L.B.: Celebration & antidote

“If I knew I should die tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.”
– Martin Luther

As we near completion of Volume 1 of the World’s Worst Books, some gesture seems in order.

Ideally, we would have a party. I’m imagining some kind of Come as Your Favorite Character costume affair (I call dibs on The Drunk Executive) and maybe a Rocky Horror-style audience participation viewing of Left Behind: The Movie (with optional LB drinking game). Good times.

Sadly, though, the geographical distribution of our virtual L.B. Friday community would make such a physical gathering impossible.

So instead I thought I might just plant some trees and invite you to join me.

MccurdyI’m a big fan of Floresta, a mission and development agency that fosters economic development and reforestation in some of the world’s poorest and most ecologically distressed countries. The bottom line is they plant trees. Trees are rather important:

Deforestation is a problem of growing significance all over the world. It is especially acute in tropical countries. All of us are affected by this problem, but no one more than the rural poor who make their living in and around the forest.

There are nearly a half-a-billion subsistence farmers worldwide. Constantly fighting starvation and utterly dependent on their environment for survival, they are often trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and deforestation.

Threatened by land that no longer produces, rains that no longer come, and springs that are dry, they clear the forest for agriculture or sell charcoal to survive, further degrading their land.

And here’s Floresta’s own description of their work in Haiti:

Despite the seemingly endless bad news that comes out of Haiti, Floresta has been able to create an indigenously managed program that addresses the vicious cycle that has so many Haitians locked in poverty and despair.

In 1995, Floresta was invited by Episcopal priest Jean-Wilfrid Albert to provide agricultural and economic assistance to the communities in the region in which he worked, approximately 50 kilometers south of Port-au-Prince. Floresta responded and began working in Haiti in 1997.

Since then, Floresta Haiti has grown to an active local staff of 20, and has established a program that includes training in innovative agriculture techniques, reforestation, micro-credit, discipleship and marketing assistance for a growing number of rural Haitian communities.

Floresta has empowered local communities to plant over 200,000 trees and create over 2,000 compost piles, resulting in a dramatic increase in crop yields. In addition, under the supervision of Floresta, farmers have established village banking cooperatives with credit and savings systems in 35 villages with nearly 1000 participants.

You can read more about Floresta here.

Floresta’s tree-planting investment in Haiti and its people is just about the perfect opposite of the the triumphalistic gospel of despair embodied in the Left Behind books.

Left Behind is based on the idea of spiritual self-preservation in a world that’s going to end any day now. Floresta is based on the idea of serving others and investing, tangibly and incarnationally, in the future of this world.

LB alternately ignores or rejoices in the suffering of the anonymous millions; Floresta seeks to help them, one by one, community by community.

In LB, Jesus is a weapon of mass destruction; Floresta’s Jesus says that the reign of God is like a seed.

LB revels in its prophesied calamities and its apocalyptic nightmare world where the Wormwood-poisoned water is undrinkable and the trees of the fields all perish. Floresta looks at Haiti, a place where such calamities seem already to have occurred, and they roll up their sleeves and set to work trying to rebuild and restore.

So anyway I’m looking into setting up some kind of click-to-donate sidebar button thingy, maybe via Yahoo for Good, as a way of passing the virtual collection plate for Floresta’s tree-planting programs in Haiti. (I may also set up a parallel option for Global Releaf, for those who prefer their tree-planting not to be entangled with church planting). I hope to have this ready to go before we finish the remaining 30-or-so pages of Volume 1.

Please let me know if you think this is a good idea.

P.S.: Just to clarify, finishing Vol. 1 is a milestone — something we started all the way back in 2003 — but not the conclusion of LB Fridays. The authors have, unfortunately, written more than a dozen sequels, prequels and spin-offs. Plus there are the movies. After Vol. 1, my plan is to turn to the movie version of the first book, and then, if the Lord tarries, back to print for Vol. 2, etc.

- – - – - – - – -

The illustration above is a wood carving by Michael McCurdy, the cover illustration from Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees, which is one of my Favorite Things.

  • pepperjackcandy

    Maybe we can make a dent in the number of trees killed to print the World’s Worst Books on…
    How many trees would that take, I wonder?
    I’ve found a figure of 80,500 “sheets” per tree. Assuming that a “sheet” is 8.5″ x 11″, that’s 7,526,750 square inches/tree.
    The hardcover version of LB 1 is 320 pages at 9.1″ x 5.7″ each. If that’s 160 sheets, then that’s 906 copies of the hardcover per tree . . . .

  • http://profile.typekey.com/RajExplorer/ Raj

    Hawker Hurricane: Dang, what was the name of the British Scotland Yard Detective who got the car bomb meant for ‘Buck’?
    Chief Inspector Lookout. Lookout of The Yard.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/RajExplorer/ Raj

    Hawker Hurricane: Dang, what was the name of the British Scotland Yard Detective who got the car bomb meant for ‘Buck’?
    Chief Inspector Lookout. Lookout of The Yard.

  • Dawn

    I’m be delighted to read several more years of LB Fridays, but have you thought about branching out? Maybe for awhile you could have watch some TBN, read some other new and exciting forms of blasphemous schlock, before committing yourself to another several years on Volume II.

  • Salamanda

    I’ll come as Verna Zee’s receptionist. I have many years’ experience playing the chipper little diplomat for harried professional types—guarding their precious time against self-important GIRAT-types, while somehow managing to convince said GIRAT-types that I’m on THEIR side—so it’s right up my alley.

  • Salamanda

    I’ll come as Verna Zee’s receptionist. I have many years’ experience playing the chipper little diplomat for harried professional types—guarding their precious time against self-important GIRAT-types, while somehow managing to convince said GIRAT-types that I’m on THEIR side—so it’s right up my alley.

  • http://rhymeswithfuchsia.blogspot.com Lucia

    Damn, Meta-Hattie’s already taken, about half a dozen times. (Slut.) Nobody seems to want to be Nicky Catskills, though, so maybe I could go in drag and have awesome superpowers. I am younger than Robert Redford, after all, although that’s not much of a distinction these days.
    I’ll totally go for the tree thing. I’ll even throw in a few bucks for Heifer while I’m in a donating mood. (Same as Floresta, more or less, only with animals.)
    (I read Harlot too, and she is way behind on the donation updates.)

  • http://rhymeswithfuchsia.blogspot.com Lucia

    Damn, Meta-Hattie’s already taken, about half a dozen times. (Slut.) Nobody seems to want to be Nicky Catskills, though, so maybe I could go in drag and have awesome superpowers. I am younger than Robert Redford, after all, although that’s not much of a distinction these days.
    I’ll totally go for the tree thing. I’ll even throw in a few bucks for Heifer while I’m in a donating mood. (Same as Floresta, more or less, only with animals.)
    (I read Harlot too, and she is way behind on the donation updates.)

  • http://profile.typekey.com/boldfacelie/ practicallyevil

    Okay, you can have him. I’ll be a diplomat at Nicky’s rousing speech, representing my nation. I’m from the UK, so I won’t have to stay on my feet too long, and I’ll probably get to wear a nice suit.
    No, you can have him back. I kind of like the idea of being Reverend Billings via video tape, Bruce Barnes doesn’t have cool peripherals.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/boldfacelie/ practicallyevil

    Okay, you can have him. I’ll be a diplomat at Nicky’s rousing speech, representing my nation. I’m from the UK, so I won’t have to stay on my feet too long, and I’ll probably get to wear a nice suit.
    No, you can have him back. I kind of like the idea of being Reverend Billings via video tape, Bruce Barnes doesn’t have cool peripherals.

  • Dash

    Florista = great idea! Count me in. I eagerly await the widget.
    Everybody wanting to be the woman with the sensible shoes suggests a scenario in which Buck, after his conversation with Lucinda Washington’s assistant, goes to the watercooler. As he’s drinking his water, he suddenly realizes a woman is standing right next to him. “Hello, Mr. Williams,” she says. “Do you really think it’s a good idea to take over Lucinda’s job like this?” Buck looks down and realizes she’s wearing . . . sensible shoes! He backs away slowly, then turns and hurries down the hall. As he runs past an office, the door opens, and a woman comes out, stepping right into his path. He stops, stares at her feet. He gasps. Sensible shoes! He dodges around a corner, nearly colliding with a woman who is coming the other way. “Odd that you want to take over Lucinda’s job, Mr. Williams,” she says. “It’s not like you’re exactly up to speed on what goes on in the office.” Buck looks down at her feet. SENSIBLE SHOES!!! He runs past her and races down the corridor, looking back to see that he’s being pursued by a group of determined-looking women, all wearing . . . sensible shoes. . . .

  • Dash

    Florista = great idea! Count me in. I eagerly await the widget.
    Everybody wanting to be the woman with the sensible shoes suggests a scenario in which Buck, after his conversation with Lucinda Washington’s assistant, goes to the watercooler. As he’s drinking his water, he suddenly realizes a woman is standing right next to him. “Hello, Mr. Williams,” she says. “Do you really think it’s a good idea to take over Lucinda’s job like this?” Buck looks down and realizes she’s wearing . . . sensible shoes! He backs away slowly, then turns and hurries down the hall. As he runs past an office, the door opens, and a woman comes out, stepping right into his path. He stops, stares at her feet. He gasps. Sensible shoes! He dodges around a corner, nearly colliding with a woman who is coming the other way. “Odd that you want to take over Lucinda’s job, Mr. Williams,” she says. “It’s not like you’re exactly up to speed on what goes on in the office.” Buck looks down at her feet. SENSIBLE SHOES!!! He runs past her and races down the corridor, looking back to see that he’s being pursued by a group of determined-looking women, all wearing . . . sensible shoes. . . .

  • Dash

    Uh, “Floresta,” not “Florista.” This is why I need widget.

  • Dash

    Uh, “Floresta,” not “Florista.” This is why I need widget.

  • Chrissl

    @Lucia: Yes, but *which* harlot? {grin} There are two in this discussion so far…..
    @hapax: LB encampment? Lord help us all!

  • Chrissl

    @Lucia: Yes, but *which* harlot? {grin} There are two in this discussion so far…..
    @hapax: LB encampment? Lord help us all!

  • Reynard

    Posted by Dash: SENSIBLE SHOES!!!
    Dash, you are *SO* full of Awesome!!!

  • Reynard

    Posted by Dash: SENSIBLE SHOES!!!
    Dash, you are *SO* full of Awesome!!!

  • alfgifu

    Also eagerly awaiting the donation whatsit.
    After Dash’s post, I think I’ll be the Sensible Shoes. You can hide, but you can’t run (not in those heels), Bucky-boy!

  • Nenya

    Brilliant idea, Fred. I’ve bookmarked the Floresta site in case I can’t donate this time around. But I hope I can. Thank you so much for your wonderful posts these last five years!
    I’ll come as the cabbie driving the taxi that Buck stuck Hattie in to go make phone calls with his boss. Maybe I’ll let MikhailBorg/McJulie talk me into sending the bill to Buck. *evil grin*
    Lauren, I love your idea of sending “left behind” clothes for the Goodwill! Maybe we could all just be sure to donate to the Salvation Army this month–though that doesn’t have quite the same sense of drama.

  • Turcano

    For some reason, this brought to mind a scene from Waiting For God:

    JAMIE: Take that tree over there. That tree was there before I was born, and it’ll be there after I die.

    DIANA: That’s very philosophical of you, Jamie.

    JAMIE: Smug bastards! They should be chopped down and turned into matches.

  • http://opisthokont.blogspot.com Opisthokont

    Long time reader, first time poster. Amazing work here. I love the idea of the tree-planting charities, and would love to give money if I had any (alas, I am grad student): I will keep them in mind. The secular option is appreciated, too — much like a meat-eating host offering a vegetarian option for dinner guests.

  • Dash

    Reynard: Dash, you are *SO* full of Awesome!!!
    Thank you, thank you! While it is not unheard-of to be told that one is full of some substance or other (I have a whole bunch of cousins–I get that sort of thing a lot), “awesome” has so far not been one of them. I like.

  • Tonio

    Given the huge quantity of LB material, perhaps Fred could simply dissect the plots of the later books and dissect each in two or three postings. Then he could go over the last one in the main series and compare the quality of the writing and character development to the first book, to see if L&J showed any improvement as writers.
    Along with the movie, I would suggest Fred dissect the comic adaption of the main book. Both involving seeing the source material through other people’s eyes. I would be interested to know if the adapters reached some of the same conclusions about plot and characterization that Fred has reached, and if so, if they were able to fashion the material into anything that made sense. Analogy – the Comics Journal once compared the 1979 Buck Rogers movie to the novel tie-in. The movie version lacked internal logic in several places, and these were resolved in the novel version.

  • pepperjackcandy

    “If I knew I should die tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.”
    – Martin Luther

    Does history relate if Martin Luther had forewarning of his death? And if so, did he plant a tree?

  • Chris

    I want to pick a character, but I can’t find any women who aren’t either harlots or boring. And Sensible Shoes Girl is already taken. OK, I’ll come as Rayford’s co-pilot who slit his wrists.
    Wait… the prequel set *right before* “Left Behind” is called “The Rapture”? My mind boggles trying to work out the chronology.

  • http://cereselle.livejournal.com cereselle

    I shall be the thief who stole Ramie’s bicycle. I’m gonna be rich! Rich!
    … What do you mean, there’s no market for kids’ bikes after the rapture?

  • http://cereselle.livejournal.com cereselle

    Oh, and I’m down with the tree-planting. Secular or religious, doesn’t matter as long as the tree gets in the ground.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Hey, nobody has taken Steve Plank. I could do that. He fits my acting style–wooden.
    Or, have you thought that in addition to telephones, there is another persistent technological meme in these books? Airplanes. Not only is Rayford Steele inordinately admired for being a pilot, but everyone seems to be flying around incessantly, or hanging out in an airport, or driving to or from the airport. I might dress up as a nice, shiny 747.

  • Ken

    Slack, Everybody:
    You’re not going to believe this (then again, maybe you would), but I just found this through a reference on Totem to Temple’s new blog:
    A “Post-Rapture” email/spam service called — I kid you not — “You’ve Been Left Behind”.
    For a $40 a year fee, it will store messages to be sent to whoever you want after the Rapture, triggered by some sort of deadman’s switch. Once the switch trips, the personal spam goes out to all the Rayfords/Bruces/Chloes/Hatties/GIRATs on the subscribers’ address lists. They even have form letters available for those RTC/PMDs who can’t think of what to say.
    Is this the latest way to separate RTC/PMDs from their money, “News of the Weird” material, or what?

  • JayDeeJaye

    Someone is going to get SO spanked.

  • Jeff

    For a $40 a year fee, it will store messages to be sent to whoever you want after the Rapture, triggered by some sort of deadman’s switch.
    That’s been around for a while now. I see it a fairly innoccous, at least as far as RTC thinking goes. If the Rapture does happen, at least you’ve done your best to warn those you care about as to what’s to come. $40 per year doesn’t seem too high to provide a bit of peace of mind.

  • Jeff

    For a $40 a year fee, it will store messages to be sent to whoever you want after the Rapture, triggered by some sort of deadman’s switch.
    That’s been around for a while now. I see it a fairly innoccous, at least as far as RTC thinking goes. If the Rapture does happen, at least you’ve done your best to warn those you care about as to what’s to come. $40 per year doesn’t seem too high to provide a bit of peace of mind.

  • JayDeeJaye

    I don’t know, Jeff, it seems a bit of a cop-out to me. If you believe the rapture is going to happen and your mission is to warn people, then shouldn’t you be doing it before the fact, in person, with passion and compassion? If they don’t listen, then (according to Jesus’s checklist for spreading messages of rethinking your life) move on. If you’re doing that, sending an e-mail after the fact seems spiteful. If you’re not doing that, well, that’s a whole different problem.
    But I was really talking about the guys who set this up. The whole thing gives me the creeps. There’s a blog here where you can choose from a series of form letters to help compose your own message if you’re a “customer who does not have the time or prophecy knowledge to write their own general letters.” They read an awful lot like spam.
    The service site http://youvebeenleftbehind.com says that the letters will be sent out if 3 out of 5 team members “scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.” What’s to say that there couldn’t be other circumstances that would prevent these guys from keeping the switch from going off?

  • JayDeeJaye

    I don’t know, Jeff, it seems a bit of a cop-out to me. If you believe the rapture is going to happen and your mission is to warn people, then shouldn’t you be doing it before the fact, in person, with passion and compassion? If they don’t listen, then (according to Jesus’s checklist for spreading messages of rethinking your life) move on. If you’re doing that, sending an e-mail after the fact seems spiteful. If you’re not doing that, well, that’s a whole different problem.
    But I was really talking about the guys who set this up. The whole thing gives me the creeps. There’s a blog here where you can choose from a series of form letters to help compose your own message if you’re a “customer who does not have the time or prophecy knowledge to write their own general letters.” They read an awful lot like spam.
    The service site http://youvebeenleftbehind.com says that the letters will be sent out if 3 out of 5 team members “scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.” What’s to say that there couldn’t be other circumstances that would prevent these guys from keeping the switch from going off?

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

    Imagine, for a moment, that at sunrise billions of people disappeared from the Earth in a twinkling.
    As we know, cars crash, planes fall from the sky, there are a few unfortunate infrastructure incidents with power and water and the like before the unbelievers of the world can clean up after the vanished RTCs. E-mail gets fixed early, what with all those geeks and their joke-worship of Cthulhu, Ghu, Eris, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Xenu, and Hello Kitty.
    So, that afternoon, you get an e-mail. “Hey, having a great time in Heaven. Wish you were here, you godless fool. Enjoy the Tribulation!”
    How would you feel about that e-mail and the person who sent it?
    Basically, this is $40 a year to make Dang Sure RTCs get to say “I Told You So” in absentia.
    (My previous Told You So comment was me in a very angry mood. I’m less angry today, but this still seems awfully smug.)

  • Hawker Hurricane

    It always sounded to me like a scam. I get $40 a year per person for a promise that can’t be enforced. I’ve also seen pet care services based on the same principal.
    It sounds like Yeti Streetcar Insurance (from a Porky Pig cartoon): “Our insurance only costs $40 a year! If you get hit by a streetcar driven by a Yeti in your own living room, we’ll pay you a million dollars! How can you lose?”

  • Hawker Hurricane

    It always sounded to me like a scam. I get $40 a year per person for a promise that can’t be enforced. I’ve also seen pet care services based on the same principal.
    It sounds like Yeti Streetcar Insurance (from a Porky Pig cartoon): “Our insurance only costs $40 a year! If you get hit by a streetcar driven by a Yeti in your own living room, we’ll pay you a million dollars! How can you lose?”

  • Jeff

    Jay, Mikhail, Hawker: I guess I was feeling charitable with the form-letters.
    Don’t worry — it won’t happen again. [grin]

  • Jeff

    Jay, Mikhail, Hawker: I guess I was feeling charitable with the form-letters.
    Don’t worry — it won’t happen again. [grin]

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The service site http://youvebeenleftbehind.com says that the letters will be sent out if 3 out of 5 team members “scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.” What’s to say that there couldn’t be other circumstances that would prevent these guys from keeping the switch from going off? — JayDeeJaye
    Just invoke Murphy’s Law. For whatever reason, the deadman’s switch carriers are kept away from the site for six days and Hilarity Ensues (TM).
    It always sounded to me like a scam. I get $40 a year per person for a promise that can’t be enforced. I’ve also seen pet care services based on the same principal. — Hawker Hurricane
    That’s what everybody I described it to said. Looks like PMD/RTCs with too much money, and someone willing to separate the two. Mugu.
    As for the “pet care services based on the same principle”, I once heard the editor of Wittenburg Door describing his collection of the Tackiest Items From Christian Bookstores. He led off with “The Critter Cross”, a set of pet care instructions and Sinner’s Prayer based on the same idea.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The service site http://youvebeenleftbehind.com says that the letters will be sent out if 3 out of 5 team members “scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.” What’s to say that there couldn’t be other circumstances that would prevent these guys from keeping the switch from going off? — JayDeeJaye
    Just invoke Murphy’s Law. For whatever reason, the deadman’s switch carriers are kept away from the site for six days and Hilarity Ensues (TM).
    It always sounded to me like a scam. I get $40 a year per person for a promise that can’t be enforced. I’ve also seen pet care services based on the same principal. — Hawker Hurricane
    That’s what everybody I described it to said. Looks like PMD/RTCs with too much money, and someone willing to separate the two. Mugu.
    As for the “pet care services based on the same principle”, I once heard the editor of Wittenburg Door describing his collection of the Tackiest Items From Christian Bookstores. He led off with “The Critter Cross”, a set of pet care instructions and Sinner’s Prayer based on the same idea.

  • http://www.jenscaffidi.com Jen

    Tree planting? Brilliant.
    I’ve been reading these posts for so long now that I can’t remember NOT reading them. I am glad they will continue.
    Thank you.

  • http://crackerlilo.blogspot.com CrackerLilo

    Thanks for letting us know about this organization! Absolutely amazing.
    I found out about your analysis of LB from the Orcinus blog. How the hell did I miss it? I come from a family that believes this nonsense. I was given this first book. I was also given a DVD for “those who are left behind,” like in the book, only a touch more professional. (The book inspired quite a few televangelists to do this.)
    Anyway, I’m glad I’ll be there for the end, and thank you for it! I can easily see how it took years to read in-depth.
    My younger cousins read the juvenile books, and got nightmares, and my aunt couldn’t fathom why.

  • http://crackerlilo.blogspot.com CrackerLilo

    Thanks for letting us know about this organization! Absolutely amazing.
    I found out about your analysis of LB from the Orcinus blog. How the hell did I miss it? I come from a family that believes this nonsense. I was given this first book. I was also given a DVD for “those who are left behind,” like in the book, only a touch more professional. (The book inspired quite a few televangelists to do this.)
    Anyway, I’m glad I’ll be there for the end, and thank you for it! I can easily see how it took years to read in-depth.
    My younger cousins read the juvenile books, and got nightmares, and my aunt couldn’t fathom why.

  • http://www.seanwilliams.com Sean Williams

    Great idea! If no one’s taken the Speakerphone, I could be that since I live in Australia and couldn’t attend in person.
    Great series of posts, Fred. I’ve been hooked since discovering them this month. Ever thought of publishing them?

  • http://www.seanwilliams.com Sean Williams

    Great idea! If no one’s taken the Speakerphone, I could be that since I live in Australia and couldn’t attend in person.
    Great series of posts, Fred. I’ve been hooked since discovering them this month. Ever thought of publishing them?


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