L.B.: Yesterday’s news

Left Behind, pg. 45

And but so anyway, Rayford Steele and LaHaye & Jenkins are moving along and so must we.

Finally in the terminal, Rayford found crowds standing in lines behind banks of phones. Most had angry people waiting, yelling at callers who shrugged and redialed.

Left Behind was written in 1995, before cell phones had reached the tipping point and become indispensable and omnipresent. Much of the book therefore is occupied with the now anachronistic-seeming logistics of pay phones and pre-cell communications. We’ve already explored this a bit in discussing Buck Williams’ dubious splicing of a dial-up modem and an airphone.

This is a reminder of how much our communications world has changed in just the last nine years. It’s also a reminder, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden noted in comments to this post, that writing about the immediate future is difficult. I’m willing to give L&J credit for degree of difficulty here — anticipating short-term technological changes is tricky. But you’d think they’d have gotten something right.

Airport snack bars and restaurants were already sold out or low on food, and all newspapers and magazines were gone. In shops where staffers had disappeared, looters walked off with merchandise.

What can explain this strange run on “newspapers and magazines”? Millions of people around the world have just disappeared. Actually, since all the children have disappeared, that would be billions of people. In the wake of such an event people would presumably be desperate for news. The morning editions of the Sun-Times and the Tribune would be full of yesterday’s news — events that would seem horribly trivial and out-of-date in the light of the tragedy that has just unfolded.

L&J haven’t given us a clear idea of what time of day it is in Chicago (or what time of year it is, for that matter), but it seems unlikely that the papers would have managed — between whenever the disappearances occurred and whenever it is that Rayford arrives at the terminal — to produce and distribute afternoon extras in time for anything newsworthy to be in the racks at the airport newstands. Time, Newsweek and “Global Weekly” would be even more irrelevant with their stale summaries of the previous week’s news.

As for the rest of the magazines — the entertainment and style and sports glossies that make up the bulk of an airport newstand — I can’t begin to imagine what would prompt someone to think, “Oh the humanity! I’d better get me a copy of Elle.” (And since airport newstands also reserve several feet of shelf-space for porn, the now-empty racks might suggest that O’Hare’s mens rooms would be a very unpleasant place.)

The looting of other shops is similarly strange. I can understand people walking off with, say, the candy section because, hey, free Snickers. But why would people facing a serious apocalyptic calamity bother to walk off with an armful of Sears Tower sno-globes?

The preoccupation with pay phones seems anachronistic to us now because L&J failed to anticipate the cell phone revolution. But the biggest reason that the beginning of Left Behind seems dated and unreal has nothing to do with technological change.

The early chapters of the book are all about people responding in the aftermath of a world-shifting tragic event. We have since learned what such an event feels like. We saw how people responded, what became important and what was set aside. And it wasn’t like this. These early chapters aren’t just technologically dated, they also seem a bit September 10.

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  • Chris

    It seems kind of weird that O’Hare has a major breakdown in law and order only a few hours post-Rapture. It seems even weirder that though the hordes are rampaging through the souvenir stands everyone is still lining up to use the phone. Shouldn’t there be a riot there or something? Or are airport kiosk owners truly one of the chosen and they are completely empty? Since they sell porn I would be suspicious of that possibility.

  • Eileen

    re looting of newspapers and magazines: the restrooms ran out of toilet paper?

  • More End-Timers

    And talking of End Times fundies, Slacktivist continues his dissection of the excrable “Left Behind”. He’s going through the hell…

  • Mike

    Very insightful perspective Fred. Thanks.

  • Mike

    Very insightful perspective Fred. Thanks.

  • Mike

    Well, it was good… but not that good. Sorry about doubling up.

  • Keith Tyler

    The thought of all-Christian shops being left without anyone to watch them post-Rapture, leaving them to be looted by the unwashed left-behinders…. makes it seem like some sort of subconscious charity on the part of those who were taken. Or perhaps conscious charity on the part of the Taker.

  • DonBoy

    Yes, but — no, no, hear me out — what if the economy of post-Rapture America turns out to based on snow globes? Then I, down in my bunker with my guns, canned goods and my pretty, pretty, sparkly landmark-filled orbs — I am your ruler.

  • Evan

    Seems obvious to me what the message is: The only people left on Earth now are bad people who didn’t accept Jesus, plus a handful of basically okay people who are the heroes of the book. There are no more really good people. Consequently there can be no truly decent or moral behavior on display.
    There are long lines for the telephones because the people at the front of the lines aren’t willing to cut their calls short and let others have a chance, because none of them are christians and therefore they have no empathy for the distress of others. The airport stores have been looted because non-christians are bad, selfish people and will steal anything not nailed down, whether it’s useful or not, as soon as no one’s looking.

  • Chris

    That does seem to be the subtext, but I am still baffled by the selective nature of the breakdown and the speed with which it happened. Within six hours every store is looted, BUT people still are waiting in lines, eletricity is still on, etc. It’s all so weirdly haphazard.
    Just take the phones. True, selfish pricks are talking too long. So why haven’t the evil people left behind started clubbing people when they get sick of waiting?

  • eristick

    I question the specific location of an airport as a likely place of immediate chaos, as well. Look, I know it’s all the naughty non-believers left behind (along with a few good people like our hero) but a place like an airport, with extensive security and a work force of trained employees, as well as natural leader-types like pilots, would find it easy to set up ad hoc emergency procedure pretty easily. Heck, the loudspeakers work — this is an easy place to organize people. And hundreds of phone lines are installed in this building for use by airlines and operations.
    Chaos, looting, pervasive selfishness (likely leading to frustrated violence) would make more sense in, say, a downtown commercial business district, which has less of natural hierarchy or organization.

  • Scott Cattanach

    There’s nothing Sept 10th about LB – a disaster happens, and so everyone rallies around Satan incarnate. Its the most accurate prediction they’ve made. :-)
    BTW, anyone else slog thru LB#12? It was one of the most evil GD things I’ve ever read. If LB1 was “evangelicals proven right”, then LB12 is “evangelicals get to watch Jesus kill everyone who ever mocked them”. There is, and I kid you not, a line about now that the unbelievers are finally gone (i.e. they died horribly), they can finally and really make the US a ‘Christian nation’.

  • M. Wyz

    You said you weren’t sure what time of year it was. Wasn’t there a line about how there wasn’t any snow on the ground? YES, here it is, pp. 35-39 (“the evil of banality”):
    “The expressways that led to the airport looked like they had during the great Chicago blizzards, only without the snow.”
    I guess that just tells us it didn’t happen at xmas.

  • Chris

    I read (in the bookstore) the section where the Anti-Christ faces Jesus. A more patheic passage would be hard to find (not to mention borderline heresy at least). Jesus confronts the chief evil-doers and forces them to confess that he is indeed the Lord. Then tosses them in the lake of fire.
    What was so sad is that it makes Jesus look like some pitiful bully saying, “Who’s your daddy, punk? That’s right, I’M your daddy.” I doubt Jesus has need of such affirmation, though clearly L&J do.
    Is their faith so thin that they need to give Jesus an endorsement FROM THE ANTI-CHRIST? Weird.

  • Scott Cattanach

    The LB Jesus does not represent any actual Messiah. Any resembalance between the LB Jesus and any real savior, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
    L&J made their Jesus every bit as pompous as their antichrist (to the point where they had to put in an aside that Jesus sounded so humble when he was speaking, because Jenkins can’t write dialog that would reflect that).
    My favorite part of LB12 was all the mountains (and islands) being levelled, while all Christians, _and_their_property_ are spared. Granted, I’m a totally unrepentant capitalist, but “its nice to have Jesus back, but what’s really nice is that Grandma’s china survived the apocolypse” seems odd, to say the least.
    Evidently there are no Christians in Hawaii (which sank to the bottom of the ocean w/o harming any believers or their houses).

  • Chris

    But what about all those Christians who owned ski resorts?

  • Scott Cattanach

    “But what about all those Christians who owned ski resorts?”
    Or the ones living on the coast? (That big an earthquake would probably create a tidal wave or two, or three, or four…..)
    Then again, since the US coasts went for Gore and the middle of the country went for Bush, there are clearly no Christians living near coastline anywhere on Earth. :-)

  • Jon H

    One possible explanation for the lines at the phones would be if the cellphone networks were clogged, or otherwise non-functional.
    Maybe cellular communications engineers are more righteous than landline engineers, leaving nobody to keep it running.
    Or maybe, following the example of O’Hare’s magazine stand, the Left Behind people behaved like post-war Iraqis and stripped the cellphone towers of wire to sell as scrap. Or to offer in tribute to Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies and Twisted-Pair Cable.

  • Evan

    Oh, wait, it just hit me… wouldn’t an airport bookstore be filled with “Left Behind” books? Maybe everybody just wanted to bone up on what was coming next.

  • Chris

    They no doubt forgot to mention a proclamation that was announced an hour before Ray landed.
    “Mayor Daley has announced that Chicago is now under mob rule.So get those snow globes while you can.”
    Note re prediction: It is throughly sound to say that pre-apocalyptic Chicago will be rule by a Mayor Daley and that said mayor is unlikely to be taken up. The Daleys are staunch Catholics, therefore doooooooooomed.

  • Willoughby

    Out of curiosity and slightly OT, what’s the cutoff age for no-fault Rapturing? Does God have a specific age (10? 14?), or is it decided on a case-by-case basis who gets tried as an adult?
    And in a related matter, is everyone Left Behind ™ suddenly sterile? Or if not, do the little babies get Raptured up at birth or while they’re still in the womb? I guess that would settle the question of when God thinks life begins.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Unborn babies get raptured (they make it a point to say so), and I think the age cutoff was around 7-10 years old. Babies conceived afterward were in the same boat as everyone else.

  • Scott Cattanach

    L&J never get around to explaining why if single cell zygotes get to go straight to Heaven w/o ever having to make any choices of their own (no brain cells means no brain means no choosing), why God bothers to make the rest of us live on Earth for several years first, risking Hell in the process.
    BTW, did they _ever_ explain the significance of ‘216’?

  • Jesurgislac

    Single-cell zygotes get Raptured?
    Now that’s something they leave out of conventional pictures of heaven: the flocks of single-cell zygotes swimming around.

  • Shove It Up Your Ass, Kristof

    If a man condemneth you to hell, compliment his nice church shoes. The shortter version of this idiotic column by Nicholas Kristof is provided by Elton at Busy, Busy, Busy: Never scoff at belief systems that condemn you to…

  • Bill S

    I think “216” is the combined I.Q. of all the people who buy into this nonsense…times 10.

  • Rebekah

    216 is 6 X 6 X 6….But I prefer Bill S’s explanation.

  • Keith Tyler

    Finally in the terminal, Rayford found crowds standing in lines behind banks of phones. Most had angry people waiting, yelling at callers who shrugged and redialed
    The ironic thing here is this: LaHaye and Jenkins are seeminlgy trying very hard to hammer the point home that people are callous, self-centered, and insensitive; through (what appear to be attempts at subtle) shows of the public’s ignorance of the dead and injured.
    However, by focusing too much on (and exaggerating) the evil in people’s souls, and NOT on the dead and wounded, LaHaye and Jenkins commit *the exact same crime* of ignoring the dead and wounded that the left-behinders do.

  • Keith Tyler

    Also, given all the mass unbridled chaos, I also have to wonder if LaHaye and Jenkins believe that all or the majority of cops are morally and spiritually pure and therefore taken up. (Certainly, and surprisingly, our men and women in the armed forces are not, as martial law is later declared to restore order. By Nicholae, iirc.)

  • Amber

    Ok to comment on some of the questions, misunderstandings, etc.
    First the rapture occurs in the Febuary-March area because one line near the beginning says that pro-baseball teams in spring training have to find new players to take the spots of those who disappeared. It can be deduced that the rapture happened at night in Chicago because when Rayford Steele returns home he finds the clothes of his wife and son in their beds.
    Second, Scott C mentioned that “Evidently there are no Christians in Hawaii ” and about the Christians on the coasts who should have been flooded by tidal waves and the like. In previous books(Book 4-Soul Harvest) the second trumpet judgement sends a burning mountain plummetting into the oceans, causing monsterous tidal waves and costal flooding. Also, in book 9 desecration the second bowl judgement turns all the oceans, seas, and salt water to blood. All people on the coastal sections and islands are killed or have moved to avoid the rotting sea creatures and diseases caused by the blood oceans. Therefore, there was no one on islands or on the coasts, believers or nonbelievers.
    To answer Willoughby’s question about the cut-off age I think it would be around 11-12 for most people. In the kids series one of the main characters is 13, it mentions no one of a younger age specifically, and it says that all the elementary and lower schools have been closed because all of the students disappeared. Most elementary schoolers are 10 or 11 at the oldest. Another question was about future children and pregnancies during the tribulation. No, people are not automatically sterile and babies do not disappear upon conception. Many babies are born, two of which are detailed in the Left Behind series.

  • Andy

    Pinning down the date and time of the rapture according to LB:
    It takes place in FEBRUARY (14 months after Buck’s trip to Israel to interview Chaim Rosensweig for the December 31 “Global Weekly” cover story.) on a MONDAY night at about 11:00pm CST.

  • James

    Actually, the idea of people lined up to use pay phones seems pretty contemporary. Indeed, it was a scene I witnessed firsthand on 9/11. In the middle of Washington, D.C. the cellphone services were jammed, and people out of instinct attacked the few pay phones. There happened to be 3 at a parking lot/gas station across the street from my apartment, and each had a line of 20-30 angry, pissed-off people, some of whom almost got violent with each other. It’s not the worst thing that could have been written.

  • I B Nowwhere

    Left Behind – The Indwelling (p. 81)
    216 = 6 x 6 x 6
    72 = (6 + 6) x 6
    42 = 6 x 6 + 6
    30 = 6 x 6 – 6
    18 = 6 + 6 + 6
    -6 = 6 – 6 – 6
    0 = (6 – 6) x 6
    2 = (6 + 6) / 6
    6 = 6 / 6 x 6
    7 = 6 / 6 + 6
    But also,
    If A=1, B=2, … ,Z=26;
    and if Nicolae Jetty Carpathia = N + i + c + … + h + i + a;
    then Nicolae Jetty Carpathia = 14 + 9 + 3 + 15 + 12 + 1 + 5 + 10 + 5 + 20 + 20 + 25 + 3 + 1 + 18 + 16 + 1 + 20 + 8 + 9 + 1 = 216
    And if that was not enough,
    Rev. 7:4, 13:16-18
    144,000 / 666 = 216.216216216216216216…

  • Nenya

    We have since learned what such an event feels like. We saw how people responded, what became important and what was set aside. And it wasn’t like this. These early chapters aren’t just technologically dated, they also seem a bit September 10.
    Coming back to this in ’06–how does this compare with Katrina?

  • Ken

    In previous books(Book 4-Soul Harvest) the second trumpet judgement sends a burning mountain plummetting into the oceans, causing monsterous tidal waves and costal flooding.
    “Burning mountain”? Not an asteroid impact?

  • Enlightened and obligated to share

    William Daley, (in the background), is running the “Darkside’s” agenda more than anyone who is mentioned. This includes his backing a certain candidate for president. It will occur to you. At some time, Gods, no doubt, it will be revealed. Well,