TF: EBOWF

Tribulation Force, pp. 401-402

One possibility is that Jerry Jenkins had in mind a rough list of developments planned to take place in the second book and a general goal for that book of about 450 pages. After typing up the first 17 chapters, then, he found himself 400 pages along with most of those developments still unmentioned. So Jenkins thus skips ahead 18 months and spits out the final 50 pages in a hasty, jumbled rush, skipping from topic to topic without any attempt to tie it all together.

That’s one theory, and it may almost explain why the final chapters of Tribulation Force are such an incoherent mess.

Almost. The problem, though, is that theory can’t quite account for how thoroughly disjointed and scatterbrained these finally chapters actually are. They read as though they were dictated while Jenkins was distracted with some other task. Like maybe they were dictated while he was driving in heavy traffic. Or while he was driving in heavy traffic and simultaneously carrying on a conversation with his passenger about some completely unrelated subject. Or maybe all of that, with the passenger being an IRS special agent conducting a 20-year audit of Jenkins’ finances while holding a crying baby.

My alternate theory isn’t entirely satisfying either. That one holds that Jenkins, realizing the plot of this novel is far too implausible and contradictory to be believed, deliberately crammed all the action in the book into the last 50 pages in the hopes that by slamming readers with a barrage of rapid-fire plot developments they will be unable to focus enough on any given thread of the story to realize how ridiculous it all is or to protest that any supposed prophecy requiring such events all to occur just can’t be taken seriously.

This part of Tribulation Force is a weird, stream-of-subconsciousness summary of what has transpired in the past 18 months. Bruce Barnes, we learn:

… had instituted a program of house churches, small groups that met all over the suburbs and throughout the state in anticipation of the day when the assembling of the saints would be outlawed. It wouldn’t be long.

And while he’s been busy creating this network of secretive underground cells, we’re told in the same paragraph, he’s also watched “the ministry of the two witnesses and Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah swell to fill the largest stadiums on the globe.”

So in a single paragraph we’re told that the persecuted believers are gradually losing their freedom to assemble while at the same time new believers are joining the church in mass-gatherings at giant stadiums all over the world.

And while your brain is trying to figure out how both of those things could be true at the same time, or how the new believers from these high-profile stadium revival meetings could be secretly channeled into the underground house churches, your eye is already moving on to the next paragraph:

The 144,000 Jewish evangelists were represented in every country, often infiltrating colleges and universities.

I’m still disappointed that the authors did not maintain their purported “literal interpretation of Revelation” standard and portray these 144,000 evangelists as singing virgins. I’m also not sure why they’re bothering to “infiltrate” colleges and universities. Trying to influence academia is generally a smart approach if you’re looking to influence future generations, but here in the world of Tribulation Force we know that there won’t be any future generations. I’d like to think that this would be part of the message those evangelists are bringing to college students. If you’re talking to some pre-med undergraduate who’s preparing to spend the next eight years in school and you know for a fact that the universe is going to be destroyed in five and a half years, then I think you’re obliged to mention that.

But what really strikes me there is that word “infiltrating.” That implies an entire missiology and ecclesiology — one that views institutions of learning as enemy territory and views scholars, scientists and students as enemy agents. The apostle Paul did not “infiltrate” the Areopagus or the city of Ephesus. Even Jonah did not think of himself as “infiltrating” Ninevah.

Yet before you have time to think this through any further, you encounter the next sentence and yet another jarring non sequitur:

Millions and millions had become believers, but as faith had grown, crime and mayhem had increased as well.

So the growth of faith brings crime and mayhem? I think what the authors mean there is that even as “faith had grown,” crime and mayhem were keeping pace by growing among a distinct and separate group of non-believers. It’s hard to be sure, though, because once again they assert the existence of this rampant crime and mayhem, but we still never see it anywhere in the world they describe.

This phantom post-Rapture crime wave, as we’ve discussed before, reflects the authors’ misunderstanding of the doctrine of “total depravity,” which they seem to believe means instead that human nature is utterly depraved. The Calvinist/Augustinian idea of “total depravity” holds that humanity’s sinful nature is pervasive — infusing every aspect of our being, but it does not hold that this pervasive fallenness is absolute. The idea, in other words, is that we humans are rotten to the core, but not that our core consists entirely and exclusively of rot.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins believe in utter depravity, meaning that without the presence of real, true Christians as salt and light to preserve this world, the rest of humanity will revert to our unrestrained nature, becoming barbarians or Reavers or the Sawyer family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

At some level I suppose it’s necessary for them to suspect that this is what Everyone Else is really like, because otherwise the wrath and cruelty they believe will be poured out on Everyone Else would seem like overkill and an injustice. Their eschatology works like any other revenge fantasy, so just like the villains in Lethal Weapon 2 or Death Wish 3, we non-RTCs have to be portrayed as utterly, irredeemably wicked so as to allow the audience to cheer our violent death without any qualms or qualifications.

It’s understandable if you find this characterization a bit offensive. “Hey, wait a minute,” you may protest, “I’m not a drug-dealing racist Afrikaaner and I never killed Riggs’ wife or girlfriend or kidnapped Murtaugh’s daughter.” But try to keep in mind that LaHaye and Jenkins aren’t just accusing you of being such a villain — they’re also saying the same would be true of them if they had not accepted Jesus as their personallordandsavior. Their confused doctrine of utter depravity holds that absent the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, every human would constantly be engaged in every form of monstrous, lurid, predatory behavior they could get away with. Even a moment of self-reflection should cause them to question that belief, to realize it’s incompatible with what they know to be true of themselves and of others. So it becomes yet another one of those beliefs that requires them to guard against even a moment of self-reflection.

All of which is to say that, yes, this notion of widespread crime and mayhem suggests that the authors believe some rather nasty and untrue things about you, but that’s partly due to their attempt to believe some rather nasty and untrue things about themselves. So any offense you might take at the crime-and-mayhem accusation should be tempered with a heavy dose of pity.

The chapter continues like a museum tour conducted at a brisk jog, Jenkins leading us past one display after another too quickly to take much of it in or to try to associate what he’s saying with what we’re seeing. And next up here on your left is the new One World Religion, led by the new pope:

Already there was pressure from the Global Community North American government outpost in Washington, D.C., to convert all churches into official branches of what was now called Enigma Babylon One World Faith.

Or EBOWF, for short. I can’t imagine anyone I’ve ever known or met or heard of actually wanting to join anything like the EBOWF. It’s organizing principle is that everything that everyone everywhere has ever previously believed must be rejected and replaced with substanceless pablum. That’s not a compelling sales pitch, and unlike the authors I can’t in any way imagine hundreds of millions of Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, Mormons, Animists and atheists stampeding to sign up.

Just trying to imagine such a thing brings to mind the myriad insurmountable objections that all these many different kinds of believers and nonbelievers would have to the entire project of this one world religion. And considering the gravity and seriousness of all those weighty objections, it seems a bit trifling to complain about the name of this new global church. That name, I think, would be pretty far down the long list of reasons that no one would willingly join. But that name would still have to be included somewhere on that list, because such an awful, hideous, clumsy name would still be a deal-breaker for most people.

“Enigma Babylon One World Faith.” That’s just horrible.

It’s taken from LaHaye’s weird, selectively literal reading of Revelation 17. One part of that chapter reads, in the New King James Version the authors prefer:

I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

The seven-headed beast, the angel tells John of Patmos, represents “seven mountains on which the woman is seated.” And just in case that hint isn’t sufficient, the angel drops a bunch more that this mother of all whores is a symbol of Rome. John, writing about Roman oppression while still under Roman oppression, couldn’t just come right out and say “Rome,” but when a first-century writer sitting in the middle of the Roman Empire writes, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth,” there isn’t more than one way to understand what he’s saying.

During the sectarian violence that characterized the West in the centuries following the Protestant Reformation, it became popular among some anti-Catholic Protestants to suppose that the mother of all whores in Revelation 17 was not the imperial city of Rome, but rather the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church — as though the passage concluded with the angel saying, “The woman you saw is the church based in the city that used to rule over the kings of the earth.”

I believe that the proper reading of John’s Apocalypse is as a condemnation of all oppression, all oppressors and all oppressive systems. For some 16th- or 17th-century Protestants, the Vatican actually was an oppressor, and their application of this text for their context would have been an appropriate appropriation. The same thing would have been true for a Catholic experiencing religious oppression under one of the Protestant regimes of the time.

Revelation 17 is about Imperial Rome, and probably specifically about Imperial Rome under the tyrant Nero or the tyrant Domitian. But what it says about those particular tyrants applies equally to all tyrants and to all tyranny and it is never inaccurate for those living under tyranny to apply the meaning of this chapter to their context. To do so is to follow the example of John himself who, like the author of Daniel, was able to write openly of his oppressor by giving it the name of that earlier, archetypal oppressor, Babylon.

That’s my take on Revelation 17, but it is not at all what Tim LaHaye would call a “literal reading.” Such a “literal” approach, however, could never possibly lead one to the conclusion LaHaye has arrived at here — that “Mystery, Babylon” is a church or a religion. That’s folklore derived from centuries-old Protestant propaganda and it’s wholly unsupported by the text. I do not see how LaHaye can take the text, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth,” and claim that this ought to be “literally interpreted” as a reference to something like EBOWF.

The one-world religion was headed by the new Pope Peter, formerly Peter Mathews of the United States. He had ushered in what he called “a new era of tolerance and unity” among the major religions.

Neither “tolerance” nor “unity” ought to be such a difficult word to understand. Yet here again, as they do throughout this series of books, the authors seem not to have the slightest grasp of what those words mean, misusing and abusing them beyond all recognition.

This Babylonian pope becomes the straw-man embodying the authors’ deformed, warped misunderstanding of the word “tolerance,” allowing them yet again to repeat one of their favorite bits of imbecile sophistry: If you’re so tolerant, then why won’t you tolerate my intolerance? Hah! Gotcha! (See earlier: The Stupid Brigade.)

The biggest enemy of Enigma Babylon, which had taken over the Vatican as its headquarters, were the millions of people who believed that Jesus was the only way to God.

“To say arbitrarily,” Pontifex Maximus Peter wrote in an official Enigma Babylon declaration, “that the Jewish and Protestant Bible, containing only the Old and New Testaments, is the final authority for faith and practice, represents the height of intolerance and disunity. … Adherents to that false doctrine are hereby considered heretics.”

The authors despise their cartoonish villain Pope Peter because in their view he gets everything precisely backwards. It’s not those who embrace the “Protestant Bible” as “the final authority for faith and practice” who ought to be branded as heretics — it’s Everyone Else. The authors are all for branding heretics and they don’t really mind any of the coercive tactics the EBOWF pope uses to enforce religious hegemony, they just think he’s enforcing the wrong religion.

One could read these pages in Tribulation Force and conclude that LaHaye & Jenkins genuinely just don’t comprehend what tolerance means, but I don’t think that’s true. I do not think anyone repeating the “If you’re so tolerant, why don’t you tolerate my intolerance” idiocy is ever being genuine.

It is simply not possible for anyone to argue something that astonishingly stupid in good faith. To be capable of speech is to be too smart to imagine this is anything more than semantic nonsense. I called it “sophistry” above, but that’s over-generous — anyone mistaking such foolishness for cleverness would have flunked out freshman year.

And yet this sort of thought-strangling semantic looping remains popular, not just among say-anything-for-attention Internet trolls, but even among some who seem otherwise smart enough to know better. John C. Calhoun, for example, often employed a parallel pseudo-argument. Abolitionists say they’re for freedom, Calhoun said, but they’re trying to take away our freedom to own slaves!

Calhoun was not a complete moron, yet he employed the same completely moronic, sub-sophistry trick — the same tail-swallowing semantic folderol, the same disingenuous accusation of hypocrisy based on the pretense of misunderstanding the concept (in his case, pretending to misunderstand “freedom” rather than pretending to misunderstand “tolerance”). So why would a smart person ever think that something so astonishingly stupid was a clever argument?

I think it gets back to what I’ve argued before — that moral choices can produce a kind of willful, self-inflicted, chosen stupidity. Moral choices can place other concerns ahead of the truth, causing us to become out of step with reality, i.e., to think and to act stupidly.

I’ve discussed this before mainly with regard to bigotry and to self-righteous indignation. Both of those elevate a pretense of superiority above reason and reality and thus lead those who make that choice to become more stupid than they would otherwise be. The defense of privilege is often another such intelligence-stifling moral choice — whether it be Calhoun’s choice to defend the privilege of the slaveowner or LaHaye & Jenkins’ choice to defend the privilege of hegemonic religion.

That willful, chosen stupidity is on display throughout the rest of this series of books as EBOWF is repeatedly and unironically described by the authors as “tolerant.”

I don’t believe that the authors are really so dumb as to think that “tolerant” means “suppressing all dissent.” But I do believe they have chosen to be that dumb.

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  • Anonymous

    Clancy titles have a different feel to them (more words for one thing).

    It would probably be Tom Clancy’s The Fist and the Nostril, by Tom Clancy.  (Bonus spinoff: Flowers in the Trash by V.C. Andrews, in which Buck and Chloe are siblings.)

  • Feinne

    Now here is the best Whore of Babylon.

    http://megamitensei.wikia.com/wiki/File:TheHarlot2.jpg

  • Anonymous

    I’ll respectfully disagree: http://changelobstersanddance.tumblr.com/post/4913040744/silversouledbeatle-fritz-langs-metropolis

  • Feinne

    Another pretty cool one in the same vein of literally applying the description, I approve.

    It can’t be as hilarious though because you can’t team it up with Metatron and Beelzebub to help you punch a star in the face.

  • hapax

    I cannot see the acronym EBOWF without thinking of “The dog says BOOF”, which of course brings to mind THE NIGHT TRAVELS OF THE ELVEN VAMPIRE, which in turn inspires intense psychic pain…

    … so, all in all, a subtle but successful plot by the AntiChrist.

  • Leila

    It also sounds a bit like ‘barf’, which is what many a discerning reader does after reading the series:)

  • Benjamin Lee

    What’s really agonizing about the names is that a lot of them are within inches of creepy, cool, stylish, or any image you care to project.  For example, cut off the “OWF” from EBOWF and you have “Enigma of Babylon” – pretty good for an Antichrist-led cult.  If that sounds a little too obvious, how about “Global Faith” to fit with the Global Community theme?  Or “The One Faith”, which has a nice Orwellian vibe – implying no other faiths exist.

    You could also change “Global Community” to “Global Coalition” for a more military style, or maybe “Community of Peace” to play up the “evil peacemaker” aspect of it.

    All of these are one word away from the book’s options, which makes it so frustrating to read.  I suppose it shows that it’s always important to read your story aloud, to see if it sounds natural.

  • Benjamin Lee

    What’s really agonizing about the names is that a lot of them are within inches of creepy, cool, stylish, or any image you care to project.  For example, cut off the “OWF” from EBOWF and you have “Enigma of Babylon” – pretty good for an Antichrist-led cult.  If that sounds a little too obvious, how about “Global Faith” to fit with the Global Community theme?  Or “The One Faith”, which has a nice Orwellian vibe – implying no other faiths exist.

    You could also change “Global Community” to “Global Coalition” for a more military style, or maybe “Community of Peace” to play up the “evil peacemaker” aspect of it.

    All of these are one word away from the book’s options, which makes it so frustrating to read.  I suppose it shows that it’s always important to read your story aloud, to see if it sounds natural.

  • Anonymous

    Two things came to mind this week.
    First, a while back Fred mentioned the cast of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” either in the context of Hell or in the context of utter depravity, I forget which.
    But it struck me recently that a LB rewrite through the lens of the Always Sunny crew would be f–king great. (They could either be RTCs or pawns of Nicolae, either seems workable.)
    Unfortunately I don’t have the skill or a good enough sense of how their comedy is constructed to write something like that.

    Second, I had the idea that maybe, in the LB-verse, Satan’s rebellion actually succeeded, only he set himself up as the guy in charge, and the whole plot of the LB books is the story of the Devil cementing his rule over the Earth, by preemptively declaring the Messiah to be the Antichrist.
    Sort of a Karl Rove “attack your enemies’ strengths” ploy.
    I feel like this has a precedent in history, but I can’t think of any specifics. Maybe Stalinist Russia?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Considering this, it makes me think of something.

    Ellenjay have a pretty black-and-white world view.  There is good and evil.  The righteous and the unrighteous.  The one truth and all the lies.  The saved and the damned.  The us and the them. 

    Only, unfortunately for Ellenjay, the world is a lot more complex and nuanced than that.  It has shades of grey and brilliant hues that they cannot imagine, and refuse to look for.  And the real world does not match well with their beliefs.  But when writing a fiction book integrating their beliefs, they cannot set it in the real world without coming into conflict with reality. 

    So instead they begin with a world that is kind of like our own, or close enough to it.  Then they change it, haltingly and clumsily, over the course of the story so that it comes to resemble their beliefs more clearly.  At that point, they are past the difficult part of writing, and they can just ramble on about their beliefs and including smite-porn to their hearts’ content, having divested their world of any lingering grey area to nag at their conscience, what little of it they have.

  • Tonio

    unfortunately for Ellenjay, the world is a lot more complex and nuanced
    than that.  It has shades of grey and brilliant hues that they cannot
    imagine, and refuse to look for.  And the real world does not match well
    with their beliefs.

    Yes. How do you think that might apply to the conspiracy theories that Fred mentions in his Lamentations post? Those seem to embody a very similar type of black-and-white worldview.

  • ako

    Yes. How do you think that might apply to the conspiracy theories
    that Fred mentions in his Lamentations post? Those seem to embody a very
    similar type of black-and-white worldview.

    I think a lot of people like the simple worldview where all problems are the result of The Bad Guy (as opposed to complex mixes of forces and issues), and to solve anything, all one needs to do is Defeat The Bad Guy.  Conspiracy theories, for all of their complexity, generally have considerable moral simplicity.  It may be hard to find out who’s good and who’s bad, but there tend to be absolute answers.

  • Donalbain

    OK.. a couple of points, I cant remember who I am replying to though:

    1) The reason that we can give rights to corporations while we take them away from Muslims is simple: There is still a conservation of rights. We all know that there is a finite quantity of rights in the universe and so if we take some away from Muslims, that means there are some more left for corporations to take. It is also why we can’t give rights to gays, because then who would we take them from?

    2) All the tea partiers who are doing the racist, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-other people… they are Not True Tea Partiers. Neither are they from Scotland.

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

    Enigma Babylon One World Faith sounds either like an anime special attack or a super sentai team. Possibly both.

    there are a substantial number of people who think that once you have
    been charged by the police/authorities you should lose all your civil
    rights.

    They may not actually even realize it. I don’t recall most of the specifics, but I was talking to a classmate, a paralegal intern, and he was advocating some similar measures. When I pointed out how those measures directly conflicted with constitutional guaranteed, he was legitimately taken aback. The problem that I’ve always seen in such conversations is that people forget or “forget” about “innocent until proven guilty.”

  • Lori

     The problem that I’ve always seen in such conversations is that people forget or “forget” about “innocent until proven guilty.”  

     

    I have a family member, who I otherwise dearly love, who has this problem. In a conversation about the death penalty and people who are wrongly convicted he actually said something to the effect that even if the person didn’t commit the particular crime for which he was convicted he had obviously done something wrong or he wouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. I almost cried. 

    When it comes to people that he knows D is the kindest, most loving person you could want to meet, but his ideas about the larger world scare the crap out of me. I’ve tried to provide evidence that shows that his view on this (and some other things) is simply not true, but he’s impervious to persuasion and it breaks my heart. 

  • Tonio

    even if the person didn’t commit the particular crime for which he was
    convicted he had obviously done something wrong or he wouldn’t have been
    arrested in the first place.

    Criminal justice experts point out that in rape trials, female jurors are more likely to believe that the victim did something to provoke the attacker. The theory is that they fear the probability that the attack was random. (Again, very similar to the point that Fred is making in the Lamentations post.) Without knowing much about your family member, perhaps he has a similar mentality. He could fear the possibility of being arrested and tried despite his innocence, or fears that the criminal justice system is not merely fallible but biased or irrational. Or he could take criticism of the system personally like someone defamed his mother, which is the reaction many jingoists have when someone criticizes actions taken by their country.

  • Lori

    No, his issues are driven by fear of being falsely accused. 

  • Tonio

    Yes, that’s what I meant by “arrested and tried despite his innocence.” I can understand that fear, and I can understand how people end up trying to avoid it by projecting that fear onto others. But I don’t understand is why that particular type of avoidance occurs so often, versus some other type such as classic denial.

  • Lori

    I made a typo in my original response. D’s issue is not fear of false arrest. He’s never been in trouble with the law and given where he lives and other factors about his life he’s not likely to ever have any problems with the police that go beyond getting a ticket, and he lives his live secure in that fact. 

  • Tonio

    Hey, how did you edit your post? Does one have to have a Disqus account? (I mentally hear that word as “discus” like an Olympic event instead of “discuss.”)

    So if your relative isn’t fearful of being wrongly accused, that makes the conclusion “he obviously did something wrong or he wouldn’t have been arrested” seem even less rational. While you obviously know your relative better than me, other possibilities that come to mind for me include authority worship, which I already mentioned, and simple othering where he might believe that “people like me” don’t do wrong things to get themselves arrested. I view this as important in the larger sense because having a truly “just” justice system depends on the prosecution bearing the burden of proving guilt.

  • Lori

    I guess editing must be tied to having an account. When I look at one of my comments there’s an “edit” button next to “reply” (where “like is on other people’s posts). 

    As for D’s opinions on crime & punishment they’re not rational. Or at least they’re not fact-based or tied to direct self-interest. He’s just very Right Wing and as we’ve discussed before they think government is terrible at everything…except figuring out who should and should not be in prison. There’s really no way to defend that. 

  • Tonio

    He’s just very Right Wing and as we’ve discussed before they think
    government is terrible at everything…except figuring out who should
    and should not be in prison.

    Not defensible, sure, but explainable as a belief that government is an authority only, and not a means for societies to obtain things that individuals cannot obtain on their own. From watching my own children, I wonder if that view is mired in that stage in childhood where kids interpret fairness as anything that benefits them and not their siblings. Many of the rantings against programs aimed at alleviating poverty sound just like “No fair!”

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

    “I mentally hear that word as “discus” like an Olympic event instead of “discuss.”

    I…wait, it’s *not* ‘discus’ that sounds like “disc-us”??

    *looks carefully at the word* Oh. Disqus. Discuss. Duh.

    I would have never even contemplated putting the emphasis on the second syllable. *feels sort of dense*

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

    even if the person didn’t commit the particular crime for which he was
    convicted he had obviously done something wrong or he wouldn’t have been
    arrested in the first place.

    Given that the death penalty is reserved only for homicide cases, I assume you’ve pointed out that even if they had committed another crime, then unless the crime he thinks they’ve committed is murdering someone else, they still should not receive the death penalty.

    One of the reasons I absolutely HATE media coverage of any trial is that the media virtually ALWAYS assumes the guilt of the accused. It A) perpetuates the myth that the accused are always guilty; B) hinders the direct proceedings of justice by poisoning popular opinion (and assuming the jury isn’t sequestered, which is, as I understand it, extremely rare, this will also poison the jury); and C) gives almost no thought to the actual situation (“Crazy woman kills boyfriend in fit of rage!” “…What do you mean she was beaten every day for the past 10 years? Not relevant people!”) and thus helps promote this idea that bad people are bad and thus commit crimes.

    See also: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2012#comic

    OT: I’ve been giggling about Morgan Freeman as Old Spice Man http://thechive.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/morgan-spice-two.jpg

  • Lori

     Given that the death penalty is reserved only for homicide cases, I assume you’ve pointed out that even if they had committed another crime, then unless the crime he thinks they’ve committed is murdering someone else, they still should not receive the death penalty.  

    Don’t even get me started on the crimes he thinks should be punishable by the death penalty. When it comes to this one topic he is just ridiculously, frighteningly blood thirsty. I don’t understand it and I really can’t talk to him about it.

  • Lori

     Given that the death penalty is reserved only for homicide cases, I assume you’ve pointed out that even if they had committed another crime, then unless the crime he thinks they’ve committed is murdering someone else, they still should not receive the death penalty.  

    Don’t even get me started on the crimes he thinks should be punishable by the death penalty. When it comes to this one topic he is just ridiculously, frighteningly blood thirsty. I don’t understand it and I really can’t talk to him about it.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Enigma Babylon One World Faith sounds either like an anime special attack or a super sentai team. Possibly both.

    A wild TRIBULATION FORCE appears!
    Nicky chooses ENIGMA BABYLON!
    ENIGMA BABYLON uses ONE WORLD FAITH!

    … The attack was ineffective. 

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

    Foe TRIBULATION FORCE used INFILTRATE!
    The attack had no effect!
    ENIGMA BABYLON used BRAND OF THE BEAST!
    The attack should have been super-effective, but the game glitched and it had no effect!
    Foe TRIBULATION FORCE used DIG!
    The attack had no effect!
    ENIGMA BABYLON used GIANT ARMY!
    It’s super effective!
    Foe TRIBULATION FORCE fainted!

    *shuffle shuffle shuffle*

    A wild TURBOJESUS appears!
    TURBOJESUS used DOOM LASER!
    It’s super effective!
    ENIGMA BABYLON used GIANT ARMY!
    The attack had no effect!
    TURBOJESUS used CONDEMN!
    It’s a one-hit KO!

    I may have too much time on my hands.

  • Ken

    I think I just found another reason “Enigma Babylon” is a dumb name.  Two reasons, actually, from that Revelation 17 passage quoted.

    The first is that L&H replaced “Mystery” with “Enigma”, probably as a wink-wink-nudge-nudge to the readers who know the Revelation passage.  But in first-century Greek “mystery” was closer in meaning to our modern “secret” than to “enigma” or “puzzle.”  That is, it referred to knowledge that only a few people possessed, versus something that anyone could figure out.  Many religions had such “mysteries” at their hearts, secret knowledge shared only with the members.

    The second problem is that L&H take “Mystery” as part of the name written on the woman’s head, so use it for the name of the new church.  The NKJV translation quoted here renders it that way.  However, many other translations do not, treating “mystery” as part of the introductory phrase; thus NRSV has “written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great,…'”  This seems a much more plausible reading, given that the angel immediately says “I will tell you what this mystery means.”  If that is the intended meaning, “Mystery” is not meant as part of the name of the church.  (Not that the woman represents a church anyway, as Fred said.)

  • Guest

    Does one have to have a Disqus account? (I mentally hear that word as “discus” like an Olympic event instead of “discuss.”)

    Until you said this, it never dawned on me that it was supposed to sound like “discuss.” I’ve always seen it as “discus.”

  • Anonymous

    Until you said this, it never dawned on me that it was supposed to sound like “discuss.” I’ve always seen it as “discus.”

    Me too. Light has dawned.

  • chris the cynic

    So long as everyone is chiming in.  I also never saw it as discuss but instead read it as discus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    I realized that it was a play on “discuss” right away, but I still say it as discus.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I’m probably not the first to make this observation…but I’m guessing they never deal with the logistics of how the prophets manage to travel around the world without passports.  Surely even to ride transport within Israel they would have to have some kind of ID. Even if it was a OWG, you’d need some kind of ID.  

  • Lori

     I’m probably not the first to make this observation…but I’m guessing they never deal with the logistics of how the prophets manage to travel around the world without passports.  Surely even to ride transport within Israel they would have to have some kind of ID. Even if it was a OWG, you’d need some kind of ID.  

    These are long-dead prophets who have reappeared on earth with the ability to fry their enemies. Are you volunteering to tell them that they can’t go where they want to go because they don’t have ID? 

  • Anonymous

    IIRC they simply appear and vanish at will … presumably via a divinely-powered version of the Star Trek transporter.  With the exception of the phone call to Buck, I don’t recall their using any modern technology.

  • Diona the Lurker

    But they breathe fire! That’s all the ID they need, isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    For what it’s worth, Christian apologist Glenn Miller attempts to answer these and other conundrums about the character of God…

    The Hardening of Pharoah’s Heart
    Didn’t God harden Pharoah’s heart first?
    Was God being cruel in the killing of the Firstborn at the Exodus?

  • Rob Brown

    I looked at the third one, about whether God was being cruel in killing all the firstborn.  Which includes this:

    Okay, we’ve done the sizing. Just to
    review:

    1. Innocent Egyptian Infants
    killed in the Tenth Plague: 69,000

    2. Innocent Hebrew Infants
    killed in the infanticide program of the Pharaoh (and successors) :
    2,750,000.

    Pharaoh/Egypt gets off
    incredibly easy—God could have ‘fairly’ killed every
    person living in Egypt at the time (2.4M) and STILL not have
    reached the 2.75M infanticide number…

    I find it pretty appalling that there are people in this world who think like that.  That they can justify the killing of 69k innocents and say it’s all right because it’s less than the 2750k other innocents who were killed before that.  What about not killing innocents at all?

    Anyway, the only way I believe I could ever have a positive opinion of God, if he exists would be if:

    -None of this (and other stories in the Bible) actually happened the way it says, or perhaps at all;
    -“Omnipotent” and/or “omniscient” is a gross exaggeration, and God isn’t actually capable of saving people or improving the world the way a truly omnipotent being would be.  He does his best, but he doesn’t always succeed;
    -God used to be an incredibly wrathful, vengeful jerkass who committed terrible atrocities, but eventually “grew up” and became a loving and forgiving being instead.

    Fred said in last week’s post that he couldn’t answer the question of how a loving and omnipotent God could allow the world to be such a horrible place, but that it probably had something to do with ostriches.  The link, which interesting and entertaining, didn’t actually say what he was referring to, so I asked a Christian I know, who told me that when Job called God on how wrong it had been to torment him, God said something like “Did you create the ostrich?  Did you create this?  Did you create that?  No.  I did.  I know that it’s all for the best, whereas you know jack shit.”  I don’t find that an acceptable answer.

  • Tonio

    That brings up the question of whether the Israelites even believed their god to be infinitely powerful and infinitely good, or infinitely just, or whether those were interpretations overlaid onto the text by later theologians. I’ve noted before that the problem of theodicy presumes that a god would be loving and omnipotent, as if it were obvious that a god would have those qualities. Theodicy seems to start out with a certain concept of godhood and then postulates a being that would hypothetically meet those qualifications, almost like filling a job vacancy. Or would it be like trying to fill gaps in the evolutionary chain? When Epicurus wrote, “Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” it’s not clear to me whether he subscribed to that concept or was questioning it. I would suppose that determining the qualities of a god would be part of the discovery process in determining whether the god exists. 

  • Anonymous

    Moreover, it seems that Glenn Miller got those figures from the National Bureau of Pulling Statistics out of Your Ass.

  • P_dragon500

    There’s a tablteop RPG named C.J. Cardella’s Armageddon (it’s the sequel to C.J. Cardella’s Witchcraft, chronologically) – don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it because it was fairly obscure.

    And it did the “war against the evil armies of the anti-Christ figure” concept far better than these books – despite being pretty generic in places (a big inspiration was Star War, even though it’s setting is urban fantasy).

    It’s first step towards making the concept done well was presenting an enemy that was both well-grounded in real world evils but still injected with an appropriately unnatural and otherworldly cruelty.

    L&J haven’t done that with these books – we’ve covered why that is in detail.

  • JenL

    3) God did no such thing, and the person(s) who wrote the story down centuries later came up with that interpretation all by themselves.

    Honest question here – which side of the discussion are you trying to advance with this answer?  
    Are you suggesting that God is real, and presumably that the Bible is really His Word, but that some parts of this Word are … let’s be kind and say “misunderstandings”?  Inaccuracies?
    Or are you suggesting that the Bible is not in fact the divine Word of a deity?

    Because “they messed that part up when they wrote it” doesn’t give me any particular reason to believe any other specific passage is any more accurate.

    And on the “it’s a book written by people, no more accurate or divine than the [insert name of other claimed-to-be-Holy book of your choice here]” side of the column – if this section isn’t divinely inspired, is there any reason to believe it’s even based on anything remotely historically accurate?  The Egyptians were record-keepers.  Are there any records of these 10 plagues hitting them?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Honest question here – which side of the discussion are you trying to advance with this answer?

    I haven’t followed this discussion closely enough to be sure of the lines drawn around either side, but I was trying to suggest that the argument “if the God of the Bibel exists then he’s an evil bastard” leaves something out.

    Are you suggesting that God is real, and presumably that the Bible is really His Word, but that some parts of this Word are … let’s be kind and say “misunderstandings”?  Inaccuracies?Or are you suggesting that the Bible is not in fact the divine Word of a deity

    Well, personally I believe that God is real, but the Bible doesn’t provide proof of it. As for the ‘accuracy’ of the Bible, my general belief is that we’ve kept some of the writings of men trying to understand their god and its relationship to its people. I believe it’s divinely inspired to the extent that prayerful people genuinely searching for God receive glimpses/understandings/revelations of God’s nature but, for one thing, God is a mystery so the closest anyone will get is an incomplete idea that points in the right direction, and for another thing they filter any revelations through their own worldview and experience–including their culture and individual personality. Of course they do. We all do. And in reading the different books of the Bible the different personalities of the authors is apparent. As is the evolution of the society’s understanding of God as their history moves on. You see the shift from monolatry to monotheism, for example.

    You read in the prophets stories of various empires rampaging through the place and the prophet trying to understand what this means. In a worldview that says God sets in motion all events, Assyrian armies invading is automatically interpretted as God’s punishment. (The same reasoning goes on today, as we all see and exclaim over.) I think Assyrian armies invaded because it was a powerful empire set on expansion. Where the Bible is instructive to me is not as an account of historical events and their causes, but a reflection on what it reveals about the nature of God. A prophet says that this or that foreign power has taken us over; it must be because we sinned–what was our sin? Why did we displease God so? Ah, this is where God speaks. Time after time the reflection points to a God who is faithful and desires faithfulness, who is concerned for the poor and oppressed, who desires relationship with his people, and who is merciful and loving.

    So, do I think the Bible is the word of God as in something dictated letter by letter from on high? No. But is it divinely inspired, and does it point to God, however imperfectly? Yes.

    And on the “it’s a book written by people, no more accurate or divine than the [insert name of other claimed-to-be-Holy book of your choice here]” side of the column – if this section isn’t divinely inspired, is there any reason to believe it’s even based on anything remotely historically accurate?

    I’d advise looking to the study of history for an assessment of what may or may not be historically accurate.

    There are various events relayed in the Bible that are verified by other sources by historians. Such as, in the year x of the reign of Darius this event took place. We can look at unrelated sources and say, yeah, it looks like that did happen. As for the whole Exodus thing–it’s not my area at all, so I don’t know. I do know, for example, there’s a debate about whether the Red Sea crossing originally referred to the see of reeds (less impressive). Personally I think it was probably the latter, but when the point of a story passed down over generations is about how you were slaves and your God set you free, historical accuracy is a secondary concern.

  • Tonio

    I was trying to suggest that the argument “if the God of the Bible exists then he’s an evil bastard” leaves something out.

    It’s valid to look at the incidents in Egypt and Jericho and ask how that squares with the claim that the god of the Bible is good. Of course, that question assumes that the book claims to be historically accurate, and that contradicts my admittedly limited reading here and elsewhere about theology. I’ve said before that if one knows little about a given religion, it’s not obvious that its scripture’s accounts aren’t intended to be read literally as history as well as metaphorically as parable. (A story can have a point and still be factual.)

    Having said that, I see the real problem is when specific believers in the god of the bible defend or rationalize Egypt and Jericho. (One of the Veggie Tales coloring books attempts to whitewash the latter. Dawkins and other atheists claim that George Tamarin’s famous experiment in Israel proves that religion is inherently bad. A more balanced conclusion would be that the experiment shows the toxic effects of tribalism and authoritarianism, which is found in some religions but far from unique to religion.

  • Journ O LST.3

     Enigma Babylon sounds like a super villain from the 60s.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I guess I’m a little late to this discussion, but I stumbled across this blog a few weeks ago and have been taking some time to catch up to the last seven years of posts.  I read Left Behind when I was 16 and loved the series (I was a very religious Catholic back then), and when I reread it this past spring, after spending my four years of college studying English Literature, I was surprised at how BAD it was. I couldn’t even get through the prequels.  I was sort of at a loss as to why I had ever liked these books to begin with, but reading Fred’s analysis explained it.  I was very much the sort of kid who bought into the whole “The world is ALWAYS persecuting Christians, but we’ll win because God is on OUR side” mentality.  I like to think I’ve grown up a lot since then though.

    Lengthy explanation aside, I wanted to add my two cents to the whole EBOWF thing.  I liked Journ O LST.3’s idea that Enigma Babylon would be a good name for a supervillain.  I think it would also make a good name for a band.  Peter Matthews and the Enigma Babylons? It has a ring to it…

  • Benjamin Lee

    One interesting thing about the whole “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” that I didn’t see mentioned.  For the first 5 plagues, it says “Pharaoh hardened his heart.”  Only after the first five attempts did God stop giving him a second chance.  More homiletically, after five refusals, he became so set in his ways that he couldn’t change.

    Or perhaps the authors just couldn’t believe that someone *woudn’t* give in after seeing hailstones full of fire raining down.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    This is 400+ pages.  Writer/Publisher’s rule-of-thumb is 250 words/page.

    YOU MEAN BUCK JENKINS, GCAAT, IS JUST NOW GETTING INTO PLOT DEVELOPMENT?  100,000 WORDS IN?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:

    IF I STARTED A NEW RELIGION (H/T ELRON HUBBARD), THE LAST THING I’D CALL IT WAS “ENIGMA BABYLON ONE WORLD FAITH.”  ONLY HAL LINDSAY OR A SIMILAR END TIME PROPHECY FANBOY WOULD COIN A NAME LIKE THAT.  *COULD* COIN A NAME LIKE THAT. 

    AFTER THE AUTHOR SELF-INSERT(S) WITNESSED THIS EVENT, DID THEY TURN TO THE READER AND IDIOT-CONVERSE ABOUT HOW THIS FULFILLS SUCH-AND-SUCH CHAPTER-AND-VERSE IN REVELATION?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Enigma Babylon One World Faith.” That’s just horrible.

    Not just “horrible”, Slack.  It’s a name only an End Times Prophecy fanboy could have coined.

    “The biggest enemy of Enigma Babylon, which had taken over the Vatican
    as its headquarters, were the millions of people who believed that
    Jesus was the only way to God.” — LH&J

    As the Cackling Conspiracy said in another one of Jenkins’ Epic Novels, “Our Greatest Enemy — Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical Christians!”

    IN THE PAST TWO WEEKS, I HAVE BEEN READING MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC FANFICS THAT REFLECT AND ECHO THE GOSPEL MORE THAN ANY OF THESE OFFICIALLY CHRISTIANESE CRAP BESTSELLERS!  YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, GO TO EQUESTRIA DAILY, SEARCH ON “CREEPING DARKNESS” OR “PAST SINS” AND READ THOSE TWO FANFIC NOVELS.  THE FIRST IS A HORROR CROSSOVER THAT INCLUDES A HARROWING OF HELL AND A GOD-FIGURE SACRIFICING HER DIVINITY AND LIFE TO RESURRECT A BELOVED MORTAL; THE SECOND IS THE STORY OF AN APOCALYPTIC DARK CULT AND THEIR “RELUCTANT ANTICHRIST”.   DONE WITH BRIGHT-COLORED CARTOON PONIES GIVEN DEPTH.  DEAL WITH IT.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Enigma Babylon One World Faith.” That’s just horrible.

    Not just “horrible”, Slack.  It’s a name only an End Times Prophecy fanboy could have coined.

    “The biggest enemy of Enigma Babylon, which had taken over the Vatican
    as its headquarters, were the millions of people who believed that
    Jesus was the only way to God.” — LH&J

    As the Cackling Conspiracy said in another one of Jenkins’ Epic Novels, “Our Greatest Enemy — Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical Christians!”

    IN THE PAST TWO WEEKS, I HAVE BEEN READING MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC FANFICS THAT REFLECT AND ECHO THE GOSPEL MORE THAN ANY OF THESE OFFICIALLY CHRISTIANESE CRAP BESTSELLERS!  YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, GO TO EQUESTRIA DAILY, SEARCH ON “CREEPING DARKNESS” OR “PAST SINS” AND READ THOSE TWO FANFIC NOVELS.  THE FIRST IS A HORROR CROSSOVER THAT INCLUDES A HARROWING OF HELL AND A GOD-FIGURE SACRIFICING HER DIVINITY AND LIFE TO RESURRECT A BELOVED MORTAL; THE SECOND IS THE STORY OF AN APOCALYPTIC DARK CULT AND THEIR “RELUCTANT ANTICHRIST”.   DONE WITH BRIGHT-COLORED CARTOON PONIES GIVEN DEPTH.  DEAL WITH IT.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     Alright, it’s taken over a year to do, but I *finally* managed to put “EBOWF” as a sound effect in one of my comics ( ._.) I doubt anyone much cares, but yes, I remembered after all this time.  (Amusingly enough it wound up being the sound effect for teleportation no less!)

  • Brightie

    Perhaps Ellenjay use “full of the names of blasphemy” as their basis for the multi-religion conglomerate thing–false religions as blasphemy against the true religion under God, ergo, multiple of the same? I don’t know.

  • Brightie

     No surprise there. :) Even among fans of things worthy of fans, there seems to be an urge to spin theories and mop up plotholes in stories other folks wrote.

  • Brightie

     In this instance, “open minded” does not mean “prone to considering multiple angles and possibilities,” but “willing to surrender control of your mind to the Superior Power.” Of course, this comes with the assumption that said Power is both self-evidently existent and benevolent.

  • Brightie

     I think it’s called fear.

  • Brightie

     I wonder how many RTCs have even had personal conversational contact with Muslims.