L.B. The Visitation Pastor

Left Behind, pg. 196

The New Hope Village Church is being run by a post-rapture skeleton crew consisting of the apostate Rev. Bruce Barnes and get-back Loretta. Most of the following chapter consists of the long, sad saga of Barnes' former sham-faith.

Before we dive into that extended monologue, a brief aside on the Rev. Barnes' former vocation. He (re-)introduced himself to Rayford Steele as New Hope's "visitation pastor," and repeatedly makes clear that his was a lesser, subordinate role to that of the senior pastor — the Rev. Vernon Billings. This is typical of the hierarchical structure among the staff at many nondenominational churches. This ranges from the senior pastor at the top (i.e., the pope) down through the various "associate" pastors, followed by "assistant" pastors — including visitation staff, like Bruce — on down to the youth pastor, who is just out of Bible College, wears jeans, and ranks somewhere just below the worship leader and just above the head usher.

"I was good at it," Bruce Barnes says of his role as visitation pastor.

This is not true. This cannot be true. All of Bruce Barnes' extended testimony to Rayford and Chloe is premised on the idea that his getting left behind produced an epiphany of self-knowledge, but this newfound self-knowledge does not extend to the recognition that he cannot have been very comforting in his role as a half-assed poser of a visitation pastor.

Part of the problem here, I think, is that Tim LaHaye is, himself, was a senior pastor during his days at Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego. I doubt he understands the nature of "visitation" ministry any better than Bruce Barnes does. Here's how Barnes described that work:

"My job was to visit people in their homes and nursing homes and hospitals every day. I was good at it. I encouraged them, smiled at them, talked with them, prayed with them, even read Scripture to them."

Isn't that nice? He smiled at them. But what Barnes/LaHaye don't explain or seem to understand is why these people are stuck in nursing homes and hospitals. One gets the sense that an amiable visit from Barnes might have been welcomed by a parishioner who was, say, laid up for six weeks with a broken leg that would soon heal as good as new. But for a parishioner undergoing long-shot cancer treatments — adding the pain of chemotherapy to the already crippling pain of their disease in the hopes that maybe, maybe it would help them live long enough to see their youngest child graduate fifth grade — I can't imagine that a visit from Guy Smiley would have been much help.

It's not unusual for seminary students to experience a crisis of faith — and not every student's faith survives this crisis. The common misperception is that this is due to all that book-larnin' — that reading Bultmann or the latest from the Jesus Seminar is inherently dangerous to one's faith. (Far safer to maintain a pose of anti-intellectual piety — which is, again, why many evangelicals prefer the safety of "Bible college" to the academic perils of seminary.) I suppose it's theoretically possible that some suggestible seminarian might be overwhelmed by such exposure to liberal scholarship, but I've never met such a person. No, the real reason that seminary is a crucible for faith has nothing to do with intellectual study. It has to do with CPE.

CPE stands for "clinical pastoral education" — better known as the front lines. CPE has nothing to do with Vernon Billings' job. It doesn't involve preaching from a pulpit. It involves, rather, visitation — ministering to people in "nursing homes and hospitals."

Gordon Atkinson, the Real Live Preacher, refers to CPE as "Tear the Young Minister a New One" and describes how his own CPE experience led to a dark night of the soul:

… people facing death don’t give a fuck about your interpretation of II Timothy. Some take the “bloodied, but unbowed” road, but most dying people want to pray with the chaplain. And they don’t want weak-ass prayers either. They don’t want you to pray that God’s will be done. …

I threw myself into it. I prayed holding hands and cradling heads. I prayed with children and old men. I prayed with a man who lost his tongue to cancer. I lent him mine. I prayed my ass off. I had 50 variations of every prayer you could imagine, one hell of a repertoire.

I started noticing something. When the doctors said someone was going to die, they did. When they said 10 percent chance of survival, about 9 out of 10 died. The odds ran pretty much as predicted by the doctors. I mean, is this praying doing ANYTHING?

Compare that with Barnes' facile summary of his role as a "visitation pastor." If Barnes ever met with someone who was dying, he doesn't seem to have noticed. The RLP goes on to describe the final, fatal blow that CPE dealt to his young faith. Her name was Jenny:

Thirtysomething. Cute. New mother with two little kids. Breast cancer. Found it too late. Spread all over. Absolutely going to die.

Jenny had only one request. “I know I’m going to die, chaplain. I need time to finish this. It's for my kids. Pray with me that God will give me the strength to finish it.”

She showed me the needlepoint pillow she was making for her children. It was an “alphabet blocks and apples” kind of thing. She knew she would not be there for them. Would not drop them off at kindergarten, would not see baseball games, would not help her daughter pick out her first bra. No weddings, no grandkids. Nothing.

She had this fantasy that her children would cherish this thing — sleep with it, snuggle it. Someday it might be lovingly put on display at her daughter’s wedding. Perhaps there would be a moment of silence. Some part of her would be there.

I was totally hooked. We prayed. We believed. Jesus, this was the kind of prayer you could believe in. We were like idiots and fools.

A couple of days later I went to see her only to find the room filled with doctors and nurses. She was having violent convulsions and terrible pain. I watched while she died hard. Real hard.

As the door shut, the last thing I saw was the unfinished needlepoint lying on the floor.

A faith that matters, a faith that is worth anything real, or anything at all, has to be able to account for Jenny's story. Her story, after all, is everyone's story — the details of time and place may differ somewhat, but not the ending. You and me, and everyone we know, we're all going to die. Hard. A faith that cannot account for this must give way either to despair or denial.

The faith described in Left Behind cannot account for this. It's all about denial. Proudly so. "Can you imagine," Irene Steele gushes, "Jesus coming back to get us before we die?"

Can you imagine a visitation pastor bringing such a message to hospitals and nursing homes and people like Jenny?

Bruce Barnes might have been an interesting character if he had lost his faith due to his experience with human suffering. That would have raised some real and interesting questions. But the world of LB is not that real or that interesting. It is a world in which human suffering exists only for others at the periphery. And it is always deserved.

New Hope is a fictional church, but it is based on real-world congregations. These actual churches are run by senior pastors preoccupied with their weekly sermons and their "prophecy seminars." But somewhere down the ladder of their church hierarchy they also employ visitation pastors — real people who spend their days in real hospitals and nursing homes, encountering real suffering.

What on earth do you suppose they say? What kind of spiritual comfort can they bring when all they are carrying is the ancient joke of Bildad's theodicy and the gospel of the denial of death? Bruce Barnes says he "read Scripture" with the people he visited, but what scripture? Every passage in the Bible that offers the hope of resurrection is twisted, in LaHaye's PMD theology, into an argument for the avoidance of death through the "rapture."

LaHaye and Jenkins literally could not imagine meeting someone like Jenny, so in the imaginary scenario of LB Bruce Barnes never did.

But even in the shallow, suffering-free world of LB, and even by L&J's own shallow standards, Bruce Barnes was not a good visitation pastor. Two sentences after Barnes tells us that he was "good at" his job, he tells us this:

"I was lazy. I cut corners. When people thought I was out calling, I might be at a movie in another town. I was also lustful. I read things I shouldn't have read, looked at magazines that fed my lust."

Rayford winced. That hit too close to home.

L&J can't imagine Jenny, but they can imagine Jenna Jameson.

  • The Old Maid

    (decloaking from lurker status)
    I second the vote for “Joan of Arcadia.” I’d also recommend an out-of-print book called “When your friend is dying” by Betsy Burnham.
    Would also comment that there is a quote to the effect that “The worst thing about being ill is the way other people change.” In that aspect Bruce Barnes is at least consistent: he was consistently clueless. His idea of getting a clue is to urge the protagonists to get some earth-moving equipment and build their own Bat-Caves. (To his credit, that plan works quite well. It has little to do with spreading the Good News, but it keeps the characters alive so we can spend 12 volumes with them.)
    About the variations in evangelicals, has anyone read Philip Yancey?
    “So how did LaHaye get away from all the pain and sorrow that’s entailed? From Scaramouche’s story, I get the feeling that this is partially meant to make absolutely sure one has the spiritual fortitude that a pastor ought to have–a kind of winnowing.
    {quiet chuckle} Maybe “visitation pastoring” should be renamed “pastor boot camp”, with Azrael filling in for the drill sergeant…”
    Dunno. Maybe there’s a pastor ROTC program?
    “Where’s my LB Friday? :-) ”
    At least his New Year’s resolution lasted longer than mine. I didn’t make it to New Year (i.e. “I will not join more forums until I’ve caught up on my real-world projects or Jan. 1″). I don’t know what your “fun with newbies/make the newbie earn his keep” rituals are here, so I’ll just introduce myself who might know a little about “What’s behind Left Behind,” what with writing 185+ pages on it and all. Might tide you over until Fred’s next post.
    http://oldmaid.jallman.net

  • bulbul

    I second The Old Maid’s seconding of “Joan of Arcadia”, especially episodes 1×01 through 1×12. 1×12 was such a strong climax I stopped watching the show for some time. While all the rest of season 1 and season 2 was quite good, nothing would ever top the emotional intensity of those twelve episodes. I am rarely moved by movies or television, but this show really got under my skin.
    As for you, J:
    My basic aversion to evangelicals is that they believe in god, which I consider a basic disqualifier for being a person of real intelligence or perception.
    I AM bigoted against evangelicals. Though no more than I’m bigoted against Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Catholics
    You actually sound like an evangelical.
    I am bigoted against them in the same way that Jews were bigoted against the Cossacks (or that other group of people whom I will not mention here for fear of breaking a certain Internet Rule)
    There is no such “Rule”. There is only a description of what usually happens at some point in a long thread of online discussions. You do understand the difference between a rule and a description, don’t you?
    Fuck the Kingdom.
    Lead me not into temptation…

  • Scott

    The freedoms we want do not abridge ANY of yours and yet the “freedoms” you want entail mostly the freedom to restrain, control, and dominate us.
    Unfortunately, people try to move the definition of ‘freedom’ away from being left the hell alone toward some perversion of the term (both the left and right basically demand the ‘freedom’ of a society to stomp on you to get what it wants – either not letting their children see behavior they consider immoral or just access to your bank account).
    My definion of freedom requires something that I can’t violate if I didn’t exist. For example, if I was never born, I couldn’t violate your right of free speech – that is, therefore, freedom of speech. However, if I was never born, I wouldn’t have a bank account to turn over, therefore nobody can say I’m violating someone’s rights or restricting their freedoms by not turning money over.
    Basically, you cannot require positive action from me or else claim I’ve taken away someone else’s ‘freedom’ or ‘rights’, because I couldn’t perform that action if I didn’t exist, and I cannot violate someone’s rights if I don’t even exist because there would be no ‘me’ to be held responsible.
    In response to the incoming argument that I’m ‘taking’ from someone else by having a dollar, that is based on an unprovable assertion that your favored recipient would have that dollar if I was never born. Nobody knows where a dollar I have would be if I wasn’t born – maybe Bill Gates would have it.

  • Mark

    My definion of freedom requires something that I can’t violate if I didn’t exist.
    And that’s the problem with your definition of freedom: it rests on a hypothetical. If you start with “Suppose we lived in a different world”, you end up with a philosophy appropriate to a different world.
    Specifically, under your definition, a world where nobody exists would be a paradise of freedom, and the real world will be free to the extent that it resembles the world where nobody exists.

  • Beth

    I am bigoted against them in the same way that Jews were bigoted against the Cossacks
    I must apologize then, J. I had no idea your village had been attacked by hordes of sword-weilding evangelicals who burned down your home and raped or killed your family members. Considering all that you must have suffered, your hostility toward evangelicals is certainly understandable. Still, I hope that once the initial shock and trauma has worn off, you’ll be able to begin the healing process and eventually come to see that not all evangelicals are like the barbarians who attacked you. (I know some who don’t even own swords.)
    BTW, that original comment was not L’s, but mine.
    I do not agree with you at all if your point is that dislike of evangelicals is somehow a heinous crime of mind or of tongue.
    I never said it was. I only labelled it “bigotry”, which I still believe to an accurate description of your attitude. While I don’t think bigotry is a positive attribute, I don’t consider it a heinous crime either.
    Seculars, gays, liberals: None of us have done ANYTHING to you people except to be who we are.
    First, what do you mean “you”? I am not an evangelical, or even a Christian. Second, this isn’t about “Seculars, gays, liberals”. This is about the individual who posts as J and asserted that evangelicals are bad. You, J, have done something to evangelicals. You’ve insulted them.
    You know, it’s funny. I had a nearly identical argument on another blog with someone who insisted his hatred of Arabs wasn’t bigotry either, because Arabs (and Muslims) are a bunch of intolerant bigots themselves. He compared them to the KKK instead of Cossacks or Nazis, but the logic and the outraged self-rightousness were the same.

  • Merlin Missy

    Two things:
    1. Hi, The Old Maid! Glad to see you’re finally joining in on the conversation. *grin*
    2. J, you know Fred (slacktivist) is an evangelical Christian, yes?

  • Scott

    I must apologize then, J. I had no idea your village had been attacked by hordes of sword-weilding evangelicals who burned down your home and raped or killed your family members.
    Not yet, anyway – maybe when they’re done raping and killing Muslims.
    If you start with “Suppose we lived in a different world”, you end up with a philosophy appropriate to a different world.
    It isn’t based on “suppose we lived in a different world” – it’s based on a belief that if what you call my violation of someone’s rights is indistinguishable from my not even existing, then there’s a problem w/ your defn. I cannot violate someone’s right to free speech if I was never born. I evidently can violate a liberal defn of a ‘right’ to education or healthcare by not existing, because I won’t be paying for someone else’s if I’m not here.
    If necessary, this also extends past just me – the “rest of us” cannot violate your ‘right’ to an education or healthcare by not paying for it if our not existing means we wouldn’t be paying for it either.
    Leaving someone else alone is an option no matter what technology level or wealth is available – will medical treatments that won’t exist until 50 years from now be a “fundamental human right” then? Are we violating anyone’s “fundamental human rights” by not providing them now, despite the fact that they don’t exist yet? How is the motivation for not providing it (it doesn’t exist vs. I don’t want to pay for it) what determines whether the exact same inaction is a violation of someone’s rights?

  • Mark

    I evidently can violate a liberal defn of a ‘right’ to education or healthcare by not existing, because I won’t be paying for someone else’s if I’m not here.
    If we were to formalize the definitions of those rights, we’d make them conditional obligations. Alice has the right to education; therefore Bob has a duty to provide for Alice’s education if he can (and if Alice can’t). Alice’s right isn’t violated if Bob doesn’t exist, or can’t afford it, or if there are no teachers or books to educate Alice. It’s only violated if Bob could help her and chooses to hold back.
    (Note: I’m not saying I agree with any of this. We’re still dealing in hypotheticals.)
    Leaving someone else alone is an option no matter what technology level or wealth is available
    That’s called “reverting to the state of nature”. As opposed to civilization, which is built on the fact that our lives are, to some degree, interdependent.
    And it’s really only an option if we have a vast amount of land full of clean springs and fruit trees and slow-moving rabbits. The less space we have, and the more contention there is for resources, the harder it is to leave someone alone. When a city reverts to the state of nature, everyone dies.

  • J

    Could the whole Scott-death-and-taxes discussion take place somewhere else? It’s already tiresomely eaten up about five threads, including one specifically set up for it to take place in. Seriously, Scott: WE GET IT. Go away now or comment on something else. Some goes for his sparring partners.
    Now, then . . .
    First, what do you mean “you”? I am not an evangelical, or even a Christian.
    Well then obviously I wasn’t talking to you, was I?
    Second, this isn’t about “Seculars, gays, liberals”. This is about the individual who posts as J . . .”
    Actually it’s about exactly what I said it’s about.
    You, J, have done something to evangelicals. You’ve insulted them.
    They started it.
    You know, it’s funny.
    And yet, I am not laughing.
    I had a nearly identical argument on another blog with someone who insisted his hatred of Arabs wasn’t bigotry either, because Arabs (and Muslims) are a bunch of intolerant bigots themselves.
    Except that they are; it just isn’t considered polite to say so. Another reason I left Beliefnet forever: At least when I argue with Christians, I’m arguing with people with some exposure to the classical rhetoric that undergirds Western arguments. Arguing with Muslims means having to deal with total non-sequiturs, failures of language, accusations of psychological illness, and the not-so-occaisional death threat.
    “…He compared them to the KKK instead of Cossacks or Nazis, but the logic and the outraged self-rightousness were the same.”
    “Self-righteousness” isn’t an insult when one is actually right.

  • marciamarciamarcia

    I evidently can violate a liberal defn of a ‘right’ to education or healthcare by not existing, because I won’t be paying for someone else’s if I’m not here.
    Which is really why social programs like that ought to be reframed not as a “right” but as an economic investment in the future of our nation and a moral obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Yes, the government is the middle man, but that’s because the government benefits greatly from having its citizens educated and healthy. Go figure. And taxpayers benefit from that as well. Thanks to WIC, welfare, school lunch programs, head start classes, medicaid, GED programs and pell grants America has a better educated, more competitive workforce which benefits private business as well as the public interest.
    Could your tax dollars be better managed in some cases? Probably. Does that mean that we should revert to a taxless state with no government intervention for the poor? Hell no. Not unless you want to be a great low-tax, low-public program nation like Brazil–what with it’s well-known social stability and global economic power.
    Sorry to rant, but the idea that the government’s just holding you at gunpoint, takin’ yer money and givin’ it to those unwashed masses while you get nothing in return is a giant pet peeve of mine. Especially when I hear it from fellow Christians (though I don’t know whether or not this is the case with you…naturally, in this forum, it’s on my mind) who are not only ignoring the economic benefit, but the spiritual one as well.
    When I meet ONE evangelical that supports gay rights, a woman’s right to chose, contraception, and stem cell research, then I’ll consider revising my estimation of them. When I meet one evangelical who doesn’t see the theory of evolution as a dirty communist plot, then maybe I’ll re-think things. When I meet ONE evangelical who ISN’T a diehard cheerleader and/or all-purpose apologist for the use of American armed force in the world, then they’ll have earned my respect. When I meet one evangelical who doesn’t have a cartoonish aversion to “secular culture” but instead appreciates and enjoys it the way I do, then maybe I’ll . . .
    Funny, I don’t know for certian, but I think you just described the author of this blog…

  • Ray

    “Except that they [Arabs and Muslims] are [a bunch of intolerant bigots]; it just isn’t considered polite to say so.”
    What, ALL of them?
    That’s the kind of comment that makes me reach for a dictionary… here we are …
    bigot – One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
    Interesting.

  • aunursa

    bigot – One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
    Interesting.
    Reminds me of the people on the radical left who label Lieberman and everyone to his right as extremist, fascist, chicken-hawks; while the reactionary right dismiss McCain and everyone to his left as radical, communist, and anti-American.
    And both sides dismiss each other as intolerant bigots.

  • Skyknight

    So where does that leave centrists and eclectics?

  • Scott

    It’s only violated if Bob could help her and chooses to hold back.
    Which makes the result of Bob being ‘selfish’ and Bob just not existing the same, and one person’s inaction being a violation of someone else’s rights while the exact same inaction from another person isn’t, based on a (unlikely to be disinterested) 3rd person’s guess at relative ability to pay. That doesn’t make us all equal before the law, which progressives usually pretend to believe to be important when it gets them more power over others.
    The less space we have, and the more contention there is for resources, the harder it is to leave someone alone.
    An argument just as open to the Religious Right as to the left. Can we ignore the right to free speech because the War on Terror makes that ‘hard’ to respect?
    a moral obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves
    Which is proof that the left wants to use the govt to impose their morality on others just like the Religious Right does. Thank you for finally admitting that.
    Hell no. Not unless you want to be a great low-tax, low-public program nation like Brazil
    Funny, the evil capitalists rank Brazil as “Mostly Unfree”.
    Sorry to rant, but the idea that the government’s just holding you at gunpoint, takin’ yer money and givin’ it to those unwashed masses while you get nothing in return is a giant pet peeve of mine. Especially when I hear it from fellow Christians (though I don’t know whether or not this is the case with you…naturally, in this forum, it’s on my mind) who are not only ignoring the economic benefit, but the spiritual one as well.
    You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t accept being held up at gunpoint for my own spiritual good – that’s the same reason the right wants laws against sodomy.
    The problem from a leftist standpoint is that at best you can argue for what taxpayers owe each other. ‘Compassion’ requires contributions to welfare programs I don’t use, and is ‘justified’ by ‘benefits’ from things like roads and the military that ‘compassion’ requires welfare recipients not to pay for (keeping the poor off the tax rolls and all). I supposedly owe X for something Y paid for, and net taxpayers ‘need’ to pay more tax because they, but not net tax comsumers, are somehow drains on the system.
    BTW, what is my ‘economic’ benefit from welfare?

  • aunursa

    So where does that leave centrists and eclectics?
    Both sides consider us to be too extreme … or not extreme enough depending on how you look at it.

  • cjmr

    BTW, what is my ‘economic’ benefit from welfare?
    Saves you on ammunition. The fact that the govt. puts a figuratve gun to your head to ‘redistribute’ your money to the poor saves you from having to shoot said poor when they break into your house to take it for themselves.
    [/sarcasm]
    Joking aside, I still find it incredible to believe that you think you derive absolutely no benefits whatsoever from taxation (and never have).

  • marciamarciamarcia

    BTW, what is my ‘economic’ benefit from welfare?
    Surprisingly, when poor people are given the resources to move out of poverty this benefits the economy of the nation as a whole and, yes, you as an individual. Nations with healthy, well-educated citizenry are wealthy nations. That status benefits all the citizens, even the ones that weren’t poor to begin with. Particularly them, in fact, as they stand to make a hell of a lot more money off an economy where a lot of people can spend a lot than an economy where a few people can spend a lot. See how that works?
    the evil capitalists
    Whoever said capitalists are evil? One can have both capitalism and social programs. In fact, the two can benefit each other…with capitalism providing the national wealth to fund social programs which in turn create better workers, more successful entrepreneurs, and a stronger middle class which, in turn, boosts a capitalist economy. See, it’s easy.
    And by the way, the Christian moral imperative to social programs shouldn’t be the government’s reason for implementing them. But, if you’re Christian and you don’t believe in social programs, something is seriously wrong- What Would Jesus Do? probably wouldn’t include cutting funding to Head Start. That’s really what I was trying to say. I’m sorry if you took that as forcing religious doctrine down your throat.

  • J

    One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
    Isn’t that a good description of all of humanity? The only difference is that here in the postmodern world, we’re more free to choose our group, religion, politics.
    As deeply flawed a movie as Exodus is, there is that one scene where Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint sit on a hillside and, in response to her statement that, “People are all the same,” he says, “Don’t you believe it. People are different. We like being different–we need to be different.”

  • jaya

    you know, this post kicked ass until everyone started talking about dumb crap.

  • Ray

    Well, no, its not a good description of all humanity. I’m a militant atheist, but I don’t think all religious believers are morons. I’m Irish, but I’m not strongly partial to other Irish people. If I’m racist, it’s not a conscious choice – its something I’m trying to get rid of, not something I revel in.
    And I’m not such a fool as to accuse all the members of other groups of being intolerant.

  • Victoria

    J, I’m still curious about your response to the folks who pointed out that that Fred/Slacktivist is a progressive evangelical Christian who is pro gay rights, pro choice, pro evolution, anti imperialist, etc. Does he have your respect?
    For what it’s worth, I myself could put a check by nearly all the items on your litmus test list (I’m still forming an opinion about stem cell research, and I’m not an Evangelical Xian, I’m a Catholic one). We progressive Christians get flack from both sides: we’re often ostracized from our faith communities for not being “Christian” enough, and then taken to task by folks like you who expect us to answer for all that’s wrong with the conservative/fundamentalist wings of our respective faith traditions. What would it take for you to acknowledge that we progressive people of faith are, more often than not, on your side?

  • Scott

    Surprisingly, when poor people are given the resources to move out of poverty
    And how long has the “war on poverty” been going on? How many trillions have been spent?
    What Would Jesus Do? probably wouldn’t include cutting funding to Head Start. That’s really what I was trying to say. I’m sorry if you took that as forcing religious doctrine down your throat.
    Jesus started his ministry turning down Satan’s offer of political power, and ended it by being executed for sedition. The rest of it was preaching to “tax collectors”, prostitutes, and sinners. Not exactly a pro-government story.
    Look at it this way, does the Religious Right wanting the force of law backing up their morality make you more or less willing to listen to them argue for people voluntarily changing their lives? Can you see that the same happens when words like ‘compassion’ are used as mere rhetorical weapons in an attempt to gain political power?
    Saves you on ammunition. The fact that the govt. puts a figuratve gun to your head to ‘redistribute’ your money to the poor saves you from having to shoot said poor when they break into your house to take it for themselves.
    I know you said it sarcastically, but this really is the “nice business you have here – I’d hate to see anything bad happen to it” black heart of progressive belief.
    Besides, I can get 7.62×39 ammo for $2 per box of 20 for my evil “assault weapon” (a Chinese SKS – you can get one for about $150 nowadays if you go Yugoslavian army surplus).

  • The Old Maid

    Three things :
    1. Hi back, MM! And to all the rest of you who nagged me to drop by. I love the way everyone just stays so on-topic … ;)
    2. Forgot to give pages for that Philip Yancey reference. He has gay friends and at one point was receiving more threats than they were. It’s too involved a chapter to summarize, so I’ll just give the page numbers : “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” pp. 161-175.
    3. “For I was hungry and you fed Me,
    Thirsty and you gave Me to drink,
    Naked and you clothed Me,
    Without shelter and you took Me in,
    Sick and in prison and you visited Me,
    I was bored and you talked politics with me, then I died of boredom and you buried me.”*
    *(I must have missed that memo …)

  • J

    “…that Fred/Slacktivist is a progressive evangelical Christian who is pro gay rights, pro choice, pro evolution, anti imperialist, etc. Does he have your respect?
    Well then yes, I suppose so.
    “What would it take for you to acknowledge that we progressive people of faith are, more often than not, on your side?”
    It’s hard to take much comfort in the fact that you’re on my side when, when, if you put progressive faithsters and secular people together, you have then added up about 10% of humanity. The rest of the sheeple are still out there pursuing their mad experiments in faith-based everything.

  • Spherical Time

    If this discussion is to continue, may I recommend
    http://www.iidb.org/vbb/index.php?
    as a place to go to argue about these things. Atheist, Christian or any other theist is welcome to join, and you can continue this conversation outside of the confines of slacktivist’s comments.

  • NancyP

    I feel sorry for Fred/Slack – only on page 196 of book one of a zillion.

  • Skyknight

    {tries a different tactic to make sense of LaHaye-style visitation}
    If LaHaye really did do visitation in the not-quite-there sense of Barnes’s work, then how did the other visitation pastors explain his not being rattled? I’m getting the impression that in any church/seminary/college/etc., there are going to be several visitors at a time. I don’t think they’re ALL going to be remiss in their duties.

  • The Old Maid

    Well, one of the unique qualities of L.B. is that its characters tend to be rich. Very rich. Their community is rather homogenous; it doesn’t pick up new “flavors” until persecution forces the assorted believers to meet under one roof, so to speak. (If you have money, you don’t have to associate with those who disagree with you; you can build your own church, your own school, your own gated community.)
    This is not to say that rich people don’t get sick. It just means that the experience can be very different for the poor. The odds are that Bruce Barnes has not been in the business long enough to meet someone who is too poor to pay for his medicine and/or too old to fight off her illness. The odds are that his congregation doesn’t have to worry about a high child mortality rate or the life circumstances that tend to make people very sick (homelessness, unsafe housing, lead paint, lead pipes, drive-bys). Bruce Barnes *could* meet such people, but that would require him to visit people in the hospital who are not on his list. Given that his community is so wealthy, it’s possible that the only real crisis he would face in his short years is a case of domestic violence (and L.B. and rapturism insist that “true Christians” don’t do that).
    Rapturists aren’t insular by definition, any more than any other group would be. However there are elements in their belief system that make it easier to “circle the wagons” and protect “us” from the “them.”
    Two or three nights serving in a homeless shelter should convince someone that there’s more to the job than smiling at people and reading to them. Yes, a lot of people appreciate this. But if they need more, they’ll know if you don’t have the “more” to give them.

  • Skyknight

    “Well, one of the unique qualities of L.B. is that its characters tend to be rich. *Very* rich.”
    …? I’m suddenly reminded of “Atlas Shrugged”…

  • The Old Maid

    *shrug* Haven’t read A.S. so am missing the reference.
    As I was doing my research all the critics I encountered commented on the wealth of L.B.’s protagonists. Traditional rapture fiction portrays the protagonists as being … well, not “simple,” but uncomplicated, unsullied, home-and-hearth types, often out of step with the wider world. (Rural and small-town settings were common. Families ate supper together, children were honored to inherit the family farm or grocer’s store, that sort of setting.) The villains caught them, put them on trial, and stared slack-jawed at the pure, sincere testimony of the protagonists. The idea was to make plain that such powerful testimony could only come from God, as the clay vessels who spoke those words lacked the seminary/legal training to come up with the rebuttals on their own.
    L.B. is one of the very few rapturist novels (and the only one in modern times) to portray the protagonists as sophisticated, white-collar, jet-setting models of worldly success and power. I think Fred touched on this when he called Rayford “Narcissus” and the one “Everybody Loves.” How do rich people respond to isolation, persecution, or life-and-death crises? Probably not the way that Grandma Farmwife Rapturist would have done. So it is not that surprising that Bruce Barnes has little comprehension of human suffering; in his community, he rarely sees any. It also should not be surprising that his response to the current crisis is to continue avoiding human suffering by building bunkers (“Bat Caves,” I call them, which by definition takes a lot of money). What goes unanswered is the question of how the characters would cope if deprived of those tools.

  • Skyknight

    The heroes (heroes if you’re a Rand-type Objectivist, anyway) of “Atlas Shrugged” are ALSO rich. Although in this case, they’re arch-industrialists.
    {sigh} Maybe it would help if we knew WHERE LaHaye himself did visitation. I suppose we first need to learn where he got his theological training, though.

  • Hephaestos

    Good op-ed on LB here, for anyone interested.
    http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_346.shtml

  • Skyknight

    “Scratch LaHaye and you’ll find an honest-to-god surviving John Bircher. In the 1960s when LaHaye was a young up-and-coming Baptist preacher fresh out of Bob Jones University, he lectured on behalf of Republican Robert Welch’s John Birch Society. We are talking about a man who believed Dwight Eisenhower was an agent of the Communist Party taking orders from his brother, Milt Eisenhower. Along the way LaHaye extended his paranoid list of villains to include secular humanists who “are Satan’s agents hiding behind the Constitution.” And the only way to destroy them is to destroy their cover.”
    LaHaye? A Birchite? Maybe we need to spread THIS news around…
    So he would have performed visitation while at Bob Jones, hm? I know about the racism problem there, but…is it also classist?
    {quiet chuckle} So…anyone interested in sneaking copies of the writings of St. Julian of Norwich (an apocatastasist) into the next few shipping bundles of Left Behind?

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I found that op-ed rather disturbing, actually, from a journalistic standpoint. Even in an opinion piece, it seems somewhat dishonest to interview someone, quote them, and then say, “Despite his claims to the contrary, he believes…” or “Though he publically repudiates them, he privately enjoys…” (Paraphrases, of course.) It went beyond mere bias; it was like the author was claiming to read his sources’ minds and know what it was they weren’t telling him in the interview. The piece lost some credibility with me for that.
    But it did raise some worthwhile points about the effects these books have on the political arena.

  • The Old Maid

    A few follow-ups before this poor dead horse can rest in peace.
    Something in this post is strangely familiar, in a compare-and-contrast sort of way.
    “I started noticing something. When the doctors said someone was going to die, they did. When they said 10 percent chance of survival, about 9 out of 10 died. The odds ran pretty much as predicted by the doctors. I mean, is this praying doing ANYTHING?”
    That’s the RLP quoted in this week’s post.
    “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.”
    That’s Chloe from a few Fred-posts ago. (Is that a word?)
    They’re hardly in the same life-situation. (What would Chloe pray for? Her family is healthy, wealthy, and outwardly respectable. Chloe could have been simply praying for teenage needs and wants, but as she ages I expect she’d pray for a happy family. Happiness isn’t like air; I remember some philosopher commented that happiness must be a luxury since most people live out their lives without it. I’m not needling Chloe, just asking what she used to talk to God about, back when she was talking to him. I don’t think we were given any indications.)
    But the writers of L.B. seem to regard the RLP and Chloe in the same light. Correct me if I’m misunderstanding this, but doesn’t it sound like Chloe, not Bruce Barnes, is the novels’ best attempt to portray a character who actually wrestles with faith? And why is wrestling with faith considered so awful?

  • TheRequisiteJew

    RE: “God moves in mysterious ways”.
    When my little baby cousin was dying in the hospital after two short years on this earth, I rationalized it this way: When I was little, my mam spanked me if I was hit someone. It was painful and I didn’t understand why. Later I realized it was her way of teaching me that inflicting pain was wrong. So maybe when we get to heaven after our 12 month or less forgivness, G-d will explain it to us. Maybe it’s His way of telling us to appreciate life now, and make life good, because people suffer and die.
    But then again, we’re STILL waiting for G-d to realize His people (mostly) got it the first time around and further persecution has been unnecessary.
    Oh, and, hello all, and thank you for the wonderful blog, Fred.

  • boymedexam

    Lovely, I must say, there is not so much themes, which deserve a comment. This one is realy needful http://boymedexams.ifrance.com/

  • Andrew

    “When I meet ONE evangelical that supports gay rights, a woman’s right to chose, contraception, and stem cell research, then I’ll consider revising my estimation of them. When I meet one evangelical who doesn’t see the theory of evolution as a dirty communist plot, then maybe I’ll re-think things. When I meet ONE evangelical who ISN’T a diehard cheerleader and/or all-purpose apologist for the use of American armed force in the world, then they’ll have earned my respect. ”
    I consider myself an Evangelical Christian. I think Evolution and Creation can and do intersect, and I support all of those things, (except abortion) and I hate everything the American army represents. How’s that?

  • none

    I just found this and am reading rapidly, but had to stop here to comment. I hated CPE. I call it the Kobayashi Maru. You’d better know that someone has looked failure like that in the face before you place her in a church. And i did. A summer on the geriatric psych ward.
    I’ll say more when i catch up, but thank you for this blog!

  • Alger

    Thanks Fred.
    When I read this chapter in the book, I was repelled by the shallowness of Bruce’s new-found faith but passed it by.

     When I read it here, within this context,  I am so angry with the authors and their moral ignorance that I cry.

    You are right, this is important.

  • Seraph4377

    Pity that all the old comments have been lost.  The only thing that kept the story of Jenny from breaking my heart completely was how one of the commenters explained that there’s always someone – a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend – to pick Jenny’s needlepoint up off the floor and finish it. 

  • JonathanPelikan

    Well, now your comment is that comment.

    Archive diving~ Ah, the good old days when we said ‘I’ve never read anything worse in my entire life’ and then, next week, ‘I’ve never read anything worse in my entire life…’ Nowadays we all know better.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Heh. I remember when I read through all this when I was still posting on the Typepad Slacktivist, and I remember being agog at all the stuff in LB that had leaked out of my head from when I’d read the series before.

  • Ibis3

    “As the door shut, the last thing I saw was the unfinished needlepoint lying on the floor.”

    I find that story almost as unbearably poignant as RLP, because I am
    the kid on the other end. My mother died of breast cancer when I was 7,
    and I still have (and cherish) the last item she was working on before
    she died, a crewel-work Christmas tree.

    RLP may not know the corollary to this story that every woman knows:
    there’s always someone who will finish the item. In my case, it was my
    mother’s best friend, Audrey, who took the needlework home and finished
    it after my mother’s death. She gave it to my father, who put it up as
    part of our Christmas decorations every year and later gave it to me
    when I was an adult.

    Posted by:
    Mnemosyne

    Courtesy of the Wayback Machine


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