L.B.: Concorde calling

Left Behind, pp. 25-27

“If you’re a seeker and you need a guide, someone to counsel you so you can find your way forward into a spiritual realm. And you’re on an airplane. Don’t look in first class.” — John Patrick Shanley in Joe Versus the Volcano

Our heroes, isolated from the world aboard their transatlantic flight, have thus far received no news from the outside world, and are still unaware that the mysterious disappearances are a global phenomenon. That changes when, “Finally [Rayford Steele] connected with a Concorde several miles away heading the other direction.”

Left Behind was published in 1995, so the authors’ failure to foresee the end of commercial Concorde flights is understandable. Compared with their other bizarre predictions and otherwise miserable record of prognostication, this is a minor failing.

The Concorde pilot informs Steele that he will not be able to land in London, and should turn around and head for Chicago, one of the few places he still might be able to land. Airports are closing because of the chaos following the mass disappearances, which the Concorde pilot says are “all over the world.”

“We lost nearly fifty,” passengers from the Concorde, he reports.

Keep in mind that this is the Concorde we’re talking about, a plane that catered exclusively to the literal jet-set. This was one of the priciest tickets in the air — one available and availed of only by those with swollen bank accounts and a swollen sense of self-importance. This super-elite carrier of the overclass seated an even 100 passengers.

LaHaye and Jenkins would have us believe that nearly 50 born-again, evangelical Christian millionaires were visiting Paris and were willing and able to spare no expense to return to New York City as fast, and in as much luxury, as humanly possible. This seems unlikely.

It also contradicts L&J’s insistence that evangelical Christians are a marginalized and persecuted minority. If they’re such a despised and disenfranchised group, how did they come to comprise nearly 50 percent of the super-elite passengers on the Concorde?

The Concorde pilot is at least thinking straight. He compares the disappearances to:

… the old Star Trek shows where people got dematerialized and rematerialized, beamed all over the place.

It was about time somebody mentioned this. Even if you’re not Jim Trafficant or a fluent-in-Klingon obsessive, if you see people everywhere suddenly beam up and disappear, one of your first mental reference points is going to be remembering those transporter scenes from Star Trek. Your next logical thought should be that this would seem to imply someone, somewhere, doing the actual transporting and you might start scanning the sky for the mothership. No one in LB does this, however, because as already noted, all the characters in this story have read the book jacket and they know they’re in a story about the rapture.

“What do we do now?” the Concorde pilot asks Steele:

“Not a blessed thing.”

“Good choice of words, Pan Heavy. You know what some people are saying, over?”

“Roger,” Rayford said. “Better it’s people gone to heaven than some world power doing this with fancy rays.”

Who, one has to ask, are the “some people” who have been saying this? So far, Rayford — whose wife seems to have committed the collected works of Hal Lindsay to memory — has thought this, but even he hasn’t actually voiced this opinion. And everyone else on his plane seems to have accepted the mass disappearances with a bovine incuriosity — they haven’t speculated at all let alone speculated about this being “people gone to heaven.”

More about this later, but it’s worth noting here that there’s another phrase we often use for people who have gone to heaven. We say they died.

Rapture enthusiasts stake their hopes on being whisked off to heaven like Enoch or Elijah. Technically, I suppose, that patriarch and prophet didn’t “die,” but this seems a rather fine distinction. L&J’s raptured saints have taken their mortal coils with them, but they have still shuffled off; they have met their maker; they have joined the choir invisible; their earthly life has ended and they rest in peace. L&J cling to the hope that there is a shortcut from life to resurrection without that messy step in between.

Anyway, the Concorde pilot provides us the first description of the global scope of the disappearances and of what awaits our heroes back on the ground:

People everywhere have disappeared. Orly lost air-traffic controllers and ground controllers. Some planes have lost flight crews. Where it’s daylight there are car pileups, chaos everywhere. Planes down all over and at every major airport. …

L&J seem to be setting the scene for the chaos and catastrophe our heroes will encounter in the pages ahead. But if you’re wondering how they will face this scene and respond to all this carnage and suffering, you’re in for a disappointment. Our heroes actions once they touch down are astonishing, but not in the way L&J seem to intend.

 

  • Chris

    OK speaking of oddly discontented world views… How do J and LH explain the rapturing of air traffic and ground controllers in FRANCE, home of Papist, sexual deviant, radical-commie-athesist, chees-eating surrender mokeys-frogs or NEW YORK, home of liberal, pinko, rude, snobby sexual deviants or LONDON, home of boring, stuffy sexual deviants? I would have thought that J and LH would have given New York and Paris some especially foul plague to really emphasize how bad they are.
    To say nothing of the fact that air traffic controllers in CHICAGO are all still here, alone among the major cities of the world?
    As a Chicagoan I demand an explanation. Perhaps they are still pissed about that whole Billy Sunday thing (have no idea what it is, Sinatra mentioned it).

  • disgusted

    CNN footage: US Soldiers execute Iraqi man, cheer.
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.literati.org/article5365.htm
    young soldier describes how ‘awesome’ it was.

  • Ron

    Well I guess it is kind of Monte Python like after all.

  • Mike Conley

    You know, I once, in an airport bookstore, picked up a copy of Left Behind, out of mild curiosity. I knew ahead of time it was going to be crap, and it only took opening the book to a random page and reading a paragraph to verify just how execrable the writing was. I simply could not imagine reading the entire thing.
    Following your summary is far more enlightening and entertaining, and allows me to provide other than aesthetic grounds for detesting these works without having had to wade through it. Thanks for falling on the grenade for us all.

  • jackson

    A Joe vs. the Volcano quote! I love that movie! So, so underrated! “There are only a few people who are really alive, and they live in a state of constant, total amazement.”

  • Eileen

    On the rapturing of air traffic controllers and flight crews…do the people who disappear believe/know their rapturing is imminent? It just seems to me that, if they did believe/know it, they shouldn’t have been working in jobs where their disappearance would endanger others. Planes are crashing because bozos like this are being assumed into heaven? Knowingly putting other people in danger ought to automatically disqualify one from being raptured.

  • Deana Holmes

    Personally, I was wondering if L&J had considered that it made them (and their god) look awfully gleeful about the sufferings of the “wicked” as a result of the Rapture. There doesn’t seem to be any reflection at all on how this unilateral action of their god might play out. Gosh, do you think that people might just decide that this god is not someone they really want to have anything to do with? After all, he was willing to expose billions to death and mayhem in the Rapture, and it’s just going to continue through the next 11 volumes.
    In my not so humble opinion, it would be almost incumbent upon me to oppose such a god. Why anyone would want to have anything to do with him when he’d do stuff like this is beyond me. But, since I know that the whole Rapture scenario is just the end result of nearly two centuries of theorizing by various people (of which L&J are merely the latest), I can be sure that the real God has nothing in common with this petty, venal god of the _Left Behind_books.

  • walden

    “It also contradicts L&J’s insistence that evangelical Christians are a marginalized and persecuted minority. If they’re such a despised and disenfranchised group, how did they come to comprise nearly 50 percent of the super-elite passengers on the Concorde?”
    –Haven’t read the books, but at least some of the folks with this type of theology also hold to the “gospel of prosperity” – that is, that faith in God leads to material wealth and prosperity in this life. The Concorde incident would be fully consistent with this view.

  • ttam117

    Odds are there were lawyers on these planes, so they must still be around.

  • dmm

    The first thing I thought about was what Chris mentioned — Paris is full of Catholics and isn’t the Catholic Church supposed to be the Whore of Babylon? It’s hard to imagine that the Dispensationalists would think that Catholics would be raptured.

  • Naomi

    Well, L&J were probably thinking of the passage, “One will be taken the other left.” Therefore, in the interest of upholding Biblical inerrancy, EXACTLY 50% of any group would have to be Raptured.
    Even on the Concorde.

  • cc

    Wow, that’s not the script for the as-filmed Joe vs. the Volcano!

  • Fred

    cc:
    Yeah, I don’t know if Shanley even shot the airplane scene. Which is a shame.

  • colin roald

    Jackson writes: A Joe vs. the Volcano quote! I love that movie! So, so underrated! “There are only a few people who are really alive, and they live in a state of constant, total amazement.”
    aolMe too!/aol :-) I’ve used that line as a sig for years, except I have it transcribed (from the filmed version) as: “Everyone you see, everyone you meet, everyone you talk to, are all asleep. There are only a handful of fully awake people in the world, and they live in a state of constant amazement.” I think I checked that against the film, but it was a long time ago and it’s possible I’m mis-remembering.
    I’m not sure if it’s a great movie, taken as a whole, but damn, it’s got some good lines.

  • michael (in DC)

    Deana,
    well, I guess the reply would be that the God of the Bible wiped out everyone on the planet in gruesome fashion in the Flood (‘cep for, what, 8 people on the Ark?)…and helped out various Israelites in smiting & pillaging along the way, etc. etc. etc….
    My favorite Biblical exemplar of this God-as-Michael-Corleone has always been the Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11: Hey look, all the humans are getting along & working together & accomplishing great things! Gotta put a stop to that or they’ll make me look bad! Let’s throw a huge wrench in the works & make ‘em all talk different so they can’t understand each other & end up hating each other & get too busy fighting wars & stuff to accomplish anything that’ll rival me!!! Ah, what a lovely God that is–not just cruel but petty and massively insecure. This is a Jehovah that makes Zeus look like a bargain.
    Now if you’re a fan of that God, then maybe the whole Endtimes scenario of the LB books makes some sense. Of course, it has nothing to do with the God of the Sermon on the Mount, but then the principal feature of L&J’s kind of Christianity has always been it’s complete disregard for the actual, you know, Teachings of Christ…
    sigh
    m

  • em zilch

    The most amazing thing to me about the “Left Behind” series is not that such apparently UNEDITED prose can be published (a lot) but that the premise is *wrong*.
    Isn’t the whole notion of the Rapture that the end of time arrives and that the dead RISE BODILY from their graves? I don’t remember any stupid idea that the good people ascend bodily to Heaven.
    Actually, both are stupid. Nevermind.
    Love the work, man. Love it.

  • evilhippy

    I have tried now on more than one occasion to get through LB. It would seem to be simple, what with the wide margins, simple vocabulary and scintillating prose, but I get about fifteen pages in and hurl the thing across the room.
    I commend you on your bravery at pushing through it.

  • http://hownow.brownpau.com/archives/2004/04/blood_im_afraid How Now, Brownpau?

    “Blood, I’m Afraid.”

    The Slacktivist has some excellent running commentary on Left Behind and its implications for Christianity and faith with its pulp treatment of eschatology, doctrine, and…

  • Sophist

    I like how they’re redirecting planes back across the atlantic. I know planes carry fuel reserves, but I have trouble beliveing that they carry enough for a return trip.

  • Jake

    God (or in the case of any novel, the authors, which is the scariest idea since some one suggested that God selected Bush for president) wouldn’t let the plane fall and kill the main protagonists, so there were no doubt lots of very strong winds going the other way across the Atlantic and the plane did have lot less passengers (no doubt fat american evangelicals) which probably allowed the plane to use what fuel it did have much more efficiently than it would have otherwise.

  • Dan

    “The Lord has just blessed [George W. Bush]. I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It doesn’t make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he’s a man of prayer and God’s blessing him.”
    –Pat Robertson, 700 Club, March 2004
    God may well have selected Bush for President, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Consider:
    God chose Saul to be king of Israel (1Sam 9:17). Career summary: usurped the role of religious leaders, murdered all God’s priests, consulted sorcerers, condemned his son to execution for breaking a law he didn’t even know about, etc etc.
    God chose the Babylonians to utterly desolate the entire Ancient Near East (Hab 1:6).
    God chose Balaam as a prophet (Num 22:20). Career summary: was almost killed by God for his avarice, introduced worst apostacy ever among the Israelites, was finally executed for that.
    The question is, what exactly did God choose Bush for?

  • wintermute

    I’m just re-reading the LB thread (always fun) and something suddenly jumped out at me as utterly impossible about this section. Not the fact that every air-traffic controller in Western Europe and the Eastern Seaboard of America had converted to Evangelical Christianity, but the fact that a Concorde out of Europe is diverting to Chicago!
    Concordes had very limited fuel supplies, such that Paris to New York was only just about feasable, after the FAA changed their rules on how much reserve an airliner needed. Assuming the Concorde in question is out of London (slightly closer to NY than Paris is), and assuming that it had a good tailwind, then it might, just possibly, have had enough fuel to make it to Boston, DC or Pittburgh. Maybe.
    Frankly, L&J sully their reputation for meticulous research when they include laughable errors like this.
    For the interested among you: Concorde’s maximum range, including fuel reserve is 6,230 km. From London to New York is 5,585 km, and from Paris to New York is 5,850 km. As you can see, these don’t leave a great deal of wiggle room. London -> Chicago: 6,378 km; Paris -> Chicago: 6,675 km, both clearly over the limits. No doubt the Concorde pilot was looking forward to performing the first ever emergency landing of a supersonic passenger jet.

  • melissia

    “It also contradicts L&J’s insistence that evangelical Christians are a marginalized and persecuted minority. If they’re such a despised and disenfranchised group, how did they come to comprise nearly 50 percent of the super-elite passengers on the Concorde?”

    It’s a common self-deceit by those with privilege, when forced to acknowledge that others are equal, that they are being oppressed. It is something I see all the time when discussing feminist issues, or gay rights issues, or religious issues, or ethnic/racial issues.

    And a deeply saddening one. I just hope that, in spite of my own flaws, when brought in to such a situation myself, I won’t react this way.


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