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May 21, 2022 3:18 PM
Jesusland Bruce on the honesty planet
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"Well, if it turns out to be blasphemy we can always unfreeze people later. It's not like we expect to make people live forever, anyway, the universe can probably only support life for so long. Thank you for your time!"

Griffith hangs up and gets to work. It's a busy day.

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Is there a next question because if there isn't Bruce might just slump to the floor and put his head on his knees. Too late, now he has done that.

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There is a next question. This questioner wants to know who put God in charge.

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"God put Himself--" he's mumbling into his legs and people probably can't hear him. He picks his head up and stares at the floor. "God put Himself in charge when He created the universe."

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Right, well, are there term limits on that? Maybe there should be! Maybe someone else should have a turn being in charge!

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This is the part of the story where he's supposed to proclaim the glory of God in a voice like a trumpet and then the Earth will shake and everyone will fall on their faces with fear and trembling. Except, one, he can't actually proclaim anything in a voice like a trumpet, and two, he--doesn't want to. Which is possibly the most awful thing he has ever done, he's never wanted anyone else to be damned before, but now when he imagines it going like it does in the stories that feels wrong and bad. The TV studio lights are very bright and everything is very loud in a way that doesn't involve any specific actual sounds and if nobody is going to listen to him whatever he does maybe he can just put his head on his knees again and hope they forget he's there. (He's still in the middle of the studio in front of all the cameras.)

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" - young man," Jim says, "I can't speak for all our viewers. But I am personally very glad you told us about this. Yes, it sounds like the situation is complicated, and it might be necessary to make some changes. But now we know. You did a very brave thing, coming here to tell everyone this news."

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"I fucked it all up," he mutters into his knees with no particular attempt to be comprehensible.

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"Did you want to tell us the - prayer we need, to go to Heaven instead of Hell? It sounds like at this time, Hell is on fire so people might prefer to go to Heaven, especially while we aren't sure if head-freezing works."

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Ugh ugh ugh they're clearly not going to forget he exists and he needs to actually keep trying even though he's evil and doesn't want to. "Yes, but--so you need to actually repent of your sins, and accept Jesus as your Lord and not try to--write laws against Him and stuff. Or it won't work."

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" - well, I have to say, young man, I'm excited about this afterlife situation, but first and foremost, I'm an American, and we don't have Lords."

        "I don't think it's likely we'll write laws against Jesus," Cathy says. "Laws against lighting people on fire, yes. - in fact, there are already laws against lighting people on fire. We'd just be enforcing them."

"Cathy, I am being asked to cut to an emergency address by the President of the Fractious States. We'll be right back, folks."

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"My fellow Americans. I was having sex with my wife when we were interrupted by this news, but I'm trying to present the solemn and respectable face our nation needs right now. We have learned some crucially important things in the last ten minutes. We have learned that there is a God, who created the universe, and that there is a Heaven, where we go if we accept God's gift of salvation.

We also learned that there is a Hell in which everything is on fire, and that our dead loved ones, our less-loved ones, our revered founding fathers, and  - my analysts are telling me possibly a hundred billion people, all are possibly on fire. I don't know what to do about that, but I have a military. And if anything calls for a military, a hundred billion people being on fire seems like the kind of thing that calls for a military. 

I don't have the authority to declare war, only Congress can do that. However it might take them a while and I want to be seen to be addressing this emergency right now. For that reason, I am announcing a special military operation to put out the fire in Hell. It might get upgraded to a war once Congress acts. We spend a ton of money on our military. I know a lot of you think it's wasteful and some of it definitely is wasteful, but it's kind of nice how when a very confusing bad thing happens, we can declare a special military operation on it, and not worry about whether our planes really work and our tanks really shoot. Our tanks and our planes are genuinely really good at what they do. And we expect to be greeted as liberators in Hell - I know that usually people are wrong when they expect to be greeted as liberators, but usually the people they're liberating aren't on fire.

I want all Americans to react to this news in a sensible and restrained way, even though that's definitely not going to happen. I don't really know what a sensible and restrained response is, because all this happened ten minutes ago and there are still a lot more questions we need answered. But my ideal scenario here would be that everyone keeps watching TV, doesn't have a nervous breakdown, and does what we tell them to do as we figure out more - for example, about that freezing-people thing, which my chief of staff Dave thinks is promising. Also I hope you remember me as a paragon of reassuringness and masculinity and courage, and tell pollsters you approve of how I'm handling this crisis, which will not only stroke my ego but also make it easier for me to get Congress to do what I want. 

Thank you. And God, if you're listening, the Fractious States of America are open to diplomatic talks, which can proceed in parallel with the special military operation to put out the fire in Hell. I chose that phrasing to make it clear we're not backing off the firefighting thing because really, dude, what the fuck. Can you cut away now, that's all my prepared remarks."

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"Wow," says Cathy. "Well, Jim, events are developing fast."

    "They sure are, Cathy."

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"You're all gonna be damned and it's all my fault," Bruce mutters, which is about as useful as saying 'there's an avalanche here' while falling down a mountain alongside several thousand pounds of snow.

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"Can you say more about that, young man? We are all going to go to Hell and not to Heaven, because of the special military operation to put out the fire?"

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"You are all going to go to Hell when you die because instead of repenting of your sins you decided to rebel against God!"

(If Bruce had ever felt it before, or was in the habit of having emotions he didn't want to flinch away from, he might have been able to recognize that the thing he was currently feeling was admiration. Instead it mostly feels like dizziness.)

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" - huh. Well, I'd say that makes it all the more important to put out the fire, wouldn't you say, Cathy?"

       "I have to agree, Jim, if I'm going to go to Hell then it's less 'oh no, we should put out the fire because it's the right thing to do' and more 'we should put out the fire because I'm going to have to live there in that place that is currently on fire'."

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"God is omnipotent, if you try to put out the fire you will fail," Bruce groans. It's not a theologically sound argument, you're not supposed to only refrain from sinning because you know you won't get away with it, but maybe it will get them to pay attention long enough for him to try again. 

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- it does get them to pay attention. "God is omnipotent? Wow. That's - really surprising to me," says Jim. 

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Bruce has occasionally wondered why, if God is omnipotent, he hasn't been struck by lightning yet, but has always tried to stop wondering that as soon as he started for obvious reasons. Having apparently been struck by lightning doesn't actually make the question go away. It also has no effect on the question of why human missionaries had to carry the Gospel to every corner of the world when surely God could have done it faster, or the question of why God wanted to get the Pharaoh's permission to bring the Jews out of Egypt, neither of which he has ever admitted to wondering about either. It also doesn't give him any better of an understanding of the treatises he's read in school about whether God can create logical contradictions, change what's right and wrong, etc.

If he had known he was going to have to bring the Gospel to an entire planet of heathens he would have paid more attention in class. 

"I don't understand it either but that's what the theologians say."

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"Well, it doesn't seem like God being omnipotent necessarily means he won't let us put out the fire in Hell? It means he could stop us, but not that he will stop us, if I'm understanding correctly."

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"I mean He put the fire there so I would really expect Him to stop you." He is doing a bad job of this argument and it's probably because of the lurking worry that they're all fundamentally like him and the only reasonable thing for them to do is despair like he does and he doesn't want to see them despair like he does. It's short-sighted and awful and he should be willing to throw the whole planet into despair for a whisper of a chance of saving one of them.

(How many times has he wished he didn't know he was damned, so he could have tried to enjoy the time he had on Earth? It feels wrong, disgusting, not wanting to know something, and he has wished it anyway. Is that the choice he's trying to make for everyone here? Even if he knew for certain there was no hope he still wouldn't have the right to make that decision.)

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"How does he stop people, when he objects to what they're doing?"

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"Sometimes He just lets them keep doing it and eventually they either repent or go to Hell but sometimes they get struck by lightning or eaten by miraculously appearing bears or if it's a whole city the city gets set on fire or there's a plague of locusts or all the water turns to blood or the earth opens up and swallows them or--stuff like that." If this planet gets destroyed he has no idea what that will look like because he's never seen a planet get destroyed before, obviously.

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There's an appalled silence. 

 

"I've.....never heard of any of those things happening," says Jim slowly. 

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