Monthly Archives: November 2013
I am so sorry, you guys! Black Friday got away from me!
But it’s okay. I mean, holy crap, just look at this.
All I know going in is that this is a movie about Christmas versus the evil forces of inclusion and political correctness. So I can only assume that Frowny-Faced Guy on the left is our Good Christian Hero (TM). Next to him is Jesus, so I figure he comes in at the end to wrest Christmas out of the Grinch-like hands of Not Alec Baldwin on the right there (we can tell he’s the villain since he’s wearing a suit and holding his chin and has a smirk on his face, not dissimilar to the one I have most days).
Also, there is some blonde lady, probably the mother of the little angel girl there. Probably the family is poverty-stricken and Not Alec Baldwin will buy them a turkey after his heart grows three sizes.
Our story takes place in a (very) small town in Alaska. The kind of town that is so small, and where people are so up in other people’s business, that the appearance of a U-Haul truck makes the residents stop dead in their tracks.
The U-Haul has been hired by Mitch Bright (Not Alec Baldwin), who left town to become a lawyer and has come back after a mere twenty years. The first people he runs into are the mayor, Dan Reed (Frowny-Faced Guy) and his brother, Greg (Jesus) (oops, my bad). The brothers are building a little stage for the nativity set…and it’s attached to the city hall.
(Oh, before I say anything else, I would like to applaud the writers for their wit if their choice of a last name for Mitch was a deliberate play on the Bright movement. Seriously. It’s not a label I embrace at all, but if they are attuned enough to the atheist movement to even be aware of the term, then good for them.)
Anyway, Mitch just wants to shoot the breeze for a few minutes, and asks after “Kristin.”
“Here it comes!” says Jesus/Greg, so we know he’s the kind of obnoxious twerp who does commentary on other people’s conversations as they’re having them.
“She’s good. Our kids are good, too,” responds Dan, giving Mitch the steely-eyed treatment.
“Hey, I-I-I didn’t mean anything by it, yanno, I was just being polite,” Mitch says, no doubt disturbed by the fact that merely asking after somebody is about to get him beat up…and he’s only been in town for five minutes.
Mitch beats a hasty retreat, and as he and the U-Haul pull away, Greg offers, in a half-kidding tone, “Hey, want me to follow him?”
What??? NO! I just…NO! Why would you even think…dude, do you not have anything else to do with your time, freak-show?
We cut to two teenagers sharing semi-flirtatious banter about the upcoming Christmas Cup, which is apparently a cross-country skiing race. I don’t care.
That night, we find that Blonde Lady and Little Angel Girl are not our Cratchit stand-ins, but rather the wife and daughter of Mayor Dan—the infamous Kristen and Makayla. The smallness and in-your-business-ess of the town is reinforced—Makayla knows that a “rich guy” has moved to town, because apparently all the teachers at school could talk of nothing else.
Dan can’t let this issue drop either, as he considers Mitch’s appearance to be “highly suspect.”
One might wonder, at this point, what is so lacking in Dan’s own life that most of his day is spent ruminating on the motives of a former townie.
In fact, is it too early to tell this entire town that they need to get a life?
They sit down to dinner, and we find that Dan and Kristin also have a son, Cody, one of the semi-flirtatious skiing teens. He is studying up on vampire novels, since “all the girls are reading them.” Smart move, my man.
Dan confusingly states that he knows just how his son must feel, since “your mom read all those books.” Really? These characters are around age fifty—were vampire books really a big thing in the 1970s? I dunno, I figure girls back then were reading Go Ask Alice and Forever… and old-school bodice-rippers.
The next morning, the family’s obsession with Mitch continues. Dan and Cody go snowmobiling without helmets, and Cody asks about “that guy.”
Dan is only too happy to talk about Mitch, and the fact that they used to compete over “football, basketball, skiing, running, class offices, parking spaces, Mom.”
Hmm, I can’t help but notice that you left “grades” out of that list of high school achievements, Dan. A bit self-conscious when in competition with the guy who went to law school, perhaps?
Dan also makes sure that Cody knows that Mom was “The Girl” in high school, and “I won that one.”
Ah, guys who peak in high school. Nothin’ like ’em in the world.
Cody couldn’t really give much of a crap (and is understandably reticent to hear about how his mother was the hottest prize around)…he was really just trying to segue into his own high school woes. You see, being a clueless teenage boy, Cody thinks the skiing girl wasn’t being flirtatious, but that she is his Mitch, his high school rival.
I suppose, in a Christian film, it’s a good thing that the teenager is more interested in beating a girl’s ski time than in getting into her ski pants.
Meanwhile, Mitch is patronizing a local coffee shop, and unlike some coffee shop employees, owner/barista Josie is friendly and chats with Mitch about his ideas to increase her customer base. I’m sure this will all turn out to be ominous, because Mitch is the bad guy and takes his coffee with soy milk, like some librul commie socialist , but it is really hard for me to see this as anything other than him being kind.
We take time out with Mayor Dan and Jesus to talk about how much Christmas rocks.
Jesus: I mean think about, this is the only time of year the entire world has this like shared experience of peace and hope for the future and strangers are lovin’ each other. And there’s that somethin’ in the air, man, it’s something.
Oh, yeah, you sold me, man. Also, what the hell? The entire world? Damn, but these people are insular.
Sadly, Mayor Dan has no time to revel in Christmas joy—he’s too concerned about the new guy in town. Especially since Kristin has invited him over for some Christmas party they’re throwing at their house.
Dan: I know he’s got an angle. … What’s he after?
Good lord, how did Dan ever get along in his daily life without Mitch to plot and scheme against? He just cannot stop thinking about him!
We have no idea how many people were at the Christmas party, but at the end of the evening, only Jesus and Mitch remain at Casa Mayor Dan. Apparently, the discussion has turned to politics over the course of the evening–we hit the middle of a discussion in which Mitch says that Dan’s politics are “wildly conservative compared to the rest of the country.”
Jesus, of course, can’t let such a horrific slur lie, especially as Mitch used to live in that wretched hive of scum and villainy…dun dun DUN…San Francisco.
Mitch is not one to be dissuaded by Jesus’s silliness.
Mitch: Look, there is a surprising amount of hocus-pocus here.
Dan: Oh, you mean—what, Native religion?
HA! Love that his mind immediately goes there.
Mitch: No, I mean Christianity.
Shockingly, the family kinda lets this comment go—Dan is more interested in “what you’re implying.” That is, how this affects him. And it does:
Mitch: I would wager that a majority of the people in this town find your religious piety annoying.
To his credit, Dan reacts to this pretty mildly (milder than Jesus, who pulls a face (a recurring theme of his) and snaps out, “Annoying?”)
Interestingly, Dan turns the focus back to the nation at large:
Dan: Just because God’s out of vogue in the big city doesn’t mean we throw him away like last summer’s fashion magazine.
Weird analogy, Dan. Read a lot of fashion magazines, do you?
Mitch casually agrees to disagree, and casually mentions that perhaps he would make a good mayor (turns out Dan was unopposed in the last two elections!). And on that casual note, the party concludes.
But the evening’s not over yet! Jesus makes a late-night visit to Josie’s coffee shop…to ask her out!
There are not words to describe how creepy and weird Jesus acts as he (kinda sorta) asks Josie out. It really doesn’t help that he does it in that infuriating, backhanded “well if you wanted to go to the movies and I wanted to go to the movies, and we both just so happened to be at the movies at the same time…” way.
Jesus: I was thinking about Christmas.
Josie: Yeah, they have it every year.
Oh, and did I mention that part of Jesus’s date-asking technique involves pulling faces?
So attractive! (And I swear I am not just screencapping his face at an inopportune moment—he makes faces like this throughout the conversation!)
Jesus asks Josie to the Christmas pageant (since his niece, the angel, could “magically make a chair appear next to me”) and Josie seems less than enthused about this prospect. She has a smile pasted on her face the entire time, but gives Jesus no signals whatsoever, only saying:
Josie: Yeah, I’ll probably come.
This doesn’t exactly strike me as a “He asked me! He asked me!!!” moment. Also, this is Josie’s church, so yeah, presumably she would go in any event. So after Jesus wishes her a Merry Christmas and leaves, I can only assume that Josie immediately called at least five of her closest friends, so she could nail down a group to go to the pageant, and thus make it very clear that even though he is there, and even though she is there, it is not a date.
Things are starting slowly here in Wintermas Village, Alaska, so I can only hope they will pick up tomorrow, in Part 2!
So some of us have been saying all along that if Ranold was really the super-agent that he’s supposed to be, and if the NPO was really the super-organization it’s supposed to be, they would’ve had Paul figured out long ago.
WELL GUESS WHAT????
Aw yeah, baby, it is time for Ranold to be Teh Awesome.
Of course, we’re not supposed to think he’s being awesome here. We’re not supposed to be on his side. And we know he’s going to lose.
But GORRAMITALL, I so want to see Paul get his at the hands of Ranold and Jae. Just let me dream for awhile, okay?
Jae arrives in Washington. Presumably, she took a route much like this one, and since Jenkins halves all travel times in Atheistopia, we can assume it took just over five hours to get there, plus eating and potty stops. Then again, the kids are still friggin’ asleep, so maybe Jae blew right through. I can tell you from experience that much of that drive is incredibly boring, so it’s a good thing Jae had something to listen to, even if it was the New Testament.
Ranold is in a late meeting (ONE GUESS WHAT IT’S ABOUT!!!) and Jae’s mother greets her.
Once the luggage was inside, Jae’s mother asked her if she was hungry or thirsty.
“No,” she said. “I need to get to bed and so do you. Thanks for everything.”
Her mother tried to express how thrilled she was to have Jae and the kids, but Jae shushed her and nudged her toward her bedroom.
Jae, it is like nine or ten at night. I think you can take twenty minutes and have a cuppa tea with your mother who loves you. Damn, girl, but that is cold.
We can see that Jae’s Stepfordization progresses ever smoothly—she would rather listen to the Bible than talk with her mother. She takes the discs to her room with her for bedtime listening…and then some.
Oh, and Jae apparently listens to the discs slooooooowly. She was in Romans when she left Chicago, and five hours later, she is into Ephesians. Even counting all of Romans, that is not even 27 pages in my Bible.
But here’s the spooky part:
Jae didn’t intend to memorize [Ephesians 2:4-9], but she wanted to hear it again and again. So she set the coordinates and programmed the player to repeat, and she listened to the passage all night, six or eight times before she drifted off.
So creepy. Jae is basically brainwashing herself through repetition.
Next morning, Jae’s mom takes the kids out for breakfast and then to the zoo, and Ranold sits Jae down for a breakfast that he prepared himself, while revealing to her…dun dun DUN…her real job with the NPO.
“I’m going to let you in on some highly classified information, and I need to know you can handle it. You’re smart, you’re patriotic, and I’ve always known you to be a loyal citizen. Does that still apply?”
In spite of herself, even knowing that her father was flattering her for his own purposes, Jae lived and died for positive input from him.
Jenkins leaves out the logical rest of this thought. Jae lived and died for positive input from her father…because she damn sure didn’t get positive input from anyone else, least of all her husband.
Jenkins tries to paint Ranold in the worst possible light—flattering his daughter, lumbering around like a doofus in the kitchen (even though Ranold turns out to be a good cook), talking with his mouth full (quelle horreur!), but he can’t fool me! Ranold is about to do what we have all been hoping and dreaming he would do for two books now…ATTEMPT TO NAIL PAUL FOR TREASON.
“Jae, are you familiar with Stockholm syndrome?”
“Where a hostage becomes sympathetic to the kidnapper?”
“In a nutshell. Being as generous as possible, that’s what we think happened with Paul.”
It’s happening, you guys. I can hardly believe it, and I know it won’t end well, but Ranold is ON to Paul’s stupid games. He has facts and inside information. He has been wise to Paul for MONTHS now.
And we get to see it all! Goooooooo, Ranold!
And on that awesome note, we will leave Ranold to celebrate his glorious, treason-hunting Wintermas in peace.
Godspeed in your quest, Ranold. Godspeed.
So, I have a plan!
The next two chapters bounce back and forth between Paul and Jae as he arrives in Paris and she arrives in Washington. So I’m going to do a Paul post and a Jae post, which will leave us at the midpoint of Silenced as we enter that most wonderful and Atheistopic of seasons…
I know, I know, I usually do a poll around this time for the Wintermas fare. But this year, I have discovered a wondrous Wintermas movie of joyfulness. Stay tuned on Black Friday for Part One of this Very Special Wintermas Special.
This will be followed by a Wintermas novel, and since we had so much fun last year when evil Joella Ratchford and her spawn of Satan son worked their dark magic on all-around awesome dude Jordan Scoville, I decided to try another Steeple Hill Christmas romance, just to see if they all provide such wacky fun. Coming up after the movie!
Having accomplished absolutely nothing in Rome as far as the hunt for the terrorist, and nothing for the cause of the underground Christians other than contributing to a man being sent to his death, Paul heads to Paris. Why the international government would even okay this move on from Rome when nothing whatsoever has been done is a question I cannot answer.
In Paris, Paul meets Alonza Marcello’s counterpart, one Karlis Grosvenor.
He was about five-ten, and Paul guessed him at close to two-hundred-fifty pounds.
Good to see Paul’s obsession with other men’s body measurements continuing apace.
Grosvenor is psyched to give Paul a tour of the city and show him the “Arch” de Triomphe, which Paul immediately disparages, like the good guest he is:
…Grosvenor finally turned enthusiastic tour guide and bragged that [the Arc] remained “at nearly fifty meters, the largest arch in the world.”
“Largest triumphal arch maybe,” Paul said, unable to hold his tongue.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Chief, the St. Louis Arch has to be nearly four times the size of this one.”
Grosvenor made a dismissive sound. “That is a mere novelty. This is a magnificent work of art, more than two hundred years old and decorated with the figures in relief.”
Paul couldn’t argue with that.
No shit. Damn, but Paul just cannot let anyone like anything without barging in with how much better his country is, can he?
“Isn’t the Island of the City where Notre Dame stands?” [asked Paul]
Grosvenor nodded. “Of course it’s not called that anymore, and the crosses are long gone. It houses the University of the Self-Movement now.”
(Insert poop joke here.)
(Insert “atheists are selfish” joke here.)
Now known as the University of Getting Enough Fiber in Your Diet
They finally get to the actual attack site, and Grosvenor plays for Paul a surviving security recording of the moments pre-bomb. There’s not much to tell (despite Jenkins’ best efforts), but a truck labeled “Henri Foods” (’cause they’re in Paris, get it???) delivered the bomb along with a bunch of croissants. I wish I was kidding.
I’d go into greater detail, but it’s not like Paul gives a flying crap about solving this case, so why should I?
“Would you care to take a walk-through [of the attack site]?” Grosvenor said. “Not too many will get the privilege, if you can call it that.”
“I’d be honored,” Paul said. “I’d regret it if I didn’t.”
You guys are weirdos, y’know? I’m just putting that out there. You’re both very weird.
Yeah, I’d also regret not seeing the horrific aftermath of a bombing that destroyed a national monument and killed hundreds. I’m sure the mangled corpses wouldn’t haunt my dreams forever!
Then again, it’s not like Paul gives a good gorram about the deaths of nonbelievers—we know that from L.A. Still, there might have been a couple of secret Christians among the horribly murdered. But hey, at least they’re not burning in Hell now, amirite?
Grosvenor then takes Paul to lunch (at a bistro, because they’re in Paris), and eats more than twice as much as Paul, because he’s FAT, haha! Then he takes Paul to his hotel. I don’t know what Grosvenor or the international government expect Paul to do with his time, but Paul just calls Straight, and once again gets complicated instructions on how to meet the local underground dude, the “intense” Chappell Raison.
And off he goes into the French countryside, inwardly whining all the way about the wind and the language and the Celsius temperature. Oh, and he rents the smallest car he can find, because…
Anyone who knew him would not be able to imagine him in an economy car.
Jesus, does Jenkins even realize how Paul sounds when he says stuff like this?
So here is where we will leave our ever-humble and self-denying Christian hero: reduced to an economy car, a stranger in a strange land, never having bothered to learn even the rudiments of a language not his own. Poor guy.
See you next year, Paul.
It is the day that Jae and the kids head to Washington—after school, Jae will pick up the kids, and they will blow this pop stand and never look back! At least not until Paul comes back.
The evening before, Straight was over for dinner again, and was still being a jerk. Sadly, Jae’s Stepfordization has progressed to such a stage that she believes the problem is her, as all good Christian women should. After all, Straight is “a wonderful man, a loving person. And he was smart. Wise, too.”
Had she offended him?
Well, yes, by being atheist in the first place. But yes, also, Jae—rest assured that if any relationship in your life is not picture-perfect, you are the one to blame.
So without Straight’s guidance, she continues into Acts 4.
Jae compares Paul’s job to the temple guard in the story, and finds herself “strangely pulling for the underdogs in the story.” Why she thinks this is strange, I don’t know. Regardless of your beliefs or lack thereof, it’s not strange at all to pull for the underdogs in the story. Look at how much trouble we’ve all had pulling for Joshua Jordan, a hero with all the money in the world, multiple homes, a private jet, a hot wife, and the accolades of an entire nation. Not so easy.
Then this weird thing happens:
And these people shared their lives and belongings—when was the last time Jae had heard of people taking care of each other like that? It seemed today it was everyone for himself. What was so wrong with people of faith, even if we disagree with them? They don’t hurt anybody. In fact, they help the needy.
Let’s unpack this. Lots to cover here.
First, it is clear in at least two different ways that Jenkins didn’t proofread this section. He leaves out several verses, only quoting up to Acts 4:30, when the part about early Christians living in a socialist hippie commune is in Acts 4:32-35.
And just look at those weird tense changes and perspective changes. Is Jae thinking the last three sentences? They aren’t italicized, as her other thoughts have been.
Backing out a bit:
…when was the last time Jae had heard of people taking care of each other like that? It seemed today it was everyone for himself.
Well, Jae, you’re a couple of hours away from moving in with your family, where your dad is giving you a job so you can have a nest egg of your very own, and where your mom and brother and sister-in-law want nothing more than to bond with you and your children.
And you live in a world where cancer has been cured and homelessness has been all but eliminated and mental health services are accessible to all and where people donate to “international humanitarian relief.”
I mean, I get that your husband is a self-absorbed jerk who can barely remember his own kids’ names, but that’s no reason to blame the rest of the planet.
Jae, of course, is shocked by Acts 9:11-12…
Straight Street? What were the odds?
Pretty good, when you have a writer who is grafting your husband’s life onto the life of Paul, almost word for word. And name by exact name.
And Saul regaining his sight? This was too much.
For there, we cut over to Paul, who is once again hanging with Enzo. I don’t know why he even bothered leaving the underground meeting room in the first place, considering it took eleven hours for that meeting to break up.
Enzo tells Paul a bit about the leader of the Paris underground, Chappelle.
Clearly, we can see where Jenkins got his inspiration!
Enzo prays with Paul, “exhorting and blessing him“:
“Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt.”
Heh. Bit late for that, Enzo. Or have you never heard of a little place called Los Angeles?
Back in the good ole USSA, Jae and the kids have so far made it…
Indiana doesn’t exist anymore, Jae. Just so’s you know. You’re still in Heartland.
Looks like Jenkins forgot again.
In any event, this means the kids have conked out by about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, which seems a bit odd.
But it gives Jae time to listen to Acts 13, as Jenkins skips over some shit that Peter did and gets back to Paul, the really important one, who talks more about forgiveness of sins.
Ever since Jae had first heard it, she had been obsessed with her own shortcomings. How much easier life had been when she never thought about this!
Either Jae or Paul is Doin’ This Wrong, because we damn well know that Paul never thinks about his personal shortcomings. Then again, maybe this is all part of the RTC Male Master Plan: get the womenfolk so “obsessed” with their own flaws that they never question or blame you for your serial cheating and inability to interact with your own children.
Oh, and color me astonished that a Christian thinks that atheists never think about their flaws and how to correct them. Because all atheists live lives of criminal hedonism, don’tcha know! Raping, robbing, pillaging, kicking puppies!
Well, except for Jae, who has spent the past ten years forgiving Paul countless times for his myriad of narcissistic, cruel flaws, and raising their two kids essentially alone.
Sigh. Then Jae hops forward to Romans, where this text grabs her.
No wonder these people are willing to put their lives on the line for something they believe in! The Bible itself acknowledged that they might face death for this decision. Is it fair for a government, a world system, to tell people who they can and cannot believe in? Jae worried she was becoming sympathetic to the enemies of the state.
Well, she is becoming sympathetic to the enemies of the state. Or at least to some of them, though we have yet to see any underground Hindus or Jews or Wiccans. Guess they just didn’t love their faith enough.
Jae continues her quest to find out more about the Bible, and has picked the worst possible resource: Straight.
She couldn’t tell if he was upset because she had ignored his advice and wishes about her move to Washington—and surely he and Paul had discussed the fact that Paul didn’t want her to go either—or if he simply thought she was calling him too much.
Either way, I guess it’s a good thing that Jae is smart enough to know that Paul and Straight talk about her behind her back. In any event, Straight is a jerk to Jae, which is kinda funny because how has this guy managed to keep his faith a secret all these years? He is the worst liar on the planet. She told him what she had been listening to and asked whether he knew if the Bible was considered a nonfiction historical record.
“I thought we were going to discuss this Thursday night [when I come to your house for dinner],” he said.
“Well, we are, but that’s been bugging me all day. What do you think?”
“I don’t know what I think.”
Well, that much is obvious. Also telling. It is amazing how many believers cannot explain what they believe, why they believe it, and why they think other people should believe it, too.
“Are you asking if I believe it’s true, or…?”
“I’m asking if you know whether people who are believers see the Bible as truth or just some sort of allegorical guideline or something. Because it’s sure different than what I expected.”
“What had you expected?”
He’s stalling! “Well, I don’t know, sir…”
Love that Jae calls him “sir.” Real relationship of equals, here.
“…I guess I always thought the Bible was full of legends and poetry and psalms, hymns, that kind of thing.”
“I don’t think there are hymns, outside the Psalms, of course.”
Of course. My, my, Straight, but you are just a font of information. Dude, Jae hasn’t read the Old Testament, idiot! She has no frame of reference for what you’re talking about.
“And so?” [Jae asks, understandably perturbed]
“Well, I don’t see how I can speak for what other people think. Who knows whether they took it literally or figuratively?”
I’m only a history professor, Jae! How can you expect me to have any ideas about what people in the past said and thought? This thought occurs to Jae, who hilariously concludes that Straight must have been a sucky teacher and she would have hated being one of his students. Oh, burn!
Meanwhile, several pages are spent telling us of Paul’s fumbling through the tunnels to get to the Rome underground’s secret clubhouse. He’s a total wuss about the whole thing, not exactly impressing me with his mad sekrit agent skillz. Maura Fabrizio has to give him huggles when he finally arrives. Hey, you know who else might have liked a hug, Paul? The victims in Los Angeles. But that would take time away from your celebration of their deaths, so I guess that’s out. I know I say this a lot, but I am never getting over this.
Apart from Enzo and Maura, most of the Rome believers are cold to Paul. He is just certain that they are giving him the stink-eye when he’s not looking, but never fear—
Paul had developed a technique that allowed him to quickly shift focus and catch someone staring.
Seems to me that his time would have been better spent developing a technique for successfully navigating a tunnel without wetting his pants.
Enzo lets the believers ask Paul questions, and a female-type person kicks it off:
A middle-aged woman raised her hand. “Assuming you are who and what you say you are, how long before NPO International discovers you’re a turncoat? I mean, they are—”
“The best espionage outfits in the world, yes.”
Hey, Paul, know what might help you bond with these people? NOT INTERRUPTING THEM.
I guess it’s okay, though, since she’s just a woman. Middle-aged, too, so we know she doesn’t matter.
Instead, to bond with them, Paul reveals the whole loyalty-oath thing that Ball Dangler let him in on. Naturally, Paul immediately makes it all about him, because that’s what concerns these underground Christians:
“Well, I for one will not be signing it,” Paul said.
“None of us can, of course,” someone else said. “But then we become instant fugitives.”
Of course, none of them can sign. Because Christians NEVER LIE.
Except to their wives.
The believers still don’t trust Paul, even after this little revelation, so Paul decides that the best way to get them to trust him is to tell him the most fascinating thing in the world: the All About Paul story.
So, Paul reveals that he has the “same worries, same struggles, same cares” as them. Which I guess is kinda true, since he helped murder Christians in the past, and they murder atheists in the present. He also explains that his family can’t know about his new faith yet, which you wouldn’t think would sit so well with this crowd that believes in NO LYING EVER, but I guess that rule doesn’t count when you’re lying to dirty atheists…like your dirty atheist wife.
“My wife and my daughter and my son cannot know until I know they will react favorably.”
Because that’s how strict truth-telling works. Offer may not apply to atheists.
Paul’s “This Is My Life” finally over, the group begins the onerous process of leaving the meeting. This means that they leave one at a time, every five minutes. Jenkins describes this process as “slow,” which is the understatement of the week when you consider he has mentioned that there are OVER ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY people at this meeting.
I’m no math whiz, but the calculator on my computer tells me that it will take the Christians ALMOST ELEVEN HOURS to vacate the premises.
And these people don’t live in the bunker—they have homes and lives and jobs and families.
Almost. Eleven. Hours.
So you’ll not be surprised that one of the women has plenty of time to shoot the breeze with Paul. She has all night and well into the next morning, in fact.
She tells Paul that “the Lord really laid [Jae] on my heart.” She then reports that she will pray for Jae, which inadvertently guilt-trips Paul, “overcome with regret over how infrequently he himself prayed for Jae, specifically for her salvation.”
Interestingly, Paul is not overcome with regret over how often (every day) he lies to Jae. Or how often he gossips to his BFF about her.
But that is all replaced with rage when the woman reveals that the Rome police shot her teenage son when he admitted he wasn’t an atheist.
Paul could not speak. They were at war.
“Huh. This is kinda like when I shot those people in San Francisco, when I could have just taken them prisoner. Guess it’s a good thing Christians don’t murder people WAIT A MINUTE.”
Oh, and finally, back in the glorious land where people actually care about catching the terrorists, the bitchin’ Chief Marcello, is accomplishing actual work, ordering DNA testing on body parts found at the scene, believed to be from the bomber.
Just like on any first date, Enzo Fabrizio, head of the Rome underground, knows it’s important to make his date feel good by keeping the conversation centered on him.
Enzo wanted to know Paul’s story, all about how he became a believer, what had happened in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and especially how things went with International Chancellor Dengler.
For a more sinister interpretation, consider that con artists make a specialty of knowing a lot more about their marks than the marks know about them. Most people like talking about themselves, and it puts them at ease. The better to make them trust you.
Unsurprisingly, Paul is happy to be a part of this, especially when Enzo brings up Andy Pass, Paul’s napalm-barreled former mentor, whose funeral he attended in Soon (where, also unsurprisingly, he also hogged the spotlight):
“I knew the Pass brothers. I mean, I never met them, but Detroit connected us and we talked by phone and private message. Andy was a tragic loss, and I don’t think Jack has been the same since his brother was murdered by the NPO.” [said Enzo]
“You know I had along history with Andy, and a recent history with his daughter.” [said Paul]
“I almost got to hit that, before Jesus told me I was only allowed to have sex with my boring, stupid, electronically-challenged wife!”
And it’s good to know that Paul’s feelings for a man he hasn’t seen in a decade are much more important than the feelings of the guy’s brother.
This fascinating small talk out of the way, Enzo fills in Paul on the tactics of the Rome underground believers. Unlike Detroit, they only meet underground, they don’t live there. And there is an elaborate tunnel system they use to get into their bunker, and they can only enter at a rate of one person every five minutes. Which means that if they want to have a prayer meeting with a mere 24 people, it will take TWO HOURS to get everyone in there.
But it’s not just that the Rome believers apparently have no lives and all the time in the world to get into their super-secret clubhouse! There is a reason behind the stupidity!
“…we have a strict policy that only one person enters every five minutes, and the people inside know in advance who is coming, so an intruder would feel less than welcome.” [said Enzo]
“How much less?” said Paul.
“We kill them,” Enzo said.
“We do. If you have a better solution, I’m open to it.”
Hey, I’ve got a better solution. Don’t kill people.
That makes you look more like a pussy, if you didn’t know, by the way, dudes.
Oh, and this isn’t just theoretical, by the way: THEY EXECUTED A POLICE OFFICER.
“A Rome policeman came nosing around, and we still have no idea why.”
Well, you took him prisoner. You might have thought to ask him.
Enzo calls him a “casualty of war.” Then Paul has the gall to ask:
“Were there no other options? Could you not have held him until you could move your site? And what about the ethics of sending a lost man to hell?”
Big talk from the guy who is still celebrating the deaths of thousands of atheist men, women, and children in L.A.
Enzo doesn’t really address any other options, but apparently the Rome underground Christians were really nice to the cop and…
“We did share our faith with him. … We pleaded with him to give his heart to Christ.”
But the cop said no, so they injected him with phenobarbital and dumped the body.
But poor Enzo…
“The death of that man haunts my dreams.”
“And thus I have it really bad, much worse than he does now, roasting in hell…”
Man, it is soooo hard to be a Christian
“I do know this—and I am not rationalizing as much as trying to explain—the police in Rome have a mandate to execute religious believers upon sight, based on any real evidence. They have asked people outright if they are atheists, and with a witness hearing the perpetrator deny it, they are allowed to ‘terminate them with extreme prejudice’ on the spot.”
So, basically, you’re straight up admitting that this was a revenge killing, Enzo?
And we are once again left in the dark about the actual laws against being a believer, carrying over the confusion from the first book, where we never really found out if the killings of believers were for being a believer, owning a Bible, holding a prayer meeting, and we never found out if the orders to kill were coming from the top, or were the work of a few rogue officers and agents.
Anyway, enough of that! After the talk of killing an innocent man and dumping the body, Paul wants to hear the heartwarming story of Enzo’s own conversion.
“We met at the university fifteen years ago.”
“My wife and I also met at school,” Paul said.
JESUS, Paul, are you capable of listening to someone else tell a story for THREE SECONDS without making it about you?
They started dating and the then-girlfriend, Maura, revealed she was a Christian, and Enzo tried to debate her out of it.
“We argued, we debated, we discussed, but mostly she prayed.”
So, you’re saying she couldn’t answer your arguments, then? Maybe that should have told you something.
“Doctor, I can’t even tell you when or why I went from not believing in God to believing that He was pursuing me. All I know is that when that happened, it was as if He was as relentless as she. I felt chased, pursued, wooed.”
Huh. Too bad God didn’t care enough about the policeman to woo him. Ew.
“Eventually, when I ran out of arguments, I confessed my sins and received Christ.”
How could you run out of arguments? She was mostly just praying at you. Dude, you suck at being an atheist.
“It has been quite an experience, raising a family, holding a job—I am a tour guide by day—and being trained to be a spiritual leader in a society that makes such a goal punishable by death.”
You raise an interesting point, Enzo—how come you get to be the spiritual leader? Your wife is the one who was raised Christian, by Christians, and the one who can pray people into conversion. Shouldn’t she—
Oh, yeah. She has girl parts. To ask the question is to answer it.
The chapter concludes with Enzo giving Paul boring instructions on how to get into their unnecessarily-complicated, one-person-every-five-minutes clubhouse. But Paul can’t let it go without pointing out how much more awesome America is:
“Well, it’s not the abandoned salt mines of Detroit, but it’s something.”
Well, thanks for nothing, jerk.
USSA!!! USSA!!! USSA!!!
Back in Chicago, the firstborn Stepola daughter, Brie, is giving Jae some lip because she doesn’t want to go to Washington. Jae manages to talk her down at least a bit, but is now filled with doubt herself, thanks primarily to her husband and his BFF having “bad feelings” about Jae having the opportunity to bond with her own family.
Jae got the kids settled into their predinner activities and turned on the New Testament discs. This time she wore headphones. Brie and Connor didn’t need to hear this foolishness.
Why do I get the feeling that if Jae was doing anything else that involved tuning out her kids, Jenkins would hold it up as a shining example of “atheist ‘mothers’ neglect their kids in pursuit of their selfish interests'”?
She’s into Acts 3 now, where Peter heals a lame man, then pontificates to the onlookers about Jesus and Pilate. Weirdly, out of all she’s heard so far, this story sounds familiar to Jae. I would think that in Atheistopia, average people would be more familiar with Bible stories that are easily debunked and/or had entered the common vernacular of the older generation: Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, David and Goliath, the prodigal son, water into wine, etc.
But the most important thing is that Jae starts wondering if this story was real–that is, if Peter was telling a true story about Jesus.
It didn’t have the earmarks of a fable or fairy tale. It had a documentary quality.
Yes, because people never make up stories or exaggerate for their religion! If anyone says anything happened ever, it must be the truth!
Jae: Hmmm…another set of discs on Paul’s discshelf. “Book of Mormon.” Says here that a guy found some golden plates from an angel and that other people saw them, too! It must be true, because they say so!
Jae gets to the sin stuff:
Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.
So Jae “thinks” about sin:
Was she sinful? What was sin? And what was it measured against?
Because, you see, all atheists have eeeeevil subjective morality!
And, uh, Jae? Sin is something that is only wrong because God says it’s wrong. So if you don’t believe in God, you really have no reason (har!) to worry about sin.
She could be selfish, rude, greedy, short-tempered, even lustful. Though she had always been faithful to Paul, she couldn’t say she hadn’t been tempted.
Well, as it says in the part of the Bible that Jae has never read…
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
So, I guess you’re screwed, Jae. Then again, you are a woman, and this passage is, of course, addressed only to lustful males. So, on those evenings alone when Paul was fucking various drunk secretaries, while you watched the vintage Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and wondered why your man’s worst fault couldn’t be that he was occasionally stiff at parties, you were just as bad as Paul.
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
So, get to it, Jae.
If these discs were going to make her feel bad about herself, even guilty, maybe they weren’t worth listening to after all.
Jae: After all, if I want to feel bad about myself, all I need to do is converse with my husband!
I joke, but there’s truth here: Jae has been shown (if not described) throughout these two books as a good person trying to do her best. She loves her kids, loves her parents and her brother, and is doing her very best to keep her marriage intact, despite her husband’s efforts to thwart her at every turn. Not to mention Paul subjecting her to years of emotional abuse, badmouthing her family, insulting her intelligence, her common sense, her hopes, her plans. It’s quite telling that Jenkins can’t actually list concrete examples of Jae being “selfish, rude, greedy, short-tempered.” If anything, I’d say she’s been extraordinarily patient with her awful, nasty husband and his smarmy, Nosy Parker best (only) friend.
And now she’s getting into RTC-ianity, a program of study designed to convince her that yes, she is every bit as bad as her husband always said. Sinful, dirty, wrong. Deserving only of Hell, saved only by the death of a man who lived two thousand years before Jae was even a gleam in Ranold’s eye.
And the only person she can think of going to for counsel? Her abusive husband’s best friend.
Jae is so, so screwed.