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L.B.: Dogs and cats sleeping together

Left Behind, pg. 198

Before making his full sales pitch for salvation to Rayford and Chloe, Bruce Barnes first has to explain the authors' contention that such salvation is still possible for those left behind in the post-rapture world. This is, of course, central to the premise of the whole series, the protagonists of which are the "Tribulation Force," a kind of guerrilla army consisting entirely of post-rapture Christians:

Bruce looked Chloe in the eyes. "There is no doubt in my mind that we have witnessed the Rapture. My biggest fear, once I realized the truth, was that there was no more hope for me. I had missed it, I had been a phony, I had set up my own brand of Christianity that may have made for a life of freedom but had cost me my soul. …

Not all premillennial dispensationalists believe that those left behind will be given a second chance to become Christians. This point, like most of the esoterica of this weird prophecy-obsessed subculture, is hotly debated by opposing factions. LaHaye and Jenkins thus take a brief break from the triumphalism over non-PMD Christians to engage in some intramural triumphalism over their opponents within PMD-world. Bruce continues as their mouthpiece:

"I had heard people say that when the church was raptured, God's Spirit would be gone from the earth. The logic was that when Jesus went to heaven after his resurrection, the Holy Spirit that God gave to the church was embodied in believers. So when they were taken, the Spirit would be gone, and there would be no more hope for anyone left. You can't know the relief when Pastor's tape showed me otherwise."

This idea of the Holy Spirit remaining present and active during the tribulation may help to explain what we didn't read about in the beginning of this chapter.

Rayford and Chloe easily drove from their suburban home to the church with no heightened concern for their safety. They weren't worried about roving, anarchic gangs of hoodlums. They didn't see abandoned cars set ablaze or the telltale smashed hydrant spouting a plume of water into the air (TV shorthand for "chaos has broken loose").

The Steele's walked into the church unchecked and unimpeded. Bruce Barnes did not greet them with suspicion, gun in hand, from behind a door locked against the godless degenerate hordes roaming the streets and burning the symbols of the God they despise.

Those are the sorts of things that our friends on the religious right have been predicting for years as the inevitable consequence of, say, the teaching of evolution in high school science classes, or the failure to erect huge monuments to the Ten Commandments in our courthouses, or legalized same-sex marriage, or even a John Kerry victory. All these things we've been told at one time or another would lead to chaos, anarchy, dogs and cats sleeping together, mass hysteria.

There's a kind of logic to such predictions. The members of the religious right fervently believe that, in Dostoevsky's phrase, "Without God, all is permissible." Or, to use the phrase Glenn Tinder used in his provocative Atlantic Monthly essay, they believe we cannot be good without God.

From such a perspecitve, a godless society (i.e., a society that fails to acknowledge its explicit submission to the particulars of our sectarian notions of God) will inevitably be a lawless society.

This explains the fervor and the sense of high-stakes desperation underlying so much of the religious right's rhetoric over so called culture-war issues. Civilization itself is at stake. If you really believe — or if the logic of your argument demands that you pretend to yourself that you really believe — that lawlessness, anarchy, raping and pillaging are only kept at bay by prayer in school then you will fight for prayer in school as though the fate of the nation depends on it. This is, in fact, exactly the "concern for America" that LaHaye's wife, Beverly, repeatedly expresses through her group Concerned Women for America.

One has to wonder, then, why such lawlessness hasn't erupted here in Wheaton or Carol Stream or wherever it is that Rayford Steele lives. America is no longer "one nation under God," no longer a "Christian nation." All the Christians are gone. There are no longer 50 or even five righteous men left in Sodom. Chaos should be erupting. It should no longer be safe to drive across town, or to keep the church doors unlocked.

I realize we're only four days into the Tribulation at this point in the book, but shouldn't we already being seeing some signs of the imminent lawlessness that, the religious right keeps telling us, may be just one Janet Jackson nipple-flash away from destroying us all?

  • Bugmaster

    Should we worship God because God is good, or are things good just because God says so?
    According to the almost exact words of Christians I’ve talked to, the second one.
    I don’t know… when you ask an average Christian, “would you kill me if God ordered you to ?”, they usually reply, “no”, or “God would never order such a thing”. Even the most hardcore ones hesitate a bit before saying, “yes”. As far as I can tell, most Christians live in denial of their own good ethics.

  • Axiomatic

    But there’s precedent for God telling people to kill. I mean, hello Abraham, I’d sure like to taste your son’s blood, would you mind sacrificing him to me?

  • Ray

    Given that most Christians are happy enough with wars and the death penalty, I find it hard to believe they’d argue with a finger pointing from heaven saying “Kill this guy!”
    And even if you’re more of a pacifist, if you think that God is ultimately good, and that if he appears to tolerate evil (earthquakes, disease, murderers, etc) then it must be because it serves a higher purpose, how do you argue with a God that says “My higher purpose requires that you kill this guy! I created you. I created the universe! Are you so proud that you think your understanding is greater than mine?”

  • Bugmaster

    Yes, there’s defnitely precedent for God ordering people to kill people — and to wipe out entire nations. A true Christian with a strong, shining, unyielding faith would not hesitate even a millisecond to do God’s will, murderous or not. However, I think that most modern Christians are not true Christians. They pay lip service to God, but they ultimately make their own moral decisions — based on common sense and basic human compassion — and rationalize them if they seem to contradict God’s will (“it must be the Devil tricking me”, or “God is testing me”, or something). This is a very good thing for all of us.

  • pharoute

    “A true Christian with a strong, shining, unyielding faith would not hesitate even a millisecond to do God’s will, murderous or not. However, I think that most modern Christians are not true Christians.”
    Remarkable Bugmaster, what you are terming “true Christians” I would argue are nowhere even close to “true” Christianity. Modern non-murderous Christians are a bit closer but have also incorporated way too many “God’s on my side so it’s cool if I take your oil/gold/crops.” beliefs as coming from Jesus.

  • J

    It was in the context of good ol’ Judges 21:11-12 that I first–and several times thereafter again–heard Christians saying that, whatever god says is good, is good:
    feel
    “So the assembly sent twelve thousand of the valiant there and commanded them, saying, Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, including women and children. And this is the thing that you shall do: Every male and every woman who has lain with a male you shall utterly destroy. And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, who had not known men by lying with a male; and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which was in the land of Canaan.”
    Whenever I’m tempted to believe in God, I just re-read my Bible and find my atheism confirmed.

  • Bugmaster

    “A true Christian with a strong, shining, unyielding faith would not hesitate even a millisecond to do God’s will, murderous or not. However, I think that most modern Christians are not true Christians.”
    Remarkable Bugmaster, what you are terming “true Christians” I would argue are nowhere even close to “true” Christianity.
    Well, it all depends on what you mean by “faith”, I suppose. Christians repeatedly tell me that faith (at least, faith in Jesus) is total, unmarred, undeniable trust; it is also boundless love. Jesus certainly does seem to reaffirm this in the New Testament; at some point, he mentions that your love for your famlily should be as hatred compared to your love for the Lord.
    A person who has such an absolute level of devotion to the Lord will do whatever the Lord says, and there will be no higher pleasure for him other than to execute the Lord’s will. However, I think that most modern Christians only pay lip service to the Bible; when they say, “I believe in Jesus”, what they mean is, “I’m trying to be a good person”, not “I submit myself completely to the will of my deity”. Again, this is a very good thing for all of us, because when you have people who submit themselves wholly to anything, you get North Korea or Iran.

  • Skyknight

    This element about unalloyed submission leading to North Korea et al. brings up an interesting thought. If what God desires is naught but unwavering devotion…
    …then to what end did he give us free will? Or was it Satan’s invention? (I’d think of another word if I could; using “invention” makes it sound like God doesn’t have free will, either)

  • aunursa

    I don’t know… when you ask an average Christian, “would you kill me if God ordered you to ?”, they usually reply, “no”, or “God would never order such a thing”.
    I was asked once what I would do if God told me to buy food to give to a poor person during the Jewish Sabbath. I responded that if God needed someone to buy food for a poor person on Shabbat, He would ask a Gentile, not a Jew. Alternately, if there were no Gentiles available, He would ask me on Friday or Sunday.

  • none

    “The world without the Christians will turn into 28-days-later.”
    Actually, more like John Waters’ Pink Flamingoes mixed with Fellini’s Satyricon.

  • Ken

    This explains the fervor and the sense of high-stakes desperation underlying so much of the religious right’s rhetoric over so called culture-war issues. Civilization itself is at stake.
    I think it was Totem to Temple that pointed out years ago another reason for such “high-stakes desperation”. It has to do with Theonomy/Christian Reconstructionism — the idea that Christians have a duty to take over the country and establish a Theocracy. (I refer to them as “The Handmaid’s Tale as How-to Manual Boys”.) And it all has to do with their End-of-the-World choreography.
    Theonomists (aka Christian Reconstructionists) were originally Post-Mil; their interpretation was that once Christians had sufficiently Christianized the world (including politically) and brought about The Millenium, Christ would return. (And not before.) Their “takeover plan” called for gradually winning hearts and minds by conversion over several generations; once Theonomist Christians became a large majority — their theocratic ideas accepted — then they would voluntarily establish a theocracy. Then Christ would return Post-Mil, and claim His now-Christianized world. Actually somewhat optimistic; Christians would improve the world and society, and eventually hand it over directly to Christ after the Millenium.
    Starting in the 1970s, you started seeing Theonomist ideas (“Taking Back America and Building a Christian Nation”) jumping over to Pre-Trib/Pre-Mil Dispensationalists. Whereas the original Post-Mil Theonomists figured on a long, gradual preparation period, the new Pre-Trib Theonomists went for the Theocratic Takeover as an opening move instead of an endgame. (After all, Christ Is Coming Tomorrow At The Latest!) With no time to do the hearts-and-minds prep to establish a voluntary theocratic consensus, they went to the final stage — TAKEOVER NOW! Very pessimistic, as befits Pre-Trib Dispensationalists; things will get worse unless we Take Over and Start Cleansing.
    This became a driving force behind what’s now commonly called The Christian Right. Never mind the basic paradox in Pre-Trib Theonomy: If The End is Tomorrow, what does it matter if you establish a Christian Theocracy (or not) today? (As a favorite Pre-Trib pessimistic expression puts it, “It’s All Gonna Burn.”)

  • Jesurgislac

    Aunursa: Alternately, if there were no Gentiles available, He would ask me on Friday or Sunday.
    Possibly God is in different timezone, and where He is it is Friday or Sunday? ;-)

  • aunursa

    Touche. If that were the case, then He would feed the hungry.

  • ako

    Perhaps this is why God made atheists? So there’s always someone around who doesn’t have to worry about this kind of thing? ;-)

  • Jesurgislac

    Orthodox and Conservative Jewish synagogues typically employ at least one Gentile to do the work that has to be done every day, since no Jew can do it. One of the things I absolutely like about Judaism is the public acknowledgement that the religious values only apply to believers – so unlike the evangelical Christian mindset.
    (Though I’m also reminded of the middle-to-upper class notion in Victorian times that Sunday was a “day of rest” – but the servants should still do a full day’s work.)

  • wintermute

    Now, that’s nit true, Jesu. The servants would get the afternoon off, every second (or maybe fourth) Sunday.

  • Jeff

    Orthodox and Conservative Jewish synagogues typically employ at least one Gentile to do the work that has to be done every day, since no Jew can do it.
    The name for that person, as I learned it anyway, was shabbos goy. Literally, a non-Jew hired for the express purpose of working from Friday night to Saturday night.
    Interesting little “mini-Shabbot” last night on The Nine. They did the prayers for the lighting of the candles, and blessing the wine and the bread, in Hebrew with no translation. (Not that likely since the family is Conservative or Reform — most do Hebrew and English.)


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