Dr. Sarah Hammond on Left Behind

Religious history scholar Sarah Hammond died last Thanksgiving, too soon.

I was not familiar with Dr. Hammond or her work until reading some of the tributes to her posted this week to mark the anniversary of her death. Here was the tribute from Provost Michael Halleran of William & Mary, where Hammond taught. Linn Tonstad remembered Hammond at Religion in American History and Sarah Morice-Brubaker mourned her loss at Religion Dispatches.

Writing at State of Formation this week, Kathryn Rey praises Hammond for “the ethic of critical empathy, which permeates her work”:

The worlds Sarah chose to study were not the ones in which she moved and operated. As an ardent Democrat, a female professor who held authority over men, and a lesbian, she had every reason to study people and events that empowered and vindicated her as a person.

But instead, she devoted herself to the study of evangelical Christian businessmen whose deepest values not only disagreed with hers but called her very personhood into question. Yet she dove into their world carrying no axe to grind, but with the empathy of one who had an abiding affection for those she studied.

That quality can be seen in Hammond’s assessment of the Left Behind series, which she saw as a useful window into the theology and culture of American evangelicalism. The following is a 2001 post by Hammond an academic forum, in which she encouraged her peers to take the series — and its readers — seriously:

Thanks to its Tom Clancy-esque potboiler prose, the series is an accessible gateway into what noninitiates might see as the arcane and remote history of popular premillennialism. Tim LaHaye’s Bob Jones roots and more recent engagement with therapeutic, suburban Protestantism are on full and ambivalent display, offering rich fodder for discussion both of conservative evangelicalism/fundamentalism and of religious readership in general.

Dr. Sarah Hammond, 1977-2011

For list members who haven’t read Left Behind and its successors, the books are techno-thriller versions of every fundamentalist child’s nightmare of being passed over at the Rapture. (In fact, there’s a kids’ series starring teenagers who blew their chance at the age of accountability. They find Jesus when they become Rapture orphans.) Theologically, the books offer the usual fare: pointed jabs at liberal churches whose Christianity consists in nonjudgmental do-gooding (all of whose stiff-necked members keep insisting that Revelation was never meant to be taken literally); philo-/anti-semitic anticipation of the “harvest” of Jewish converts; a strong anti-Catholic streak (a Pope in trouble with the Council of Cardinals for issuing dogmas that sound suspiciously Lutheran gets raptured, and the antiChrist appoints his successor as the head of the one-world religion); stern reminders, in the form of unraptured characters who had seemed like perfect Christians, that “head” religion is not the same as taking Jesus into your heart; elaborate analysis of biblical prophecies, down to identifying the antiChrist from a roster of candidates by his racial lineage. Readings from Paul Boyer’s When Time Shall Be No More or Timothy Weber’s Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming may be useful — Boyer, especially, for the conspiratorial political context, since the antiChrist is based (where else?) at the U.N.

Culturally, Left Behind and its successors are a complicated and canny mix. The authors issue several pre-emptive strikes against the Elmer Gantry vein of mockery. All the main characters are upwardly mobile professionals, two of them Princeton- and Stanford-educated to boot. The New Class credentials are ambiguous. The explicit message is a thumb in the nose to fancy degrees and yuppie self-congratulation: after they’re saved, the characters realize how dumb they were when they thought they were so much smarter than everyone else. Yet LaHaye and Jenkins repeatedly underscore their heroes’ secular success, denying modern Menckens or Lewises any chance to sneer at Bible-thumping bumpkins. In the same vein, the writers are in love with up-to-the-minute technology, a perfect jumping-off point for a classroom challenge to the supposed anti-modernity of “fundamentalism.” To no small extent, these novels — like Clancy’s — are upscale boys’n’toys fantasies.

Boys’n’toys notwithstanding, gender is perhaps the most unresolved issue of all. (It would be great to get a demographic breakdown of the buyers.) LaHaye and Jenkins, building on the LaHaye duo’s pop psych, veer between essentialism and challenges to traditional gender roles that reveal how far feminism has diffused throughout the culture. It’s a Promise Keepers perspective, but that perspective is far from straightforwardly patriarchal. For the men of Left Behind, becoming Christians means getting in touch with their feelings and valuing family more than the rat race. The main female character is tough and assertive, challenges men who patronize her because of her gender, and becomes the CEO of a worldwide Christian co-op designed to evade the mark of the Beast. Sure, she agrees to submit to her husband. But the one time the issue comes up (at least through book 7), she tells him that the plan he wants her to obey is idiotic. He realizes that she’s right and he’s wrong, and doesn’t exercise his headship. Some “submission!” R. Marie Griffith’s, Christel Manning’s, and Brenda Brasher’s work on conservative Christian and Jewish women would be terrific supplements.

That’s perceptive, smart and kind. I’m saddened that we won’t get to read more and learn more from Dr. Hammond.

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  • aunursa

    stern reminders, in the form of unraptured characters who had seemed like perfect Christians, that “head” religion is not the same as taking Jesus into your heart
     
    This is why those of us are mistaken who think that L&J’s perspective is that all anyone has to do to become an RTC is simply mouth the “magic words”, i.e. the sinner’s prayer.
     
    From their perspective, it isn’t a matter of simply reciting certain words.  In order to be an RTC, the person must actually believe the prayer that she is praying. She must actully believe that she is a sinner, and must ask Jesus to “come into her heart” and be her lord and savior.  In other words, someone who says something like: “I admit that I’m a sinner.  God, please forgive me.  I ask this in the name of Jesus, who died for my sins.” — but who doesn’t actually believe what she is saying — is not an RTC.

  • Ygorbla

     The problem is that this is never shown in-character.  I find the doctrine of original sin troubling for all sorts of reasons, but at the very least recognizing your capacity for sin does have the potential to help someone behave in a moral fashion.  Do you think the supposedly saved protagonists of Left Behind act like someone who has accepted that they are a sinner?

    It feels like they believe that this supernatural forgiveness actively frees them of any responsibility to think about the way their actions affect others, because, hey, they’re already forgiven for everything, right?  And in that respect it naturally comes off as simply reciting the magic words to everyone but them — someone who actually came to understand their own flaws (and who was a member of just about any other creed) would feel at least some obligation to do something about them, or would at least show some awareness of them.  RTCs in Left Behind either lack this awareness or feel that it’s not important as long as they’ve said the magic words.

  • aunursa

    Do you think the supposedly saved protagonists of Left Behind act like someone who has accepted that they are a sinner?

    Certainly not.  But that’s a problem with the entire series, in which every character  believes, but acts in discord with his beliefs.  After all, this is a series in which God and Jesus are two of the most evil characters.

    I would never dare to suggest that Jerry Jenkins is capable of fictionalizing how a truly penitent person would act.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     

    Certainly not.  But that’s a problem with the entire series, in which
    every character believes, but acts in discord with his beliefs.  After
    all, this is a series in which God and Jesus are two of the most evil
    characters.

    Or maybe they’re acting in perfect accordance with Its will, since It’s a creature of whim and hunger.  Its chosen ones seek to bind themselves to It so that It doesn’t kill them and then resurrect them for an eternity of torture first, and later serve It because It will give them rich material rewards for their obedience.  The authors see nothing wrong with this.

    In other words, they’re essentially serving Bane/the Lawgiver from the Ravenloft campaign setting, so, by extension, LaJenkins are probably a pair of Mulan clerics who somehow blundered their way into our world and got stuck.  Apparently they’ve been living here for a number of decades now, so obviously they know their way around this world, but they’re still, at heart, essentially outsiders.  I think that goes a long way towards explaining why their character seem so inhuman and flat and the world they’ve created doesn’t make any sense–it’s not that they’re ONLY bad writers, they’re also scary, dogmatic cultists from a wildly alien culture.  They still have a commission to suppress native religions and try to integrate their followers into the Lawgiver’s church, so they got involved in both religion and politics here.  The Left Behind novels are religious propaganda they wrote showing the Lawgiver’s church consuming the followers of the Christian religion. 

    The theory is sort of rough, but yeah.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     In other words, they’re essentially serving Bane/the Lawgiver from the
    Ravenloft campaign setting, so, by extension, LaJenkins are probably a
    pair of Mulan clerics who somehow blundered their way into our world and
    got stuck.

    “If we could just convince the apocalypse-wanters to wear black hooded robes and refer to Jesus as “Bane” or “Cyric”, it’d only be a matter of time before some hoodlums in chainmail kicked down the door, slaughtered them all and took their stuff.

    Shit, I wonder how many XP Pat Robertson is worth?” — some wiseguy on RPG.net.

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

    In other words, they’re essentially serving Bane/the Lawgiver from the Ravenloft campaign setting

    I’ve long felt that Bane/the Lawgiver is one of the most plausible evil gods in terms of having actual worshipers rather than simply being placated. A God of Tyranny is very appealing to some people.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > one of the most plausible evil gods in terms of having actual worshipers rather than simply being placated

    The god of torture in the Paksenarrion books worked for me in this vein, as well.

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

    The god of torture in the Paksenarrion books worked for me in this vein, as well.

    IIRC, Moon based Paks’ world on a Forgotten Realms campaign she played in for years, so it had an expy for Bane as well as for Loviatar (the torture god) and Lolth (the spider goddess).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The problem is that this is never shown in-character. I find the doctrine of original sin troubling for all sorts of reasons, but at the very least recognizing your capacity for sin does have the potential to help someone behave in a moral fashion. Do you think the supposedly saved protagonists of Left Behind act like someone who has accepted that they are a sinner?

    They do occasionally, for very (*very*) narrow categories of sin. Rayford was ashamed of flirting with Hattie. Buck (I think) was sickened at his use of a swear word.  

  • Jim Roberts

    So, you agree then that Buck and Ray Ray aren’t actually RTCs? I mean, jsut pride and putting their desires before others alone, they’re way ahead of the pack.

  • aunursa

    In the world of LB, they are RTCs.  But in the world of LB, Jerry Jenkins doesn’t have a clue at how bad his heroes are.  As I noted, God and Jesus are two of the most evil characters in the series.  The flaw is that Jerry Jenkins is a horrible writer without an editor, which is a separate issue from what he believes about RTCs.

  • Deborah Moore

    Very true (about actually believing and not merely reciting the words), but still only a start so far as I can tell.  Our host often says RTC’s see it all as a matter of intelectually assenting to certain propositions, but that in itself is just “head religion.”  You have to believe it in your heart.

    But can any of you former RTC’s explain to a thorough-going never RTC what that means.  You have to repent of your sins.  What sins?  I always get the impression that not being an RTC is at the top of the list.  You have to take Jesus Christ as your personal savior.  But what does that mean?  I think it means more than just having a dramatic conversion experience, but also experiencing God/Jesus as a regular presence in your life, praying and expecting (and feeling) guidance, seeing the hand of God in that parking space and so forth. 

    Any guidance on what RTC’s mean by all this?

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Well, I can only speak from the persective of a (former) conservative Southern Baptist, but Southern Baptist theology, such as it is, is centered around original sin and the five solae of the original Protestant Reformation, especially sola gratia and sola fide. The more common Southern Baptist term for the latter two is “unconditional salvation.”

    One of the doctrines of Southern Baptist theology that is relatively distinctive – in that it’s not universal among Protestant denominations – is that salvation is irreversible. So yes, you can be born again, then murder someone, and still go to heaven. Because per the “unconditional salvation” bit, the good or evil of your works never had anything to do with it in the first place. It’s important to note that, per this doctrine, Southern Baptist theology does not hold that an individual must seek forgiveness from God for every single sinful act committed. However, it does generally hold that anyone with Jesus in their heart will always desire to seek forgiveness for a sinful act. More to the point, the Lord’s Prayer style “forgive me my trespasses” is usually regarded as sufficient, in that you desire forgiveness for your overall sinful tendencies rather than specific actions. Confession, as in most Protestant denominations, is not regarded as spiritually necessary, although “accountability” among Christians is often encouraged as a deterrent against temptation.

    The idea that’s supposed to make all this work is that accepting Jesus’ salvation is a transformative act that, while not erasing your sinful nature (that doesn’t happen until you rise from the grave), will nonetheless make you feel compelled to imitate Jesus. That’s sort of the loophole that gets around the “but what if I get saved and then murder a bunch of children and never ask forgiveness?” question. In theory, someone truly born again wouldn’t murder a bunch of children. In practice? Well, you know how that goes.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Thanks to its Tom Clancy-esque potboiler prose

    NO.

    L&J do not deserve to breathe the same air as Tom Clancy.

    At least Tom Clancy bothered to do his research and set up well-connected plots in his books.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Agreed. I no great fan of Tom Clancy, but like you said, his books are well-researched (if too credulous regarding the efficacy for certain weapons systems) and well-plotted. The characters behave in a consistent manner within and from book-to-book, and any change or growth in character explainable and logical.

    None of this is true of the Left Behind books.

  • rrhersh

     The earlier Clancy books were great fun, so long as you didn’t take them too seriously or expect stuff like character depth.  Then two things happened:  the cold war ended, and Clancy became too popular to edit. 

    The first forced him to drop cold war plots.  The problem then became how to write military fiction when one side has the military budget of the rest of the world combined.  This led him into ever more stupid plot devices.  It also gave him free rein for his racism and wacko politics.  His Russian characters were of the honorable-foe variety.  In Clancy-land, by way of contrast, Muslims are insane and Asians (of any sort) are sexual deviants.  The sole exception was the Asian-American CIA agent raised as a fully acculturated American, such that, as we are repeated assured, he finds any Asian culture inscrutable. 

    His domestic politics became, if such a thing is possible, even worse.  In the earlier books the reader could guess the political affiliation of Jack Ryan/Tom Clancy, but it was beside the point.  When I got to the point of reading that every Sierra Club member is a borderline (at best) mass murderer, I threw in the towel.

    Then there is the matter of editing.  His books grew longer and longer.  Did his plots grow longer or more involved?  No.  Did the character studies?  No.  So what did?  Partly it was irrelevant political screeds.  Partly it was outright repetition.  Some character would muse to himself some observation, taking up two or three pages.  Fifty or a hundred pages later, he would do it again, with the same observation.  I would accuse him of shameless padding if his books weren’t already too long at this point.  My guess is that he wanted to make sure the reader got the point, and there wasn’t any editor at the publisher at this point who could cut it.

    To summarize, comparing the Lost Behind books to early Clancy is clearly unfair, but the later you get in his career the more fair it becomes.

  • Magic_Cracker

    All excellent points that pretty much explain why I stick to John Le Carre and Graham Greene. If anyone can point me to some good post-Cold War espionage novels, I’d appreciate it.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Read Stieg Larsson or something. I’m not saying his books are particularly good, but if there are American-written political thrillers that don’t loudly glorify and celebrate American empire, I haven’t found them.

  • fraser

     I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recent American spy thriller that was as cynical about such things as LeCarre was.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Indeed. Le Carre seems to have much firmer grasp on the nature of power and how it affects people, as well as how personal traumas can affect one’s public service. The only American writer who comes close is Travanian with his “Sanctionnovels, which were written as parody (of such “espionage” novels as the Killmaster series and satire (of U.S. political, corporate, and bureaucratic corruptions/incompetence), but sadly read “straight” by most readers.

  • AnonymousSam

    I found them amusing at times, but I’m not familiar enough with the genre to have recognized them as parody. I definitely thought Shibumi was a parody, though, given the lengths that the author went to imply that a paper cup, in the wrong hands, can be used to murder hundreds of people in the span of a short afternoon stroll (to say nothing for advanced sexual techniques).

  • fraser

     Read Shibumi. As I took it as a perfectly straight but really crappy piece of work, I’ll have to give it an F as a parody.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I <3 "Shibumi" not only for it's parodic elements, but it also had some rather heart-pounding scenes … I'm thinking of the cave-crawl, specifically. I ended up stealing it for a Call of Cthulhu adventure.

  • fraser

     I recently read Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It’s an amazing book but I’m honestly not sure how much a post-Cold War reader would get from it. Even as someone who lived through the era, it felt at time almost as alien as the world of Avatar.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I’ve read SWCIFTC … great book, and I too wonder what the young’uns (i.e., those who didn’t grow up during the Cold War) can understand why everyone in that book was so tense and paranoid. I like to think so because a major feature of La Carre’s Cold War novels is the how the trauma of WWII affected the older generation of spies who are now (in the “now” of the books) in the upper echelons of their intelligence organizations and I seem to understand that that the trauma is affecting their thoughts, feelings and actions in non-rational way if not understanding what the trauma feels like, sicne I never experienced it.

    Have you read The Looking Glass War? It too is quite excellent.

  • fraser

    Yes, indeed. I’ve been working through LeCarre off-and-on the past year or so, though I’m only about seven books in.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Also, you’d think he’d be more sympathetic to the Sierra Club, what with their anti-immigrant/nativist faction.

  • Carstonio

    Many years ago I tried reading The Hunt for Red October but gave up after three or four chapters, because I found it boring. Clancy has a big following in my community, especially among service members and retired service members, but I haven’t had any interest in his other books because of the jingoistic ideology Clancy has long represented. I read an interview with him when his fame was first growing, and although he was only his 40s then, he had the same sour grouchiness as an elderly Tea Partyer. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Not to mention that Clancy is a hypocrite on par with both L&J combined in that he’s written op-ed pieces criticizing violent video games while collecting tall dollars off the Rainbow Six franchise. 

  • Michael Pullmann

    Well, it’s *different* when it’s the *establishment* committing horrible acts of violence.

  • Lorehead

    It’s amazing to me still what Executive Orders got right and what it got wrong about the world we live in.  Racist doesn’t begin to cover it; he really, truly thought that Japan was a mortal threat to the U.S. and fantasized about recolonizing it.  His Prime Minister of Japan is deviously plotting to lull America into a false sense of security in order to destroy it, just like all Japanese people secretly are, but abandons his plan when he sees the manly stare and firm handshake of Jack Ryan and realizes, He is Samurai.  Another character, the female Prime Minister of a country that pretends to be the world’s biggest democracy but really isn’t for some reason Tom Clancy never explains, is Indira Gandhi, alive and well and plotting with the rest of the Asians to destroy America.  Persian-Americans are an evil fifth column plotting to murder our children, who pretend to have those funny accents so we won’t take them seriously but in private think Americans are fools for not realizing that they’re secretly Iranian.  Invading and occupying Iraq was a great idea, because we were welcomed as liberators.  He explicitly called for the recolonization of Africa, putting the thought in the mouths of his characters who were doing charity work there, then asking how aid workers like his characters could have been racist.

    The single biggest howler in the novel is also the most puzzling: Jack Ryan has a doctorate in the postwar history of Asia, and complains that people only call his wife Doctor Ryan, not him.  Yet, not only does he have no idea that saying “the two Chinas” will cause a major diplomatic tiff, he doesn’t understand the problem even when his staff explains it to him.  Many other things would make the reader cringe today, such as when the Russian foreign minister accepts without question the U.S. Secretary of State’s claim about a WMD program, because officials at that level never lie to each other.  Jack Ryan’s foreign policy consists entirely of invading whatever country is in the news and threatening to nuke any other country that doesn’t do what he orders them to; in the novel, this always works.

    It’s worth noting that, after witnessing the results of the real Iraq War, Tom Clancy criticized it and said he would not be voting for Bush (or for Kerry) in 2004.  I couln’t tell you how much of that is disillusionment, or how much he always realized that the fantasies he wrote were simplistic.

  • fraser

     Rising Sun by Crichton is every bit as awful. Crichton recycles almost every cliche of pre-WW II Japanophobes: When they make financial investments in America it’s an act of war, selling foreigners who aren’t Europeans is like giving up part of our country and they have sinister devious minds quite unlike ours.
    The Japanese economic boom of the 1980s pressed the same panic buttons in a lot of people that the Arab oil embargo did in the previous decade.

  • Lorehead

    But Executive Orders was still wallowing in that xenophobic resentment after the boom was over.

    I didn’t even get into the absurd things Clancy wrote about U.S. politics, but you’ve probably had enough of that for November 2012.  But I’ll point out one aspect of his political philosophy that’s truly staggering: in his novels, a Democrat only won the election because the Republican president went loco and ordered the nuclear bombing of a city full of innocent people.   Not because this ever became an election issue; in Clancy’s imagination, what happened was that everybody who knew agreed to cover it up for the good of the nation, and then the President himself lost the election on purpose because he accepted he had no moral right to be president after that.  The only form of accountability that exists for our leaders is to themselves.  Jack Ryan then becomes president by forcing the vice-president to resign and failing to prevent the assassination of the President, and although Clancy pretends he’s an independent, immediately begins ramming through Newt Gingrich’s program.  This gets approved by a Supreme Court all of whose members Ryan personally got to appoint.

  • fraser

     Yes, it’s definitely late to be part of the OMG Japan Can’t Be Beating Our Economy Fairly panic. But I remember another novel from a couple of years before (another military technothriller type) that also had Japanese committing evil deeds for the good of their country and their employer (I hear they believe that employees have no moral obligation other than to their bosses, how evil is that? No, wait, that’s some other country where people say that …)

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

     

    Rising Sun by Crichton is every bit as awful. Crichton recycles almost every cliche of pre-WW II Japanophobes….

    And also shares with Clancy’s books the idea of Asians as sexual deviants, if I remember correctly. Didn’t that book start out with the body of a Japanese woman who had been strangled, and the protagonists were trying to determine if it was murder made to look like botched erotic asphyxiation or just plain old botched erotic asphyxiation?

  • Tricksterson

    Have to disagree.  Yes, he does have stereotypical jihadi characters as his villains but he also has Saudis as heroic allies , he also has a respected mullah at the end of that book who condemns the Khomaini clone who’s the chief villain.   In one book he has a character read the Koran and conclude that there’s “not more than a dimes worth of difference” between it’s morals and ethics and those of the Bible.  Likewise the Japanese and Indians when they are adversaries of the US are portrayed as honeorable enemies.  The Chinese, I will grant you, in contrast to the Japanese are uniformly, except for that one example you cite, portrayed negatively, even the Taiwanese who are our allies in the relevant book.

  • Fusina

     I never got much past the cold war era books. I stopped purchasing and reading when he declared that anyone making less than 200,000 dollars a year was a failure. Decided that I wasn’t going to contribute to his wealth anymore.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    By Clancy’s logic, 97% of US citizens are failures.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     A coworker of mine used to say about our documentation at an earlier company that it was much like a Tom Clancy novel — extensive, well-researched, plausible, and the most important parts were fiction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marchantshapiro Andrew Abrams Marchant-Shapiro

     But like Clancy, L&J are not in love with characters, but with technology.  Consider how much time Clancy spends on the failure of a helicopter engine; then compare it to the amount of time he spends in  building the character of a character.  L&J are much the same–their characters are merely paper stand-ins to decorate around the machinery (or in this case, theology).

    There’s a world of difference between an author whose characters are cardboard and one whose characters are inhabitable.  Clancy, L, & J all fit into the first category, unfortunately. 

  • GeniusLemur

    I have to disagree with you there. L&J are in love with their characters. That’s why the entire book TF was one long stretch of how wonderful L & J, I mean Ray & Buck are and how they should have these prestigious jobs at the right hand of the antichrist. Compare that to the pathetic naievity that peeks through every time L&J start talking about technology, even when they’re obviously trying to be cutting edge. Remember the tech guy? Remember how he only did computers on the side, and his day job was (*fanfare*) installing telephones?

  • http://www.facebook.com/marchantshapiro Andrew Abrams Marchant-Shapiro

    But they love them as characters, not as people; as their own creation, but not as animate beings.  I think that’s the difference between L&J and the god they presume to serve.

  • ReverendRef

    In order to be an RTC, the person must actually believe the
    prayer that she is praying. She must actully believe that she is a
    sinner, and must ask Jesus to “come into her heart” and be her lord and
    savior.

    And, in the example you just sighted, she must also be led in that prayer by a man.

    In other words, someone who says something like: “I admit that I’m a
    sinner.  God, please forgive me.  I ask this in the name of Jesus, who
    died for my sins.” — but who doesn’t actually believe what she is
    saying — is not an RTC.

    This is also rather convenient because it’s up to the appropriate RTC authority figure to determine if the person saying the prayer really believes it.  Which is extremely troubling.

    I grew up with a father who was absolutely sure he could determine when you meant the words you said.  When I apologized for something, he would often say, “No, say it again until you mean it.”  Or when I answered a question, he would say something like, “That’s not what you really mean.”

    So I learned at an early age to say nothing until I knew I was absolutely correct, know in advance what he wanted me to say and play his game, or say nothing at all.  That’s probably a major reason why I’m not a great debater, but also may be why I’m a decent official (knowing the rules forward and backward helps).

    And, yeah . . . that was probably way more that I needed to say.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Fortunately, I didn’t have parents like that — but I had friends who did and I would sometimes be interrogated (over stupid bullshit like “Who left the door open?” or “Who told you you could cut through the corn field?” or “Why did you put that hot pan on a plastic tablecloth?”) by said parents and would get very confused and upset by such encounters.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Ugh. I had parents who would give me the third fucking degree over the stupidest shit sometimes.

  • aunursa

    And, in the example you just sighted, she must also be led in that prayer by a man.

    I don’t know where you get that idea.  I’ve never seen any indication from L&J that they believe that the prayer must be led by anyone, much less a man.  I can’t remember every one of the Left Behind conversion stories, but one stands out in particular.  In Prequel #1, Irene Steele is proselytized by her friend Jackie.  But when Irene prays the Prayer, she is alone and prays the words from her own heart.

    This is also rather convenient because it’s up to the appropriate RTC authority figure to determine if the person saying the prayer really believes it.

    I haven’t read this anywhere in the LB series, either.  L&J never give the impression that an authority figure can determine if a person is a real RTC.  (The only way they are able to determine that someone is faking it is beginning in Book 4, when a cross appears on the forehead of each RTC that is only visible to other RTCs.)  There very well may be Evangelical authority figures who determine that someone is or isn’t an RTC.  But I don’t recall that idea being taught in Left Behind.

  • ReverendRef

     I don’t know where you get that idea.

    Maybe I’m overly-extrapolating.  But with the prevalence of male domination in those books (i.e. the little women can’t do anything without the male hero), it seems to me that it would be a natural extension of the male headship of the church. 

    Maybe I’m misremembering, but wasn’t there something about Chloe’s conversion when she was led in the prayer by Bruce or Buck something?  But then again, I can’t claim to paying that close of attention to the books, being overwhelmed as I am by the bad writing and bad theology.

    I think my general implication still stands:  The guys make the rules and determine who is RTC and who isn’t, thereby usurping that decision from God.

  • aunursa

    wasn’t there something about Chloe’s conversion when she was led in the prayer by Bruce or Buck something?

    Chloe may have been led by Rayford.  And Rayford was led by the videotape of Vernon Billings.  I don’t recall every conversion, so I can’t recall if there is an example of a woman leading a man in the prayer.  But there is an example of a woman leading a man to accept Jesus.  In the prequels, Abdullah Smith is led to accept Jesus by his wife.

  • ReverendRef

     n the prequels, Abdullah Smith is led to accept Jesus by his wife.

    Then I stand corrected.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    But the fact that “Smitty” stands out in this way tells me it is quite uncommon.  I’m willing to bet that if we did a survey of all the characters, 85-95% of them were converted, either directly or indirectly, by a man. 

    Spoiler Alerts!!!  :D

    Despite Chloe and Ray-Gun living in the same house with Irene for years after her conversion, they are both ultimately converted by men.  Ray-Gun converts Chloe and Mac.  Buck (mainly) converts Chaim.  Tsion ben Jewishguy converts multiple characters via his “most popular website in the history of the world.”  Albie converts Hattie.  George Sebastian (“big guy, California”) is converted after-the-fact by his Raptured male superior officer.  And that’s just off the top of my head.

  • aunursa

    I’m willing to bet that if we did a survey of all the characters, 85-95% of them were converted, either directly or indirectly, by a man.

    In terms of  the direct or primary influence, I suspect that you’re correct.  As far as I can recall, the only characters who were directly converted by a woman were Amanda (by Irene), Irene (by Jackie), and Smitty (by Yasmine.)

  • Dash1

     

    This is also rather convenient because it’s up to the appropriate RTC
    authority figure to determine if the person saying the prayer really
    believes it.  Which is extremely troubling.

    Ummmmmmmm, well, maybe not quite. As someone who came from such a background, my feeling is that it’s true that if someone ever did a sarcastic rendition of asking Jesus into zir heart, they’d be called on it, but because it’s important that the prayer be sincere, the pressure to say it for the sake of saying it tends not to be there, at least directly–not, that is, in the kind of way that will produce a sarcastic rendition because people are demanding that you say something.

    As to the sincerity of the prayer, that is usually left up to the person doing the letting-Jesus-into-their-heart. In fact, the question, “Did I really mean it? Sincerely? Enough???” does come up. The late great Molly Ivins remarked that she’d “gotten saved” a few times and the non-late and non-great me was asked by my father whether I was sure I was saved. I reminded him that he was there at the most recent event (a just-in-case redo)–he’d forgotten–and I added that I thought I’d “gotten saved” about three times all told. (Ours was an “eternal security” theology, so once saved, always saved.) He laughed and said that was about par for the course and in his experience most people went back and did it a couple more times, just to make sure.

    It may be some of this sense of “not having asked Jesus into one’s heart sincerely enough” that leads young people who know darn well they’ve done it to fear being left behind in the Rapture.

  • ReverendRef

    Oh . . . and my previous post was in reply to aunursa.

  • Tom S

    Dear God, the thought that Left Behind is relatively feminist within its subculture- even unintentionally so- is fucking terrifying

  • MaryKaye

    All I can say is, if Left Behind shows that strain of Evangelical thought *after* it has been infected by feminism, I would hate to have to deal with it in its uninfected form.  The books’ treatment of women is pretty consistently awful.

  • Carstonio

    I had thought of the LB series as the fiction equivalent of Reginald Barclay’s holodeck programs. But Dr. Hammond’s description as “every fundamentalist child’s nightmare of being passed over at the Rapture” wouldn’t have occurred to me, because I don’t normally think of this type of ego stroking as being driven by fear.

    And I share her confusion over the gender roles in the series. Ellanjay seem to allow their female characters to be assertive only within the context of a marriage. Why do you think they treat Christianity for men as “getting in touch with their feelings and valuing family more than the rat race”? 

  • VMink

    I don’t think it’s a cut and dry ‘nightmare’ versus ‘desire.’  It’s a totality of fear that something is going to happen, versus the almost cathartic release that comes from seeing it come to fruition (because now you can fight it and not fear it, without being held back by the useful idiots,) the relief that there are no more monsters in the closet because they’ve all come out, and the school-age smugness of being able to say “See, I was right!” even as you’re being martyred.

    The term I’ve seen used for looking at this scenario with this kind of mindset is “wet nightmare.”  Because the Birchers will be overjoyed to be proven Right After All, since then they can say “I told you so!” to the effete Ivory Tower liberals (if there are any left alive) as they unpack their guns and get ready to fight for America.  WOLVERINES!  Then they can go on to rebuild the country the way God intended.

    It’s a bit more complicated than that, though.  But in general… yeah, ‘wet nightmare.’

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Yet she dove into their world carrying no axe to grind, but with the empathy of one who had an abiding affection for those she studied.

    Not an attitude I understand in the slightest. I respect it, of course – I would never advocate hatred over empathy or rage over understanding. But I just don’t feel any moral compulsion to respect people who view their prexisting privilege as ipso facto justification of its own existence and who make it their life’s mission to prevent anyone else from taking a single step towards enjoying a similar level of privilege. I just can’t do it. And as a white middle-class dude there’s no way I experience as much of their bullshit as she does, even if I am a fellow sexual minority. It’s no secret that we white dudes catch less of the flak from systemic homophobia. And yet I still can’t bring myself to respect homophobes.

    I’m not sure what my point is. Do I feel threatened by this woman’s capacity for empathy? Maybe. But maybe she’s onto something.

  • Akili

    *pulls out her shiny Anthropology Privilege Badge* Because the first thing you’re taught when you study Anthropology (which I’m going to assume that she did) is that you do not judge. Because by judging another culture on your own belief system brings us to A) not really get to know the culture because we’re judging the hell out of it and people can see it B) kinda brings you back into the mighty whitey deciding how the others should live.
     
    Now you can have your own feelings on the people (it’s of course impossible not to), but you don’t put it into your findings. In fact the best things I was ever told was “keep two things to write in, one for your findings and another for your feelings on the findings.”

  • J_Enigma32

    Wow. She was only 34.  That’s saddening indeed, and far, far too soon; I wish her family well.

    As far as Left Behind goes; I think she’s being far too generous:

    “The authors issue several pre-emptive strikes against the Elmer Gantry
    vein of mockery. All the main characters are upwardly mobile
    professionals, two of them Princeton- and Stanford-educated to boot”

    I’ve never read Elmer Gantry, but it’s a satire written by Sinclair Lewis about a high school football player who goes to become a lawyer and ends up getting mistaken for a fundamentalist preacher. Things get worse from there. I don’t see how Ray, Buck and Chloe are all strikes against that. They’re upward mobile, just like Gantry, they’re all cynics, just like Gantry, and when they get mistaken for Christian, things get a lot worse, just like Gantry.

    “Yet LaHaye and Jenkins repeatedly underscore their heroes’ secular
    success, denying modern Menckens or Lewises any chance to sneer at
    Bible-thumping bumpkins”

    Bumpkins, perhaps not. But heartless, narcissistic, spoiled, sociopathic Bible-thumping morons, yes.

    ” In the same vein, the writers are in love with up-to-the-minute
    technology, a perfect jumping-off point for a classroom challenge to the
    supposed anti-modernity of “fundamentalism.” To no small extent, these
    novels — like Clancy’s — are upscale boys’n’toys fantasies.”

    Only in the prequels, if my understanding is correct. Otherwise, the only tech that gets any love at all is the telephone. That glorious, marvelous, beatific long-distance communication device is almost as important a character in the books as the Antichrist is.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Yeah, their attempts to incorporate cutting-edge technology in the LB series are kind of hilarious. They want to be Clancy, but they don’t have the familiarity with technology or the initiative to actually do any research. So the best we get is satellite phones (hey, notice how popular those have gotten? no?) and fancy airplanes. Oh, and cars that play mini-CDs or something.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And don’t forget all-wheel-drive AND four-wheel-drive. ‘Cause product placement rocks.

  • bekabot

    “The authors issue several pre-emptive strikes against the Elmer Gantry vein of mockery.”
    I don’t quite agree with this.  Or rather: I agree with it on condition that “issues several pre-emptive strikes against” actually means “provides fresh grounds for + deliberately incites”.  Then it comes out okay. 

    “All the main characters are upwardly mobile professionals, two of them Princeton- and Stanford-educated to boot.”

    The main characters in the Left Behind series may present as quasi-yuppies, but scratch ’em one molecule down and they display their colors as bumpkins to the core.  The entire series is an exercise in extended bumpkinnery: it was written by people who ostentatiously don’t know how the larger world works, and who don’t care how the larger world works, because, in their own minds, they’re the salt of the earth to the extent that such knowledge would prove superfluous.  Lipstick on a pig, so to speak.  They’ve got the Gospel to peddle and the righteous to confirm in their righteousness: are they supposed to give a drat about the precise details of exactly how (and why and when and according to what schedule) their hypothetical incinerated sinners would get incinerated?  What the heck for?  Whaddaya think they’re writing, science fiction?  It’s Nicolae’s job to settle that stuff.  That’s what villains are there for, correct?  Villains are there to deal with the facts.

    (I myself am a bumpkin to the core, and I know whereof I speak.)

    Then too, let’s not forget: old Brother Elmer, in terms of his income stream at least, made it all the way into the upper middle class.  Not bad for a dude framed by God and Nature to live out his life as a coal-heaver.  Brother Elmer wound up as a very prosperous man.  Elmer Gantry may be an extended exercise in atheist mockery but it’s also a novel dedicated to upward mobility and worldly success.  The difference between LaHaye and Jenkins on the one hand, and Lewis and Mencken on the other, is, generally speaking, a difference in tone, an aesthetic difference.  Speaking broadly, LaHaye and Jenkins congratulate what Mencken and Lewis deplore, but they all appear to be talking about the same set of realities.  The difference, again, lies in the variance in opinion as to whether these are realities which deserve to be celebrated or not.  

  • Carstonio

    The word bumpkin is not appropriate because it means “all rural people are stupid.” The deliberate ignorance shown by the LB characters knows no region.

  • bekabot

    Well…when I use the word “bumpkin”, I’m referring to a mental type, not to a specific geographical location.  There are cosmopolitans in trailer parks and there are bumpkins in big cities.  You’re right about ignorance (especially the kind which is deliberately embraced) knowing no region.  Bumpkins are dumb, sure, but their stupidity is due not to the circumstances of their birth but to their vision of the world.  True provinciality is an attitude and not a zip code.  

    Short version: I’m certain that we basically agree, and that vocabulary is something about which we need not argue.  (JMO.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    True provinciality is an attitude and not a zip code.
    Short version: I’m certain that we basically agree, and that vocabulary is something about which we need not argue.

    Except that the word ‘provinciality’, once stripped of the insinuation that being country folks causes ignorance, doesn’t actually mean jack shit. That’s where the ‘ignorance’ definition of ‘provinciality’ comes from, the belief that country folks are dumbshits as a rule. (I’m not so sure about ‘bumpkin’, its etymology is something else entirely, but if people are sure that its meaning of ‘stupid’ is related to its meaning of ‘country folks’ then the word’s probably best avoided.) In fact this whole discussion sounds remarkably like the one about ‘lame’, which, insist to general-your heart’s content that the word has nothing to do with physical disability, but its meaning of ‘defective’ or ‘not up to standards’ or whatever comes from its meaning of ‘having a physical disability’ and the implication that people with physical disabilities are defective.
    Vocabulary is important. Words mean things. Words don’t mean different things just because you don’t want them to mean the things they mean.

  • bekabot

    Well, okay.  I go on record: in order not to offend people whom I have no stake in offending I will use the word “bumpkin” no longer (even though I myself am a bumpkin, as near as makes no difference, so that use of the word, if it is free to anyone, ought to be allowed to me).  I refuse to become involved in a quarrel which is bound to go nowhere and accomplish nothing.  

    I will say, though, that when you claim that “words mean things” you imply that words have a supernatural, or maybe preternatural, significance outside their day-to-day usage and their suitability as makeshifts cobbled-up for the communication human ideas.  (IOW, IMO, you treat human language as though it were akin to the language of angels.)  That isn’t a proposition I accept; it isn’t a notion with which I fall in.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    I will say, though, that when you claim that “words mean things” you imply that words have a supernatural, or maybe preternatural, significance outside their day-to-day usage and their suitability as makeshifts cobbled-up for the communication human ideas. (IOW, IMO, you treat human language as though it were akin to the language of angels.) That isn’t a proposition I accept; it isn’t a notion with which I fall in.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. Elaborate?

  • bekabot

    You’re treating words (or language) as ends in themselves, not as a means.  In my view, that’s a mistake.

    OTOH, and on another tack, I’m mostly down with any attempt not to hurt people’s feelings, b/c I’ve done a lot of feeling-hurting in my time (some of it unintentional) and I’ve found that the benefits gained have been outweighed by the damage done.  So, once again, in the interest of peacekeeping at a not very high price, no more B-word.  Promise.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You’re treating words (or language) as ends in themselves, not as a means. In my view, that’s a mistake.

    For the longest time, I thought chartreuse was a color in the same general vicinity as lavender, lilac, and mauve. I must have gotten the idea from somewhere, which means my younger self was and is probably not alone. I suppose everyone who uses the word ‘chartreuse’ in that way can communicate regarding colors perfectly well with one another, and if that usage gets popular enough, it might become one of the generally accepted meanings of the word, alongside the already-accepted meanings. It might even become the dominant meaning, edging out chartreuse green and chartreuse yellow.

    Until then, though, I’m going to insist that chartreuse is not a shade of purple, it is a shade of yellow or yellow-green. Because words mean things, and it does not exactly improve ease of communication when the speaker uses a word to mean one thing and the listener hears the word as meaning something entirely different. Nor does it improve ease of communication when the speaker pretends an established meaning of a word doesn’t exist.

  • aunursa

    I am following this dicussion eagerly, as I have found myself on both sides of the debate (at one time or another.)

  • bekabot

    You’re talking about mistake of this order: “Chartreuse is a shade of grayish-purple, not a shade of yellow-green”.

    I’m talking about a difference of opinion more along the lines of:  “Chartreuse is a liqueur as well as a color; usually when the term is used a reader or listener is able to tell which meaning is intended; but this is because the reader or listener, whichever, not only has recourse to but is forced to depend on context.  If words had some kind of implicit, extraneous meaning, this would not be necessary, but since they don’t, it is.”

    That’s the best I can do in the fewest words I can manage.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And part of the context of the word ‘provincial’ is its etymology of from-the-country-not-the-city that associates its other meanings with the meaning of ‘from the country, not the city’, depending upon and reinforcing the belief that ignorance is a trait of country folks, not city folks. You cannot wish that context away, nor pretend it does not exist and expect your listeners to do the same.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     How about “Po’bucker”?  Can we still use that to refer to the hard-of-thinking?

  • EllieMurasaki

    *frowns at UrbanDictionary* I’ma guess not.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I haven’t even heard the term “poor buckra” outside of Harry Turtledove’s TL-191 series these days.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     The Church of the SubGenius uses “Po’Buckers” a lot.  Rev. Stang is from Dallas, which might help explain a few things about the church.

  • aunursa

    In fact this whole discussion sounds remarkably like the one about ‘lame’, which, insist to general-your heart’s content that the word has nothing to do with physical disability

    Earlier this hour on the car radio, one of the evil right-wing talk show hosts was interviewing a senator.  They were discussing Republican options if Senator Reid seeks to change the filibuster rule.  The senator indicated that there wereparlimentary procedures they could use to attempt to grind the legislature to a halt. 

    aunursa: They’ll attempt to slow the pace of legislation to a snail’s pace. 
    Mrs. aunursa: [gives aunursa a look]
    aunursa: [quickly]: Well, even slower than normal.
    Mrs. aunursa: Good.  I was about to say…
    aunursa: To the pace of a lame snail.
    Mrs. aunursa: [laughs]

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I think “provincial” carries the connotation of insularity.

  • Deborah Moore

    George W Bush being your classic example.  He was a prominant politician’s son and a Yale graduate, and people who knew him assure us that he was highly intelligent.  But he didn’t want to learn anything new for fear that it might challenge his preconceptions.  Or, as someone put it, he wasn’t innately stupid, he had to work at it.

  • GeniusLemur

    Yes, but he was basically a Yale graduate because he was a prominant politician’s son. And whatever people who knew him might say, it was pretty obvious to many people from the get-go that he didn’t have a clue about anything.

    George W Bush was studiously incurious, surrounded by yes-men who wouldn’t challenge him, and, as you mentioned, unwilling to learn anything. But he was never smart, or anything close.

  • hagsrus

     He ain’t dead yet!

  • GeniusLemur

    No, but his administration is over, and he’s become irrelevant. That’s why all the “was”s.

  • P J Evans

    He ain’t dead yet!

    Physically, no. Politically, oh yes.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Trivia:

    In Catholic moral theology studied or affected ignorance is sinful, and in the case of someone who put themselves in positions of extreme responsibility for the things they were vincibly ignorant about, a grave sin.

  • Wednesday

    Trivia:

    In Catholic moral theology studied or affected ignorance is sinful,
    and in the case of someone who put themselves in positions of extreme
    responsibility for the things they were vincibly ignorant about, a grave
    sin.

    So, I guess a lot of Catholic bishops must be confessing weekly to that particular one…?

  • flat

    I believe that faith and infrastructure have something in common: they need maintenance if you want them to function properly.

    You have to pay taxes for infrastructure, and as a christian I believe Jesus payed for us at the cross.

  • GeniusLemur

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with Fred, too. Basically all the analysis after “Culturally, Left Behind and its successors” is almost comically wrong. Especially in the idea that L&J built it this way deliberately. I think everyone who’s been reading Fred’s analysis can say with certainty that L&J spent about .5 nanoseconds working out the major plot points. And less for the minor ones.

  • Münchner Kindl

    About accepting that you’re a sinner: We saw this in an earlier LB book (2nd?) and more explictly in the movie, when Ray talks to  one colleague (in the movie he convinces him away from suicide.)

    It’s the tired, dumb old Chick-Tract line of reasoning that everybody is a sinner because, once you’re older than a few months, you will have lied, you will at some point have taken something that you don’t own (or underpaid, or used a bus without paying the fare); esp. using  Jesus’ explanations in one of the evangelions where “you already break marriage if you have lustful thoughts, you already committ murder if you call a fellow human a bastard”, the standards are so unbelievably high that every human is a sinner.

    In Chick Tracts, this convinces the convert to break down in tears and pray the sinners prayer, after which they will never have to wrestle with temptation again.*

    In Left Behind, Fred has often pointed out the problem that since Haye and Jenkins are writing for RTCs, they can’t imagine and don’t want to shock their readers by letting the characters commit “real” sins before conversion, so Bruce comes off as boring (and missing the point of where his real faults were – Fred called him the worst visiting pastor ever), and Ray, instead of being a standard guy who betrays his marriage during a troublesome time, instead comes off worse with his power play and feeling proud for not touching Hattie.

    But because none of the Characters are able to see the real issues (as the authors are unable), they keep on being jerks after conversion, only with smugness and pride added on top, because as RTCs they can no longer do wrong.

    And from the many articles and real-life quotes from RTCs that Fred has linked to, we know the stuff that RTCs consider sin – sex – so as long as you avoid the forbidden part of the two-box category, you can be a callous jerk and not sin.

    * In Real life, people would of course point out that intent and scope play a part – trying to be a good person for most of the time is not the same thing as being an unremittent jerk without empathy who as CEO embezzles millions or fires hundreds of thousands; a politican who cuts benefits or denies assistance; a murder of innocents etc.

    And in Real Life, we’ve often heard the testimonies of Fred and other people who grew up in RTC/ Fundie/ Evangelical circles, of re-re-re-re-dedicating your life. Because most people can’t make themselves so simple-minded to be like 5-year olds where the Holy Ghost takes up permanent residence in your heart and you never feel tempted again and feel the presence of God.
    In History, great mystics tell of how they worked at having visions for decades and not getting one.
    Human minds are simply not made to be in a constant high or special state, so telling people that they will feel God’s presence from now on when they likely won’t sets most followers up for disappointment, constant doubt (which is a good tool for manipulation) and re-re-re… dedication.
    Often, however, the disappointment and doubt turns not only to depression, but also to people leaving the faith altogether (Similar to how the idiotic and wrong yes/no decision of “bible = true/ Evolution  = wrong” leads many people to leave the faith once they discover reality, which could be avoided to break people’s hearts unneccessary just to get power over them).

  • aunursa

    In Chick Tracts, this convinces the convert to break down in tears and pray the sinners prayer, after which they will never have to wrestle with temptation again.

    In Left Behind, occasionally the saved characters  commit acts that even the authors recognize as sinful.  I’m not referring to their pride, smugness, chauvanism, and all-around arrogant behavior and  that L&J don’t recognize.  I’m referring to a period in Book #6 when Rayford is sullen and full of rage.  And at the end of Book #6, when Rayford attempts to assassinate Nicky. *  And in Book #7, Chloe has prepared a syringe with potassium choride that she would use to kill her child if they were about to be captured by the GC.  When Tsion is left alone with her son, she pleads with him to use the syringe if the GC finds their hiding place.  So the authors seem to recognize that an RTC can still be tempted to sin.

    * While one might think that killing an evil overlord in fulfillment of biblical prophecy is hardly a sin, L&J, seemingly paradoxically, believe otherwise.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    These “sins” are very telling—Chloe sins because of her maternal instincts, Rayford sins because he hates Nicky, and he hates Nicky because he loves Jesus so very much.  I don’t think anyone who is Truly Saved in the books ever suffers from such “sins” as sex outside marriage or drinking alcohol 

  • fraser

    Part of it is also that other spy thrillers that admit the presence of ambitious careerists and incompetent agents, they usually counterbalance that with the noble hero. In LeCarre (SWCIFTC, for example) they’re the same: Even the good guys will do shitty things because that’s how the job has to be done.

  • VJBinCT

    ‘philo-/anti-semitic anticipation of the “harvest” of Jewish converts’

    Funny how Jew-lovers and -haters want the same thing.  Very odd.

  • aunursa

    Funny how Jew-lovers and -haters want the same thing. Very odd.

    Christian Jew-lovers want us to convert in order to Get Out of Hell FREE.
    Christian Jew-haters want us to convert in order to eliminate Judaism.

    Jews are hated for being rich.
    Jews are hated for being poor.

    Capitalist anti-Semites accuse the Jews of promoting Communism.
    Communist anti-Semites accuse the Jews of promoting Capitalism.

    Christians blame the Jews for rejecting Jesus.
    Some atheists blame the Jews for the rise of Christianity.

    Twenty or thirty years ago, an anti-Semite might wish that the Jews would get the hell out of his country and go to Israel.
    Today an anti-Semite wishes that the Jews would get the hell out of Israel and go back to where they came from.*

    * I’m not suggesting that anyone and everyone who opposes the existence of Israel or wishes that Israeli Jews would move out of the Middle East is an anti-Semite.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Christians blame the Jews for rejecting Jesus.Some atheists blame the Jews for the rise of Christianity.

    Heads up: using the qualifier “some” in only one of a pair of contrasting statements creates an implication that I’m guessing you didn’t intend to make. 

  • JustoneK

    bekabot:

    The simplest bottom line that EllieMurasaki is trying to convey here is you don’t get to decide how other parties interpret things.  This is why we have structures in language.

    And if I am wrong on understanding ya, Ellie, feel free to correct me.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s pretty much it.

  • Div School Suvivor

    What shocking and sad news.   I was priveleged to have a brief acquaintanceship with Sarah; in addition to her academic achievements she was a wonderful, funny, kind person who would stop whatever she was doing on a dime to discuss religion in American society, or just to encourage fellow students.  Her death is a great loss to all who knew her.

  • LoneWolf343

    I suppose by “Menckens and Lewises” she means HL Mencken, but was does she mean be “Lewises?” I’m thinking of CS, but that doesn’t quite make sense in context.

  • bekabot

    If this was meant for me:

    I was talking about Sinclair Lewis (the disciple of Upton Sinclair) who was an atheist, not C. S. Lewis, who was a Christian.  Sinclair Lewis was the author of Elmer Gantry, a novel which makes vicious fun of know-nothing Protestantism.  Possibly LaHaye and Jenkins think of themselves as anti-Gantry crusaders (“we are not either unsophisticated”) though I’m not convinced of that, because as I see it, the more you read the Left Behind books the more you realize that Lewis was right.  (About the boneheadedness of a specific subtype of Protestant guru, if not about the nonexistence of God.)  To me, the undertext of Left Behind seems to be less “we are not either unsophisticated” than “we’ll see ya and raise ya, ya bums, so call us on it and have a field day; you’ll find out who’s holding the cards when the last trump is called, so there”.  But this is only my opinion and like so many other things it’s a matter of conjecture.

  • LoneWolf343

     Well, it is why I asked.

  • Daughter

     The main female character is tough and assertive, challenges men who
    patronize her because of her gender, and becomes the CEO of a worldwide
    Christian co-op designed to evade the mark of the Beast. Sure, she
    agrees to submit to her husband. But the one time the issue comes up (at
    least through book 7), she tells him that the plan he wants her to obey
    is idiotic.

    Is that Amanda or Chloe?

  • Daughter

    And what’s the idiotic plan she calls her husband on?

  • Dash1

    And what’s the idiotic plan she calls her husband on?

    It should have been “just being himself.”

  • arcseconds

    I have wondered a bit at the Left Behind fellas’ materialism (attitude to goods etc, not metaphysical belief!).   They (I mean both the authors and the characters – does the distinction even matter here?) seem to have an almost childish enthusiasm for gadgets, cars, positions in the hierarchy, and trappings of power.

    Which seems odd coming from people who are supposedly committed, Bible-focused Christians of a stripe which is counter-cultural in certain ways and stresses the evils of the world.   I’m not trying to suggest that there aren’t plenty of Christians who are committed yet rich, but often there’s at least a pretence that wealth isn’t really what’s important.

    (Plus, of course, it’s a bit insane to be focusing on these things when the world is going to end in 5-7 years, but that’s another story that Fred’s already detailed.)

    Hammond seems to be suggesting that this is done to undermine stereotypes and parodies of fundamentalists.

    But I always figured it was because, firstly, this is what J&L are actually like themselves, and secondly, this is what appeals to a lot of their readers.

    They want to have their cake and eat it too.  The world is a vale of iniquity and depravity, ruled by Satan, where conspiracies abound and poncy New Englanders and Europeans get it all their way, *and* it’s a place where a resourceful man can, through hard work and cleverness, get himself a large automobile, a beautiful wife, a fancy condominium, and authority over lesser, pettier people, and he will deserve all of this and enjoy it with a clear conscience.

    Has Fred written about this directly? I don’t remember it if so.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I remember once pondering the fact that the “Trib Force” live too *well*, for a group that are members of a supposedly harried and threatened religious faith.

    I used to envision scrabbling at the edges of existence, and I used to wonder if I would have the strength of character to refuse the “Mark” because it would mean I wouldn’t be able to do something as simple as get food or drink. (This was back when I was rather enthralled with The Plain Truth and supplementary material, which included the End Times.)

    I certainly didn’t imagine living it up in comfort with a huge billion-person “Co-Op”.

    (HTF does that even work? They’d have to run on a total barter economy, or circulate a parallel currency, which Nicky Grand Tetons would make illegal to possess or carry, for obvious reasons. Yet L&J just blithely handwave it away like they do with so many other things.)

  • Carstonio

    Dumb question – what would be the point of refusing the Mark? It wouldn’t indicate Satan’s ownership of the soul. It’s not like Darkseid’s Omega symbol in the last season of Smallville. I might see the point of the boycott if, say, the Mark’s ink were made of the AntiChrist’s victims.

  • Rowen

     Because anyone who accepts the Mark, no matter what (unless it’s convenient for the plot. . .) will be damned.
    http://www.thebricktestament.com/revelation/remaining_humans_doomed_to_torture/rv14_06p09.html

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    As Rowen indicated, for those who believe in the basic template of End Times prophecy, the Mark is the point of no return. Up to that point, you can even be a Rayford or a Buck and still have a “get out” clause in your favor. After that, it’s no go.

    http://www.hwarmstrong.org/markbeast.html

    As an example of the kind of amalysis I used to read about such things.

  • Carstonio

    The language in Revelation is confusing because 13 says that everyone gets the Mark, and that it’s about commerce and not worship, whereas 14 says it’s only worn by worshippers.

  • arcseconds

     

    I remember once pondering the fact that the “Trib Force” live too
    *well*, for a group that are members of a supposedly harried and
    threatened religious faith.

    I used to envision scrabbling at the edges of existence,

    Yes, that’s right: from what we’ve seen through Fred’s posts(*), it’s almost inconceivable that Williams or Steele will have to suffer any blows to their ego beyond a few ego-jabs at the hand of Carpathia.  Certainly no real humiliation.

    At the start of The Emperor and the Assassin, the deadliest assassin in the world (Jing Ke) has given up violence and now lives as a begger.  He’s willing to undergo all kinds of humiliation rather than fight.  This is of course the usual kind of set-up, familiar from westerns, so that he can be all awesome later on, taken a bit further than normal, but still,   I can’t see L&J ever writing anything like this.

    What does that tell you about a writer? That not only do they need to deck their heroes out with all sorts of status-trappings, but they won’t allow any real humiliation, even to allow them to shine more brightly later?

    I don’t suppose the Co-Op is likely to be an anarchistic utopia, is it?  Each according to their needs and means?


    (*) I’ve not read the books — Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart, if it’s a grave sin to put oneself in  a position of authority over something that you’re culpably ignorant of, how much of a sin is it to pan a piece of pop fiction that you haven’t actually read?

  • arcseconds

     

    I remember once pondering the fact that the “Trib Force” live too
    *well*, for a group that are members of a supposedly harried and
    threatened religious faith.

    I used to envision scrabbling at the edges of existence,

    Yes, that’s right: from what we’ve seen through Fred’s posts(*), it’s almost inconceivable that Williams or Steele will have to suffer any blows to their ego beyond a few ego-jabs at the hand of Carpathia.  Certainly no real humiliation.

    At the start of The Emperor and the Assassin, the deadliest assassin in the world (Jing Ke) has given up violence and now lives as a begger.  He’s willing to undergo all kinds of humiliation rather than fight.  This is of course the usual kind of set-up, familiar from westerns, so that he can be all awesome later on, taken a bit further than normal, but still,   I can’t see L&J ever writing anything like this.

    What does that tell you about a writer? That not only do they need to deck their heroes out with all sorts of status-trappings, but they won’t allow any real humiliation, even to allow them to shine more brightly later?

    I don’t suppose the Co-Op is likely to be an anarchistic utopia, is it?  Each according to their needs and means?


    (*) I’ve not read the books — Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart, if it’s a grave sin to put oneself in  a position of authority over something that you’re culpably ignorant of, how much of a sin is it to pan a piece of pop fiction that you haven’t actually read?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’ve not read the books — Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart, if it’s a grave sin to put oneself in a position of authority over something that you’re culpably ignorant of, how much of a sin is it to pan a piece of pop fiction that you haven’t actually read?

    I’m gonna say less than being a national politician who is incurious about the world. But the precise degree depends. Are you publishing your criticism or otherwise doing something that lends an air of authority to your opinions, or are you spouting off to a mate at the bar? Are you criticising the segments that you have read, or pretending that you’ve read the whole thing when you haven’t. Still, I’m going to say that it’s pretty unlikely to be a grave sin in almost any circumstances!

    I did end up reading “The Da Vinci Code” myself several years ago because I wanted to take the piss out of it with integrity :)

  • Dan Audy

    Charles Stross’ ‘Laundry’ series is a pretty cynical take on the spy thriller genre provided you can mentally treat the computerized magic and such as the equivalent of the tech wank in standard thrillers.  The combination of simultaneously having to struggle against Lovecraftian horrors and bureaucratic inanity captures a good chunk of the overwhelming nature of the conflict that Cold War spy novels did.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Except that the word ‘provinciality’, once stripped of the insinuation that being country folks causes ignorance, doesn’t actually mean jack shit. That’s where the ‘ignorance’ definition of ‘provinciality’ comes from, the belief that country folks are dumbshits as a rule.
    E

    It means something more along the lines of ‘concerned only with the interests of one’s own group/local area’ – i.e. someone who thinks only about their own province.  There’s a certain association of this tendency with rural invididuals, and the word ‘provincial’ can mean ‘someone not from the capital/mainland’, but that’s not its only definition.

    I think “provincial” carries the connotation of insularity.

    True.  Though ‘insular’ is a direct insult to people living on islands, isn’t it?

    Not to mention that Clancy is a hypocrite on par with both L&J combined in that he’s written op-ed pieces criticizing violent video games while collecting tall dollars off the Rainbow Six franchise. 

    Really?  That’s… bold.  Because ‘Tom Clancy’ and ‘violent media’ seem pretty closely assosciated…

    Jack Ryan then becomes president by forcing the vice-president to resign and failing to prevent the assassination of the President, and although Clancy pretends he’s an independent, immediately begins ramming through Newt Gingrich’s program.  This gets approved by a Supreme Court all of whose members Ryan personally got to appoint.

    So, Jack Ryan pulls off a coup, essentially?

  • EllieMurasaki

    So, Jack Ryan pulls off a coup, essentially?

    Technically no, I think. Scandal involving VP. VP fired. Ryan named VP. Terrorist attack on DC killing President, Supreme Court, and lots and lots of Congress; Ryan survived. The key bit here is the terrorist attack, which Ryan had nothing to do with; I’m pretty sure it can’t be called a coup if one has no control over or even foreknowledge of the removal from power of the people one will then replace.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I still found it AWFULLY convenient of Clancy to arrange that so Jack Ryan could fast-track to the Presidency. It’s that summary of the plot that convinced me not to read his later books.

  • Carstonio

    Once while channel-surfing, I caught a scene where Harrison Ford as Ryan is essentially chewing out the President. The latter embodied the stereotype that hawks have been pushing of Democratic presidents since Carter, of intellectuals as cowards. That alone would have discouraged me from reading Clancy’s books. I got the impression that Clancy’s idea of sound foreign policy amounts to the US being the world bully. Is that accurate?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    It kind of gets worse from there.

    After all, it’s not just the President, but practically the entire legislature that gets wiped out, so Ryan proceeds to make a heartfelt plea to the nation to please send replacement Senators… but not politicians, please, because politicians suck. He wants real people who have real jobs, who can come to Washington and fix everything over the weekend and then go back to their regular lives.

    Which, of course, they pretty much do.

    All of that said, I enjoyed the books quite a bit. It helps not to take them at all seriously.

  • P J Evans

    It’s that summary of the plot that convinced me not to read his later books.

    I read that one, and pretty much gave up on them at that point, or maybe with the next one. It’s the bigger (and less believable) disasters htat keep having to be even bigger and less believable, as he writes more.
    (I only have two on my shelves: Red October and Red Storm Rising. All the rest are, IMO, not worth much.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    And on a bonus tangent, the terrorist attack you mentioned is a pilot flying a large plane (I think it was a 747, though not at all fully loaded) into the US Capitol building.  Which kind of puts a different gloss on Condoleeza Rice’s infamous “No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon, into the World Trade Center, using planes as a missile.”  Clearly, it was quite imaginable.  (I happened to imagine it myself a couple of years earlier, from a completely different angle; it’s really pretty trivial.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I think “provincial” carries the connotation of insularity.

    True.  Though ‘insular’ is a direct insult to people living on islands, isn’t it?

    Are you fucking kidding me?

  • Consumer Unit 5012
    I think “provincial” carries the connotation of insularity.

    True.  Though ‘insular’ is a direct insult to people living on islands, isn’t it?

    Are you fucking kidding me?

    That’s an insult to the asexual.  CHECK Y9UR PRIVILEGE.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I think “provincial” carries the connotation of insularity.

    True.  Though ‘insular’ is a direct insult to people living on islands, isn’t it?

    I always heard both words as meaning “isolated; ignorant of the wider world,” due to the idea of people from a given province/island not really getting to see the world outside their province/island. Because ignorance tends to be seen negatively, the words have negative connotation. To my mind, though, the negativity was less insulting than that associated with “bumpkin” or “hick”, which seemed to me to connote stupidity associated with rurality, or “redneck”, which seemed to connote all that plus a willfulness to the stupidity and a bigoted outlook on others.

    Again, just the way I’ve heard them. Am not arguing for a particular usage; just offering a datapoint.

    The beginning of the argument in this thread about “bumpkin” reminded me a lot of when people claim that their use of N-word refers not to race but to behavior, as though the N-word had a non-racist history that they were reclaiming back from the bigots. Me, I always figured that there is a perfectly non-race-related and non-racism-birthed word for asshole, and that word is “asshole.”

  • Lliira

     I think I know what’s going on in her description of the LB books as comparatively feminist. It’s the same way in which the Twilight books are comparatively feminist. In that culture — right-wing religious American culture — anything that assigns any value whatsoever to women seems feminist and even revolutionary. And when you’ve steeped yourself in that garbage long enough, Chloe being allowed to disagree with Buck without being killed horribly starts to look relatively feminist.

    This is a danger in studying one culture too long. You start to say things that are absurd to anyone not also acquainted with that culture, and start to give leeway to people who should have none because at least they aren’t as bad as they could be. I’ve experienced this myself. It’s something that happens often to historians, as well as anthropologists and sociologists.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Also, the danger of cultural relativism, I find, is that it’s easy to start dressing up excusing certain things in the cloak of anti-imperialism.

    As an example, in a group I was in once, a person criticized the revival of an Afghani cultural practice of letting teenage males (~14-18) be paired off with much older men (usually with some wealth or income). Another person, coincidentally in the very age group of the older men in question, managed to shut that down with “Well, we shouldn’t be imperialist about that.”

    It stuck in my craw at the time, and still does, because there’s no obvious way to counter that argument without getting very personal about it, but in my opinion the older man’s argument (based on what I knew of his self-described tendency to hang out mostly with much younger men) was simply self-serving.

  • Carstonio

    Elsewhere I’ve noticed defensiveness when child bridehood comes under criticism, and I can understand the feeling given the colonial history of such nations. While people who live in other cultures have just as much right to condemn the practice, they have a responsibility to understand the context and to address their condemnations with that understanding. Outsiders’ condemnations are likely to be taken as “Oh, those awful families selling their daughters into marital slavery” even when that’s not the critic’s viewp0int. I don’t blame a family for seeing child bridehood as more tolerable than the only other options, the daughter ending up raped or prostituted. At least in my case, the condemnation is really of those societies being man-oriented, where all roles for women involve being controlled, dominated or used by men.

  • Joe smith

    I just re-read Shibumi (loved it as a kid) and I was surprised how well it held up.  Don’t understand the hate its getting. 

  • http://valentinilawoffices.com/work.html h-1b visa requirements

    I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. 


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