L.B.: Dear Captain

Left Behind, pp. 438-440

New Hope Village Church’s Sunday service is drawing SRO crowds.

Rayford and Chloe watched for Buck until the last minute the next morning, but they could no longer save a seat for him when the sanctuary and the balcony filled. When Bruce began his message, Chloe nudged her father and pointed out the window, down onto the walk before the front door. There, in a small crowd listening to an external speaker, was Buck. Rayford raised a celebratory fist and whispered to Chloe, “Wonder what you’re going to pray for this morning?”

(Out of sympathy for Chloe’s embarrassment, we’ll just ignore Rayford here and pretend that whole fist-pumping bit didn’t happen.)

Post-Event I would think every house of worship would be jammed with overflow crowds like this one. This is one of the things we humans do in the wake of tragedy — we gather together, often in churches. One baby trapped in a well will fill every pew in town for a week. The Event is a much bigger deal — imagine every baby and young child on the planet lost down that well.

A mere 13 days after The Event, the world would still be reeling from the trauma and the impulse to gather together and hold vigils would be overwhelming. People wouldn’t be able to hold vigils at the scene of The Event because it happened everywhere and nowhere. Churches would thus be the most likely place for such vigiling to occur — they’re easy to find, open to the public, and they’ve already got candles and experience conducting this sort of thing. Schools might be another gathering place* — somewhere people could leave notes at impromptu shrines piled high with flowers, candles and stuffed animals. But those empty schools might also be a bit too much, too overwhelming. All those stuffed animals mouldering in the rain — the last of the pre-Event plush manufactured before the stuffed-animal companies closed their doors on a world without children.

So even though most Americans don’t go to church on most Sundays, most would likely do so on the Sundays following The Event. Out of civil custom, if not religious conviction, they would have swarmed their local churches and thus, rather quickly, people would have begun to notice a pattern — an undeniable, unmistakable clustering of missing adults at many of these churches. Each of those churches would have their own versions of Bruce or Loretta, people who could tell them what had happened.

Every local paper would’ve soon been reporting this story, some reporting it as theory, but more than a few likely reporting it as fact, supported by the evidence that only certain adults of a particular kind seemed to be among the vanished. That evidence would make this explanation far more convincing than Nicolae’s official story about electromagnetic something or other.

The Rapture theory would thus have been old news long before Buck even started on his Global Weekly story. While Bruce was conducting secret meetings with his inner-core core-groups, Loretta would be appearing on Larry King Live, playing the in-case-of-rapture video for the entire country.**

None of that happens here in Left Behind, of course. All those other towns are filled with Other People and the authors don’t really care or wonder about Other People all that much. They imagine that New Hope Village Church is an exception — perhaps the only church drawing such crowds. But even the Other People filling New Hope’s sanctuary barely register in this story:

Bruce played the former pastor’s videotape, told his own story again, talked briefly about prophecy, invited people to receive Christ, and then opened the microphone for personal accounts. As had happened the previous two weeks, people streamed forward and stood in line until well after one in the afternoon, eager to tell how they had now, finally, trusted Christ.

Chloe told her father she had wanted to be first, as he had been, but by the time she made her way down front the last row of the balcony, she was one of the last.

That’s verbatim: “… she made her way down front the last row of the balcony.” And so is “the previous two weeks,” even though The Event happened 13 days ago, on a Monday night, and I’m pretty sure you can’t fit three Sundays into 13 days.

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention again that Jerry Jenkins runs a writing school, with a starting tuition of only $1,365. Their critique service is also available to non-students. For just $30, “a team of writing professionals” will “evaluate your work on the basis of five core issues: Proper language usage, Pacing, Presentation, Purpose and Persuasiveness of the content.” (In Jenkins’ defense, “Continuity” isn’t one of their five core issues.)

Chloe “told her story, including the sign she believed God had given her in the form of a friend who sat beside her on the flight home.”

These folks really know how to bury the lede. Chloe’s “sign” from God isn’t really all that compelling when compared to what everyone in the room witnessed firsthand 13 days ago. Worse than that is the way Bruce never seems to move beyond a basic I-told-you-so message about the Rapture. He told Buck this is the same theme he plans to preach every Sunday. If I were one of those Other People gathered at New Hope I wouldn’t be nearly as interested in this endless rehashing of prophecies fulfilled as I would be in prophecies yet to come. What happens next? Bruce knows, but he’s not telling. And the congregation knows he knows, but they’re not asking. This is deeply weird — particularly since part of what Bruce knows is that everyone in that room will be dead within six years, 11 months and 19 days, and most sooner than that.

When the meeting was over, Rayford and Chloe went outside to find Buck, but he was gone. They went for lunch with Bruce, and when they got home, Chloe found a note from Buck on the front door.

Closer inspection would also likely have revealed footprints and cigarette butts in the shrubbery outside of Chloe’s bedroom window. I’m joking. There’s nothing creepy at all about the idea of him avoiding contact with them at the church, then looking up their home address and driving to their house to leave a note while they’re not there. Nothing creepy at all about that.

It isn’t that I didn’t want to say good-bye. But I don’t. …

That’s how the note begins. The odd lack of a salutation there has the same presumed familiarity as starting a phone conversation, “Hi, it’s me.” I wouldn’t recommend using “Hi, it’s me” after only one date.

That lack of salutation also means there was a 50/50 chance that Rayford, rather than Chloe, would’ve found this note first. The fact that the entire note is included in this Rayford-POV section implies, at least, that he must’ve read it after his daughter did. The end of this section is much more entertaining, though, if we imagine that Capt. Steele found the note first, believing it was addressed to him:

… I’ll be back for bureau business and maybe just to see you, if you’ll allow it. …

“Hmm,” Rayford thinks. “Perhaps my passionate sincerity has begun to persuade him and he wants to hear more about my new-found faith. …”

… I’ve got a lot to think about right now, as you know, and frankly, I don’t want my attraction to you to get in the way of that thinking. And it would. …

“Oh, my,” Rayford thinks, remembering that Buck did look strangely sweaty the other night at the restaurant. …

You are a lovely person, Chloe …

Oh, phew. “Honey, I think this is for you.”

You are a lovely person, Chloe, and I was moved to tears by your story. You had told me before, but to hear it in that place and in that circumstance this morning was beautiful. Would you do something I have never asked anyone to do for me ever before? …

“Oh, my,” Chloe thinks, remembering that Buck did look strangely sweaty the other night at the restaurant. …

… Would you pray for me?

Oh, phew.

I will call you or see you soon. I promise. Buck.

I will see you soon. I promise. And now I know where you live.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* The Event took place at night here in the States, but I’d imagine a very different atmosphere at school buildings in those countries where it took place during school hours. There school buildings would be cordoned off with police tape as moon-suited government investigators armed with geiger-counters and EMF-readers scoured the kindergarten desks for some clue as to What Happened. And what of the teachers, left bewildered in their suddenly empty classrooms? Some would have gone mad. Others would have been arrested and interrogated, and still others scapegoated and slaughtered by angry mobs. …

** LaHaye’s End Times check list does not allow for this kind of mass-conversion and religious revival, but I don’t see any way for it not to happen given the scenario the authors present. And just ask Hezekiah or Jonah what that would mean — what it always means when the threat of judgment produces repentance and revival. The shadow would move back ten steps and God would relent from sending calamity. Nicolae would be swept away like Sennacherib and poor old Tim LaHaye would be left muttering that he’s angry enough to die.

NRA: Fulfilling our evangelistic duty
NRA: Papa is still preaching (it gets worse)
NRA: Papa don't preach
NRA: Conspiracy theories should be fun
  • http://jennainrio.blogspot.com Jenna

    Brazil does, in fact, know of Left Behind. The movie, at least. “Deixados para trás” is frighteningly encouraged by well-meaning Brazilian Christian friends of mine here in Rio…

  • Salamanda

    *makes popcorn*
    *prepares plentiful piles of puffy pale popped produce particles for purposes of partaking*
    (drenched in butter, natch)

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com/ Geds

    He took the Rapture idea and turned it completely on its head in his book The Taking… in his book, most of the adults are disappeared and it’s the children are the ones left behind.
    J. Michael Straczynski’s Jeremiah. The government figures out how to kill everyone above the age of puberty. The show starts, like, fifteen years later when the world has fallen apart and all of the children are still trying to figure out how to survive.
    The show kind of fell apart in the second season as it drew to a close, but there was all kinds of awesome on the way there.

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

    Cathleen Silver had never been the type to watch CNN. Even before Pastor Billings had warned – nay, outright forbidden – dutiful wives like herself from worrying themselves with issues that bore no particular relevance to erving God, husband or family (in no particular order), Cathleen had never understood why she should be interested in the particulars of that brief Russia-Israel war that had, after all, not a single casualty. Nor why anyone should care about some trifling election in some Eastern European country she’d never even heard of. And had she not pressed the wrong button on her remote control trying to switch off her television set before bed, she’d have missed their exclusive coverage of the end of the world.
    Keep writing, this is good stuff. Someone get this man some Right Behind posting privileges.

  • Karen

    I keep thinking of all the bereft parents in this story. Whenever I pray, I blackmail God by telling Him that if He does anything to my kids, I’ll immediately become a raving alcoholic atheist. One Christopher Hitchens is quite enough for this world. I can’t understand at all these people who show up at church after God has shattered their lives for no apparently good reason. I wouldn’t be at New Hope church 13 days after my sons vanished; I’d be passed out between binges at the nearest bar.

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

    *prepares plentiful piles of puffy pale popped produce particles for purposes of partaking*
    (drenched in butter, natch)

    A challenger approaches:
    Please provide popcorn proportionate to per person population of peckish posters post haste.
    (If you make popcorn can the rest of us have some?)

  • Robert

    Jenna: Brazil does, in fact, know of Left Behind. The movie, at least. “Deixados para trás” is frighteningly encouraged by well-meaning Brazilian Christian friends of mine here in Rio…
    Holy crap, I should have known. I must be moving in the wrong circles.

  • Dahne

    Won a youth interfaith soccer match – Fist pump.
    Won a convert – Fist pump.
    Your daughter’s creepy stalker showed up at church – DO NOT FIST PUMP.

  • JamesK

    For some reason, the first image the Rapture Wave sparks in my mind is a crew of garage mechanics out in the California desert struggling to get their Space Plane prototype ready for flight as half a dozen families say their tearful farewells on the runway. If they can get launched in three hours, they can achieve escape velocity before The Wave reaches the Pacific with six children on board. Then they stay on the night side of Earth for as long as possible and hope for the best. They’ll probably all die trying, but what was all their work for if not this?
    Creepy creepy stuff, all of it.

  • http://cynicsage.blogspot.com/ The Cynic Sage

    English is not my first language, so could someone enlighten me on the meaning of “fist-pumping”? I am getting some rather disturbing images.
    It’s clenching your fist and releasing, like squeezing a stress-ball but w/out the stress-ball.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/ Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I’ve always thought that if someone was giving a homily they should be handing out grits. Just me?
    Keith, you did not get nearly enough appreciation for this suggestion. Speaking as a “girl raised in the south,” I very much approve.
    “Hey! Hey! I went to Mass and didn’t get no homine! I want my homine!”
    “You mean homily?”
    “Oh! …Nevermind!”

  • pepperjackcandy

    How about a planeload of foreign orphans to be adopted by U.S. families comes winging across the Atlantic, touching down at JFK just after the Rapture hit there.
    Suddenly, that planeful of kids are the only children left in the United States. . . .

  • Trixie Belden

    smgt @ 5:07
    I agree with lonespark – that was great! Rather like a classic “Twilight Zone” episode.

  • http://yagowe.livejournal.com yagowe

    Of course, the title “Wave of Rapture” also suggests a somewhat… different kind of story.

  • Salamanda

    Please provide popcorn proportionate to per person population of peckish posters post haste.
    (If you make popcorn can the rest of us have some?)

    Perhaps, if provisions prove plenteous. Permit me to poke through the pantry.
    (Sure, if I have enough. Lemme check.)

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Praline

    Normally I’d enjoy an alliteration fight, Practicallyevil, but I’ve afraid it’s not Possible. Not at Present, anyway, as I’ve got to go to a wedding today. Maybe we could Procrastinate till another time?

  • http://salzara-tirwen.livejournal.com salzara tirwen

    Praline postpones petty pugilism prettily.

  • josephdietrich

    An example of fist-pumping can be seen whenever someone shoots a goal in football (AE: soccer). While running off, the player makes a fist, raises it in the air, and shakes it back and forth (or up and down).

  • Mau de Katt

    I never understood this part of Left Behindism; can people just not conceive anymore? Are the fetuses automatically raptured upon conception?
    Well, no…. Apparently children can be conceived and birthed in the normal fashion after The Event, and then those kids who aren’t killed during the Tribulation (which gets them automatically into Heaven since they died before they were Legally Liable for Saying or Not Saying the Magic Words) end up with the Still Mortal Saved Folks in the Brand Sparkling New Earth, consuming the piles of butter-drenched steaming produce and listening to Stories About Jeebus as told by Chloe and Buck et al.
    And then if they DON’T say The Magic Words in this Brand Sparkling New Earth before the End Of The Millenium arrives and The FINAL Final Battle begins, they are sent down to Hell with the rest of the Post-Rapture, Pre-Second Coming “Unsaved.”
    Fun, huh?

  • Johnny Pez

    Believe it or not, the Hari Seldon angle never occurred to me.
    I don’t think racing for the Arctic would help you avoid the Rapture Wave. I imagine the Wave sweeping from pole to pole, starting in Jerusalem and all points directly north and south. Which, incidentally, would leave Moscow as one of the last places on Earth to be hit by the Wave. There’s a Right Behind story right there.