L.B.: The Lex Luthor factor

Left Behind, pp. 23-24

Here are some of the things that Buck Williams, the greatest investigative reporter of all time, is thinking when he first realizes that dozens of people on his airplane have suddenly disappeared midflight:

… His mind searched its memory banks for anything he had ever read, seen, or heard of any technology that could remove people from their clothes and make them disappear from a decidedly secure environment. Whoever did this, were they on the plane? Would they make demands? Would another wave of disappearances be next? Would he become a victim? Where would he find himself?

As far as a “technology that could remove people from their clothes,” Billy Dee and I would recommend Colt 45 — works every time.

Buck asks a few good questions here, but he — and LaHaye and Jenkins — seems to forget about them as soon as they’re asked.

Buck wonders here if he might “become a victim” of a following wave of disappearances. This marks one of the few places in the book where someone reacts to the mass-disappearances with an appropriate horror — and the corresponding relief that they have been spared. Most of the characters in the book react as though they had read the book jacket — seeming to believe they should be envious of those who are missing.

Buck also wonders about the perpetrators of this mass dissappearance — something he and everyone else in the book neglect to do later on in the story. An incuriousity that, again, makes it seem like every character in this book knew ahead of time that they’re in a “rapture” story. “Whoever did this,” he wonders, “were they on the plane?”

That’s a very good question. As far as Buck and the others know at this point, the disappearances are limited to this airplane. This constitutes a great mystery, yes, but surely it also represents a serious breach of security. Yet no one seems to respond in this way. Buck simply returns to his seat to muse quietly to himself.

Here the reader may start to wonder if Buck Williams, alleged GIRAT, is even slightly competent as a journalist. He displays no basic reporting instincts. The man in the seat in front of his has disappeared, but he doesn’t examine the missing man’s clothes and personal effects. He doesn’t try to find out more about the man — a real reporter would have a few pages of notes by now with Harold’s full name, age, hometown, occupation, info on any health problems. A reporter would collect all that almost without thinking. A real reporter would also want to know the precise number of people missing. Buck and Harold’s wife were asleep when the disappearances occurred, but someone on the plane may have been awake. Interview everyone, take notes, find out if anybody saw anything.

Buck does none of that. Rayford Steele, the pilot, behaves more like a reporter than Buck does. Steele at least tries to get a more precise idea of the scope of the disappearances. He tells the passengers, “My first officer, Mr. Smith, will now make a cursory count of empty seats.”

Steele may not know what the word “cursory” means, but at least he has the sense to collect a bit more information on what has happened. He also hits on the scheme of using “foreign entry cards” to gather data on the missing:

“I’m going to ask the flight attendants to check the lavatories and be sure everybody is accounted for. Then I’ll ask them to pass out foreign entry cards. If anyone in your party is missing, I would like you to fill out the card in his or her name and list every shred of detail you can think of, from date of birth to description. I’m sure you all realize that we have a very troubling situation. The cards will give us a count of those missing, and I’ll have something to give authorities. …”

This scheme will provide Steele with an accurate count of the missing — minus those missing who were not traveling as part of a “party,” and minus those parties that are missing in their entirety. But still, Rayford is taking charge, reassuring his passengers that he is in control of the situation by assigning them more paperwork.

It’s all a crock, though. Rayford never tallies even the partial count the cards would provide. He never reads them himself and he never gives them to any “authorities.” Neither he nor the authors ever mention these cards again.

One more of Buck’s initial questions represents a real missed opportunity in the novel. “Whoever did this,” Buck wonders, “Would they make demands?”

Excellent question. Think about it. This is the perfect chance for an opportunistic would-be supervillain — Lex Luthor, Pinky and the Brain, Dick Cheney — to collect a global ransom.

Just have your henchmen hack into global communications satellites and beam the following message around the world: “Your missing loved ones are safe. If you want to see them again, you must meet the following demands: [massive wealth, the world’s entire nuclear arsenal, you destroy whatever conventional weapons you don’t hand over to me, yada yada]. If these demands are not met within seven days, then more of you will be taken.”

It’s a colossal bluff, but the people are scared, they’re in shock — they’ll buy it. Their children are missing. All children are missing. You can ask for anything, extorting your way to absolute global dominion. [Insert maniacal laughter here.]

That would have been so much slicker — and so much more evil — than the flimsy Jedi-wannabe mind-tricks that L&J’s Antichrist figure uses to rise to power later in the book.

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  • Damocles

    I stumbled across your site coming from Atrios, and I thought you might be interested in the views of Foy E. Wallace. He is a Church of Christ minister who wrote (and preached) some of the most devastating critiques of the Heresy of Pre-Millenialism.
    Check him out at:
    I can’t imagine devoting myself to actually reading the nonsense contained within the Left Behind series of books, so I commend you on your fortitude.

  • zenjohn

    “… His mind searched its memory banks”?
    Oy, but that is crapulous writing. How about “he searched his memory” or “he frantically tried to recall…” or… Must be nice to write for a publisher who doesn’t hire editors.

  • Keith

    I agree, zenjohn. I’ve mentioned this on previous LB threads here but I’m in serious shock that an editor would have let such atrociously wooden writing onto the printed page. No Author gets away with some of the blatently crapy verbage that J and LH do. either they have no editor or they have the worst one in the history of publishing.

  • kevin

    No, I think the editor/publisher is makig the smart business decision. the thing will sell, if its beyond a certain minimum level of not sucking, so why waste time cleaning it?

  • Dr. Doom

    Bah! Even the accursed Reed Richards is no match for Doom’s unfathomably powerful “Rapture Laser!” Surrender your wealth to Doom!

  • eli@graphesthesia.com

    I think “all children are missing” was the part that really ruined my suspension of disbelief during the rest of the book. I mean, each new major character does say an obligatory few words about still being in shock and grieving for their missing family members, but unless I missed something, there’s really no mention of the general horror and disorientation that one might expect in a world that suddenly contained no children at all – not even potential children, since we learn slightly later that all pregnancies have also vanished. The authors don’t go near this subject with a ten-foot pole other than to take a clumsy swipe at Planned Parenthood – but I’ll leave it up to our host to convey the full ridiculousness of that bit.
    I must say, the awkward mix of shock, grief, implausible theories, unusual lack of curiosity, and business-as-usual that L&J depict among the “survivors” actually does remind me of some real human behavior: there was something a little like this in New York City during the 2001 disaster days. But as Slacktivist points out, L&J have almost entirely left out the element of fear: “what if they come back and get me this time?” And there were many people in NY who didn’t witness the event and didn’t see any immediate permanent change in their lives, which is not the case in Leftbehindland where (a) most people have actually seen a supernatural disappearance in front of their eyes and (b) for crying out loud, the life cycle of the human race has been blatantly stopped.
    Of course one could argue that God has suspended the normal functioning of human emotions, as a kindness to those about to undergo the Tribulation. And maybe suspended the normal functioning of human dialogue as well, as a kindness to the authors and their editors.
    (For an interesting, much grimmer, and certainly more thought-through depiction of how people might behave in a childless world, see PD James’ The Children of Men.)

  • Chris

    Somehow I think an overnight flight with no children on board would be cause for celebration…

  • michael (in DC)

    Eli wrote:
    …unless I missed something, there’s really no mention of the general horror and disorientation that one might expect in a world that suddenly contained no children at all – not even potential children, since we learn slightly later that all pregnancies have also vanished….
    wow, it hadn’t occured to me before:
    Pregnancies “disappear”?
    So does noone get pregnant now for seven years?
    Or are babies born “without a soul” like in that Elizabeth McGovern movie?
    And does anyone die during the Trib?
    How the hell does this all work?
    And what’s the official cutoff for the innocent children to get Raptured? 21? 18? Puberty? Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Does the Archangel or whoever have to go around with one of those 7-11 page-a-day calendars “if you were born after THIS DATE, no dispensation for you!”? Maybe there’s a sign outside the Tribulation Coaster saying “You must be THIS HIGH to go on this ride!” What about 30-year-old folks with developmental disabilities that have the “mind of an X-year-old”?
    How mindbendingly self-deluded do these people have to be to devote their lives to this crap?

  • Eli

    Michael, I’m so glad you asked, because otherwise I’d have no use for all these awful details of the book that are now stuck in my brain. In order:
    1. Yes. In fact I believe the authors use the word “deflated” to describe one of these de-pregnantizations.
    2. Not in this book, but I’ve skimmed ahead in the series (aaargggh!!!!!) enough to know that some of the main characters do make babies during their adventures. So, the life cycle of humanity hasn’t really stopped – but during the events of the first book, no one has any reason to expect that there will ever be more children.
    3. I don’t think so.
    4. Lots of people die.
    5. I’m sure if you read all of Lahaye’s previous books, he’d show you how it all made sense.
    6. No, it’s not consistent – I think the oldest kid left is 13 or 14 – someone does address this in the book and decides that children develop moral responsibility at different rates.

  • Jon H

    How did fetuses get saved?
    Isn’t the deal that you’re supposed to actively get saved, it isn’t automatic, even if your behavior is morally spotless?

  • michael (in DC)

    Jon H.
    Actually, I think the L&H deal is supposed to be that the morality of your behavior has nothing to do with it one way or the other. If you say whatever magic words about Jesus being your personal saviour or profess allegiance to the right religious faction, you get your ticket punched; if not, not. I guess kids get in free, or half-price, ’cause they don’t get a chance to say the magic words in time. or something…
    Of course, I grew up Catholic with Original Sin & such–(I never got all the nuances straight) but then we had Purgatory as a stopgap, which made it easier to deal with the whole infant death problem…

  • Keith

    The purgatory stop gap has always fascinated me. Basically since, if I’m not mistaken, it was invented by Dante as a way to explain how and why all those born before Christ don’t go to heaven but don’t just get relegated to hell for simply being born on the wrong side of history. That it was adopted as official cosmology by the vatican is just another one of those quirks.

  • paul

    OK, The entries above do make alot of sense, the book has a lot of holes and gaps in it. But what you are all not looking at is the one and most important truth of it all. That this un-edited poorly written book(s) are all top best sellers and has brought alot of people back to the faith. Bringing people back to the faith in God and in themselves was the message trying to be imposed and it worked badly written or not.

  • R. Mildred

    I sincerely doubt LB has converted anyone who wasn’t already heavily indoctrinated into american christian culture (Also, has anyone even heard of these books outside america? what are the international sales figures?) it has however probably converted some christians into millenial dispensationalism (and back again probably), which is a belief that much of the bigger metaphysical shenanigans in the books will actually happen and are following the bible literally.
    Take that as you will, but as much of evangelical thought sees that a mere belief in Jesus as the saviour of mankind is all that’s needed to save a person’s soul on Judgement day, converting one group of people who will already be saved into worshipping god in a different manner or believing that the end times will happen in X manner during Y time period, you’ve got to think how useful a tool of conversion the LB series is for evangelicalism when it comes to saving peopel’s souls.
    And it’s badly written by money grubbing hypocrites too.

  • Laure

    I think that it is very sad that all of you are so wrapped up in picking these books apart that you can’t see what an important message they carry. I will be praying for you all.

  • ihavenomouth

    “I will be praying for you all.”
    And feeling very proud of yourself, I’m sure. Puff that chest out just a tad more.

  • Skyknight

    Okay, which necromancer cursed us THIS time?
    Keith: Actually, it was extrapolated by some verses about praying for the souls of the saved dead (or thereabouts). I think the idea was, praying to what end? From there came Purgatory, a kind of temporary Hell. Or at least, that’s how Johannes Tetzel wrote it. Dante DID believe there was suffering there, but not of the abject-agony variety. Rather, it was kind of like what ascetics put themselves through to help purify their souls. Prayed-for souls would probably respond with something akin to “I appreciate the thought, but…may I get back to my regimen? Thank you.”

  • Anastasia

    I’m late to the party, as I’ve just discovered this blog.
    I want to know why all those unbaptized fetuses and unbaptized babies made it into The Rapture. I mean, all the people who believe this crap also do things such as baptize children without parental permission, because you can’t get into Heaven unless you’re baptized. So why were the children of heathens who didn’t believe in baptism get raptured?

  • Drak Pope

    Welcome to Left-Behind Friday’s!
    So why were the children of heathens who didn’t believe in baptism get raptured?
    I forget what it’s called, but LaHaye and Jenkins hold a belief that all children below a certain age (generally before puberty) are automatically Raptured no matter what they’ve done or what their parents beliefs are. I guess even they couldn’t imagine throwing billions of infants into everlasting hellfire.

  • cjmr

    So does German porn spam involve more leather, or just more beer?

  • Michele

    Both, of course!

  • Jesurgislac

    Mmmm, beer.

  • hapax

    It’s Thursday, and I want a good juicy flamewar. So…
    Lager with lime?

  • wintermute

    A decent Czech pilsner, for me. Or a Northumbrian Ale. They’re good, too.

  • cjmr

    Anything, as long as it’s warm, dark, and has a nice head on it.

  • Michele

    Don’t care for pilsners, myself. I like the “microbrew” ales we seem to have a plethora* of here on the US West Coast.
    * Every time I hear/say/type that word, I think of the scene from “The Three Amigos”: “Would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?”

  • Michele

    [mock outrage] cjmr, this is a Family Blog! [mock outrage]

  • Jesurgislac

    Echte Kriek. Yum.

  • wintermute

    I have many friends who like Kriek. But these are the same freaks who think garlic-flavoured vodka is a good idea, so I rarely pay them any attention.

  • Jesurgislac

    Wintermute, it is in general my policy when in someone’s local (assuming they like good beer) to try a half of whatever they recommend: it’s worked for me in Scotland, England, Belgium, and Ireland, and I hope it would work in the US. (I’d give it a try anyway, if you ever decide to stop treating tourists like terrorists.) All beers taste better if drunk within 30 miles of where they’re brewed.
    Kriek is delicious, but should be drunk on a terrace on a very hot day when you’re not planning to do anything or go anywhere for an hour or so.
    Chilli vodka is fantastic. Never tried garlic vodka, thought.

  • inge

    cjmr: So does German porn spam involve more leather, or just more beer?
    The way it’s advertised, it likely involves middle-aged women with a perm in polyester housecoats, wielding an armful of cleaning supplies. Scary.
    I’ll have a not-to-cold pils with a lot of hops to distract me from the image. Never been a big fan of the sweet bavarian beers. Except for the Maibock from the local brewery. Tastes like bittersweet lemonade and hits you like a bus.

  • Drak Pope

    German porn is an oxymoron.

  • Drak Pope

    By that I mean, Germans don’t have sex. They reproduce by drinking the blood of Polish babies and regurgitating it into human-shaped dough moulds and incubating them in the flesh pouches located in the base of their spine for 2-6 weeks. By that I mean, Germans are weird.

  • hapax

    Jesu: Never tried garlic vodka, though
    I think you’ve got the inflection wrong. Shouldn’t that be:
    “I never drink … garlic vodka.”

  • Michele

    I seem to have developed a taste for a Pimm’s cocktail.
    You know, it doesn’t *taste* alcoholic….

  • Jesurgislac

    But I might like garlic vodka! How would I know till I try it?

  • Salamanda

    But aren’t you a vampire? Or do they make pills for that sort of thing nowadays, like they do for the lactose intolerant?

  • Jeff

    Lager with lime?
    Bud Lite is normally an abomination on the works of humans. But add a bit of lemon juice and a fair amount of “clam cocktail”, and it becomes somewhat drinkable. I’m thinking a decent pilsner would be even better.
    All beers taste better if drunk
    I love Negro Modelo. And Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager. Most other beers are a bit too bitter to me.

  • bab

    Life is designed by some sort of intelligence, God created life

  • Michele

    Wasn’t it Ben Franklin who said something to the effect of “Beer is proof that God exists & wants us to be happy”?

  • Drak Pope

    No, that was actually Hitler. The German chancellor Hitler. From Germany.

  • Michele

    Why the obsession with Germans, Drak? Did I mention I’m half-German?
    (Besides, wasn’t Hitler really Austrian?)