L.B.: Transactions

Left Behind, pp. 424-426

As Bruce and Buck go around in circles, spiraling closer to Buck’s eventual conversion, I find myself reimagining this scene set in “The Box” from Homicide: Life on the Street, with Andre Braugher in the role of the Rev. Det. Bruce Barnes Pembleton. The authors’ notion of evangelism isn’t that different from the manipulative mind games employed by Braugher’s jesuitical policeman when interrogating suspects. It wouldn’t seem out of place if, instead of asking Buck to pray, Bruce slid a yellow legal pad across the table and told him that it was time to make a formal statement.

Alas, the scene as actually written has none of the propulsive urgency of that excellent police drama:

“Nobody can force you or badger you into this, Mr. Williams, but I must also say again that we live in perilous times. We don’t know how much pondering time we have.”

“You sound like Chloe Steele.”

“And she sounds like her father,” Bruce said, smiling.

“And he, I guess, sounds like you.”

I’m not sure if that’s supposed to a be little meta-joke there, a winking acknowledgment to the reader that the past 400 pages are filled with repetitious dialogue from often indistinguishable characters.

Bruce’s assertion there about “perilous times” in which we can’t know “how much … time we have” is another reminder of how premillennial dispensationalism is shaped by the denial of death. His remark is an accurate statement about the fragile human condition in every place and time. The Bible is filled with such reminders of our mortality. To the PMDs, however, those reminders do not apply to every place and time, they are relegated to this future time period, this other “dispensation.” Here in our dispensation, what PMDs call the “Church Age,” we can ignore such thoughts of our own finite time by clinging to the hope of, as Irene Steele put it way back on Page 4, “Jesus coming back to get us before we die.”

I suppose that’s reassuring, provided one doesn’t stop to consider that the mortality rate for all humans, RTCs included, is a constant in every time and “dispensation.” What mortals these fools be.

“Let me take a different tack,” Bruce says:

“I know you’re a bright guy, so you might as well have all the information you need before you leave here.”

Buck breathed easier. He had feared Bruce was about to pop the question, pushing him to pray the prayer both Rayford Steele and Chloe had talked about. He accepted that that would be part of it, that it would signal the transaction and start his relationship with God — someone he had never before really spoken to.

“Pop the question” is a strange phrase there, though less theologically troubling than the rest of that paragraph. The motif of God as the patient, wooing lover of humanity is a frequent and, to me, favorite biblical image. Betrothal isn’t a bad metaphor for the kind of commitment and relationship Buck is considering here. Or, rather, for the kind of commitment and relationship Buck might have been considering were it not for the metaphor that supercedes that one here and throughout Left Behind — the idea of a “transaction” initiated by “the prayer.” Not just prayer, but the prayer — the right prayer, the Magic Words.

I can’t begin to unpack all the many ways that “transaction” is the disturbingly wrong word in the paragraph quoted above, but let’s note that this notion of a transaction would seem to imply that Buck would be the one doing the redeeming here. That’s not how we Christians usually think of this.

The authors’ magic-words notion of prayer also explains what they mean here when Buck says that God is “someone he had never before really spoken to.” Prayers not properly formulated and precisely addressed (with the correct ZIP+4) simply don’t count. Foxhole-prayers and desperate cries addressed to “if there’s anyone out there” don’t count. God doesn’t listen to things like Renan’s agnostic’s prayer (“Oh God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul”). Nor does God listen to any supplicant who doesn’t pronounce his name precisely right.

Years ago I was arguing with a fundamentalist friend over the meaning of Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This meant, he said, that salvation was impossible unless one spoke that precise name, the name of “Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” Teasing him a bit, I reminded him that the book of Acts was written in Greek, and that Peter was most likely speaking in Aramaic, so if salvation required the pronunciation of that precise set of syllables, then saying it in English wouldn’t seem to count. This clearly troubled him. I’m fairly sure he went home to look up those magic words in Greek and Aramaic, reciting them again just to be safe.

“I don’t mean to be morbid, Mr. Williams, but I have no family responsibilities anymore. I have a core group meeting tomorrow and church Sunday. You’re welcome to attend. But I have enough energy to go to midnight if you do.”

[Insert gratuitous Ted Haggard joke here.]

Core group meetings (and super-ultra-inner-core group meetings) and church services make up Bruce Barnes’ agenda these days now that he has slid into the “senior pastor” role left vacant by the disintegration/rapture of his boss. That raises the question of who now is serving as New Hope Village Church’s visitation pastor. That ministry is more important than ever here in the traumatized post-Event world. Every family in the new congregation, every family everywhere, is now struggling to cope with the loss of their children. Others would still be in painful limbo — their traveling spouses missing for more than a week now, whether raptured or dead in a plane crash no one yet knows. Those people are all going to need the attention of a minister in some form other than prophecy classes and Sunday services. The need and the pain of such people would be the dominant fact facing any church in the days, weeks and months after such an epic tragedy, yet this dynamic is completely absent from the authors’ portrayal of the life, schedule and agenda of New Hope church.

We’ve noted before that the United Nations scenes in LB are completely unrealistic, bungling every aspect and detail of how that institution works and what actually goes on there. The authors’ laziness, lack of research and failure of imagination is inexcusable, but their ignorance in that case is at least understandable, since neither of them has any actual experience or familiarity with that institution.

Yet the scenes in this book set in the offices of Global Weekly or New Hope Village Church are also wholly unreal. Such scenes also botch and bungle the details, the rhythm, the culture and the daily life of those institutions. This is confounding. Jerry Jenkins was, for years, the chief editor of a monthly magazine. Tim LaHaye has been, for decades, the pastor of a church. Despite their own histories with such institutions, their portrayal of them still seems as alien, lazy and ignorant as their portrayal of the U.N.

This is baffling. It’s like listening to someone describe himself inaccurately while looking into a mirror. (Perhaps that explains it, actually.)

Anyway, I nominate poor, shattered Loretta to fill the now-vacant position of visitation pastor. She’s visibly broken and short on answers. That should make her much better at the job than Bruce ever was.

Bruce spent the next several hours giving Buck a crash course in prophecy and the end times. …

What this means for readers is a summary of the authors’ description of the Antichrist, accompanied by a fevered description of Buck’s increasing anxiety:

Buck’s blood ran cold. He fell silent, no longer peppering Bruce with questions or comments. He scribbled notes as fast as he could. … His fingers began to shake. … Buck was overcome. He felt a terrible fear deep in his gut.

I’m starting to worry about his health. Buck’s anxiety here stems from the similarities between the Antichrist that Bruce describes and Nicolae Carpathia:

At one point he thought of accusing Bruce of having based everything he was saying on the CNN report he had heard and seen, but even if he had, here it was in black and white in the Bible.

The CNN report is, of course, fictional. So too is this version of the Bible and its purported description of “the Antichrist.”

Antichrist stories are, in a sense, a bit like vampire stories. Just as every new storyteller must reinterpret the vampire legends, deciding which parts to keep and which to revise (crosses, garlic, sunlight, mirrors, wood, running water, invitations, etc.), so too every new Antichrist storyteller must do the same — whether, as here, in fiction or in purportedly non-fiction “prophecy” studies. Both kinds of stories are based on various, sometimes contradictory legends and neither (despite LaHaye’s claims) can rely on any actual or canonical account that establishes the “real” characteristics of such monsters.

Because of this, as this series of books progresses, it’s interesting to watch the dynamic in this passage reverse itself. Here Bruce and Buck begin to realize that Carpathia’s actions closely parallel those supposedly prophesied in the Bible. Such similarities exist, at this point, because the character of Carpathia and his actions are based on those prophecies.

Yet because those prophecies of the Antichrist’s actions are also largely a creation of the authors’ imagination, the influence and the similarity begins to reverse itself as the Left Behind saga develops. The Antichrist they find “literally” prophesied in the pages of the Bible comes to resemble Nicolae rather than the other way around. They start projecting their own fictional character back into their convoluted prophecy scheme. More on this much later, when we get to some of the sequels (if the Lord tarries and/or we live that long).

I’ve commented before on the strange way that the authors (and many of their fans) seem to regard these books as evidence that these biblical prophecies are true. That wouldn’t be the case even if these books were, as the authors claim, a fictional narrative devised to illustrate the fulfillment of those prophecies.

But that’s not really what these books are. They are a fictional narrative concocted by the authors to illustrate the fulfillment of prophecies which were also concocted by the authors. They are two opposing mirrors, with nothing in between.

  • damnedyankee

    When men do it to men, I think it’s a play for alpha status – but what’s always struck me about such know-it-alls is that they’re not actually alpha men. They’re not especially powerful socially; their friends don’t look to them for leadership, guidance, advice or insight; they’re no wealthier than anybody else; their intelligence is about the same as everyone else’s, except in social judgement, where it’s worse; and, apart from talking more than they listen, they don’t have especially forceful personalities. Other men don’t accord them unusual respect, and neither do women.

    OMG! They’re Cliff Clavin!

  • damnedyankee

    Actually, Praline, I think Jesu was referring to the several times she’s pointed out the existence of white male privilege and certain parties have come back with “EEEEEK! WHITE-MAN-HATING LESBIAN! UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!”
    In so many words, of course.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    I already know where writers get their ideas. There’s a PO Box in Schenectady, New York. You send them a money order for $10, they send back an idea. You have to be specific if you want science fiction, romance, or mystery ideas though.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Praline

    Ah, but it doesn’t post internationally. Here in the UK, we have to manufacture them by boiling up old rags, drying them over a radiator, multiplying them by the current GNP of your mother’s father’s home country, flash-frying them and then planting them in marmalade until they sprout suggestions. It’s a complicated process, but at least it feels traditional…

  • http://jesurgislac.wordpress.com Jesurgislac

    Praline: No.
    Dammedyankee: Yes.
    Hawker Hurricane: The PO Box has zipcode 12345.

  • Karen

    Praline, most of my career has been as a government lawyer, so most of the people I’ve had to deal with fall into the subset of any group known as “incompetent.” That is, the reason I’m talking to them is that they have screwed up badly enough to be hauled into court by the state. Consequently, they are all talky. I have also had witnesses who were genuine experts in their own small areas, and whether or not they’re talky depends entirely on random personality traits. I’ve dealt with economists recognized as the leading experts in their narrow-to-near-invisibility specialty who were delightful people and a few who, outside of that area, were truly obnoxious jerks. In my experience, this trait correlates perfectly with the individual male’s adherence to rigid roles and heirarchies. If he believes he’s at the top and has evidence to back that claim up, he still needs to remind the rest of us of his status. It’s worse by orders of magnitude if he isn’t. If he isn’t wedded to the need to be recognized as the silverback, then he’s usually a pleasant person.
    And, although the overwhelming majority of experts I’ve dealt with have been male, the few women also exhibit this trait. With women, the status key doesn’t seem to be knowledge as much as being conventionally attractive and married or partnered. Thus, the middle-aged happily-paired lesbian is a decent human, but the middle-aged single woman, who buys into conventional gender roles, is a nightmare. Since I’m married with kids and conventionally attractive, they perceive me as automatically hostile. That I combine this with being rather hostile to standard gender roles, they generally become enraged.
    After writing the preceding paragraphs, I wonder if status-seeking isn’t the source of original sin.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Karen, original sin and status seeking…
    (Know it allness rising…)
    Well, according to The Book(tm), the first thing that Adam and Eve noticed after Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was that they were nekkid.
    Now, one of the easiest ways to show status is by clothing. There were laws during the Midevil era forbidding the wearing of clothing ‘above your status’.
    So, status-seeking could be Original Sin(tm). I’m going to consult with my experts on the subject (a Jesuit and a Rabbi) and see what kind of discussion they come up with…

  • Amaryllis

    Hawker Hurricane: IIRC, you spent many years as a senior NCO? Then it’s probably an occupational hazard, resulting from all the times it was your duty to explain things to all those clueless E-2′s (and their duty to listen to you respectfully :) ).
    Some teachers are also prone to lecturing where lectures are inappropriate: occupational hazard.
    I myself tend to fall into the more stereotypically female, stew-about-it-and-come-up-with-the-rebuttal-later, crowd. Like the Leo Rosten character, the young woman who was “always right but never victorious.” I am not always right but even more rarely victorious.

  • Karen

    HH, that’s brilliant. I’ll run your theory past my Panel of Expert (the seminary student who teaches my Sunday School class) and if all three of our experts agree, then we’re golden. We can start the first of our 27-volume End Times prophecy books next week. The distinction between the Saved and the Damned will be the price of their watches.

  • Nina

    I’m with you, Amaryllis. Thanks for posting Solnit’s article. It re-committed me to asserting my expertise when appropriate. After all, what did I get a graduate degree for, if not to be an expert?
    Also, Karen: will people with cheaper watches be saved or damned?

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Amaryllis, I spent 10 years as a ‘senior NCO’, plus 6 years as plain old NCO. So, yes. But I was a know it all lecturer before that. In fact, I learned how to shut up while my superiors spoke at great length on things they knew nothing as part of the process of becoming a ‘senior NCO’. Knowing when to keep silent and look wise and when to speak up is part of the job description; my problem is more in the social situations. Like web postings.
    And I found it easier to teach ‘clueless E-2s’ than ‘clueless 0-1s’. After all, the E-2s have to listen, and know that you know more than they do. But Officers… they’ve got a degree and a commission, what could *I* teach them?

  • Karen

    Nina, I’m not sure; working that out will take years of Scripture study, prayer, and crying for donations, possibly of expensive watches to study.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Karen: since it was my idea, and you’re *just the writer*, I’ll get half the money while you do all the work, ok?
    (joking, of course. I know writers, and they HATE that one)
    The opinion of a Jesuit, a Rabbi, and a Protestant(?) Seminary Student? They’d throw us out of a RTC Bookstore in a heartbeat.
    I like Armani suits, BMWs, Swiss watches, all of it. How nice of the jerks and assholes to publicly brand themselves so you can avoid them. – Spider Robinson
    Nina, the people who wear watches because they need to know what time it is will be saved. The people who wear watches because they need to impress you with thier fancy watch are damned.
    (My own watch, because of my Navy Job, keeps time perfectly. It’s also over 10 years old and looks like crap. I’ll replace it under two circumstances: a. it stops working or b. at gunpoint.)

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Praline

    I’ve dealt with economists recognized as the leading experts in their narrow-to-near-invisibility specialty who were delightful people and a few who, outside of that area, were truly obnoxious jerks. In my experience, this trait correlates perfectly with the individual male’s adherence to rigid roles and heirarchies. If he believes he’s at the top and has evidence to back that claim up, he still needs to remind the rest of us of his status. It’s worse by orders of magnitude if he isn’t. If he isn’t wedded to the need to be recognized as the silverback, then he’s usually a pleasant person.
    Possible theory: people are obnoxious in that way if their ideas of self-worth are defined in relationship to other people. Self-evalutation is comparative. If someone feels good about, say, their intellect, because they feel competent and understand the things they’re interested in, coming it with other people isn’t necessary. If, however, somebody’s feelings about their intellect are graded on a curve, they’re only going to feel good about it if they can prove to themselves that they’re not just smart enough, but smarter than the person they’re talking to. Simlarly, someone who defines a good domestic situation as one that’s pleasant for themselves, and any other people they’re domiciled with, is not as obnoxious as someone who defines a good domestic situation as one that’s better than the Joneses. If there is something you’re not happy about in your own standing, you have to push all the harder to look better because there’s less backing you up, but the fundamental assumption seems to be that it’s a zero-sum game: either he’s smart, or I am.
    Your point about hierarchies ties to this, I think. There’s generally only one leader in a hierarchy; hence, a person who hierarchises everything can’t relax if somebody knows more about anything than they do, because it seems to them an automatic bid for the top slot, which only one person can occupy. Of course, many things aren’t hierarchical, and your own happiness and security certainly shouldn’t be, because otherwise your entire emotional wellbeing rests on circumstances outside your control – which tends to lead to controlling behaviour, and then nobody likes you. I suspect there’s a lot of unhappiness tied into that way of thinking.

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

    I almost never wear makeup. Or skirts.
    I’ve only ever worn makeup for the stage and video, and I have to say, I hate the stuff. It’s like a layer of grime on my face. I know it’s necessary under the lights, but every night it comes off ASAP.
    As far as the skirts are concerned, IMHO they’re highly underrated, especially in the summer. Of course, they call mine a kilt, but the air-conditioning is most welcome.
    On Torchwood: I still haven’t watched past the very first episode, and the reports aren’t encouraging. I will say that I’ve found the new Who to be incredibly uneven. Sometimes you’ll get great moments of plot and character insight, and sometimes you’ll get something of mind-boggling inanity. Sounds like TW suffers similarly.

  • Lila

    Expensive-watch story from some years back:
    My brother (speaking to his rich friend): Frank, is that a ROLEX??
    Rich friend: Yep.
    My brother: Don’t you know there are starving people in Ethiopia?
    Frank (contemplating his watch): Yeah, they could wear it for a belt.

  • Tonio

    Personally I like to write fantastical stories that leave the Turnstile out altogether, because it’s been done many, many, many times, but if you’re going to push characters through it, you can’t do it by waving a stick at them from the far side. That’s just circular logic, and circular logic is bad for fiction.
    Prailine, excellent post. I wondered for a minute why a writer wouldn’t avoid the Turnstile in the first place. In Harlan Ellison’s magic realism stories, the protagonist experiences the fantastic element personally at the outset. But it seems like the Turnstile is necessary whenever you have a villain whose true nature is concealed.
    it’s as if somebody walked into An American Werewolf In London and told David Kessler, ‘It’s time for you to accept the gospel of Lon Chaney Jr!’
    Now I imagine a PMD version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
    they’re hustled through by the use of two sticks that, logically, shouldn’t have been able to reach them at all until they were on the other side of the Turnstile.
    That wasn’t a problem with the Omen series, because the characters who knew about the Antichrist’s identity weren’t proselytizing to the characters who didn’t. The series isn’t about religion or faith at all. The story assumes that the Bible is true, but the protagonists don’t arrive at a belief about God or the Bible as a whole – they simply accept the danger that Damien poses. One could tell the same story by using a similar prophecy from Nostradumbass.
    The trouble is, L&J are trying to have it both ways: the characters are not the kind of people who believe in the literal truth of the Bible to begin with, but they accept it without question at the first hurdle.
    Exactly. There aren’t enough tangible, unexplained events in the story that would lead the characters to ditch their skepticism so abruptly.
    Or maybe it’s the fundamentalist belief that every human being really knows “the truth,” but most suppress the knowledge due to their vile, fallen human nature.
    That may be the likely reason. I’ve heard fundamentalists make that claim several times, either directly or indirectly, and it’s never been obvious exactly what they are talking about.
    I was raised to snicker or sneer at premillennialism, because my church is amil.
    What church was that? I’ve never heard of the term “amil”.

  • Spalanzani

    Praline: “(Though having said that, anybody who meets a writer and refrains from asking ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ will probably earn their undying gratitude. Just a tip. It’s not so much that it’s a stupid question, but it’s impossible not to give a stupid-sounding answer.)”
    My three favorite responses to this question, in no particular order: In The Far Side 10th anniversary book, Gary Larson wrote that every time he was asked this, he got this image of himself looking through his grandparents’ attic, opening up a big old chest and pulling out an old dust covered book, then blowing the dust off to reveal the title “1,001 Weird Cartoon Ideas”
    Then in one episode of Seinfeild, Jerry is at a part and gets asked that question when he tells someone that he’s a comedian:
    “Where do you get your ideas?”
    “I hear a voice.”
    “A voice?”
    “Yes, a man’s voice. But he speaks in German, so I have to get it translated.”
    My third is episode 88, of Quiet, Please an old radio program similiar to the Twilight Zone. In it,the show’s writer (played by himself) gets asked this question by a guy in a bar. Weirdness ensues.

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

    “Where do you get your ideas?”
    Douglas Adams, on a similar question: “Writing is easy. Just take out a blank sheet of paper and stare at it until your forehead bleeds.”

  • hapax

    So, status-seeking could be Original Sin(tm).
    Genesis 3:5. The serpent expressly tempts Eve with the promise that “ye shall be as God.” Can’t get much more status seeking than that.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Praline

    And of course, Rayford Steele gets a lot more praise than God in these books. Even the word ‘passion’, over-used, starts looking suspect. ‘Ye shall be as Rayford Steele!’ This is not what a tract should do.

  • jamoche

    Sometimes you’ll get great moments of plot and character insight, and sometimes you’ll get something of mind-boggling inanity. Sounds like TW suffers similarly.
    It does, and that’s what’s so frustrating – the great moments really aregreat, but the bad ones – ouch.
    But Officers… they’ve got a degree and a commission, what could *I* teach them?
    Sounds like you met my father. Fortunately, all his kids recognised him as an example of what not to do.

  • Bugmaster

    Regarding the Men Who Explain:
    I’m one of them, obviously, or I wouldn’t be posting here at all. I do have a tendency to passionately explain some aspect of my field of expertise to all and sundry (men more often than women, since programmers are still more often male than female). I do it not because I think that everyone else is stupid, but because I get so caught up in my profession that I want everyone to share it — this is why I often get told, “You know, Bugmaster, no one else cares about network topology besides you”.
    Obviously, being obnoxious is not a good thing. However, I don’t think that the desire to share your expertise with others is necessarily a symptom of the White Male Privilege and the oppression it brings. Is it so wrong to feel joy about understanding certain things, and to desire to share this joy with others ?

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Praline

    Bug: not at all. ‘Men who explain’ is the title of the article, but it’s complaining about blowhards who insist on explaining stuff they barely understand to people who understand it a great deal better; people who assume they’re entitled to play teacher on any given subject, regardless of their ignorance and other people’s expertise. Being talkative about your own subject is something else entirely.

  • Karen

    Praline, that’s an excellent analysis of what I’ve seen. And nothing irritates those guys like someone who genuinely doesn’t give a damn about their status. I used to sue car dealers m and manufacturers who committed obscure violations of even more obscure state regulatons. During that time, I got really accustomed to being by several orders of magnitude the poorest person in the room, since the other people were, say, the reps from Ford or Toyota, their lawyers, their dealer-witnesses and my dealer-witnesses. Needless to say, I cultivated a certain disdain for Armani suits.*
    HH gets it right about the kind of watch that the Saved wear, and even a Rolex would qualify under the right circumstances.
    On status symbols in general, I’m not at all immune to the pleasure that a really nice luxury good can provide. Chateau Lafite really does taste better than Boone’s Farm, and a lovely piece of jewelry or a well-made suit provides its own kind of happiness, provided the owner appreciates the item for what it is, not for what it says about the owner. When a person wears a Rolex because wants to know the time, then great. When a person makes a point of mentioned what brand her watch is at every opportunity, then no so much.
    There is also the kind of person who idolizes her own purity from Such Worldly Concerns that is another kind of jerk indeed. There was a Houston socialite who told a story about having lunch in New York while wearing one of her diamond bracelets:
    Gossip Columnist to Socialite: Don’t you know it’s tacky to wear that ostentatious diamond jewelry before 5 p.m.
    Socialite: Yes, I thought that too . . . . before I owned any.

  • Tonio

    Possible theory: people are obnoxious in that way if their ideas of self-worth are defined in relationship to other people.
    I see pieces of myself in your theory. I find myself flaunting my knowledge in casual conversation. Not necessarily to feel superior, because I enjoy encountering people who are more knowledgeable than me about my particular interests, but because I’m uncomfortable talking about feelings in conversation and I lack the skills to carry on a real give-and-take conversation. It’s easier, although certainly not preferable, to simply recite from my mental script of knowledge without having to consciously think about what I’m saying.
    Do I define my self-worth in terms of my relationship to other people? It might be that my my feeling of safety depends on my relationship to other people. Anything sufficiently negative from other people, such as their opinions about me or their anger toward me, leads to feelings of danger in me. I seem to perceive others as authority figures. That may be a type of hierarchical thinking, with me at the bottom.

  • Karen

    Bugmaster, it’s really not “I adore this subject and want you to share in my enthusiasm” that’s a pain. I like people who have your attitude, especially if it’s a subject in which I have some interest. Even if it’s not something I’ve looked into previously, I can still enjoy learning something from somebody who knows his stuff. What’s annoying is the lecture as dominance-display.
    Or, what Praline said.

  • lonespark

    My husband is a Man Who Explains. So were one male ex about whom I have mixed feelings and one whom I despise. Actually, most of the folks I went to school with had Explaining tendencies. We were all intelligent and odd, socially awkward to varying degrees, and geeks to the core of our being.
    In my major there was a very young (early HS graduation) Girl Who Explains. She was brilliant and knowlegeable, but her need to beat you over the head with these facts acted as social poison, and she ended up dating a much older guy who was a complete ass, but highly skilled and prone to Explaining, often while drunk. He was like a personified Heinlein Hero. Blech!
    I have known many people who were heroic and skilled in some aspect or aspects and really arrogant about it. The key to working and hanging out with them was not to buy into the attitude that these attributes made them better people than me. Due to my personality and psychological problems, and my inexperience with life in general at the time, that was hard.
    It’s still hard. I tend to act like a resentful lower-status ape, even when no one else is really concerned with status.

  • Karen

    Tonio, what you describe is something pretty much anyone goes through at some point. Simply being aware of it places you ahead of the guys we’re discussing. Also, I haven’t seen anything in your posts here to make me think you’re a Silverback Wannabe. You have a conversational tic, but that’s hardly the same thing.

  • hapax

    Even if it’s not something I’ve looked into previously, I can still enjoy learning something from somebody who knows his stuff. What’s annoying is the lecture as dominance-display.
    Hmm. I don’t even mind the silverbackitude (ugh! NOT a nice neologism) if the Explainer is an actual expert. One of the great pleasures of my life is to experience competence, whether in constructing network topologies or writing sentimental romances or titrating solutions or sinking free throws or in bagging groceries, or whatever. People who are actually Good at something — especially if they take visible Joy in what they are doing — are just a sheer delight to experience. I’m happy to cede any status I possess for the rush of watching a really airtight summation to a jury or a masterful job of plastering of a wall.
    Incompetence, however, is teeth-grindingly annoying. *Especially* when cloaked in an aura of superiority.

  • jamoche

    Don’t you know it’s tacky to wear that ostentatious diamond jewelry before 5 p.m.
    Never got that. Diamonds sparkle so nicely in the sun. (I could go on about angles of refraction – I did actually devise a way to model light refraction for a 3D graphics class. But then I’d be one of the Knowledgeable People Who Explain, though at least that’s better than the Ignorant People Who Explain :) )

  • pepperjackcandy

    it’s complaining about blowhards who insist on explaining stuff they barely understand to people who understand it a great deal better; people who assume they’re entitled to play teacher on any given subject, regardless of their ignorance and other people’s expertise.
    New link!
    Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

  • jamoche

    pepperjackcandy: That’s the paper I cited to counter someone who thought that audiences would respond better to a Gateway Character who was obviously less competent than the people around her, because they could relate to her. My argument was that the less competent someone is, the less likely they are to be aware of it – but they still recognise incompetence in other people, so they won’t see that character as one to relate to.

  • Bugmaster

    @Karen, Praline, and others:
    I understand what you’re saying. However, keep in mind that someone who begins passionately explaining things for no good reason (i.e., someone such as myself), can often come off as a self-important blowhard. If you’re pre-disposed toward thinking that a people from his or her social group (men, women, white people, black people, whatever) are out to oppress you, then such a reaction is virtually guaranteed.

  • pepperjackcandy

    That’s the paper I cited to counter someone who thought that audiences would respond better to a Gateway Character who was obviously less competent than the people around her, because they could relate to her.
    [sheepish]Oh. I have to admit that I sort of skimmed that part of the discussion.[/sheepish]

  • Becky

    Tonio, amil = amillennialism. Amillenialists reject the premillennialist doctrine (which is what L&J are illustrating in the LB books) and reject the idea of a literal 1000 year kingdom of God on earth.

  • jamoche

    Ah, no, that was a discussion on Livejournal. I was just amused it turned up here too.

  • Jeff

    Silverback Wannabe
    Aaaaaaand we have the Band Name of the Week!
    My favorite story on the lines of the current discussion involved a woman who worked in “Corporate”, but played as a Dom in her spare time. During one meeting, while the men were jockeying for status, she pulled out the largest, but still semi-lifelike, dildo she could find. “Now that we have **THAT** established,” she said, “can we get on with the meeting?”

  • Karen

    Silverback Wannabe
    Aaaaaaand we have the Band Name of the Week!

    Oh, Jeff, I finally feel like a real Slactivite! Thank you!

  • http://cactuswren.livejournal.com Cactus Wren

    And how adult women who don’t marry, and whose parents are elderly, are supposed to support themselves, I don’t know.
    In the OT world “virtuous wife” sites like to advocate a return to, there are two sorts of adult women: the married, and prostitutes.
    Widows, I imagine, would be allowed to glean in the fields.

  • Tonio

    Amillenialists reject the premillennialist doctrine (which is what L&J are illustrating in the LB books) and reject the idea of a literal 1000 year kingdom of God on earth.
    Thanks, Becky. After I typed my post, I suspected that the word may have been short for “amillenialist.” Are there any denominations that are not merely amillenialist but also do not teach that Jesus will return?

  • http://mabus101.livejournal.com Mabus

    Tonio: I was raised to snicker or sneer at premillennialism, because my church is amil.
    What church was that? I’ve never heard of the term “amil”.

    Thanks, Becky.
    Tonio, as Becky said, “amil” stands for “amillennialism”; my church doesn’t accept the idea of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ. Unlike liberal amillennialists, though, we do base our teachings on a literal reading of Bible passages–just not the ones the PMD types use.
    Prior to WWI, most Churches of Christ were “postmillennialist” (most everyone was), which meant that we expected a semi-literal millennium of peace and prosperity created by righteous human effort before Christ physically returned. We did have a premil minority. After the war kicked to the curb everyone’s expectations that the world was getting better, most fundamentalist churches went premil and most liberal churches went amil. But premillennialism didn’t fit with our other beliefs very well, so we bucked the trend; the premils we already had were kicked out.
    Nowadays the Churches of Christ are largely busy trying to repair our bad reputation in the world at large, and ignoring differences of opinion on prophecy is one of the ways it’s being done. Bad timing, at best.

  • nicolbolas

    “At one point he thought of accusing Bruce of having based everything he
    was saying on the CNN report he had heard and seen, but even if he had,
    here it was in black and white in the Bible.”

    This quote disgusts me. It offends every sensibility I have as a (prospective) writer.

    By all rights, what this ought to have been is a 2-4 page dialog between Buck and Bruce, where Buck tries to deny that Carpathia fits the Antichrist mold, and Bruce cuts off every argument he makes by citing scripture. Thus, we wouldn’t have to be told that it was “in black and white”; we would *see it*. It would be far more effective, and it would allow the *reader* to feel “a terrible fear deep in his gut”.

    Of course, the problem there is that, if they actually showed us those passages, people would realize that they’re jumping around back and forth in the Bible. That there is no real consistent narrative of The End Times that they profess. And that what they’re writing about is complete bunk.

    I guess in this way, their Bad Writing is allowing them to maintain their Bad Theology.


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