The words blurred into one another, every yellowed page like the one before. Joe Kelley had been confined in the Detention Center for nearly a week and compelled to read and view all manner of anti-Christian and progressive texts and films in an effort to “correct” his views on the existence of God and particularly the God of the Bible.
He was surprised they hadn’t simply arrested him, beaten a confession out of him (or “disappeared” him like so many of his friends), and then sentenced him to a long prison term. Then he realized that with his son Gabe being a high-ranking official on the local Public Education Council, the Progressive Enforcement (PE) Police didn’t want to embarrass him by having the news media report that his Dad had been convicted of seditious religious beliefs.
At first, his Counselor Mx Torres considered “converting” him to a state-approved inclusive Christian church, but when the psychological test results came back, the recommendation was to completely reprogram him to deny all faith in Christ.
This must have been Joe’s fifth run through of Jonah Conner’s book All That’s Wrong With The Bible along with David McAfee’s Disproving Christianity. The problem with these books and everything else the PE deprogrammers relied upon was that they failed to understand the Bible from within its own context and the original languages, and continually analyzed it through the lens of 21st century political correctness. It was a bit like trying to understand Homer’s Iliad by attempting to read it as a Tom Clancy novel.
He couldn’t help but think of 1 Corinthians 2:12-16:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
How could anyone with a closed mind open themselves up to the Word of God let alone refute it?
However, Mx. Torres was relentless. Joe wasn’t tortured as such although sleep deprivation and limiting him to a bare minimum calorie count for daily meals was uncomfortable. He couldn’t simply ignore what he was shown, heard, or read because of the comprehension tests they gave him afterward. Each question he missed, resulted in an electric shock and further reduction of sleep and food. Getting 100% on any of them meant he’d get one full meal and an extra hour of sleep.
They could make him learn, but they couldn’t force him to renounce his faith.
Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
–Matthew 10:32-36 (NASB)
“Dad, you’ve got to cooperate. If you do, I can get you out of here in a couple of days.”
Joe woke up out of a stupor and realized that Gabe was in his cell. He barely recognized him but the only light was a bare bulb suspended high from the ceiling above. His cot was hard and the single thin blanket they gave him was hardly enough to keep him warm. His son was sitting in a chair that one of the guards must have provided.
“Gabe. What are you doing here? You know you shouldn’t be seen with me. Bad for your reputation.” Joe felt unfocused, indistinct. He dreamed he was praying or had he really been appealing to God when he heard his son’s voice?
“Dad, I’ll be fine. Mx. Torres gave me permission to see you for a few minutes. I love you Dad, and it’s killing me to see you in here like this.”
“Did you really think I would renounce my faith when they passed those silly laws? I thought you knew your history better. The Communists did the same thing and Christians are still persecuted in Muslim nations.”
“I care what happens to you, not to strangers in another country. Just tell them what they want to hear.”
“That won’t be enough. They’ll want the test results to prove I’m sincere. I don’t see how they’ll get that.”
“What if they use drugs? You think they don’t know what they’re doing?”
“Careful. You’ll get yourself locked up for saying things like that.”
“Just think about it, will you? Please? Marcia and I want you to be able to see your grandchildren again.”
“I appreciate you stopping by, Gabe. I really do.” Joe tried to sit up and suddenly realized how weak he was.
“Here, let me help.” Gabe pulled the old man upright and braced him against the wall.
“I love you, son.”
“I love you too, Dad.”
They hugged. The first kind touch he’d had in a long time.
“I’ve got to go now.” Gabe walked to the door and knocked twice. A guard opened it and a second entered taking the chair.
“Please be careful, Dad.”
“You too. I love you.”
Gabe turned and walked out followed by the guard with the chair. The door slammed shut and Joe heard the electronic lock engage.
“Wake up, Joe.”
For a moment, he thought he’d overslept and Sarah was getting him up for work.
“Congratulations. Your test results came back negative. You’ll be processed in a few hours and then be free to go. I’m having breakfast sent in. Are Ranch-style omelettes still your favorite?”
It was Mx. Torres. Joe blinked several times to make sure he was seeing correctly. “Test results?”
“Yes. Dr. Marplon, your psychologist had them sent over first thing this morning. Can you sit up?”
Joe tried and then he felt the guard that had accompanied Torres roughly push him into position.
“Easy now, Phillips. This is a good citizen. Treat him gently.”
“Yes, Mx.” The guard momentarily bristled at the correction but kept his tone neutral.
“Now you sit tight and that breakfast will be along soon plus a pot of black coffee.” Torres sounded as if ne were giving a child an extra portion of dessert for getting good grades at school. Pink Floyd’s song Another Brick in the Wall came to mind.
“Thank you.” Joe’s voice sounded scratchy and his throat felt dry.
“I’d better have some water sent with coffee.” Torres smiled, stood, and left the cell in triumph followed by the guard. The door shut and locked again and Joe sat there wondering if this was another trick or manipulation. He didn’t remember having another psych eval, so how could there be new test results?
Gabe arranged for Joe to see his doctor and aside from being a bit malnourished and dehydrated, the old man had come through his ordeal pretty well. Joe didn’t mention what ordeal that was nor did his doctor ask (it had been published in the news and social media so he already knew).
Joe had been officially pronounced “cured” and was now a solid citizen of the State. He’d still be watched but with the passing of time “Big Brother” would get bored or distracted and more interesting prey would be pursued.
Sitting at his kitchen table, he sipped his coffee and wondered what had happened. He hadn’t renounced Christ, hadn’t even been asked to. The indoctrination simply stopped and then the new test results said he was cured. Who was Dr. Marplon? Joe thought the testing psychologist’s name was Thatcher.
He’d searched his house. The secret compartment in the back of his closet had been filled in and sealed. His Bible and everything else he’d kept hidden were gone. He didn’t dare attempt to contact anyone from his cell. It was only after being released that he found out he’d been incarcerated for three months. His granddaughter’s birthday was in a few weeks.
He felt a bit like the character “Josef K.” in Kafka’s novel The Trial except he knew why he’d been arrested and detained. He just didn’t know why he was released. It couldn’t have been just because of Gabe’s influence. The PE demanded a deliberate and sincere recanting of faith and an oath of allegiance to the State in order to certify a prisoner as a “Good Citizen”.
Joe’s cell rang. He walked into the living room and found it on the coffee table.
“Is this Joseph Kelley?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“Don’t talk. Listen. Surveillance on your electronic devices and in your home have been disabled for the duration of this call. Covert operatives in the PE arranged for your falsified test results and release. You aren’t the first. Do nothing to call attention to yourself. Stick to your usual schedule and do not attempt to contact any of your former associates. We will contact you with further instructions in a few weeks. If you can hear the sound of my voice, you are the Resistance. Have a nice day, Mr. Kelley.”
The connection went dead and Joe stared blankly at his phone. Was it another trick to test him or had the State been infiltrated by a group of Resistance fighters? Why did they arrange for his release and what did they expect of him?
The voice had gone through some sort of modulator so he didn’t even know if it had been a man or a woman (although Mx. Torres would have added several other options to that list).
Within the confines of his thoughts Joe turned over the phrase, “You are the Resistance.” Perhaps as long as there were one person who was still free, that would always be true.
I wrote this for the First Line Friday – March 2nd, 2018 challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. In this case, the participating author uses the phrase presented or a variation of it as the starting point for crafting a short story or other creative work.
The first line is The words blurred into one another, every yellowed page like the one before.
Earlier this morning, I wrote and published a short story called That Which is of Good Repute, a piece of fiction and commentary designed to illustrate that dystopian societies can just as easily be based on liberal and progressive values as on religious and conservative principles.
When I saw the writing prompt, I immediately recognized an opportunity to continue the narrative of Joe Kelley’s experiences creating a somewhat happier and yet still mysterious salvation from the State at the hands of the Resistance.
Regardless of the nature of the totalitarian state, where will always be those few who resist the dictatorship and fight for individual and societal freedom. Believe me, if it can happen under Hitler, it can happen under Stalin as well.
Yes, I took liberties with identity politics, not to ridicule or demean anyone but to illustrate some of the likely participants in a State regime based on progressive values (and remember this is fiction so no actual people or institutions are represented).
I also mentioned the authors and titles of actual “anti-Christian” books in the body of my story. I borrowed my criticism of them from their “one star” reviews on Amazon.
I did have a little fun using an original Star Trek series episode The Return of the Archons. It’s the story of a planet run by a computer programmed with the principles of a long-dead visionary leader named “Landru.” Citizens are controlled and behave like almost mindless automatons, spouting phrases such as “Peace and joy to you, friend.” and “It is the will of Landru.” Naturally Kirk and company put a stop to all that by destroying yet another world-conquering computer.
The character Marplon, a reprogrammer of people who have fallen out of Landru’s influence, was played by actor Torin Thatcher. I used his real and character names for both of my fictional psychologists.
Oh, I employed a variation of the sentence “If you are listening to this, you are the resistance” as quoted in the 2009 film Terminator Salvation.