L.B.: Leap of Proof

"It's hard to accept the idea that there cannot be an order in the universe because it would offend the free will of God and His omnipotence. So the freedom of God is our condemnation, or at least the condemnation of our pride."

– Umberto Eco, "The Name of the Rose"

Left Behind, pp. 159-165

Miracle
Rayford Steele and his daughter, Chloe, are reunited and trying to account for their situation. The events of the past few days were mysterious, inexplicable, or at least highly improbable. Yet they happened. There they are. So how did this come to be?

Rayford is sure he already knows: God did it.

This is how Rayford has decided to explain everything he cannot otherwise explain. The mass disappearances, he has decided, must be the product of some Intelligent Design.

Once he has reduced the almighty to the explanation of the otherwise inexplicable, it then becomes Rayford's job to defend this fragile gap-God. Chloe can't explain the disappearances either, but she's willing to consider any theory. Rayford — like LaHaye and Jenkins — finds this kind of open-mindedness dangerous. After all, the more explanations we find for things, the more marginal the gap-God becomes.

Consider the birds of the air. More particularly, consider the finches of the Galapagos Islands. They neither sow nor reap, yet your heavenly Father cares for them. God has given them different kinds of beaks, each uniquely suited to a particular niche in the island's ecosystem. For believers in the gap-God, this was evidence of divine majesty. Until the HMS Beagle arrived, that is, and Mr. Darwin reduced God's portfolio by explaining how those finches adapted through natural selection.

For Rayford, Chloe's quest for non-miraculous explanations for the disappearances is, like Darwin's similar quest to understand the natural world, a threat to God.

Chloe first kicks around "the space invasion theory," which she dismisses: "It just seems that if some alien life force was capable of doing this, they would also be capable of communicating to us. Wouldn't they want to take over now or demand ransom to get us to do something for them?"

We've already considered this, of course. The point about a ransom demand is a good one, but that presumes they didn't just take the tender little children for food.

Rayford doesn't have the patience for this. "My logic has been stretched to the breaking point," he tells Chloe. L&J seem to consider this a description of faith. It's a poor substitute. Faith is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). The breaking point of logic, on the other hand, is usually considered madness.

Here the story zig-zags a bit into one of those rare instances in which the characters briefly appear human. Rayford remembers a turning point in his relationship with his daughter. She had come home drunk from a party in high school and he had begun yelling at her. But his worry had overcome his anger and he broke down. "Though he hadn't planned it, that involuntary show of emotion got through to Chloe. … He had dissolved into tears, and so had she. They had bonded as never before." Yeah, it's still written in Jenkins' typical style ("bonded" as a verb, telling us that something was both unplanned and involuntary) but it's the sort of thing that might actually occur between two humans, so I'm willing to give him a pass on this section.

For those of you keeping score at home, I'll say this for the record: From halfway down page 160 to about halfway through page 162, Left Behind is not wholly irredeemable. But it doesn't last.

Late in the day, Friday, Rayford and Chloe reluctantly agreed they should eat, and they worked together in the kitchen, rustling up a healthy mixture of fruits and vegetables.

So it's Friday, is it? That might mean something if we could be sure what day it was when this story started, which L&J neglected to tell us. With Rayford napping at odd hours and Buck warping the space-time continuum by replacing a 15-hour drive with a two-day plane trip it's hard to calculate exactly how much time has passed. Best guess: the disappearances were somewhere between two and three days ago.

So no one's been shopping for at least three days, but the Steele's kitchen still provides "a healthy mixture of fruits and vegetables." The cataclysm that shut down transportation and communication systems apparently did not interfere with the magical delivery systems that cause fresh food and clean water to appear, ex nihilo, in our suburban American homes.

Halfway through this sullen meal of wilted lettuce, Rayford finally blurts out his theory about what happened to his wife and son: "I believe they are in heaven."

"Oh, Daddy! There were some religious nuts at school who were saying that, but if they knew so much about it, how come they didn't go?"

"Maybe they realized they had been wrong and had missed their opportunity."

"You think that's what we've done?" Chloe said, returning to her chair.

"I'm afraid so. Didn't your mother tell you she believed that Jesus could come back some day and take his people directly to heaven before they died?"

"Sure, but she was always more religious than the rest of us. I thought she was just getting a little carried away."

"Good choice of words."

"Hm?"

"She got carried away, Chloe. Raymie too."

Chloe can't imagine any objection to Rayford's theory other than "If they knew so much about it, how come they didn't go?" L&J can't imagine any objections or alternatives to this theory either. They seem to think they have created a scenario in which God — their God, the premillennial dispensationalist God of arbitrary prophecy checklists — is the only logical explanation. The characters in LB share the authors' lack of imagination.

Now Rayford was angry. "What's more far-fetched than people disappearing right out of their clothes? Who else could have done that? Years ago we'd have blamed it on the Soviets, said they had developed some super new technology, some death ray that affected only human flesh and bone. But there's no Soviet threat anymore, and the Russians lost people, too. And how did this … this whatever it was — how did it choose who to take and who to leave?"

"You're saying the only logical explanation is God, that he took his own and left the rest of us?"

"That's what I'm saying."

So for Rayford, if it wasn't the Soviets, it has to be the hand of God.

Rayford notes that "there's no Soviet threat anymore." He's not just referring to the dissolution of the USSR, but to the events described earlier in this book in which the actual, visible hands of God appeared over Israel, wielding the divine X-Box controller and destroying the entire Russian fleet of nuclear missiles and fighter planes without the slightest harm befalling the people below.

Like the rest of the world, Rayford witnessed that explicit act of divine intervention without giving it a second thought. But now he is convinced that he has found evidence that demands a verdict?

By repeatedly insisting that a divine miracle is "the only logical explanation," what L&J really mean is that there is no logical explanation — only supralogical ones. But once we enter the realm of miracle and the supralogical we lose any basis for preferring one supralogical explanation over any others. Irene Steele's PMD rapture theory is one such supralogical explanation for the mass disappearances. Here's another: The Dharma Initiative. Hurley fell asleep and failed to push the button after 108 minutes.

  • sylvia

    My father, who was born in 1942, once said this to me regarding whether or not the world is a better place than it was:
    “Maybe they’re right, you know, maybe we would be better off in a world without all these new modern advances. Of course I wouldn’t be in a position to know, having died of pneumonia at the age of six.”

  • Jason

    You’re right to point out the inconsistency that Rayford doesn’t recognize the clear hand of God in the prior miracle but is now ready to chalk up the disapearances to the God of PMD, but I’m willing to cut him and L&J a little slack here. I mean, if there were a group of people who ran around saying that one day they would vanish when God miracled them to heaven, and then a lot of those people did in fact vanish, wouldn’t it would be only natural to think that maybe they were right?
    Imagine that Hale Bop comet cult, but imagine that it was more than just a couple dozen people but instead had millions of followers. Now imagine that instead of committing suicide in their sneakers, they suddenly vanished after the comet came by, having been beamed up by the spaceship. We’d suddenly think their predictions were a little more credible, no?

  • Ray

    So what those guys should really have done was strip naked and leave their clothes lying around their temple before going out and jumping into the woodchipper.

  • Keith

    If I were a character in this world…
    Short of the appearence of Jesus and an actual firebretahing dragon, I like Chloe, would still be postualting mass abduction with some heretofore unknown technlogy, either by aliens or just industrious humans. As for the unprovoked attack by a superpower against a Middle Eastern country… that one’s pretty easy to explain through mundane means, these days.
    So far, no facts have surfaced to prove that the events in this story were caused by anything superhuman or supernatural, merely preternatural and a bit odd. As someone once said, in a slightly different context, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
    Just because we can’t find the people who have disapeared, it doesn’t mean God did it. To make that leap imediately means that we have given up rational thought altogether and are now employing magical thinking. It’s OK for one or two characters to do that in a novel but to suddenly have everyone know absolutely that they are in a MPD novel is stretching crdulity beyond the breaking point. Which I think was Fred’s point here: our lazy authors, setting out to write an MPD broadside, have doen away with inconviences like nuance, plot continuity or human psycholgy in favor of preaching.

  • Scott

    So what those guys should really have done was strip naked and leave their clothes lying around their temple before going out and jumping into the woodchipper.
    Yea, that’s it. Convince the evangelicals we’ll believe if they all disappear like they claim they will and let them fake their own disapperances (and never come back, of course, or that would spoil the hoax). I’ll buy some woodchippers and leave them in the parking lots of Baptist churches. :-)

  • Garnet

    I mean, if there were a group of people who ran around saying that one day they would vanish when God miracled them to heaven, and then a lot of those people did in fact vanish, wouldn’t it would be only natural to think that maybe they were right?
    Eventually, perhaps, but remember, Rayford hasn’t had time to do a census of who’s been taken, and he knows for a fact that some of the ‘right’ Christians haven’t been taken. And what about the children? All the children have been taken, but not all children are Christians, and a man so Biblically illiterate that he thinks “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.” is nothing more than ‘religious mumbo jumbo’ certainly wouldn’t be up on his PMD enough to know that children under age X are guaranteed a free pass, Rapture-wise.

  • John Denton

    >
    Yes, through the great lottery of random mutation in which any cell, tissue, or organ can make any sort of change in function, size, color, or longevity, somehow finch beaks changed enough to handle changes in seeds, and nothing else about the finch changed. Eyes, feet, wings, coloration, song pattern, and all the characteristics by which finches have been identified and catalogued, remained the same. Such a marvelous coincidence that the species need was met without notable variation in their other characteristics.
    C’MON, GET REAL!
    Run the numbers on every genetic organization such a creature posseses. Assume random mutation on each process. The odds of beak changes only–and uncannily well-fitted ones at that– are for our purposes infinite.
    DON’T BE AFRAID THAT THERE’S A POWER SMARTER THAN YOU WILL EVER BE.

  • John Denton

    >
    Yes, through the great lottery of random mutation in which any cell, tissue, or organ can make any sort of change in function, size, color, or longevity, somehow finch beaks changed enough to handle changes in seeds, and nothing else about the finch changed. Eyes, feet, wings, coloration, song pattern, and all the characteristics by which finches have been identified and catalogued, remained the same. Such a marvelous coincidence that the species need was met without notable variation in their other characteristics.
    C’MON, GET REAL!
    Run the numbers on every genetic organization such a creature posseses. Assume random mutation on each process. The odds of beak changes only–and uncannily well-fitted ones at that– are for our purposes infinite.
    DON’T BE AFRAID THAT THERE’S A POWER SMARTER THAN YOU WILL EVER BE.

  • Ray

    As far as I know, even the most die-hard anti-evolutionists accept the evolution of the Galapagos finches, but just explain it away as “micro-evolution” as opposed to “macro-evolution”. If you deny that its possible for selective pressure to change the shape of a finch’s beak, then why not also deny that its possible for selective pressure to change the size of a dog, or to make corn more nutritious? I’d suggest that you need to study your creationism a little more, but why not go the whole hog and pick up The Blind Watchmaker instead?

  • Rebecca Borgstrom

    Mr. Banks, I think that if we are called to anything in this life it is to hold with our minds and our souls and even the marrow of our bones that people are basically good.
    Because without this we cannot know charity towards them; we cannot know love towards them; we cannot be good towards them. It is not love that is given unto the skunks and the wasps by those who, turning up their noses and rich to bulging with the sense of their own generosity, evict them carefully from their homes instead of killing them. It is not kindness and it is not good. It is pride and it is disdain. Let us not feel that way towards humanity.
    Love is what admires others. Love is what looks at others and does not see stinking beasts or dangerous things but rather wonders.
    If we do not say, “This humanity—what a fine thing!” then it does not matter if there is a God, because we will not see Him when He passes. We’ll be too busy sneering at and startling at and cowering from shadows.
    I post this not to criticize you but to urge you to hope; to suggest to you that hope and faith and love are holy services; to argue that placing greater trust in humanity is hard because our work in life is always hard, that it is hard because it is important.

  • bulbul

    Don’s longing for the good old days reminds me of the old joke my Oriental Studies professor use to tell us now and then:
    Press release: the researchers at the British Musem finally translated the oldest cuneiform table. The 4000 years old text – the oldest written record on the planet – reads: “Woe is me! Things are no longer the way they used to be…”

  • Ray

    A friend of mine used to have a quote from Cicero as his sig -
    “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.”

  • Jenny K

    Matt, I wholeheartedly agree with this:
    “And as I get older and start to see the deceptive attractions of nostalgia, I also understand that at least part of it is that the past is safe. Yes, it was full of horrors, but those horrors are over now and you know that you survived them. They were, at worst, character-building experiences.”
    All the people who are obsessively worried about terrorist attacks in “middle America” or getting mugged or raped in broad daylight in their sleepy little town are conveniently forgetting all the headlines from when I was kid that warned everyone that California was going to crumble into dust under the impending 8.0 that was coming, that crack babies were going to grow up to murder their classmates and teachers in record numbers, and that killer bees were flying at warp speed towards the US/Mexico border. Not to mention the bomb shelters and drills that were our only defense from the atomic bomb that the Soviet Union was going to drop on us at any time – when my mom was a kid.
    They also like forget the stuff that actually did happen, that the guys that were supposed to be protecting us spent our tax dollars setting up a grope gauntlet for their female peers, that many more children die every year from violence in their homes than ever have from school violence, that children died not just from fatal diseases but from being poisoned by companies before the EPA existed (and some probably still are), or the number of people who died in factory accidents, like my grandfather, decades before OSHA existed.

  • badcatholic

    Oh, man. I totally forgot about the killer bees! When I was about 10 I was absolutely convinced we were ALL going to be stung to death by the dreaded African honeybees or whatever they were.
    I survived and thrived because kids were tougher in those days, not like those lazy, good-for-nothing punks of today. This society is going to hell in a handbasket, I tell you. But without bees!

  • Petra_Means_Rock

    why am I scared to walk down streets at 54 that I could play in as a child?
    Oh for goodness sake. The world is a better place now than 50 years ago, 100 years ago and 2000 years ago. How many kids do you know that got polio? How many women do you know died in childbirth? How many epidemics shut down cities this year? How many lynchings did you hear of this year? 50 years ago if there was an earthquake in some far off region we’d just let them starve because we couldn’t get to them. Now half the world is mobilize to save them.
    What? None?
    Yea I thought so.

  • none

    I think I’m going to place myself in the category of “Yeah, this must be the rapture all right.”
    But what troubles me (though it doesn’t surprise me) is everyone’s reaction to this. I think Fred said, way back at the beginning of this review, that Left Behind kinda boils down to a sort of Triumpantalism (is that even a word?), a kind of religious equivalent of “One day I’ll be gone and then you’ll with you hadn’t sent me to bed without any supper!”
    So, of course, everyone’s reaction is “They were right, we were wrong. If only we’d listened! Why didn’t we see the signs?” With a sort of unabashed implications that, deep down, we all knew that the “real” christians were right all along, and we chose to ignore what we really knew to be the truth for whatever reason.
    I had a sort of crisis of faith not long ago, insofar as I found myself worrying that, what with Pat Robertson ordering God to smite the New Orleanians and Supreme Court Justices, maybe these folks really were right about the disposition of the almighty. And what I came to realize is that whether or not they’re actually right has very little to do with why I don’t like their theology.
    So I find myself wondering how I’d feel if events like these played out. As I said, I think I’d find this compelling evidence that they were indeed right. But would I be jealous? Would I wish I’d believed as they did? Would I convert, say the magic words, and hope to get God-smacked to heaven on the next bus?
    I don’t think so. Because their being right wouldn’t change the reasons I don’t believe as they do. But I would be deeply, deeply sad. Because what could be worse than the sudden, undenyable evidence that God is a real jerk?
    In other words, it doesn’t matter if they’re right: they’re still assholes.

  • Garnet

    Well put, anonymous contributor. Honestly, even knowing for certain that God existed and how to get into his good graces, I wouldn’t. Nothing Hell has could possibly be worse than sitting at the right hand of Pat Robertson’s deity for eternity. Just the idea gives me the jibblies.

  • Ross

    Thanks, and that anonymous comment was by me. Typekey issues.
    I just can’t imagine what the Robertson God wants the world for anyway. I mean, that’s a lot of universe to create just to cultivate a fan club.

  • Jenny K

    As Huck Finn put it: “All right then, I’ll go to hell.”

  • Don Banks

    Rebecca, Bulbul et al,
    I have simply asked if, and this was just a subject that came to mind at the time, if our blog participants thought that basic honesty was in decline. Or put more simply, do people lie more these days? And yes, because a “yes answer”,might just imply that progessive improvement (read evolution in some form) might be flawed (= maybe there’s an Alternative).
    Having been in the military for a decade, the fire and rescue services for another, a property developer of shopping centres in another two… which equates to dealing with many people in many tense, up close and personel situations,I “feel” (sorry I used that word now)that lying is now emdemic and the accepted norm. Do I long for the good ol’ days when it was the exception, rather than the rule to be taken into account in one’s dealings with others?… yes! Sorry! to you Progressives.
    If violent crime is on the decrease, is it because our policing has become better, (eg DNA detection) or is it because we as a species are becoming “more civilised” (social evolution)? Sure road rage (teamsters) has always been with us, but to what degree? Where I live, you can count on being tail-gated by an aggressive “get outa my way ##@#@#” fellow humanbeing EVERYTIME I drive somewhere. Just because it is hard to statisticalise (made that one up)honesty and patience, doesnt mean that we are evolving us towards being an honorable species, without God’s help, thankyou.
    You see, to admit that the fundamentals are in decline opens up the questions, “If we cant fix it ourselves, Who can?” Not a good path for Intelligencia.

  • Garnet

    lying is now emdemic and the accepted norm. Do I long for the good ol’ days when it was the exception, rather than the rule to be taken into account in one’s dealings with others?…
    Oh, you mean the good old days with the public support of prohibition and the private attendance of the speakeasy? The good old days when women spent a lot of time ‘falling down stairs’ or ‘walking into doors’? The good old days when America itself lied about believing that ‘all men are created equal’?
    Sure road rage (teamsters) has always been with us, but to what degree? Where I live, you can count on being tail-gated by an aggressive “get outa my way ##@#@#” fellow humanbeing EVERYTIME I drive somewhere.
    Gee, maybe that’s because there are infinitely more cars on the road now then there were decades before. Couple that with the amount of time people have to spend in transit now, between urban sprawl, ‘white flight’ and long-distance commutes, and it’s no wonder people in cars are more frustrated, and more easily angered, than people who used to rely on subways or streetcars were.
    You see, to admit that the fundamentals are in decline opens up the questions, “If we cant fix it ourselves, Who can?” Not a good path for Intelligencia.
    Except that ‘we’, the ‘intelligencia’, haven’t been given a chance to fix anything. Seriously, when was the last time true, progressive politicians held a comfortable enough majority in the American political system to be able to influence the kind of radical changes necessary to alter society itself? Has it ever happened? For crying out loud, they fought FDR on Social Security, and he was doing that to help protect capitalism itself!
    Just because it is hard to statisticalise (made that one up)honesty and patience, doesnt mean that we are evolving us towards being an honorable species, without God’s help, thankyou.
    What, to paraphrase the Bard, a piece of work is God. I would remind you, before you get all high and mighty, that your god was responsible for the near-extermination of our species, and that he didn’t so much as blink when a man offered his daughters to be gang raped. And as for us being an honorable species thanks to him, when religion was at its apex we had the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, witch hunts, papal indulgences bought and sold, Paul’s bones in every church, slavery, legalised marital rape and assault, the ‘rule of thumb’, and on, and on.
    Maybe you want to live in the ‘honorable’, god-fearing society of the Middle Ages, but I’ll take my more peaceful godless twenty-first century any day.

  • Merlin Missy

    Having been in the military for a decade, the fire and rescue services for another, a property developer of shopping centres in another two… which equates to dealing with many people in many tense, up close and personel situations,I “feel” (sorry I used that word now)that lying is now emdemic and the accepted norm. Do I long for the good ol’ days when it was the exception, rather than the rule to be taken into account in one’s dealings with others?… yes!
    Well, as someone who has spent most of her adult life working in the pharmaceutical industry, I feel I should remind you that the Good Old Days you keep harkening back to did not exist.
    You are of course familiar with the existence of the FDA. The reason the FDA controls my industry is that, back in days of yore, people regularly advertised miracle cures for everything, while selling, at best, diluted whiskey, and at worst, poison. And this was common.
    In the 1920′s, people sold land deeds for real estate that didn’t exist, or was vastly different from what was described. And thus the housing bubble burst and the Depression started. I repeat my earlier comment about girls who got pregnant were simply said to have gone to visit sick aunts for several months. Want further back (or not)? The best lies could be told by those who had the money to silence people who wanted to tell the truth.
    Anyone who didn’t take the possibility of lying into account in the old days wasn’t just dumb, he or she would likely end up dead. Now there are some laws out there designed to stop that (see the FDA, etc).
    If violent crime is on the decrease, is it because our policing has become better, (eg DNA detection) or is it because we as a species are becoming “more civilised” (social evolution)?
    Crime rates aren’t linked to methods of crime solving, they’re linked to poverty and employment rates (says every single study I’ve ever seen on the matter). Funny, how poverty rates go down and employment rates go up when progressives are in power (the sole exception in the past century being Carter).
    Just because it is hard to statisticalise (made that one up)honesty and patience, doesnt mean that we are evolving us towards being an honorable species, without God’s help, thankyou.
    So are you now arguing that we are evolving towards being what you’d consider honorable, with God’s help, or that we’re not evolving in a good direction (and thus, according to your statement, God is not helping)?

  • Don Banks

    OK, maybe I could settle for things ( I mean on the character scale) are no better or no worse than 20 years ago, but I wouldnt think thats anything to brag about.
    It seems a raw nerve out there is due to the perception of God being a not so honorable Creator due to our reading of the old testament and what we observe in the world through life experience.
    God understood and decided the only way to correct misinterpretations of His person from writings attributable to Him as the Source (try getting two lawyers to agree on the meaning of our own laws) was to enter human history and actually show us what He is really like, and tell us that the only way humans can live the life He portayed and spoke of (Matthew 5-7) is by a supernatural event (“…the Holy Spirit…. will be in you”).
    Jesus said “If you see Me, you see the Father” But we prefer to find fault with that by throwing up what seem to be apparent contradictions. The motive behind this is probably deeper than the “truth seeking” put forward. It is more likely that we dont want our dispostions altered by the power of this God ie., we, as ever, dont want anybody running or at the least interering with our lives, cauing us to demonstrate spontaneously the behavior of Jesus, who for many, is a loser. “If someone takes your cloak give him your tunic as well” C’mon! But hardly a vindicitve God approach to His created beings.
    And generally, God took His hands off the wheel of human affairs a long time ago, althought He’s still in the driving seat. History often hints at where He had to give the wheel a nudge. LB, is ultimately saying that one day, he won’t.

  • jhlipton

    History often hints at where He had to give the wheel a nudge.
    Judging from the status and over-all character of adherants of various religions, this statement indicates that God is a Buddhist. The only religion I can think of that’s thriving, but without massive bloodshed in its name.

  • Garnet

    And generally, God took His hands off the wheel of human affairs a long time ago, althought He’s still in the driving seat.
    Given that human affairs are still going, that the ‘car’ is still ‘driving’, that makes God a ridiculously bad driver. I hope he’s got his seatbelt on and a deity-sized airbag waiting to deploy.

  • Don Banks

    No Garnet; human beings are quite smart and have great ability to create and drive things, seated on an Invisible lap. We can create the atomic bomb and put humans on the moon as well as eradicate chicken pox, almost. No need for God most of the time. Particularly One that invites us to mirror an apparant Loser, with “whom He is well pleased”.

  • Garnet

    No need for God most of the time. Particularly One that invites us to mirror an apparant Loser, with “whom He is well pleased”.
    Could somebody please explain to Don that the only people who seem to think of Christ as a loser are the freaking Christians themselves? Some of us try to live up to the high standard Jesus set, a task that is actually hindered by belonging to a church that covers for pedophiles, discriminates against women, seeks to retard the growth of medical science and hoards money and influence.

  • Jenny K

    Dan,
    You asked
    “Is the world a better or worse place to bring our children up in? What do you think?…For all our knowledge and cleverness, why am I scared to walk down streets at 54 that I could play in as a child?”
    And then clarified with”So…. again, is our “humanity” eg basic honesty for one, “better” or in noticeable decline.?”
    You did not “simply [ask]…if our blog participants thought that basic honesty was in decline” (emphasis mine) Honesty was, even in the second question, just one of many moralities. If the question was “simply, do people lie more these days?” that’s what you should have asked. If you don’t want others to “[skirt] around [your] point” maybe you ought to be more clear.
    To answer that question: to me, that’s like asking if rape is more common now than it was 50 years ago. Basic stats can’t tell the whole story because legal definitions have changed, as have cultural norms that make it easier (but still difficult) for women to come forward. (Merlin Missy’s says it better when she talked about the FDA.) Plus, you didn’t provide stats, you just said you felt more afraid. The only stats I’ve seen that show honesty in decline deal with standardized tests, regarding which, see point A as regards to changes in risk vs. gain and scope of the population that now takes them.
    However, even if people lie more often now, I still think that things on balance, are better than they were.
    That isn’t because “a ‘yes answer’ might just imply that progessive improvement…might be flawed.” Even if it was, it wouldn’t be because progressive improvement = evolution in my mind. Unlike some people, I’m generally able to seperate out scientific theories and social ideology. I also happen to love “Lies my Teacher Told Me” which completey rips on the whole “America is always moving forward” that is commonly accepted.
    It’s because I value social justice over minor individual crimes. Partly because I think it’s impossible to really address individual crimes adequately while large social injustices are ongoing. (How do you lower the amount of violence in people’s lives while lynchings still go unprosecuted?) Partly because I care about obvious, widespread injustices more than private crimes. (Is assualt due to road rage really more frightning than having the legal right to beat one’s wife and children?) I quoted Huck Finn for a reason. I value the morality that drives Huck to consider his friendship with Jim to be of greater importance than obeying authority more than I value the morality that would stop him from being a little scam artist and troublemaker.

  • Kim

    My opinion on whether the world is a better place now than in the past: well, yes and no….
    The upward swing is not steady — we were better off in 1998 than we are today. The economy peaked in the early 1960′s. But, generally, we are slowly improving, with some setbacks.
    Maybe the Rapture is God removing all of the Inverted Christians, so that real Christians and others can finally be free to improve the world and be good stewards of it as God intended. If, at the same time, Allah were to Rapture away the Fundamentalists of Islam, and the other Gods were to remove the Fundies of other religions, then — Wow! how peaceful the world might be!

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  • Jacobus

    Enough of this twentieth-century banter! . . . I believe using the word God anymore at all is absolute blasphemy.

  • Jacobus

    Well, my last post was so short because I wasn’t sure if I needed to sign up for this blog or something.
    -Continuing: it seems like we all agree that LB is a complete waste of paper and ink. I can attest to this, having read it in high school when it was first published, when I was still a Christian, and when these things concerned me. I’m not saying that this thread is insignificant. Otherwise I would not have spent the last hour and a half reading every post. What I want to say is overwhelming: People read these books because they have the urge to believe that things will end up alright, for them, and that anyone threatening their worldview or belief system is wrong, and will suffer for it. L&J are obviously horrible writers, and the fact that their books are so enormously popular only serves to drive the point home that this culture is in decline. Does that mean the world, or “we”, are worse off than in previous years and generations? No. Bad writers have always abounded. That’s partially the fault of people like me who can write, and don’t. I live in Atlanta, and I was robbed at gun-point on the 4th of July 2004 directly across the street from my apartment. That experience, however, has only served to make me walk more confidently down the streets of this city. I understand why people want to erect a building (or buildings) taller and more ostentatious than the World Trade Center was. Flip a big ‘fuck you’ to people trying to intimidate. The difference is that I was a victim of *seemingly* random violence (I’m pretty sure the guy who robbed me wasn’t even an Atlantan). The United States was targeted on September 11 because of deeply rooted historical and political grievances that, in all honesty, are completely tenable. It seems like a lot of posters have been noting the late 90′s as a better, or more stable, time. Could it be that we feel that way because this was pre-9-11? Bush and his cronies were smart in letting these terrorist attacks take place (and don’t doubt these attacks were allowed to happen, just like with Pearl Harbor, in order to justify going to war). Whip the population up into a frenzy, make them afraid, and just watch them goose-step into oblivion and docile acceptance of the situation. But the world is better off today, I believe, for the simple fact the we can all gather in this cyber-realm and discuss these subjects, anonymously yet candidly, and go about our lives the better for it. There has never been as unified and coherent an opposition as against the Bush administration in the past six years, worldwide. That makes me believe things are changing mostly for the good. Who can stop a million voices singing?

  • Ken

    Maybe the Rapture is God removing all of the Inverted Christians, so that real Christians and others can finally be free to improve the world and be good stewards of it as God intended.
    You know, a guy on the Christian genre writers list I belong to actually sent me a short story based on that exact premise — that God Raptured not the True Uber-Christians, but those He knew were too weak or lukewarm to live through the Tribulation and do the work He needed his Church to do in those terrible times. (I think he wrote it as a response to LB.)

  • Andrew

    More Proof That L&J are Consertative to the point of ignoranc (Like Ann Coulter: “LULZ! teh commiez!”
    Wasn’t the Cold War over by the time these books were written? Or are L&J some of the select dozen that believe the Soviets were and still are a major threat.

  • cjmr

    Yeah, the Cold War was over when even the first book was written. Published 31 December 1995.

  • Anonymous

    So not only over, but over for something like half a decade even when writing started (remember, Jenkins claims to bang out these books in about a month).


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