TF: 788,400 moments so dear

Tribulation Force, pp. 398-399

Buck and Tsion Ben-Judah arrive at Tsion’s home where the former rabbi’s nameless wife wails, “Our lives are ruined!”

That’s technically true. Tsion’s broadcast will certainly entail some big changes in the Ben-Judah household. He worked for decades to establish a position as a distinguished scholar and a respected figure within Judaism and he just left all that behind him, burning his bridges with a very public rejection of both Judaism and scholarship.

But Mrs. Ben-Judah also seems to be overlooking the more urgent part of her husband’s message, i.e., the world is ending. The next seven years will be a nonstop stream of death and destruction, an evil madman will rule the whole earth with an iron hand, and then, precisely seven years from today, God will destroy everything in an orgy of wrath.

So yes, it marks a change in their life that her husband will no longer have a place of honor in the faculty dining room, but that faculty dining room — along with the faculty, the university, the city, the nation and everything else she has ever seen, everywhere else she has ever been or heard of or read about — will be gone in six years, 364 1/2 days anyway, with the intervening time marked by earthquakes, hail, demon locusts, famine and oceans of blood.

That kind of puts Tsion’s loss of tenure into perspective.

The phone rings. It’s Elijah. All those years they’ve been setting a place for him at the Seder and he never once showed up, but now he’s calling the house. I guess being on television really does change things.

Tsion answered the phone and motioned for Buck to pick up the extension in the other room.

Tsion Ben-Judah just became Buck Williams’ favorite person in the whole world. Share your telephone with Buck and you’ve got a friend for life.

“This is Eli. I spoke to you last night.”

“Of course! How did you get my number?”

Again, “How did you get my number?” is a legitimate question, but perhaps not the first thing most of us would ask when a biblical figure from the Iron Age calls. But then Tsion is probably nervous and a bit frightened. He was just on TV describing Daniel as “the greatest of all Hebrew prophets,” then his phone rings and he finds out that Elijah and Moses want to have a word with him. Oh, and they can breathe fire. I’d be scared too.

Elijah says he called the number Tsion gave out on the TV and the student who answered gave him Tsion’s home number. “Somehow I convinced her who I was.”

I can’t help but wonder what that means. Did he “somehow” convince her that he was, indeed, the prophet Elijah, returned in the flesh nearly 3,000 years after the sweet chariot swung low for to carry him home? Or did he simply convince her that he was one of the anonymous fire-breathing street preachers from the Western Wall? Either way, that was surely an interesting conversation and one I’m sorry we readers didn’t get to hear.

“I rejoice with you, Tsion my brother, in the fellowship of Jesus Christ. Many have received him under our preaching here in Jerusalem. …”

The authors have decided to try to make Elijah sound authentically “biblical” by having him talk like the King James translations of the formal introductory parts of Paul’s epistles. Elijah didn’t talk like that. Even Paul didn’t talk like that. Just because he wrote formal salutations in his letters doesn’t mean he went around shaking hands with people and introducing himself in person that way:

“Hi, I’m Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“I’m sorry, ‘Paul’ was it?”

“Yes, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for …”

“Good to meet you, Paul, I’m Bob. From accounting.”

The character of Elijah in this story apparently watches TV and knows how to use a telephone. There’s really no need for him to sound like the NKJV.

I also don’t want to read too much into a single preposition, but you may be wondering why someone would say “under our preaching,” rather than the more normal-sounding “through our preaching.” I suspect that if you attended Tim LaHaye’s church then the peculiar choice of that word would make more sense. In some circles it’s a common idiomatic reminder of who is expected to “submit” to whom. I have many friends and acquaintances who speak this way, sometimes telling me of what they’ve learned “under” their pastor’s teaching and never quite recognizing that the biggest thing they’re learning might be who is “under” whom.

Elijah and Moses have apparently outgrown the venue of the Western Wall courtyard and they’re looking to begin their stadium tour.

“We have arranged for a meeting of new believers in Teddy Kollek Stadium. Would you come and address us?”

“Frankly, brother Eli, I fear for the safety of my family and myself.”

“Have no fear. Moishe and I will make clear that anyone who threatens harm to you will answer to us. And I think our record is plain on that account.”

Don’t worry, Tsion, Elijah is saying, you’re a made man — anybody threatens you and I’ll go all Mount Carmel on him.

Even without the fire-breathing, that’s a pretty serious threat coming from Elijah. And if anything, Moses is even scarier. This is plagues-of-Egypt Moses, we’re talking about here. Red Sea Moses. Just ask Korah, Dathan and Abiram if Moses is someone you want to mess with. Oh, wait, you can’t ask Korah, Dathan and Abiram because “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up … so they … went down alive into Sheol and the earth closed over them.” As Proposition Joe would say, that guy has more bodies on him than a Chinese cemetery.

So I buy that “Eli’s” threat is a credible one, but hearing him talk all gangster like that gives me this incongruous mental image of two bearded old men in sackcloth and aviator shades.

Thus we come to the end of Chapter 17 and the action seems to be picking up a little bit. Buck is set to accompany Tsion on his stadium evangelism tour, and Rayford is about to land in New Babylon to witness the construction of Nicolae Carpathia’s equivalent of the Death Star. It’s refreshing, after nearly 400 pages of aimless flights and phone calls, to turn to the next chapter with the sense that, finally, something may be about to happen.

And here, instead, is what one finds on the next page, page 399 of a 450-page book, the first words of Chapter 18:

Eighteen months later.

Didn’t see that coming.

On the positive side, this story had been mired down in a whole lot of nothing for hundreds of pages and it clearly needed something to jolt it back to life. Flashback can also be a powerful narrative device, and one could even argue that the episodic story that LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are trying to tell here is particularly suited to being told in that way.

It’s almost as though 90 percent of the way through typing this book Jenkins suddenly realized that and, after spending 400 pages slogging through every commute, meal and phone call, he decided that telling this story through the characters’ memories would be a way to focus mainly on what was actually memorable. But then, being the lazy novelist that he is, he didn’t go back and rewrite those 400 pages, he just abruptly lurched ahead 18 months to allow for a different narrative approach in the last 50 pages.

This spasm of a time-skip is incredibly jarring for the reader. We have just finished reading about the day of the big treaty signing — the event that starts the final countdown ticking. According to the rules of this story, the universe has exactly seven years remaining. And then, suddenly on the next page — “Eighteen months later” — the universe has exactly five and a half years remaining.

Here on page 399 we can’t yet know whether this jarring shift in Jenkins’ approach to telling this story will turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, the approach he’s taken up until this point has not worked at all, so we can figure that any change in that approach — even one executed as artlessly and clumsily as this one — is bound to be an improvement. But then on the other hand, that belief is based on the assumption that these books couldn’t possibly get any worse, and after more than 800 pages of this series we’ve come to realize that this is never a safe assumption.

As we’ll see in the pages ahead, this leap forward in time doesn’t lead to a series of vivid flashbacks, but mainly to a series of dull conversations in which characters tell us second-hand and past-tense about key scenes that we will never get to see for ourselves.

But on the positive side, again, at least we’re spared 18 months of cab rides, cookies and phone calls. For that much I’m grateful.

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  • Bificommander

    Oh, it didn’t eat it. Sry for the double post :p

  • Anonymous

    Piling on to the Fred-praise this week, I really liked this bit:

    He worked for decades to establish a position as a distinguished scholar and a respected figure within Judaism and he just left all that behind him, burning his bridges with a very public rejection of both Judaism and scholarship.

    Oh man, there’s so much I want to say on the topic of time skips, when they’re appropriate and when they’re not (look at me, going on like I’m a real writer!), but I think I’ll need to organize my thoughts into a couple of upcoming posts, otherwise things are gonna get real wall-o-texty real fast.

    Another thought, it’s a rookie mistake to think that Biblical or Historical figures have to talk in stilted Ye Olde King Jamesian.

    The interesting thing is that it’s been established that when the Two Witnesses speak, listeners hear the words in their own native tongue.  Which means that whatever holy autotranslator Moses and Elijah are using, either it comes with a built-in King James module, or they haven’t updated the software since 1604.

    Or a third theory is that this is how Tsion hears everybody speak, which opens up a whole host of amusing possibilities.  Maybe he’s like Kenneth from 30 Rock and he also sees everyone as Muppets.  Muppets speaking King James English.  I mean, why not?  It makes as much sense as anything else.

    Some readers commented that Jesus’ words sounded too stilted at times, primarily because of the use of the formal language of the New King James translation instead of using a more contemporary translation, such as the New Living Translation or a paraphrase like the Living Bible or the Message. As Jerry Jenkins said, he and Dr. LaHaye chose not to put words in Jesus’ mouth, so they quoted extensively from Scripture.

    Here I go talking like a real writer again, but as a rule, a character tends to find their own voice once the author becomes familiar with them.  So I think an alternate explanation for L&J not writing much original dialogue for Jesus is that they don’t know Jesus very well.  I don’t even mean that in a theological sense, necessarily — I mean they don’t even know their Jesus very well; their TurboJesus, who is to some degree a being of their own creation.

    I think it’s telling that L&J had eleven books to prepare for the Glorious Appearing, it’s a scene they knew they’d eventually have to write, and when they got there they still didn’t feel sufficiently confident about what Jesus would do and say in that situation, so they just played it safe and gave him canned dialogue from the source material.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s telling that L&J had eleven books to prepare for the Glorious Appearing, it’s a scene they knew they’d eventually have to write, and when they got there they still didn’t feel sufficiently confident about what Jesus would do and say in that situation, so they just played it safe and gave him canned dialogue from the source material.

    Or maybe they feared what Jesus would do in such a situation.

    “I forgive you.”

  • chris the cynic

    I think that the best way to explain the situation of Satan in a story such as this, barring an second prophecy with a different ending (or, you know, attempts to not fulfill the prophecies), is to assume that the situation represents a Nash equilibrium.  Or something similar to a Nash equilibrium.

    It’s not necessarily that playing along is makes Satan more likely to win than lose, it is that not playing along would make things worse.  For example, if Satan doesn’t show up at the final battle, God will definitely be able to establish a beachhead on earth.  Letting God do that probably won’t improve Satan’s chances of winning.  If Satan deviates from the prophecy, then he has no way of knowing where and when God plans to invade in the end, he also has no way of knowing what God is going to throw at him, where as now he’s got God’s entire game plan.

    In Left Behind Satan doesn’t do anything with that game plan, but in a better story he’d be preparing to the best of his ability for each of the Judgments.  He’d be stockpiling food and instituting global earthquake preparedness measures.  He’d be digging underground bunkers people can live in when God changes the sun to make the surface unlivable.

  • Ken

    One quibble:

    Even without the fire-breathing, that’s a pretty serious threat coming from Elijah. And if anything, Moses is even scarier.

    Except they weren’t like that.  Yes, plagues, fire falling from the sky, et cetera, but both those guys were always clear it wasn’t them doing it, it was God.  They would never say “Anyone who threatens you will answer to us,” but “will answer to God.”

    In some interpretations of Numbers 20:7-12, breaking that rule is why Moses was barred from the promised land.

  • http://twitter.com/Narrator1 Narrator 1

    “I once raised this point with a Christian theologian, who replied that the Prince of Darkness is so vain that he undoubtably believes that he can change the ending.”

    So God wins the eternal war because Satan has the intelligence and foresight of a James Bond movie villain?  That really proves how great God is…

  • Anonymous

    Narrator: So God wins the eternal war because Satan has the intelligence and foresight of a James Bond movie villain?  That really proves how great
    God is…

    If anything, Turbo-God’s the James Bond villain in this equation, taking the whole Bond villain shtick to its most illogical and inefficient extremes.  First, like any Bond villain he lays out his evil Glorious plan for world domination Establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, but then he takes the added measure of having it written down in book format, translated into all languages, and distributed throughout the entire world.  Then he twiddles his thumbs for a millennium or two just to make sure that everyone has a chance to read his plan and be forewarned.  Then, and only then, he puts everyone into the obligatory slow-moving death trap (ie his series of plagues), only this trap outdoes all others in inefficiency in that it takes a full seven years to work.  Yet despite all this he still manages to successfully pull off his evil glorious scheme, because (we’re apparently supposed to assume) he’s just that awesome.  He gave everyone a 2,000 year head start and still won the race!  So, basically, L&J worship an apotheosized Auric Goldfinger.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    Re:  “Believe in” vs. “believe on,” I found this page.  The second commenter actually checks a concordance to see if the two English phrases are translations of different Greek words.  It turns out that they are, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of difference between the meanings.  So, if you want to know why certain groups of evangelicals prefer one phrase over the other, going to the actual Bible doesn’t provide much of a clue.  I’m curious, too, since I belong to one of those mainline denominations the RTCs undoubtedly consider too modern and liberal.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting! They’re right that there are two Greek prepositions, but what they fail to note is that, not only is English in flux w/regard to “in” and “on” in the 16th century, but Koine Greek was in flux during the 2nd century. (Well, Koine Greek was in flux, period.) I did find, in looking through the relevant verses in my Greek New Testament, that KJV’s “believe in” versus “believe on” don’t pattern with the two Greek prepositions.

    An unfortunate RTC practice is the assumption that the Greek Bible can be parsed at an extraordinarily precise level of detail, and that this detail is reflected in the KJV. I grew up RTC and remember many sermons that rely heavily on trying to make a distinction between things like “believe in” and “believe on.” I recall hearing of one where the speaker based his whole sermon on the distinction between two words (something like “mercy” versus “compassion”–that probably wasn’t the pair, but it was something like that) and when one was used as opposed to the other in some significant passage. Turns out, both of the English words were translations of the same word in Greek. The King James translators were just trying not to repeat the same word over and over. That kind of repetition was good rhetorical practice in the 2nd century, but tastes had changed.

     

  • Anonymous

    Late to the party (as usual) on believing in/on/towards/all over,* but I’ll toss in what information I have.** I checked some of the verses using “believe in” and “believe on” in my handy-dandy, LaHaye-approved*** King James Version against the Greek, and I’m not seeing anything that makes sense as an in/on distinction. I do know that “believe on” was the more common form at the time the KJV was composed, but that “believe in” was also possible. My understanding is that they were merely variants with no special meaning distinction, rather like “on” and “upon” in certain contexts today.***

    *Personally, I think what the Tribbles are doing is believing at Jesus, sort of like talking at someone. Jesus seems to be rather good at dodging their belief-missiles, though.
    **I did read through the whole thread, and, while many people have commented in response to Amaryllis’ question, I didn’t see precisely the information I supplied. I’m sorry if I failed to notice someone’s contribution.
    **Actually, my copy of the KJV is not really LaHaye-approved, as it does not contain Scofield’s notes. It is thus not really possible to read it and come up with anything like the “End Times” interpretation LaHaye subscribes to. It’s the copy my parents gave me back when I was child, and I had to insist on NOT having a Scofield Bible. I am in retrospect enormously proud of my 8-year-old self.

  • Anonymous

    To steal a riff from MST3K apparently God’s power lies in choosing
    incompetent enemies.

     

    And that was a revealing interview question and answer on writing dialogue
    for Jesus. It not’s just lack of imagination. It’s knowing that your audience is
    the Professionally Offended (TM) and knowing that they’ll clutch their pearls
    like there’s no tomorrow if you write an original line of dialogue for our lord
    and savior. For to do so makes them run the risk of having to think about their
    faith, Is this something Jesus would say? Why? If it bothers me is it because
    it’s completely out of Character? Why? Why do I believe Jesus acts this way or
    that way?
     

  • Heather

    This post has brought a couple of things to mind for me.  First, the line “Tsion answered the phone and motioned for Buck to pick up the extension in the other room.”  Is there a universal motion that means “pick up the other extension”?  I’ve tried inventing my own, and the message got rather lost in translation.  I suppose I have to give the authors kudos for not spending five pages describing the back and forth of “Sorry, what did you mean?” and “No, no, the office phone is on your *other* left!” (of course, in a better book that wouldn’t even be a question), but I think I much prefer my version where Buck was so excited at the possibility of fondling another phone that he radically misinterpreted Tsion’s gesture, which Tsion had intended to mean, “Feel free to grab a cold drink from the fridge; I’ll only be a moment.”

    The other idea is a bit more over-arching.  Has anyone yet written a story where Nicky is one of the good guys?  People have discussed that the A/C is part of Zod’s master plan, so to go against the A/C is to go against Zod, but what if that went one step further?  What if Nicky was intentionally working for Zod (either because Zod asked or because Nicky thought it would be the Right Thing To Do)?  Just like Gabriel in the movie Constantine, Nicky/Zod believes that the best way to encourage believers is to give them someone to fight against.  Through that struggle their faith will be refined and purified.  

    In this version, Nicky is only an incompetent Anti-Christ because the “heroes” are incompetent heroes.  Nicky is sitting there behind the scenes trying to figure out how to make his plans ever easier to fight against because otherwise he’ll crush all of the good guys in the first two weeks of the End Times, and then where will they be?  Between having to badger the “heroes” into “infiltrating” his evil empire, pretending not to hear them when he ought to be firing (or beheading) them, and letting known anti-OneWorldReligion activists walk around freely because they can’t be bothered to hide, he’d pretty much have to be throwing up his hands right now.  Maybe that’s why he eventually lets Satan indwell him – he’s decided that the Christians who are left are so incompetent/malicious that he’d rather work for the opposition.  The rest of his problems (such as trying to run a OWG with only four people) could be that he was planning on spending a lot longer preparing, but he had to move quickly after enough people got abducted by aliens to have the rest start thinking “rapture.”

    Anyone else either know if someone’s written a scene like this or want to try writing one themselves?  

  • Bificommander

    Dunno it it’s been written. I doubt I have the time. But it is troubeling that your theory, like many, many others, makes more sense than what actually happens.

    And this is a bit late but: Tsion has been studying the most important thing ever for 3 years… and he didn’t think to tell his wife??? Changing religion when you’re married to someone of your old religion is always tricky, but letting her find out via a national broadcast is pretty damn cold. Plus, what if she’d died in the intervening time? Hypothetical bus and all that. And it’s the end of the world, so that’s likely to happen.

    Which reminds me of another thing (there’s just so much wrong with this series), why did Tsion not get raptured? In 3 years he didn’t find out the magic words? We’ve already established he started out with Christian sources for his research, but even if we follow L&J’s bizarro logic and pretend those were Jewish sources, I don’t think you can do a 3 year research project and not have a pretty good idea as to the conclusion 2 weeks before you present your conclusions on TV. So he knew it all, and didn’t say the magic words. And as we all know, the magic words are neccesary, anyone who’s intelectually honest will find that in a literal reading of the Bible, just like every other tiny piece of RTC culture.

  • Anonymous

    [W]hy did Tsion not get raptured? In 3 years he didn’t find out the magic words? We’ve already established he started out with Christian sources for his research, but even if we follow L&J’s bizarro logic and pretend those were Jewish sources, I don’t think you can do a 3 year research project and not have a pretty good idea as to the conclusion 2 weeks before you present your conclusions on TV.

    During the first year of his study, Tsion confirmed the accuracy of the list of messianic passages provided by the Christian theologian Alfred Edersheim.  He spent the second year whittling this list down to 109 separate and distinct prophecies that the Messiah must fulfill.

    At the beginning of the third year, Tsion expanded his study to books of history and other sacred writings, combing every record to see if he could find if anyone has ever lived up to the messianic qualifications.  He learned Arabic, Sanskrit, and other languages so that he could determine whether the Islamic Koran, the Hindu scriptures, and other writings identified someone who was born in Bethlehem of a virgin, a descendent of King David, traced back to Abraham, taken to Egypt, called back to Galilee, preceded by a forerunner, rejected by God’s own people, betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, pierced without breaking a bone, buried with the rich, and resurrected.  Alas, he searched in vain.

    Finally, with just weeks to go, in desperation Tsion studied the Greek language and then turned to the New Testament to see if the Christian scriptures had anything to say about the messianic passages.  To his amazement, he learned that the Gospels told the story of someone associated with Bethlehem and Galilee, David and Abraham, betrayal and resurrection.  At this point he consulted a mathematician, who calculated the odds that just twenty of the 109 prophecies being fulfilled in one person at one in 4,125,000,000,000.  At this point Tsion put all the pieces together and realized that the Christians were right all along and Jesus Christ was the Messiah.  Unfortunately it was too late, as the Rapture had already the RTCs.

  • Technomad

    “Finally, with just weeks to go, in desperation Tsion studied the Greek language and then turned to the New Testament to see if the Christian scriptures could assist him in his quest.”

    He picked up Koine Greek that quickly?  Who is this guy, Flashman in a yarmulke?

    If I could find the secret of learning languages that easily and quickly, I’d have a money-spinner that would keep me for the rest of my life.  And I’d use it myself…there’s dozens of languages I’d love to learn.

  • chris the cynic

    In The Grass is always Greener and it’s sequel Nicolae is on on god’s side, and being driven insane by the dissonance of it all.

    I don’t know if anyone’s done one where Nicolae is constantly cutting back and upping his incompetence to match the opposition.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I wrote a few short bits over at Right Behind where the AntiChrist is a religious zealot who knows he’s just playing a role, knows he’s going to lose, and knows his job is to be so evil as to drive as many people as possible to God out of fear and terror.

    It got really dark, really fast. Nicolae the zealot knows he’s evil; he knows that every horrible, sadistic, cruel thing he does is absolutely vital in getting people to seek out Jesus and repent. When Nicolae the zealot plans to ride a giant pig through the Stations of the Cross, he is completely aware of how much cruelty to the animal must be done, and knows that the more horrific and terrifying and vile it is, the better the recruitment for Jesus will be. He’s genuinely pleased by doing horrible things, and gets furiously angry when he can’t achieve as much horror as he wants.

    Think Ozymandias on cocaine and ritalin. Think Fred Rogers tweaked out of his skull on steroids and crystal meth, full of hope and love for humanity and commanded by God to express it by being as horrible as possible, driving humanity to God the way cattle and sheep are driven, with goads and dogs and prods and pain and fear. This is a deeply terrifying Anti-Christ not because he hates God and wants to defy him, but because he loves God, and wants to do his part to bring souls to Him.

    Nicky isn’t incompetent for having the Tribbies on staff; he needs them on staff to report on his evil and keep recruiting. He knows they’re part of God’s plan, which means they have to be part of his plans too!

  • Rikalous

    Is there a universal motion that means “pick up the other extension”?

    *point at Buck*
    *make that phone gesture where your index finger’s touches your ear and your little finger touches your mouth*
    *point in general direction of extension*

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    *make that phone gesture where your index finger’s touches your ear and your little finger touches your mouth* *point in general direction of extension*

    Hang loose?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    *make that phone gesture where your index finger’s touches your ear and your little finger touches your mouth* *point in general direction of extension*

    Hang loose?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    *make that phone gesture where your index finger’s touches your ear and your little finger touches your mouth* *point in general direction of extension*

    Hang loose?

  • Rikalous

    Not what I was thinking of, but would work just as well.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett
  • Rikalous

    Oh, hook ’em horns!

    Them’s the ones.

  • CC

    So Reverend Rabbi goes on tv to say Jesus is the way, then runs out of the studio shouting for everyone to call this special toll free number for more information.  The first person who calls is the prophet Elijah.

    (momentary pause in ongoing amazement.)

    Elijah, who, as others have pointed out, admits he watches television.

    (still amazed).

    “Hello, yes?”

    “This is prophet Elijah.  I’m here with Moses.  We saw you on tv.  Want to join our prayer group?”

    Eighteen months later….

    I concur with what others have said:  There is no end, no bottom, no limit, to the amazing awfulness of these books.  They go beyond bad.  They rise above awful.  They reach levels of insane nonsense that defy creedence, defy reason.  They challenge you to beleive they really exist.

    If nothing else, this takes Left Behind’s telephone mania to–I was going to say it’s absolute extreme, but no, that would be assuming that they can’t get any worse.  And again, if there is one thing you can be absolutely sure of with these books, it’s that they can.  And they will. 

  • chris the cynic

    I concur with what others have said:  There is no end, no bottom, no limit, to the amazing awfulness of these books.  They go beyond bad.  They rise above awful.  They reach levels of insane nonsense that defy creedence, defy reason.  They challenge you to beleive they really exist.

    I am reminded of this quote:

    I rise to pay my small tribute to Dr. Harding. Setting aside a college professor or two and a half dozen dipsomaniacal newspaper reporters, he takes the first place in my Valhalla of literati. That is to say, he writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
    -H.L. Mencken March 7, 1921

  • cc

    Chris, that qoute from Mencken (one of my all time favorite commentaries on American politics) is exactly what I was thinking of when I typed my comment.  Good call.

  • KevinC

    CC wrote:

    There is no end, no bottom, no limit, to the amazing awfulness of these
    books.  They go beyond bad.  They rise above awful.  They reach levels
    of insane nonsense that defy creedence, defy reason.  They challenge you
    to beleive they really exist.

    This should really be a back-cover blurb on the LB books.  I especially love that last line.

  • Anonymous

    “There is no end, no bottom, no limit, to the amazing awfulness of these books.  They go beyond bad.  They rise above awful.  They reach levels of insane nonsense that defy creedence, defy reason.  They challenge you to beleive they really exist.”

    This should really be a back-cover blurb on the LB books.  I especially love that last line.

    THE CRITICS RAVE FOR LEFT BEHIND:

    “There is no end, no bottom, no limit, to the amazing…of these books … They rise above … They challenge you!”  (Source: The Internet)

  • cc

    I should add that if I were reading, say, a Stephen King or Alan Moore book where a professor is on tv talking about a dead murderer and saying the guy was really a dark magician, and then he went home and the phone rang it was the dead murderer calling?  That would work.  Somehow, that would still work.  But the whole Elijah-on-line-one-notion is just so–so stupid!  I mean, is he magically sending his thoughts through the telephone lines?  Can he access any electronic communication device at any time?  (can he speak to people through their TV sets or computers, for instance, like Dave Bowman in 2010?)  Or did he actually go to a physical phone, pick it up, dial a number….How?  They’re in that courtyard in Jerusalem, right?  Where’d they get a tv set, for that matter?!?!

  • A A

    I rather liked:

    “Somehow I convinced her who I was.”

    I picture Elijah saying the word “somehow” in a mock-innocent voice. Then I picture a jet of flame having come out of the phone receiver, briefly replacing the woman’s face with a solid mask of black ash, broken only by the whites of two widely-staring eyes. (Like in the old Warner Bros. cartoons.)

  • MaryKaye

    You could actually do a very cool story where some mad conspiracy theorist worked out all the steps of the Divine Plan, but it was a stupid, disconnected, meaningless plan and no one took him seriously.  Then events started happening, and at some point there’s the big A-HA where the reader realizes that this series of flowing, coherent, meaningful events *is exactly what the conspiracy theorist predicted*, only he was unable to provide the connective tissue.

    Or rather, you my talented fellow bloggers could probably do this story.  L&J, not so much.

  • Amaryllis

    Ravanan: thanks, that’s interesting. I’d never really thought about it before, beyond a vague  “that’s unusual usage” twitch when I heard it. But I rather like the ambiguity of the  “belief of translation: the important stuff usually is capable of more than one interpretation.

    Vermic:

    So I think an alternate explanation for L&J not writing much
    original dialogue for Jesus is that they don’t know Jesus very well.  I
    don’t even mean that in a  theological sense, necessarily — I mean they
    don’t even know their Jesus very well; their TurboJesus, who is to some degree a being of their own creation.

    But they’d never admit that TurboJesus is any kind of “character.” He’s Jesus, man! And they don’t seem to have much respect for the creative process anyway.

    I once raised this point with a Christian theologian, who replied that
    the Prince of Darkness is so vain that he undoubtably believes that he
    can change the ending

    He’s so vain, he prob’ly thinks this book is about him!

  • Keromaru

    I’d encountered the “in”/”on” distinction before in a commentary on John’s Gospel by Abp. William Temple, and wasn’t aware that it was a fundie thing.  At the very least, Temple was a much smarter and wiser theologian than LaHaye could ever hope to be.

  • Amaryllis

    But wait, there’s more! I’ve gotta get used to this paging system…

    Hummingwolf:

    there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of difference between the meanings.

    Well, according to the author of the page:

    Is there really a
    difference between believing in the Lord Jesus and believing on the Lord
    Jesus? I contend that there is a huge difference and that ignorance
    could cost a  person their soul.

    That’s pretty high stakes for a point of grammar, if you ask me.

    Dash:

    Personally, I think what the Tribbles are doing is believing at Jesus, sort of like talking at someone. Jesus seems to be rather good at dodging their belief-missiles, though.

    Hee.

    That is, one is forced to admit the extreme justice of your remarks.

    I did find, in looking through the relevant verses in my Greek New
    Testament, that KJV’s “believe in” versus “believe on” don’t pattern
    with the two Greek prepositions.

    Well, that settles that, doesn’t it? A distinction without a difference.

    I had to insist on NOT having a Scofield Bible. I am in retrospect enormously proud of my 8-year-old self.

    You knew the difference, at eight? I’m impressed! Was it natural brilliance or a really excellent religious education program?

  • Anonymous

     

    You knew the difference, at eight? I’m impressed! Was it natural
    brilliance or a really excellent religious education program?

    Neither, I fear. My recollection is that I was out-literaling the literalists. We were told that we believed ONLY in the Bible (“sola scriptura” is how they didn’t phrase it, Latin being all Catholic ‘n stuff), presumably to contrast us with those who had prayer books and church traditions and the like. So I insisted on ONLY the Bible being in my Bible. It’s the same charming and delightful attitude we have been observing in LaHaye & Jenkins: literaler than thou, with a “neener neener neener” thrown in.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You know, thinking again about the similarities to Lovecraft, some of the facts of the story started piling up in my head and slotting into place, and the results were… distrubing. 

    The Tribulation Force is a group of mortals who meet in secret to conduct forbidden rituals to contact powers that lie beyond time and space, eventually summon beings which cause insanity and death in those who oppose them and rend the Earth asunder, and are actively making preperations for the day when the can witness the glorious end of the world in an orgy of madness and destruction when the signs are right and their malevolent deity returns. 

    There can be only one explaination:  The Tribulation Force are a group of evil cultists.

  • Tonio

    There can be only one explaination:  The Tribulation Force are a group of evil cultists.

    Would that be a great idea for a novel that turns LB inside out, or is that too much like Ruby Ridge?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I have never heard of Ruby Ridge. 

  • Lori

     I have never heard of Ruby Ridge.  

    That may be for the best. It’s one of those incidents where it’s difficult to get objective information because everyone who wrote about it had an ax to grind and all of the players directly involved f’ed up royally in more or less heinous ways. It happen almost 20 years ago and talking about it still tends to stir up a huge shitstorm. 

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    This hit me while I was out walking today: The virgin birth is in fact evidence of the existence of lizard people. It is well-known that certain species of lizards are able to reproduce by parthenogenesis with no males. Therefore, if Mary was a lizard woman, she may have been able to bear a child without ever having sex with a man.

    I’m not sure if any fish species can do something similar, but if they can, I think you know how that fits into the Jesus-in-Lovecraft story.

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

    I remember when I first read the passage with Moishe calling Tsion on the phone and doing a double take… “what this mysterious character raining down fire is using the PHONE?”  I pictured him standing in a phone booth… putting in quarters.  No, no I must be misreading this, it’s like the author is parodying himself.

    Even better… a few years later he could’ve been using one of those flip phones, Matrix style.  “God?  I need knowledge on how to acquire a stadium.”   BZZZZZT.  “Let’s go.” 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I remember when I first read the passage with Moishe calling Tsion on the phone and doing a double take… “what this mysterious character raining down fire is using the PHONE?” I pictured him standing in a phone booth… putting in quarters. No, no I must be misreading this, it’s like the author is parodying himself.

    We have already established that the authors seem to regard telephones with a certain reverence, more so than they show for the principals of their faith.  You know, they could have done a bit more with the phones if they played their cards right.  Maybe used them as a recurring motif, a piece of symbolism about the connections people have to one another in the most dire of times… but I think that is way above their writing ability.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t even process these glimpses of Left Behind That Is to Come.  The awfulness is just staggering.  The Archangel Michael serving as Jesus’ right-hand goon?  God sadistically toying with Nicolae like Steven Seagal toying with anyone who is not Steven Seagal?  Even more divine forcefields?  Ugh, I’d much rather read christopher_young’s version of events than L&J’s.

    “I will give you gold.”

    Hmm, there was some molten gold jewelry left after they torched Ayee.  So maybe the prophets get money from looting their kills, like MMORPG’ers and other amoral sociopaths have done since the beginning of history.  Then they head to their local former Blockbuster Video, which is now a Cash-4-Gold outlet, and exchange their haul for regular currency which they use to rent pubic venues.  It’s so obvious when you think about it!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Hmm, there was some molten gold jewelry left after they torched Ayee. So maybe the prophets get money from looting their kills, like MMORPG’ers and other amoral sociopaths have done since the beginning of history. Then they head to their local former Blockbuster Video, which is now a Cash-4-Gold outlet, and exchange their haul for regular currency which they use to rent public venues. It’s so obvious when you think about it!

    I bet they take umbridge when one of their assailants drops nothing but vendor trash. 

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    E: Hey Moishe, wanna do a 2-man raid against the Anti-Christ’s 4th Prince?

    M: Isn’t that a 100-man raid?

    E: Eh, we have GM access privileges and hacked gear. We can take it.

    *after quickly finishing the raid*

    E: Dammit, he didn’t drop the mount.

    M: What mount?

    E: Don’t you remember? God said for these 7 years only, there was an exclusive 10-headed beast mount that’s a rare drop of all the Anti-Christ’s Princes.

    M: Sweet. Why don’t we go back in then?

    E: COME ON, RESPAWN ALREADY!

  • http://lightupmy.wordpress.com Jessica

    Tsion Ben-Judah just became Buck Williams’ favorite person in the whole
    world. Share your telephone with Buck and you’ve got a friend for life.

    That was the line that made me LOL.  Nice!

  • Anonymous

    The fact that Ellanjay’s Jesus acts like a brutal dictator shows what their mentality is like.
     
    The Jesus of Left Behind may act like a brutal dictator, but he is <very sad that he has been forced to act like a brutal dictator.
     

    <Michael led the five [Leon, Nicky, and three of his demonic servants] in front of Jesus, and Mac was struck by His countenance. He detected righteous anger, of course, but also what appeared to be disappointment, even sadness. There was no gloating.

    "We repent! We will turn! We will turn! We worship You, O Jesus, Son of God. You are Lord!"
    "But for you it is too late," Jesus said, and Mac was hit by the sorrow in His tone… "Like My Father, with whom I am one, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that is justice, and that is your sentence."

    Jesus shook His head and Mac saw a great sadness in His face.  "You [Leon] are responsible for the fate of billions…"

    The Lord nodded sadly, and without hesitation, Michael briskly walked the two to the edge of the hole.

    With anger and yet sadness, He said [to the millions of condemned souls desperately pleading for mercy], “Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked andyou did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”

  • Rikalous

    “Like My Father, with whom I am one, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that is justice, and that is your sentence.”

    I notice he doesn’t say anything about the torture that will be continuing for a longer time than human minds can really process. Oh, and the “he only smites them because he cares” thing is still sickening.

  • Anonymous

    Man, God’s not omnipotent.  God’s not even “selfpotent.”

  • Anonymous

    Man, God’s not omnipotent.  God’s not even “selfpotent.”

    What’s funny is that the same Christian theologians who insist that God can’t just forgive someone (even if He wants to) without the shedding of innocent blood … then turn around and, without blinking, tell me that Jews “limit” God’s omnipotence when we reject the idea that He can become a human being.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”

    And yet the Tribulation Force are some of the most selfish characters in this series.  There is a dissonance here I find difficult to reconcile.

  • hf

    Seems pretty straightforward. Insofar as this series reveals their thoughts at all, it says they have no concept of an accurate belief about reality. ‘Correct belief,’ to them, means an approved set of words to parrot back. Intellectualism seems to them like a poor copy of this, so it must entail reading an atlas in nine languages. They literally have no concept of facts fitting together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I have actually seen the argument made that “the least of these” refers to Christians, and that “all the nations” means everybody else. Thus, the parable does not say that everyone will be judged on their behavior towards everyone else, but that non-Christians will be judged on their behavior toward Christians.

    If ever I have seen an example of someone being an anti-Christ, it was there.

  • ako

    I’ve heard that argument, and it tends to surprise me with the nakedness of it.  It’s effectively saying “I don’t think compassion is an important moral principle in general – what matters is that everyone not on Team Christianity will be punished for not being nice enough to the people on Team Christianity.  So therefore it’s not important if I screw you over, but you’d better not cross me or I’ll have my God stomp you.”  There’s no actual morality in there at all.

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

     Remember, RTCs don’t believe in an actual morality. Morality is what TurboJesus says is moral. To suggest that morality exists independently of TurboJesus is, to an RTC, heresy.

  • ako

    Yeah, it’s confusing when people simultaneously claim moral superiority and openly display their complete lack of morals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    So basically, the Phoenix Clan from Legend of the Five Rings.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Yeah, it’s confusing when people simultaneously claim moral superiority and openly display their complete lack of morals.

    Maybe that is why people like Newt Gingrich can find political purchase there.  We often see a lot of pundits on the political right condemn a public figure who does not meet their standard of morality, while simultaneously forgiving the transgressions of those “in the camp.”  Their sense of morality is very sect-centric. 

  • hf

    If you’re thinking of the part where Elijah calls down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice, I should mention that the sweet little old Orthodox rabbi who taught me that story pointed out that he thinks there’s something suspicious going on with the sloshing of ‘water’ over the offering–specifically, something odd going on in a region that is not without crude oil

    Frankly, a lot of the Hebrew Bible seems to me like a celebration of clever deception. King David acts like Marlon Brando’s Godfather. Solomon’s most famous act involved tricking two mothers. Old man Israel got his brother to sell his birthright, then tricked Isaac into confirming it. Abraham lies just to keep in practice. And then we have Joseph the slaver, who (according to my translator) jokes about his fellow prisoner’s beheading. “Your head will be lifted up…from you!” Here’s some hope for you – nope, too slow!

    Again, a lot of this probably comes from stitching together stories with different purposes and morals. (Though the Redactor seems like a person who’d appreciate a good deception, if he really included all the best-loved parts of the J Text while concealing its view of the God of Israel.) The J Text tells a better story, about a clever young boy-deity who creates some brilliant work, but makes a lot of mistakes and can’t protect his creations from older gods (or try to do so) until he matures somewhat.

    As someone who was never part of the Christian community, this was always something that bothered me about the Abrahamic narrative.  There is never really anything at stake for God.  The devil already lost one battle against God, and it sounds like it wasn’t even close.

    This seems like a closely related problem. At least Tolkien’s work, which of course shows a more consistent vision, has the storyteller-God Iluvatar give mortals the power to accomplish anything they seek. By implication every battle needs mortals on both sides or the Satan-figure will win just by virtue of having corrupted some mortals to his service. Even the other Powers of the world lack the authority to stop an invasion of people trying to ‘seize their immortality’ — they need to call Iluvatar for a ruling on that issue.

    chris the cynic said: I think that the best way to explain the situation of Satan in a story such as this, barring an second prophecy with a different ending (or, you know, attempts to not fulfill the prophecies), is to assume that the situation represents a Nash equilibrium.  Or something similar to a Nash equilibrium.

    Ten points to Ravenclaw!

  • Bificommander

    As discusting and self-centered as that interpetation is, I have to wonder even from an RTC perspective: Aren’t all non-RTCs damned to torment already just for not being RTCs? What is this extra judgment supposed to do? Oh, you talked back to the RTC that tried to hand you a tract? Well I sentence you to Hell! No wait, I already did that. Ehm, I increase your sentence duration. Oh wait, it was already eternal. Uhm… I guess we can try to make the lake of fire a bit hotter in your area…

  • Brightie

     Actually, I think that’s because of a translation issue which they feel obliged to quote directly.


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