L.B.: Meta-Buck gets saved

Left Behind, pp. 449-451

And so the final chapter, the big showdown begins. Nicolae Carpathia steps forward to cement his control with an undeniable “show of strength.” Soon the whole world will bear witness to his fearsome power.

Except that Nicolae is, at the moment, in “a private conference room” with no TV cameras. That’s not really an ideal location for staging a show of strength for the whole world to see, but he has arranged to have the press there to report on the feats he’s about to perform.

Well, not so much the press as one reporter, actually.

Well, one former reporter who never actually publishes anything.

Oh, and Nicolae plans to brainwash that reporter and everyone else in the room to make sure that no one ever hears about what he’s about to do there.

I’m starting to think that maybe Nicolae hasn’t really thought this through. If a show of strength falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, will anyone be impressed?

Nicolae’s actions in this chapter provide a bit of the creepiness that’s been sorely lacking for most of this book, but it would have been much creepier, much more unsettling and affecting, if those actions had also made sense. He conducts his grand public demonstration in private and then ensures that even the few witnesses he’s assembled won’t be able to remember what they just saw. This grand display of his eeeevil powers, which he performs in full-on “So you see Meester Bond …” mode, also doesn’t turn out to be all that evil, really. I mean, yeah, it’s wrong — his actions are clearly both a crime and a sin — but his victims also had it coming. The authors seem to be shooting for a grand violent gesture in which Nicolae displays his cold-blooded ruthlessness in pursuit of power — something like Keyser Soze on the docks or the baptism scene from The Godfather. But here at the end of a book with a body count already in the millions, the deaths of two more people just doesn’t seem all that chilling.

The fact that this scene was written by Jerry Jenkins also doesn’t help:

Nicolae Carpathia stepped out from his place at the table and went to each person individually. He greeted each by name, asking him to stand, shaking his hand, and kissing him on both cheeks. He skipped Hattie and started with the new British ambassador.

“Mr. Todd-Cothran,” he said …

This is a signature tick throughout the book. First Jenkins summarizes what’s about to happen, then he goes back to the beginning and goes through it again step-by-step. But he does this all in the past-tense, making it hard to figure out the actual sequence of events. (Is T-C the first person he addresses, or has he worked his way around the table and then “started” to repeat the established pattern with T-C?) You get the feeling that Jenkins always starts a joke with the punchline.

Why not just start like this instead?

Nicolae rose and approached Todd-Cothran, asking him to stand. He shook the financier’s hand and kissed him on both cheeks. “Mr. Todd-Cothran …”

Anyway, Carpathia tells T-C:

“You shall be introduced as the ambassador of the Great States of Britain, which now include much of Western and Eastern Europe. I welcome you to the team and confer upon you all the rights and privileges that go with your new station. May you display to me and to those in your charge the consistency and wisdom that have brought you to this position.”

This again demonstrates that LaHaye & Jenkins don’t really understand what “ambassador” means. They seem to think that ambassadors to the United Nations are appointed by the United Nations — that they are chosen by the secretary-general to act as his lieutenants, like colonial governors or prefects of the One World Government.

This arrangement isn’t something newly instituted by Carpathia as part of his future OWG — this is how the authors imagine the U.N. works now, today. They believe that Ban Ki-moon is, right now, the supreme leader of the whole world, dictating policy for all the member nations of the U.N. Again, this seems an impossible thing to believe — requiring an astonishing level of ignorance about an institution that they claim is of supreme importance. They are able to maintain such ignorance, in part, because this delusion also allows them to flatter themselves. They enjoy telling themselves that America, and only America, has managed to maintain its national sovereignty, refusing to bend its knee to Ban or to allow his hand-picked delegate, Zalmay Khalilzad, to dictate our national policy.

This is breathtaking stupidity in the service of self-congratulation. Then again, that’s kind of the theme of the entire book. What else would you expect from a pair of authors whose Mary Sue stand-ins are Rayford Steele and Buck Williams?

The only difference, the authors believe, between Nicolae’s U.N. and the real one that exists today is that Carpathia has merged the subordinate nations of the world into only 10 federations. They chose the number 10 because of Revelation 13:1:

And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had 10 horns and seven heads, with 10 crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.

L&J don’t really have any idea what that means either, but it’s got the number 10 in it, so they’ve decided the “10 horns … with 10 crowns” must refer to 10 divisions of the One World Government instituted by the secretary-general of the United Nations.

This is what L&J mean by a “literal interpretation of the Bible.”

“Thank you, sir,” Todd-Cothran said, and sat down as Carpathia moved on. Todd-Cothran appeared shocked, as did several others, when Nicolae repeated the same sentiment, including precisely the same title — ambassador of the Great States of Britain — to the British financier next to him. Todd-Cothran smiled tolerantly. Obviously, Carpathia had merely misspoken and should have referred to the man as one of his financial advisers. Yet Buck had never seen Carpathia make such a slip.

Apart from the clumsy writing, that’s actually a half-decent bit of foreshadowing. What squelches that for me is Buck’s utter lack of interest in Todd-Cothran, a man he’s seeing here for the very first time. This guy planted a bomb in Buck’s car. This is the man who forced Buck to flee for his life, lamming to Germany under an assumed name. That was seven days ago. A week later Buck isn’t the least bit curious about the guy or the least bit uncomfortable to be sitting across the room from him. I realize that he claims not to want Buck dead at the moment, but he’s still someone you’d think our hero would want to keep an eye on.

All around the four-sided table configuration Carpathia went, one by one, saying exactly the same words to every ambassador, but customizing the litany to include the appropriate name and title. The recitation changed only slightly for his personal aides and advisers.

This reminds me of something:

“Enthusiams. What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball!”

Those are lines from The Untouchables, spoken by a baseball-bat wielding Robert Deniro as the mobster Al Capone, circling a similar group of dignitaries arranged around a similar table. The air of palpable menace in that scene seems to be what L&J are trying for, but they never quite get there. Not even after Chekhov’s gun makes its belated appearance a few pages from now.

What we get here, instead, are repeated recitations of:

“I welcome you to the team and confer upon you all the rights and privileges that go with your new station. May you display to me and to those in your charge the consistency and wisdom that have brought you to this position.”

We’ve been told that Carpathia is eloquent and that he speaks, always, in “perfect English,” but that’s hard to reconcile with the character we actually see — the man who thinks this ugly, awkward paragraph conveys a sense of ceremonial solemnity. “Consistency” is an odd word-choice there, conveying some middle range of praise, somewhere between “punctuality” and “dedication.” And “team” is just jarringly wrong. Evil Transylvanian megalomaniacs setting out to rule the world just do not say, “welcome to the team.” The Antichrist shouldn’t talk like David Brent. (Although if he did, consistently, this would’ve been a much more entertaining, and much more frightening, book.)

When Carpathia got to Buck he seemed to hesitate. Buck was slow on the draw, as if he wasn’t sure he was to be included in this. Carpathia’s warm smile welcomed him to stand. Buck was slightly off balance, trying to hold pen and notebook while shaking hands with the dramatic Carpathia. Nicolae’s grip was firm and strong, and he maintained it throughout his recitation. He looked directly into Buck’s eyes and spoke with quiet authority.

“Mr. Williams,” he said, “I welcome you to the team and confer upon you all the rights and privileges that go with your station. …”

Since we’ve noted that Carpathia’s actions in this chapter don’t make any sense, we should probably also note that Buck’s actions, even his very presence here, are equally absurd. Ever since Bruce Barnes warned him not to go to this meeting, Buck has insisted that he had to go — that it was his duty as a reporter and an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. And he was right about that — an all-time scoop is unfolding before his eyes. Here, for the first time anywhere, the newly appointed World Leader is laying out the political and geographical divisions of the New World Order. And here, for the first time anywhere, he is identifying the Council of Global Governors, the men who will each rule one tenth of the world. Sure, this will all be reviewed again at the press conference an hour from now, but Buck is getting more of the story and he’s getting it first.

Yet Buck isn’t taking notes as these men are introduced and their various principalities are outlined. Buck isn’t even paying attention. He couldn’t pick the Ambassador for the Great States of South America out of a police lineup. He was willing to risk his life to be the lone journalist granted access to this room, but once there he fails to perform any journalistic function, focusing instead only on those details that are of interest to him personally — details he has no intention of reporting to his readers, should he ever actually write anything.

That’s not surprising, since this what Buck has done throughout the book. He has used his role as a “journalist” to book flights to London and Chicago, to gain access to meetings at the U.N. and to private interviews at the Plaza, yet he’s never taken any notes, or filed any reports from any of those places. He’s run up an enormous tab on Global Weekly’s expense account, yet the magazine has nothing to show for it. (What’s more, the magazine doesn’t seem to care. Nobody says, “Say, Buck, didn’t we just pay to send you to London? Shouldn’t we be getting a story out of that?” Instead, he gets promoted.)

It’s not that Buck seems to be a bad journalist, but rather that he doesn’t seem to be a journalist at all.

Yet now, here, in the presence of “the truest, deepest, darkest spirit of evil,” face to face with the Antichrist himself, Buck’s soul is kept safe. And what is it that protects him? It’s not divine intervention, not the prayers of Bruce and Chloe on his behalf, and not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No, the thing that saves Buck’s soul here, that shields his mind from the mojo-puppetry of the Antichrist, is his indignation that his independence as a journalist is being called into question.

This is Buck Williams’ Scott-McLellan moment:

What was this? It was not what Buck expected, but it was so affirming, so flattering. He was not part of any team, and no rights or privileges should be conferred upon him! He shook his head slightly … but Nicolae nodded slightly and smiled all the more, looking more deeply into Buck’s eyes. …

Buck wanted to stand taller, to thank his mentor, his leader, the bestower of this honor. But no! It wasn’t right! He didn’t work for Carpathia. He was an independent journalist, not a supporter, not a follower, and certainly not an employee. His spirit resisted the temptation to say, “Thank you, sir,” as everyone else had. He sensed and read the evil of the man and it was all he could do to keep from pointing at him and calling him the Antichrist. He could almost hear himself screaming it at Carpathia. …

After an awkward silence, Buck heard chuckles, and Carpathia said, “You are most welcome, my slightly overcome and tongue-tied friend.” The others laughed and applauded as Carpathia kissed him, but Buck did not smile. Neither did he thank the secretary-general. Bile rose in his throat.

It feels strange to write this, but I like that passage.

Buck Williams has been, up until this moment, the shoddiest of craftsmen and ethically bankrupt as a journalist. He has buried stories at the behest of criminals. He has conducted every interview off the record. And he hasn’t filed a story in more than a year. He is, in every way, just about the sorriest excuse for a journalist imaginable. And yet here he grasps something basic about the job that most of our elite Beltway media do not seem to understand.

The scene above could be read aloud every year at the White House Correspondents Dinner for the edification of the journalists assembled there. This is how you should respond when some politician gives you a chummy nickname or invites you to a barbecue or lets you sit next to him on the bus or otherwise threatens to co-opt your independence by making you feel like you’re just part of the team: You should jump back, point at them, and scream “Antichrist!” until they get the picture.

After he sits back down, Buck tells himself that:

Had he not belonged to God he would have been swept into the web of this man of deceit. … Bruce Barnes had pleaded with Buck not to attend this meeting, and now Buck knew why. Had he come in unprepared, had he not been prayed for by Bruce and Chloe and probably Captain Steele, who knows whether he would have made his decision and his commitment to Christ in time to have the power to resist the lure of acceptance and power?

But re-read the passages quoted above. It wasn’t God or those prayers that gave Buck “the power to resist power.” It was something far more modest — the tiniest remaining sliver of Buck’s journalistic ethics. That lonely, stunted, heretofore-neglected crumb of integrity seems to have saved Buck’s soul.

But then even that is not quite right. What really causes Buck to rise up and resist Nicolae isn’t the idea of violating his journalistic integrity. What allows him to resist here is his indignation that he might be thought of as someone who would do this. In a sense, it’s Buck’s vanity — his delusional, comically inflated self-perception — that gets his ire up here.

Yet it’s simply impossible that such vanity could be sustained here. Not in this time and place, around this very table where the two men sat who had agreed to withdraw their contract on Buck’s life because he had already, explicitly agreed, just one week ago, to betray his journalistic independence and to accept his role as part of the team from the very man who was, at this moment, shaking his hand and looking into his eyes. In that situation, it’s just impossible to think that Buck could tell himself he was “an independent journalist … not an employee,” and believe what he was thinking.

So I like to think here that in that moment of desperate self-assertion Buck may have experienced a nanosecond’s worth of actual self-knowledge. He may have caught a sideways glimpse of the yawning chasm beneath his feet, of the vast gulf between the things he told himself about himself and the way he really was. The glimpse couldn’t have lasted any longer than that briefest instant or he wouldn’t have been able to survive it, but perhaps it lasted just long enough — the twinkling of an eye, as it were — to serve as a window to grace.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes that “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” That’s a very different concept of prayer than the idea that we can bind God to our will by saying the magic words, but perhaps this was the sort of prayer accredited to Buck in that nanosecond. “Oh my God,” he thought in that instant, “I’m ridiculous!

And perhaps that was enough.

NRA: Fulfilling our evangelistic duty
NRA: Papa is still preaching (it gets worse)
NRA: Papa Don't Preach 2 (a fanfic interlude)
NRA: Papa don't preach
  • mcc

    I don’t know where the any of the numbers in this came from… I get the feeling the “mathematician” they used was Chaim, and his mathematical knowledge is about as rigorous as his physics knowledge.
    What’s particularly fascinating here is that it isn’t just Ben-Judah trying to make this argument. It is the authors making this argument by means of Ben-Judah: the idea that Jesus-as-messiah is supported by Jewish scripture is something the authors actually believe and would like to convince their readers of. So it would be bad enough if they just threw out this “one in a quadrillion” number and didn’t divulge what mathematician they got it from, but worse than that the mathematician doesn’t exist, he is literally a work of fiction. They didn’t even go to the bother of working out a dubious probability argument, instead they had an imaginary rabbi go to an imaginary mathematician and perform an imaginary calculation to produce a number that we’re one way or another expected to apply to the non-imaginary real world…
    Incidentally this seems like a good place to plug the Good Math, Bad Math blog, a recurring theme on which is debunking arguments where people dubiously construct large-looking probabilities and try to present this as having “proved” something or other. This occasionally includes purported attempts to calculate the improbability of fulfilling all the messianic prophesies at once; fun examples from GMBM are here (this one incorporates a nice summary of the basic common probability fallacies that you see used by everyone from creationists to vaccine-autism link proponents) and here.

  • aunursa

    Tonio: Hypothetical situation – how do you think L&J would react if it were proven that the Messiah were, say, Isaac Newton?
    Once on an interfaith board, I posed the following hypothetical question to the Christian participants:
    Suppose that when the real Messiah comes, it turns out that he isn’t Jesus. All the Jews are instantly transported to Israel, the dead rise, and a voice calls out from heaven identifying the Messiah as a true Prophet of God. In the face of such overwhelming evidence, would you…
    (a) admit that you were wrong and that the Jews were right all along
    (b) reject the Messiah because he isn’t Jesus
    (c) accept the Messiah, but you would call him “Jesus”
    The vast majority of the Christians either objected to the question — it couldn’t possibly happen because anyone other than Jesus cannot possibly be the Messiah — or they said that they would reject him because only Jesus can be the Messiah.
    A minority said that they would have to consider the possibility that they were wrong.
    Later, I wondered whether it would help if Jesus were to make a personal appearance to acknowledge the credentials of the real Messiah and admit that he — Jesus — was not the Messiah.

  • Amaryllis

    Jeff:Um, well, ya see, the Old Testament clearly states that the Messiah will be the son of David, and we really, really want to use those prophesies.
    Oh, and we also want to use the Immaculate Conception, even though that may not have been what was originally in the Gospels.

    Technical note: you mean “Virgin Birth,” not “Immaculate Conception,” which refers to something quite different.
    The author of Matthew wishes to make it quite clear that Mary’s baby was not fathered by Joseph; he’s ready to divorce her when he finds out that she’s pregnant. Which does not, of course, require anyone to accept Matthew’s supernatural explanation, but does lead to the question of why is Joseph’s genealogy important if he is not the father of Jesus – that’s what was being discussed.
    One answer is that in terms of the accepted kinship systems of the time, Jesus was effectively if not literally the son of Joseph, therefore a Son of David.
    the second is the ONLY time we consider the genelogical roots on the mother’s side.
    While the genealogy is given through the male line, Matthew does, in fact, mention three other women: Thamar, Rahab and Ruth. As has been noted before, all of them had some scandal attached to their names; Mary fits right in.

    aunursa: that’s a very strange site, indeed. “Hope of Israel Baptist Mission”??? Israel…Baptists…does not compute…
    As for duplicates, it’s not even just functional equivalents, but literal ones: “descendant of David” is in there four or five times.
    You might, I suppose, argue that it’s a unique prophecy if it’s by a unique author, but some of those are merely subsequent verses within the same book. People really do that kind of arithmetic?

  • Salamanda

    Tonio: Dawkins would be my choice for a “Dogma” approach, as in Kevin Smith.
    Thereby making Richard Dawkins the son of Alanis Morrissette. Nifty!

  • aunursa

    When I just wanted to have fun, another game I would sometimes play with Christian apologists who posed the “the odd of someone fulfilling 300 prophecies are astronomical” argument:
    I would ask them why their calculations don’t include these prophecies that Jesus fulfilled?
    The LORD will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone.
    Deuteronomy 28:36
    Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.
    Deuteronomy 28:65
    Jesus is the god of wood, the god of the cross. (Allah is the god of stone, i.e. the kaaba.)
    How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
    Isaiah 14:12
    Revelation 22:16 identifies Jesus as the morning star.
    The carpenter … fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it.
    Isaiah 44:13-15
    Jesus was a carpenter.
    And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in your hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
    Zechariah 13:6
    An obvious reference to the crucifixion. The problem is that in Zechariah 13:5, the victim (Jesus) admits that he isn’t a prophet.
    Do not put your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
    Psalm 146:3
    In the NT, Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man.

  • Abelardus

    Amaryllis: Thamar, Rahab and Ruth … all of them had some scandal attached to their names; Mary fits right in.
    You can add a fourth woman to that, even though she’s not mentioned by name: Bathsheba, called in the genealogy “the wife of Uriah (or Urias)” — scandalous for the whole affair with King David (complete with dead baby) and seeing her first husband killed before becoming David’s woman and giving birth to Solomon.
    And aunursa, to your post at 10:03, two words: “Neat!” and “Ouch!”

  • Amaryllis

    How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
    Isaiah 14:12
    Revelation 22:16 identifies Jesus as the morning star.

    According to our friends at Hope of Israel, you’re using the wrong – probably Satanic – version of the Bible. If it’s not the KJV, it doesn’t count.
    And the only other comment I can make on that site is, they really, really need to hire a proofreader. Then again, maybe it’s just as well for stupidity to announce itself so unmistakably.

  • Technomad

    It’d be very interesting if Jesus came back and explained that Marcion was right all along…that he was not the Jewish Messiah, and that his Father was not the Jewish god, but a higher, greater God of love.

  • animus

    Holy crap – a 40-book children’s series? Forty books? As in 2³·5 ?

    That’s as many as four tens. And that’s terrible.

  • http://yagowe.livejournal.com yagowe

    Holy crap, Animus, you just killed me dead. WIN.

  • aunursa

    I just used the “Hope of Israel” site as an example. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of Christian apologetics sites that use the ridiculous “300+ prophecies” argument. Just Google: 300 prophecies jesus odds
    BTW: “At least 300 prophecies fulfilled in one man … the odds of that happening by chance are astronomical” is #2 on the list of my Top Ten Favorite Christian Missionary Arguments.

  • aunursa

    Aunursa’s Top Ten Favorite Christian Missionary Arguments

  • MercuryBlue

    I’ve actually heard that theory, Technomad. It might be something syncreted in from Mithraism, Mithra being the son of Ahura Mazda and Ahura Mazda being the embodiment-of-all-that-is-good that people want to think the Christian god is, with bonus points because there’s no need to wrestle with the contradiction between “the God of the Bible is omnibenevolent” and “the God of the Bible ordered killed or killed personally thirty-some million people, many of whom were children and some of whom did nothing worse than complain“. Any hint of malevolence from on high, in Zoroastrianism, is from Ahriman the omnimalevolent, not Ahura Mazda.
    But I don’t think the syncretism started until Christianity became not-death-sentence-worthy in Rome, and I’m pretty sure that was some time after the New Testament was done being written, and the God of the New Testament might not be precisely omnibenevolent (nobody is ever going to convince me that “God planned the crucifixion” + “Jesus is God” != “God is a sadomasochist”) but is sure as hell a lot less bloodthirsty than the God of the Old Testament. Also the magi were probably Zoroastrians.

  • Gillikin

    Aunursa, reading list that reminds me a bit of the father of one of my friends.
    He’s a professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew at a prominent Christian College. I went to visit him at the college once, because I wanted to get a look at where he worked, and I was in the area. So I went with his son. At one point his son went to go get his father, and I was waiting around by myself for like ten minutes (I can’t remember why). At some point a person came up to me out of the blue and asked a bit about me. I explained why I was there, and who I was waiting for. And then, this is the only thing I remember about this conversation at all, when I say what professor I’m waiting for, the response of the other person was, “Oh, he’s very good at Old Testament, but he’s so good at it that he can’t even see Christ being prefigured in most of it.” I was taken aback and didn’t know what to say to that, so I made some sort of non-comment, and eventually the person went away.
    One of the first things that the professor (I had met him before at things involving his son, and at a talk he gave on the book of Job that I went to once. It was very different – and good – compared to anything else I’d ever heard.) told me was that the Old Testament wasn’t meant for me (re: a Christian living in America in the 21st century). So unless I had the proper context I would never understand it completely. His way of looking at it was in context, at which point most of the things that a lot Christians say prefigure Jesus have a totally different meaning. And if you study it in the context it was written in that makes a lot of sense to me. Looking at it from a modern Christian viewpoint you’re going to read things into the text that somebody 2300 years ago simply wouldn’t read into it.
    So he taught his classes as the Old Testament in context of the world it was written in and people it was written for. And other Christians at his Christian University found that to be funny/wrong. Whereas I found the guy saying that studying a book in context was wrong to be disturbing, especially to my poor, English Major sensitivities.
    I’m just full of odd anecdotes lately.

  • Wesley Parish

    BTW: “At least 300 prophecies fulfilled in one man … the odds of that happening by chance are astronomical” is #2 on the list of my Top Ten Favorite Christian Missionary Arguments.
    Posted by: aunursa

    FWIW, Stanislaw Lem wrote a fake review of a non-existent book on the astronomical chances of someone being born; you go through the probabilities of your father meeting your mother, the probabilities of a particular sperm meeting a particular egg, the probabilities of surviving the first few weeks when a woman may spontaneously abort a fetus without knowing she’s conceived, etc … then you multiply by all the generations of humanity from the time that homo sapiens originated, the primate family, the mammal class, the phylum chordata … the chances of any one individual existing gets vanishingly small very, very quickly!
    And then, Stanislaw Lem being Stanislaw Lem, he shot it all down with the comment that the non-existent book he was reviewing, was more a cri de coeur on the difficulties of this particular individual being this particular individual. ;)

  • Amaryllis

    Abelardus: You can add a fourth woman to that, even though she’s not mentioned by name: Bathsheba, called in the genealogy “the wife of Uriah (or Urias)” — scandalous for the whole affair with King David (complete with dead baby) and seeing her first husband killed before becoming David’s woman and giving birth to Solomon.
    Yeah, I forgot about her. So I suppose the moral of the story is, if you’re a woman and you want your actual name remembered, do something scandalous.
    I see there was some discussion earlier about teaching children the Bible, and whether they read it all the way though. Every now and then, some fundamentalist parent tries to remove books dealing with “inappropriate topics” from school or public libraries. I’m sure they’d object if the Bible were to be removed from those libraries, so I have to wonder whether have in fact read it. Some parts of it are definitely not suitable for children: murder, mutilation, rape, incest, drunkenness, fornication, human sacrifice — all there. (And those are the good guys, or at least the POV characters.)
    Beverly LaHaye wrote a novel about a home-schooling mother, in which it’s implied that her children are reading the Bible straight through. I’d love to see her lesson plans for some of those chapters.

  • JayH

    I wrote: Holy crap – a 40-book children’s series? Forty books? As in 2³·5 ?
    Animus responded: That’s as many as four tens. And that’s terrible.
    Yagowe added: Holy crap, Animus, you just killed me dead. WIN.
    And I reply: Um… someone help me out, cuz me no get it.

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

    It’s a minor Internet meme, originating at superdickery.com.
    Somewhere on that site, there’s a scanned page from a DC Superhero children’s book containing the text “Lex Luthor stole forty cakes. And that’s terrible.” An accompanying illustration shows Luthor in purple and green, smirking as he tows a very large multi-shelved cart with cakes on it.

  • shark

    Now watch that link go away in future–for reference, I found it by Googling “lex luthor+that’s terrible.”

  • Fred Davis

    Somewhere on that site, there’s a scanned page from a DC Superhero children’s book containing the text “Lex Luthor stole forty cakes. And that’s terrible.” An accompanying illustration shows Luthor in purple and green, smirking as he tows a very large multi-shelved cart with cakes on it.
    Oh ho ho, but that fails to explain the full wonders of the Superdictionary AKA The Cracktionary. For the full effect wander around scans_daily’s superdictionary tag, where many a missized, poorly worded, and duck obsessed cut-and-pasted super hero can be seen.
    You can buy a copy of the superdictionary on ebay for ludicrous amounts of money these days. Though just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

  • Cowboy Diva

    Your Top 10 list leaves me agog and aghast all at the same time. People have actually presented themselves to you with these attempts at logical thought?

  • aunursa

    Cowboy Diva,
    Several times. Most of them also appear in articles on dozens, if not hundreds of Evangelical websites. For each item on the list, I provided a link to at least one such example. It got to the point where I would be repeating the same responses over and over. So I wrote down responses, to which I linked in my brief replies.

  • aunursa

    In that way, if a Christian makes one of these claims to me, I can simply copy and paste my reply.

  • Dash

    aunursa, thank you for posting that list. Its wonderfulness is beyond words.

  • Froborr


  • hf

    But I don’t think the syncretism started until Christianity became not-death-sentence-worthy in Rome
    Syncretism with the sect of Mithra, maybe. The written Torah looks like it dates from after contact with Zoroastrianism (from what I can tell).

  • Froborr

    I dunno about the Torah, but I’d definitely agree the later parts of the Jewish Bible postdate contact with Zoroastrianism. Satan just sort of pops up out of nowhere in Job. (Don’t give me that nonsense about the serpent in Eden. The serpent is exactly that, a talking snake popping up for a brief Just-So Story.)

  • Hannah

    In reading this blog post, I’ve been thinking about what it means for this guy to be the antichrist, and I’m confused about what it entails. I’m from a religious tradition that doesn’t believe in an antichrist in the same sense that these books intend it (there are certainly people who act counter to the will of Christ, and they may or may not be political leaders, but they aren’t different on a spiritual level from any other human being.)
    I’ll admit that I haven’t read the whole book series, so maybe this is explained later on– and if so, apologies for the redundancy. I have read the first one, only because I was invited to a lecture given by Jerry Jenkins, and I wanted to be able to understand what sort of things he wrote about so I could be an informed listener and ask intelligent questions. Reading the first book didn’t make me feel it was worth my while to continue, so I’m confessing my ignorance here, neither having finished the series nor grown up with the philosophy, and I’m wondering if anyone can explain some things to me.
    What if in the middle of this scene, Nicolae had an epiphany? Say he suddenly realized, “You know, I really liked the part where I was trying to make peace and feeding people, but I’m not really into the rest of it. I don’t think I want to be the antichrist after all. Screw this, I quit!” Then he dropped to his knees, humbled himself before God, and asked to be accepted into the Christian fold, promising he would continue to do good works without any of this demonic business.
    Can he do that?
    If not, why not? Would a loving God create a soul purely for the purpose of damning it to hell? That seems horrifically cruel– eternal punishment for something the poor guy had no choice about. And I very much mean “the poor guy,” because he really couldn’t be said to be responsible for any of this if he had no say in the matter. How could he be considered mentally competent to be held to account for his crimes if he was born with a mind that wouldn’t allow him to do otherwise? If Nicolae has no free will to choose to do otherwise, how is it any more appropriate to say he “did evil” than to say a rape victim “had sex,” when both involve domination of the mind and body forcing an action that the person had no ability to refuse consent to? And yet the punishment is eternal suffering. How could a good God do that to someone? It doesn’t seem like the loving God I’m familiar with, condemning someone when they had no choice in what they did.
    So say Nicolae DOES have free will. What happens when he decides to stop doing evil? This is a huge problem, for me, with the whole “Antichrist Checklist.” Would someone else then become the antichrist? Is there a prioritized list of first refusal for people who fit the qualifications? What if no one wanted to? And what if no one wanting to delayed or prevented the End Times scenario that Jenkins and LaHaye interpret from Revelation? Would God sacrifice an unwilling human soul to hell in order to keep the trains… I mean, the apocalypse… running on time? Does that fit with a God who “so loved the world”?
    I suppose there are other possibilities.
    Maybe Satan created Nicolae, rather than God. But to suggest the devil can create– particularly create human life– puts his power as equal to God’s. That idea is uncomfortable for me.
    Another uncomfortable idea is that maybe Nicolae isn’t a real, true human, and thus lacks free will or a comparable soul. That’s not somewhere I’m prepared to go. Too many atrocities have been committed by those who try to dehumanize their victims, and I don’t think that arguing whether the people living, walking, talking, etc., around you are really human can EVER lead to good places.
    And for that matter, why aren’t the heroes of the story trying to help Nicolae see the light, rather than just covertly condemning him? If they truly believe this man is on a path that will lead to his damnation, why aren’t they doing anything about it? Because he appears to fit some prophecy, he’s a lost cause? If the heroes are actually following the example of Jesus, why are they passing judgment on Nicolae rather than trying to reach out to him, as Jesus did to sinners? Why has Nicolae been labeled as not worth helping? Does his soul matter less than other people’s souls because they’ve decided he’s a villain? Who are they to claim that authority? Shouldn’t it belong to God alone?
    Yes, trying to save Nicolae from hell might lead to their deaths, but aren’t there more important things than preserving your physical life? They could potentially save a lot of people, in both a temporal and an eternal sense. Isn’t that worth the risk of death?
    Even if God somehow granted Nicolae free will but knew he would still choose evil (which I’ve heard as an explanation in theodicy discussions, but has never really made sense to me– how is it a real choice if the outcome is already known?) how do the heroes of the story know that? Are they THAT sure they’re right about how to interpret parts of the Bible that are opaque at best? How and why are they so sure that Nicolae– or anyone– is born damned?
    Again, I apologize for my ignorance (and the really long post,) but all of this completely baffles me.

  • Spalanzani

    Froborr: “I dunno about the Torah, but I’d definitely agree the later parts of the Jewish Bible postdate contact with Zoroastrianism. Satan just sort of pops up out of nowhere in Job.”
    Actually, from what I’ve heard, how Satan is portrayed in the Book of Job shows Jewish beliefs about Satan from before they were influenced by Zoroastrianism. Originally, Satan wasn’t seen as an enemy of God, but as simply one of his angels assigned to be a sort of prosecuting attorny against humanity. This fits with Job, where Satan is shown as up in heaven, part of the heavenly host, and speaking directly with God. It was only Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism that Satan was shown as being a rebel against God.

  • Judith

    Hannah; While Lucifer does ask Nicolae if he wanted to serve him back in “The Rising”(when Nicolae is somewhere in his early twenties, I believe) I don’t think Nicolae ever really had the free-will to say no. Nicolae was created and raised specifically to be the Antichrist. Nicolae shows signs of being the Antichrist from an early enough age that I think it was hard-wired into him from conception. Nicolae was born with all of the skills he would need to later become the Antichrist and I think he was probably born with, for lack of a better term, Antichrist instincts. If this is true, then Nicolae could no more have refused Satan’s offer than I could hold my breath until I died.
    In fact, for Nicolae to behave exactly according to the LaJenkins translation of the Bible, wouldn’t he *need* to have some kind of Antichrist instinct? We’ve already established that some of the things Nicolae does just don’t make any sense. Is it possible that Nicolae had some subcontious drive, maybe one that even he didn’t understand, to do the things he did (unknowingly fulfilling the prophesies)?
    Even if he didn’t have some kind of “worship Lucifer” command embedded into his soul, Nicolae was raised by Luciferians who firmly believed that he was the chosen one destined to serve Lucifer and take over the world with him, and they didn’t exactly keep that belief a secret from the young Nicolae. Even if Nicolae wasn’t specifically programed to be the Antichrist, he was raised being told repeatedly and made to religiously believe that he was, and that’s a self-fulfilling prophesy if I’ve ever heard one.
    This is why I hate the idea of destiny. It leads itself automatically to Pre-Destination. If it was Nicolae’s destiny to be the Antichrist, and it would be pretty hard to argue that it wasn’t, then it proves (in the context of this story) that, in this case at least, Pre-Destination exists, and if Pre-Destinations exists in one case, the only fair thing would be for it to exist in all cases. This means that either God is doubly unfair and employs Pre-Destination in some cases and not in others, or that none of us really get a choice about where we end up in the afterlife, which is also pretty unfair.
    But this discussion goes further than Nicolae. The Left Behind series is all about destiny. We know from the beginning that millions—if not billions—are going to fall for Nicolae’s Antichrist act. If (<- I would like to stress that “If”) it's written in the Bible that a great deceiver will, you know, deceive people, then did those deceived people ever really get a choice in whether or not they were deceived? In order for this passage to be true, (and because it's a real prophesy, not a prediction, it has to be true) someone *had* to be deceived. Doesn't that take away that someone's choice?

  • hapax

    Hannah, these are all very good questions, and are among the reasons that most mainstream Christians simply do not buy this anti-Biblical notion of “Teh Anti-Christ” with all its Manichean dualistic implications. I will address one of your objections, however:
    Even if God somehow granted Nicolae free will but knew he would still choose evil (which I’ve heard as an explanation in theodicy discussions, but has never really made sense to me– how is it a real choice if the outcome is already known?)
    This is only a contradiction if you assume that God is subject to Time. If God is the Creator of Time, and outside of Time (just as God is outside of Space), there is no “before” or “after” from God’s point of view.
    Imagine, say, the violin melody in a symphony. No particular note can “know” what the next one will be, although there are certain constraints dependent upon the physical capabilities of the instrument, not to mention certain expectations dependent upon what has been played before and the conventions of the musical genre (Chords “want” to be resolved, for example.) But I, who sit in the audience with the score in my lap, do indeed know what each note will be, as well as the whole melody and indeed the entire piece, although I can be surprised and delighted at how it all works out in this particular performance.
    (An imperfect analogy, since both the tune and I are both operating in time, but maybe it helps get the idea across.)

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

    This is only a contradiction if you assume that God is subject to Time.
    Deep Space Nine ran this one past me a few times, but I quickly became bogged down with contradictions, and kind of gave up on the idea.
    Firstly, the notes in your musical score are predestined, though, by the writer of the score. The notes certainly have no free will, though one can make the point that the performers have a limited amount.
    As always, though, I wonder how a being outside of time interfaces with beings inside time. The inside beings certainly managed to surprise the outside being at least once with that whole Forbidden Fruit thing. (Or so says the Bible, anyway.) Can the outside being jump in an out of time at will? What does that even mean?
    For me, this is very close to a “divide-by-zero” problem. You can try to discuss it, but you can’t actually get anywhere meaningful with it.

  • hapax

    Can a three (or four, if you count Time) being jump into and out of two dimensional space at will? Sure — I do it every time I put pencil to paper.
    Yah, I know the musical note analogy isn’t perfect. The problem is that we don’t know of any other entities with free will to use for analogies. It’s sort of like the joke about the Philosophy Final Exam: “Trace the development of human thought. Compare and contrast with any other kind of thought.”