Monthly Archives: September 2013
It’s fun times to rag on atheists: their lousy skills in marriage and parenting, their cancer-curing and homelessness-ending, their efficient travel times and planet-saving cars.
But sometimes you just like to mix things up a bit.
Which is why, in this chapter, we’re going to learn how much Catholics suck.
Regular readers of the Slacktivist’s critique of the Left Behind series will find this to be familiar ground: after all, of there are three memorable Catholic characters in the series:
1. The Pope at the time of the Rapture…who is raptured. Not because Catholics are Rapture-worthy, mind you, but because he had not-so-secretly embraced Protestantism and, more specifically, End Time theology.
2. Peter Mathews, the new Pope, and later head of Enigma Babylon One World Faith. He’s power-mad, short-sighted, venal, and rather stupid. And those are his good qualities.
(Apologies for the TV Tropes links. See y’all in a few hours…)
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m exactly as Catholic as I am Protestant. But I am not the only one to notice this. Don’t believe me? Just Google “Left Behind anti-Catholic.”
I’ve said before that the Left Behind series is more anti-Catholic than it is anti-atheist. The Underground Zealot series is just the opposite, but I guess Jenkins decided it was best to remind readers that, just because Catholicism was outlawed right along with all other religions, doesn’t mean they weren’t Wrong and Not Real Christians.
Paul meets Rome’s chief of detectives, Alonza Marcello.
Ms. Marcello’s not unkind brusqueness was almost funny.
I know, right? It’s so funny when women try to be competent and professional.
Marcello drops that the Vatican is now “a community park” and the Sistine Chapel is “a shopping bazaar.” Paul segues into Marcello’s religious background, though this appears to be less because he wants to one day witness to her, than that he wants to hear about how much Catholicism sucks (sucked).
“Yes, I was raised Catholic. … I buy clothes where once I endured catechism classes, accessories where once I made my confessions.”
“You were devout? You believed?”
“Not really. When I was a child, yes. You take on the beliefs of your parents. In my case, my mother. Church every day for her.”
“You don’t say.”
“My father enjoyed the Communion alone, if you get my meaning. It was not hard for him to give up what little faith he had. He didn’t have to give up the wine, after all. For my mother, more of an ordeal, but she managed.”
“You never missed God?”
She shook her head. “God was not personal to me. Always up there, out there, somewhere, hanging on a cross or—I imagined—staring disapprovingly at me from beyond the clouds.”
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. If only Catholics dropped the wine and got a Personal Relationship with God, why—they might actually be Saved! It’s all so simple when you know who the tricksy ones are:
It is quite possible that we are on the verge of seeing a merging of the feminist movement, liberal Christianity (with its penchant for feminizing the Scriptures), and mother goddess worship. At the same time, many in the Catholic church are trying to persuade the Pope to establish Mary worship as official church doctrine by naming Mary “co-redemtrix with Jesus” and the fourth member of the godhead. In all likelihood, as soon as all born-again Christians are raptured, there will be no restraining influence to keep such perverse doctrine from being made official. The next step, a very small one, would be for Gaia worshipers to become Mary worshipers. Perhaps that is why Babylon—the religious beast of Revelation 17 seen with a woman on its back—controls the Antichrist’s kingdom during the first half of the Tribulation.
—Are We Living in the End Times? pp. 329-30
Ah, and so we see the perversity of a godless world—a FEMALE chief of detectives!
Having gotten in the shots at those wine-swilling, idol-worshipping “Christians,” Jenkins moves back to more familiar territory—those evil, decadent, hedonistic atheists.
But as they proceeded deeper into central Rome the streets became narrower, the blackened buildings taller, and the limo a claustrophobic amusement-park car in a haunted-house ride. Soon every place of business reminded Paul of Amsterdam, live nudes in the windows, offering every kind of fleshly heterosexual and homosexual pleasure to all. Bars, nightclubs, strip joints, houses of prostitution, tattoo parlors, drug-shooting galleries—everything was legal.
Wait, tattoos are legal??? ZOMG NOOOOOOO!!!!
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
Kinda hilarious that Paul has nightmares about how manly he is, and reassures himself that he always performs at his absolute “peak,” yet the sight of a bar makes him think of a “haunted-house.”
Makes me think of the Haunted Mansion, which only makes me want to go to Rome!
But no doubt such evil, pagan things as haunted house are…evil and pagan. Just like “drug-shooting galleries.” It’s a slippery slope, people.
What was the problem with people being exposed to anything they wanted? They didn’t have to buy or indulge. These were merely options for an enlightened populace that had long since cast off any shackles of propriety—which, after all, was only in the eye of the beholder.
Um, yeah, Paul. Pretty much. Hell, it’s not like feminist former-Catholic Chief Marcello is buying or indulging. In fact, she mourns the loss of the art and the endangered species in Rome from the bomb blast.
“Not to mention the loss of human life,” Paul said.
Of course. Surely until Paul said something, this woman, who has been heading the investigation of the crime scene for days now while Paul was eating sammiches, never considered the loss of human life. Because we all know how much Paul cares about human life.
Except when he prays for its end.
It is now the time in the story when we SHARE ALL THE NEWS!!!
Straight calls Paul to SHARE ALL THE NEWS of his evening with Jae (because this lack of privacy for the Stepolas goes in all directions). But Paul has no time to listen right now, as he is on his way to a quick appointment with Ball Dangler, who wants to SHARE ALL THE NEWS with him, too.
But before Paul hangs up on Straight, he advises him to call Abraham, who still has to SHARE ALL THE NEWS of a Bern underground.
Ball Dangler does indeed have news to share with Paul: first of all, the NPO has already nabbed stupid Gregor and sentenced him to twenty years in prison for “assaulting” Paul. This would, indeed, be a great example of Atheistopia’s secretly-tyrannical powers, except that Gregor was so utterly incompetent that the Keystone Kops could have nailed him.
The next piece of news is that Dangler is going to start requiring that all adults in Atheistopia sign this awkward loyalty oath:
Under penalty of life imprisonment, or death in extreme cases, I hereby pledge that I personally support the global ban on the practice of religion. I am not affiliated with any group, organization, or individual who acts in opposition to the ruling of the international government on this matter, and I stipulate that if I become aware of any citizen violating this ordinance, I am under obligation to report the same, failure to do so resulting in the same punishment.
Paul had trained himself to look collected at times like this. What in the world was he going to do when required to sign?
Oh, I dunno…LIE??? Yanno, Paul, like you’ve been lying to your wife for the past half-year and more?
But apparently both Paul and Dangler are under the impression that nobody lies, ever, and thus that secret religious types couldn’t just sign the oath and go back to what they were doing.
This seems wrong from both ends. Paul has been living a double life for months now, and Straight has been living one for years. But when it comes to signing a piece of paper from the government they consider corrupt, murderous, and hellbound, suddenly they need to become honest?
And Dangler would presumably be aware of the fact that religious believers are no more or less honest than atheists. Why does he think believers wouldn’t lie on this stupid thing?
Bah, it’s just a MacGuffin. Anyway, Dangler has MOAR NEWS: he wants to give Paul his extra-special secret skullphone personal line. I guess in case Paul ever wants to discuss philosophy. Or that terrorist that they might want to think about starting to hunt sometime this year.
While on his government-chartered flight to Rome, Paul reconnects with Straight so they can SHARE ALL THE NEWS with each other.
“Paul, I am so sorry, and none too happy, to have been left out of the loop about the Bern underground.”
Yeah, why was Straight left out of the loop on that? You’d think if anyone would need-to-know about this, it would be the BFF of the secret-believer NPO agent who was, yanno, going to Bern.
Bit of trouble in underground zealot paradise, boys? Maybe Abraham needs a little talking-to? Especially in light of the next piece of news: Gregor was murdered.
“The party line is that he tried to overtake the guard on his way to prison, and they were forced to shoot him.” [said Straight]
“Does Dengler know?” [Paul asked]
“Paul. There’s no question Dengler ordered it.”
Paul couldn’t speak.
“You still there?” Straight said.
“Yeah. How much does Dengler know?”
“You mean about you? We think he’s still in the dark, but he may suspect. Thus this murder.”
Okay, that makes NO FRAKKING SENSE.
We have been told that Paul is the only Christian mole in the NPO. So how would anyone know that Ball Dangler ordered the hit? For that matter, how can we even be sure it was a hit? Gregor is certainly stupid enough to think that he could escape from armed guards.
Oh, and gotta love that when faced with the news of the murder of a Christian brother, Paul’s thoughts immediately turn to…himself. Like, not even one second of sympathy for Gregor. His only thought is how it affects him.
Also, if Dangler suspects Paul is a traitor, why wouldn’t he torture Gregor for information instead of immediately killing him? He obviously found out that Gregor was a Christian, probably because Gregor is the kind of guy to spill the beans to every human being he meets:
“Unhand me, atheist scum! I swore to Jesus Christ that I would never tell anyone about my secret meeting with the Christian mole in the NPO, at which I would inform him of the vast conspiracy of underground believers in this city…and I meant it!”
Paul is then tempted to SHARE ALL THE NEWS of the stupid loyalty oath, but develops a sudden attack of belated common sense:
“Wait till you see the document Dengler gave me this morning.”
“You mean I know something you don’t?”
“What is it?”
“Only the death knell for the underground if it’s carried out. Let’s not risk talking about that now.”
Let’s not risk…YOU BROUGHT IT UP, YOU IDIOT! Also, bit late to be worried about Who Might Be Listening now—you’re on an Atheistopian government charter flight and have been talking about underground networks of secret believers for ten minutes, now.
But forget about government-sanctioned murders and world-ending loyalty oaths! Let’s talk about something really important—whether a woman will visit her parents!
“She’s seriously considering her father’s invitation to go and work for him in Washington.”
“I can’t let that happen, Straight. But it has to be her decision.”
“Well, I mean she should at least think it’s her own decision. As much as a woman can think, that is.”
I once promised you all that Paul wouldn’t change his abusive, controlling, asshattish ways after his conversion. I hope I have not disappointed.
And so, Paul and Straight conspire to dissuade Jae of the extremely harmful notion that she and the kids should spend time with their extended family:
“What’d you tell her?”
“Just that it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. I told her I needed to think about it.”
“Good. Get back to her in due time and tell her you really have a bad feeling about it.”
“Make sure she doubts her own instincts as much as possible. Imply her family doesn’t really love her. It also would be great if you could get in a backhanded compliment about her mothering skills—like, why does she need help with the kids, are they really too much for her to handle, something like that.”
It’s not like any real harm will be done. After all, Jae’s desire to visit her family is only based on silly, womany emotions and weakness:
“She’s just going stir-crazy with me gone. And her family is applying pressure.”
“Which is totally different than US applying pressure!”
Yes, indeed, in the evil world of Atheistopia, it is these two guys who follow the path of morality.
Unsurprisingly, we get more description of the dinner Jae serves for Straight than of Jae herself:
Jae found a banquet of frozen fish in the bottom of her freezer—everything from scallops and shrimp to lobster and mahimahi. This she thawed, stir-fried in garlic sauce, folded with generous amounts of three different cheeses, and baked as a casserole.
That sounds…kinda gross. WAY too much cheese. And I like both fish and cheese. That’s just…so much. I think Jenkins was writing right before lunchtime again.
The kids loved it, she supposed because it was close enough to macaroni and cheese.
Or maybe because Jae keeps a variety of ingredients on hand and her kids are used to things other than hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese?
Straight had two large helpings and was effusive in his praise.
Problem was, the fish was old. Had Jae sampled it during the stir-fry stage she might have noticed the rubbery quality of especially the scallops and shrimp. But good cheese, not overcooked, apparently overcame the texture malfunction, and unless Straight was a better actor than Jae knew, she had scored.
Straight is a better actor than you know, Jae. He poses as a mild-mannered, incredibly rude and pushy atheist hospital volunteer. But he is actually an incredibly rude and pushy Christian volunteer.
After dinner, Straight orders the kids to put their dishes in the sink, since I guess atheist parents don’t teach their children to take responsibility by doing minor chores. That’s two strikes against atheism, since atheist women don’t know enough to check food for freshness before serving it.
Jae has a lot to learn before assuming her rightful place as RTC Stepford Wife.
Later that evening, Jae and Straight bond as they nurse themselves and the kids through a disgusting bout of food poisoning.
She wanted insight on Paul, though, and she couldn’t think of anyone better to get it from.
Well, Jae has known Paul for over twelve years, and Straight has known him for about ten months, so you’d think she might know someone better. But it is rather telling of Paul’s narcissistic personality disorder that he has no friends who have any better insight than someone who has known him less than one year.
“…Paul captured me. He’s a very special person. ‘Course, you know that better than I.” [said Straight]
Jae leaned forward, elbows on her knees, peering at this magnificent man.
Well. This is becoming awkward in several different ways.
And things become even more awkward as Straight opens up to Jae…about the fact that he and Paul discuss the private details of the Stepola marriage, including Paul’s countless affairs. The closest Straight comes to giving Jae an “insight” on Paul is his assertion that Paul’s new man-ness is the result of “an inner change, ma’am.”
And with this not-at-all-a-hint-that-Paul-got-religion, Straight prepares to escape this weird house and get back to his own weird life, when Jae brings up the plan to move to Washington, D.C. until Paul comes back.
“What do you think?” [Jae asked]
“I don’t know. You want an honest answer, I just can’t say. At first blush, I’m not sure it’s wise. Can’t tell you why. Just makes me uneasy. But let me think on it. I shouldn’t be the one to help you decide anyway. Paul should. But you asked.”
“I feel led of God to tell you that the Baby Jesus would cry if you left your wifely duties to your absent husband to spend quality time with your godless heathen hellbound fam—NO! Darn it! Stupid, stupid!”
After the evening of awkwardness is over, Jae thinks herself in circles: she wants to go to Washington but doesn’t want to disappoint Straight (WHY, Jae?). Then she lapses into alone-in-the-house-at-night paranoia, obsessing about the number of cars passing the house, and if anyone is watching the house. (Who that would be is something Jae doesn’t reveal to us, or doesn’t know.)
Finally, thinking about how much she misses Paul (again, Jae, WHY?), she determines to listen to some of his New Testament discs.
Might listening to these give her some insight into him or at least something they could discuss?
And thus Jae admits something that Jerry Jenkins will not: that Paul and Jae have exactly nothing to talk about, and that their supposedly “better than ever” marriage is nothing more than two virtual strangers exchanging a few daily pleasantries. I don’t care if they’re both atheists, both RTCs, or “unequally yoked”—this marriage is devoid of even the rudiments of friendship. It cannot be saved.
And now Jae is on her way to RTC-ianity. Bye, Jae.
The meeting with Ball Dangler took place on Friday night. Then Dangler and the NPO apparently give Paul the entire weekend to get used to the time change, since they don’t call upon him again until Monday, for a full-day briefing. I guess it makes sense for a weekend break during the hunt for an international terrorist who has murdered hundreds of people and destroyed national monuments.
Anyway, Paul gets back to his hotel room in Bern on Monday night, and orders room service. And the room service “deliveryman” turns out to be the jerk driver who brought Paul in from the airport, and who was subsequently fired for his jerkitude.
Paul decides that the guy must be there to kill him, and that he must, therefore, only understand the language of violence…so he launches himself at the poor schmuck, pins him to the ground, searches him, and finds a handgun.
But the schmuck attempts to explain himself:
“He is risen.”
Yep, the jerk driver was a Sekrit RTC all along!
To give Paul credit (and yes, I hate writing those words), he is immediately suspicious of the jerk driver (his name is Gregor), and his first thought is that the whole thing is a setup from the NPO.
Paul set his jaw. He could respond, test the waters. If he was wrong he’d know soon enough and could still kill the man. “He is risen indeed.”
Or, yanno, Paul, you could claim that you were just reeling the guy in so you could squeeze more information out of him. Seriously, Paul is constantly worried that he will expose himself (ew), when any and all talking with Christians about Christianity could be easily explained by the fact that he is AN UNDERCOVER AGENT WHO IS AN “EXPERT” (SIC) IN RELIGION.
Paul is such a numbskull.
Gregor has a nice, stupid explanation for this whole scheme:
“My contact is Abraham from the Detroit underground. Your man, Straight, is on a need-to-know basis about us [the Bern underground]. By the time you next talk to him, he will have been informed.”
That makes no sense at all. And the fact that Paul agrees with me on this does not make me happy.
Also, I’m sure Straight will be delighted to hear that Abraham was keeping secrets from him.
Eh, I guess it’s no big thing for Straight, what with the American underground being notorious for using code names in private when everyone knows everyone already.
Gregor points out to Paul that his gun is empty. So Gregor was wandering around the hotel, disguised as an employee, with an empty gun. That makes tons of sense, too.
Gregor’s entire purpose in this sneak-into-hotel-room gambit is to “encourage and help” Paul, and to meet up with him again in Rome and “save [Paul] a lot of time.”
And with that, Gregor peaces out, leaving Paul with bad dreams:
Paul’s dreams were filled with underground meetings gone awry, room-service waiters with high-powered weapons meeting him at every turn. There had been times when he was younger when he worried that such dreams revealed his true cowardice. Yet he had always functioned at the peak of his abilities. Maybe his weakness when unconscious made him concentrate more when he was awake. A man could hope.
I see Paul’s obsession with being the manliest man in the history of manliness continues apace.
Also, good to know that we’ve seen Paul operating at peak form all this time. *snicker* You would think Paul and Gregor would get along better than they do.
Back in Chicago, Jae is ready to call Straight to ask him over…but he calls her first. The whole conversation is by turns creepy, more creepy, then stupid.
He said Paul had asked that he check in on her. She was struck that he sounded so kind, not as if he were merely following through on a promise to a friend.
What does she expect him to do, bark at her? “Mrs. Dr. Stepola, are you and the mini-Stepolas safe and secure? Duly noted, I shall check in again in 48 hours.”
Also, it’s kinda odd that Paul thinks Jae needs looking-in-on. After all, we’re in Atheistopia, where the crime rate is low, the rents are reasonable, and travel times are half what they are today. And Paul can talk to Jae on his skull phone pretty much any time he wants. So, why bother Straight about this? I’m guessing it is yet another way to keep Jae as disconnected from her family as possible, or just general distrust of a woman-folk being alone, but then, I am not one to give Paul the benefit of the doubt in any circumstance.
Jae, sensing Straight’s Passionate Sincerity, volunteers that she is “struggling“…
“How so? Missing your man?”
You’re gross, Straight. I’m just putting that out there. There’s just something in the way you say that, coupled with the secrets that you and Paul are keeping from Jae…
“Exactly. That may be a surprise to you after what you’ve witnessed in our home, but—”
“Oh, no, ma’am. I understood well all the pressures you both were under…”
“What with you both being filthy unsaved atheists and married, and we know how that always works out…”
“…and besides, Paul has kept me up to speed on how things have changed around there in the last few months. And of course I noticed that too.”
Wow. Okay, first of all, yeah, I am sure that Paul has been constantly telling Straight about what a fantastic husband and father he has become, with his new habit of not actually telling his wife to her face what a useless idiot she is.
And, it’s fantastic to know that Straight keeps tabs on the state of his friend’s marriage, while conspiring to keep a major secret from the other party to that marriage. That is just so creepy I can hardly wrap my head around it. Honestly, the way Straight puts it, makes it sound like he is peeping into the Stepolas’ windows every night.
Jae was nearly speechless. Had she overestimated the distance she’d felt from this man?
Or had he just been shy? Having seen him in action at the hospital poked holes in that theory.
Indeed. Generally, someone who touches people who don’t want to be touched and talks to people who don’t feel like conversing isn’t someone who can be described as “shy.”
Jae invites him over for dinner so he can visit with the kids…and her.
“I do hope you can stay awhile. I’d like to talk to you privately.”
“Whatever you wish.”
LOOK AT HOW CUTE HE IS
*cough cough* Anyway…
Then Jae makes the monumental mistake of asking Straight what he would like for dinner:
“Well, ma’am, as long as you asked, I love fish.”
“Any particular kind?”
She chuckled. “So I can’t go wrong.”
“Not with fish, ma’am, no.”
Jae chuckled? If it was me, Straight would be lucky he wasn’t there in person, because that is pretty smackable behavior, at least coming from a non-friend who calls you “ma’am.” I mean, I could see that kind of teasing between two people who are close (though even then…), but coming from this guy, it just feels incredibly obnoxious to me.
Jae’s in for just a lovely evening, isn’t she?