NRA: Marchons, marchons!

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 34-35

Buck Williams can’t figure out what to do with the church.

He and Chloe have arrived at New Hope Village Church where they broke the news to poor Loretta about the death of Bruce Barnes. But now what? The nominal leader of this congregation is dead. What will they do next?

For that matter, what were they doing before?

Buck doesn’t have any idea. Neither do the authors. They’re big fans of the church in the abstract, but when it comes right down to it, they can’t really say what it’s for. They can’t figure out what to do with this church because they can’t figure out what any church is supposed to be doing.

This is a direct consequence of Tim LaHaye’s theology. We’ve discussed before how his “Bible prophecy” scheme tends to ruin storytelling. It seems like all this End Times stuff should make a thrilling backdrop for a work of fiction. But once you get into the theology of it, you start to realize it won’t allow for much in the way of thrills. When everything is prophesied and pre-ordained just so, there’s no room left for human agency. Your characters can do things, but they can’t do anything that matters.

And LaHaye’s premillennial dispensationalist theology presents the same problem for the church as it does for would-be storytellers. It leaves no room for the church to do anything that matters.

In the grand scheme of PMD thinking, we’re now living in the “church age” — a parenthetical hiccup in God’s great timeline during which nothing much of importance happens. What is the role of the church in the “church age”? Mostly, it’s sitting around and waiting for it to be over — waiting for Jesus to come back (sort of) to rapture us all off to Heaven where we’ll have front-row seats to watch the apocalyptic fireworks below.

Just like Buck sitting there in the office at New Hope, premillennial dispensationalist theologians can’t figure out what to do with the church.

NHVC was, initially, the home base for the Tribulation Force. But that small group made up only a tiny fraction of the church’s total membership. Why those others were excluded from the “force” rather than recruited into it has always been a mystery. Also a mystery: what all those other people have been doing while Rayford and Buck were flying and driving and phoning around.

Three of the four Trib Force members moved away from this church more than a year ago, and Bruce has spent much of that time traveling abroad. So who was leading this church while Bruce was away? And what was the church being led to do? It seems as though the authors have no idea. We readers certainly don’t.

Buck could find out here. This is his chance to ask Loretta what’s been going on at New Hope outside of Bruce’s long-departed “inner circle” and its secret mission. But Buck doesn’t bother to ask. He simply takes charge without bothering to figure out what it is he’s taking charge of.

And with Buck in charge, you know what that means — To the phones!

Chloe worked with Loretta in fashioning a terse, two-sentence statement that was sent out by phone to the six names at the top of the prayer chain list. Each would call others who would call others, and the news would quickly spread throughout the New Hope body.

Given his odd fascination with telephony, it’s not surprising that Jerry Jenkins would include this use of a “prayer chain” here. It’s actually a nice touch — one of the most realistic and recognizable details of real life in a late-20th century evangelical church.

Younger readers might not have heard of prayer chains or phone trees before. They were an efficient and elegant means of spreading the word in the days before the Internet, email or texting. Jenkins does a nice job there in describing how they worked — and they did work. We had a prayer chain list just like this in the church I grew up in, but phone chains and phone trees were also useful for all sorts of other, more secular purposes as well. Our soccer team had one, for example, so that all our parents would know when we were returning to the school after a long road trip and they could be there to pick us up.

Phone chains have mostly disappeared now, with Facebook and email serving the same function even more efficiently, but the thought here of this sort of thing is tantalizing. Here is an aspect of local church culture that would serve this community well if they were to take on the role of an anti-Antichrist underground. They already have their subversive clandestine communications network set up.

But again, alas, they don’t seem to have any sense of what they might do as an anti-Antichrist underground, or why such a network might be useful.

The “news” relayed here via the phone chain is, of course, the news that their pastor is dead. This is certainly important news for the church, but Buck and Chloe seem to think it’s the only newsworthy news for “the New Hope body.” I imagine that Loretta — my Loretta, not Jenkins’ southern-belle impostor — knows better. I imagine that she’s been working the prayer chain all day to keep the congregation informed of the status of all of its various members.

She lives here, after all. Unlike Buck and Chloe, Loretta and the rest of the congregation live here in the area, where a missile strike at the hospital and a perhaps-nuclear blast at the airport must surely have affected the lives of every member of the church. The prayer-chain phones have likely been ringing all day with news of NHVC members who were killed or injured or displaced in the attacks.

When Buck and Chloe arrived, they found Loretta “sitting stiffly in the outer office staring at the television” and weeping as she watched reports of the blast at the hospital. They assumed that all of her tears were for Bruce, and I imagine she didn’t see any reason to correct them. What would be the use? She knew Buck had met the Emersons more than once, but she was sure he wouldn’t remember them, so there’d be no point in telling him that no one has heard from them since they went to pick up their son at the airport.

“No point in letting Jenkins know about the Emersons, either,” Loretta thought to herself while the author’s head was turned. “He wouldn’t care either.” And so none of that made it into the book.

You know Buck won’t let Chloe and Loretta hog all the phone fun here:

Meanwhile, Buck recorded a brief message on the answering machine that simply said: “The tragic news of Pastor Bruce’s death is true. Elder Rayford Steele saw him and believes he may have died before any explosives hit the hospital. Please do not come to the church, as there will be no meetings or services or further announcements until Sunday at the regular time.” Buck turned the ringer off on the phone and directed all calls to the answering machine, which soon began clicking every few minutes, as more and more parishioners called in for confirmation. Buck knew Sunday morning’s meeting would be packed.

Chicago is under attack as World War III has broken out and the pastor is dead, but “there will be no meetings or services or further announcements until Sunday at the regular time.” This coming Sunday, Buck thinks, the church will be “packed.”

I doubt it. If this church has nothing to offer people right here and right now, then what could it possibly have to offer them on Sunday? If the outbreak of war doesn’t turn New Hope into a hive of activity — prayer vigils, care-package assembly, bandage-rolling, gathering for comfort, etc. — then there’s no reason to think that the calendar flipping to Sunday will suddenly transform it into the relevant, useful or meaningful place it has failed to be the rest of the week.

“There will be no meetings or services,” Buck’s message says. And for him those words are really just synonyms. For Buck, and for the authors, this is what “service” consists of — hosting “meetings.” This is the only “service” the church can provide.

But the church will meet on Sunday morning, as usual. Why? What for? Apparently because that’s what churches do — they hold meetings on Sunday mornings, and sometimes they hold other meetings to plan those Sunday-morning meetings or to figure out ways to boost the attendance at such meetings. But neither Buck nor the authors seems to have any idea what a church could or should be doing other than that.

And again, that’s characteristic of Tim LaHaye’s PMD theology. This is what the church does in the premillennial dispensationalist “church age” — it meets on Sundays and it waits for Jesus to come back.

This is why the Tribulation Force had to be conceived and commissioned as something separate from the church. The Trib Force (in theory, at least) has a mission and an agenda in the world — “to stand and fight the enemies of God during the seven most chaotic years the planet will ever see.” The church, and any given local church, has no such agenda or mission.

This inert, inactive local church is particularly strange to see here in the world of this novel, sitting there like a lump “during the seven most chaotic years the planet will ever see.” The Antichrist now reigns supreme as an imperial sovereign who demands the allegiance of everyone on earth. The nameless, faceless parishioners at New Hope are supposed to be opposed to all that — their allegiance is supposed to lie elsewhere. Yet they’re not doing anything about it.

Nicolae Carpathia has already established a mandatory one-world religion, the “Enigma Babylon One World Faith.” Yet New Hope Village Church hasn’t been closed down and they haven’t had to take their operations underground. They’ve been allowed to flout the EBOWF and to continue holding their Sunday morning meetings — probably because Nicolae realizes these do-nothings don’t pose any threat to his reign or to his legitimacy. There’s no reason for him to crack down on this church as though it was a stealthy gathering of dangerous insurgents, because it’s nothing like that. Nicolae doesn’t even mind the sermons they hear at their Sunday meetings — recitations of the End Times check lists that, at this point in the game, amount to little more than a weather report.

It would be a different story if this church were actually doing something — if it were the kind of church where Buck’s answering machine message announced an emergency meeting, a midnight vigil, and a call for volunteers to assemble at the church immediately before heading out to respond to the bomb-blasted and war-ravaged parts of the community. That kind of church would be a threat to Nicolae’s EBOWF and to his empire. That kind of church wouldn’t be able to operate freely and openly the way NHVC does.

If New Hope were actually doing anything, this is what attending there would be like:

RICK: Now you finish locking up, will you, Carl?

CARL: I will. Then I am going to the meeting of the —

RICK: (interrupting) — Don’t tell me where you’re going.

CARL: I won’t.

RICK: Goodnight.

CARL: Goodnight, Monsieur Rick.

That’s from Casablanca — a story set in territory under the puppet regime of a beastly empire.

My favorite scene from Casablanca — and thus one of my favorite scenes, period — shows what a gathering at New Hope Village Church ought to be like:

That is what it should mean to sing hymns in church under the reign of the imperial beast. John of Patmos would understand that scene. I don’t think Tim LaHaye would.

Maj. Strasser orders Rick’s Cafe closed because he’s just seen something dangerous, something that poses a real threat to the reign of the empire. New Hope Village Church poses no such threat to the Antichrist.

The members of NHVC may sing the hymns of another kingdom, but Nicolae knows they don’t intend to do anything about it. They may pray “thy kingdom come,” but he knows that for them it’s nothing more than “prophecy” talk — a hollow reference to some wholly future event that has nothing to do with the present and no bearing on their lives here in this world.

These people are no threat to the Beast. They can’t figure out what to do with the church.

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  • Ruby_Tea

    Nice Guys are a separate issue, but sometimes, some coupled people make it into the same issue.  Sometimes the thinking follows the basic outline that Anonymus listed: well, we’re hearing only one side of your dating woes–we don’t know if you’re a Nice Guy, we don’t know that you’re sufficiently well-groomed, we don’t know that you’re not too “dweeby” to date.

    That, coupled with (Lori’s well-taken observation on) the Just World fallacy, makes some coupled people fall into the trap where they assume that a single person is single due to character issues.  After all, I found someone, so if you can’t, that must mean that you are (at best) an unkempt couch potato or (at worst) a Nice Guy or even stalker-y.

    Now, we tend to be pretty progressive here: can anyone think of any other scenario where such a line of thinking would be accepted as fair and right and kind?  When someone complains about not being able to find a job, you don’t exactly see a bunch of progressives waiting to jump in with sage advice/judgments like, “you must not be applying to the right places,” “surely your expectations are too high,” “maybe you’re just a lousy employee.”  But there is something about the state of being single-and-looking that brings out the holier-than-thou in observers like nothing else.

  • Anonymus

    I agree that no one has a good enough sorting algorithm (especially when lacking data, as we do when only hearing on side of the story) to discern with 100% accuracy whether someone else isn’t coupled through their own fault or through bad circumstances. Of course, some Nice Guys give themselves away readily online and it’s pretty clear cut. Other genuinely nice people come across as genuinely nice people online. But there are lots of edge cases. I guess it comes down to which side you’d rather err on. Like with that woman, who may have been harmless but reminded me of someone who hadn’t been, I wanted to err on the side of caution (and I just didn’t like her that much). Of course, that was offline where the consequences for not erring on the side of caution would have been more tangible.

    Some people would rather mistake some genuinely nice people for Nice Guys if it means fewer Nice Guys get in, others don’t mind mistaking a few Nice Guys for genuinely nice people.  In the first scenario, the other guy is more likely to feel hurt by being excluded. In the second, you are more likely to be hurt when you realise that someone you’d trusted wasn’t trustworthy. I guess it comes down to whether you prefer a stranger on the internet to yourself. In the religion I grew up in, there wouldn’t have been a choice: be kind to other people and prefer them to yourself, and it went a step further beyond being kind to unknowns and had a clause for continuing being kind even if they have harmed you. I like this in principle, and I’d certainly like it if other people treated me that way, but that clause has caused me considerable grief.

  • Mark Z.

    Is there some reason you actually need to sort out which people on the Internet are Nice Guys and which ones “aren’t coupled through bad circumstances”? Is it, in fact, any of your business?

  • Lliira

    Yeah, it kinda is, because “Nice Guys” are actively dangerous.

  • Mark Z.

    Back in 2001 or so, when I was a Nice Guy, who was I dangerous to?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Back in 2001 or so, when I was a Nice Guy, who was I dangerous to?

    I wouldn’t say so much dangerous as potentially a catalyst for some ugly shit going down. The reason why I say this is that Nice Guys tend to have a sense of entitlement when it comes to expecting reciprocation of their (usually unvoiced) desires for their female friend(s).

    And when things don’t go according to script, as they’ve planned it out in their minds, some Nice Guys will cross the line from communicating their attraction, to deciding that expressing that attraction obliges the attract-ee to feel the same way and imminent sexytiemz will commence.

    The boundary is necessarily fuzzy, but I think a key litmus test is for a person wondering if he’s a Nice Guy is to ask himself how he feels about a female friend of his being involved with someone else. If he starts feeling really possessive and perhaps a bit less than “hey, cool” about it all, chances are he ought to check his head.

    There’s nothing wrong with sexual attraction in and of itself. It’s what we DO according to that attraction that matters.

  • Anonymus

     Well, it’s not like I’m maintaining a list. But I think that everyone sorts people they come across casually into categories like “person I want to talk to” and “person I don’t want to talk to.”  or “person I think well of” and “person I don’t think well of”. If you go to almost any youtube video and scan the comments, you’ll find plenty of people you can immediately categorise as “not worth arguing with”. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, it’s a human thing. There will be people online who write well and are interesting and you’ll categorise them as people you want to read more from and there will be other people online, like the ones yelling insults at each other in the comment section of the cute kitten purring videos, that you’ll decide aren’t very interesting and you probably won’t waste your time seeking each one out individually to see if you can read more of their ramblings. If nothing else, you categorise people like this in order to save time.

    Like anyone else on the internet, I try to gravitate towards people I find interesting and try to flee from the ones I find annoying. If I find Nice Guys bothersome enough, then I will try to be places that they aren’t. If I don’t care about them, then I’ll neither seek them out nor try to exclude them. If I enjoy their company, I’ll seek them out.

    I don’t particularly care why someone is or isn’t coupled unless it’s me they want to be coupled with. But I do try to avoid people who remind me too much of unpleasant people I’ve interacted with in the past, and some of that “reminding” can be very superficial. It just depends on whether I mind not interacting with perfectly good people on the basis that they use some of the same mannerisms of the person they remind me of. If the reminding is bad enough, I may well choose that path and decide not to engage the person in conversation. It’s a big internet and other people can talk to them.

  • Hawker40

    I will now admit: 30 years ago I was a Nice Guy.  I have since learned better.

  • Lliira

    They seriously said that if someone was single it was inevitably because something was wrong with the single person?


  • Lori

    To be clear, I never saw anyone say it flat out that way. I have seen people whose responses to dating issues all clearly have that as an underlying assumption. When that assumption was pointed out the response was basically, “But some people really do smell bad”. Often with a side order of men as the obligate sex class—men always want sex, women are the sexual gatekeepers, any woman who wants sex can obviously get it unless she’s being an overly picky beotch. Occasionally the whole mess was covered in a nice “I, of course, am quite picky. Unlike your pickiness my pickiness is completely justified because I value myself and because I can afford to be picky. Because I bathe. Unlike, obviously, you.” sauce.

    I learned a long time ago to stay out of 99% of internet discussions about dating because they make me stabby.

  • Laiima

    Hi Lliira, I guess we haven’t met. I used to go by ‘Laima’, which is the Lithuanian goddess of weaving (I’m a Pagan fiber artist of partly-Lithuanian descent). At some point, I started running across real people named Laima, so I changed my handle, adding a second ‘i’ to distinguish myself.

    I was a Slacktiv* denizen from, iirc, 2005 until earlier this year, when MaryKaye was run off. Even before that, though, I’d been feeling increasingly unwelcome at the ‘verse, so I had left for months at a time, but always returned, because there are so many people over there I like. Well, here too, but I liked the Pagan presence over there.

    I’m kind of an oddball. I’m an introvert, but I almost-compulsively join groups, looking for someplace to ‘belong’. But then I invariably run afoul of in-group norms. I have sort of wonky brain chemistry in that I don’t grok hierarchies. I know they exist, but I don’t understand the *interest* so many people have of being either a leader or a follower. I can’t do either of those. (I have tried. It just never works.)

    Anyway, just wanted to say Hi.

  • Caravelle

    Hi Laiima ! I hope you aren’t too bothered that I brought you into my exchange with Lori, I just didn’t see how to better make my point. I was sorry to hear you’d left the other place because you no longer felt comfortable there, that sucks.

    Do you have an opinion on the Pagan blogs/communities on Patheos ? (I used to lurk and sometimes comment on two of them back when Fred first moved here but I haven’t been there in a while) I suppose they wouldn’t be a substitute for a strong Pagan presence here or the Slacktiverse, but still…

  • Laiima

     Not only was I not bothered, I was rather touched actually. :)

    I do not have an opinion. I did check out a few of them when Fred first moved here, but they never seemed to be ones I wanted to read regularly. If I do find one/some here I like, I could mention it. How’s that?

  • Caravelle

    Yay :)
    And why not, I’m not a Pagan nor do I want to become one so I usually just read those blogs in order to learn about other people, but recommends for that purpose would be interesting.

  • fraser

     Oh, I’d assumed it was a variation on the lamia. Does Lithuania have a lot of deities or is this part of a general pantheon for the area?

  • Patrick McGraw

     In college, I came fairly close to Nice Guyism, fortunately I was also being seriously exposed to feminist thinking at the same time.

    As far as broad, hurtful judgments being made about single people, one of the worst I’ve encountered was Heartless Bitches International’s “Red Flag List.” Note that this list is not people venting, but “warning signs that He (or She) is BAD NEWS” (emphasis original), and should be stayed away from:

    A lot of the items on this list are important things that people should be aware of, that point to a probable abuser. But mixed in with those is a lot of vile, judgmental crap of the sort that I have seen on Slacktiverse as well.

  • Ruby_Tea

    That list…is very strange.  Yes, there are valid danger signs in there, especially regarding a partner’s anger issues.  And yet…

    “He sleeps constantly. In fact, he uses it–his need for sleep–as a regular
    excuse to miss meals, events and even quit work.”

    If my guy was doing that, I would be concerned about his physical and/or mental health.  Sounds like he might be depressed.  This is a sign to run away?

    Oddly, this is number 10:

    “He has no hobbies other than watching TV”

    and this is number 42:

    “He is a film critic, a history major, and poet. You are almost intimidated by
    his “artsy” side. He is intelligent, well-versed, and well educated. You think
    to youself, “How did I snag such a GREAT guy?” As time goes by, you notice that
    his film reviews (especially historical war films) and poetry are the ONLY areas
    he “comes alive.” You wonder why he has such a strong connection to certain
    things, yet emotionally he’s aloof.”

    Wait, so one minute I should want a guy with hobbies, but not silly “artsy” hobbies like film and poetry?  My God, this man has a history degree.  RUN!!!

    “He talks outside on the phone w/ his family, never around you”

    This one freaks me out, because my immediate instinct is to turn it around: I am close to my family, and would be very concerned if my SO wanted me only to have private conversations with him and nobody else.  I see that the word “never” is in there, and I hope people take that seriously.

    “Over 30 with no car, no phone (cell or otherwise) and/or a history of changing
    residences and/or jobs multiple times in the last year”

    How dare he lose his job in the midst of an economic crisis!  That abusive bastard!

    “They have had a chemical dependency problem in the past. Addicts usually replace
    one addiction with another, if they ever leave on addiction behind at all.
    Alcohol today, porn tomorrow.”

    Yeah, how horrible that he acknowledged and conquered a personal problem.  What kind of an awful person would do that?

    “Men who have juvenile hobbies such as comic book or action figure collections.
    This is a huge sign that they’re not all the way grown up.”

    My father is a well-educated professional, happily married for 40+ years, a loving husband, father, son, and one of the most responsible people I have ever known.  He is also a Batman and James Bond fan.  These ladies must not know many men with interests outside the Red-Blooded-American-Male norm: I find guys with geeky interests are often more grown-up than average.

    “He and you grew up differently- him from a traditional “old world” style family-
    and you a “Americanized” family- and he wants you to behave/dress/talk more
    conservative (like his mother- a lifelong homemaker).”

    Again, a valid piece of advice is ruined by the judgment.  Yeah, because all homemakers are abused, dowdy, and have no opinions of their own, right?  Jerks.

    “He thinks WWF wrestling is culture”

    Again, looks like it might be best to have a list of pre-approved hobbies that your man is allowed to have.  I wonder if the same is true for women–are men being told to run because I’m into Mystery Science Theater and reviewing bad Christian entertainment?

    There’s more, but this is getting too long.

    TL/DR: Yeah, some good stuff on this list, but the nasty stuff makes me want to run from it

  • Anonymus

     I agree. Plenty of warning signs on the list, but plenty of ymmv. I think anything on that list can be a dealbreaker for some people. If I “likes wrestling” is a dealbreaker for me then it is and I should try to date people who dont like wrestling. If “doesn’t like wrestling” is a dealbreaker for me then I should only date people who like wrestling. If I don’t care either way then it doesn’t belong on my personal list.

    “She doesn’t eat”. caught my eye. Yes, dating an anorexic is difficult and can be stressful. But that doesn’t mean that no one should ever date one. It does mean that if you’re going to date an anorexic you should be prepared for the difficulties it will impose on a relationship.

    The list seems to be not just for avoiding abusive people, but also for avoiding poor people and people who might be different from you in ways that might be dealbreakers for some but don’t have to be for everybody. It would be a better list with some pruning.

  • Caravelle

    And some of them are so specific they really come across as a few people’s experience more than a general type. (like the History major/film critic/poet one. It almost sounds like a rule based on three similar anecdotes)

  • Ruby_Tea

    It actually reminds me of another Sex and the City bit (since Lori brought up an episode yesterday).  Miranda goes speed-dating, and quickly discovers that many guys are completely intimidated by the fact that she’s a lawyer.  So, she starts saying she’s a flight attendant and suddenly…much interest.

    The kicker, of course, is that men run into a similar problem–the guy Miranda ends up dating has been saying he’s a doctor, because many women were utterly unimpressed with the truth–that he worked in a shoe store.


    The multiple hobby rules really annoy me.  Hey, if you, as an individual, don’t want to date gamers or film critics or history buffs or wrestling fans or whatever, that’s cool.  But don’t pretend like you’ve found some Secret Dating Rule that applies for everyone, and don’t put it under the same category as abusive behavior and anger management issues.  Your pet peeves aren’t actually safety issues. 

  • Coleslaw

    The discussion forum on has a list of signs that your spouse may be cheating on you. Most look like reasons for concern, but some are things like keeping the car interior cleared out of spouse and kid stuff, going to the grocery store alone (with no clarifier that the person is gone for three hours and returns with a stick of gum) and having opinions on subjects they never had before. I’m sure that the people who posted those items were cheated on by people who did that, but havent considered that for other people, those can be innocent behaviors.

  • fraser

     Likewise, I remember an anecdote by a woman who didn’t attend her husband’s church, so he started car-pooling with a woman who did. Divorce and remarriage to the other woman followed. So the anecdote tellers’ conclusion is, never marry anyone who isn’t of the same religion.

  • Rhubarbarian82


    “Men who have juvenile hobbies such as comic book or action figure collections. This is a huge sign that they’re not all the way grown up.”

    These lists always end up there, don’t they? A guy I went to college with, who works as an animator at Disney feature, would tell women he works at a pot dispensary, rather than his actual job. It’s by no means a universal rule, but a lot of people assume the people working in animation or games are all just giant man-children.

    I never bothered to try to hide it; if a potential partner is genuinely bothered by that, then they aren’t anyone I want to spend any amount of time with in any capacity. There are way worse things to spend money on than a pretty modest toy/figure collection.* I’m pretty lucky in that it’s usually okay with my girlfriend, so long as I buy a double to give to her, haha.

    I do remember the single-bashing threads, and that was about the point where I stopped checking the comments on TypePad. I was freelancing at the time, and – surprise! – having to work from home pretty much murders your chances at stumbling into someone you might develop a relationship with. Once you hit your late 20s, you start to realize that everyone has paired up at this point, so you can’t find new people through your friends. Remove school and work, and those are really the three main ways people meet people.

    *There are genuinely creepy figure collections, though; I will be the first one to tell you.

  • Ruby_Tea

    There are way worse things to spend money on than a pretty modest toy/figure collection.

    Yeah, it’s funny how people are judged for their hobbies the moment they hint that they would like to have a SO. 

    Reminds me of Spoony’s review of the movie Mazes and Monsters:

    “My god!  People are using role-playing games as a healthy outlet to deal with their real-life problems?  Those evil bastards!”

    And yeah, I don’t see much of a point in hiding your interests, or giving them up (thereby making yourself unhappy), because your hobby supposedly renders you a dateless loser by default.  If a guy can’t handle the fact that I’m into science fiction and gaming and watching bad movies for fun, why would I want to waste time for both of us by pretending?

    It’s a pretty silly theory anyway–if my nerdy dad and hippie-artsy mom managed to find each other, there’s hope for all of us.  ;)

  • hidden_urchin

    If a guy can’t handle the fact that I’m into science fiction and gaming and watching bad movies for fun, why would I want to waste time for both of us by pretending?

    Indeed.  Love me, love my P-51 Mustang telephone.

  • Lori

    The whole issue of which hobbies or interests make you an acceptable or unacceptable candidate for being loved is just a big old sinkhole of gender essentialism and it gave me a major twitch even when I was happily coupled.

    The chick with way too many shoes is a stereotype (problem #1), but for some reason no one asks a woman if she owns too many pairs of shoes to be worth loving then way they ask guys if they own too many comic books or action figures (problem #2). Why? AFAIKT it’s mostly because massive shoe collections are considered part and parcel of beautifying oneself to attract a mate and are thus considered legit in a way that action figures are not.  That’s problem# 3 & 4. At that point I stop counting because the whole thing is giving me a fury headache.

  • Formerconservative

    Being into sci fi, gaming and watching bad movies for fun is a turn on as far as I’m concerned.

  • Dan Audy

    Absolutely, my wife and I started dating having known each other casually for 6 years when we were out with a big group at a movie and we both shouted the same heckling comment at the screen at the same time.  We got a good laugh about it and decided to ditch the rest of the group and get some tea rather than going out drinking afterwards and found out we really enjoyed each others company and had similar outlooks and interests.

  • fraser

     A fairly standard perception at the time of the Jarrett book. I read a couple more books which tackled gaming as a plot element and invariably a)someone gets an unhealthy obsession with the game b)the protagonist’s personal journey requires growing up and stopping playing.

  • Apostrophe Skye

    Oh, my.

     ( I haven’t been commenting on this thread because I am a newbie even to Patheos-Slacktivist, and an almost-neverbie commentwise.)

     I looked at that list, and they start off number 42 by describing my ex exactly with the “film critic, history major, poet” designation. I won’t say those things didn’t relate to any issues he had–those are all ego- and identity-fraught things–but wanted to report that even this one weirdly-relevant-to-me point nonetheless goes wrong by the end, for what it’s worth.

  • ako

     Wow, that’s a ridiculous list.  Some of the stuff is serious red flags, some of it’s “Think carefully about whether you’re prepared to deal with that particular baggage” stuff, and some of it is just ridiculous to treat as warning signs (as opposed to personal preferences). 

    And I like comic books.  I’m not a hard-core fan, but I enjoy them.  My tablet computer has comic book issues, and my bookshelves have some graphic novels piled up on them.  Does that mean any prospective dates should flee in terror until I get rid of my Barefoot Gens and Transmetropolitans?  No, it means that they should think whether that particular interest of mine would be fun, neutral, or annoying for them to be around. 

    (And on the “just bathe” front, ugh.  I bathe twice a day and always wear freshly-laundered clothes and deodorant, and on top of that I make a point of kindness and politeness and go out and socialize fairly regular,y and I still don’t get dates.  Could it be because it’s a bit more complicated than that for some people?  No, obviously I must be driving people away with my geek-stench./sarcasm)

  • Charity Brighton

    I don’t get lists like that anyway. I mean, I don’t understand the idea of “tricking” people into a long-term relationship. Maybe you can hide your hobbies, preferences, etc. for a few days or even a few weeks, but if the relationship is going to become some kind of long-term commitment how long are you supposed to keep that up? Doesn’t that just sound absolutely miserable too? OK, great, you’re married, but you can’t watch what you want, you can’t read what you want, you have to maintain an entire litany of fake hobbies designed to fool your partner into thinking you’re a different person.

    And the “just bathe” ‘suggestion’ just seems… lazy, I think is the best word for that. It’s the equivalent of telling someone who can’t find a job that they should just “punch up their resume” or shake hands more firmly. It’s quite literally the first thing that everyone should do when going out and bringing it up first as if it’s some kind of clever insight is just insulting.

  • ako

    It seems like someone started off trying to come up with a list of stuff a person actually should stay away from.   (If the person you’re dating is prone to ridiculing you behind your back, prone to putting all of the blame for every relationship problem on you, pressures you for sex with no consideration for your feelings, or tortures animals, then the best thing you can do is get away immediately.)  Only whoever put the list wasn’t sorting through it carefully, and it expanded to include stuff that was merely a potential issue (untreated depression, a history of abuse without ‘enough’ therapy, etc.), and stuff that really seems to be a matter of individual tastes and circumstances (like the whole “ZOMG, COMIC FANS!  FLEE!” thing).

    People should start with the basics of personal grooming, and anyone who hasn’t mastered that should get some advice on working on the basics.  But “just bathe” as general advice is both incredibly lazy (because it’s the easiest thing to think of), and incredibly insulting (because it carries the connotation of “Single?  Well, obviously you must be walking around in food-stained sweatpants and a cloud of your own stench everywhere!”)

  • fraser

     My wife has utter disdain for my comic book collection, but she married me anyway, the poor, deluded fool.
    The bit that annoyed me most was “A man is who he is by his 16th birthday. Don’t enter a relationship
    expecting him to change.”
    “Don’t expect to change him” is a staple of advice and makes sense, I think (although obviously if you’re building a life for two, things will change just because–well, there’s two of you). But stuck with the first sentence? I’ve changed a lot since I was 16. Most people I know have.

  • Patrick McGraw


    The bit that annoyed me most was “A man is who he is by his 16th birthday. Don’t enter a relationship expecting him to change.”
    expect to change him” is a staple of advice and makes sense, I think
    (although obviously if you’re building a life for two, things will
    change just because–well, there’s two of you). But stuck with the first
    sentence? I’ve changed a lot since I was 16. Most people I know have.

    Heck, the human brain isn’t even fully developed at 16. There are plenty of neurological changes still to come, even apart from learning experiences.

    At 16, I wasn’t yet a feminist or a Quaker. I’d say those developments were pretty significant changes.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    “They have had a chemical dependency problem in the past. Addicts
    usually replace one addiction with another, if they ever leave on
    addiction behind at all. Alcohol today, porn tomorrow.”

    Yeah, how horrible that he acknowledged and conquered a personal problem.  What kind of an awful person would do that?

    Yeah, some of that list seems really judgey, now that you mention it, RubyTea.

    I wanted to highlight this one because addictive behaviors, while not necessarily in and of themselves a dealbreaker, can often obscure deeper problems that can prove to be too much to handle.

    Like Kit Whitfield and the person for which there was no spark, I have a related story.

    Some years ago, I asked someone to put me back in contact with a guy who I’d thought rather attractive, and I wanted to try and see if there was any chemistry. The first time we met it went off okay – though he admitted he had a drinking problem he was trying to deal with, but the second time he was drunk and it was a bit bizarre. So in my case it was a charming person who had a problem and, apparently, was expecting me to help be his analyst/psychiatrist/crutch.

    I gracefully exited and dropped all contact. I didn’t feel I had the energy or the ability to be someone’s helper through a problem like that, which IMO was likely due to perhaps a deeper issue I would have had no idea about.

  • Lori

    When someone says they don’t want to date you I don’t think you’re entitled to an explanation beyond that. 

    FTR, I haven’t been discussing the issue of asking for an explanation from a specific person who is turning you down or breaking up with you. That’s a separate issue. If someone mentions asking or wonders if it’s OK to ask I too would say no and that the proper response, however difficult, is almost always to just accept it and start working on moving on.

    What I’m talking about is dating advice and general discussion of the people who are single, looking for an SO and not finding one. The fact that the conversation so often ends up at “No means no and no one owes you an explanation of why they’re dumping you” is IMO actually part of the problem. Some people clearly need to hear that, but many people don’t and get it any way. 

    And to be clear, just in case anyone missed it in my earlier comment. This is not some sort of ‘verse problem. I see this lots of places. Most of them don’t habitually circle around to “no means no”, but the same basic pattern happens other places. I can think of at least two, one of which is sadly IRL for me, where the end point is always “stop being so picky”. Ugh. At least one other place I can think of always ends up with some version of “stop being such a geek” Ugh.

    If one’s* standard response to a topic is not helpful then it’s perfectly OK to keep that 2 cents in one’s pocket, you know?

    *After our recent discussion I’ve decided I’m bringing back “one” even if it’s just me. It’s so much more clear than “you”. 

  • Ruby_Tea

    Yup.  And like I said yesterday, this rush to judgment is not something you see a lot of on other issues, at least not in places, online or IRL, that tout themselves as progressive.  When people say they are out of luck in their job search, progressives don’t jump right to, “you must not be trying hard enough/maybe you’re just a crappy worker.”  When people say they were fat-shamed, progressives don’t jump right to, “then keep your hands off the ice cream and get your ass to a pilates class.”  At worst, if someone did do that, you can that bet ten other people would call it as the judgmental asshattery that it is.

    But there’s something about being single-and-looking where all bets are off.  And it has nothing to do with Nice Guys or wanting explanations from people who don’t want to date you, and a lot to do with coupled people wanting to reassure themselves that they weren’t just lucky in love, but that they’re in a relationship because they deserve to be in one.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    a lot to do with coupled people wanting to reassure themselves that they
    weren’t just lucky in love, but that they’re in a relationship because
    they deserve to be in one.

    Pardon me for butting in – I just can’t quite get my head around this part. I can’t quite grasp how a person can feel like he or she deserves to be in a relationship when he or she is already in one; I always thought it was more a hallmark of people who were not already in relationships who could fall into the trap of thinking they deserved one.

  • Lori

    It works pretty much the same way the just world fallacy works for money.

    “I am rich instead of poor because I’m smart and work hard and pulled myself up by my bootstraps. Yeah me!” Implication: I deserve my money  and luck was not a significant factor in my good fortune. If you don’t have money it’s because you’re stupid and/or lazy, unlike me, and therefore do not deserve to be rich.

    “I found an SO because I am wonderful and charming and have good personal hygiene and no untoward habits, interests or personal baggage. Yeah me!” Implication: I’m loved because I deserve to be loved, luck was not a significant factor in my good fortune. If you’re single it’s because your smell, hobbies or personality render you unlovable, unlike me.  You should work on that.

  • Gotchaye

    Maybe it’s a holdover from attitudes they learned before. I know a few people who got married and then suddenly became experts on what others have to do to find and be happy with someone, and who quickly realized that their still-unmarried friends were just doing it wrong.  This caused some issues in my circle of friends from college a few years back, although virtually all are married now.

    I guess I wouldn’t have characterized it as self-reassurance.  It’s absolutely some just world fallacy baloney, but IME the self-assurance is already there – they’re in a relationship and happy and therefore they obviously know how this stuff works.  It’s easy to think that you’re in a relationship because you deserve to be in one for the same reason that it’s easy to think that you have money because you deserve to have it.

    Edit: Dammit, Lori.

  • Lori

     Sorry :)

  • Jon Maki

    They have had a chemical dependency problem in the past. Addicts usually replace one addiction with another, if they ever leave on addiction behind at all. Alcohol today, porn tomorrow.

    Hm, I suppose it’s fortunate that my love of comic books already disqualifies me from ever having a relationship, because I was completely unaware that when I quit drinking I was also expected to take a vow of celibacy.

  • Hawker40

    Looking over it in my head, the ‘good hygiene’ advice my father gave me (among other pieces of advice on the subject) seems to be something you tell a 14 year old boy looking for his first girlfriend, not something to be told to a 25 year old man looking for a long term relationship.  It’s the step one basics that a grownup should already know and not need to be told, especially not by another (alleged) grown up.  I think the next time I give this advice, I will assume that the adult I’m speaking to knows this* and skip straight to the second paragraph.

    *Unless I have visual/olfactory evidence to the contrary.

  • Lori

     Yeah, that makes sense. Puberty can be a really ugly time and new stinks one doesn’t quite know how to deal with can be a big part of that. And yes, some adults are not as attentive to personal hygiene as they should be. They’re a pretty small percentage of the population though, even if the population in question is only the unhappily single.

    It occurs to me that one possible reason the stinky guy thing comes up over and over again is that SG is noticeable in a way that many other single-and-looking folks are note. It’s not like all single people wander around wearing a scarlet S or something. There are some really unpleasant attitudes toward the involuntarily single so a lot of people don’t bring it up or try to sort of smooth it over by saying that they’re not really looking.

    That perfectly lovely person who you assume would have no trouble finding an SO and who says s/he is “just too busy to date right now” or whatever* may actually be really bummed about being single and just not want to say that because it invites the kind of dumb, crappy input that we’ve been discussing. So the perfectly nice people who just haven’t been blessed with finding someone yet are kind of invisible singles, and Stinky Guy ends up seeming like Single Guy when he really isn’t.

    *To be clear, there are plenty of people who actually are single and not looking. Not everyone who says that they’re too busy or just not feeling it or whatever is lying. However, some of the people who say that are either trying to dodge a conversation they know from experience they will not enjoy or are trying to put a good face on a situation that they would rather was different. Unless you know the person well you can’t really know so you have to assume that when people say they’re not looking, they’re not looking. Just don’t let that lead you to believe that all single-and-looking folks are Stinky Guy or Gal or the King or Queen of Neurosislandia or Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

  • Joe Smith

    Keep in mind that these are “red flags,” not “Dealbreakers.”   I agree that you ought to take a good think before getting involved with an addict and there are some creepy comic book guys out there, but hey,  look at each situation.

  • Zoetrope

    I am a long time lurker/almost never poster (2007ish?) from both sites before the switch. I frequented the Slacktiverse, as well as Pantheos, but then pretty much just switched to Pantheos completely after some time. Discovered the whole thing cause of the “Left Behind” Posts, and stayed for some of the wisdom. Despite disagreeing on the belief in Christianity (because it’s not for me), I fully respect Fred because he stays true to his beliefs and clearly has a good heart. In any case, it is also not up to me to tell others how to live their lives, and if certain things make them happy, then it is not my place to say otherwise unless they are harming others. I hope that doesn’t sound condescending Fred! I can’t quite word what I want to say correctly…

    I have just read all of these comments, as I used to read the comments a fair bit back in the day before my life got too busy to follow my random sites I was interested in. Had no real idea why the Slacktiverse got shut down, but understand it now, and I have my own unusual personal analogy that seems to reflect how shit went down there. This may be redundant (being a 5 month old thread anyway) but thought I’d throw in my 2p.

    Before anything: I gotta say that acts of aggression or hostility by either hosts or guests in any environment are completely out of hand. They are also sometimes unavoidable. It’s how they get handled by  both sides which serve as a reflection of the people involved. I admit I personally don’t know these people involved in this discussion here, so mean no offence with my analogy coming up.

    I do full time work in bookselling and make music in my spare time.  I am based in London, UK. I try to do my own hip hop music that is a honest reflection of me, which thus does not conform to the accent/attitude of my fellow performers. I don’t follow the tropes as such. This is my honesty, but it also has given many many people a dismissive superiority over me, as I have been subject to abuse many many times during performances. This is a different story, so it is irrelevant for right now. The point I am getting at is I have travelled on the circuit all over London, and found that the nights I am most comfortable in are Mixed Nights which are Comedy/Poets/Guitarists/MC’s (me) and all kinds of random joy. The demeanor of the host also obviously plays a huge factor here.

    On the other hand, there is a place that I can’t stand. I used to support a place that was exclusively Poetry and MC’s when it first opened. (strictly Poetry nights do tend to have awful vibes) I will call it Ell-See for the purposes of this analogy. I went to this night regularly because I will always support new places and people. Ell-See is on once a month, and two years back it was free entry. I wasn’t any good back then (despite 4 years of work at this previous), but I still persevered, and showed my support. Over time the whole demeanour of this place changed in a very negative way. The ironic thing is that the night was starting to be promoted as a positive and uplifting place to be for all this time. I still went and supported it, despite it looking like they wanted to drive me away. Free entry became £5 entry. 5mins on stage became 3mins on stage. Beats became Acapella. Many Open Spots became 8 Maximum.  A lot of that is obviously to do with demand rising as the night was becoming more successful, but it was clear the way it was starting to go. They formed their own Ell-See Collective who didn’t need to pay entry and got extended slots. Long term supporters like me and a few others got ignored and felt under-appreciated. My friend, who also does the same as me, bailed out on this night much earlier. That was a wise move.

    (In fact, there was only one other long term supporter who only just got inducted into the Collective. He has a disability, so I don’t know whether that prejudice factors into that. I personally wonder why he wasn’t invited to join them sooner. He should have, with the support he always gave them.)

     Basically the night was starting to become a sycophantic showcase. Everyone was  blowing their own trumpets, not acting with any humility or generosity, and becoming a lot more judgemental of others outside the inner circle. There was also a lot more pandering to the hosts in attempts to curry favour. My material is generally quite bleak, as I have been in/and am in a very dark patch right now. Because my words did not fit into their designs for the night, it meant that whenever I performed I was given subtle hints to fuck off. I was originally confused as they specify that this night is so open and accepting! My feelings about the place changed so dramatically over a period of time that the whole thing was becoming untenable for me. After I did one performance one time, the host did another one directly after mine to remove whatever impression I would have left with the audience. It meant that my regular monthly attendance dropped so much I decided I would give it one more shot in 2012. I did that. The host introduced me that one time by saying “We accept all types of hip hop here”. Surely if you do, there is no need to say it directly before I perform unless there is a caveat? Unless you are implying that really I am not welcome here? I still performed. All the other performers (including the Open Mic ones) had
    laviscious praise heaped upon them while I got hardly any love from
    anyone.  Whether I am any good or not is irrelevant. It is all about how I was made to feel in this supposedly open minded environment.

    That was my last time at that night, and I have no intention to ever return. I still think about it a bit, because I invested a lot of my time in supporting it in the early days. I think about how I’ve been treated there, and wish there was a like minded community for MC’s who don’t conform to their judgements and prejudice. I’m different to them, and I’m fine with it. If the community is open and inclusive, and parades itself as being so, I expect it to do what it says on the tin. Not to be faced with hidden knives as I slowly realised appearances and touted values were not as they seemed. If I could help to build my own community with its own values in this way, I would. But you always need sturdy foundations, and to their credit, they certainly have that.

    All this means that when I created and executed my first big event this last month gone, I didn’t invite any of them to it, because they were unsupportive and clearly prejudiced against my own artistic expressions. It is hard to show love to the people who never show it to you.

    There is my long imperfect analogy… I’m sorry about the length, but this has been a bugbear for me, and I can see common parallels with what ensued between members of both communities over here. I hope people can relate to mine, but understand that I’m coming a bit left-field here.