L.B.: This is London

Left Behind, pp. 171-186

Jerry Jenkins sets the tone for Chapter 10 with a Bulwer-Lytton-worthy opening sentence:

Cameron Williams convinced himself he should not call his and Dirk Burton's mutual friend at Scotland Yard before leaving New York.

This chapter features Jenkins doing his best impersonation of Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum: Late-night globetrotting flights, coded phone conversations, a rendezvous in a seedy London pub — all presented with that unique Jerry Jenkins flair.

Buck is headed to London to talk to Alan Tompkins, a "midlevel operative" at Scotland Yard. (DCI Tennison, this is MLO Tompkins …) He doesn't call Tompkins on the phone from New York because he's afraid someone might be listening in. So Buck flies to London, checks into a hotel, and then calls Tompkins on the phone.

Buck took both his real and his phony passport and visa — a customary safety precaution — caught a late flight to London out of La Guardia [sic] Friday night, and arrived at Heathrow Saturday morning. He checked into the Tavistock Hotel and slept until midafternoon. Then he set out to find the truth about Dirk's death. He started by calling Scotland Yard and asking for his friend …

We'll forgive Buck for not sleeping on the plane, considering what happened the last time he did that. Buck never seems to think about that, however, which is strange. If your week began on an overnight flight to London and that flight was interrupted and rerouted to Chicago due to the still-unexplained disappearance of some 2 billion people, followed by scores of plane crashes around the world, rail disasters and untold death and mayhem, then you might take a moment to reflect on that a few days later as you once again boarded an overnight flight to London. Buck doesn't.

In fact, as he arrives in London and begins his investigation of Dirk's supposed suicide, there's no sign that anything at all unusual had happened earlier that week. London seems utterly unaffected by the calamity that turned New York City into a postapocalyptic disaster zone. The entire Buck/Alan storyline, in fact, seems like it's occurring before the disappearances.

One way of reading this would be to interpret it as a condemnation of the Anglican Church and UK Christianity in general. The C of E, LaHaye and Jenkins might be saying, is so thoroughly secularized that no one in England would be among the disappeared — that the country wouldn't even seem to notice the disappearances had occurred.

This would be a slap not only at the Anglicans, but also at England's vibrant evangelical community. Evangelical Christianity in the UK is quite different from its Americanized version. British evangelicalism traces back to the Wesleys and never abandoned the Wesleyan concern for the poor. And, since they're not American, they never began to confuse America with the kingdom of God, and thus have not conflated their faith with a reactionary, uber-patriotic politics. Nor have they been caught up in some of the uniquely American heresies that characterize evangelical Christianity on this side of the Atlantic — such as young-earth creationism and, well, premillennial dispensationalism. British evangelicals have even been known to drink beer. For all these reasons, L&J probably don't consider these British evangelicals to be "true Christians," so they probably would get left behind along with the Anglicans.

But there's another, more likely, explanation for the strange disconnect between the spy-thriller storyline in this chapter and the disaster-movie storyline that went before it: Jenkins is a Bad Writer who pays no attention to continuity. The earlier chapters were about plane crashes and disappearances. This chapter is about something else, so he abruptly drops all that other stuff.

This disregard for continuity makes it difficult to read Left Behind as a single, coherent narrative. It forces the reader to regard the text as a collection of disparate, discrete stories — some of which apply to one set of storylines, others of which apply to another set. This is, of course, exactly how dispensationalists read the Bible. (It's a complex, difficult system, but it allows you to pretend that the Sermon on the Mount doesn't apply to you.)

Alan and Buck, Jenkins assures us, are old pals who get together, along with Dirk Burton, whenever Buck is in London. You'd think Buck might have Alan's direct number, then, but let that pass. Buck is worried that the nefarious, powerful people who killed Dirk might be listening in on his phone call to Alan. "He tried to communicate to Tompkins in such a way that Alan would catch on quickly and not give away that they were friends — in case the line was tapped."

What follows is Buck's idea of a non-suspicious sounding phone call:

"Mr. Tompkins, you don't know me, but my name is Cameron Williams of Global Weekly." Before Alan could laugh and greet his friend, Buck quickly continued, "I'm here in London to do a story preliminary to the international monetary conference at the United Nations."

Alan sounded suddenly serious. "How can I help you, sir? What does that have to do with Scotland Yard?"

"I'm having trouble locating my interview subject, and I suspect foul play."

"And your subject?"

"His name is Burton, Dirk Burton. He works at the exchange."

"Let me do some checking and call you back."

It's hard to imagine a more suspicious-sounding phone call.

[We're covering an entire chapter this week -- the rest is in the jump.]

Buck meets Alan "just inside the vestibule at Scotland Yard" and they drive furtively to "a dark pub a few miles away." Once there, Alan urges Buck to go home and forget he ever knew Dirk Burton. Dirk, he says, was On To Something. He Knew Too Much and so he was killed.

"Cameron, you know what this is about."

"I don't!"

"Come, come, man. Dirk was a conspiracy theorist, always sniffing around Todd-Cothran's involvement with international money men, his role in the three-currency conference, even his association with your Stonagal chap."

"Alan, there are books about this stuff. People make a hobby of ascribing all manner of evil to the Tri-Lateral Commission [sic], the Illuminati, even the Freemasons, for goodness sake. Dirk thought Todd-Cothran and Stonagal were part of something he called the Council of Ten or the Council of Wise Men. So what? It's harmless."

"But when you have an employee, admittedly several levels removed from the head of the exchange, trying to connect his boss to conspiracy theories, he has a problem."

Buck sighed. "So he gets called on the carpet, maybe he gets fired. But tell me how he gets dead or pushed to suicide."

This is an odd bit of inoculation. End Times enthusiasts often wind up embracing weird conspiracy theories about the Trilateral Commission and the Illuminati. L&J poke fun at this tendency, even as they describe their own conspiracy theory involving something called the Council of Ten.

Alan goes on to explain why he believes Dirk was murdered. Over the next few pages, he outlines several subtle clues. Dirk, for instance, was left-handed. ("He was such a klutz because he was left-handed," Buck says.) Yet the gun used in his supposed suicide was found in his right hand. After all this CSI-type discussion, Alan explains the final subtle clue that led him to suspect Dirk was murdered: Todd-Cothran admitted having Burton killed and threatened to kill Tompkins, too, if he tried to do anything about it. Tompkins, a trained investigator, picks up on clues like that.

After a thug visits Tompkins at his home and threatens him ("I was visited by what you in America call a goon." "A heavy?" "Precisely." "He threatened you?" "He did.") Tompkins had visited Todd-Cothran at his office:

"Well, I get right down to business. I tell him, 'Sir, I believe you've had an employee murdered.' And just as calm as you like, he says, 'Tell you what, governor' — which is a term cockneys use on each other, not something people of his station usually call people of mine. Anyway, he says, 'Tell you what, governor, the next time somebody visits your flat at ten o'clock at night, as a certain gentleman did last night, greet him for me, won't you?"

"What did you say?"

"What could I say? I was stunned to silence! I just looked at him and nodded. 'And let me tell you something else,' he says. 'Tell your friend Williams to keep out of this.' I say 'Williams?' like I don't know who he's talking about. He ignores that because, of course, he knows better."

After a few explicit threats about Buck and Alan's family members, by name, Todd-Cothran calls Tompkins' captain (or "high-level operative"):

"He said to him, 'Sullivan, if one of your men was to come to my office and harass me about anything, what should I do?' And Sullivan, one of my idols, sounded like a little baby. He said, 'Mr. Todd-Cothran, sir, you do whatever you need to do.' And Todd-Cothran said, 'What if I was to kill him where he sits?' And Sullivan said, 'Sir, I'm sure it would be justifiable homicide.' Now get this. Todd-Cothran said, right over the phone to Scotland Yard, where you know they tape every incoming call, and Todd-Cothran knows it just as well, 'What if his name happened to be Alan Tompkins?' Just like that, plain as day. And Sullivan said, 'I'd come over there and dispose of the body myself.' Well, I got the picture."

One hurdle in the writing of any good innocent-man-embroiled-in-an-international-scheme thriller is to explain why our hero can't just go to the police. The classic devices for dealing with this are to either have the hero be unjustly accused of some crime or to have a few corrupt police officers involved in the international scheme. Jenkins here has chosen the latter approach, but he's taken it a bit over the top. He doesn't just suggest that the head of the London Exchange is a corrupt man who has bought off a few inspectors at Scotland Yard, he suggests that England is a lawless oligarchy along the lines of North Korea or Saddam's Iraq. Todd-Cothran's confidence that he can kill with impunity is impressive, I suppose, but his naked threats are inelegant. I'd have preferred something more sophisticated — like using the corrupt Sullivan to plant evidence implicating Buck in Dirk's murder.

In any case, Alan has been threatened into warning Buck off the story — lest something nasty happen to him and his entire family. It's kind of odd, then, that Alan's earlier impulse to hearing Buck's voice on the phone was to "laugh and greet his friend."

Buck Williams, the GIRAT, isn't cowed by these threats, but he does, wisely, decide it might be safer to pursue this story from somewhere other than London, so he uses a pay phone in the pub to book the next flight out of the country using the name on his fake passport, "George Oreskovich." While he does this, Alan heads out to the car to turn off the overhead light that he didn't remember leaving on. Despite all they've been discussing, neither of them finds this suspicious.

As Buck hung up, the door of the pub was blown into the room and a blinding flash and deafening crash sent patrons screaming to the floor. … Buck stared in horror at the frame and melted tires of what had been Alan's Scotland Yard-issue sedan. … A leg and part of a torso lay on the sidewalk — the remains of Alan Tompkins.

As the patrons surged out to get a look at the burning wreckage, Buck elbowed his way through them, pulling his real passport and identification from his wallet. In the confusion he flipped the documents near what was left of the car and hoped they wouldn't get burned beyond readability. Whoever wanted him dead could assume him dead.

That last move isn't bad. Buck crawls through a window out of the back of the pub, runs down a few alleys and catches a cab. When he sees police cars at his hotel, he tells the cabbie to take him straight to the airport where, as "Oreskovich" — "a naturalized Englishman from Poland on his way to a holiday in the States" — he boards a plane to Frankfurt, Germany.

Thus concludes Chapter 10, a strange little interlude that seems to have little to do with the rest of the book. It doesn't advance the plot or reveal character. There's little here that's particularly religious, or that seems to deal very much with the End Times. Todd-Cothran, after all, is a mere midlevel operative in the rising one-world government of the Antichrist. L&J never really resolve or revisit this part of the story, it just becomes a not-quite-convincing excuse for Buck to turn to Nicolae Carpathia for help. All told, this chapter reads like a conventional thriller, poorly executed.

Buck's Jack-Ryan-esque visit to London seems to have happened only to provide vicarious thrills and a sense of adventure. As such, it's not tangential after all. The whole obsession with the End Times — with supposed prophecies of the culmination of history — is a desperate attempt to create significance and meaning for people whose lives are woefully lacking either. The End Times mania promises adventure for the bored. It says that your seemingly meaningless life matters because you are living in The Most Critical Time in the History of the World.

Tracking these End Times prophecies is a form of escapism — something to keep the idle faithful from getting bored until they finally escape for good.

  • cjmr’s husband

    To quote one of the great philosophers of the late twentieth century, Berke Breathed:
    “Foreshadowing: Your Key to Quality Literature”.

  • Scott

    I get the impression that ultimately, God would have to perform a total mindwipe of his saved…
    Why not? If you’re human at conception, and most pregnancies (historically, even if modern medicine and sanitation may have improved this) probably don’t get past the “clump of cells stage”, and anyone under 13 years old gets an automatic ticket to Heaven, then the vast majority of the ‘saved’ would never have had a single brain cell (insert Bush supporter joke here), much less memories of Earth.
    That being the case, why not wipe the memories of the rest?

  • Skyknight

    ({quiet chuckle} I’ll trust that you’re not holding that particular viewpoint yourself…)
    The problem is that it gives me the feeling that the travails the saved went threw will essentially be rendered for naught. Worse yet–all of Earthly existence will be rendered for naught.
    Essentially, only the wicked would remember that Earth even existed (unless you hold Dante’s viewpoint, that is). {frowns} Wait a minute…this is starting to sound like Valentinian Gnosticism (i.e. matter is always evil, spirit is always good). After all, a corollary of this could be that the righteous don’t deserve to be “burdened” with memories of the material cosmos.

  • Skyknight

    And on a different note…I think I remember LaHaye saying in one of his non-fiction books (I can’t remember which one, though…{grumble} I *think* it was “Rapture Under Attack”) that he personally believes there IS a diabolist conspiracy like the Illuminati. Make of that what you will.
    Also, a chapter of that book (if it was the same one…{whimper}) was devoted to defending Darby against critics. Specifically, critics who suggested such things as Darby being under demonic influence. I can’t say I hold court with either side. Why can’t LaHaye just accept that Darby misconstrued the Bible, likely by letting his legal training sway him overmuch?

  • Beth

    I’m still trying to figure out why Buck tried to disguise the fact that he knew Tompkins and Burton personally. I could understand if he thought it would keep the bad guys from suspecting the real purpose of his visit, but in that case, wasn’t it a little careless to say in the same conversation that he was investigating Burton’s disappearance and suspected foul play? (Villians sometimes pick up on subtle clues like that too.)
    If I didn’t know better, I’d say this entire chapter was intended as a parody of spy thrillers.

  • none

    I get the impression that ultimately, God would have to perform a total mindwipe of his saved…
    Clavell’s novel “Jurgen” offers a better solution: A woman in Heaven is disappointed that she hasn’t been reunited with her son as promised, so God fixes things by creating a simulacrum based on her idealized memories of her son.
    I dunno if LaHaye and Jenkins would be happy with that, though. (“Wait, isn’t that my neighbor’s kid? How did he get in here? Honestly, I thought Heaven was supposed to have standards!)

  • Mark Walley

    I’d like to say that I’m British, Evangelical and I could drink you all under the table you wussy American tee-totallers.

  • Lila

    “A woman in Heaven is disappointed that she hasn’t been reunited with her son as promised, so God fixes things by creating a simulacrum based on her idealized memories of her son.”
    Ew. That’s the creepiest thing I’ve heard in quite some time.

  • grenadine

    This is from a Wall Street Journal editorial by Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman about some United Nations committee meetings about the Internet in 2003:
    “It sounds like a Tom Clancy plot. An anonymous group of international technocrats holds secretive meetings in Geneva. Their cover story: devising a blueprint to help the developing world more fully participate in the digital revolution. Their real mission: strategizing to take over management of the Internet from the U.S. and enable the United Nations to dominate and politicize the World Wide Web.”
    Ooh! International Technocrats! (that’s the UN, kids.) One world curren… i mean, one world wide web! This PROVES it. The UN is Satan!
    Actually, it merely suggests that Coleman is a fan of LB-style UN paranoia. I was struck by the similarites to Buck’s/Dirk’s/LaHaye’s/Jenkins’ ravings. See http://www.cjrdaily.org/ for more details.

  • Garnet

    Their real mission: strategizing to take over management of the Internet from the U.S. and enable the United Nations to dominate and politicize the World Wide Web.
    Sweet merciful crap, c’mon! This is the best conspiracy theory they could come up with? Their nefarious scheme is to take over management of the internet? That’s only slightly less lame than plotting to conquer the phone company.
    And ‘politicize the World Wide Web’? You’re like a decade behind the times there, bub.

  • Bill S

    That Tertullian sounds like a real asshole.
    The real problem with the whole “God gives the saved a lobotomy so he can indulge in depraved torture of non-Christians without listening to His followers bitch about it”, is that it overlooks how we’d feel about it while we’re here on Earth. I mean, I find the notion of people being plunged into a lake of fire forever to be morally repugnant, especially if their only crime was simply believing in the “wrong” religeon. Even if they’re “sincerely wrong”, so what? Am I supposed to believe God is too incompentant to figure out that they MEANT him, but got his name wrong? It’s not like dialing a wrong phone number or putting too many letters in an e-mail.
    In any case, how do you love such a sadistic God, unless you’re a bit of a saidist yourself?

  • Bill S

    “sadist”. Shoulda hit “preview” first.

  • Bill S

    Oh, and I’m left-handed. I’ve never had any mishaps that resulted from it, but I have had minor mishaps occur from being completely blind in my left eye.

  • Captain Slack

    I’m curious that GIRAT, the one who charters aeroplanes cross country, would choose to stay in the Tavistock Hotel.
    L&J probably have him stay there because of these people.
    …oh sweet Cthulhu. L&J have, and not for the first time, succeeded in making less sense than Metal Gear Solid 2.
    Now that is scary. And a little stupid.
    More like “This is Londinium,” the fake-London of the original 60s Batman movie
    Actually, of a three-part storyline from the third season.
    And frankly, Batman had more continuity and better dialogue.
    I won’t argue with that.
    “Foreshadowing: Your Key to Quality Literature”.
    Buckley is a wimpy putz.

  • Kristin

    How many of us are lefties (left-handed, not left-behind believing freaks)? I’m convinced lefties are smarter, as reasoning from self-selected revalation on this board would suggest.
    When I was 6, my grandmother took me to visit her PMD friend Mattie Lee. MattieLee saw me coloring on the floor with my left hand and told my grandmother that they should pray over me and make me use my right hand to draw/write because left hands did the devil’s work and God would make me stupid rather than let me write for the glory of the Devil, or some such nonsense. My grandmother broke ties with the woman, although MattieLee still claims to see my dead grandmother in visions proclaiming the soon return of Christ for his chosen people. Sorry for the digression, but I thought this was good example of the reasoning behind Dirk being a lefty.

  • grenadine

    lefty here! although i use right-handed scissors, and shoot righty free throws, so make of it what you will.

  • Dawn

    Out of curiosity, how do you all picture hell? Or do you not believe it exists?

  • Nick Kiddle

    Dawn, I imagine hell as being a kind of hallucination, and therefore extremely specific to the person experiencing it.

  • Ray

    An earlier LB post sparked a discussion on Hell, btw
    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2005/06/lb_explicit_con.html

  • chris Borthwick

    Tertullian perhaps had the excusae that he was around during a time of persecutions, and was thus dreaming of getting his own back. Which also meant he was active in another controversy with relevance to LB; the Donatists. The issue was whether people who had caved under threat of death or torture and sacrificed to the emperor could later come back, repent, and be good christians again. The Donatists thought no, they couldn’t, you only got one chance, in the same way that some commentators on LB think that L&J are commie hippie scum for (was it?) allowing people who have taken the mark on the forehead to repent and be saved (or was it just people like Hattie who had committed fornication?). In any case, with the Donatists the other side won out, which means that Tertullian is both a father of the church and officially a heretic. As, I suppose, is Origen, who cut off his balls in a misreading (I hope) of Matt. 19:12 and thought (contra tertullian) that god’s mercy meant that even the devil would eventually be saved. The Church Fathers were a barrel of laughs.

  • chris Borthwick

    It’s probably worth quoting Origen, in fact -
    “In reply to the charge that Christians of different creeds were in enmity, he said, “Such of us as follow the doctrines of Jesus, and endeavor to be conformed to his precepts, in our thoughts, words and actions; being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed. we entreat. Nor do we say injurious things of those who think differently of us. They who consider the words of our Lord, Blessed are the peaceable, and Blessed are the meek, will not hate those who corrupt the Christian religion, nor give contemptuous reproach to those who are in error.”

  • Skyknight

    Ah, Origenes Adamantius. I think that self-castration was actually a false rumor meant to ridicule him after his death (sort of like the belief that Arius died of a sort of self-inversion while he was in the privy). Still, I don’t understand why people thought his concept of apocatastasis was a Bad Thing ™. More specifically, what monstrous thing do they think would result from the Satan being forgiven?
    On the other hand, I suppose that by the twelth century, the idea of demons being redeemable–or being able to seek righteousness–had dissipated. I remember that in part of his “Cur Deus Homo?” (the document that most strongly established vicarious atonement), St. Anselm of Canterbury set forth that after death, one’s soul becomes fixed in whichever state one died in. In other words, those who died in a state of grace/righteousness/etc. would never again be able to perform a sinful act, or even contain a sinful thought. Likewise, those who were corrupt at death would no longer be able to think or do righteous or holy things.
    I get the feeling that Anselm thought that free will dissipated upon death. {light bulb} Maybe THAT’S where LaHaye et al. get the mindwipe hypothesis?

  • Skyknight

    And next time, on “Left Behind: The Lancing”, we shall be made to see and understand the errors in the treatise of how the Steeles meet with Pastor Barnes of New Hope, and how he explains the Rapture to them.
    And, of course, “next time”=”tomorrow”…Veterans’ Day, at that. How apt, seeing how Clark is a veteran of relentlessly going through the trials of the dispensationalist chimera.

  • dharvey34

    Wow do I miss these dissections of a train wreck….
    1) MrLinzy has hit on something – was Jenkins a writer for The Flintstones? Stone-A-Gal and Rock-A-Fellow – sounds like Ann MargRock or Gina-Lola-Bridgarock…..
    2) Pho – it’s late; don’t make me wake up the kids with all my guffawing and hearty laughter. – “he rejected the first draft: “Alan went out to the car that hadn’t blown up yet.”” – that was hilarious!
    3) As for the ways cockney’s talk to each other – I think Christopher Guest needs to play Mr. Tompkins in Left Behind: The Musical – “Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?”

  • rob

    Don’t car bombs usually require that the car be turned on? In movies they almost always seem to be hooked up to the battery or the ignition in some way. Wouldn’t it be a lot harder (and more conspicuous) to rig a bomb to the cabin light? Especially to go off when the cabin light was turned off? A time bomb in a car seems too likely to go off too early or too late. Unless, of course, you lure the victim back to the car by leaving the overhead light on.

  • Sophist

    Wouldn’t it be a lot harder (and more conspicuous) to rig a bomb to the cabin light?
    If I was willing to give L&J the benefit of the doubt, I’d suggest that the bomb was rigged to the door. If I was me, however, I would suggest that Jenkins head is rigged to his ass.

  • L

    Skyknight, there’s nothing wrong really with the apokatastasis. Not only is the salvation of all (and the avoidence of eternal torment) an unremittedly positive thing, it’s an end which God expressly wills.
    However, to say that it will *certainly* happen, as opposed to us merely hoping it would, denies individual free will. Unredeemed human beings will always be free to reject God, or at least not not turn towards him.
    It’s also thought to be unpastoral. You just know that if it were taught tere would be those who’d just figure they could get away with any sin they wanted, since whatever happened they could count on redemption in the end.
    I come from Eastern Christianity where there is no objection at all to the idea of the salvation of Satan. There are even monks who make it a practice to pray for him. (They must be very well advanced in spiritual warfare to do this because of the demonic assault that it usually provokes.) It is, however, considered unlikely since it, again, ultimately requires a positive act on Satan’s part.
    There was no immediate impulse to ridicule Origen after his death. Many of his writings were relied on in succeeding centuries by other Fathers such as the Cappadocians, and he was highly regarded at that time. His condemnation came much later.

  • rob

    OK, I know it hardly matters given the weighty religious and political discussion that this book is leading the more knowledgable and more outspoken followers into, but this bomb thing, as well as Chloe’s ability to fly and the incorrect titles for the officers (or whatever – I’m not writing a book) of Scotland Yard, are really bothering me.
    This isn’t even bad writing. I suppose lack of attention to detail is kind of bad writing, but it’s not even like this is character development, or a major plot point, or any of the aspects of writing that are actually, you know, difficult. This is basic cohesiveness of thought, like remembering you have pasta on the stove and making sure it doesn’t cook too long. Or remembering to grab the baby as you hop off the bus. OK, maybe those are bad examples. Those are probably duties for women.
    But it really does seem like these guys think as long as they have the order of prophecies right, absolutely nothing else matters, which I’d think would be insulting to their audience. Characters don’t matter. Story doesn’t matter. Stupid little details that would have taken less than a minute of thought each, followed, perhaps, by ten minutes of research in the case of the Scotland Yard titles, don’t matter. I always thought details were supposed to be important to literal Bible readers. For people who believe the infalibility of a document hinges on its explicitness, I’d expect obsessiveness in their attention to detail. Unless they were just trying to rattle off a few books and make a few million.

  • Beth

    However, to say that it will *certainly* happen, as opposed to us merely hoping it would, denies individual free will.
    I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I can say that if you flip a coin enough times it will *certainly* eventually turn up tails. That takes nothing away from the randomness of coin flipping. Each flip is still completely random. There’s never any guarantee that any one flip will be tails, but if you keep flipping, you’re bound to get there. Similarly, a soul, if it exists for long enough, will eventually have some experience of joy or despair or simply exhaustion that turns it to God. We still have free will, and can choose with each experience, but inevitably, sooner or later, we’ll choose God.
    BTW, where else on the internet could we find a discussion that ranges from literature to car bombs to debates among Church Fathers?

  • R. Mildred

    It would be harder to rig the bomb to the light, not a bit harder mind, but a lot harder.
    You’d have to first off get at the wires, which could be as simple as fiddling under the dashboard or as complex as having to get the wires out from under the interiror of the car that keeps the wires hidden from view, depending on exactly how the car was wired.
    And then you’d need to have a complex dead-man-switch style trigger mechanism that sends a pulse to the explosive’s primer charge when it stops recieving an electric current or when the circuit is broken, which is great when you want somehting to explode if say a door or case panel is opened (great for bomb booby traps in other words) but bad when you want to make sure the person you’re trying to blow up is fully inside the car and will be most assuredly killed by the blast, whereas a car rigged to explode when say the door is opened might explode in a way that was survivable for the person setting it off.
    but then that raises another issue, namely that car bombs are designed to be obviously deliberate, as much a giant “WE’RE AFTER YOU MOFO!” as a way to eliminate your enemies, and while a grand conspiracy might use a car bomb to kill someone and then blame the blast on another group, a sensible grand conspiracy wouldn’t risk it leaving clues that could trace it back to them and so would kill their enemies in ways that do not even look suspicious.
    That’s part of the reason why the stereotypical Evil Villain(tm) generally uses overly elaborate methods that the heros can worm their way out of with a bit of luck and detirmination, because a quick death is so very obvious to someone who finds the body, they had their throat slit? by who? sort of questions start to arise and then you’ll enevitably end up with someone else saerch for the same stuff the person you just killed was, and then when you kill them as well and you start the cycle AGAIN, except now there’s two bodies, which is much worse for your big secret.
    poison, intravenous airbubbles, smothering with a pillow, all are ways that can look almost natural if you’re not looking too closely, and what with all the weird stuff that’s been going on lately…
    A terrorist organisation wants to be known about, they want publicity and so they use flashy and effective methods that would not work for an organisation that cares about secrecy above all other things.

  • L

    I can say that if you flip a coin enough times it will *certainly* eventually turn up tails.
    That’s true for an inanimate object, yes. I hope to heaven it’s true for human beings as well. But could it happen that a will could become so habitually fixed in one direction that it’s essentially “set” and responds to no impulses to change? Maybe — and it seems to be something that (for example) Lewis considered as well — but I hope not. If so then that’s a denial of free will as well, at least in the long run, even if the direction in which that will is set was self-determined. But on separation from God we all become a little less human than we should be.

  • Cynic

    One of the things that struck me just now was.. if Stonagal and his cohorts have such social control and power structure penetration in civil government that their frickin’ flunkies can go around playing Saddam & Sons’ Family Outing with the approval of the Yard, then the whole conspiracy part is utterly unnessecary. Logically, the society depicted is penetrated by the conspiracy to the extent that the “normal” society is outnumbered by the flunkies of the ‘Council’, given that none of the conspirators think there’s the slightest chance of any outside agency interfering. Which would make the ‘Conspiracy’ the defacto government of the country – in which case one wonders why they bother with running a secret conspiracy when their control is functionally equivalent to any dictatorial social system you can name.
    There’s no bloody need for a conspiracy since the putative ‘conspirators’ are already in control.
    Of course, this would be crediting L&B with logic and stuff, which is rather far-fetched…
    On the other hand, if the “Council of Ten” is already the defacto rulers of the world who choose to not display their powers openly it could explain the strangely competent UN – but again, that assumes a competency in the authors that isn’t in evidence anywhere else in the world-building, yes?

  • cjmr’s husband

    There is a problem with the coin-flipping. The probabilities are correct; keep flipping, and eventually you get tails. But you have to keep flipping. And if the desired result is that the coin Be tails, then you have to stop flipping when the result is achieved.
    To tie this back in, Rayford will be tossing coins for some time now, he’s tossed tails a few times, but he’s still flipping. Eventually he tosses a tails and keeps it.
    Nicolai tossed heads some time ago, and decided that is the way to go.
    That other guy you were talking about has gone so far as to glue the tails side down to the floor, so that he can laugh at people who try to pick the coin up.

  • cjmr’s husband

    (my coin landed on Edge, and that’s just too flipping cool)

  • chris Borthwick

    Mind you, the Origenic hypothesis of the regeneration of demons gets quite a workout in Buffy. Though I don’t imagine Spike will get raptured, even so.

  • nick s

    I’m curious that GIRAT, the one who charters aeroplanes cross country, would choose to stay in the Tavistock Hotel.
    If I had any confidence in L&J’s research skills, then I’d go with the Bloomsbury connection, and Tavistock Sq’s link to psychology and psychoanalysis. I suspect, though, that one of them simply talked to a backpacker who ‘did London’ one time and stayed there. (Post-London-bombings, though, the blown-up bus sticks with you.)
    As for Alan Tompkins and the sociolinguistics of ‘governor’ (it’s ‘guv’nor’): Dick Van Dyke’s role in Mary Poppins comes to mind.

  • kim

    My partner is left-handed, and is clumsy. But it’s not from being left-handed, it’s from all the attempts to force right-handedness. (And is extremely intelligent.)

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  • Melissia Blackheart

    Oh great.  So not only are the characters (and by extension due to the self-insert nature of the characters, the writers as well) homophobic, and possibly racist, they’re also biased against left-handed people because apparently all left-handed people are clumsy.

    And this is considered the cream of evangelistic literature by so many..

  • Melissia Blackheart

    Oh great.  So not only are the characters (and by extension due to the self-insert nature of the characters, the writers as well) homophobic, and possibly racist, they’re also biased against left-handed people because apparently all left-handed people are clumsy.

    And this is considered the cream of evangelistic literature by so many..


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