L.B.: No change of power

Left Behind, pp. 104-105

Remember that whole "rapture" thing? Yeah, well, we're done with that now.

Left Behind is often described as a novel about the rapture and what happens afterward, but that's not really accurate. It's a novel about a whole series of events supposedly prophesied. These events are familiar to all adherents of the premillennial dispensational "prophecy" perspective. First the believers and innocents will be raptured. Then the Antichrist will rise. Then comes a series of judgments — the seas turn to blood, the four horsemen bring famine, war, disease and death, dogs and cats sleeping together, mass hysteria.

The odd thing about LB — and all the earlier PMD, last days novels that it derives from — is that these events are never portrayed as connected. As these books recount their checklists of prophecy, A, B, C, D and E all happen, but they do not flow out of one another. They are unrelated, discrete occurrences. LaHaye and Jenkins tell us about the rapture, and then they tell us about the rise of the Antichrist, but the two things are jarringly disconnected. It seems almost like we're beginning a new, separate novel here on page 104.

Buck Williams arrives at the seedy Midpoint Motel "a few miles from the tiny Waukegan Airport." Buck looks at the decrepit motel room and wonders "what two places in the world this dive was midpoint between. Whatever they were, either had to be better." That's a joke. It's even a pretty good joke. (I want to be fair here and offer praise where we can. Particularly since we're about to encounter some of the worst writing in the book.)

The dismal room does have the one thing Buck cannot survive without: a telephone. It's been a long walk from the limo, where Buck had paid $50 to use the driver's car phone, to the motel room. Ten or 20 minutes may have passed since Buck was last able to use the phone, so he immediately dials his voicemail. He had no new messages, so:

… he listened to his saved message from Dirk Burton, which reminded him why he had felt it so important to get to London.

Dirk, you'll recall, is Buck's conspiratorial source with connections to the mysterious cabal of international power brokers who secretly run the world from behind the scenes. You might think that the world-shaking events of the previous 36 hours would have also shaken the agenda and activities of these unelected, world-governing puppeteers and that they would now be scrambling to respond to the drastic changes in the world they thought they controlled. But no.

Dirk's message makes it clear that the cabal is continuing its previous agenda as though nothing had happened. They seem unaffected, unphased by the dissappearance of nearly 2 billion people. Their political schemes are unaltered by the upheaval of the entire previous political landscape.

"Let me tell you something major," Dirk says. In the immediate aftermath of the mass disappearances, it takes someone with an unhealthy tunnel-vision to think that "something major" could mean anything other than, say, revealing what happened to all those people, or what might happen next. But what Dirk means by "something major" is instead this: an unscheduled special election in Romania:

The big man, your compatriot, the one I call the supreme power broker internationally, met here the other day with the one I call our muckety-muck. You know who I mean. There was a third party at the meeting. All I know is that he's from Europe, probably Eastern Europe. I don't know what their plans are for him, but apparently something on a huge scale. …

Something is cooking, and I don't even want to suggest what it is other than in person. Visit me as soon as you can. In case that's not possible, let me just encourage this: Watch the news for the installation of a new leader in Europe. If you say, as I did, that no elections are scheduled and no changes of power are imminent, you'll get my drift.

"No changes of power are imminent," Dirk says. Buck and the authors seem to think this is a reasonable statement. Weren't they paying any attention to the previous 100+ pages?

Let's review: All the Christians in the world have disappeared. Even presuming that LaHaye and Jenkins have a very limited notion of who makes the cut as a "true" Christian, it's at least possible that some elected official, somewhere in the world is among the disappeared.

But that's the least of it. The world is in chaos. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever be the same. Apart from the hundreds of millions of adult "true" Christians who are suddenly gone there is also the matter of the billion or so children — as in all the children. The disappearance of the children would utterly change the political, economic and social fabric of every nation, city and village on earth.

"No changes of power are imminent"? No. Rather, every leader on the planet would now find their position in jeopardy — from the now irrelevant school boards on up to the presidents and kings. Parents the world around would be rioting, taking to the barricades.

This context of global chaos — the carnage of accidents and plane crashes, the ensuing economic collapse, the bewildering anguish of the missing children — would be fertile ground for would-be totalitarian rules. Leaders already in power would be declaring martial law, suspending civil liberties and assuming for themselves sweeping new powers while reassuring their constituents that such steps were necessary to restore order. Many of the leaders who refused to take such steps would quickly be overthrown, replaced by more ambitious strongmen who saw this as their opportunity for revolution.

None of that happens in Left Behind. The rapture was a self-contained prophetic event confined to the first 100 pages of the book. It has no aftermath, no repercussions, as the authors move on to the next self-contained prophetic event: the rise of the global government of the Antichrist.

The post-rapture chaos and political tumult could easily have led to the rise of such an authoritarian, worldwide leader, except that for L&J it doesn't lead to much of anything. To explain the rise of Nicolae "Sundance" Carpathia, they resort instead to a half-assed conspiracy of international power brokers and an unrecognizably capable and powerful United Nations.

All of which is evidence that Carpathia is not qualified to be Antichrist. The fact that he fails to recognize the political opportunity presented by the post-rapture chaos proves that he lacks the diabolical, power-mad instincts the job requires.

Likewise, the fact that Stonagal & Co. fail to recognize such an opportunity proves that they are not qualified to act as a shadow government. The fact that Dirk Burton is unable to adapt his conspiracy theories to account for the recent cataclysm shows that he is not qualified to serve as our haunted man-who-knows-too-much. The fact that Buck reads that "no changes in power are imminent" and nods along in agreement proves that he is not qualified to serve as the world's foremost investigative reporter.

And, of course, the fact that LaHaye and Jenkins created all these woefully unqualified characters, and that they concocted such a worldwide catastrophe without ever imagining any repercussions beyond the difficulty of getting from O'Hare to Naperville proves, again, that they are not qualified to write anything worth reading.

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  • cm

    Very well put, Karmakin.

  • dh

    Dan, you are right unless the Second Comning Christ comes at the beginning of the Tribulation rather than later. Therefore, the “thief in the night” and the “no one knowing the day or hour” would still be consistent with the passages.
    To Karmakin: “Without Faith it is impossible to please God.” and Titus 3:5 & 6. To call people of Faith a crude name I feel does a disservice to Christ and the work of His ministry let alone the “Body of Christ”. But all Christianity whether Protestant or Catholic believes that as Christians we must do (works) as much as we can for Christ. “What shall we say then shall we continue in sin that Grace may abound? God forbid, how are we who are died to sin live any longer in it.” Thank God for the wonderful balance of the Apostle Paul.

  • FHC

    I would add to dh’s reply to Karmakin: Not all Protestant faiths hold a pure salvation by faith doctrine. In fact, few of the mainline churches in my experience hold with a “say the magic words and you’re saved” position. In the Episcopal church, we were taught that while salvation came through Grace–an irresistable force: God chooses you, not the other way around–you could cooperate with Grace through faith, good works and a desire to live as righly as one can. Faith, at least in the church I grew up in, was not a simple thing. Having faith is hard and that’s okay. You’re supposed to struggle with it and grow through the struggle. I can’t add anything to resolve the other debate on this thread–does Christianity recognize the possibility that other faiths can get into heaven–except to say that in the church where I was confirmed the answer was yes, if God chooses to bestow grace on a person, their religious beliefs don’t much matter. What God wants, God gets. We’re all muddling along with our imperfect understanding and God doesn’t hold that against us when passing out Grace.

  • Ray

    This suggests to me that it really doesn’t matter what you do. You’re given Grace (or not) when you’re born. If you have Grace then the faith, good works, and desire to live rightly are unnecessary, you’ll still get into heaven. If you don’t, you won’t.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Same goes for those offering their services to the Christian community as financial and spiritual advisors, counselors, Christian school faculty and administrators, “experts” on various topics, and so on. Real-world credentials and experience count for little: you don’t have to know what you’re doing, you only have to convince ’em that you Know Jesus. In the eyes of their would-be clients, this is the only qualification that counts. I guess they figure that God will protect them from the real idiots.Dunno about homeschooling, but I think I met a chiropracter here in Boulder that met that description. It wasn’t just “aligning the spine solves everything”; with him it was “aligning the God-given spine solves everything.” And of course the waiting room was blaring Jesus-Is-My-Buddy music, and his response to “How you doin'” was “Oh, I’m just blessed!” and there was all sorts of other in-your-face-ishness that just totally disinclined me to stick around.
    As far as connecting the prophetical dots goes, maybe the books actually do acknowledge a connection between the rise of “Sundance” and the Rapture–but in reverse. It’s not that the Antichrist is supposed to take advantage of post-Rapture chaos; it’s that God, seeing the rise of the Antichrist imminent, went ahead and euthanized^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HRaptured His 2 billion favorites to spare them the coming ordeal.

  • DD

    I love those rapture books.
    If you stack three of them on a normal seat you can seat a small child on them to reach the grown-up table.
    I had a wobbly table and it evened out when I put a paperback under one leg.
    I was having a theological argument with someone about the peccability of Christ (he was arguing the impeccability side… sigh, what a goof), and at a particularly heated moment, I smacked my debate opponent over the head. Perfect weight to knock him to the floor and had him asking for mercy.
    And finally, I was once stuck in the house without any toilet paper apres the moment… and I ripped out the pages and wiped my ass with them.
    Hey… God bless…

  • animus

    I mean, who uses the hotel phones anymore, anyway?
    Russell Crowe?

  • dh

    What does the Episcopal church say about. “If you deny Me you have denies the Father.” or “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and Believe with your heart that God has risen from the dead you shall be saved.” “I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through Me.” “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
    I feel Salvation is by Faith alone through Christ alone. I feel that if you have any Faith other than in Jesus Christ you don’t have true Faith.
    Grace is available to all. Whether we enter into that Grace or not is a choice that is made by us to accept or reject. God choose us and at the same time we choose God. It is equal. A covenant is not one sided but two sided.

  • Chris

    “The big man, your compatriot, the one I call the supreme power broker internationally, met here the other day with the one I call our muckety-muck.”
    The odd thing about this meeting was that the Big Cheese couldn’t make it, but they were able to teleconference him in. Of course, the Big Kahuna, Hombre Numero Uno, the Top Dog, el Magnifico, the Head Honcho, and the Ringleader were all in attendance.
    Great stuff this. I can’t put it down. It’s really this first critical treatment of extreme fundamentalism I’ve seen that really takes it seriously and criticizes it on it’s logical and religious merits.