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.

  • 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

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

  • Michael Pullmann

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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]

  • 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.

  • VJBinCT

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 

  • 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.)

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    I think “provincial” carries the connotation of insularity.

  • 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.

  • 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

     

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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 …)

  • Dash1

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

    It should have been “just being himself.”

  • LoneWolf343

     Well, it is why I asked.

  • 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.

  • 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.  

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ima Pseudonym

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

  • 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

  • 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…?

  • 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.

  • 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?


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