NRA: Excluding Loretta

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 48-51

Buck Williams knows what is happening. He knows what’s coming.

Thanks to more than a year of study with Bruce Barnes, Buck is thoroughly familiar with the details of the End Times check list. He has a schedule for the Great Tribulation and it sets a clear itinerary for the few remaining months of life on earth. Some of the events prophesied are cryptic, but those come later. The first several items on the check list are explicitly, unmistakably clear: war, famine, death.

It’s 1997, baby, and Buck Williams has his eye on a sweet Nokia 6110. “Get five of those cell phones, Chloe, and don’t scrimp.”

That war has begun, just as Buck had known it must. And he knows what that means — knows what will, inescapably, follow. War and famine and death have been “… given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.”

Buck has, with his own eyes, seen the bombs begin to fall. And he knows they will keep falling, as foretold that they must, until one fourth of humanity is dead.

He knows this. He had known that this war would come, and now that it has arrived he knows that it will continue.*

Since we know that Buck knows all of this, his behavior in the next few pages seems impossible to explain. For a moment, earlier in this book, it seemed that Buck was going to act on what he knows is happening. The very first thing he did when the war began was to race to acquire an off-road vehicle well-suited for fleeing the final moments of civilization. It seemed that at least one of our heroes was finally going to take Jesus’ advice. If you find yourself suddenly faced with an apocalypse, Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel:

… flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat.

Yet Buck didn’t flee to the mountains. Here we are in Chapter 3 and Buck’s shiny new luxury-survivalist Range Rover is parked in the lot of a suburban church, just a few short miles from the city of Chicago, which Buck has every reason to expect is about to be obliterated.

And he isn’t there collecting supplies — ammunition, canned food, bottled water or holy water. Instead he’s just calmly printing out the contents of Bruce’s hard drive and making hotel arrangements for a longer stay downtown.

He had packaged pages and Bruce’s computer into one huge carton. As he lugged it out, he told Chloe, “Drop me off at the Chicago bureau office, and then you’d better check with The Drake and be sure our stuff is still there. We’ll want to keep that room until we find a place to live closer to here.”

I can only explain this by imagining that Buck is in shock and in denial.

For her part, Chloe seems to be right there with him:

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Chloe said. “Loretta is devastated. She’s going to need a lot of help here. What are we going to do about a funeral?”

Chloe expects a funeral for Bruce, because that’s what happens when a friend dies. Or at least that’s what happens when a friend dies and it’s not right in the midst of the Great Tribulation, as the seals of judgment are being opened and divine and antidivine wrath are both being poured out to claim the lives of more than a billion people.

“You’re going to have to help handle that, Chlo’. You’ll want to check with the coroner’s office, have the body delivered to a funeral home nearby here, and all that.”

Only people deep, deep in denial could imagine that any of this was still possible. Unable to cope with the scale of the devastation they have personally witnessed — the ruins of the hospital, the mushroom cloud they saw rising over the North Side — they’ve developed a kind of traumatic amnesia, shutting out every thought except that of the death of their friend.

If they stopped for a second and allowed themselves to absorb all that they’ve seen, or if they glanced at all those charts and timelines from Bruce’s notes — explanations of prophecies that Buck is, at this very moment, carrying in his hands — then they’d have to realize that there’s no way the Drake hotel or the coroner’s office or a funeral home could still possibly be functioning normally, or at all.

They must be in denial. They must have forgotten about all those other casualties.

“… have the body delivered to a funeral home nearby here, and all that. With so many casualties, it’s going to be a mess, so they’ll probably be glad to know that at least one body has been claimed.”

So much for my denial/traumatic amnesia theory.

And I’m afraid that was the only theory I had that could make sense of this. All I can do now is marvel at the strangeness and stupidity of our heroes in these pages — and at the strangeness and stupidity of the authors.

Here are two characters who believe that a global, perhaps-nuclear war has been foreordained by God. They have been expecting and awaiting the onset of this war, which they know will continue until it claims a fourth of the earth. And they have seen it begin, felt the concussive blast of a bomb that they know will only be the first of many, many more.

So put yourself in their shoes, what would you do? Would you book a room in a downtown high-rise?** Head back to the office? Try to make funeral arrangements for a friend who died just as the war was beginning?

The staggering weirdness of their behavior here is made even stranger by the glib casualness of it all.

“We’re each going to need a vehicle,” Buck says to Chloe. And then, to underscore the point, he adds, “I can’t promise I’ll be around here all the time.”

Or in other words, he’s calling dibs on the Range Rover. Chloe seems to have guessed he would:

“Loretta, bless her heart,*** thought of the same thing in spite of all she’s going through. She reminded me that there’s a fleet of extra cars among the congregation and has been ever since the Rapture. They lend these out for just such crises as this one.”

First let’s commend Jerry Jenkins for finally realizing — 50 pages into the third book of his series — that all those real, true Christians raptured away in the first book would have left behind empty homes and abandoned cars. Buck Williams has gone car-shopping twice since then, paying full price for a new model each time while all along the Rev. Billings’ Buick and Irene Steele’s minivan have sat unused.

Jenkins still doesn’t seem to grasp how many millions of empty homes and abandoned cars his version of the rapture implies, or the full implications of that. But at least — belatedly — he’s realized that he can exploit this previously ignored consequence to solve another of his commuting-logistics conundrums.

The astonishing bit here, though, is Chloe’s reference to “just such crises as this one.” She’s not talking about the destruction of the hospital, the church’s loss of its pastor, the death of every church member who may have been at or near the airport, or the onset of war, pestilence and death that will sweep away one fourth of the earth. Those are about other people and so those, therefore, do not constitute “crises.” No, the urgent crisis here — the priority — is that Buck Williams and his wife need a second car.

“Good,” Buck said. “Let’s get you fixed up with one of those.”

He called dibs, remember. We all heard him.

Chloe asks Buck about the 5,000 pages of file-dump in the box he’s carrying and his vague plan to, you know, make copies and, like, pass them out.

“Buck, wait a minute. There’s no way we can reproduce that until someone has read all of it. There’s got to be private, personal stuff in there. And you know there will be direct references to Carpathia and to the Tribulation Force. We can’t risk being exposed like that.”

Buck had an ego crisis. He loved this woman, but she was ten years his junior and he hated when it seemed as if she was telling him what to do, especially when she was right.

This … this … thing the authors are doing here through Buck, it needs a name.

I’ve heard a thousand variations of this very thing, from pastors, politicians and business executives. This thing, this sick passive-aggressive ritual, is something such men often perform whenever they’re speaking in public with their wives present, usually with a forced chuckle and oozing the same feigned humility that the authors here attribute to Buck.

The authors would, of course, insist that they’re poking fun at Buck here, and that this “ego crisis” is a foible of his. In just the same way all those pastors and politicians always pretend they’re poking fun at their own “egos” rather than flexing them by making all those similarly disingenuous comments at the expense of their wives, asserting a claim of dominance by portraying even common decency and fairness as expressions of magnanimous, benevolent condescension. Such magnanimity is, of course, what every husband owes to the little lady, but silly me, sometimes my ego gets in the way and I forget to show it — so the joke’s on me!

That thing needs a name. Maybe if we can figure out what to call it, we can figure out how to kill it.

Fortunately for Buck here, the authors have kept this bit confined to Buck’s internal thoughts. He didn’t say all that out loud to Chloe, and thus she is spared from having to punch him in the neck. Instead, she says:

“Just entrust it to me, hon. I’ll spend every day between now and Sunday poring over it line by line. By then we’ll have something to share with the rest of New Hope, and we can even announce that we might have something in copied form for them within a week or so.”

It’s a plan, then. Chloe will edit and rewrite 5,000 pages by Sunday, and then, “within a week or so,” she’ll have it all retyped and they can then make copies, bind them, and distribute them to all members of New Hope Village Church, each of whom will then have the chance to read through all 5,000 pages at their leisure. Because that’s clearly the easiest way to get the word out.

“But where will you do this?”

“Loretta has offered to let us stay with her. She’s got that big old house, you know.”

“That would be perfect, but I hate to impose.”

“Buck, we would hardly be imposing. She’ll hardly know we’re there. Anyway, I sense she’s so lonely and beside herself with grief that she really needs us.”

This bears an uncanny resemblance to the usual social niceties involving an offer of hospitality. The would-be guest expresses a reluctance to trouble the would-be host, who in turn insists that it’s no trouble at all, and that she would be glad for the company.

The slight difference here — the bit that makes this near-resemblance uncanny — is that both Chloe and Buck seem to interpret Loretta’s social niceties literally. Whatever it was she actually said — we hear echoes of it from Chloe in “that big old house” and “hardly know [you’re] there” — the couple has decided to take it at face value. They’ve convinced themselves that they really are the ones doing her a great favor by allowing her to accommodate them.

But the core thing here is that one sentence: “Loretta has offered to let us stay with her.” However Chloe and Buck want to spin it, that’s the essential fact of the matter. Loretta is extending hospitality to them.

That sentence is on page 50, about two-thirds of the way down the page. Buck and Chloe exchange a bit of wince-inducing banter (“I keep you around because you’re cute,” she says), and then, on page 51, we come to this:

“You’ve forgotten the shelter under the church.”

“I haven’t forgotten it, Chloe. I’m just praying it’ll never come to that. Does anybody else know about that place except the Tribulation Force?”

“No. Not even Loretta. It’s an awfully small place. If Daddy and Amanda and you and I had to stay there for any length of time, it wouldn’t be much fun.”

Eighteen lines. That’s the distance from “Loretta has offered to let us stay with her” to “Not even Loretta. It’s an awfully small place.” About half a page separates them.

At the bottom of page 50, Buck and Chloe are in need and Loretta extends hospitality to them in their time of need. At the top of page 51, Buck and Chloe discuss what they would do to Loretta in her time of need and, well …


Half an hour later, Buck pulled into the Chicago area office of Global Community Weekly magazine.

Hey look, the GIRAT suddenly remembers his day job. It’s been a while since he’s checked in at the office, but apart from the destruction of New York, Washington and London and the perhaps-nuclear bombing of airports across the continent, it’s been a slow news week.

“I’m going to get us a couple of cell phones,” Chloe said. “I’ll call The Drake and then get down there and get our stuff. I’ll also talk with Loretta about a second vehicle.”

“Get five of those cell phones, Chloe, and don’t scrimp.”

As if Mrs. Buck Williams would ever think to “scrimp” when it comes to telephones.

In 1995, when Jenkins wrote the first book in this series, cell phones were an exotic luxury item. By the time he was writing this book, in 1997, they’d become much more common. Chloe’s abrupt announcement, above, is how Jenkins went about catching up with technology — just suddenly inserting cell phones into the world of these books, like Dawn Summers, and then acting as though they had been there all along. A bit jarring, but it solves his problem.

It raises other, new problems, though, such as why our heroes expect these cell phones to have coverage amidst a nuclear war, why they think they will be safe to use now that Nicolae controls all communications, or how they expect to recharge them once the grid shuts down as war, famine and pestilence seize the earth.

“Five?” she said. “I don’t know if Loretta would even know how to use one.”

“I’m not thinking of Loretta. I just want to make sure we have a spare.”

If Buck allowed Loretta to have a phone then he wouldn’t have an extra one for himself.

He’s not thinking of Loretta. He never is, bless his heart.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Buck also knows, or should know, that it’s even worse than he may have expected. The shape of this war suggests that his odds of survival are even lower than the 75-percent chance he might have thought he would have.

The rider on the red horse, war, the second seal of judgment “permitted to take peace from the earth,” seems to have a narrower focus, with Nicolae Carpathia’s weirdly one-sided World War III confining its destruction to North America, North Africa and Britain. The total population of those areas adds up to less than “a fourth of the earth.” If the war remains confined to those regions, and if that war is to kill one fourth of the earth’s population, then no one in America should expect to survive.

** Set aside for the moment the whole World War III and mushroom-cloud business. Don’t worry about why O’Hare International Airport is now closed in this story. Just consider that much, on it’s own. O’Hare is closed. No flights in. No flights out. Now consider what that means for the likelihood of booking that downtown hotel room.

*** “Bless her heart” is not a term we’ve heard from Chloe previously, nor is it a term that 21-year-old Chicagoans are likely ever to use. Since Chloe associates the term with Loretta here, I’m going to assume that’s where she picked up the phrase — although she did so without quite understanding it.

Loretta, Jenkins said, is from the South. My guess is that Chloe heard Loretta say something like, “So Buck bought himself a new luxury SUV, did he? Well. Bless his heart,” and that Chloe mistook this for an expression of affection.

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  • DashRendar1128

    That’s how I view both fiction and reality, to be honest.

  • vsm

    …I have no idea why I wrote race relations. I obviously meant to talk about religion.

  • Gospodin Dangling-Participle

     [quote]And he knows who Buck’s true love is and it and it ain’t Chloe.[/quote]

    The English Beat had Buck’s number back in 1980:

  • hf

    That thing needs a name. Maybe if we can figure out what to call it, we can figure out how to kill it.

    Isn’t it just male cattiness?

    I guess I’m assuming they want to make the women look bad, eg uppity or nagging, but somehow they can’t say it explicitly.

  • hf

    Ryan’s remarks about Ayn Rand: It’s like someone who points out the known human tendency-to-anthropomorphize-without-cause, and publicly adjusts or explains some of their beliefs accordingly, but then fails to apply the same epistemology in a closely related case.

    On Mormons: Their beliefs seem sillier than evangelicalism or Catholicism in the sense that they add even more details without sufficient evidence. But they also have a much better approach to the Trinity. By this I mean they haven’t systematically condemned or marginalized every self-consistent answer, the way the Catholic Church has.

  • everstar

     One of the things that makes me laugh when I read Dracula is how utterly screwed Team Van Helsing would have been without Mina.  The way Team Van Helsing utterly fails to take preventative measures against Dracula entering the asylum even though they a) know he lives next door and b) has on-going contact with an inmate?  The way they completely miss Mina’s blood loss and lethargy being similar to Lucy’s despite Seward being Lucy’s physician of record?  I love how it’s cutting edge with its technology–telegraphs!  typewriters!  blood transfusions!–but can’t manage basic deduction.

  • PJ Evans

     The problem is that Rmoney effectively has no voting record; he’s been governor of Massachusetts, no other elected positions.

  • Dash1


    I’m probably not the most qualified person to assess race relations in
    the US, never even having visited and all.

    A good reason to be somewhat cautious. It’s a large and diverse country and while, I grant you, we do tend to export a lot of our cultural products, whatever you see representing the U.S. as viewed by Hollywood should be taken with quite a lot of salt.

    However, it is not difficult
    to run into anti-Catholic or anti-Mormon sentiments when studying
    American culture. Granted, most of these voices come from the right, but
    progressives can accidentally tap into that well as well. Implying
    Catholics should leave the Church over its abuses can come close to

    I’d like to be just a bit more cautious about the language used here. The phrasing “anti-X” can easily connote that we are not talking about coherent and logical objections to the positions or practices of a particular organization, but rather simply having a knee-jerk response. The term “sentiment” suggests that that is what you are talking about, and I don’t for a moment question that there are people who deeply mistrust Mormons without knowing much about them; the same is true for Catholics, although, I think, to a far lesser extent than was true just a few decades ago. So much depends on the cultural material you’re looking at.

    So I want to distinguish between principled objection to positions or practices and “anti-X sentiments.” And I don’t think progressives only object to particular religions “accidentally.” Many progressives have a principled and logical objection to the positions taken by the Mormon and Catholic churches (as well as to those taken by the Christian Right, etc.).

    Heck, I don’t think conservatives only object to particular religions “accidentally.”

  • vsm

    Mind you, Hollywood is not my sole source of information of US culture. I follow the news closely and read blogs, magazines and books for analysis. Still, I realize I will be wrong on several points.

    I think the problem with criticizing Catholicism is how closely the faith is tied to the institution. If you’re a Protestant and your church commits horrific deeds, you could walk out and find a different church with more or less the same history, theology and rituals. It doesn’t work quite like that to Catholics, even though there are things like Anglo-Catholicism and so on. When criticizing the Catholic Church, this should be kept in mind. I’m not saying any aspect of the CC is beyond criticism, but that one should be careful not to slip close to bigotry. Which seems to be what you are thinking as well.

    I don’t know, my interest in British and Irish literature may have left me with too much sympathy for Catholicism.

  • Dash1

     Blogs? Oh dear. I’m afraid too much of that would leave you with the impression that the best choice would simply be to eradicate about half the U.S. (which half would depend on your own preferences) and start over. And, since we are at the moment having our political conventions, I’d agree with you.

    I think, as you suggest, that we’re really not in disagreement. It would be unacceptable, in my view, for someone to say (or think), “This person is a Mormon (or a Catholic or a Pentecostal or an atheist). I shall not, for that very reason, hire them.”  And downright stupid to say, “I shall not, for that very reason, be friends with them.” On the other hand, a woman who intends to have children might reasonably ask what her doctor’s position is on how to proceed if the pregnancy hits a point where it threatens her life. And it is simply a fact that many women (not, in my view, unreasonably) make a point, if their pregnancy runs into serious trouble, of trying to get to a hospital not affiliated with the Catholic church. Just as, if you’re a gay member of the armed forces and your relationship with your spouse or partner is going through a rough patch, you may want to be cautious about seeking counseling from a Southern Baptist chaplain (if indeed you have a choice).

     When a member of my religious group was proposed for a position on a federal commission charged with insuring equal opportunity for women (among others), I phoned my congressman’s office to let him know that this particular group believes that women should not “usurp authority over men,” and that for many members, that does not stop at the church door. I wouldn’t have wanted him to vote against the man solely on the grounds that he’s a member of X group, but I would certainly want him to press him on the subject of equal opportunity for women in the secular world. Sarah Palin’s religious views include the idea that demons have a real effect on the world and that they sometimes need to be cast out. It’s not unreasonable to take that into account when considering her for what might have amounted to the presidency.

    So we’re back to the fact that religious affiliation is often at least a potential indicator of personal philosophy. And, while I am puzzled by my Catholic and Mormon friends’ inability to conceive of another church as an option, I recognize that that’s a portion of their worldview that they arrive at not entirely illogically, and that I will not, on a gut level, understand.

    Also, I think I can say with confidence that we have pretty much gotten past the “No Irish Need Apply” period Mark Twain wrote about.

  • Dash1

    BTW, I suspect most people have moved on from this thread, but an excellent writer who is also a “Cafeteria Mormon” is Terry Tempest Williams. I’m really pleased to see that she has a new book out.

  • CharityB

    Fair enough, but being the head of the executive branch of a state is a pretty good indicator. You can also look at his statements (at least, his current statements of belief, which admittedly are of limited value), and, of course, look at the platform of the Republican Party and especially the voting records of his main political supporters in Congress (who will control much of Romney’s agenda and determine how much he will actually be able to do). Religion *can* be a part of that but, really, is the social conservatism of Mitt Romney really *that* different from that of other, more ‘mainstream’ right-wing Christians? 

    (Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between an anti-gay Mormon and an anti-gay Southern Baptists — the actions, beliefs, and effects are identical to me.)

  • vsm

    Blogs are indeed better for smaller insights and interesting fringe phenomena, like left-wing Evangelical Buffy fans, but surely those too have their place in a decent view of the United States.

    I pretty much agree with you on your examples. Obviously you can be a bit more direct in your questions when you’re interviewing someone privately like in your first case, though it is important to ascertain any presidential candidate’s attitude to women. The question doesn’t necessarily have to be asked in terms of religion, however.

    Oh, I wouldn’t imagine the Irish are still an oppressed minority. They’re a frequent example of how race is a social construct even here. However, reading all that literature and being from a country where everyone switched to Protestantism with very little drama can leave you with a much more positive attitude to the CC than, say, extensively studying the history of Spain.

  • JenL

    If someone called himself “Nazi” and advocated equality for all races and creeds, would you take him seriously?

    If his books were sold in Nazi bookstores, bought by millions of Nazis, and widely proclaimed (by people acknowledged to be Nazis) as representing Nazi beliefs … 

    I’d scratch my head, and I’d argue he doesn’t represent the groups’ historical beliefs, but I wouldn’t argue he doesn’t represent the modern Nazi party.

  • JenL

    What I don’t think is OK is people implying that there’s something wrong with Romney because his grandfather was a polygamist.

    I haven’t seen people saying there’s something wrong with Romney because his grandfather was a polygamist – what I’ve seen is pointing out that he ignores his own fairly recent family history when he claims that his reason for opposing gay marriage is that marriage has been defined as one man and one woman for 3000 years.

    And you’ve got to admit that a picture of his grandpa’s family is an effective rebuttal to a quote about how marriage has been defined for thousands of years. 

  • JenL

    Wouldn’t examining their voting record give you pretty much the same information, with the additional benefit of not demanding them to publicly speak against their religion right before an election?

    Mitt Romney doesn’t exactly have a decades-long voting record to judge from.

  • Dash1

     Good points. Actually, though, it’s illegal to ask about someone’s religion when you’re hiring them for most positions.

    What country, may I ask (re switching to Protestantism with very little drama)?

  • vsm

    That would be Finland. Imposing a new religion is much easier when you’re dealing with an obscure Swedish province filled with half-pagan peasants and poorly-educated yet pragmatic priests. Finnish and Swedish soldiers did fight in the Thirty Years’ War, but there wasn’t much internal strife, aside from one king who wanted to negotiate a compromise with the Pope but failed.


    I love how it’s cutting edge with its technology–telegraphs! 
    typewriters!  blood transfusions!–but can’t manage basic deduction.

    The Idiot Ball* transcends time and place. But I think the fact that Stoker gives Mina, a female character, the job of deflating the Idiot Ball and thus assuring victory, indicates that Stoker was miles ahead of LaHaye/Jenkins in terms of respect for women, no matter what lines he puts in the mouths of his male characters.

    *Warning: Link goes to TV Tropes. Please pack adequate supplies before setting out on your journey.

  • Dash1

     A belated thank-you for your reply. I have a good friend who’s a native speaker of Finnish–he grew up on a farm in Michigan, where there was quite a population of Finnish speakers before they all switched to English, probably mostly due to the public school system.

    Iceland probably gets the prize for easiest and fastest shift to a new religion.

  • Brightie

     And let’s not even think about Deborah, who *gasp* had a preaching position and was a wartime leader…

  • John Evans

    “This bears an uncanny resemblance to the usual social niceties involving an offer of hospitality. The would-be guest expresses a reluctance to trouble the would-be host, who in turn insists that it’s no trouble at all, and that she would be glad for the company.”

    But doesn’t that in itself seem utterly bizarre in the context? I mean, I think the etiquette of hospitality in the midst of societal breakdown would be a fascinating thing to explore (The Road had some good scenes on that theme). Shelter and food becoming vastly more costly things to give away, trust of strangers tested to destruction and trust of friends being more valuable than gold fresh water — expecting it to stay the same as it is in middle-class society pre-Apocalypse is unlikely. Them taking the conversation literally seems oddly appropriate, if executed badly. If one were to have a conversation like that, it would be a grotesque distortion of what we’re familiar with, more like Buck’s haggling over an Apocalypse Discount on his Range Rover than two friends trying not to look pushy. Does she trust them to be in her house without robbing her? Will they bring food and supplies or mooch off her sorely-needed supply? Will others notice her offer of hospitality to Buck and take it as license to impose on her in future? But above all, can either of them afford to let the others know their suspicions, threatening a potentially important friendship?