CORINTH—In a stunning press conference that sent shock waves throughout the Roman imperial kingdom, Paul of Tarsus (formerly known as Saul) announced that “after much prayer and discernment” he will support Nero’s bid to replace emperor Claudius, “despite serious misgivings about the candidate’s character and unpredictability.” Paul made the statement on Wednesday while staying with friends in Greece’s southern city of Corinth.
“To state the obvious, Nero is far from being an ideal candidate,” Paul declared. “Yet even if he doesn’t provide a perfect path forward, he is at least the lesser of all other evils.”
Friends were quick to express their confusion with Paul’s statement. Not only has the controversial Nero earned a reputation of being cold, callous, and divisive, but several of his policies are in marked contrast to the ethical teachings prized by Paul himself. Paul’s friends said it wasn’t immediately clear why Nero’s policies were viewed as the lesser of all evils, if based on the criteria established in Paul’s own writings.
“This endorsement is far from consistent with the person I know and love,” said Timothy, who served as Paul’s protégé for many years. “While I recognize that people are feeling a lot of anxiety regarding the state of affairs in our world today, it was Paul himself who once wrote a letter to me saying that ‘in the midst of distressing times, I should avoid people who are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.’ . . . Yet now it appears that my dear mentor is casting his lot with them.”
Peter “The Rock” Johnson has shared a long and at times contentious relationship with Paul that dates back to their mutual admiration for Jesus of Nazareth, a failed if not beloved Jewish leader executed for insurrection against Rome nearly a generation ago. The Rock expressed his bewilderment at Paul’s endorsement, saying, “Our Lord was the victim of state-sponsored torture, yet Paul is now okay endorsing a leader who not only lauds torture but wishes to expand it?”
While the counter-culture movement widely associated with Peter and Paul has frequently been criticized for being far too idealistic in its valorization of non-violence, Peter—who tells us he hasn’t picked up a sword since his Lord told him to put it away many years ago after a brief but heated altercation with a high-ranking official—still doesn’t understand why Paul is willing to reject the movement by supporting a candidate who casually speaks of violence and retribution as if they are virtues to be cultivated instead of vices to be condemned. “It just goes against everything we’ve valued for so long,” he said. “I mean, whatever happened to loving your enemy? To not returning evil with evil, or insult with insult, but returning evil with good? To caring for the least of these, including the hungry and the homeless? If our Lord knew of Paul’s support for the vindictive policies championed by Nero—a man who has a heart trained in greed—he would be turning over in his grave.” After a momentary pause, The Rock quickly added, “If he was still in there, that is.”
According to anonymous sources within Paul’s network of trusted colleagues and friends, this is a decision that even Paul himself acknowledged he may live to regret. One contemporary scribe speculates that Paul has lost his faith, no longer believing that peace will come through justice, as his early writings suggest, but rather through violent victory — the way of Caesar and not of Christ.
“He isn’t proud of what he’s doing,” a source close to Paul disclosed on condition of anonymity. “Frankly speaking, like many others these days, he appears to have succumbed to the kind of fear and existential despair that leads one to abandon key principles that were once cherished.”
When pressed on whether or not his refusal to support Nero’s chief rival had anything to do with her gender, Paul abruptly ended the press conference. As he stormed out of the room, his spokesperson simply said, “No comment.”
This has led some observers to wonder if Paul—who was once a strong supporter of the leadership of women within the communities he founded—might revise his views related to gender and hierarchy in subsequent writings.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Darryl Schafer contributed to this story from his office in downtown Springfield.
“Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe that.” – Not Romans 12:17-20 or 1 Peter 3:9 or Matthew 18:21-22 but Donald Trump