home and went to public schools, and I had Christian friends, went to church on occasion, and knew full well who Jesus was and what a Christian was.
Let’s investigate this some more:
Turns out Dave Christiano grew up in Waterloo, New York, with his twin brother, Rich. Around these parts, we know Rich from Second Glance and Time Changer. Rich explains a little more about their Christian-less upbringing in this interview at Christian Fandom:
I was born in upstate New York in a small town of 5000 called Waterloo.
I went to a Catholic grammar school and a Catholic college called St. John Fisher in Rochester, NY. After I became a born-again Christian in 1980, I went back to graduate school in Communications at Arkansas State University.
You went to Catholic school and your brother claims that during his whole first 19 years of life, he never once met a…
It’s a Catholics-aren’t-Christians thing.
Too long of a story to tell how I left the Catholic faith and became a true believer.
They aren’t true believers; they’re fakey believers.
Yeah, definitely a Catholics-aren’t-Christians thing.
Oh, and by the way:
Nope, no Christians in Waterloo, NY. That’s for sure.
Anyway, back to the interview and on to Late One Night itself:
“So I wanted to shoot a film that would explain to people that I grew up with in New York State, what a Christian was, what it meant to be born again, so they could hear the gospel, hear the truth about Jesus. And that’s the whole purpose behind this film.”
I guess I was wrong about Larry’s “What’s a Christian?” question. I thought it was a sarcastic question, meant to see if Jesus could give him a good answer. Nah, guess it means that Larry has lived to the ripe old age of 32 without ever learning what a Christian is.
Except he knows about Hell. And about being born again (but more on that in Part 2 of the critique). And he has Riley and all the other Christians in the factory quoting the Bible at him every day, enough so that he knows they don’t practice what they preach.
WHY ISN’T BRAD HELLER IN THIS INTERVIEW??? I really wanted his take on the character, so I could know if my impression, that Larry is spoiling for a debate and just wants to “test” Jesus and let off some steam, is correct.
“And so people watching this film, if you don’t know what it means to be born again, or you’re not sure, go to the Bible, John, Chapter Three, the first several verses, and see what Jesus had to say about it. Ask the Lord, ‘Lord, I don’t even know what this means. I want to be born again.'”
Why is it that the more I listen to this, the less sense it makes? You want me to ask something to happen to me that I don’t even know what it is?
Anyway, the rest of the interview reveals little more: Gaffga and McLean relate the stories of how they were hired, and Gaffga especially comes off as a nice, fun guy.
Gaffga is a pretty hip Christian, what with his pierced ears, crystal necklace, and skull bead necklace.
Also, you can’t see it in this shot, but his shirt says “They will know we are Christian by our t-shirts.” Which, admittedly, is pretty cute.
Gaffga seems to have a more realistic and sensible take on his audience than Christiano:
“One of the awesome things about this film is that, you know, Christians in media are portrayed as just real closed-minded and real judgmental.”
Gee, can’t imagine why.
“And we, as Christians, have not done a real good job, I think, of reversing that stereotype.”
Okay, Gaffga is definitely growing on me.
“And I think this film does a great job of showing us this guy who’s just a really loving, caring Christian, and really humble. And I think I want non-Christians and people that are seeking, I want them to come away going, “Okay, hey, maybe, you know, there’s something to this God, and there’s something to this Christ, and there’s something to Christians, and they’re not all bad.”
So, even though we don’t get much insight into the character of Larry, here, we know more about they were trying to do with this.
We’ll see if they succeeded in Part 2.