L.B.: Martyr envy

Or, Tribulation is a force that gives us meaning.

Left Behind, pp. 418-421

Meanwhile, in the suburbs outside of Chicago, a warm, domestic scene with the remaining members of the Steele family. Newly converted Chloe Steele voraciously reads in her dear departed mother’s Bible and her father, immensely pleased, sits watching her. But not at all in a creepy way:

Rayford Steele was a happy as he had been since his own decision to receive Christ. To see Chloe smiling, to see her hungry to read Irene’s Bible, to be able to pray with her and talk about everything together was more than he had dreamed of. “One thing we need to do,” he said, “is to get you your own Bible. You’re going to wear that one out.”

“I want to join that core group of yours,” she said. “I want to get all that stuff from Bruce firsthand.”

Unlike her father, Chloe is at least able to stay awake while reading the Bible. We’re not told what it is, specifically, that she’s reading. Revelation, one assumes, and parts of Daniel but not the other parts. And little snippets from Ezekiel and Zechariah, the odd-numbered verses of Matthew 24, every third word in John’s second and third epistles, and carefully redacted chapter fragments from 1 & 2 Thessalonians. For premillennial dispensationalists, the rest is just padding that doesn’t apply to our “dispensation.”

The PMD prophecy enthusiasts really would “wear out” a Bible if they tried to read one the way they claim it should be read. All that tearing out and reshuffling and re-editing on the fly would be tough on the binding. It’s not really possible to pick up the physical book and read it this way. Even a Scofield Reference Bible, with its footnotes indicating all the arbitrary cross-references, would exceed the capacity of a ten-fingered reader to keep track of all the various and disparate passages it tries to stitch together as an allegedly single, secret narrative.

This is why the authors can tell us about Chloe hungrily reading the Bible, but they can’t get more specific. It’s also why Chloe herself realizes that she’ll never be able to understand the End Times Checklist simply from reading the Bible on her own — she needs Bruce’s help to read it with the PMD decoder ring.

The telling word here is “firsthand.” Bruce’s interpretive overlay — “all this stuff” — is the “firsthand,” primary source. The Bible is secondary at best.

It’s also strange here that Irene’s Bible seems to be regarded only as just another Bible. Here is an artifact of the wife and mother they have lost. It is a thing she treasured, that she held every day. Its margins are filled with notes in her own handwriting. My mother’s Bible is not like any of the other Bibles, or any of the other books, I own. it is not merely a sacred text, but a sacred edition. It’s impossible for me to read that volume without thinking of the hours my mother spent with it, of the prayers she prayed for me during the years she spent in those pages. To read that Bible is to have the sense, both sad and comforting, that I am somehow reading it with her.

So it’s just alien-seeming that Rayford and Chloe seem to be treating Irene’s Bible as indistinguishable from some Gideon edition pinched from a hotel room. It’s alien-seeming, too, that they can sit together in this house and not be reminded, constantly, of Irene and Raymie. Yet there’s no sense here of their presence or their absence.

I can’t help but think of John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire when reading these scenes, and of the sadness that pervades that book due to the death of mother and poor Egg.1 The authors of Left Behind seem to think they’ve already dealt with that sadness, that this sorrow and loss could be dealt with in a scene or two, allowing their characters and their checklist plot to move forward without ever looking back. There’s never the sense here that sadness and loss linger. In Left Behind, sorrow doesn’t float.

“The only part that bothers me,” Chloe says as she wraps up her vague Bible study, “is that it sounds like things are going to get worse.”

That’s a major theme of LaHaye’s prophecy scheme: “Things are going to get worse.” This is the trajectory here in history — so anyone who says different, or who tries to make things different, is likely evil. And it’s even more the trajectory of the post-history “tribulation” period in which Chloe finds herself.

Late in the afternoon they dropped in on Bruce, who confirmed Chloe’s view. “I’m thrilled to welcome you into the family,” he said, “but you’re right. God’s people are in for dark days. Everybody is. I’ve been thinking and praying about what we’re supposed to do as a church between now and the Glorious Appearing.”

The “Glorious Appearing” is what LaHaye calls the Second Coming of Jesus. He can’t call it that because, in his way of seeing things, it’s really the third coming, with the Rapture being the second. PMDs have Jesus returning and re-returning to Earth so often that it’d make sense for him to spring for the EZ-Pass.

A pastor thinking about “what we’re supposed to do as a church” might not seem unusual, but for LaHaye-types it is. From their perspective, “what we’re supposed to do as a church” right now is wait for the Rapture, which could occur at any moment.

It could even happen … riiiiiight … now!

(Checks watch. Looks around.)

No? OK, maybe … wait for it … now!

Hmm, nope. OK, let’s try again. …

That pretty much is the PMD notion of the church’s business agenda between Christ’s ascension and the (first) second coming. There’s plenty, of course, that the church and its members shouldn’t be doing — dancing, drinking, sneaking peaks at Playboy like the pre-conversion Bruce Barnes did. As their truncated version of James 1:27 reads, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: … [snip] … to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” The only thing they have to do besides sit around and wait for Jesus to come back is evangelism — which as far as they can figure means recruiting others to also, um, sit around and wait.2 Not terribly inspiring.

Bruce Barnes, however, knows that the second coming 2.1 won’t be happening at any second. He has some time to kill before the (second) second coming, so he has to figure out something for his flock to be doing for the next seven years. At least for those few who manage to live that long.

Chloe wanted to know all about that, so Bruce showed her from the Bible why he believed Christ would appear in seven years, at the end of the Tribulation. “Most Christians will be martyred or die from war, famine, plagues or earthquakes,” he said.

Chloe smiled. “This isn’t funny,” she said, “but maybe I should have thought of that before I signed on. You’re going to have trouble convincing people to join the cause with that in your sign-up brochure.”

Bruce grimaced. “Yes, but the alternative is worse. We all missed out the first time around. We could be in heaven right now if we’d listened to our loved ones. Dying a horrible death during this period is not my preference, but I’d sure rather do it this way than while I was still lost. Everyone else is in danger of death, too. The only difference is, we have one more way to die than they do.”

“As martyrs.”

“Right.”

Ooooh, martyrs! How exciting!

And here we come to the vicarious appeal of these books for American evangelicals. The perilous Tribulation that Bruce Barnes describes is frightening, yes, but at least it’s not as dull as the uninspiring sit-around-and-wait, do-nothing existence they’ve come to believe is their lot in life here in history.

Here in Left Behind they can reimagine the Christian life as an exciting adventure. It’s similar to the speakers we had on youth group retreats back in high school. They would tell these thrilling stories of Christians who were persecuted for their faith — first century believers or 20th-century Christians in China or behind the Iron Curtain. The stories would reach a crescendo where the persecuted faithful were forced to choose between denying their faith and certain death. “What would you do?” the speakers would ask. And then, with every head bowed and every eye closed, we were given the opportunity to come forward yet again to re-re-dedicate our lives to Christ.3

I don’t know whether those speakers realized the secret envy we had when listening to those stories. The lives of those martyrs seemed so much more exciting and meaningful than our own did. Plus there was something weirdly appealing about a one-time, one-question, pass-fail test in place of the tedious day-after-day. In our imaginations, at least, the martyr’s egress sounded almost easier than the pilgrim’s progress (as somebody once said, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it.) We imagined that, like the grandmother in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” we could’ve been good kids if it had been somebody there to shoot us every minute of our lives.

This is something Christopher Hedges captures in his book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning:4

The eruption of conflict instantly reduces the headache and trivia of daily life. The communal march against an enemy generates a warm, unfamiliar bond with our neighbors, our community, our nation, wiping out unsettling undercurrents of alienation and dislocation. War, in times of malaise and desperation, is a potent distraction. …

War makes the world understandable, a black and white tableau of them and us. It suspends thought, especially self-critical thought. All bow before the supreme effort. We are one. Most of us willingly accept war as long as we can fold it into a belief system that paints the ensuing suffering as necessary for a higher good, for human beings seek not only happiness but also meaning. And tragically war is sometimes the most powerful way in human society to achieve meaning.

Which is quite similar to one of my favorite passages from Walker Percy’s The Last Gentleman:

What happens to a man to whom all things seem possible and every course of action open? Nothing of course. Except war. If a man lives in the sphere of the possible and waits for something to happen, what he is waiting for is war — or the end of the world.

The intended readers of Left Behind are waiting for the end of the world. Or for war. Either one would do. Either one would seem more meaningful than the headache and trivia of daily life that constitutes what they now think of as “discipleship.” And Left Behind lets them experience both, at least vicariously.

That sense of excitement, of how much more thrilling this would all be, can be seen in the next paragraph:

Rayford sat listening, aware of how his world had changed in such a short time. It had not been that long ago that he had been a respected pilot at the top of his profession, living a phony life, a shell of a man. Now here he was, talking secretly in the office of a local church with his daughter and a young pastor, trying to determine how they would survive seven years of tribulation following the Rapture of the church.5

The “phony … shell of a man” refers to Steele’s life before his conversion, but it’s hard not to think of the authors and their readers relating to that as a description of their own mundane lives when contrasted with the thrilling adventure of life as God’s guerrillas during the Tribulation.

Bruce tells the Steeles about a new core group he has decided to form (not to be confused with the original core group, of which Rayford is already a member):

“I’ve also been thinking about a smaller group within the core. I’m looking for people of unusual intelligence and courage. I don’t mean to disparage the sincerity of others in the church, especially those on the leadership team. But some of them are timid, some old, many infirm. I’ve been praying about sort of an inner circle of people who want to do more than just survive.”

Here they are, just nine days after the Rapture has caused them to start rebuilding the church from scratch, and already they’ve begun creating hierarchies and inner circles. Give them another week and they’ll break out the robes and funny hats.

“… It’s one thing to hide in here, studying, figuring out what’s going on so we can keep from being deceived. … But doesn’t part of you want to jump into the battle?”

Rayford was intrigued but not sure. Chloe was more eager. “A cause,” she said. “Something not just to die for but to live for.”

“Yes!”

“A group, a team, a force,” Chloe said.

“You’ve got it. A force.”

Chloe’s eyes were bright with interest. Rayford loved her youth and her eagerness to commit to a cause that to her was only hours old. “And what is it you call this period?” she asked.

“The Tribulation,” Bruce said.

“So your little group inside the group, a sort of Green Berets, would be your Tribulation force.”

“Tribulation Force,” Bruce said, looking at Rayford and rising to scribble it on his flip chart. “I like it.”

The authors’ only regret about this passage was that they couldn’t get Tyndale House to bind in pre-order cards for Left Behind II: Tribulation Force right here on this page.

Once you get beyond the overweening self-congratulation and general awfulness of that passage (take your time, I had to go out and run some errands and then come back to it), it’s interesting to note that Bruce and Chloe, in searching for “something not just to die for but to live for” settle on “a group, a team, a force” and not a cause, a purpose, a mission. Bruce attempts to imagine a cause or a mission that this “force” would be fighting for, but the best he can manage is to imagine what it would be fighting against:

“When it becomes obvious who the Antichrist is, the false prophet, the evil, counterfeit religion, we’ll have to oppose them, speak out against them.”

So again they aren’t for Christ, they’re anti-Antichrist, which again is far from the same thing. The former really could be “something to live for.” The latter might be something to die for, but more likely is merely something to kill for. That tends to be the problem when you define yourself in terms of what you’re against instead of what you’re for. That also tends to be the problem, as Hedges notes,6 with relying on war as your source for meaning.

The authors, fortunately, are only tangentially interested in giving readers something to kill for. Their main interest is just in supplying enough of the tantalizing possibility of such vicarious excitement that readers will go out to buy the sequel. And what was that sequel called again? Oh, right:

“You still want to be part of the Tribulation Force?”

Rayford nodded and smiled at his daughter’s firm reply. “I wouldn’t miss it.”

- – - – - – - – - – - –

1 So much so that I’ve come to picture a young Seth Green as Raymie. Jodie Foster as Chloe wouldn’t work, but Jodie as meta-Chloe would be perfect.

2 And, yes, thereby also to escape Hell. If what you’re being saved to seems pointless then what you’re being saved from has to be especially vivid. My favorite picture of Hell is the gray, isolating London of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Lewis’ vision of Hell is difficult to distinguish from life in the church as envisioned by the PMD crowd.

3 Eventually I started keeping track of the number of times I had done this. It seemed absurd to me and I couldn’t help but think it would look the same to God. So I decided that I was done with that. No more re-re-re-dedications. This was considered bad form, since the pattern for these speakers was first to invite the unsaved to get saved, then to invite the already saved to re-dedicate themselves, then to continue gradually widening the invitation until everyone had left their seats and gathered down front. I was never fully able to convince my youth pastor that, for me, not going forward was more important, more meaningful, than doing so for the umpteenth time. He was deeply worried about me every time we had one of those altar calls and I wound up being one of only two people who didn’t go forward. (I never asked, and so never learned, what her story was.)

4 Thank you, Amanda, for getting me this. If book recommendations come on a scale from one to 10, consider this an 11: War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

5 I’ve written before about one of my favorite movie plot formulas — the Innocent Man Embroiled in an International Scheme. Part of the appeal of that formula is something similar to what Hedges and Percy describe — crisis shatters, and thus enlivens and gives meaning to, the mundane. That paragraph about Rayford presents what is probably the most inept and least appealing variation of this formula that I’ve ever seen.

6 Seriously, go read War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

  • Dorothy

    er, that’s by-product

  • Izzy

    Dorothy–Heh. My boyfriend keeps quoting some study where women who *think* they’ll feel pain in childbirth actually feel more than women who don’t. I love the guy, and there probably is something to psychosomatic suggestion, but–hah. I ever squirt out kids, I’m going to be drugged to the eyeballs.

  • http://jesurgislac.wordpress.com Jesurgislac

    I’ve never been pregnant/had a baby, but FWIW, two women who both had relatively “good” times in childbirth and who did not use medical painkillers told me that yes, it hurts, but that it feels different from other pain because they were aware that the pain wasn’t a signal that something was going wrong but a process that they were undergoing which they understood, and which they’d been taught how to “manage” – breathing process, etc. Neither of them had anything go disastrously wrong, both had healthy babies, and both were clearly feeling quite euphoric about it afterwards. (Which I suspect is another factor: women who go through childbirth looking forward to having a baby, which in pro-choice cultures is more common than not, are probably more capable of dealing with the pain anyway.)
    My sister’s boyfriend/nephew’s father told me that he had never known my sister could swear like that when, after 8 hours in labor, a passing doctor instructed her to lie down so that he could examine her: my sister, who had been told that labor would go faster/feel more comfortable if she stayed on her feet, told him eloquently that she wasn’t going to lie down for anyone. My sister claims to have no recollection of this.

  • Glenda

    Ian: Hey now, MikhailBorg, Strider was a working stiff too.
    IIRC, Aragorn was born of nobility but was living the ranger life at least partly to avoid his obligation to reclaim the throne.
    Then again, he may have been waiting until the time was right.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    In the books, Aragorn was ‘waiting until the time was right’ and using the time to gain personal knowledge of the peoples and lands of Middle-Earth and expertise in warfare.
    In the movies it was more of the whole “Throne? I’m not up to that yet, if ever!” kind of thing.

  • Karen

    Jesu, that your sister forgot what she said during childbirth doesn’t surprise me in the least. I had two kids using conventional drugs, was awake the whole time, and I have extremely distorted memories of the whole thing.
    On that subject, I think that simply being in control of the situation and knowing what to expect makes a big difference in pain management. This is one area where one size decidedly does NOT fit all. The human pain response varies widely and unpredictably, and even one person’s response to two different painful events can be unpredictable. No one should ever presume that her own pain response is in any way typical of others.

  • Glenda

    Thanks for the clarification, MikhailBorg. That makes a lot of sense.
    I’ve done both, but I saw the movies more recently than I read the books. Maybe I need to put them back on the pile.

  • Lauren

    I’m not talking about trashing the book — I loved it. But I’d love to get others reactions to it, especially the end. I’ve mailed Praline for her permission. Let’s see what she says.
    I’m not talking about trashing it either. Far from it! But I have got a couple of it-would-have-been-better-ifs.
    I think this means I will have to go out and buy a copy, since I returned mine to the library long ago. Darn.

  • rob

    “I wonder what the pre-Fall design would have been? Wider pelvis, etc? Much more compressible (or much smaller) babies?”
    Somebody once told me that simians have a much easier time giving birth than humans do, and that the shift to walking upright distorted the pelvis in such a way that birthing is now much more painful, and carries a much higher mortality rate. He concluded this passage therefore implied that humans did not yet walk upright before the fall.

  • Froborr

    He concluded this passage therefore implied that humans did not yet walk upright before the fall.
    That would admittedly eliminate two of our other biggest design flaws: our spines curve the wrong way, and our lungs drain in the wrong direction, for a creature that carries its torso at right angles to the ground.
    On the other hand, it’s also phenomenally stupid in ways I can’t find words to express.

  • Rob

    Here we are. Some evidence:
    Science: On the origins of the midwife
    “Childbirth is more hazardous in humans than in any other primate. And using the length of labour as a measure, it is more difficult for a human mother to give birth than it is for a nonhuman primate. Karen Rosenberg, an anthropologist at the University of Delaware, thinks this means that at no time in the history of Homo sapiens could mothers have given birth without help.
    Rosenberg reached her conclusions by taking a fresh look at how humans acquired their mechanism for giving birth (Year-book of Physical Anthropology, vol 35, p 89). The human birth mechanism is unique: a baby has to take a tortuous path through the birth canal, rotating its head halfway through. This is because the sacrum and other pelvic bones are arranged for upright posture, and because a fetus’s head is large compared with the rest of the body.
    In all nonhuman primates, the birth canal is basically a straight tube that throughout its length is wider from front to back (the anteroposterior direction) than it is from side to side. In chimpanzees and gorillas particularly, the baby’s head fits in the birth canal with room to spare.”

  • Rob

    “On the other hand, it’s also phenomenally stupid in ways I can’t find words to express.”
    How so?

  • Ken

    Oh, but with Real Natural Childbirth (TM), there is no pain! Pain in childbirth is a biproduct of our degenerate western culture. — Dorothy
    Carol Balizet should never have given up fiction writing…

  • http://jesurgislac.wordpress.com Jesurgislac

    It’s an argument on all fours.

  • Ken

    If Sam’s cutting grass with shears all day, while Frodo sits in a mansion, reads Elvish histories, and contemplates the whichness of why, I’d say there’s a class difference. — MikhailBorg
    Somebody told me once that just as Race is the Elephant in the Living Room of American culture, so Class is for British culture. And the fiction just reflects it.

  • Izzy

    I get the feeling, from my own experience and stories, that you have a hard time remembering most painful things: my experience with kidney stones remains extremely hazy, even before they gave me the morphine. (Though I do remember, very clearly, thinking “Hot damn! I can see why people get hooked on this stuff…”)
    My own attitude toward pain is that, regardless of the source and reason for it, I want to avoid as much as possible. For example, I got an IUD recently, which gives me hello-I-have-a-gut-wound menstrual cramps; I know this is normal, I know that nothing’s wrong, but I’m still going to take as much ibuprofen as necessary. Why suffer when modern chemistry provides an alternative?
    But then, I wouldn’t go through *pregnancy* given any choice in the matter–I’m hoping that, by the time I get around to reproducing, someone will have invented those nifty uterine replicators they have in the Miles Vorkosigan novels.

  • Rosina

    Somebody told me once that just as Race is the Elephant in the Living Room of American culture, so Class is for British culture. And the fiction just reflects it.
    No, British fiction frequently celebrates class differences, as do our living rooms (or lounges, or parlours, or sitting rooms, or salons, or drawing rooms). I thought the point was that you don’t talk about the elephant.

  • Ken

    Late in the afternoon they dropped in on Bruce, who confirmed Chloe’s view. “I’m thrilled to welcome you into the family,” he said, “but you’re right. God’s people are in for dark days. Everybody is. I’ve been thinking and praying about what we’re supposed to do as a church between now and the Glorious Appearing.” — LH&J
    The “Glorious Appearing” is what LaHaye calls the Second Coming of Jesus. — Slack
    I thought it was a plug for LB: Volume 12.
    After all, Volume 1 looks like it ends with a chapter-long plug for Volume 2.
    (Question, Slack, everybody? Do LH&J carry this through the never-ending series as a shtick? Working the title of the next volume into the ending scene/chapter of the previous volume? If so, it would at least be half-ass justified. A Cheap Trick, but still something in the style that showed a little storytelling continuity…)
    Incidentally, one of the various links from the Wikipedia article on the series (links which include this blog) goes to a Catholic Answers site where they point out something: In another LH&J collaboration (Are We Living in the End Times?), Jenkins misspells a couple words like the Italian location of World Prayer Day hosted by John Paul II (Assisi, Italy). He does spell it kinda phonetically (“Iccesse”), which leads CA to speculate as to whether he’s just transcribing/ghosting from LaHaye over the phone or by recordings. If true, it would explain a bit; over-the-phone collaboration is literally a game of “Telephone” and something WILL get garbled.

  • Ken

    …my experience with kidney stones remains extremely hazy, even before they gave me the morphine. (Though I do remember, very clearly, thinking “Hot damn! I can see why people get hooked on this stuff…”) — Izzy
    My experience with diverticulitis-turned-peritonitis isn’t as hazy, but I distinctly remember when they shot me the morphine in ER — “WOOOOOOOOOO!”
    Wonderful stuff, Concentrated Essence of Opium…

  • Froborr

    I’m hoping that, by the time I get around to reproducing, someone will have invented those nifty uterine replicators they have in the Miles Vorkosigan novels.
    Yeah, that’s probably a no. The subtle, complex effects of uterine environment on the developing fetus are only just beginning to be appreciated. Understanding is decades, if not centuries, away. Couple that with how incredibly *lousy* we are at duplicating biological mechanisms mechanically, and… yeah. I wouldn’t hold your breath. Unless you’re planning on not reproducing until you’re well into your fourth century, anyway.*
    Then again, I’m very pessimistic about the rate of scientific and technological development anyway. I tend to regard the contemporary pace of development as a temporary thing, the result of happening coincidentally to come up with a couple of major new theories (quantum mechanics and DNA being the big ones, leading directly to transistors and genetic engineering) at about the same time and therefore having a number of very young (and therefore fast-developing) technologies at once. Once those technologies mature in a generation or two, we’ll go back to the usual pace.
    *I tend to suspect that, no matter what we do, we’ll never extend our lives past a couple of hundred years. Even if we figured out how to turn off our auto-self-destruct, which may not be that far off, we’d still be subject to disease. Even if we completely cured every disease, bacteria and viruses simply mutate too fast; new diseases would emerge. Not to mention cancer, which is all a matter of probabilities. Any cell has a non-zero chance of becoming cancerous at any time. No matter how much we reduce the probability of a given cancerous growth killing you (which is all a so-called “cure” could do), it would still inevitably be likewise non-zero. The longer you live, the more cancerous cells you’ll get, and the more likely the dice will come up snake eyes.

  • Izzy

    Froborr: Yeah, I’m none too optimistic about it, really. I like kids enough, and am sympathetic enough with my boyfriend’s desire to have his own, that I’ve decided I’ll go through it if need be: I’ll hate every nauseated, bloated, going-to-the-bathroom-every-fifteen-seconds moment of it, but unless there’s a workable alternative, I’ll do it. (Once, and he’s going to get the diaper-changing responsibilities for quiiiite a while afterwards.) I just keep my fingers crossed for the long shot meanwhile.
    And I think you’re right about not extending our lives past a couple hundred years. I don’t know that I’d want to, anyhow–to me, death is sort of necessary for change, growth, etc, and the prospect of staying the same person for more than a couple hundred years doesn’t sound that awesome to me. That might just be my vague concept of religion, though. (Albeit one of my mentor-figures, who doesn’t believe in life after death–or at least not for him–says the same.)

  • Anonymous

    Jesurgislac: My sister claims to have no recollection of this.
    My wife has a vivid recollection of every moment of labor and delivery. One reason why my daughter is an only child.

  • Froborr

    Yes, I agree that death is a major part of what gives life meaning. That is precisely why the notion of life after death doesn’t interest me — what would the point be?
    I admit, it’s hard to separate out moral reasoning from the massive, massive pregnancy squick, but to me personally it seems wrong to be making new kids when there are piles of unwanted existing ones there for the taking. YMMV.

  • Anonymous

    Do LH&J carry this through the never-ending series as a shtick? Working the title of the next volume into the ending scene/chapter of the previous volume?
    I don’t believe so, no.
    Left Behind
    Tribulation Force
    Nicolae
    Soul Harvest
    Apollyon
    Assassins
    The Indwelling
    The Mark
    Desecration
    The Remnant
    Armageddon
    Glorious Appearing

  • aunursa

    1:29 and 1:40 are me.

  • Izzy

    Yes, I agree that death is a major part of what gives life meaning. That is precisely why the notion of life after death doesn’t interest me — what would the point be?
    Oh, I’d kind of like to come back again and start over, though I suppose it’d depend on who I started out as. Terribly Robert Frost of me, I know, but the roleplayer in me likes the idea of getting to be someone else for a life or two. And the idea of being united with some universal consciousness doesn’t seem bad either–form is void and so forth. But I wouldn’t like the stereotyped “harps and halos” version of Heaven at all, and that one would definitely seem to take away the point.
    I admit, it’s hard to separate out moral reasoning from the massive, massive pregnancy squick, but to me personally it seems wrong to be making new kids when there are piles of unwanted existing ones there for the taking.
    Heh, I’m there with ya–that’s why I draw the line at one natural, and I figure I’d adopt after that. I don’t have anything against people with large families, but I wouldn’t feel right having more than one or two kids myself.

  • Dorothy

    The human birth mechanism is unique: a baby has to take a tortuous path through the birth canal, rotating its head halfway through. -Rob
    My firstborn didn’t get the memo about rotating, and arrived sunny-side up after 40 hellish hours of back labor. The epidural was a blessing. Nurse Ratched, and an ob/gyn who didn’t even remember my name, were not!
    Second time I enlisted a nurse-midwife (hospital-based). It was back labor again, but she knew all the tricks for keeping things moving along, and her cheerful, upbeat attitude was infectious. I highly recommend.
    Carol Balizet should never have given up fiction writing… – Ken
    *googles, gasps in horror*

  • Glenda

    I think Carol Balizet is still writing fiction. Horror fiction.
    After two C-sections, if I have the spirit of Caesar, as is claimed in one of the critical sites, I really should go out and kick some butt.

  • Salamanda

    Dorothy: Oh, but with Real Natural Childbirth (TM), there is no pain! Pain in childbirth is a biproduct of our degenerate western culture.
    Oh, My, God, you have no idea how often I read that sort of thing leading up to my daughter’s birth. I mean, yeah, I can wrap my head around the notion that fear and tension can exacerbate the pain—that’s why relaxation is such a big part of pain management, right?—but Jesus Christ, people. People get their tailbones broken during labor, and there’s really no frame of mind that’ll fix that.
    My firstborn didn’t get the memo about rotating, and arrived sunny-side up after 40 hellish hours of back labor. The epidural was a blessing. Nurse Ratched, and an ob/gyn who didn’t even remember my name, were not!
    YeOWCH. I’m sorry. That sounds like an awful experience. I’m glad your second one was better. If I’d had that experience, I might be too scared to have a second child, so kudos to you.
    I was fortunate enough to have a great team of nurse-midwives who were very supportive, very professional, and who listened to me and kept me in the loop every step of the way. They treated me like a human being rather than an incubator, and I think that made all the difference when it came to being able to relax and manage the pain. (Well, I mean, that and the fact that I didn’t have back labor. There IS that.)
    Karen: On that subject, I think that simply being in control of the situation and knowing what to expect makes a big difference in pain management. This is one area where one size decidedly does NOT fit all. The human pain response varies widely and unpredictably, and even one person’s response to two different painful events can be unpredictable. No one should ever presume that her own pain response is in any way typical of others.
    Agreed. And it’s amazing to me how many proponents of “natural childbirth” look down on those who choose the drugs or the epidural as weak, but will assert with their very next breath that Every Woman Is Different! My mother-in-law gave my sister-in-law no end of hell for wanting the epidural, because she herself had had three kids “without any help”, and so, of course, my sister-in-law was just being a big wuss. However, when pressed for further details, Mom mentioned she had wanted the drugs, but her labor was so fast and short there was no time. So the underlying attitude seemed to be, “If I had to suffer, you should suffer too”. I think it’s kind of sick, really. If your experience was so horrible, wouldn’t you want to see your loved ones spared?

  • hapax

    I did the “natural” route with the first one. Twelve hours of (literally) screaming pain, and then I died from blood loss at the end of it. Seriously. (I got better).
    Second baby, I insisted on full hospitalization, drugs early and often, and a full medical staff on standby. It wasn’t much more fun, but I lived through it this time.
    (Yeah, both kids were desperately wanted, and still are, for that matter. I can’t imagine going through that if they hadn’t been…)

  • Michael

    “What happens to a man to whom all things seem possible and every course of action open? Nothing of course. Except war.”
    Or the sudden depowering of all but a handful of the world’s mutants, a Superhero Registration Act, and having to leave behind his precognitive future wife in a hellish dystopian future.

  • Ken

    Carol Balizet should never have given up fiction writing… – Ken
    *googles, gasps in horror*
    — Dorothy
    Yeah, I googled it, too. Got this heads-up on her. Talk about Carl Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World
    The reason I cited her was when she was writing fiction in the Seventies, she actually did a fairly-well-thought-out PMD Apocalyptic novel titled The Seven Last Years which (if I remember right) actually stands up pretty well within the genre (including a recent 22-volume bestseller Which Shall Not Be Named). SLY was the first Apocalyptic “history written in advance” with a plausible camouflage for The Event (a “Hammerfall”, major asteroid impact a la Chixlub) and a plausible power base for Old 666 (control of the only major food sources in the aftermath). She also did what would now be called a “Spiritual Warfare” novel or two (possibly prefiguring Frank Peretti), but then she got the “God Saith…” (TM) to start this “Zion Birth Movement”. (Again, talk about Demon-Haunted World…)
    Like I said, she should have stuck to fiction writing.

  • Ken

    More “Google & Gasp” re Balizet:
    Balizet believes that getting a Caesarean Section is a particularly abominable sin. All women who have had Caesareans have “the same spirit,” the “spirit of Caesar,” who is one and the same with “the Strong Man, the Satanic high prince over the organization and sphere of humanism”
    – one of the Web pages cited in the above heads-up (my boldface; see below)
    I boldfaced the above clause because it sparked a memory of the one Balizet “Spiritual Warfare” novel I skimmed back in the Seventies. The scene in the novel had to do with a demon speaking (and bragging) to the hero through his/her/its totally-possessed channel/medium. After describing the ACLU agenda in detail (legal technicalities, Supreme Court decisions favoring crime and chaos, anything-goes education, sex education instead of the Bible, Rights without responsibilities), he/she/it brags how the resulting chaos will lead to “the people will beg for The Strong Man. And The Strong Man will come.”
    At the time, I assumed it would mean a dictator (controlled by the demons), a Hitler-analog, possibly a veiled apocalyptic reference to The Antichrist. Now, with the above Zion Birth reference to The Strong Man, I’m not so sure.
    She should have stuck to fiction writing…

  • Tonio

    Based on that passage, Balizet seems to see humans as spoiled children who don’t know what is best for them and who need to be controlled for their own good.

  • Ken

    I think Carol Balizet is still writing fiction. Horror fiction. — Glenda
    To paraphrase Chesterton, she ended up writing False Fact instead of True Fiction.
    Based on that passage, Balizet seems to see humans as spoiled children who don’t know what is best for them and who need to be controlled for their own good. — Tonio
    And she’s got the One Direct Line to God, remember.
    (Nothing good can come out of that combination…)

  • cjmr

    (Does anyone bother to read these catch-up posts of mine?)
    Yes, sometimes even many days later!

  • http://twitter.com/GlockPalin Glock H. Palin, Esq.

    “I’ve been praying about sort of an inner circle of people who want to do more than just survive.”

    I’m pretty sure this counts as false advertizing. Does the Trib Force ever actually DO anything other than dig a big hole to hide in?


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