Literature: Underground Zealot
is a series by Jerry Jenkins (better known for co-writing the Left Behind
series). After the world's religious conflicts somehow turned into World War III
, the UN decided to outlaw religion completely - with the usual punishment apparently being death.
After a series of miraculous shenanigans atheist Paul Stepola, an agent for the National Peace Organization (NPO), is converted to born-again Christianity. Paul then acts as a spy and secret agent for the underground Christians.
There are three books in the series, which are:
- Soon (2003)
- Silenced (2004)
- Shadowed (2005)
Tropes from the Underground Zealot series include:
- Aerith and Bob
- Author Tract: But of course!
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Paul is described as tall, fit, and handsome. Angela, a secret Christian, is "dramatically pretty." Contrast with bad gal Bia Balaam, who is described as being "rawboned" and "thin-lipped," with "psycho eyes."
- Because Destiny Says So: After World War III, the United States is re-divided into seven states known as the United Seven States of America. There is pretty much no reason for this to happen other than it's supposed to be the fulfillment of the "seven heads" bit in the Revelation.
- Black and White Morality: What the author was shooting for
- Broken Aesop: In-universe and out: Immediately after the zealots, with great effort, manage to spread pamphlets around Los Angeles saying that “We are no threat to the government or the status quo,” and asking themselves why the atheists feel so threatened by them when all they want is "the free exchange of ideas", they let the world know that they're praying for God to remove all water from the city, which He does, killing thousands in the process.
- But Not Too Evil: Even though the story is supposed to take place in a world taken over by Hollywood Atheists, many right-wing boogeymen are curiously absent. For example, there are no LGBTQ characters.
- It's also odd that in this atheist-run world of debauchary, Paul and Jae stayed together in an unhappy marriage for a decade or so rather than divorcing after the 27th time Paul cheated.
- The Casanova: Paul, before converting to BAC.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Paul, after converting to BAC.
- Crap Saccharine World: Decades of world peace, great technological achievement, near-total elimination of disease and poverty... of course, being caught as a believer will net you a grisly execution. (Exactly how an atheist "theocracy" could manage to create such a paradise for 99% of the population, or the possible moral issues of the remaining 1% trying to overthrow that system for their own benefit, is never addressed.)
- Coldblooded Torture: What the NPO uses whenever they can remember the advantages of finding more secret believers, as opposed to shooting the zealots on the spot. And of course what the thousands of atheist civilians killed in the LA miracle will suffer for all eternity in hell.
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Bia Balaam's specialty for dealing with Christians. And every arrested Christian seems to end up dead sooner ('resisting arrest') or later (died in captivity), barring divine intervention. This doesn't seem to be official policy, every single atheist just has a seething hatred for every Christian they arrest.
- Used on a large scale in LA, when the army claims a group of 200 Christians opened fire on the army and were all killed in the ensuing firefight. How they faked a firefight that large is anyone's guess.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Both sides. You believe in God? Death by napalm! You were trying to corner the silver market? Death by silver-themed miracle! Defaced the Hollywood sign to make it read Holywood? Death by hitsquad! Heard a terrorist manifesto on the news and didn't risk life and limb on behalf of said terrorists by overthrowing the government within half a day of hearing about it? Death by dehydration!
- Double Agent: After conversion, Paul serves as a double agent for the Christians.
- Felony Misdemeanor: No need for an army? Donations to charity going to humanitarian relief efforts? The horror, the horror. Seriously, the book puts the lack of a sizable army waging war somewhere in the world and charity donations going to relief efforts on the same level of awfulness as the illegalization of religion.
- The Fundamentalist: All the 'good' guys.
- Great Offscreen War: WW 3.
- Heel-Face Turn: Paul, technically. In practice, he keeps treating his wife as a nuisance and shifts his sociopathic attitudes and bloodlust from the zealots to everyone but the zealots. Even other underground Christian sects are fair game.
- Heel-Faith Turn: What Jenkins was aiming for with Paul, though he's still a heel after getting religion.
- Historical Beauty Update: In-universe example; someone wanting to make a movie about Bia Balaam (who is described as "rawboned" and "thin-lipped") considers casting attractive and "curvaceous" actress Julia Peters in the role.
- Hit So Hard the Calendar Felt It: After World War III, the calendar was reset to 0 by those wicked, wicked atheists.
- Hollywood Atheist: The world has been taken over by them.
- Informed Attribute: Paul is supposed to have a Ph.D in religious studies, yet is strangely ignorant of many of the basics of Christian theology.
- Iron Lady: Bia Balaam.
- Istanbul Not Constantinople: After WWIII, the United States of America is renamed the United Seven States of America. State names are abandoned and the country is divided into seven regions: Atlantica, Columbia, Gulfland, Heartland, Pacifica, Rockland, and Sunterra.
- Jerkass: Paul. And how.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The shady silver trader gets miraculously turned to silver. The man's brother's first response to this rather Disproportionate Retribution for finanical fraud: "Ephesus! Ephesus! You've become what you loved so much!"
- Los Angeles: Much of Soon is set here.
- Magical Negro: Stuart "Straight" Rathe, who exists to lead Paul to Christ, drive Paul to chess tournaments, give Paul Biblical relationship advice, and get Paul in touch with other underground Christians. And provides Ho Yay by the truckload, all the more noticable due to Paul's hatred towards his actual wife.
- Meaningful Name: Many of the characters' names are references to something in the Bible. Bia Balaam's name comes from that guy with the talking donkey.
- Mighty Whitey: Paul is basically the Christian equivalent of this to the other underground Christians.
- Moral Myopia: Atheists kill Christians? Horrible. Christians kill thousands of atheists via dehydration? A-OK. And what's more, it's even okay to kill "false" Christians - read: people who don't profess the same beliefs as Paul.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: The atheist agents (even those too young to remember organized religion) will kill any Christians they find, rather than drill them for information on other Christians or publicly put them on trial. On a global scale, the government apparently agrees with these fatality rates. On the flip side, the zealots somehow know for certain that they have the full support of the almighty God and can ask for literally anything. Do they ask for supernatural protection, to command the safety of the Christians via a loud booming voice or the smiting of those personally responsible for killing them? No, they think it's a better idea to have God remove all water from L.A. forever, killing thousands. And those thousands are likely the sick and old civilians who needed liquid medicine or lack the ability to evacuate on foot, rather than the well trained and disciplined soldiers who would have a much easier time marching out of the affected area.
- The Moral Substitute: In-universe example; "Wintermas" is the atheist "moral" alternative to Christmas.
- No Delays for the Wicked: The only thing more striking than brutality of the government's oppression of Christians is its efficiency. Every person they nail actually was a believer. Their only failure is not spotting Paul for the obvious double agent he is.
- Omniscient Morality License: On the one hand we have the global government, enjoying overwelming support from its population, which picked up the pieces of a world devastated by a religiously inspired World War III, and have succesfully eliminated war, disease and poverty. On the other we have a small group of leftover religious figures who wish to overthrow this government and aren't any less callous about the deaths of thousands in the process than the government is. But since the author made sure that God is real and the Bible is true, the religious people are completely justified in their every action while everyone who supports the atheist government deserves death and eternal torment.
- Path of Inspiration / Scam Religion: The pseudo-Christian cult in Las Vegas. It's leader is involved in drugs and prostitution although both those things are legal, so why the man would risk forming an illegal religion is unclear.
- Plot Armor: The only reason Paul isn't found out and executed within days of his conversion, seeing how poorly he hides it.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Oh so much.
- Paul Stepola treats his wife like crap. He yells at her and belittles her to the point where she packs up the kids and goes to her mother's for awhile. When she comes back, guess who apologizes to whom?
- Two hundred Christians get mown down in a church? The most horrible thing ever to happen in the whole wide world. Thousands of atheists die of dehydration? They had it coming. (The Christians even prayed for God to dry up the city!)
- Secret Police: The National Peace Organization (aka the Atheistapo), which "rose from the ashes" of the FBI and CIA.
- Significant Anagram: Many names are anagrams for something else. "Paul Stepola," for example, is an anagram for "Apostle Paul."
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: A very clean and nearly utopian future, at that. Neurally implanted phones, highly efficient solar power and reduced pollution, homelessness and cancer have been almost completely eliminated... The Atheistopian future is pretty sweet for the random citizen.
- United Nations Is a Superpower: They declared religion to be illegal, and apparently a capital offense.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Both sides really. The only difference is that the atheists actually have their utopia and are trying to keep it that way, while the Christians are trying to overthrow it and replace it with their utopia.
- War Is Glorious: There have been no wars anywhere on the planet for thirty years when the story takes place, and this is somehow supposed to be a bad thing.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The UN has decided to nip war and violence in the bud by completely outlawing its biggest cause: religion. The USSA's own National Peace Organization lethally punishes those who break this law.
- The Extremist Was Right: It worked. There's been a decade long peace and amazing scientific achievement. And the complaints of the zealots that they are innocent victims who just wish to practice their religion in peace is rather invalidated at the end of the first book when they ask God to instantly wisk away all the water from Los Angeles, killing thousands of civilians.
- We ARE Struggling Together: The zealots urge newly converted Paul to keep arresting all other religious groups, even Christian ones, instead of trying to ally with them against the world-spanning regime who's trying to annihilate them all.
- World War III: In the book's backstory, all of the world's religious wars somehow escalated into this. After it was all said and done, the UN made it a capital offense to be religious.
- You Mean Xmas: In-universe example; the holiday of Christmas has been replaced with a completely secular substitute, Wintermas.