Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 83-89
I want to finish this preposterous section of Nicolae so that we can move on to the next preposterous section. I seem to have gotten a bit stuck here by the piling up of several too many insurmountable obstacles for the reader — an accumulation of factual impossibilities, implausible events and odious choices.
In order to get through this logjam of absurdities here in Chapter 4, I’ll need to just buck up, as it were, swallow hard, and make “just let it go” my mantra for turning pages. Otherwise I’ll never be able to plow through this so that we can discover the glorious absurdities awaiting in Chapter 5.
At this point in our story, the Bay Area is about to be destroyed. Everyone in San Francisco is about to die, Rayford Steele knows this, and yet he does nothing? Just let it go.
We’re supposed to see Rayford as a hero because he stalls for time so that Amanda can catch a flight to Milwaukee. This means that dozens of airport workers will spend their final hour dealing with the arrogant hassle of an uncooperative pilot before dying a fiery death. This is heroism? Just let it go.
The nuclear destruction of a half-dozen major cities hasn’t interfered with routine commercial air travel? Just let it go. Nuclear bombs have a no-radiation setting? JLIG. The obliteration of Chicago hasn’t disrupted cell-phone service? JLIG.
We’re getting through this chapter, darn it, no matter how many unacceptable and impossible things Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins pile in our way.
Rayford walks us through all the many exciting ways that a pilot can stall for time while taxiing to the gate after landing. None of these are actually very exciting, but Jenkins still draws it out for several paragraphs until readers share the frustration of the airport workers:
Finally, an exasperated laborer barked into his radio, “What’s the hold-up there, chief? I was told this was a VIP plane that needed fast service.”
We also share in Rayford’s “sigh of relief” when:
… Twenty minutes later … he discovered that Amanda’s plane was en route to Milwaukee. Now he could refuel, play it by the book, and settle in for the long flight over the Pacific.
The difference between our relief and Rayford’s is that he (and Jenkins) seemed to think this scene was fraught with suspense — will Amanda’s connecting flight take off on time? Whereas for readers, the tension wasn’t suspense, but the slow, grinding erosion of our patience — Good Lord, how long is this passage going to go on?
The unbearable thing here — the part I’m having a particularly hard time saying “Just let it go” to — is how wholly relaxed and at ease Rayford seems to be once Amanda’s plane escapes from the doomed city of San Francisco. As soon as that happens, our hero really does “settle in” without ever giving another thought to the millions who are about to be killed. He waves to the ground crew and signs off to the folks in the control tower without any consideration of how they are all about to die.
In order to stomach that, I’ve latched onto a strained and implausible reading of one awkward sentence in this chapter:
The senior flight attendant of a crew that was two-thirds as many people as the entire passenger list rapped on the cockpit door and opened it as Rayford taxied slowly down the runway.
There are two possible ways to read that bit there about the crew being “two-thirds as many people as the entire passenger list.” I’m going to go with the more convoluted reading. This is almost certainly wrong, but it will help me to continue reading instead of flinging this book out of a window.
The likelier reading here is that Rayford is yet again complaining. He has a habit of framing his complaints as indictments against others for not doing things the more sensible way that he would do them, and this seems to be another instance of that. I’m afraid that’s all that Jenkins intends here. Our hero is grumbling about the inefficient extravagances of his new boss. After all, grumbling about their boss while obeying his every order is what the members of the Tribulation Force imagine it means to “stand against the Antichrist.”
But it’s also just barely possible to read that sentence another way. It might indicate Rayford taking some satisfaction in the success of his otherwise-unmentioned scheme to arrange for an inordinately overlarge flight crew.
Maybe this was Rayford’s desperate attempt to save at least a handful of lives by overstaffing his plane. Every extra flight attendant he could get on board would be one life spared from the nuclear annihilation about to be unleashed on San Francisco.
I realize that this would make no sense in the real world, or in any fictional world even slightly resembling our own. Here in reality, every member of the staff on board Air Force One has been carefully screened and has high-level security clearance. Air Force One would never indiscriminately pick up random airline flight attendants at the next stop.
But here in Nicolae, that seems to be exactly how Global Community One operates — relying on all the same airport crews for refueling and safety checks as any routine commercial flight.* So it wouldn’t violate the rules of this book for Rayford to try to save some lives by taking on extra staff.
Is there anything in the text to support this imaginative reading of this one sentence? Well, no. But the text is poorly written enough that it doesn’t wholly rule it out either. So I’m going with this. I’m going to assume that this single fleeting reference to the size of the flight crew implies that Rayford massively overstaffed his plane for the flight out of San Francisco in a desperate bid to save as many lives as he could.
This would be completely out of character for Rayford, but that’s why I’m sticking with this theory. If I’m going to continue reading about Rayford Steele and being expected to admire him, then I need him to do something here — even something as meager as this. Flying off from a doomed city in a still-mostly-empty plane, having only rescued a handful of extra crew members may not seem like much, but it still would put Rayford in an entirely different moral universe from the self-absorbed bystander who “breathes a sigh of relief” and “settles in” after not even trying to help save anyone.
Our friend Buck Williams, meanwhile, is still wandering around the nuked-but-not-irradiated ruins of Chicago. He’s wandering in search of Chloe. Last he heard from her, she was racing along the highway just outside of the city when there was a crash and an explosion. Buck has left the highway and is working his way toward downtown Chicago. (Just let it go.)
Chloe’s situation seems urgent, and a slow, random search on foot doesn’t seem like the most expedient approach, but it gives Buck time to do some pondering. (I’m not sure it qualifies as “soul searching,” since our hero seems to be lacking the prerequisite for that.)
Buck takes this time to ponder his vocation and his marriage, both of which now seem in jeopardy due to the arrival of the second horseman of the apocalypse.
Buck didn’t feel much like a journalist, standing in the midst of the chaos. He should have been drinking it all in, impressing it upon his brain, asking questions of people who seemed to be in charge. But no one seemed in charge. Everyone was working.
The archetype of the modern American journalist, Buck Williams is unable to report on anything unless there’s a press secretary standing at a clearly marked podium, dictating talking points and instructing him what to write.
And Buck didn’t care whether he could translate this into a story or not.
I’m not sure whether I can translate that into a coherent thought or not. The Global Community Air Force bombed the city of Chicago. That’s who, what and where. Readers of this series can never be sure about “when,” but presumably Buck knows what day it is and what time it is, even if the authors never bother to tell us. None of that requires any “translation” to be turned into a report. Nothing does. Who, what, when, where is not an act of translation. Why and how may involve a bit more in the way of interpretation, but it’s still not rocket science.
“GCAF bombs Chicago” is the headline and the first sentence. But Buck won’t ever report that story. His magazine won’t ever report that story (when the story began, everybody at Buck’s office went home).
His magazine, along with every other major media outlet, was controlled, if not owned, by Nicolae Carpathia. As much as he strived to keep things objective, everything seemed to come out with the spin of the master deceiver. The worst part was, Nicolae was good at it. Of course, he had to be. It was his very nature. Buck just hated the idea that he himself was being used to spread propaganda and lies that people were eating like ice cream.
Awww, poor little Buck is powerless to buck the system.
This is nonsense. Buck Williams is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Global Community Weekly. He can print whatever he wants to print. Sure, he might get fired afterward, but he could do it. He’s only powerless to tell the whole truth if he regards keeping his job as more important than telling that truth — which, clearly, he does.
If Buck chose to do so, he could fire off a 5,800-page special edition publishing every word of “Bible prophecy scholarship” from Bruce Barnes’ hard-drive. Nicolae wouldn’t have a chance to stop him until it was too late and all of that prophetic “truth” had become public knowledge. But that would mean no more prestigious “level 2-A clearance,” and no more unlimited expense account to awe the guys at the Range Rover dealership. And if all of Bruce’s secret knowledge were no longer a secret, what would that mean for the secret-keepers of his inner-inner-circle? They would lose the one thing that makes them so special.
Most of all though, right now, right here, he cared about nothing but Chloe. He had allowed the thought to invade his mind that he might have lost her. He knew he would see her again at the end of the Tribulation, but would he have the will to go on without her? She had become the center of his life, around which everything else revolved.
Buck loves his wife so much that he even almost considered telling her about the advance warning he’d been given about when and where World War III was going to start.
During the short time they had been together, she had proved more than he ever could have hoped for in a wife. It was true they were bound in a common cause that made them look past the insignificant and the petty, which seemed to get in so many other couples’ way. But he sensed she would never have been catty or a nag anyway. She was selfless and loving. She trusted him and supported him completely.
The odd thing about this passage is that it seems like its addressed to female readers. It reeks as the sort of boys’ club banter that some men might say to other men when they’re confident no women can overhear (“You know how wives are, doncha guys? Bunch of catty nags, amirite fellas?”). Yet I think it’s actually intended as the authors’ advice to good Christian wives — a short version of the “Proverbs 31 woman” pep talk.
What might otherwise be good advice for any spouse — be selfless and loving, give your spouse your trust and support — becomes irksome when it seems directed primarily, or exclusively, at wives. It gives the sense — reinforced by everything we’ve ever read about Buck and Rayford — that the husband’s job is to be selfish, to be loved, and to expect and enjoy the unconditional trust and support of his wife.
Fortunately, the authors do provide one useful suggestion here for young Christian couples just starting out. The danger in any marriage, the authors suggest, is that you’ll get bogged down in “the insignificant and the petty,” which will result in the wife yielding to the natural feminine tendency to be catty and a nag. But you can spare your marriage the strain of that by finding common cause in an apocalyptic struggle against the forces of Satan.
This may explain why so many “pro-family” Christian groups spend so much time denouncing alleged Satanic conspiracies. They think we need Satan and the Antichrist. They keep our marriages strong.
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* This is true even after World War III breaks out. Global Community One simply lands in San Francisco and has whoever happens to be working there come out to refuel the plane. There’s no bother checking to see if any of these workers might be sympathizers with the ex-president or the militias who are, at this very moment, waging armed insurrection against the potentate.
This is particularly strange given that Nicolae’s massively disproportionate response of collective punishment and mass-murder has singled out airports and airport workers as targets of his wanton slaughter.
It’s not hard to imagine an airplane mechanic who just transferred out to San Francisco after more than 10 years in Chicago, where he worked at O’Hare with his brother and several good friends. His brother and all those friends are dead now. They were slain earlier this same day by the very same man whose plane has just arrived — the very same brother-killing mass-murderer whose plane this mechanic has just been tasked with refueling.