Saturday, November 25, 2017

EXCERPT: The Heretics of St. Possenti

An excerpt from The Heretics of St. Possenti, a novel by Rolf Nelson.

“Prophet or not, Mohammad had a good grasp of the psychology of what motivates young men—and people in general—and structured things accordingly. Praying five times a day is a powerful psychological conditioning tool. Saying all your sins are forgiven if you die for the cause is a powerful motivation when they are constantly harping on all the sins people commit. They have the sword on their flags, and they are martyrs for their cause of taking over the world!”

“They are deluded fools,” replied Thomas sadly.

“Any more so than a third-century Christian choosing to get thrown to the lions rather than recant? You call them martyrs, too, do you not?”

“But that’s different!”

“Is it? You don’t arm yourself, you preach peace, and theirs is the way of the sword. If you were a testosterone-filled young man, which symbol would attract you more, a gun, or a lamb? I mean, unless you wanted to shag the lamb, slaughter it, and roast some kebabs afterward? Same for gang-bangers. They see the cops don’t let the good guys pack heat and tell folks to not fight the bad guys. Let the cops go after them. Let the insurance cover the losses. The guys in the hood see the law-abiding as weak, chumps, nothing but chumps or—if you’ll excuse the expression—sheep to be shorn.”

“But nonviolence works in the long run. I mean, look at Gandhi. His nonviolence worked very well—within his lifetime!—and freed India from England.”

“But he also said… Wait. Just a second. Got the quote… right… here.” He found it on the screen of his tablet. “He who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honor by nonviolently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. He has no business to be the head of a family. He must either hide himself, or must rest content to live forever in helplessness and be prepared to crawl like a worm at the bidding of a bully. Even your number-two hero knew that some people can’t be reasoned with, only dealt with at their own level.”

Finnegan added, “He also said that nonviolence would only work with a just and moral people like the English, and The sword makes men equal. Clearly nonviolent protest and letter-writing didn’t help the kulaks against Stalin.”

“But that isn’t Jesus’ way.”

“Hey, I didn’t bring up Gandhi.”

“Well, yes. But that isn’t the path of the Bible.”

“Truth isn’t always comfortable, Padre. It is what it is.”

“But guns are a symbol of violence,” said Cranberry firmly.

“No, they are not,” shot back Finnegan, just as firmly.

“Sure they are.”

“No, they are a symbol of worldly power. An amplifier of the intent of the user. In the hands of a nongovernment employee with a good heart, a symbol of freedom. In the hands of a good government, they represent law and order. In the hands of an evil man, a symbol of oppression and crime.”

Thomas had never considered that particular distinction. The vast majority of the previous conversations he’d listened in on had been of much more technical nature. “Possibly, but that doesn’t feel right. Far too many murders, wars, robberies, and suicides happen with them.”

“All of which happened before gunpowder showed up. Jaw of an ass sound familiar? The fact that… Wait. Let me get Old Testament here, I know I’ve got that quote somewhere…. Ah, here. Maimonides. Truth does not become truer by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees with it.

“Maimonides wasn’t Old Testament. He was Middle Ages,” Cranberry pointed out. “And Jewish.”

“Ah, whatever. So was Jesus. Exact year is irrelevant. He’s an old-time scholarly dude. And he’s right. Doesn’t make a tinker’s fart in a tornado how the truth makes you feel. True is true. It may be inconvenient that three plus three is six, but there it is. Lifeboat math and figuring out who gets tossed over or fished out is never easy for a sane man.”

“But good men of Christian faith should not murder.”

“Agreed. But killing isn’t necessarily the same as murder. The commandment is Thou Shall Not Murder, not Kill. One is not just. The other is. Do cops and soldiers, even Christian ones, carry guns?”

“But soldiers and police are different!”

“Nope. They are people, too. Same rights, same commandments. Did the Knights Templar and the other chivalric orders carry swords much as the Saracen did or rely only on prayer while blessed by the Church and fighting to keep the Holy Lands safe for Christians? Did William Marshal, first Earl of Pembroke and pinnacle of the chivalric ideals, carry only words when asked by the pope to protect the young heir to the English throne to prevent war? He was so bad-ass even into his 70s that nobody was willing to challenge him to combat, so he secured the life of the future king of England and the Magna Carta. He was even offered a plenary indulgence for any sin he might ever commit in the future in exchange, for God’s sake! A spiritual blank check to do anything he wanted. But he turned it down. He was a good man and carried a sword doing his knightly duty for many long years.”

“But that was a long time ago!”

“So was Jesus. Does that make his words any less true?”

“Point taken.”

“Is the Church of today exactly the same as it was fifteen hundred years ago? Any new developments in that time?” Mickey asked.

“Well, yes, of course! Benedictine Monks and the Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, and the various nuns’ orders. We adopted local languages in place of Latin. Other practical things like that. Times change, but the Word does not.”

“Not to mention some guy named Martin Luther…. But let’s not go there right now. So why were the monastic orders founded?”

“Monastic history is not my strong suit,” the bishop said, “but as I recall, once Christianity became the more-or-less official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine, it wasn’t a great act of courage to be Christian. Some sought the hard life of a desert hermit to prove their devotion to God. Early Benedictines attempted to recreate that ascetic life, at least to a degree, and imitated Christ, who fasted in the desert before he started his ministry.”

“So a new order was founded to meet an unmet need?”

“Yes, I guess that is one way to look at it.”

“And the Templars?”

“To keep Pilgrims to the Holy Land safe, as you said, and retake it from the Islamic conquest. But this is totally different.”

“Maybe so. Maybe not.”

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Anonymous Atlas November 25, 2017 7:57 PM  

This is a great book. It is a bit heavy on the Catholic point of view, but that is hardly surprising considering the subject matter. It was one of those books where I seriously wondered if the main idea of this book was already in the works and we would see a new order of monks come out of the United States.

Buy it and read it. Not only was it thoughtful, but also entertaining.

Blogger Unknown November 25, 2017 8:31 PM  

I want the good old Catholic Church back. With the Inquisition and Witch burnings.

Blogger Jack Ward November 25, 2017 9:06 PM  

Am reading it now. Rolf hits another one out of the park. Full of references to scriptures by chapter and verse and how it relates to self defense, guns [weapons] and what seems to be acknowledgement of those and their place with man.

I stand with Rolf.

Blogger weka November 25, 2017 9:08 PM  

@2. You can have your pre Vatican church back if us reformed can burn OUR heretics and hang out traitors.

@VD. good book, but he needed a new pope, reforming from the errors of the current one, to get permission to start the order and continue it.

Blogger JonM November 25, 2017 9:11 PM  

The pope Rolf chose is a great one, too. Look up the man's namesake sometime...

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr November 25, 2017 9:13 PM  

Perhaps it's time to revive the old Christian knightly orders. To again call on men to do battle for Christ and His Church.

I've long believed that there's a need for a leader who deliberately eschews the 20th Century. Rejects its morals utterly and publicly. He may (probably must) wield the most modern technology, but has bypassed the Age of Sin. 19th Century virtue, 21st Century engineering.

And with that combination, we could work wonders.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab November 25, 2017 9:20 PM  

It is a great book and makes you think. He did a great job and obviously put his heart into this one.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab November 25, 2017 9:22 PM  

@6 Napoleon, you are too right. We need a revival of muscular, militant Christianity. The old orders need to come back or a new one created.

Blogger Bellomy November 25, 2017 9:37 PM  

This reminds me vividly of A Canticle for Leibowitz, which may be the greatest sci-fi novel ever.

Blogger tuberman November 25, 2017 9:49 PM  

Hey, VD, you're a Dark Lord indeed, as you just got me interested in another book. Sigh.

Anonymous Passinthough November 25, 2017 10:14 PM  

Great book. I read it twice. Great ideas.

Blogger Jeff aka Orville November 25, 2017 10:37 PM  

This is a fantastic book. I just finished it last week and owe Rolf a reveiw on Amazon. I'm not a catholic, but if all catholics were like those presented in the book they would make great brothers in arms. It was interesting watching Bishop Cranberry get thoroughly red-pilled over a period of time.

Blogger John Cunningham November 25, 2017 11:48 PM  

I bought it yesterday and am thru 62% of it. A great read!

Anonymous Wooly November 26, 2017 12:01 AM  

Reading the loaner on Amazon right now.

Excellent, refreshing writing. Is this SF/F?

The author is writing for people who live today, and not for Hobbiton residents, stupidly attempting to be timeless and yet out of time.

I'm on chapter three, and every page has made me think so much I have to stop reading and think. And talk out loud to myself as if I am talking to people I know.

Vox, Castalia House is a revolution.

Anonymous Rolf November 26, 2017 12:45 AM  

Thanks for posting the excerpt, Vox.

@3 - thank you.
@5 - I won't say that every little detail has significance, but yes, that pope's name was chosen for a reason. As were more than a few of the other names. Easter-egg hunt, anyone? (Same with TSCB - some famous-ish, some not. For example, one bit-part character was named after a soldier I met who later died in Iraq.)
@7 - glad to hear you think so.
@11 - good to see my work appreciated. Spread the word!
@12 - glad you like it. Reviews welcome!
@14 - no, not S/F. Technically is something like didactic Christian inspirational... like, totally not something I could imagine myself writing five years ago. But it leads into my S/F future world, so there is that. At some point I'll likely write a short story about how the monks saved Taj's core processors and memories. But in any case, glad to hear it is hitting the mark I was aiming at for you.

Anonymous Wooly November 26, 2017 1:11 AM  

Rolf. you've made me laugh several times in three chapters, too. Quite out loud.

If you can make me think and laugh, take my money.

Blogger Koanic November 26, 2017 1:43 AM  

Who Would Joshua Democide?

Anonymous simplytimothy November 26, 2017 2:46 AM  

Important stuff and well written.

Anonymous Anonymous November 26, 2017 3:35 AM  


Caleb (Joshua’s ally and friend) was the real badass of the ancient world.

40 years later, when they returned to the Jordan river, and he was pushing 70, he specifically asked for the land where the giants lived as he was still offended by the cowardice of his people.

Blogger The Kurgan November 26, 2017 3:49 AM  

Catholicism has everything codified. If you're going to rebuild civilisation that's eminently useful. As long as you throw out everything from the very start of Vatican II on. Which Rolf does in this most excellent novel. Bergoglio is an antipope.

Blogger szopen November 26, 2017 4:30 AM  

"But guns are a symbol of violence"

In Polish, this would work just great, since "gun" is "broń", coming from "bronić", ie. "to defend" :D

Anonymous Ahmad ibn Fadhlan November 26, 2017 4:37 AM  

Szopen, does this make Polish gun owners "bronies"?

Blogger Manach November 26, 2017 5:28 AM  

Looks an interesting blend of Catholicism and discussion on role of weapons in society. Moved to shopping list for next Amazon visit.

Blogger SciVo November 26, 2017 8:45 AM  

Did William Marshal, first Earl of Pembroke and pinnacle of the chivalric ideals, carry only words when asked by the pope to protect the young heir to the English throne to prevent war? He was so bad-ass even into his 70s that nobody was willing to challenge him to combat, so he secured the life of the future king of England and the Magna Carta. He was even offered a plenary indulgence for any sin he might ever commit in the future in exchange, for God’s sake! A spiritual blank check to do anything he wanted. But he turned it down. He was a good man and carried a sword doing his knightly duty for many long years.

I am motivated to start working out and lifting weights again. To be less of an embarrassment to my ancestors. [awkward]

Anonymous Rolf November 26, 2017 11:25 AM  

@21 and @22 - interesting. Especially since "Tajemnica" is a Polish word.

And we are now back to ->| |<- this close of being a category best-seller.

Anonymous Nathan November 26, 2017 11:33 AM  

"Excellent, refreshing writing. Is this SF/F?"

I'd call it the modern heir to Starship Troopers, a book that was more about moral instruction than space marines. Heretics of St. Possenti is a callback to a time where science fiction grappled with social issues weightier than the narcissism of self that masquerades as today's identity politics missives. The five years in the future setting matches the science fiction found in many mystery and adventure stories.

Anonymous grayman November 26, 2017 5:39 PM  


Fantastic book! I recognize good chunks of the dialog as conversations straight from this blog! That's not a negative by the way.

If the west is to survive and rebuild I suspect something along the lines of such an order will have to rise.

Anonymous Haxo Angmaerk November 26, 2017 7:12 PM  

"but what about Gandhi...?"

India's breakaway from the Brit Empire was assured when the IJN routed HM Eastern Fleet off Ceylon in April, 1942.

the little brown pedo had nothing to do with it. Gandhi's effort to prevent a vast Muslim-Hindu massacre when the breakaway finally occurred also failed.

violence is always the ultimate arbiter.

Anonymous Bukulu November 27, 2017 5:27 PM  

"Catholicism has everything codified. If you're going to rebuild civilisation that's eminently useful."

I think "everything" is a bit of an exaggeration; it's Islam that doesn't even allow the concept of adiaphora.

But apart from this minor quibble, you're right--and interestingly a certain Walter Miller used this same concept in a little book he wrote once.

Anonymous Bukulu November 27, 2017 5:30 PM  

I read a draft of this book, and found it just as enjoyable the second time around. (No, I haven't gone and looked up my emails about it to see what, if any, of my advice was taken! It's long enough ago that I don't remember that level of detail, nor at this point do I want to.)

The only thing I have to say to you, Rolf, at this point is: MORE PLEASE!

Anonymous Takin' A Look November 27, 2017 11:38 PM  

I've learned it is okay to love Jesus and hate God with a bitter, seething passion. He'd rather I was hot or cold than lukewarm to Him.

God the Father knows he's gonna get his teeth kicked in. These aren't the cast-out accusers, these are those begging with all heart and soul, "why?!?" how could you give us this ability to moralize and cast us into the corrupting flesh? We fuck up and feel it. Yet we are surrounded by amoral demons in human flesh.

What is WRONG with you?!? At least Jesus understood and resigned Himself to the realities created. He was blunt after the Temptation, "you're gonna die horribly, I will be there.

Anonymous Anonymous November 28, 2017 7:02 AM  

> I want the good old Catholic Church back. With the Inquisition and Witch burnings.

The Inquisition was mainly about property seizure. Heretics would have their assets confiscated … unless they could out another heretic.

You see how it works.

Blogger DadOfTen November 28, 2017 11:04 AM  

The book was a lot of fun.

Anonymous Travis Bickle December 03, 2017 10:12 AM  

Canticle 762 was a laugh.

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