Silenced: Chapter 17: Why Not Lie?
Paul talks to Enzo on his skull phone, and they discuss the loyalty oath that will be announced in just a few days:
“I cannot imagine my staying in place with the NPO long after Monday’s announcement.” [said Paul]
Why not? Because Good Christians Don’t Lie, of course.
Except to their wives, I mean. And to everyone, as long as you’re not lying out loud and in so many words. Even though Paul has been living a “double life” for six months now, he hasn’t actually lied and said “Hey, just so everyone is clear, I’m still an atheist.”
So his conscience is clear. But it would not be clear if he signed his name to a loyalty oath, allowing him to keep up his important work as a double agent.
I mean, not that he does any actual work, but if he did, it would be important!
And Enzo agrees:
“…such an eventuality would give the entire global underground church sixty days’ worth of marching orders. Unless we do something drastic, true believers who would never denounce their faith will face death.”
Okay, I admit that I am a lifelong atheist who really doesn’t give a crap about the idea of denouncing faith or lack thereof. If somebody put a gun to my head and ordered me to “convert” to anything, I would do it in less than one second. After all, I know what I really believe and don’t believe, and if it’s so important to some bad guy that I say I believe something else, I’ll say it. Doesn’t mean I think it. As for Paul and the other Christians, shouldn’t Jesus know their hearts? Wouldn’t he forgive them “denouncing” their faith so they can continue to live and try to convert the evil atheistic world?
Enzo tries to explain:
“The only possible way of surviving [the oath] is to show the International Government that there are enough of us that we should be heard.”
Fair enough. But Paul actually has a good point:
“But, Enzo, you all have been living underground for years. It has been like this for decades already.”
Yeah. Why engage in all these little, nothing tactics like sewing tracts into textiles, when you could make a stand and let your voices be heard? Shoulda done this yesterday!
“Yet the government feels this need to put us on the spot.”
Yeah, and why dance to their tune, Enzo? Shoulda stood up yesterday! Wrongs will be righted if you’re united, yanno?
But never fear, because Enzo knows what’s really important here!
“What will you do, Paul? This has to be even worse, much more dangerous for you.”
Why??? We’ve already established that Rome police execute believers on sight. And Enzo is the head of the Rome underground—surely he is just as susceptible to “extra” attention by the government as Paul is. Perhaps even more. But Paul agrees that things are waaaaay worse for him. His response to Enzo:
No question things are worse for Paul than for anybody. Man, Paul seeks out ways to be The Most Oppressed of All like a frakkin’ Social Justice Warrior.
“But I know this: Nothing will make me sign.” [said Paul]
“Praise the Lord. But what about the disposition of your wife and children?”
“I have already put them in God’s hands,” he said. “If the only thing within my power to save them was renouncing my faith, I would not do it. I could not. I would only pray that they be drawn to God through my example.”
Save them from what, Paul? I mean, you want them to be believers, subject to the same persecution as you. So it can’t be that. Save them from the repercussions of you being exposed as a religious nut? Hell, they’ll be pitied and protected, that’s pretty much a given. I know you think that only Christians care about families and children, but trust me, pretty much everybody in your life feels sorry for Jae and thinks you’re, at best, an asshat, and at worst, a traitor. Jae and the kids will be fine.
“I am trying to live in a way that she will at least be sorry to lose me.”
And there we have it. (Again.) Paul isn’t being halfway-decent to his wife because he loves her or respects her or is remorseful about his abuse and cheating. Nope, he’s just doing it to manipulate her, so she’ll be sad when he’s gone.
Frakkin’ narcissistic sociopath.
Back in D.C., Jae and Ranold head to his office after his Reasons Paul Sucks PowerPoint. He checks her status:
“And can you do whatever is necessary to help us, if he’s turned on us?”
“To be perfectly honest, Dad, you haven’t proved that to me yet. But if you could, of course I would do whatever was necessary. What kind of person, citizen, mother would I be if I wouldn’t?”
“That’s my girl.”
My biggest fear: I’m Ranold B. Decenti’s girl—no more, no less.
Really, Jae? That’s your biggest fear? I’ve got a better one for you: that you’re Paul Stepola’s abused, manipulated, Stockholm Syndromed wife—no more, no less.
Jae doesn’t want to believe Paul is a traitor, but…
Even his new attitude—his loving, caring, listening, others-oriented personality—could be just a ruse to cover what he’s really been up to. [Jae thinks]
Catty though she is proving herself to be, I do feel bad for Jae that she’s been so snowed by occasional decency from Paul that she thinks of it as loving and caring.
I’m sorry, I just…that phrase sounds a bit silly in and of itself, but to apply such a goofy phrase to PAUL STEPOLA is so laughable that it deserves not just one corny laughing gif…
…but three more…
Paul Stepola…others-oriented guy.
So, even though she’s conflicted about it, Jae shows Ranold the infamous “come to Jesus” letter from Paul’s father (Ranold’s reaction in the next chapter). And she muses about how much an atheist world sucks…
…she found the New Testament stuff so impactful. She had never been taught to question, to investigate. … You didn’t question that religion was a farce, that God was a creation of man, that anything spiritual or outside the realm of the material was akin to fairy tales but not so harmless. People didn’t change. How could they? The only values worth fighting and dying for were humanism and the preeminence of the state.
Okay, I can see how one could, in theory, write an interesting story about how society’s skeptics and critical thinkers took over the world and soon their worldview became the very thing they had fought against—the status quo, the unquestioned and unquestionable.
But this isn’t that story.
Not least because the past two chapters have shown us that the main villain of this uninvestigating, unquestioning world, one Ranold B. Decenti, has completely changed his own views on Paul. He used to like and respect Paul, but after QUESTIONING AND INVESTIGATING, has come to the conclusion that Paul is not to be trusted, has flipped, and is using his position in the NPO to aid believers.
And he’s right.
And this unquestioning world has cured cancer, all but completely eradicated homelessness, improved mental health services, made all cars environmentally friendly, decreased travel times, and makes it paper out of previously-unrecyclable plastic.
Yep, what a stodgy, uncritical world.
Back in France, Paul is talking with actual French people, who apparently all speak perfect English, which is a good thing for two reasons:
1. Superspy Paul flunked Berlitz (the language program, not his brother-in-law)
2. Paul uses phrases like “several-pronged benefits” when talking to people for whom English is a second language.
Paul wants their help to trap Magnor, because he obviously can’t do any work by himself. (Or at all.) The French Christians are understandably reluctant to help, because it already sucks enough to be them. ChappellShow is the only one in favor of helping, mostly because of his guilt complex—he didn’t read Magnor’s mind well enough to understand that when Magnor said he wanted revenge, he meant he was going to bomb three specific world monuments within days of each other.
But Paul knows how to convince the undecided:
“Magnor needs to be brought to justice. Even if we weren’t looking at this as Christians, he’s still a murderer, a coward. The international community may make strange bedfellows for us, but on this we must agree. Regardless the offense, regardless the differences, the answer is not the obliteration of innocent people.”
ARE YOU FRAKKING KIDDING ME, PAUL???
“The events” being the deaths of thousands.
Paul Stepola: Hypocrite of the year, 38 P.3.