L.B.: A Grief Denied

Left Behind, pp. 165-170

My least favorite book by C.S. Lewis is one called The Problem of Pain. Lewis eventually seemed not to like it very much either.

If you've ever seen the movie or the play Shadowlands, then you're familiar with the circumstances — his autumnal marriage to Joy Davidman and her slow death from cancer — that led Lewis to write a much better book on the subject. That later book was called A Grief Observed. Where The Problem of Pain is detached, abstract and inhuman, A Grief Observed is raw, candid and full of human experience. Grief has become one of those books that people give to others who are dealing with grief and suffering. Nobody does that with The Problem of Pain — that would be cruel.

In the early pages of Grief, Lewis writes of the crisis of faith brought on by the suffering and death of his wife. He doesn't come to question the existence of God but, rather, the nature of God. What if loss, pain and suffering are what God intends? What if God is really like this, a "cosmic vivisectionist"?

That's a tough question, and at some point an inescapable one for anyone who — like me or Lewis — believes in the existence of a loving God.

It's not entirely clear that the God of Left Behind is a loving God. As many have noted in the comments section here, the vengeful demiurge of LaHaye and Jenkins seems like a cruel god. Both he and his followers seem to take a bit too much delight in the destruction of the wicked and the weak. They seem to be basing their idea of God on a twisted paraphrase of Julian of Norwich: "All go to Hell, and all go to Hell, and every kind of person goes to Hell."

Even Kirk Cameron — the former Growing Pains star who now plays Buck Williams in the Left Behind movies — seems troubled by this cruel picture of the Almighty. He wrote a column for the loopy "Worldview Weekend" folks titled "Stay Behind" (dissected here by Sadly, No!) in which, as someone said here in comments, he seems to call for evangelical Bodhisattvas:

I wonder if Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye would ever consider writing a book called Stay Behind, about a group of Christians who would rather stay and reach the lost than depart and be with the Lord?

Since even Kirk/Buck is troubled by this impression of the deity of LB, Tim & Jerry have to deal with it. And they almost do here, as just such an objection is raised by Chloe Steele:

"Daddy, what does this make God? Some sick, sadistic dictator?"

"Careful, honey. You think I'm wrong. But what if I'm right?"

"Then God is spiteful, hateful, mean. Who wants to go to heaven with a God like that?"

"If that's where your mom and Raymie are, that's where I want to be."

"I want to be with them, too, Daddy! But tell me how this fits with a loving, merciful God. When I went to church, I got tired of hearing how loving God is. He never answered my prayers and I never felt like he knew me or cared about me. Now you're saying I was right. He didn't. I didn't qualify, so I got left behind? You'd better hope you're not right."

"But if I'm not right, who is right, Chloe? Where are they? Where is everybody?"

And that's it. "Rayford dropped the subject and went to watch television."

"Careful, honey," he cautioned his daughter. I picture him looking furtively over each shoulder and backing away from her slightly, fearful that God may smite her on the spot.

Rayford doesn't disagree with Chloe — he never argues that God is not a "sick, sadistic dictator," or that God is not "spiteful, hateful, mean." He simply points out that the spiteful cosmic dictator has whisked his wife and son off to heaven, and that if he ever hopes to see them again some day he'll have to play by the Great Dictator's rules.

L&J seem suddenly to realize that it's been nearly eight pages since the last phone conversation, and even longer since Rayford has had a chance to say something condescending about Hattie, so they correct this with a phone call from Pan Continental Airlines. As Rayford receives his instructions for his next assignment (with, of course, plenty of irrelevant detail) he also learns that Hattie has asked to be assigned to his next flight.

Rayford sighed. "No objections, I guess. No, wait. Let's just let it happen if it happens."

"I'm not following you, Captain."

"I'm just saying if she gets assigned in the normal course, I have no objection. But let's not go through any gymnastics to make it happen."

There's no indication here that Hattie's request was some kind of sexual overture. She's just been through a catastrophe and she's reaching out to everyone she knows for mutual support and comfort.

Rayford, on the other hand, responds to hardship — and to all of life — like the American evangelical he is soon to become. Take care of your family with a fierce defensiveness, and let everyone else fend for themselves.

He tries again to convince his daughter of his theory that the dictator-God was behind the disappearances. "Don't say you won't even consider it," he tells her.

"Well, did you consider the space invaders theory?"

"As a matter of fact, I did."

"You're kidding."

"I considered everything. This was so far beyond human experience, what were we supposed to think?"

Rayford is lying. He never considered "the space invaders theory." He never considered any possibility other than the rapture theory. Within instants of learning about the mass disappearances — all the way back on page 19 — he had already made up his mind: "The terrifying truth was that he knew all too well. Irene had been right. He, and most of his passengers, had been left behind."

The closest he comes to considering the ET theory is when his daughter mentions it and he mentally mocks it as a nutty California notion, the kind of ridiculous idea believed by "people on the West Coast [who] afforded the tabloids the same weight Midwesterners gave the Chicago Tribune or even the New York Times."

So why does Rayford lie to his daughter? And, more to the point, why do L&J seem to think it's OK for Rayford to lie to his daughter? It's possible they simply haven't been paying attention. Continuity is not their strong suit — Jenkins' 28-day process for cranking out these novels doesn't seem to include time for reading them over before having them published.

But what seems really to be happening here is that L&J are telling readers that it's OK to lie if that's what you have to do to convert the heathen. Chloe's mortal soul is in peril, and what's a little white lie compared to that?

Rayford tells his daughter about the "In Case of Rapture" videotape made by Irene's pastor. Chloe remains skeptical, so Rayford responds with this succinct statement of the logic behind L&J's faith in their vindicating rapture scenario:

"You're coming at this as a skeptic, so sure it sounds ridiculous to you. I see no other logical explanation, so I can't wait to hear the tape."

Chloe, reluctantly, agrees to ride along when Rayford goes to the church.

"We'll go over there tomorrow," Rayford said, disappointed in her reaction but no less determined to follow through, for her sake as much as his. If he was right, he did not want to fail his own daughter.

A loving father, Rayford won't rest until his daughter is dead and in heaven. Even if that means lying to her until his tongue turns black.

  • cjmr’s husband

    “won’t rest… Even if that means lying… until his tongue turns black.”
    Nothing relevent to Fitzmas here. Nope nope nope.

  • Vanya

    Wow, there are eerie echoes here of Stalinist Russia or Argentina under the Generals. God makes people disappear, much like Uncle Joe or the Junta. And if you’re heard questioning why people had to disappear you are told to be careful, and essentially stop asking questions. What a creepy book.

  • Donald Johnson

    One thing to be said in favor of The Problem of Pain, despite its other flaws, is that Lewis took the problem of animal suffering seriously enough to write a chapter about it. He doesn’t solve it, of course, but I liked the fact that he was bothered by it. Some Christians who don’t care about animals just brush it off.

  • B-W

    Keeping in mind that these characters aren’t really characters, but rather devices designed purely to allow L&J to get their propaganda out there, I expect that when L&J have Rayford tell Chloe that he actually did consider the “Space Invaders” theory, they actually mean that he thought about it sometime off-panel, and is still convinced that God is “only logical explanation.” When they write these words, they don’t think he’s lying, and I doubt they’re getting into the “it’s okay to lie if it saves a soul” theology, although it’s not something I’d completely think impossible for them.
    However, if Rayford actually acted like a real human being, there’s really no way to allow for the thought process you’ve demonstrated here and have him seriously consider the “Space Invaders” theory at any time. Therefore, he lies to Chloe.
    But I really think that gives L&J too much credit for thinking their character’s motivations through….

  • Mark

    The weirdest thing about this conversation is the way Chloe gets very close to asking the questions that would tear L&J’s whole theology apart–which means L&J must have thought about those questions, at least in the process of writing the book. But their goal in writing isn’t to think through the implications of their beliefs. It’s to get the Rapture script translated into a story that’s accessible to the masses and will make them a metric assload of money. So they back away from the questions and continue the Great Slog.
    (Besides, if you ask those questions out loud, God will send some angels to break your kneecaps.)

  • ninjanun

    I like how L&J pander to their base by implying that West Coasters read tabloids and take them seriously, as seriously as MidWesterners take the Chicago Tribune and the NYT. Yeah, right.
    Again, playing into the Red Stater’s illusions that everyone on the West Coast is a nutty, whacked-out liberal who believes every lame conspiracy theory, whereas the people in the Midwest are calm, rational, and well-read.

  • Dave Lartigue

    Rayford’s Big Brother God, who will get angry if you doubt Him, reminds me of the foolishness of one device used to reach out to us atheists: Pascal’s wager. It’s related to the other argument often trotted out: better to believe and be wrong than to not believe and be wrong.
    Both of these “arguments” overlook the obvious: either you believe or you don’t. You can’t pretend to believe. Any God worth a damn isn’t going to be fooled by someone aping “belief” just on the off-chance he’ll burn in Hell otherwise.
    As has been pointed out, in this world, people can see the direct intervention of God and still not believe, so there’s no reason to think that even people who somehow twig to this rapture theory (as I’ve mentioned before, L&J seem to think that obviously if you’re not among the raptured you’ve never heard of it, as though knowing of it would naturally result in belief) will suddenly become converted. Rayford isn’t advocating belief in God by any means. He’s just trying to fake belief (and encourage Chloe to do so) on the off chance it will reunite him with his family.
    Is the God of L&J dumb enough to fall for this?

  • Scott

    He’s just trying to fake belief (and encourage Chloe to do so) on the off chance it will reunite him with his family.
    Evangelical faith is believing the unbelievable thru sheer force of Manly Willpower. Why do you think Bush plays to his evangelical base by taking about “staying the course” no matter what we find out about Iraq’s nonexisting WMD or how badly the war goes? Wouldn’t want to be a “flip-flopper”.

  • Chris

    This passage is just so pathetic. In the very brief time I attempted to read this book (to keep tabs on the opposition/heretics), I got bored before this. I never imagined that the tortured light on the road to Damascus for Rayford was so weak. This isn’t Paul’s revelation; this is a sad little man trying to game the system.
    He wants his family back, so he figures he has to get along in the new order. Does this mean that if Nicky had offered to give Ray his wife and son, Ray would have been shouting “All hail Satan!” Come to think of it, Ray sound awfully like the motivations for Anakin in Revenge of the Sith.

  • Eileen

    Maybe Rayford just wants to get to heaven so he can lead a hostile takeover; maybe that’s why he wants Chloe to shush up. Except their god is a mindreader, isn’t he?
    I kind of wish Malcolm Reynolds would walk onto the page and lecture Rayford on the merits of sin.

  • ajb

    “As Rayford receives his instructions for his next assignment (with, of course, plenty of irrelevant detail)”
    Fred, those “irrelevant details” are what we wait all week for Left Behind Fridays for! Don’t pull an L&J and just brush past them on us!
    Interesting that just days after this catastrophic event, Rayford is still so full of himself that he just assumes that Hattie must be angling for a ride on his jumbo-jet, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.
    And also interestingly pathetic that L&J insist on putting common objections to Rapture theology so explicitly in their characters’ mouths (such obvious explicit exposition is a sure sign of poor writing), but they can’t actually put halfway decent answers in their protagonist’s mouth.

  • bulbul

    Let’s recap: it’s Friday before All Saints’, Libby got indicted, I got paid and Fred delivered us another brilliant episode of Left Behind. Now that’s what I call a good day!
    God knows there is a lot of creepiness in LB. The creepiest of them all is the way LB understand, describe and later portray God/Jesus. L/J’s God and Jesus are unlike anything I have encountered in the Bible, the works of the Church Fathers or anywhere else. Their angry God is more like a pissed off drunk, their fatherly God is more like an abusive step-father or a manipulative boss and their victorious Jesus in volume 12 is more like an religious action hero. And not a particularly good one, either – Arnie with his “Hasta la vista, baby” (or rather “I’m back”) rather than Bruce Willis. Ewww.

  • Mnemosyne

    “Then God is spiteful, hateful, mean. Who wants to go to heaven with a God like that?”
    Anyone else seen The Rapture, with Mimi Rogers? Because that’s exactly what this line reminded me of.

  • coriolis

    I consider Pascal’s wager to be the same as Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith.” In other words, you must adopt an orientation of faith to understand faith from the inside. This is similar to living in a foreign culture in order to better understand that culture. No one is asking you to try to fool God, because of course, you can’t.
    (Note to insiders: They are saying that unbelievers live like the dwarves in Aslan’s stable. They cannot perceive because they cannot conceive. I do not consider this image to be a good evangelizing tool.)
    The are many versions of the conversion experience. There is CS Lewis’s intellectual journey, Paul’s road to Damascus, Jacob’s wrestling with the angel and perhaps others. I’ll bet that most conversions are blends of these. What a marvelous and nuanced tale that could be told. Unfortunately this tale, as has been observed, is a tale these hacks are incapable of telling.
    {nuance: French, from Old French, from nuer, to shade, cloud, from nue, cloud.}

  • Beth

    I consider Pascal’s wager to be the same as Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith.”
    I consider them to be polar opposites. Let’s say I’m walking down the street with a dollar in my pocket. When I get to the corner I see a beggar and a store selling lotto tickets. I can either give my dollar to the beggar or use it to buy a ticket. If I were Pascal, the choice would be clear. If I gave the dollar to the beggar, I’d be out a dollar. There’s no chance at all that the beggar will pay off. The odds against winning the lotto may be astronomical but even one in a trillion is better than zero, and with all the money I could win, that’s clearly the better bet.
    If I were Kierkegaard, the choice would also be clear. If I bet the dollar there’s a miniscule chance it will pay off, but what if it does? All those millions won’t buy me peace of mind. With the beggar there’s no apparent payoff at all, and yet there’s something, some sense that it’s a good thing to do. My life is miserable, not because of any physical lack, but because I’m filled with emptiness and despair. I have no reason to believe giving money to a beggar will change that, but out of desperation, I make that leap of faith and give the beggar my money.
    In both cases I’m risking my bankroll on very long odds, but as Pascal, I’m considering the question objectively and rationally, looking at the potential rewards and choosing the larger. As Kierkegaard, I’m deliberately turning my back on rationality because I already know that it’s a dead end. The convenience store has a sign up telling exactly what me potential winnings would be, but with the beggar I don’t have a clue. All I have is a vague intuition that it may somehow change my life. If I had anything more than that, whether the hope of a million dollars or the hope of reaching heaven, it wouldn’t be a leap of faith.

  • ceejayoz

    Pascal’s Wager becomes even more absurd when you consider the number of religions out there. I wouldn’t want to “bet” on the evangelical God… and then get tortured by Shiva!
    Perhaps it’s safer to bet on athiesm. At least you won’t be actively pissing off the True God(s) by actively worshiping the wrong one…

  • Garnet

    “Daddy, what does this make God? Some sick, sadistic dictator?”
    “Careful, honey. You think I’m wrong. But what if I’m right?”
    There is something really wrong with this exchange. This isn’t the way you defend god; a true believer should have made mention of, at least, the ineffable nature of god’s mind, the great plan that requires some momentary sacrifice, things like that. Even I would respond like that, and not only am I not a Christian, I actively dislike the religion.
    This is, rather, the way people talk in a dicttorship. Nobody pretended Saddam was a just ruler; you just kept your voice shut and your head down, that’s all.
    There’s something very wrong with your theology when a comparison between God and Saddam Hussein is even remotely possible…

  • Kim

    Speaking of worshipping the wrong one — have you all read this:
    http://lightningbug.blogspot.com/2004_12_26_lightningbug_archive.html#110461436308699647
    it’s called Satanism is Alive and Well. and whithin it are links to a series called Christians In the Hands of an Angry God, and I strongly recommend reading both.
    –Kim

  • coriolis

    Beth,
    Elsewhere in The Pensees, Pascal talks about how when one is immersed in the Church one begins to understand the culture and it is self-reinforcing. The wager was not about “What have you got to lose? If you die and you’re wrong you’er still dead’; although this is his starting point. (Mind you, this is only my opinion as The Pensees was never finished and so my post-Kierkegaard bias has me arrange Pascal’s argument in a manner he may never had intended.)
    Kierkegaard, like Mr. Spock, was saying when all choices are irrational, the irrational choice is the only logical thing to do. (This is an extremly abbreviated view, and only used because our host seems to be an SF fan.)
    Both used logic to show the point where logic breaks down. Both suggest a way to move beyond logic. The blueprint for both seems to be the first existentialist, AKA “the preacher”, author of my favorite book of the old testament “Ecclesiastes”
    “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
    “Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.” {NIV}

  • bulbul

    Is it just me or does anybody else think these new translations of the Bible suck big time?

  • VKW

    Regarding lying for Jesus, here’a a quote off the internet:
    “What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.”
    – Martin Luther
    (Cited by his secretary, in a letter in Max Lenz, ed., Briefwechsel Landgraf Phillips des Grossmüthigen von Hessen mit Bucer, vol. I.)

  • Manalive

    Coriolis, I more-or-less agree with your reading of Pascal. In #229 (the wager is #233) Pascal writes, “This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see darkness everywhere. Nature presents me nothing which is not matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing there which revealed a Divinity, I would come to a negative conclusion; if I saw everywhere the signs of a Creator, I would remain peacefully in faith. But, seeing too much to deny and too little to be sure, I am in a state to be pitied…[I]n my present state, ignorant of what I am or of what I ought to do, I know neither my condition nor my duty. My heart inclines wholly to know where is the true good, in order to follow it; nothing would be too dear to me for eternity.”
    I think the proper setup for the wager is that Pascal is addressing those who TRULY cannot decide b/c nothing is certain. His point is that we don’t have to act on certainty–we can act on probability. I think he does get a little carried away in how he presents the wager–but I don’t blame him too much. After all, the guy _invented_ probability theory (w/ Fermat)and was one of the first to accept an “actual infinity” rather than the “potential infinity” of Euclid, et al.
    Pascal actually does address “other religions” in #251 (albeit not very thoroughly). Pascal sees the only rational possibilities to be either atheism or Christianity (possibly Judaism, too–I don’t remember how he treats it). What I like about him is the distrust he has in “proofs” of the faith. Immediately after presenting the wager he dispenses with arguments for God stemming from creation.
    I think the Pensees are well worth reading. Pascal, I think, captures the human dilemma well. Unfortunately “the wager” is often taken out of context.

  • Anthony Z.

    better to believe and be wrong than to not believe and be wrong
    No-one with any intellectual self-respect could make a case that way without physically vomiting. When it comes to LaHaye and Jenkins, I agree with Cicero – “I would rather be wrong with Plato than right with men like these.”

  • Lila

    Whoo…lying for God. One of those traps for the unwary. Just as I’m about to get all righteous about “WHAT?? NEVER!!” I think about lies like “No, sir, Mr. Nazi, sir, I don’t know where those Jews are hiding!”

  • Scott

    I think about lies like “No, sir, Mr. Nazi, sir, I don’t know where those Jews are hiding!”
    Those in hiding needed your help, an omnipotent God doesn’t. It’s not a case of lying to someone “for their own good” on the trust of your own rightness.

  • Victoria

    and don’t forget that liars finding favor with God has a Biblical precedent, see the midwives in Exodus 1, for example.

  • Lila

    My point wasn’t directed at LB, but at my own knee-jerk reaction to the Luther quote. I’m not claiming the two situations are equivalent, but rather that “I would NEVER lie for God!” is just as untenable as “Chloe’s soul is more important than the truth.”

  • Jay Denari

    This whole concept is creepy beyond words.
    A loving father, Rayford won’t rest until his daughter is dead and in heaven. Even if that means lying to her until his tongue turns black.
    Others commented on the lie part, but I think it’s the FIRST sentence of this pair that’s really disturbing. The fundies would rather see their children DEAD than living normal, thinking, happy but unXian lives.
    On a semi-related note, I thought this was interesting… Snopes looked at the raptured pilot myth and (naturally) found it nonsense.

  • Kim

    Lila — You might be interested to read a book called Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life by Sissela Bok. It is an exhaustive followup of all of the ramifications of lying. Very well done, and for a philosophy book, very readable.
    It comes to about the same conclusion you did….

  • Holly

    I discovered this series the other day, and posted the link to my writing group as a superlative example of doing a “high level crit”: not a line edit about commas and keeping your parallels balanced, but about plotting, pacing, internal logic, characterization, etc. Now several of them are following, and we’re hoping you can not only keep up the sched, but maybe move a little farther forward with each of them. In short–we want to see the whole crit!

  • Petra_Means_Rock

    Is it just me or does anybody else think these new translations of the Bible suck big time?
    As opposed to what? KJV? The KJV is a nice primary source of how 17th cen English looked at the bible, not a good translation. If you want something poetic it’s a nice read. But nothing annoys my training in history more than to hear some preacher on T.V. start looking at the different meanings of modern English words as they occur in the Bible. They mean nothing in a text that was written in Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew.
    The KJV was translated from Greek to Latin to English. Better (and yes modern) translations go straight from Greek to English. If you really want to get fancy you should get a copy that has the translation on one side and the orriginal language on the other with a literal traslation written right underneath. Or you could just learn ancient Greek… but that’s a real pain.

  • Fernmonkey

    I like Pterry’s take on Pascal’s Wager:
    This is very similar to the suggestion put forward by the Quirmian philosopher Ventre, who said, “Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If it’s all true you’ll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isn’t then you’ve lost nothing, right?” When he died he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said, “We’re going to show you what we think of Mr Clever Dick in these parts…”

  • Thlayli

    L&J seem suddenly to realize that it’s been nearly eight pages since the last phone conversation,….
    ROFL!

  • none

    Rayford dropped the subject and went to watch television
    Yet another of those “Wha…?” moments. Our boy Rayf heads for a bit of Remote Therapy. But what the hell was there supposed to be to watch?? Don’t tell me Monday Night Football’s still on? And if the guy with the “John 3:16″ poster is still there, I quit.

  • B-W

    When they write these words, they don’t think he’s lying, and I doubt they’re getting into the “it’s okay to lie if it saves a soul” theology, although it’s not something I’d completely think impossible for them.
    In my defence (since quite a few people have weighed in when it might be appropriate to lie, and no one else seems to agree with the possibility that L&J actually didn’t intend for Rayford’s words to be a lie), when I said the above, I was thinking along the lines of “never attribute to malice what one can safely attribute to incompetence.” (Some previous poster used this line in another thread, but I don’t recall its origin.)
    As to Luther’s quote, he says a lot of things that would make many conservative Christians recoil.

  • lbb

    Yet another of those “Wha…?” moments. Our boy Rayf heads for a bit of Remote Therapy. But what the hell was there supposed to be to watch?? Don’t tell me Monday Night Football’s still on? And if the guy with the “John 3:16″ poster is still there, I quit.
    Well, sure you’d have Monday Night Football. The question is, would those “let’s get together at midfield and pray after spending two and a half hours stomping each other” circles still exist? And would they have the same people in them?
    (It really would be too much to hope that the Rapture Phase I would have simply carried off anyone who feels a big need to indulge in public displays of Christianity)

  • Kim

    Love the quote from Quirm!

  • Kerdo

    “The fundies would rather see their children DEAD than living normal, thinking, happy but unXian lives.”
    Verily. If you substitute “Catholic” for “fundie”, then the whole situation has some parallels in my own family. My parents, both good atheist children of Catholic families, got married and have ever since been roundly castigated at any opportunity for raising me and my two sisters “in ignorance of god” . . .
    Meanwhile, all FIVE of my good, believing uncles and aunts have been through at least one and as many as three failed marriages and their kids (my cousins) aren’t doing much better. But that doesn’t stop them: Nope; nevermind my parents’ happy, 35-year marriage and 3 successful children; the fact that they don’t go to church makes them persona non sanctis.
    On a broader scale, did anyone hear about the reaction of the Focus on the Family people to the announcement of that new HPV/cervival cancer vaccine about to be released? They were wetting their pants saying, “The FDA should be careful about approving this vaccine for fear of increasing teenage promiscuity.”
    Katha Pollitt pointed out the moral putrescence that lies not far below the surface of that statement: “Better teenagers get sick and die than have sex.”

  • Lucia

    It’s even worse than that: “Better teenagers get sick and die IF they have sex.” The vaccine prevents HPV, which causes most cervical cancer. So, the (putrescent) thinking goes, if teenagers know they won’t get HPV/cervical cancer, they’ll be so relieved that they’ll jump into bed at the first offer.
    It’s been a long time since I was a teenager. Do they no longer think they’re immortal?
    This bit of LB reveals the flip side of the right-wing Xtian notion that not Xtian = utterly depraved. Without God hawking over you, they ask, why would you ever try to be good? Here it doesn’t even matter if God is good: play by his rules and don’t ask questions, or else.
    Excellent post as always, Fred.

  • grenadine

    kerdo- pardon my ignorance, but how is it possible to have a vaccine against cancer? are vaccines not soley for use against viruses (virii? damn latin roots!)

  • Kerdo

    Lucia straightened it out: The vaccine is against HPV, which–other than being infectious and looking ugly–doesn’t do much except have a strong link to cervical cancer later in life.

  • Kerdo

    Actually, Christian vaccine-o-phobia is nothing new: Fundie Christians threw a shit-fit regarding the smallpox vaccine a few centuries ago and the same thing with the polio vaccine in the middle of last century. That whole “frustrating the will of God” thing–it being taken as a given that God wants people to die of smallpox and/or be crippled by polio.
    In the same vein, did anyone else hear about how the earliest Plymouth Plantation settlers would often refuse to help their neighbors put out house fires? “Clearly, god wants your house to burn down.” Frankly, it’s almost refreshing to read about: At least 17th-century Christians were consistent about this sort of thing. Modern Christians only seem to care about people taking precautions against SEXUAL misfortunes. It’s a hoot to hear them rail against the Pill and condoms and what not but not seem to care much about us evil, sinful folk who use bicycle helmets, seat belts, and bulletproof vests.

  • JohnG

    A few reactions……
    You can’t discuss the existence of God until you say what type of God you are talking about (i.e a purely pantheistic God hardly exists as presently understood). In that context Chrtistians believe in at least several, if not a myriad of Gods. The rapture crowd seems to believe in a vengeful God and look forward to watching from the box seats in heaven while He wreaks vengeance on those who they envy. The main motive for “adoring” such a God is fear (you’ll burn in hell, etc.). Such a God is not difficult to reconcile with the cruel realities of life on this earth since He is cruel. I assume believers in this God do not talk about a “loving God” or if they do His “love” is highly conditional.
    C.S. Lewis and his fellow believers have a much more difficult task, to reconcile these earthly cruelties with an unconditionally loving God. On a good day I include myself among such believers and, as an act of faith, assume that He will be able to reconcile all.

  • Mike

    On a broader scale, did anyone hear about the reaction of the Focus on the Family people to the announcement of that new HPV/cervival cancer vaccine about to be released? They were wetting their pants saying, “The FDA should be careful about approving this vaccine for fear of increasing teenage promiscuity.”
    Since this is a pretty harsh accusation, special care should be taken that you are being accurate. It was Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council that expressed this concern. The FRC has only a tangental connection to FotF.

  • aunursa

    Well, sure you’d have Monday Night Football.
    In LB the Rapture takes place in late February, the black hole for TV sports. No MNF … no Baseball Tonight … the only sports are hockey and basketball (pre-March Madness.)
    In the LB prequel young Rayford excels at football, basketball, and baseball. But it’s questionable whether a person as self-centered as our hero would be interested in just watching a game … in which he was not the center of attention.

  • Fhydra

    “That whole “frustrating the will of God” thing–it being taken as a given that God wants people to die of smallpox and/or be crippled by polio. ”
    That line of thinking has never made sense to me. How could God’s will be circumvented by penicillin? You’d think God’d try something else if one of his plans didn’t work.

  • Captain Slack

    To Thlayli’s comment, let me add that the next clause:
    and even longer since Rayford has had a chance to say something condescending about Hattie
    made me grin evilly. (I’m sure people who find this exegesis already in progress are glad of the archives, so they can know about Rapture Phone Tag and all the other L&J auctorial quirks I didn’t notice when I, for some reason which must’ve made sense at the time, read the first book in a college bookstore.)

  • paradoctor

    About the HPV vaccine; I have long thought that the way to win over rightists on this issue is to say, “Of course your daughters are virtuous; but can you be sure about your future son-in-law? Your daughter could follow all the rules and still catch the virus. So why gamble? Get the vaccine.”
    This approach works because every human culture has in-law jokes. “You don’t even know who he is yet! So what’s he doing… right now?”


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