TFTM: Jesus Magic

Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, Part 7

We’ve arrived at the fork in the road.

Up until now we’ve been watching an adaptation of Tribulation Force, the novel. The characters on the screen are taken from that book, and what we’ve seen thus far has mostly been a re-enactment of scenes originally written there by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. As in any adaptation, those scenes have been tweaked and streamlined, with a few minor departures — Chris Smith is alive, Ivy substitutes for Spiky Alice, etc. — but the story the filmmakers have been telling up to this point has been mostly the same as the one in the book.

That changes here. The rest of this movie tells a different story. It’s still not a good story, but it’s a better story than what we found in the book.

This was a bold move for the filmmakers, one that risks alienating the fan-base. That risk is always present whenever a popular book is adapted for the screen, but it was especially true in the case of this project. This is a direct-to-DVD version of a book that sold tens of millions of copies. More people read that book that are likely to ever see this movie, and the target audience for this movie consists almost entirely of people who already read the book. So changing the story was a big risk.

But that big change in the story was necessary. The book’s fans may have wanted a strictly faithful adaptation of Tribulation Force, but that wasn’t an option. The story of the novel isn’t filmable because the novel doesn’t really tell a story.

The characters in the novel don’t do anything. Some things happen to them, or near them, or around them, but the events that unfold in the book do not occur because of decisions or actions made by the main characters. The heroes of the Trib Force are passive bystanders. Even the villain, Nicolae Carpathia, spends the first 400 pages of the book as an inert presence whose evil is constantly asserted, but not demonstrated.

When Jenkins abruptly skips forward in time — “Eighteen months later” — one suspects it’s partly due to his recognition of readers’ increasing boredom, and partly due to his being bored himself with the book’s belabored uneventfulness.

Again, though, this can’t be blamed entirely on Jenkins. His task was to follow the precise timetable of LaHaye’s prophetic scheme, and the truth is that in LaHaye’s version of the “Great Tribulation,” the first year or so of that seven-year period isn’t that bad. LaHaye’s imagined Antichrist starts out as more of a benign bureaucrat than a tyrannical monster. And the nasty displays of divine wrath don’t get started until much later, so a novel portraying the early portion of the Tribulation was bound to be kind of dull.

Plus, more skeptically, I think the authors were milking the runaway success of the first book. Their initial idea of a trilogy was getting padded out into a 12-book series (ultimately even longer) and Tribulation Force was stuffed with that padding. The time-skip, also, allowed the authors to gloss over the parts of LaHaye’s prophecy that they weren’t able to explain or describe as something that might happen in reality. One-world currency, one-world religion, one-world language? How? Why? By skipping ahead to where such things could be portrayed as a fait accompli, the authors never have to answer those questions.

All of which makes for a book that defies adaptation into a movie. You can’t make a 90-minute movie in which the hero and the villains tread water for the first 80 minutes before you skip ahead a year and a half to when, in the final 10 minutes, the villain destroys London and Washington while the heroes get stuck in traffic. No one wants to see that movie.

So what if, instead, the villain actually does something villainous? And what if, instead, the heroes tried to stop him? That would give you an actual story for your movie — a better story but also, necessarily, a very different story.

And so here we arrive at the point where our heroes discover that movie-Nicolae, unlike book-Nicolae, is planning something. And here, unlike in the book, those heroes decide to try to foil his plan.

Unsatisfied that iconic stock footage of the Temple Mount and stereotypically Jewish-sounding music convey the setting, director Bill Corcoran also supplies a subtitle informing us that we’ve arrived in Jerusalem.

Rayford Steele knocks at the door of Cam-Cam’s vast and multi-chambered hotel room, and they sit down to examine the file he copied off of Nicolae’s laptop computer. It’s the speech that Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah will be giving to announce the results of his research project on the identity of the Messiah. But here, unlike in the book, it seems that Ben-Judah has concluded that the Messiah is Nicolae, not Jesus.

In both the book and the movie, the Jewish longing for the coming of Messiah is portrayed as exactly parallel to the premillennial dispensationalist longing for the coming of the Antichrist. Tim LaHaye imagines that Jewish believers view the world just like he and other “Bible prophecy” enthusiasts do — poring over the scriptures to compile a check list and then scanning the headlines of the newspaper for any likely candidates. LaHaye can’t imagine that Judaism consists of anything more than or other than that, just as he can’t imagine that Christianity consists of anything much beyond that.*

All Christians, of course, read the Hebrew scriptures through the lens of Jesus Christ. As that name — Christ-ians — implies, this is how we try to read everything, so for us the story of Jesus shapes and reshapes the stories of those books we call the “Old Testament.” But for most of us that doesn’t mean reducing those stories into little more than a series of prophecies and a messianic check list inescapably and obviously pointing to Jesus of Nazareth. (Or, in the case of Daniel, an anti-messianic check list inescapably and obviously pointing to the pope Mikhail Gorbachev Saddam Hussein Osama bin Laden Moammar Gadhafi Barack Obama.) Nor for most of us does it mean that ours is the only possible and only legitimate reading of those stories.

LaHaye simple cannot imagine that any honest reader of the Hebrew scriptures could see there anything other than what he sees. The conclusion he draws from the Old Testament (which is actually the presupposition he imposes on it) is to him so glaringly obvious that he portrays Jews who don’t share that conclusion as deliberately obtuse and stubbornly rebellious. Thus we have, in the books, the character of Tsion Ben-Judah — the lone honest Jew.

That’s also why, in the books as in this scene from the movie, a brand-new believer like Buck Williams is shown to be more of an expert on the Hebrew scriptures than any rabbi.

“Come on, Ray, look,” Cam-Cam says, “the Messiah will be pierced without breaking a bone — we all know that was Jesus Christ.” He is exasperated by the idea that anyone could come to any other conclusion, that anyone could possibly read the Old Testament and not say that.

But there’s a subtle difference here from the way Ben-Judah’s research was presented in the book. In the novel, Rayford and Buck instantly know what it took Ben-Judah years of study to understand** not because they are smarter or more learned, but because they are honest and he, like all Jews, is stubbornly dishonest. Here in the movie, their superior understanding depends more on Jesus Magic.

Jesus Magic is never explicitly described as such in the books, but it’s there, implicit throughout. That Jesus Magic and the unwritten rules governing it shapes the plot of the rest of this movie as it departs from the story in the novel.

Blessed by the power of Jesus Magic, Cam-Cam and Rayford quickly determine that the one honest Jew’s research has been corrupted. The Antichrist must be working his mind-control mojo on Ben-Judah to ensure that the rabbi will go on TV to declare to the world that he, Nicolae Carpathia, is the Messiah. How dastardly!

This plan actually makes sense for an Antichrist. That’s the job — to take over the world as a false Messiah. So movie-Nicolae is much more professional than the amateurish Antichristing we see on display in the book. Book-Nicolae just sits there crossing his fingers and hoping that the upcoming Big Messiah Announcement will be about him, but here he’s making sure that’s what happens.

Cam-Cam quickly formulates a plan. Since Jesus Magic is the only effective counterspell to Antichrist mojo, he’ll take the rabbi to the Two Witnesses — the most powerful magicians around. They’ll break Nicolae’s enchantment, freeing Ben-Judah to declare Jesus the Messiah.

It’s a little crazy … but it just might work!

Brad Johnson again reminds us that he’s an old pro and thus has a better idea of how to handle this material than his former teen-idol co-star. This is phlebotinum, and unlike Kirk Cameron, Johnson is wise enough not to dwell on the details or the mechanics of it. He knows his job here is to get through those details as quickly and enthusiastically as possible. He knows that the only thing he really needs to convey to the audience here is “blah blah blah, this is what we have to do next because horcrux, Hellmouth, tachyon pulse.”

“But how?” he says, demanding exposition. Cam-Cam begins reciting the explanation, as though that were what was important or as though it actually makes real-world sense. Cameron’s not trying to get through the phlebotinum, he’s actually trying to explain it, poor guy. So while he does that, Johnson leaps up out of his chair and starts pacing, displaying that what’s really important here is that this is where the heroes are springing into action. This is what we have to do next, just go with it, OK?

Cam-Cam’s plan requires him to gain access to the Wailing Wall where the Two Witnesses are preaching, so we see him at GNN’s Jerusalem offices, talking to Steve Plank to try to secure the necessary permission.

He can’t just tell Steve all about his plan, of course. Steve’s working for Nicolae. So Cam-Cam tells him that he aims to “discredit” the preachers, to “make them go away” so that they cease interfering with Nicolae’s wonderful plan for global unity without dissent.

In other words, he lies. He does so without any of the hand-wringing and pious dithering about such lying that we find in the book. He just lies, because he has a plan to stop Nicolae and acting on that plan requires him to lie.

Just as Rayford lied through his teeth in order to get the pilot gig and then again to cover for his skulking about on the plane, Buck has to lie here. Both of them are double agents. They’re posing as servants of the Antichrist while really pursuing another, hidden agenda. That means both of them have to lie, pretty much constantly. The book refused to acknowledge that, but here in the movie it’s just a given. Good for the movie.

Meanwhile, back in the Chicago suburbs, it seems the New Hope Village Church and Mobile Surgical Hospital is larger than I thought, containing another sanctuary-sized room in which the field hospital is still operational. Burn-Victim Guy is still there, looking no better than we last saw him. That’s to be expected, because he’s on a cot in a church basement rather than in a sterile burn unit where he could get the care he needs.

Chloe sits by his cot, reading to him from the Bible. She’s reading a passage from the Gospel of John that is often read as a source of comfort. I’m not sure it’s appropriate here, though, since when you’re talking to someone who got turned away by every real hospital, “I will go and prepare a place for you” sounds a bit too bitterly ironic.

This clinic just seems like a half-baked horror show — a nightmare for any patient who winds up there. Everything about the place seems as carelessly slap-dash as the crude hand-made red-cross armband Chloe is wearing (I suppose so as not to be targeted by enemy fire). When poor BVG’s wounds start to fester, it seems the response will be to turn off a couple of those anemic desk-lamps, because if you can’t see it, it can’t hurt you.

Don’t miss the spiritual lesson here. When the BVG was first brought to the clinic, Chloe recoiled and ran away, unable to perform her assigned ministry. She’s able to do that now. Why? Because now that she’s right with her man, she can be right with God. That’s how it works for girls in this little world.

Ivy enters the scene, appearing to be both an unsaved stranger bewildered to find herself in a church and a professional actor bewildered to find herself in this movie. Having fulfilled her initial function as Spiky Alice’s stand-in in the Not What It Looks Like business, she returns with a new purpose. She provides Chloe someone to witness at, much the same way that Chris Smith provided that for Rayford.

After clearing up their earlier disagreement over Buck, the conversation quickly turns to religion. In response to Ivy’s unbelief, Chloe says this:

I guess it’s like my mom said, faith is a choice. And it comes from the heart, so you either want to believe it or you don’t.

This is theologically incoherent. Any Reformed or Calvinist viewers who somehow managed to stay in their seats up until this point will be storming out of the theater after hearing Chloe say that. We could try to parse this out — Is faith a “choice”? A matter of volition and will? Or is it a thing one “wants”? An unbidden inclination of “the heart”? Or we could try to reconcile this with Buck’s plan to compel Tsion Ben-Judah to have faith. But tracing through any of that involves more brain-twisting effort than the screenwriters themselves seem to have put into this, so instead let’s just follow their lead, chalking it up to Jesus Magic and quickly moving on.

A day-time establishing shot of the Damascus Gate, accompanied again by the Jerusalem music, is allowed to indicate, sans subtitle, that we’re back in Israel. Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah sits in a cafe populated by extras in yarmulkes and clip-on payot. The goat exits and Cam-Cam enters and approaches the clean-shaven rabbi:

“My name is …”

“Buck Williams, I think the whole world knows who you are.”

Lubomir Mykytiuk is another old pro out of place in this film. You’ve seen him before, usually as The Russian or The Professor, or sometimes as The Russian Professor.

Cam-Cam needs to convince the rabbi to play along with his plan, accompanying him to the Wailing Wall to meet the Two Witnesses. Again, though, he can’t tell the truth about the whole plan, because Ben-Judah is still under Nicolae’s mind-control enchantment, parroting the Antichrist’s rhetoric.

So Cam-Cam again lies, as he should, pretending that he needs the rabbi’s help to embarrass the preachers so that they will stop interfering with Nicolae’s grand and glorious goals. He pretends the plan is “a gift to Nicolae” — a way to get the rabbi to “expose these men” while Cam-Cam gets it all on tape.

Cut to the Jerusalem branch office of Nicolae’s secret lair, where Steve Plank is explaining Buck’s plan to the Antichrist in the same terms Cam-Cam just explained it to the rabbi. Steve bought the cover story. Steve and Nicolae, like the rabbi, can’t mention Buck Williams without prefacing that discussion with extravagant praise of the GIRAT. (I’m beginning to wonder if this was a clause in Kirk Cameron’s contract.) Steve tells Nicolae that Buck is planning to try to “discredit the witnesses.”

Steve uses that term: “the witnesses.” He’s knowingly quoting from Revelation 11, using its terminology to describe the two preachers. This, again, is a departure from the books, where no one outside of Bruce and his followers uses that term. So here in the movie, Steve and Nicolae know exactly what the deal is. They know that Nicolae is the biblical Antichrist that Tim LaHaye describes. They know who the Two Witnesses are, and what they will do.

“If I thought he could,” Nicolae says wistfully. Gordon Currie speaks the line with a sadness that suggests a grateful fondness for Buck Williams, mixed with resignation that he cannot prevent “the witnesses” from doing what LaHaye says Revelation 11 says they will do. So Nicolae knows that he is the Antichrist, but he doesn’t yet know that Buck Williams is a devious Christian spy.

He orders an aide to choke off any attempt to broadcast live from the Wailing Wall, then tells Steve to order that “any and all trespassers will be shot on sight.”

Cam-Cam’s plan requires him to get the rabbi to the wall, but the wall will be guarded with lethal force. The scene is set for a big showdown.

That didn’t happen in the book.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* LaHaye is also unable to imagine anything other than a strictly premillennial Judaism — a faith that, like his own, sits in a kind of suspended animation, waiting for the day when prophecy will be fulfilled. The notion that Judaism might involve anything important before then, or that it might involve preparing for the coming of Messiah, is too post-millennial for LaHaye to be able to grasp.

** Ben-Judah’s years of study are, like Bruce’s long nights of study, a conceit that makes little sense. Just as the prophecy template that Bruce is endlessly reviewing is a simple outline that could be mastered in a week’s time, so too the prophecy check list of Ben-Judah’s is the sort of thing that one ought to be able to whip up in a weekend skimming through Jews for Jesus tracts and a couple of Josh McDowell books. Neither project really involves study or scholarship, only the abrupt leap to accepting a single premise that is then allowed to reframe everything else.

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  • Anonymous

    “If I thought he could,” Nicolae says wistfully, “I would send heem to Alameda to look for NOOOCLEAR WESSELS!”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    *collapses in laughter*

  • Münchner Kindl

    “In response to Ivy’s unbelief, Chloe says this:

        I guess it’s like my mom said, faith is a choice. And it comes from the heart, so you either want to believe it or you don’t.

    This is theologically incoherent. Any Reformed or Calvinist viewers who somehow managed to stay in their seats up until this point will be storming out of the theater after hearing Chloe say that. We could try to parse this out — Is faith a “choice”? A matter of volition and will? Or is it a thing one “wants”? An unbidden inclination of “the heart”? Or we could try to reconcile this with Buck’s plan to compel Tsion Ben-Judah to have faith. But tracing through any of that involves more brain-twisting effort than the screenwriters themselves seem to have put into this, so instead let’s just follow their lead, chalking it up to Jesus Magic and quickly moving on.”

    Actually, I found the sentence before that much more important, because it’s almost a refutation of RTC belief. Ivy asks about “reading the Bible” and Chloe corrects her that it’s not reading the Bible, it’s faith. In Chick tracts and in the Left Behind novels, the Bible is usually portrayed as magic text that by itself alone has the power to convert unbeliefers and agnostics, nevermind how rare that is in real life.

    I also found the sentence of Chloe about faith being a choice from the heart in accordance with Lutherian doctrine – Luther says (as much as I understand it) that God decides to save you and his spirit enters and makes you able to believe. You can’t believe by yourself. You can however decide to try – to open the door of your heart so to speak – and ask that God’s spirit comes down.

    That’s what Chick and the others mangle so much in their “kneeling in submission and praying the magic prayer” – it’s not the prayer that’s magic; and submitting your life doesn’t mean turning off your brain.

    Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised at a villain making sense. Also, that Buck knows what happened to Nicolae when he was 6 years old – Nicholae, who was the President of a small unimportant (from the POV of an US journalist) nation behind the Iron Curtain, back when the Communist Party choose the President behind closed doors. Usually this would be another case of Americanitis – because US media are obsessed with minuate trivia about presidential candidates during the election and after, the producers assumed it would  be the case elsewhere, too.

    But I see it instead as MetaBuck (not Cam-Cam) having done his work and studying not only the same parts of the scripture, but read up on the guy that Bruce identified as the Antichrist. Probably this explanation introduces a continuity error because there wasn’t enough time for Buck to dig up trivia from sources that far removed in between what we see on the screen, but I want to be generous and prefer a timeline error to provincialism.

    As for Chloe working in the second room of the Church with a Red-Cross-Badge reminded me of the previous discussions on how Loretta and Meta-Chloe were busy learning practical stuff like nursing while the men met in their super-sekret-club without doing anything. So I put it into that category.

    I also assume that Burn Guy is beyond help – if too much of the surface of a body burned, even a special burn unit can’t help. There’s a sign on the wall that says “triage” – let’s assume that only the third category of people are brought into this hospital at all: those who are too heavily injured to have a chance. All the real hospitals are filled with those in category 2: can be helped with the necessary ressources; and the dying-soon-anyway-even-with-help are put into Churches. Makes a lot of sense: who better to comfort the dying than priests?

    The sound effects guy was doing too much during the Jersualem scenes, though: in the first scene, before the music starts, we hear the call to prayer. But all religions (Except Judaism) have already been merged, right? Because Steve shows Buck already the new emblem of the One World Religion.
    Then, when we get back to the open restaurant, there are goats bleating on the soundtrack. In the middle of a freaking city? No way! (And although Fred says the goat exits, it keeps continuing to bleat in the background! Is this some kind of subtle advertisment for the movie “Men who stare at goats”? A reference to Abdul who fucked one goat … as in the old joke? What’s the reason for the obsession the sound guy has for goats?)

    When Ray and Cam-Cam discuss in the hotel room how to break Nicholae’s mojo with Jesus Magic, neither of them suggests “Let’s call up Bruce and organize a prayer circle!” That’s what the RTCs in one of the other popular Christian fantasy novels (the few ones I did read as a teen during that phase) did: A demon was tempting somebody, angels were fighting the demon, and another angel inspired a Christian to get down on her knees and pray. The prayer strenghtened the angel, demon lost the fight, another chapter ended successfully.

    One might object that they know the phone lines aren’t safe, but why would the Antichrist bug all phone lines? (And if they want to work as secret agents, they need secure communications which are quicker than carrier pigeons). One or two lines of dialogue would’ve been nice. Even just Ray and Buck getting down on the carpet for 2 sec.s before heading out would’ve made the magic more believable.

    Cam-Cam touches the Rabbi, but unlike Ray and Nicholae, nothing magical happens. (Does that sound slashy?) Maybe Cam-Cam isn’t RTC enough yet – he should’ve charged his power reservoir by praying before casting the counter-spell.

    If Nicholae has not only mind-control mojo, but also the basic deviousness that one expects of a normal villain, plus the basic knowledge of how to use the media for manipulation that a higher-ranking politican should have, Steve should have just given him a plan. I understood his comment to his lackey to not only shut down live media coverage from the wall, but to record the witnesses and then set down in a private filmstudio to edit the footage into something different. That’s trivially easy, and if nobody can send live, there will be no contradictory footage. (And this was before the age of cellphones and videocameras, right?

    And if the wailing wall itself is closed off because of “extremists might attack it” then no people can hear it, either. I wonder if Movie Nicholae is smart enough.

  • Tricksterson

    Maybe the goat noises have something to do with goats being traditionally identified with the sinner who are bound for Hell?  Myself I always preferred goats to sheep.  they’re smarter and nicer.

  • Rikalous

    The young goats I’ve dealt with were too clever by half, and I could easily see them getting associated with willfully disobedient reprobates. Not that I have anything against goats, or being too clever by half in general.

  • Münchner Kindl

    “Maybe the goat noises have something to do with goats being traditionally identified with the sinner who are bound for Hell?”

    You mean, after the producers thought that (Christian) viewers are morons and need obvious hints like a demon face imposed over Nicholae, now they added the goats as another symbolic hint?

    Could work. If we want to be generous, instead of assuming that a) they’re too stupid / to lazy/ don’t care that Jerusalem is a major city and therefore needs different Middle Eastern stock sounds or
    b) the sound tech person has a weird passion for goats.

  • Anonymous

    b) the sound tech person has a weird passion for goats

    I feel an urgent need to make a reference to last Sunday’s Oglaf. I won’t provide a link because it’s a very NSFW strip, but you can google it.

    “That does explain the time your wife died and you married another goat.”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    In watching this segment, the thing that strikes me is that Ben-Judah is, as far as I know, telling the truth when he says there is no heaven and hell – with the unstated caveat “not as Christians understand the concepts”.

    The Jewish conceptions of heaven and hell are, as I understand it, somewhat different although they do correspond approximately to paradise and torment respectively.

  • Tricksterson

    IIRC while all observant Jews believe in Heave, not all of them believe in Hell or if they do it tends to be more thought of as a holding facility than a place of eternal torture.  Anyone care to confirm or tell me I’m full of shit?

  • Tricksterson

    Finally got around to watching the film clip and I can’t help but like it in a “so bad it’s good” way.  Two things I didn’t see anyone mentioning though.  The sound doesn’t quite match the pictures so that it looks like one of those badly dubbed Asian chop sackey movies.  My theory on that is that it was dibbed because the entire movie was filmed using Aramaic.
    The other thing I noticed is that in the church-hospice scene Chloe is, for a Good Christian Girl anyway flashing an impressive amount of cleavage.  Doon’t look at me like that, wwhat part of “I’m a pervert” haven’t I made clear?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Heh! NGL, I find Ivy quite attractive m’self. :)

  • Münchner Kindl

    Forgot to ask, and Fred doesn’t explain – is the fact that Rabbi Ben-Judah is clean-shaven
    a) an epic fail for the producers (LaHaye never describe appearances, after all, so he could have a red Jew-fro like Kyle) because even non-Orthodox Jews wouldn’t shave
    b) meant to symbolize that this isn’t a real Jewish Jew (like the Orthodox bearded -and- peis Jews around him), but more like “one of us” (WASPs, that is) and therefore, possible to save and modern enough to listen to the “obvious message of the Bible /Cam-Cam”
    c) meant to symbolize him as secular modern scholar
    d) would be acceptable for modern Jews, not an error
    e) a + b
    f) none of the above

  • P J Evans

    Ellanjay would be aware that not all Jewish men are bearded – it’s not unusual in the US for non-Orthodox to be clean-shaven. Look at Henry Waxman, for one example.

  • Charity Brighton

    You have to understand that “Jew” in this series means something along the lines of “elf” or “wizard”. Tsion Ben-Judah plays the same role as Merlin the Magician in the King Arthur stories — the wise, mysterious mentor with a dark past (heretical pre-religion like Judaism in Tsion’s case or druidism in Merlin’s case). He has a beard because all Wise Old Mentors do. He probably wears robes and withholds critical information from Rayford and the others for no reason at times.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The low point is when L&J write Chang Wong as having a crisis of faith and confidence at exactly the time he needs to super-computer-genius-ly assist Rayford et al. So then Tsion promptly gives Chang a hard time over it.

    L&J took a legitimate issue Chang Wong had (it’s a serious problem if one’s eternal life hangs on the exact interpretation of what it means to be Marked by the Devil) and used it to show readers that hierarchical lines of authority take precedence over any serious doctrinal issues.

    So not so much withholding information as being the Tribble religious enforcer, as it were. (The Tribbles also fawn all over Tsion Ben-Judah’s website like it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, as opposed to, you know, actually doing things)

  • Rikalous

     Confusing the Tsion beard issue is the fact that in the comics, he looks like this:

    Maybe they just couldn’t find an actor willing to both play Token Jew in a Left Behind movie and rock the beard.

  • Invisible Neutrino

     with the unstated caveat “not as Christians understand the concepts”.

    Actually I need to clarify that. Some fringe sects do not conceptualize hell as eternal torment.

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