TF: The Logic of Hell

Tribulation Force, pp. 133-139

As we turn our attention from Buck back to Rayford, I realize I will need to amend one point from what I said last week.

Discussing the abstract love of LaHaye & Jenkins' brand of evangelical Christianity, I noted that such love expresses itself apart from "any consideration of deeds, actions and choices." But watching poor Rayford squirm in the pages we're looking at this week reminds us that there is one — and apparently only one — action such love requires, or rather demands, as a demonstration that it is genuine. It demands that evangelicals evangelize. And it requires a peculiar form of evangelizing.

We discussed this earlier (see L.B.: Hospitality vs. Sales):

Contemporary American-style evangelism is made even stranger by the fact that it seems devoid of content. It's become a turtles-all-the-way-down exercise with no apparent real bottom. Evangelism means, literally, the telling of good news. Surely there must be more to this good news than simply that the hearers of it become obliged to turn around and tell it to others. And those others, in turn, are obliged to tell still others the good news of their obligation to spread this news.

That may be an effective marketing strategy, but what is the product? There doesn't seem to be a product — only a self-perpetuating marketing scheme. It's like Amway without the soap.

The model here may seem familiar. There are computer programs designed to work this way — programs that have no function other than to replicate themselves, creating duplicate copies that, in turn, have no function other than to create even more duplicates. We call such programs "viruses."

The invitation to become a computer virus is not perceived by most human listeners as Good News.

LaHaye and Jenkins would take issue with my description of evangelism here. They would argue that I'm leaving out the most important bit: Hell. Factor Hell into the equation and the self-perpetuating marketing scheme seems more logical. It may contentless, but it's not ineffective: the viral carriers are spared an eternity of torment in Hell.

Nathan Heflick explores the logic of this in a recent Psychology Today blog post
reflecting on the Rev. Pat Robertson's ridiculous comments following the Haitian earthquake.

We know Robertson believes the Bible is 100-percent literally true. And we know that Robertson believes that anyone who doesn't believe what he does is going to Hell.

Once you hold those two positions, it sort of opens up a giant can of possibilities for what you can, in your own mind, endorse. Once a person can be justified to suffer in a pit of fire for eternity, then an earthquake is probably not viewed with near the same level of tragedy.

For Robertson, God is saving Haitians from his worst punishment (Hell) by trying to send a warning sign to them via this earthquake. …

So while most of the world sees this earthquake for what it is — a tragedy of immense proportions — Robertson sees it as an act by God to save the Haitians from themselves and Hell. God just doesn't want his people to suffer in a pit of fire eternally. So God kills off a few in the meantime.

If you accept the premise of eternal and infinite torment in Hell, then the basic calculus there makes sense. Eternity is longer than a lifetime, and Hell is worse than any imaginable earthly suffering, so there's a certain logic to being more concerned with saving others from an eternity of Hell than with assisting them with any earthly suffering, need, injustice or oppression.

L&J and their disciples — on and off the page — would go further. They would point out that eternity is infinitely longer than time and that Hell is, by definition, infinitely worse than any earthly suffering. By comparision then, we can say with mathematical certainty that there is no comparison. Any earthly suffering or injustice is utterly inconsequential compared to the obligation to save others from an eternity in Hell.

It is therefore Rayford Steele's duty — the duty of every Christian — to disregard all earthly sorrows and temporal woes in order to focus fully on the far greater matter of eternal salvation from the fires of Hell. And that is what we see Rayford doing here in this chapter with a single-minded determination that is almost admirable.

Accept that Hell is real and that it is infinitely more important than any earthly concerns and suddenly the very things that might compel you to attend to this-worldly needs and injustices — compassion, empathy, faith, hope, love — become reasons not to do so.

Accept that Hell is real and that it is the eternal destination of anyone who fails to pray the saving prayer and you become morally obliged — compelled — to stop wasting your time responding to any merely earthly, temporal matters, no matter how grievous or important they might at first seem. They are nothing compared to Hell.

And because of Hell, you are a monster unless you drop everything else and become like Rayford Steele — the sort of person who cannot allow himself to care if his co-workers all regard him as a pushy jerk and a nutcase zealot. If Hell exists then you must stop giving change to homeless people and you must, instead, start handing them evangelistic tracts. Keep your spare change. You're going to need it to buy more tracts.

I'm not trying in the preceding paragraph to paint this argument in a flattering light, but every American evangelical Christian has heard this exact theme in dozens of sermons.

These half-dozen pages recounting Rayford's conversation with his boss, Earl, constitute yet one more such sermon. Rayford Steele is presented here as a role model of passionately sincere faith, an exemplar of the kind of devotion that L&J want every Christian to have, or at least to feel guilty about not having.

Earl sat in the only other chair in his cluttered office, the one behind his desk. "We've got a problem," he began.

"Thanks for easing into it," Rayford said. "Did Edwards write me up for, what did you call it, proselytizing?"

Have you gotten into trouble at work for proselytizing? No? Why not? Don't you care that the people you live with are doomed to spend an eternity in the endless, burning fires of Hell? I suppose you think keeping a clean personnel file and having people not awkwardly avoiding you all the time is somehow more important than that. Monster.

"That's only part of the problem," Earl tells Rayford. Which turns out to mean that Edwards isn't the only one who "wrote him up" for proselytizing. Earl doesn't say right off who else complained, and Rayford doesn't ask him, so they spend a good chunk of these pages going in circles and repeating themselves without actually moving the conversation forward for one another or for the readers. This is kind of a Jenkins trademark. It's like reading the "Who's on First?" routine, except without the rhythm, the wordplay and the comedy.

They pause, briefly, in this repetition to note that just as Rayford is the very model of the workplace evangelist, so too is Earl the model for those who inexplicably choose not to accept the invitation to avoid an eternity of torment and decline the chance to convert:

"You hit me with all that church and Rapture stuff, and I was polite, wasn't I?"

"A little too polite."

"But I took it as a friend, just like you listen to me when I brag about my kids, right?"

"I wasn't bragging about anything."

"No, but you were excited about it. You found something that gave you comfort and helped explain your losses, and I say, great, whatever makes your boat float. You started pressing me about coming to church and reading my Bible and all that, and I told you, kindly I hope, that I considered that personal and that I would appreciate it if you'd lay off."

"And I did. Though I still pray for you."

"Well, hey, thanks."

I give Jenkins some credit here for at least trying to imagine how Rayford's aggressive evangelism might seem from the point of view of one of his targets. But he can't follow that line of thinking very far because that's not his primary goal in the conversation above. What he mainly is trying to communicate there is something like, "See? You can just say 'No, thanks,' respectfully without treating us like we're crazy or getting us in trouble with the boss. You should be grateful that we care about you."

One of Jenkins' favorite illustrations of this point is his imaginary neighbor with the purple necklace. Here's a version from an old interview on CNN:

"If I had a neighbor who truly believed that if I didn't wear a purple necklace, I would never get to Heaven, I would go to Hell, I would probably think he's crazy. I would scoff and laugh. But if he didn't tell me, I'd be a little offended."

His point is that by sharing his belief — as ridiculous as it may be to believe in a magic purple necklace instead of a prayer incanting a set of magic words — the neighbor would be showing that he cared, that he wanted Jerry to be saved from Hell. And just as Jenkins would be grateful to his neighbor for this expression of concern through proselytization, so too he feels everyone else ought to be grateful to him and LaHaye for their proselytizing.

I appreciate the point, and it's not a bad reminder that we should appreciate such concern even when it's expressed rudely. When someone insists that we have to listen to what they're saying, that person may really be acting out of what they perceive as our best interest — even if it might never occur to them that they might also want to listen to us.

And that's the problem with Earl as the model of a grateful evangelistic target. Earl listens to Rayford's story, but he doesn't have his own story. If Jenkins ever found himself in the scenario from his purple-necklace illustration, he wouldn't just stop with "Thank you for your concern for my eternal soul." He would go on to say, "No, no, no. that's not how you save your eternal soul from Hell. I'll tell you how it really works." But he can't imagine that other people — the ones he's evangelizing — might also have their own stories, their own faiths. And he can't imagine that any such faith might be centered around anything other than what is to him the paramount question: How to escape eternal torment in Hell.

Through the character of Earl, Jenkins offers his best guess as to why people sometimes claim to be insulted or offended by an evangelist's heartfelt desire to save them from Hell. :

"You said you just cared about me, which I appreciate, but I said you were getting close to losing my respect."

"And I said I didn't care."

"Well, can you see how insulting that is?"

"Earl, how can I insult you when I care enough about your eternal soul to risk our friendship? … What people feel about me isn't that important anymore. Part of me still cares, sure. Nobody wants to be seen as a fool. But if I don't tell you about Christ just because I'm worried about what you'll think of me, what kind of friend would I be?"

Earl sighed and shook his head.

Yes, Earl — the surrogate here for every nonbeliever ever submitted to an unwelcome evangelistic sales pitch — bows in defeat to Rayford's superior logic. He tried to be insulted, but once Rayford explained that he had no reason to be anything other than grateful, he concedes the point.

Nevermind that Rayford's idea of evangelism is not to sing "Amazing Grace," but rather to sing, "You're a wretch, you're lost, you're blind …" which isn't quite as winsome. And nevermind that Rayford, like many evangelizing evangelicals, seems more driven than called, and less concerned with the fate of Earl's soul than he is with keeping up his sales figures for his very demanding boss.

[Mamet]"We're adding a little something to this month's evangelism outreach. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're going to Hell because apparently you're not passionately sincere enough."[/Mamet]

There's another two pages around the mulberry bush discussing what Rayford did or did not say to Edwards that should or shouldn't have offended him (all of which is made more confusing than it needed to be by the fact that Edwards' first name is "Nicky"). And then finally, five pages and 20 laps in, Earl tells Rayford that his flight instructor in Dallas also wrote a formal complaint about his proselytizing.

This, apparently, is a sign that some Nefarious Plot is afoot. Because, Rayford insists, his flight instructor in Dallas is the one person he didn't try to convert:

"In fact, I felt a little guilty about it. I said hardly anything to him. He was pretty severe, giving me the usual prattle about what he was and wasn't there for."

"You didn't preach at him?"

Rayford shook his head, trying to remember if he had done or said anything that could be misconstrued. "No. I didn't hide my Bible. Usually it's in my flight bag, but I had it out when I first met him, because I'd been reading it in the van. Hey, are you sure this complaint didn't come from the van driver? He saw me reading and asked about it, and we discussed what had happened."

"Your usual."

Rayford nodded. "But I didn't get any negative reaction from him."

Our role model evangelist, you'll note, is impeccably egalitarian — equally concerned for the soul of his van driver as for the soul of his boss. And L&J even supply some tips for how readers can better witness — the old Conspicuously Reading the Bible So As to Prompt a Conversation About Salvation From Hell trick (also known as the Reverse Philip).

In terms of effectiveness, this works about as well as many of the other popular "witnessing tools," such as the "I Found It" button, the Jack Chick comic, the WWJD bracelet, the cross lapel pin and the Christian T-Shirt. To date, no one, ever, anywhere has converted to Christianity even in part due to a Christian T-Shirt, but hey, it's bound to happen someday, right? (So keep buyin' 'em suckers, er, I mean, brothers and sisters in Christ.)

The problem with all of these is that they're not really meant to create conversation or to persuade. They're designed, rather, to be tribal symbols, reinforcing identity within the tribe while warning outsiders to stay away.

Members of the tribe will read these pages describing Rayford's almost unfailing evangelism and recognize it as that familiar sermon, yet another exhortation and reminder that we have no time to be distracted by this-worldly concerns and that we are compelled to keep our focus only on what matters most: saving souls from Hell.

Every variation of this sermon just assumes — like Pat Robertson and his critic Nathan Heflick both seem to do  — that this belief in eternal torment in Hell is something that comes from believing that "the Bible is 100-percent literally true." But this idea of Hell and the conclusions L&J draw from it literally can't be found in the Bible.

The Bible actually has very little to say about the subject of Hell. Most of the dozens of different books that make up the Christian scriptures don't mention it at all, let alone suggest that it should be the central organizing principle of our faith. Those books, instead, devote themselves to considering the character of God and the character of God's people — and little of what they have to say about either of those subjects is compatible with the logic of Hell presented by Pat Robertson or L&J.

The biblical case for Hell as a place of eternal, infinite torment turns out to come down to three passages in the New Testament. And each of those passages — the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, and the concluding chapter of Revelation — explicitly states that Hell is the destination reserved for people who failed to respond to earthly suffering, need, injustice and oppression.

Every passage that mentions something like an eternity of suffering in Hell, in other words, does so for the purpose of driving home the exact opposite of the lesson L&J take from them.

The condemned in Revelation are judged "according to what they had done" here on earth. The rich man is sent to fiery torment exclusively due to his neglect of a single suffering neighbor. The goats are banished to an eternity of wailing and gnashing of teeth for their failure to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the lonely and tend the sick.

Over here in literate world, we can look at each of those passages in turn and consider what they are about, what they mean and are intended to communicate, and how bizarre and distorting it would be to regard any of them as providing the basis for a belief in a "literal" Hell. But my aim here is not to try to convince L&J to come join us over here in literate world. We haven't time to try to teach them how to read. But let me instead just point out to them that by their own standards, according to their own illiterate rule of literalism, every passage they might cite in defense of their exclusive focus on the otherworldly salvation of souls from Hell explicitly demands the opposite conclusion.

If you believe in a "literal" Hell based on what the Bible teaches, then you must also believe that the only way to avoid going there has nothing to do with proselytizing or praying the sinner's prayer. If you want to avoid Hell, you must invite Lazarus into your home, clean his wounds and feed him at your table. If you want to save others from damnation in Hell, you must convince them to join you in feeding these beggars at the gates, these least of these.

If you do that — if you make earthly, this-worldly suffering, need, injustice and oppression your primary focus, your paramount concern — then you may be saved from Hell and may one day join Lazarus and all the other poor beggars up in Heaven.

The literal Hell of the Evangelists turns out to be the exact opposite of the literal Hell of the evangelizers.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Amaryllis

    @chris the cynic: Makes more sense than anything Ellnjay ever came up with.

    Chocolat!
    Mmmmm….
    —-
    Re same-sex marriage: if anyone doubts that at least some of the opposition is based on a firm attachment to traditional gender roles, let me introduce you to Md. State Delegate Emmett Burns.
    “So, who makes all the decisions in the house?” Burns asked. “Who is in the man’s role?”

  • http://j.com/ Tonio

    Rebecca,
    Raum’s questioning reminded me of the claim by NOM’s Brian Brown that same-sex marriage would lead to fatherless families. In both cases, are the opponents envisioning two-mommy families? If so, why? Of course the argument is a dishonest one. My point is that I don’t know whether the dishonesty is deliberate or accidental. The former may be likely if opponents stood to gain financially by keeping gays as second-class citizens. During the ERA campaign three decades ago, it was alleged that opponents were financially supported by corporations worried that the amendment would affect their bottom line, and I can imagine companies having the same fear if they had to expand their spousal benefits. But I suspect the dishonesty is the product of irrational fear.

  • ako

    And yes, the assumption that feminist/pro-choice/gay groups will have to vote Democratic is a big part of the problem, I think.
    Yeah. The only thing the Democratic Party does to keep people like me on their side is periodically make sneers about Nader, and keep going “If you voted for Nader, the Bush years were ALL YOUR FAULT! So never, ever, ever even think about voting for a Green candidate or you’ll cause another Republican nightmare!” Because they know they’re always going to have more appeal to the left than the Republicans, so keeping Nader-guilt as the stick to beat everyone with lets them keep the whole gay/feminist/pro-choice/environmentalist crowd on their side while doing as little as possible to advance that agenda. (Is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell gone yet, Mr. President?)
    It’s like opponents are convinced that the legality of same-sex marriage will tempt straight parents to turn gay and abandon their families.
    Quite often they do. It seems to be dogma in the more homophobic political circles that if you take away the obvious social barriers for gay people, it’ll look so appealing that everyone will flock towards it and abandon heterosexuality and traditional families. Then you get these mad arguments about homosexuality is wrong because it’ll make everyone die out (presumably, they’re thinking everyone will be completely gay and have zero interest in heterosexual sex, gay people would be unwilling to have purely reproductive sex even if it was the only was of having babies, and artificial insemination is going to vanish or something).

  • http://j.com/ Tonio

    Ako, I wonder if deep down, they see anal sex (as opposed to homosexuality in general) as an addictive vice, like they suspect it may be more satisfying than regular intercourse.

  • hapax

    The only thing the Democratic Party does to keep people like me on their side is periodically make sneers about Nader, and keep going “If you voted for Nader, the Bush years were ALL YOUR FAULT! So never, ever, ever even think about voting for a Green candidate or you’ll cause another Republican nightmare!”
    Gaaah, I am tired of hearing this. I voted for Nader because I knew my state would go overwhelmingly for Gore, who was running as a Republican-Lite, and I wanted the Greens to get to 10% and get public funding (which they didn’t.)
    I did hold my nose and vote for Kerry, because it was the choice between “Republican” and “Crazy Lunatic Asshole.”
    Every time I hear that “Bush is Nader’s Fault” canard, I look at my current Dem. federal representatives (insurance lobby-loving torture monkeys, the lot of ’em) and give more money to the Green Party.
    Bah.

  • Lori

    Ako, I wonder if deep down, they see anal sex (as opposed to homosexuality in general) as an addictive vice, like they suspect it may be more satisfying than regular intercourse.

    Did they fail to get the memo about the fact that the gays don’t have a lock on that? Considering that all indications are that fundies watch about the same amount of internet porn as the heathens do you’d think they would have caught on by now.

    It seems to be dogma in the more homophobic political circles that if you take away the obvious social barriers for gay people, it’ll look so appealing that everyone will flock towards it and abandon heterosexuality and traditional families.

    This does seem like a fairly classic case of projection. I’m sure that some of them would start playing for the other team if the stigma was removed, but that doesn’t mean we all would. To quote Izzy, I require penis. Letting gay people get married and raise kids isn’t going to change that in the slightest.

  • ako

    Ako, I wonder if deep down, they see anal sex (as opposed to homosexuality in general) as an addictive vice, like they suspect it may be more satisfying than regular intercourse.
    I don’t think it’s specifically anal sex. Among other things, there was that weird ‘erototoxin’ scare about how brain chemicals that were set off by arousal and made you feel good meant watching porn was like shooting heroin! Addiction makes a good story for why all things sexual they don’t approve of can be considered bad, wrong, and dangerous. Jumble badly-understood pop-culture notions about addictions and mental illness (ex-gay therapies tend to rely heavily on practices largely discredited among reputable therapists) with bad science and you get a way to demonize sexual practices that don’t fit their personal views that goes over in places where “They’re all evil sex fiends who will come for you and your children!” doesn’t work. “They’re all sick and addicted, and indulging in that behavior can make you addicted and sick too, so stay away from it, and push anyone you care about with that problem to quit and get treatment” sounds compassionate, even if the results are nasty.

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    [Rayford] had heard of disaster scenes-train wrecks, earthquakes, battles-where what haunted the rescue workers for years had been the shrieks and moans of the injured
    He’d *heard* of such things? Is his memory that bad that he can’t remember walking across an airport filled with crashed planes?
    Yeah, yeah, I know.

  • lemur

    My favorite throwaway line of characterization:
    In the Andrew Clements book, “A School Story,” his main character’s writing (and thus, the entire book) is heavily influenced by how much she misses her dead father. What seals this aspect of the character’s psyche, for me, is the last line of a little passage on page 24 when she visits her mother’s office:
    Balanced above the computer screen was a single photograph in a clear plastic holder–Dad and Mom and Natalie in a sailboat. All three of them looked like they were having such a good time, but Natalie couldn’t remember being there. She always wished she could.

  • Another Chris

    @chris the cynic: Another great story. I like how stressed and, well, human, Elior seems. And I’m glad he let Emma help others, too.
    That Emmett Burns quote… wow. So I should just roll over and let my husband make all the decisions? I think my husband would hate that about as much as I would.
    And WTF about anti-SSM people just wanting kids to grow up with their biological parents. Like someone said, why don’t they protest adoption in the first place, then?

  • Firedrake

    Presumably if homosexual marriage is allowed, homosexual couples will be allowed to adopt children (gee, ‘cos that doesn’t happen already) and suddenly there won’t be huge numbers of children waiting to be adopted – so there won’t be any scare stories, and bioparents will suddenly think “hey, I wasn’t going to give up my child for adoption because I thought he’d end up in state care, but now that I know he’ll go to a gay couple… bye bye, kiddo!”.
    Or something.
    And this is meant to be bad.

  • http://j.com/ Tonio

    Like someone said, why don’t they protest adoption in the first place, then?
    That twisted logic could be taken much further than that – it would rule out egg and sperm donation, as well as remarriage after divorce. The fatherless families argument’s logic would force all single and divorced mothers to find husbands.
    In both cases, I’m not sure if the opponents are assuming that gay couples would naturally want to have children through adoption or artificial insemination, or if they assume that the gays were formerly straight and already have children from previous marriages. Maybe assume that people don’t (or shouldn’t) get married without the intention to have children.

  • Tricksterson Whose computer is finally working again

    Tonio: This is something I’ve noticed before about the fundie attitude towards homosexuality. Since they insist that it’s a concious choice they are put in the position of treating it as if unless we keep homosexuals beaten down, *everyone* will convert. This of course gives the unintentional impression that gay sex is just *that* much better than hetero sex. Having tried it once (didn’t inhale, didn’t enjoy it, have no desire to try it again) I have to say, ummm, no, at least not for moi (although if it bloats your goat, more power to you). Of course, I suspect this says more about them, then it does gay sex.
    chris the cynic: Excellent! I’d like to see you further explore this idea.

  • Tricksterson Whose computer is finally working again

    jamoche: I seriously believe that L&J forget large chunks of what happens in each book as soon as they’re done with them. It’s the only way to explain why there are such big inconsiostencies within the series.

  • Morgan

    jamoche, Tricksterson: No, no, you’re missing the important part. What Rayford had only heard about, but never experienced, was a situation where:

    …what haunted the rescue workers for years had been the shrieks and moans of the injured…

    Being the man he is, even given a disaster aftermath to which he was an eyewitness, his knowledge of such symptoms of empathy could only be vicarious.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/rajexplorer Raj

    [Rayford] had heard of disaster scenes-train wrecks, earthquakes, battles-where what haunted the rescue workers for years had been the shrieks and moans of the injured
    jamoche: He’d *heard* of such things? Is his memory that bad that he can’t remember walking across an airport filled with crashed planes?
    Yeah, yeah, I know.

    Don’t forget this bit of icing on the cake: at the end of his long walk (made all the more difficult by having to step over all those inconveniently-placed injured people), his minor injuries are treated by a doctor who is bored because he has nothing to do!

  • alfgifu

    chris the cynic: that’s a brilliant take on the meta-LB. I hope you don’t mind if I post some thoughts on the implications.
    You’ve got to assume that the real God knows that allowing all the horrific stuff to happen will lead to the best possible result for everyone once it’s over. So there’s got to be a really good reason why destroying the world and killing everybody (and incidentally allowing the excruciating torture of all sorts of innocents on the way) is better than the alternative. Pain can sometimes be necessary for growth and change, and be a good thing in the long run, but you’d need a very long run perspective to make that seem ok. How about a cyclical universe? God creates a world, and everyone gets one shot at living in it, and then (after death and worldly destruction) everything is reincarnated into a new heaven and a new earth – but with the extra soul-growth behind them. God knows that cutting off the suffering in this universe will leave everyone (including the real, deadly Lucifer) worse off in the long run, because the only way that his beloved creatures can reach their full identities and realities is to go through the bad stuff. In the meantime he persistently does his best to help them all by incarnating as Mr Goofy Hat, sending angels on low-key missions, and generally providing all the support he (she? it?) can without scuppering the overall chances of each universe. Does that hang together?

  • redcrow

    >>>God knows that cutting off the suffering in this universe will leave everyone (including the real, deadly Lucifer) worse off in the long run, because the only way that his beloved creatures can reach their full identities and realities is to go through the bad stuff.
    Including, as you mentioned yourself, “destroying the world and killing everybody (and incidentally allowing the excruciating torture of all sorts of innocents on the way)”.
    No, thanks.
    “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” is *not* an universal truth. Some become stronger. Some end up irreparably broken. If they don’t believe in god who will ultimately* make everything better (and sometimes even when they believe), “Oh, you’ll see, it will make sence in a long run, you just don’t have right perspecrtive for now!” sounds hollow for them.

    *”But I only did it for your character development! Now you’re interesting, three-dimensional character, whom readers/viewers can sympathise with!”

  • lonespark

    So I should just roll over and let my husband make all the decisions? I think my husband would hate that about as much as I would.
    Damn right. Total responsibility for other people sucks. Even for control freaks like my husband.

  • Aaron

    chris the cynic: Gorgeous.

  • chris the cynic

    @chris the cynic: Another great story. I like how stressed and, well, human, Elior seems. And I’m glad he let Emma help others, too.
    A lot of thought went into Elior. Well, actually Elior sprang forth more or less fully formed and a lot of thought went into why he was who he was.
    A couple of key points came from that. One is that he’s a lot closer to humanity than he is to God. Part of this is that his job is a messenger between God and humanity. He has to understand humanity because he has to make them understand the message. He doesn’t have to understand God because God is the one who makes sure Elior understands the message. His job is humanity, they are his purpose.
    And part of it is just his unique personality (angels must have variation, otherwise there wouldn’t be only one Lucifer… well, two, but that’s not the point.)
    The other thing is that not only does he not understand why God is allowing this to happen, he can’t. God could sit him down and spend a thousand years explaining to him in detail exactly why this is better than all alternatives and even if the explanation was completely rational and without any holes he still wouldn’t understand. Elior has faith, both in God specifically and that things will work out in general, but he will never be able to understand how such suffering could ever be necessary.
    Which is, incidentally, why God sent him. I haven’t worked out much in the way of God’s motivations, but I figured that much out. Elior was sent because he was the kind of person (well, angel) who wouldn’t stand still and allow so much suffering to happen.
    In addition to not being able to understand God, Elior can’t understand Lucifer (real or LB). He doesn’t want to rule the universe, he certainly doesn’t want worship. He wants to help people. If given the choice of doing anything at all he’d just keep doing what he’s doing. He isn’t taking orders from God because he needs to, he’s taking orders because he believes that God knows where he can do the most good.
    I also picture Elior having gone fairly native. I imagine that your average angel wouldn’t use the phrase “piss poor”. Then again, maybe the average angel would.

    The only thing I can really come up with for a justification for Elior’s God allowing Left Behind to happen (other than God operating on an incomprehensible level) is that to avoid the temptation to eliminate all pain and suffering by effectively lobotomizing the entire human race into being the Stepford people God has set limits on what he will do. Perhaps somewhat excessive limits.
    God is letting the world (which both real Lucifer and LB-Lucifer are a part of) play out largely on its own, interfering only in fairly small ways on an individual level. As an example of what he’d be doing in this world you have Elior in New Babylon. He didn’t save the people of New Babylon, he didn’t order the people of New Babylon saved, he just got Elior into the right place and left him with enough free time to do what he saw fit.
    When dealing with human getting them into the right place likely wouldn’t involve direct orders.
    Such a God’s focus would be mostly on overseeing the afterlife, along with an army of the best therapists imaginable. Since the goal is to avoid mind control happiness and well adjusted contentment would not be instantaneous, but a removal from the earthly causes of suffering and the removal of any chemical imbalances would be a solid foundation to start from.
    As for why God would be willing to do this in the afterlife instead of on Earth… yeah, I haven’t worked that out. Um, maybe Heaven was already that way, or built specifically for being an idyllic place whose construction didn’t require wiping out or rewriting a preexisting world. Reasoning being something along the lines of, “To make earth into a paradise I’d need to destroy it and rebuild it, but if I build a paradise over here I don’t need to destroy anything.” And my rationalizing skills are failing me, perhaps something like, “If I bring people over when they die I’ll only need to deal with a few at a time.” And then Lucifer went and pulled a rapture and the afterlife was flooded with billions of people all at once.
    Or something like that.

    Note that the above is probably not sound theology, but instead an attempt to construct a God to fit Elior. And not even an official attempt; I think that if I write anything more with Elior I’ll probably continue to shy away from God’s motivations.
    Goofy hat Jesus was identified as Jesus when he was seen going to help a single person, not the whole world, and that’s the model of salvation I’m going for. That neither Elior nor I understand why his God wouldn’t just cut off the pain and turn the light back on isn’t important.

  • lonespark

    Note that the above is probably not sound theology, but instead an attempt to construct a God to fit Elior. And not even an official attempt; I think that if I write anything more with Elior I’ll probably continue to shy away from God’s motivations.
    Goofy hat Jesus was identified as Jesus when he was seen going to help a single person, not the whole world, and that’s the model of salvation I’m going for. That neither Elior nor I understand why his God wouldn’t just cut off the pain and turn the light back on isn’t important.

    Excellent.

  • Amaryllis

    One more belated “little detail” which some of you will appreciate: I was reading the fifth Temeraire novel by Naomi Novik and I came across a moment when Captain Laurence has just met an ex-seaman.

    “Darby, sir, but Janus they call me,” the seaman said, “on account of a surgeon we shipped in the Sophie, a learned bloke, saying I saw both ways like some old Roman cut-up by that name…”

    Hah.

  • Rebecca

    @Amaryllis: HAHA YES

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    I really want to like the Temeraire books, but the writing style does not engage me; there’s no depth, no complexity, just a far too straightforward surface description of events. I could forgive it in the first book, since that was her first published novel, but it didn’t seem to improve in the second – which I did finish – or the third, which I read a few pages of and then put back. Does it change in later books?

  • http://lyorn.livejournal.com/ inge

    Rebecca quotes: people could oppose same-sex marriage because they think it’s in the best interests of children to be raised by their biological parents.”
    Hrmp. There’s a whole lot of things that are in the best interest of children and that no one is giving much of a damn about. Not growing up poor comes to mind.

  • ohiolibrarian

    @Bugmaster: When you say that the Socialist in USSR should be taken as read, do you also think that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (AKA North Korea) is any of the above?

  • MercuryBlue

    ohiolibrarian: Well, it’s Korean…

  • KJ

    I have thought that, were the doctrine I hear one smallish christian group holds that only exactly 144 people will get to heaven, the morally best course of action is to be as evil as possible to make sure you don’t take a place someone else could have.

  • http://www.personal-goal-setting.com Wayne

    Intersting thread-
    I would like to point out a biblical refernce to hell for your readers. Contrary to popular opinion, or mythology, hell is indeed a very real place that exists for all mankind who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Since the Lord first appeared on the scene over 2 thousand years ago, born in the town of Bethlehm, died at the age of 33, assended into heaven and reigns forever more with God, mankind has been trying to “de-deitfy” the deity and Lordship of Christ Himself, even htough there are countless references and propehcies that world foretold thousands of years before christ’s birth and death:
    Genesis 3:15 (KJV) And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
    Genesis 12:1-3 (KJV) Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: {2} And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: {3} And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
    Genesis 18:18 (KJV) Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
    Genesis 22:18 (KJV) And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
    Genesis 26:4 (KJV) And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
    Genesis 28:14 (KJV) And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
    Psalms 72:17 (KJV) His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.
    Isaiah 40:3-5 (KJV) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. {4} Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: {5} And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken .
    Matthew 17:1-5 (KJV) And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, {2} And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. {3} And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. {4} Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. {5} While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
    2 Peter 1:16-18 (KJV) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. {17} For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. {18} And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
    Acts 3:24-25 (KJV) Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. {25} Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
    Galatians 3:8 (KJV) And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, , In thee shall all nations be blessed.
    Romans 16:20 (KJV) And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with you. Amen.
    Hebrews 2:12-16 (KJV) Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. {13} And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. {14} Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; {15} And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. {16} For verily he took not on angels; but he took on the seed of Abraham.
    1 John 3:8 (KJV) He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
    Jeremiah 4:2 (KJV) And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.
    John 1:14-15 (KJV) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. {15} John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
    Matthew 1:20-25 (KJV) But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. {21} And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. {22} Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, {23} Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. {24} Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: {25} And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
    1 Timothy 3:16 (KJV) And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
    1 John 1:1-3 (KJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; {2} (For the life was manifested, and we have seen , and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) {3} That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
    Romans 1:1-5 (KJV) Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, {2} (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) {3} Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; {4} And declared the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: {5} By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
    2 Peter 1:16-18 (KJV) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. {17} For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. {18} And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
    Mankind rejected Christ then, and during today’s present age they still reject Him as Lord of All. Whether one believes and acknowledges His authenticity and what the bible states as fact and truthful regarding hell-is inconsequential in that whether or not one believes in hell or not does not “lessen” the reaility that it exists-jsut as I do not belive in European or Japanese cars-does not limit or lessen the reality of these car manufactures.
    The real debate should not be questioning the reality of heaven or hell and their existance-but more importantly, upon your evental death, what concrete and tangible assurance/proof that upon your death-you are going to heaven?
    This is the discussion all should be having…
    Best-
    Wayne

  • GrossAdmiral Herzog Hawker von Hurricane, ruler of the Empress’ Navy.

    Wayne,
    If God is just, I have no fear of Hell.
    If God is unjust, then we’re both screwed.

  • MercuryBlue

    Wayne: I think ‘hell’ is a state of mind we can collectively eliminate (or at least dramatically alleviate) by minimizing suffering on earth, and ‘heaven’ is a state of mind we can spread by increasing happiness on earth, and whether we’re destined for either after death isn’t something we should concern ourselves with because minimizing earthly suffering and increasing earthly happiness are more immediate priorities. Religious concerns only enter into this to the extent that religious belief can be used to increase or decrease suffering or increase or decrease happiness.
    If you wanna work with me on getting rid of hell, Doctors Without Borders is taking donations and Habitat for Humanity can always use a few more hands. If you’d rather insist that hell’s a real place we might go after we die, whatever makes you happy, but do keep in mind that lots of people on this board aren’t starting with the assumption that any religious paradigm holds true, and lots more aren’t starting from any flavor of Christianity.

  • Xander

    Most Haitians are already Christian.

  • Andrew

    [The] old Conspicuously Reading the Bible So As to Prompt a Conversation About Salvation From Hell trick (also known as the Reverse Philip).
    Yes!
    what is the bible

  • http://deird1.livejournal.com Deird, who is re-reading

    Fred – this entry isn’t tagged with “Left Behind”.