Left Behind, pp. 57-58
I'm not sure, but Steve Plank — the delusional and anti-Semitic executive editor of Global Weekly and Buck Williams' boss — may get his name from Jesus' parable/proverb, translated this way in the NIV:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
I may be reading too much into this, of course. Planks are long and hard, and the editor's name may simply be drawn from the same freudian well as the names of the other male characters in Left Behind ("Buck," "Steele"). And if his name is an allusion to the parable, I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean.
Jesus' plank-eyed hypocrite was blinded by his own hypocrisy, and Steve Plank does exhibit a lack of vision. He's one of the few people we've met so far in the story who doesn't seem to have read the book jacket and therefore doesn't see that he is a character in a premillennial dispensationalist "novel of the Earth's last days." Whether or not we're intended to read this as evidence of Steve's blindness I can't tell, but his different perspective does allow him to ask some legitimate questions.
At the end of his rambling, expository and conspiratorial e-mail to Buck, Plank mentions that "a niece and two nephews" of his are among the disappeared. "You think they'll be back?" he asks.
That's a legitimate question. The mass disappearances were so utterly inexplicable that a subsequent mass reappearance could hardly be more surprising. Plank further speculates about the disappearances:
If I had to guess, I'm anticipating some God-awful ransom demand. I mean, it's not like these people who disappeared are dead. …
I thought the same thing about the ransom demand (see "The Lex Luthor Factor"). But Plank supposes only that such a demand would come from whoever was responsible for the disappearances. He doesn't envision the more likely scenario of opportunists who might issue such demands.
And I'm not sure what LaHaye and Jenkins intend us to make of Plank's insight that "it's not like these people … are dead." From L&J's perspective, that's true. Kind of. Although they have a hard time explaining how that's true. They want us to believe that the "Rapture" means escaping death. As Rayford's dear departed (but undead) wife Irene put it, "Jesus coming back to get us before we die."
L&J are never clear on why we're supposed to believe there's any meaningful difference in the experience of sudden, unexpected "rapture" and that of sudden, unexpected death. It's not like these people are dead, is it? Yes. It's exactly like that.
Plank's e-mail ends by dismissing another speculative explanation:
I'm not ready to start believing the tabloids. You just know they're going to be saying the space aliens finally got us.
But, absent any special knowledge gleaned from the book jacket, what's wrong with the space alien theory? In the absence of any credible terrestrial explanation, why rush to rule out an extra-terrestrial one?
Despite the book's intended PMD premise, I still haven't ruled out the space alien theory. I'm not thinking of the almond-eyed grays of Close Encounters, but of the powerul creature in Star Trek V who masquerades as God.
Yeah, I know. The odd-numbered Trek movies mostly suck, and The Final Frontier is often unenduringly embarrassing ("I want my pain! I need my pain!").
But the premise is intriguing.
Such a malevolent alien creature, one vastly more powerful and intelligent than us, wouldn't have much trouble performing enough "miraculous" signs to convince us it was divine. Those who believe that omnipotence is God's only significant characteristic would be especially susceptible to such a ruse.
Imagine that such a creature has been listening in on the radio signals beaming out into space from our little planet. For decades, those signals have included the prophecy babble of PMD radio preachers like LaHaye and Harold Camping. The creature realizes it has been given a step-by-step blueprint for how to steal away all of Earth's children for use as slaves in some nefarious intergalactic plot …
Or maybe not.
All I'm saying is Plank shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the space aliens theory.