NRA: Feeling bad

Nicolae: Rise of Antichrist; pp. 108-110

Chapter 5 wraps up with a short return to the Antichrist’s airplane, during which the authors display two of their favorite bad habits.

Rayford Steele is piloting “Global Community One” across the Pacific, ferrying Nicolae Carpathia home to his global capital in New Babylon after a successful day of mass-murder and destruction. As soon as the plane took off from San Francisco, Rayford heard Nicolae give the order to nuke that city, killing millions of people there just as he had earlier ordered the death of millions more in New York, London, Washington, Chicago and several other cities.

How can he do that? Rayford wondered. Bruce said the Antichrist would not be indwelt by Satan himself until halfway into the Tribulation, but surely this man is the embodiment of evil.

This moral revulsion seems entirely appropriate, given what Nicolae had just ordered done. But Rayford isn’t responding to Nicolae’s evil deeds, he’s responding to Nicolae’s evil attitude.

Here’s the bit from just before the paragraph quoted above:

As [Rayford] walked back through the main cabin to watch one of the televisions in the back of the plane, everyone except Carpathia ignored him. Some dozed and some were being attended to by the flight crew, who were clearing trays and finding blankets and pillows.

Carpathia nodded and smiled and waved to Rayford.

How can he do that? Rayford wondered. …

It’s not the mass-slaughter that really bothers Rayford, it’s Nicolae’s enthusiasm for it. This is a recurring theme throughout this book:

Carpathia seemed excited, high. … “In all the excitement, you understand. …”

The excitement, Rayford thought. Somehow World War III seems more than excitement.

Carpathia’s eyes were ablaze, and he rubbed his hands together, as if thrilled with what was going on. …

… It seemed to Rayford that Carpathia was having trouble manufacturing a look of pain. … Rayford wondered if anyone other than those who believed Carpathia was Antichrist himself would have interpreted Carpathia’s look as one of satisfaction, almost glee. (pp. 13-15)

Carpathia turned in his seat to face them. He had that fighting-a-grin look Rayford found so maddening in light of the situation. (pg. 19)

This grinning, hand-rubbing, glee is partly just over-the-top writing. It’s Jenkins’ attempt to portray evil by imitating a clichéd caricature of supervillainy gleaned from half-remembered comic books and James Bond films. (I’d bet Jenkins thought about giving Nicolae a waxed mustache, just so he could have him twirl it while cackling maniacally.)

But I also think there’s more to it than that. I think this ties in with the authors’ warped understanding of sola fide, in which salvation “by faith, not works” leads to the idea that “works” are somehow the opposite of faith.

We saw that spelled out explicitly back in Tribulation Force during Buck’s theological debate with Cardinal Peter Mathews, the Ohio archbishop who would go on to become the wicked pope of Nicolae’s one-world religion. Buck recited Ephesians 2:8-9 (but never verse 10) and the archbishop, who’d apparently never read Ephesians, was stunned into silence, left bewildered and stammering due to Buck’s mad apologetics skillz.*

This twisted soteriology of faith-versus-works tends to produce an equally twisted ethics in which what one does never matters, only what one feels or thinks about it. Intent becomes the only morally significant variable.

This is true in these books for “good” characters as well as for the villain. That’s why our heroes are excused for co-operating with Nicolae’s slaughter. They may have obediently carried out his every command, but their thoughts and feelings were disloyal.

This weird ethical outlook has a disastrous effect on Jenkins’ storytelling. When deeds don’t matter, then events don’t matter either. And thus events tend to lose not just their moral significance, but their significance to the plot and to character.

That’s why Jenkins never dwells on the aftermath of Nicolae’s murderous destruction. Instead of showing us the consequences of his cruelty, he tries to show us that Nicolae has a cruel attitude. So we don’t see the death and destruction in San Francisco — or even in Chicago, which seemed mostly OK as Buck ran through its undamaged streets — because those don’t matter as much as the fact that Nicolae is smiling cheerily afterwards on the plane.

This habit of cutting away from actions and consequences to dwell on attitudes and intent undercuts the gravity of Nicolae’s evil deeds. It makes them seem unreal.

The other bad habit on display here at the end of chapter 5 arises from the way the story is told from the point of view of its two protagonists. That’s a useful approach, since giving us two characters’ perspectives covers twice as much ground. It lets readers see one set of developments in one location through one character’s eyes, and then another set of developments in another location from the other character’s point of view.

Jenkins seems to think of this as a problem. We readers may be up-to-speed on what has been happening in both locations, but his dual protagonists don’t know what the other one has been up to. So Jenkins makes sure to keep each of them informed of what the other has seen or done. That wouldn’t be so bad in itself, except that he usually includes these scenes in the book — meaning that we get to read everything that happens twice, once when it occurs to Buck or to Rayford, and then again when the other is told about it.

This task of repeating and summarizing is usually done through Chloe. This is Chloe’s main role in the story. Given that the authors haven’t figured out what else to do with her, we could even say that this is what Chloe is for. She conveys messages between her husband and her father.

So yes, the main female character we’ve encountered so far is defined primarily as a daughter and a wife and she serves primarily in a kind of secretarial role in the narrative.

Thus after reading all about Chloe’s car-crash and her logistically impenetrable rescue by Buck, we return to Rayford, whose “universal cell phone” is ringing. It’s Chloe. She’s calling to tell him about all that stuff we just read about in the preceding pages.

This phone conversation is mercifully brief after Rayford cuts it short. He seems genuinely relieved to learn that his daughter and son-in-law survived the attack on Chicago, but he can’t talk long — he has some important eavesdropping to do:

“I got that message you left at The Drake,” she said. “If I had taken the time to go to our room, I probably wouldn’t be here.”

“And Buck’s OK?”

“He’s fine. He’s late returning a call to you-know-who, so he’s trying to do that right now.”

“Let me excuse myself, then,” Rayford said. “I’ll get back to you.”

And with that, he hangs up on his daughter and rushes back to the cockpit and his little eavesdropping device.

Yes, it’s come to that — one of our point-of-view protagonists is now eavesdropping on the other one.

“I am curious about coverage,” Carpathia was saying. “What is happening there in Chicago? Yes — yes — devastation, I understand — yes. Yes, a tragedy –”

Sickening, Rayford thought.

… “Well,” Carpathia was saying, “of course I am grieving.”

And once again Rayford is repulsed. Not by the unseen “devastation” of Chicago, but by Nicolae’s insincerity.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* That scene is a variation of the central fantasy animating much of what is mislabeled as “apologetics” in the evangelical subculture. Buy my book, the apologetics expert promises, memorize a few simple arguments from it, and then every conversation with doubters and heathens will go just exactly like Buck’s debate with the archbishop. Every opponent (you don’t have neighbors, just “opponents”) will be stunned into slack-jawed awe at your intellectual superiority.

When, of course, none of those conversations go according to this fantasy script — because no such conversation has ever occurred — the apologetics expert always offers the same explanation: You’re doing it wrong. You need to buy another book.

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  • aunursa


  • Matri

    Wow, that sounds vaguely… orgasmic.

  • Tricksterson


  • reynard61

    “The bombs are dropped, and then the book ends with this line…”‘Yessss!’ Carpathia howled. ‘Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!'”
    That reminds me of an old Vietnam War-era political cartoon that had President Nixon sitting in an easy chair, beer in hand, watching two TV sets — one showing a football game, the other showing B-52s bombing an enemy target — while he’s screaming at both, “HIT ‘EM AGAIN! HIT ‘EM AGAIN! HARDER!!!

  • Ann Unemori

    And now all I can think of is Ken Nordine and “Flibberty Jib Bop, da Bibbety Bop. Flibberty Jib Bop, da Bibbety Bop.” 
    And he was up on the high stage, laughing with all his might, shouting, “Yes, yes, YES!” link:
    Just go check it out. 
    Rayford and Buck are the Critics, of course.
    By the way, how are things in your town?

  • D Johnston

    I remember reading something from Jerry Jenkins (in a book on the craft of writing, of all things) in which he laid out his model for character development. You don’t just tell the reader what a character is like, he said. You give context hints that suggest these things to the reader.

    Sound advice, but this being Jerry Jenkins, all it means is that instead of writing “Nicolae is the bad guy,” he instead writes “Boy, Nicolae is sure acting like a bad guy, huh?” over and over again. You know, because you don’t want to give the reader too much credit – he did still buy the third book after having read the first two.

  • Ruby_Tea

    I read that book just before critiquing Twas the Night Before.  (Shameless blog plug, but trust me, it’s relevant.)

    Jenkins explains that a writer should show, not tell, and that’s all well and good, but then he decides that he can show what a character is like by having a secondary character tell us.

    Jenkins: I wanted to get across that the heroine is a Pollyanna type who falls in love with a cynical Doubting Thomas.

    Secondary Character: Boy, you sure are like Pollyanna.  It’s so strange that you’ve fallen in love with a cynical guy like Tom Douten.

  • D Johnston

    More relevant than you think, as it was that post that made me think of it.

    Stuff like that, where the writer isn’t self-aware at all, always troubles me a little. If Jenkins can be aware of the principles of writing and at the same time ignorant of how he breaks them, couldn’t that also be true of anyone? Food for thought.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Duning-Kreuger effect. The more incompetant you are, the less you are able to recognise your own incompetance, or the difference between yourself and someone genuinely talented.

  • Cameron Harris

    I hate these people so much.

  • Alan Alexander

    The last bit — Rayford’s reaction to Carpathia’s talk of “grieving” — calls to mind the response of the Teabaggers and the rest of the deranged Right to Obama’s speech about Newton, in which the father of two young children became visibly emotional when talking about the carnage. It had to be a disingenuous trick. There was simply no way that Obama could be motivated by genuine grief over a tragedy befalling strangers. That would imply he had “human emotions” or something like that.

  • Jon Frater

    “This task of repeating and summarizing is usually done through Chloe.
    This is Chloe’s main role in the story. Given that the authors haven’t
    figured out what else to do with her, we could even say that this is
    what Chloe is for. She conveys messages between her husband and her father.”

    And now I’m thinking of  Sigourney Weaver’s character from Galaxy Quest, whose on-screen job it is to explain what Tim Allen and Alan Richman’s characters  want to the ship’s computer:

    “Look, I have only one stupid job on this ship and I’m damn well going to do it!”

    I can absolutely see meta-Chloe freaking out at some point in a similar manner.

  • aunursa

    You beat me to it.

  • Todd Sweeney

    Dangit, Jon, you beat me to it.

  • Makabit

    And now I’m thinking of  Sigourney Weaver’s character from Galaxy Quest, whose on-screen job it is to explain what Tim Allen and Alan Richman’s characters  want to the ship’s computer:

    Yes, that character–the Internet tells me her name is Gwen DeMarco–popped into my head when I read that as well.

  • GeniusLemur

    On the “logistically impenetrable rescue”: good thing Chloe wasn’t hurt badly and the SUV was essentially undamaged. Otherwise, what would a man on foot with no medical training do? Dodged a bullet there. Buck’s really lucky 

  • AnonaMiss

    PMD: Intent is Magic.

  • Jurgan

    My little Christian,
    I used to wonder what Jesus could be.
    My little Christian,
    Until you all shared your faith with me.
    Big apocalypse,
    Tons of death!
    A beautiful church,
    Faithful- that’s all.
    Sharing nothing- it’s an easy feat,
    And the sinner’s prayer makes it all complete!
    My little Christian,
    Don’t you know you are my only friends?

  • histrogeek

    Next week, after Nick bathes in the blood of the freshly slaughter innocents, Rayford is inwardly shocked that  Potentate Ozarks left HIS TOWEL ON THE FLOOR.

    Though I suppose that is too much an action. Maybe if he laughed about leaving his towel on the floor that would earn Ray’s silent disapproval.

  • hidden_urchin

    This twisted soteriology of faith-versus-works tends to produce an equally twisted ethics in which what one does never matters, only what one feels or thinks about it.

    Insert obvious Batman Begins comment here.

    Moving on…

  • Nathaniel

     Pardon, but could you explain that aside? I’ve seen the movie, and still don’t get it.

  • hidden_urchin

    In the movie, Rachel tells Bruce “it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.” When she asks Batman who he is later in the movie, he echoes that line allowing her to figure out his identity.  It’s pretty much the opposite of how Fred summarized L&J’s theology.  I figure something is screwy when Batman is more moral than a subset of Christianity.

  • Jon Maki

    I figure something is screwy when Batman is more moral than a subset of Christianity.

    Hmm….nope.  Sounds right to me.

  • Michael Chui

    For me, while Rachel’s line is an excellent summary, it’s more clearly stated by Ducard:

    Ducard: “Anger does not change the fact that your father failed to act.”
    Wayne: “The man had a gun!”
    Ducard: “Would that stop you?”Wayne: “I’ve had training!”
    Ducard: “The training is nothing! The will is everything!”
    Ducard: “The will to act.”

  • aunursa

    This task of repeating and summarizing is usually done through Chloe. This is Chloe’s main role in the story.

    She’s like Sigourney Weaver’s character in Galaxy Quest, whose job consisted of repeating communications to and from the ship’s computer.

    But Galaxy Quest was a satire.

  • D Johnston

    You know, that role might make sense if there was some sort of animosity or tension between Ray and Buck. As it is, it appears that they’re closer to each other than either one is to Chloe (avoiding the obvious joke here).

    It’s a familiar device – the writer decides he needs The Girl in his story, but can’t think of anything for The Girl to do. She ends up standing around awkwardly, occasionally saying something to remind the reader that she’s still there.

  • Tony Prost

     “this is what Chloe is for. She conveys messages between her husband and her father.”

    She is an angel!

  • aunursa

    the archbishop, who’d apparently never read Ephesians, was stunned into silence, left bewildered and stammering due to Buck’s mad apologetics skillz.

    Just as the Orthodox Jews, who’d apparently never read Isaiah, were stunned and bewildered when Tsion ben Judah recited the 300 prophecies that proved that Jesus Christ was their Messiah.

  • Tofu_Killer

    I had this weird crossover moment on New Year.

    I was watching the entire Matrix Cycle, and was amused by the technology hole that was plugged in the later movies by avoiding scenes where they leave the Matrix because that would require landline telephones. That rang a bell with similar problems in the Left Behind universe, and I had a glimpse of a world where Nicholae is actually Neo and the Trib Force are the guys in black (Buck is Mr Smith obviously).
    I leave it out there for anyone who wishes to play with the idea.

    On a side note, they have filled the role of Chloe in the Left Behind reboot. I have a sad because it is that much closer to filming.

  • flat

    How does he/it do that is one of my favorite questions:

    How does amon take people’s bending away?
    How did harry’ wand destroyed the one from lucius malfoy.
    How did Andy Dufresne managed to disappear from his cell.
    How did Light yamagi managed to make L believe he couldn’t be kira.

    Rayford the question you are asking is why is Nicolae doing that.
    You already know HOW he does it: by nuking everything in sight. 

  • aunursa

    While we were driving from Lake Tahoe to Reno last week, passing through Carson City I saw a sign for HATTIE’S RESTAURANT.  I said to myself, “Curse you, Jerry Jenkins!  Curse you, for making me think of Left Behind whenever I see a name like that … the way United Airlines has ruined Rhapsody in Blue.”

  • fraser

     Using it in commercials? I don’t watch as much TV as I used to.

  • flat

    So can you people give me more examples of how did he/she/it do it.

    That would be very nice.

  • Aeryl

    How do you free the baby from Jareth the Goblin King?

    How do you defeat Darth Vader? 

    How does the Republic fall?

    How can River move and fight like that?

    How does Buffy defeat a god?

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    If only Nicolae had been remorseful, and repented of the bombing and slaughter of millions of innocents. Then he could have said the magic words and been a good guy?

    Is that really reflective of what the authors believe or a caricature?

    Does anyone with more immediate insight into the minds of PMDist fundamentalists want to hazard a guess?

  • aunursa

    If only Nicolae had been remorseful, and repented of the bombing and slaughter of millions of innocents. Then he could have said the magic words and been a good guy?

    That’s an interesting question.  Nicolae never took the mark of the beast, and he never worshipped the statues of himself.  What if he had repented at the end?  Oh wait, he does repent at the end…

    Nicolae croaked, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, who died for the sins of the world and rose again the third day as the Scriptures predicted… I confess that my life was a waste. Worthless. A mistake. I rebelled against the God of the universe, whom I now know loved me.”

    Jesus shook His head and Mac saw a great sadness in His face. “You are responsible for the fate of billions. You and your False Prophet, with whom you shed the blood of the innocents — my followers, the prophets, and My servants who believed in Me — shall be cast alive into the lake of fire.”

    from Glorious Appearing

  • Tofu_Killer

    This is clear grounds for a breach of contract suit, which clears the way for L&J’s triumphant book 13 of the Left Behind series:

    Eternal Lawyering, which, despite being nothing more than verbatim transcripts of the thousand-year court battle, is actually the most engaging volume.

  • aunursa

    That was precisely my response when a Christian once asked me what would the Jewish people do on Judgment Day, how would we respond, if it turned out that Jesus really was the Messiah and Evangelical Christian theology was all true.

    I responded that in that case, the Jewish people would sue God for breach of contract.  And we would demand a neutral third party to serve as judge/arbitrator.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    That raises the question of who would serve as the neutral third party.  I would vote for Dream of the Endless.

  • Tricksterson

    Have you ever read Contract With God by Will eisner?  It has a similar theme.  As a boy a man makes an agreement with God to live a good life in return for prosperity (God btw is never shown, His agreement is presumed).  Several decades pass during which the man becomes rich and does numerous good works.  Then first his wife and daughter (I think) die tragic deaths leaving him alone and he assumes God broke their contract (a literal written contract btw) and becomes an asshole.  After he dies a young man finds the remains of the contract and, in consultation with several rabbis make a couple of changes to improve it and takes it up.  It’s been a while since I read it so some of the details might be wrong.

  • GeniusLemur

    Augh! The mental picture of L&J trying to do courtroom drama based on their theology and half-remembered episodes of Perry Mason… It’s ghastly

  • arcseconds

    “loved me” <- the past tense is interesting there.

    This kind of response to people you now no longer love (i.e. burning them in a lake of fire) seems completely reasonable, and kind of reminds me of this:

  • Darakou

    Nicolae could always come back with the “I learned from watching YOU!” line.

  • mistformsquirrel

    What makes that weird is that growing up, I was always told that no matter HOW bad you were, if you repented it was all OK.  I even asked the obvious “Hitler Question” and got a “Yes, even Hitler”* out of it.

    So that kind of makes the whole Nicolae bit bizarre.

    *With the caveat that “But of course Hitler was a satanist-pagan-atheist** so he did no such thing and is thus burning in Hell.”

    **This was before the days of atheist-islamo-communo-fascism you understand.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    It’s even worse when you consider that Leon Fortunato is veeeeeeeery sorry, and TurboJesus just dumps him in hell for eternity.

    TurboJesus doesn’t even have the excuse, as in Carpathia’s case, that Satan indwelt Carpathia and so sending Satan/Carpathia into hell forever was a necessary thing.

  • Lori


    TurboJesus doesn’t even have the excuse, as in Carpathia’s case, that
    Satan indwelt Carpathia and so sending Satan/Carpathia into hell forever
    was a necessary thing.   

    I don’t think the indwelling is much of an excuse for TurboJesus. If we can still recognize the difference between Carpathia and Satan then God Almighty ought to be able to and I don’t know how TurboJesus can claim to have defeated Satan if he can’t even make him move out of the guy he moved into.

  • Charity Brighton

    Also, we see in one of the earlier books that the Indwelling process is not permanent. In one scene, Satan separates himself from Carpathia in order to scold him; Carpathia collapses, his body severely injured because it turns out that, while Satan is inside Carpathia’s body, he does not bother to eat and sleep — he uses his magic to keep Carpathia up and running but doesn’t take good care for his health. So when Satan withdraws his magic, Carpathia basically falls apart and barely move or talk until Satan returns.

    It’s a stretch, but you can say that it’s possible that Jesus chose not to separate the two because he knew that Carpathia couldn’t survive that. Though even that doesn’t make sense, because Jesus traditionally has the power to heal people and he was planning to kill everyone in the Global Community anyway…But, yeah, it’s certainly possible for Jesus to undo anything that Satan does. His power seems to be functionally limitless.

  • Lori


    In one scene, Satan separates himself from Carpathia in order to scold him   

    We’ve talked about that scene a few times, I had just forgotten about it (because my brain does me the very great favor of refusing to hold onto the details of these books for any length of time*). That does just make it worse. If mere humans can tell the difference and so can the great big evil then there’s really no excuse for TurboJesus to elide Satan and Carpathia and use that as an excuse for damning a human who repents.

    The fact that removing Satan would kill Carpathia shouldn’t matter in the slightest because Jesus is supposed to be mainly concerned with the soul, which can not  die, not the body which inevitably will. You don’t damn an eternal soul in order to keep a mortal body alive for a little while longer. That’s not only evil, it’s dumb.

    These books, I can’t even.

    *Thank you brain.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You don’t damn an eternal soul in order to keep a mortal body alive for a little while longer. That’s not only evil, it’s dumb.

    Hence tips that look like money but contain proselytization rather than anything usable as currency.

  • Lori

    I don’t think it counts when you’re not actually the one in charge of the damning (even if you act like you are). Humans need to be concerned about the body. In the big scheme of things TuroJesus really doesn’t.

    IOW, those tract-leavers have no excuse.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I agree that leaving a tract instead of a tip is unacceptable behavior, but if we accept the premise that the fate of the body is insignificant next to the fate of the soul…though if they want to actually convince anyone, they could at least leave a tip too.

  • Lori

    I’d be more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt if they left the tract and a good tip. Leaving a tract instead of a tip is pretty obviously an excuse for not leaving a tip and they get no credit for that in any way.

  • Charity Brighton

    To be fair, I don’t think that was the reason they gave for Jesus choosing not to separate Carpathia from Satan. That was just something I came up with. But, yeah, you’re right — damning an eternal soul is evil and dumb, especially when the reason Carpathia is damned is because he fulfilled God’s plan for the End Times (that is, he did his job just like Eli and Moshe (the Western Wall prophets) did, or Tsion Ben-Judah did, etc… Is it his fault that God assigned him to play the heavy? Is it his fault that God gave him supernatural charisma (it’s stated as such in that last damnation scene that Nicolae got his gifts from God, not from Satan).

  • Lori


    it’s stated as such in that last damnation scene that Nicolae got his gifts from God, not from Satan). 

    Oh for the love of FSM. How does anyone not notice the problem with that?

  • GeniusLemur

     The same way they don’t notice all the other problems, like Buck buying his safety by spiking a story.

  • GeniusLemur

     I was tinkering with Biblical fiction a long time ago, and one of the things I came up with was the idea that Judas was a phantasm, because what he did had to be done, and God wasn’t willing to put that on anyone’s head.

  • Tricksterson

    From what I’ve seen of at least some RTCs it’s worse than that.  He could continue to slaughter innocents and as long as he sincerely offered his forgiveness to Jesus afterwards he could keep doing it!

  • Michael Pullmann

    Forget Nicky’s enthusiasm, what about the people who are *sleeping*? Who naps through World War III? How on earth can you possibly catch a few winks when the city you just flew out of has been annihilated by nuclear-but-strangely-not-radioactive weapons?

  • GeniusLemur

    Well, they haven’t been up long enough (or working hard enough) to collapse, so I guess there’s nothing for them to do, and they decided to take a nap. If that’s the case, I guess WWWIII’s all over now. After what, 8 hours?

  • Randy Owens

    …I guess WWWIII’s all over now. After what, 8 hours?

    Tom Lehrer, “So Long, Mom”:
    I’ll be back when the war is over,
    An hour and a half from now!

  • GeniusLemur

     No need for you to miss a minute
    of the agonizing holocaust. Yeah!

  • MaryKaye

    It does seem to me that, whether you fixate on faith or on works, “how can I be saved?” is a markedly self-centered approach to religion compared to, say, “how can I know God?” or “how can God be served?” or “how can I do good?” 

    I am not a Christian, though Fred occasionally tempts me, but if I were I think I’d have to take the approach “I will try to do what’s right; my fate is in the hands of God and I trust him to be just and merciful.”  If God is a rules lawyer who will escape perdition, anyway?

    I would be really interested to read an RTC analysis of Milton’s “On My Blindness” (one of my favorite sonnets:  the turn at the last line makes me shiver).  Milton is saying that God gave him gifts and now, due to blindness, he can’t use them.  Someone like Jenkins would, I think, be totally clueless why that would matter.

    (Incidentally, how do sola-fide reasoners deal with the parable of the talents?  What do they think that parable means?  Its face meaning is surely “Use what you have, don’t bury it” and Milton alludes to that in his sonnet.)

  • Loki100

    They think it’s message is that all those passages in the bible about usury are invalid. No, seriously, I’ve been told multiple times that the parable of the talents is really about how great charging interest is.

  • Vermic

    Given that the authors haven’t figured out what else to do with her, we could even say that this is what Chloe is for. She conveys messages between her husband and her father.

    So, basically a telephone with blonde hair.  The ideal mate for any L&J protagonist!

  • mistformsquirrel

     I nearly shot eggnog out my nose.  I blame you for this <_<

  • Ethics Gradient

    Of course they have to concentrate on Nicolae’s feelings about the genocide, rather than the actual deaths; they have some heavy-duty slaughter  lined up for the returned Christ in the later books, and it would be rather inconvenient if the death toll itself was the problem.

    On the bright side for Chloe, conveying messages between her husband and father makes her a human telephone, which is surely a highly respected position in the LaHaye and Jenkins universe.

  • Turcano

    This is where I was going with this installment; the fact that these characters worship a god who is the mass-slaughterer par excellence causes problems if that’s what you take the Antichrist to task for, so this is the easiest way to invent a distinction between the two.  After all, if you have a sad while you’re melting millions of people instead of laughing like a Saturday morning cartoon villain, obviously it can’t be held against you.

    I wonder why they didn’t try that line of reasoning at Nuremberg.

  • Guest

     What does that video have to do with anything? It’s just a guy shooting a gun.

  • fredgiblet

    “What does that video have to do with anything? It’s just a guy shooting a gun.”

    It’s a spammer

  • ohiolibrarian

     I saw that it was supposed to be a fully automatic … shotgun? Really?  I would think you would end up with a broken or dislocated shoulder with that. Call the Mythbusters!

  • EllieMurasaki

    How would they rig Buster to fire a shotgun? Also, poor Buster.

  • ohiolibrarian

     They would probably set up some kind of pressure plate to measure the forces generated by multiple rapid shotgun blasts … and then they would rig Buster to demonstrate limbs falling off.

  • fredgiblet

    Full-auto shotguns are uncommon (for a lot of reasons) but they exist.  That’s an AA-12 and one of the claims to fame that it has is it’s ease of use on full-auto.

  • Lori


    Full-auto shotguns are uncommon (for a lot of reasons) but they exist.     

    That’s disturbing.

  • P J Evans

     That’s what he thinks is a relevant comment.

  • chris the cynic

    Suhail Akbar

    It’s a trap!

    “Yessss!” Carpathia howled. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

    The temptation to do more of Joyce’s Ulysses Left Behindified is strong.

    I was watching the entire Matrix Cycle, […] That rang a bell with similar problems in the Left Behind universe, and I had a glimpse of a world where Nicholae is actually Neo and the Trib Force are the guys in black (Buck is Mr Smith obviously).

    The rapture was obviously several of the servers of The Matrix going offline.  The place all the youngun’s are plugged into, RTC central, when the connection between those people and the rest of the Matrix was severed to all of those inside The Matrix they appeared to disappear.

    Or perhaps it was intentional, to test out a new upgraded matrix, the machines call it “Heaven” and have based it on the beliefs of a certain sect of the plugged in people.

  • WayofCats

    I think this has seeped into consumerist culture, in the form of “attitude.” You may not be Cool, but you can buy the right objects and look “cool.”

  • Fusina

     Whereas, if you think about it, cats own nothing, and they are the coolest people* around. Or so I assume they think, based entirely on the way they sashay around the house and sleep anywhere they want, and if you happen to be sitting there, well, make a lap, they are moving in.

    *Cats are people. I don’t care that they are technically animals, I’d rather hang with Nero the furry rat bastard than some people–even at his nastiest, he is nicer–or at least, more direct.

  • Dogfacedboy

    Rayford Jenkins may have a point.  When my cat bites my hand with her razor-sharp teeth, it’s not so much the pain and bloodshed she’s inflicting that upsets me  but rather that enthusiastic glint in her eye as she’s doing it. 

  • Invisible Neutrino

    This insistence on saying Nicolae is a bad guy and saying that the Tribbles are good guys really jars when it is so obvious how petty Rayford’s thoughts are about the AntiChrist.

    I mean, Rayford shouldn’t be playing phone tag! He should be simmering in his own conflicted feelings over how he can rationalize staying alive and not offing the AntiChrist – trying to figure out how to get the best revenge – doing SOMETHING even vaguely Action Hero-y.

    As for faith vs. works, LaHaye endorses it in one of his nonfiction books, incidentally.

    The above extract is from his Revelation Unveiled book.

    The snark Fred makes about people who think if they memorize a list of talking points that the scales will fall from the eyes of the talk-ee and thus the talker gets the powerup and wins the game really points up how L&J, as much as they claim these books are for nonbelievers as much as believers, are really aiming their books at a hard-core, right-wing Christian audience already preconditioned to believe in the End Times due to the previous works of Scofield, Lindsey and so on.

    L&J make no effort to flesh out the internal conflicts of their nominally secular/atheist Left Behind-ees, or to flesh out the grasping way they slowly come to understand the deeper layers and meanings that their faiths have for each of them. For a couple of guys who are part of the whole “It’s a personal relationship!” dogma, they do little to differentiate Rayford’s “personal relationship” from Buck’s, for example. Personal relationships IRL aren’t uniform by definition. I don’t relate to my father the same way my mother does, for example.

    Further on talking points – as I said re: the Trib Force movie, while the actor who plays Tsion ben Judah has a rather believable sense of awe about his “discoveries”, the fact remains that Jewish and Christian debaters regarding the Messiah have literally debated this matter for centuries. It will not be resolved by reciting a laundry list and it is an insult to the intelligence of a Jewish person that they should be so casually regarded as just needing a few silver-bullet armor piercing rhetorical questions.

  • Tricksterson

    “Silver-bullet armor piercing rhetorical questions”  So Jews are werewolves?  Hee, I’m reminded of a Werewolf: Old West game I played in where my character was indeed a werewolf (Child of Gaia).  His father the rabbi was not happy.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Heh. Actually I meant the term “silver bullet” in the rhetorical sense – that people see a “silver bullet” solution. and “armor piercing” from TVTro—*SHOOP*

  • LL

    This weird ethical outlook has a disastrous effect on lots of things. Lots of people seem to think now that “intent” matters more than what actually happened. Thus if you claim to not have INTENDED to harm someone (because, for example, throwing a baby against a wall is something that’s normally fun for the whole family*), then that’s it, all better. You didn’t mean to hurt anybody, therefore, let’s move on. 

    It’s not all that surprising that people find this attractive as a world view. This way, you get to do whatever you want, regardless of the consequence to others, then not even all that convincingly tell people that you’re so stupid you don’t understand how cause and effect work and ta-da, no more blame. God forgives anything, and who are the rest of us to think we know better than God? 
    * A real-world example from sometime back. A guy threw a baby against a wall, killing the baby, and his lawyer’s defense was that the guy didn’t mean to kill the baby. 

  • fredgiblet

    To be fair intent IS important.  It’s the difference between first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter.  Of course saying “no intent no foul” doesn’t fly, but a planned murder does and SHOULD carry more weight than an aggravated outburst gone wrong or a legitimate accident.

  • renniejoy

     “intent isn’t magic” is a bumper sticker version of saying first-degree murder or manslaughter doesn’t really make a difference to the dead person.

  • vsm

    Murder isn’t a very good example here. I often hear this illustrated
    with the parable of the stomped foot. Having someone step on one’s foot
    certainly hurts, whether it’s intentional or not, but at least I’d
    dislike the intentional stomper more than the unintentional one. The
    latter still needs to lift their foot and apologize, of course.

    what the phrase implies, I think, but sometimes it seems to be
    understood as a cry against any consideration of intent. I suppose a
    certain loss of subtlety is to be expected when turning arguments about
    ethics into slogans.

  • renniejoy

     Murder was fredgiblet’s example, so I was running with it.

    More generally, the phrase “intent isn’t magic” is the bumper sicker version of “the fact that [general] you did not intend to hurt someone does not magically erase the fact that someone is hurt.”

    Unintended consequences are still consequences.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Agreed. Good intentions don’t erase any negative effects of an action, but intent is not nothing either.

    I’d argue that part of having a good intention is giving due consideration to the likely consequences of your actions. Which relates to my pet topic of vincible ignorance. If you make no effort to consider the likely consequences of something you intend to do, you’re morally culpable. It’s different to flat-out intending to do something with negative consequences, but you still incur a degree of moral culpability. Different again is doing something with good intentions, having given reasonable consideration to the consequences but there ends up being a consequence that was unlikely or unforseeable.

    Intent has to matter to some degree. A purely consequential approach to morality means that an action might be moral or immoral based on the roll of a dice–did something unlikely or unforseeable happen? I don’t buy that.

    Like everything else in “derailing for dummies” I’ve seen some people slap down “intent is not magic” like a trump card that stops every argument cold, so I prefer “intent is not everything”. It’s necessary, but not sufficient.

  • Dave

     A purely consequentialist approach endorses good intentions, and everything else, insofar as they increase the likelihood of good results.

    If someone were so fundamentally and incorrigably deluded that when they wanted to make everyone happy this reliably and inevitably led to others suffering, and when they wanted to make everyone suffer this reliably and inevitably led to others being better off, a consequentialist endorses that person wanting to make everyone suffer.

    This scenario seems unlikely, but that does seem to be the right position to take in that scenario.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Have you ever heard of “doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons” and vice versa?

    As much as we like to say “intent isn’t magic”, it is likely that people generally discount intention when a favorable result occurs and the reverse (that is, weight it more heavily in their perceptions) when a bad result occurs.

    It’s the kind of thinking that leads to believing a person who’s “a good family man” couldn’t possibly have molested his children, while the alcoholic down in the back alley gets blamed for so much as accidentally stepping on someone’s feet when trying to walk somewhere.


    Because the “family man” has at least created the appearance of a favorable result as judged by society (well-off, wife, 2.5 kids, white picket fence), while the alcoholic has not (deemed a failure in society’s eyes)

    It’s also the kind of thinking that leads to racial profiling of criminals because it makes police work more efficient.

    Or the kind of thinking that leads to not using Nazi songs in films because of copyright hassles.

  • Dave

    In my experience people mostly infer bad intentions from bad results and good intentions from good results. More generally, people infer from the fact that I caused X that I meant to cause X. This is despite their own experience with sometimes causing things without meaning to.

    To some extent, this is sensible. If we judged people primarily on our beliefs about their intentions without reference to their results, we’d just be creating more incentive for people to lie to us about their intentions.

    Personally, I think it’s easier to judge by results. If someone reliably does the right thing for all the wrong
    reasons, I say great! Look at all the good they’re doing in the world!
    Surely I should care more about that than I do about judging their

    I also think the kind of reasoning that leads to racial profiling of innocent people, or that leads to treating successful people as though they’re necessarily more moral, is more complex than you’re presenting here. One place to start is Thorndyke’s halo effect.

    And I don’t know what to say about Nazi songs.

  • arcseconds

    Not only are you right that people judge according to results, it goes further than that.

    What you describe is very similar to something that’s sometimes called the Fundamental Attribution Error, and is a well-attested psychological phenomenon, whereby people are inclined to not just attribute actions to intentions, but to something intrinsic about the person (their character in moral cases, but it can be intelligence or ‘strong work ethic and business acumen’ in others).

    So not only will people presume that if you’re actions benefit someone, that you intended to benefit them, they will also presume that you’re benefiting them because you’re a good person, and not because, say, it makes you look good.

    It’s an ‘error’ because people do this even in cases where there are very strong reasons to presume that there’s something about the situation, not the person, that’s prompting them to do this, e.g. doing well in a test when they have a clear advantage.

    Interestingly, there are cultural influences at play here. Westerners are a lot more prone to this error than people from Asian cultures are.

    I’m sure this phenomenon has its part to play in the ‘I didn’t intend to be racist therefore you can never criticise my activities’  / faith-not-works thing, but again it can’t be the whole story.  Just because you think results are caused by character, doesn’t automatically mean that character ends up being the locus of judgement.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Like everything else in “derailing for dummies” I’ve seen some people slap down “intent is not magic” like a trump card that stops every argument cold, so I prefer “intent is not everything”. It’s necessary, but not sufficient.

    Yes and yes.  I’ve too often seen “intent is not magic” used as a controlling technique, rather than a productive addition to a discussion.

    To carry a metaphor a little further, sometimes people claim their foot was stepped on, even though the alleged stepper wasn’t even in the same room as the alleged steppee.

  • Fusina

    Speaking of RTCs, just got my (RTC) brother’s annual Christmas letter. It has been over a year since we last communicated, and his annual letter is generally full of how awesome his family is and how many soccer games they had per weekend (five kids playing soccer, their high game count one weekend was 18 games–possibly their image of god is one in a black and white striped shirt?). Have been thinking about a Christmas letter that I could send that would cause consternation–so far, have come up with calling it a winter Solstice letter, and starting with our celebration on the 21st of the rebirth of the sun.

    I think I would be okay with the letter if there was a personal note written on the bottom or back, but the only things hand written are our names and theirs. Gosh, I didn’t know you cared.

  • christopher_y

    possibly their image of god is one in a black and white striped shirt?

    No, God is definitely not a Newcastle supporter – have you seen their last few results?

    My sympathy regarding your brother? Have you tried the effect of writing him a detailed letter at a time entirely unrelated to Christmas – Easter, for example, or Pentecost? Or just some random date in August?

  • Fusina

    I think the team they like has yellow and dark green or maybe navy blue as the colors. Me, I like Aussie rules footie and rugby best. 

    I like the random “what the family is up to” letter. I may try that, maybe for Easter. Anyway, thinking about it caused me to write this… and my the lord/s have mercy on my soul, assuming there is one (or more) and I am not crazy.

    Soccer lover’s prayer

    Our soccer coach, which art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy balls.
    Thy fields be mown, and perfectly marked,
    on earth as they are in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily regimen,
    and forgive us our yellow and red cards,
    as we forgive the referees who give them to us.
    Lead us not offsides, but deliver us from fouls,
    for thine is the field, and the referees and the players,
    forever and ever,

  • hidden_urchin

    Our soccer coach, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy balls.

    Maybe I’ve spent too much time on the internet but, ah, I’m not thinking of soccer here. 

  • Fusina

     Aaahhh… ambiguity strikes again…

  • Loki100

    You should take a family picture. You and a wine glass with a big smile on your face and the words, “From my family to yours…”

  • ReverendRef

     five kids playing soccer, their high game count one weekend was 18
    games–possibly their image of god is one in a black and white striped

    I can pretty much tell you from experience that NOBODY on the sidelines, least of all parents of the participants, sees the striped-shirts as anywhere near an image of God.  If anything, we are evil incarnate intent on screwing up their kids’ chance at fame and fortune in the NFL.

    On a good day, we are simply ignored.

  • Lori


    five kids playing soccer, their high game count one weekend was 18 games  

    How do they squeeze church attendance in around that many soccer games? Do they skip church for soccer? If so I think you can safely tell them that until they stop forsaking the assembly in favor of worldly pursuits you don’t want to hear word one about their RTC crap.

  • Fusina

    How do they squeeze church attendance in around that many soccer games?

    Hella I know. What I do know is that the last few family reunions I attended, before they started holding them at his house, they usually didn’t make it until late because of soccer–worked out well, as that meant we were leaving around the time they were arriving. After they took over, we did attend one, but the next year we declined to attend for a variety of reasons, most due to him being struck with FGS, and him not even 45 at the time. Some just geeze out early, I guess.

  • Lori


    Some just geeze out early, I guess. 

    Sadly true. It hit my brother right after his first child was born. Before they had J he was a lot of fun. After, not so much. A shame on several levels.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 238 pages

  • Damanoid

    Okay, I admit that I am too dim to suss this out by myself.  Is the T-shirt illustration supposed to be a typesetting joke, or is it intended seriously and just printed in a tremendously annoying typeface?

  • arcseconds

     i think it is a typesetting joke, just not a very well executed one.   It’s a clever enough idea, but what they should have done is printed it all justified against the word ‘Faith’ (so, ‘justified’ would have to be much smaller, big gap between ‘is by’… not sure what to do with ‘Alone’, because if you justify it against ‘Faith’ everything’s also justified against ‘alone’, too… maybe use a slightly smaller typeface so you can show the inter-letter spacing has been stretched).

  • Nyder

     In university I had a professor who taught a class on the history of the Reformation– he used to end his exam advice session by saying “and remember, salvation is achievable by good work alone,” which probably confused a few students.

  • tatortotcassie

    Oh, by all things holy . . . I have now  lost a good deal of respect for Stephen King. 

    And for that matter, Writer’s Digest as well.  But I gave up on them years ago.

  • Guest

    Oh, I don’t know, I like this quote from King:

    “I’ve already rewritten the first one, and I wonder if Jerry sometimes
    has the urge to revisit Rayford Steele and his buddies and spruce them
    up. Not saying they’re bad as is; just saying sometimes you look back at
    a completed work and say, “Oh yeah! Now I know what I meant!””

    Subtle zinger.

    Interesting interview, thanks for linking it.

  • Aeryl

     Wow, me too.  He never hesitated to call out bad writing when it was S. Meyer doing it, but his old buddy Jerry gets a pass? 

    I hope its just to raise money for that guy, King’s been pretty dedicated to it.

    At least that story informed me that I’ll be getting another Jacky-Boy book. 

  • Brad Ellison

    I dunno.  I just read it as Stephen King being polite to a colleague he’s in the room/conference call with (and I’d guess Jenkins is probably a pretty nice guy in person) for the purposes of helping out a guy who needs some help.  Anyway, King’s got a lot of credit in the bank with me, in between his work, his solid advice on writing, and coming across as a generally cool guy from almost everything I’ve ever heard or read about his private life.

  • Persia

    King’s being incredibly diplomatic in a lot of those answers. Like, hilariously diplomatic.

  • Damanoid

    I wonder if it would be possible to harness this anti-works attitude for good?  Like, suppose somebody writes a series of LB-like Rapture books that are suitably judgmental and smug, but also emphasizes the futility of works over faith to the point where voting is regarded as a betrayal of God’s plan? 

    This should actually make everybody feel better.  Progressive politics would gain traction, which will make progressives happy; while Real True Christians would see this as further evidence that the Rapture is imminent and all those unbelievers will soon be roasted by God, which will make the RTC’s happy.

    Would such a deception necessarily be a sin, per se?  Could it not be viewed more as a parable that those with good hearts can understand?  What if the writer of the series felt really bad about it afterward, in that characteristic kind of guilty liberal way?

  • Guest

     Sounds like a great plan but the RTCs might not read it if it was written by a liberal or by anyone they thought was not ‘one of us’.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    You haven’t read the Christ Clone, have you? ~_^

  • arcseconds

    The focus on intentions is essentially the same phenomena as people claiming that racist/sexist/other discriminatory acts aren’t racist or whatever because the person isn’t a racist, just amplified a fair bit and applied to everything.

    They’re not identically the same phenomenon, though, because plenty of people hold the latter without holding a sola fide soteriology, or even being religious at all.

    There must nevertheless be a connection.  It occurs to me that it’s a pretty convenient view for the privileged to have, because it means they don’t have to do anything.  After all, a deliberate, conscious intention to discriminate you’ll by definition know if you have it, whereas it’s quite a lot harder to work out what the overall effect of your actions have when everyone in your in-group does them, and it means you’d actually have to pay attention to the people at the receiving end.

  • banancat

     I actually had the exact same thought.  It doesn’t matter if you do or say racist/sexist things, as long as you don’t intend to be racist or sexist.  And it fits neatly into this framework.

  • Tybult

    Bruce said the Antichrist would not be indwelt by Satan himself
    until halfway into the Tribulation, but surely this man is the
    embodiment of evil.

    This is barely English. When I read it quickly, it’s like Rayford is thinking, “We have to flobgabble the hurmic transbobulator!”

    And with that, he hangs up on his daughter and rushes back to the cockpit and his little eavesdropping device.

    “Hey,” Buck said in a low voice. “What are you wearing?”
    Rayford slammed his fist on the console, sick with jealousy.

    All right. All right. I have to stop, before I induce vomit geysers.

  • Guest

    The whole attitude of “it’s fine as long as you don’t enjoy it” shows up in RTCs attitudes to premarital sex as well. Most young people are having premarital sex, but as long as they didn’t intend to, weren’t prepared in any way such as having bought contraception, and didn’t really enjoy it, then it’s forgivable. But if you like sex and you’re ready for it and find it fun, you’re a brazen hussy.

    It seems like a very authoritarian approach to morality, where submitting and showing remorse is more important than actually trying to fix the consequences of your acts, and the worst thing you can do is defy the lawgiver.

  • banancat

    Once again, L&J really dropped the ball on something with great potential.  A sociopathic character could have been done well, by a better writer.  You can emphasize someone’s indifference as an extra layer of horror, but it has to be built on top of the bulk horror of the destruction they caused.

    My dad is a genuine sociopath.  And looking back at my childhood, some of the most horrifying memories of him really are about his attitude.  But it’s only horrifying because I already know the impact of the horrible things he did, and it just make it worse that’s he’s not also horrified by those things.

    Focusing on the attitude and ignoring the actions is like icing without any cake.  It might seem like a good idea at first, but ultimately you just end up nauseated and regretful.

  • Splitting Image

    “Carpathia turned in his seat to face them. He had that fighting-a-grin look Rayford found so maddening in light of the situation.”

    Compare how Douglas Adams handled a similar situation in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

    “He smiled the smile that Zaphod had wanted to hit and this time Zaphod hit it.”

    Zaphod Beeblebrox 1, Rayford Steele 0.

  • Splitting Image

    The faith versus works argument relates to something that bothers me a lot about people who quote Niccolo Machiavelli.

    Everybody knows that one line from The Prince, right? “In the actions of men, and especially of Princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means.”
    The thing is, the word “end” has a double meaning in that sentence. When Machiavelli says “end” he means result, and his point is that you can’t argue with success. The result justifies the means. But people quoting this line are almost invariably arguing that Good Intentions justify the means, or more generally that good intentions justify anything.So you end up with Tony Blair’s wife defending the Iraq War, for example, on the grounds that the purpose of the war was to fight terrorism and The End Justifies the Means, so the war’s detractors shouldn’t criticize George W. Bush and poor old Tony just because it stopped going so well after a few years and didn’t materially reduce the threat of terrorism. Meanwhile Machiavelli’s entire point was that if the war wasn’t going to achieve its aim, it ought not to have been done.

  • Randy Owens

    On my now-long-neglected political blog, I had the start of a series of posts about how one of the problems with the right seems to be a confusion between means and ends.

    Also, another point I like to make is that when people say “the ends don’t justify the means,” but mean “ends never justify means,” that’s just flat-out wrong.  It would be most accurate to say something like “the ends don’t always justify the means.”  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

  • Dave

    When people tell me the ends don’t justify the means, I generally ask them what does. There are some answers I can respect more than others.

  • Tricksterson

    I prefer them to be more specific as to both the ends and the means.

  • GDwarf


    When people tell me the ends don’t justify the means, I generally ask
    them what does. There are some answers I can respect more than others.

    I’ve never gotten the opposition to “The ends justifies the means”. Everyone I’ve ever met, even the people who publicly rally against the idea, believe it.

    Now, not all ends justify all means, but any time you do anything you’ve concluded that the end result is worth whatever costs are being paid to get it, else you wouldn’t do it.

    It always seemed like opposing cause and effect, or somesuch.

  • Dave

     As I say, some answers I can respect more than others.

    Some people seem to mean by it something like “If what I want to do seems like a bad thing to do, I probably shouldn’t do it, even if I can tell myself some kind of story about how in the long run it will actually turn out to be a good thing after all,” for example. I can respect that, insofar as people are really remarkably good at telling themselves stories that seem to justify whatever it is they felt like doing.

    Some people seem to mean by it something like “There are things we just don’t do, even if we think the consequences of doing them in a specific case are positive, because that makes doing them normal and therefore more likely that we’ll do them in other cases where the consequences will, typically, be bad enough to offset.” I can respect that too.

    Some people seem to mean by it something like “There are things we just don’t do, even if we think the consequences of doing them in a specific case are positive, because it’s not our place to evaluate consequences; our place is to follow established rules about what we can and can’t do, because the people who established those rules are better qualified to do so than we are.” Whether I can respect that depends on why they consider those people more qualified.

  • tatortotcassie

    Brad Ellison — you may be right.  I re-read the article.  King praises ONE story of Jenkins’s and it’s not related to LB.  He calls Jenkins’s prose “sturdy” and says that he “plots well.”  . . . . but NOT, I noticed, that Jenkins can actually pull off those plots, or that he can write dialogue well.  Whereas Jenkins was practically raving about King’s writing and how realistic it is in terms of how people behave.   Also, when King quotes, ““Thou shalt not sell thy book for a plot of message” it could be construed as a subtle little zinger at Jenkins and LaHaye.   (But going further than that during an interview with Jenkins right there would indeed have been unprofessional.) 

    Thanks, Brad.  I feel better about this now. 

    BTW, Fred, you forgot one critical approach to evangelical apologetics — never vere from your chosen message or arguments, because that might mean you have to address a Good Point from a godless heathen and godless heathens can never have Good Points.   (Not that long ago I got the old Ephesians 2:8-9 routine from a would-be converter.  Thanks to Fred’s posts, I knew to quote back to him the well-skipped-over verse 10, plus James 2:14.  The man merely smiled and said, “Well, right!”  and repeated Ephesians 2:8-9.  At which point I realized one second of my time was too much to waste on this guy.) 

  • Thrownaway

    I just thought of another way to make these stories actually interesting:  Have the Tribbles actually attempt to change things but TurboJesus stretches out his hand and undoes or prevents any alteration of the sequence of events.  After a few of those, they would have every excuse EVER to avoid such attempts.

    That would keep the story kind of sickening, but we would have a reason to sympathize with their inaction and their lame internal raging might actually be dramatic instead.  Of course, no one in their right mind would love such a being, but their panicky protestations of faith would also make more sense, since they would be truly begging for mercy from an apparently merciless deity.

  • Jon Maki

    So basically TurboJesuus would be the kid from that “It’s a Good Life” episode of Twilight Zone

    “But it’s good you killed millions of people.  A real good thing.  And tomorrow…tomorrow’s gonna be a good day!”

  • EllieMurasaki

    That quote must make sense to the speaker. Any sarcastic or otherwise not-literal interpretation of the quote wouldn’t be creepy, and this being Twilight Zone, the creepy reading must be the right one, which means the plain reading of the quote must make sense to the speaker.

    I don’t wanna know how.

  • vsm

    Actually, it doesn’t make sense to the speaker. He just has to say it or the addressee gets upset, and he really doesn’t want to make the addressee upset.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay, but that just switches who the plain reading has to make sense to.

  • Jon Maki

    The quote is actually a paraphrase to put it in more in line with speaking to TurboJesus.

    The actual quote is “But it’s good that you made it snow.”

    The episode is about a small town that’s been isolated from the rest of the world – it’s possible that the rest of the world has been destroyed – by an omnipotent mutant six year-old.  Everyone who lives in the town has to appease the kid to avoid having horrible things happen to them, the most notable of which is being sent “to the cornfield,” from which there is no return…

  • KevinC

    All Ellenjay really had to do to avoid this whole problem was: not put their authorwank characters right there in the gravitating center of the whole frakking Apocalypse.  They could have written all kinds of adventure and excitement about characters who are just ordinary people struggling to survive and help others (hiding/smuggling food, running underground railroads, rescuing loved ones from the clutches of the Team UN World Police, trying–and sometimes, failing–to stay a step ahead of the stormtroopers.  They could have improved the plot immensely just by filing the serial numbers off of the original Red Dawn.  You’ll notice that none of the–WOLVERIIIIIIINES!–was the personal pilot, doctor, propaganda minister, mistress, grandmother, or bodyguard of the General Secretary of the Soviet Union.  The question of “Why didn’t they just fix the whole situation with a single bullet/crash the plane?” never came up because the heroes never had the opportunity.  They still had plenty of chances to be heroic with the opportunities they did have, running a guerrilla insurgency fighting for one little slice of Small Town America.

    But Ellenjay couldn’t just have their authorwanks be ordinary Christians fighting to survive day to day and help others in a collapsing world, with the Antichrist being at least as distant and inaccessible a figure as President Obama is to your average right-wing Teabagger/militia whackaloon.  No, they needed “their guys” to be able to pull Three Stooges hijinks on him for…well, no discernible reason, actually. 

    As near as I can tell, Ellenjay wanted their ‘wanks to be centrally important to the whole shebang, thus requiring that they be high-ranking members of the Antichrist’s regime.  But their theology makes it so that the big broad strokes (the Prophecy Checklist) can’t be changed.  Which means that their “centrally important” authorwank characters can’t actually accomplish anything–which drains them of all importance.  They could have been centrally important in a smaller story (“Can the Christian community of a salt-of-the-Earth small town in Iowa survive the Apocalypse?”), and in such a story they could have actually been efficacious.

  • aunursa

    “When I started writing Left Behind, Buck Williams wasn’t even a part of it. It was strictly the story on the airplane with Rayford and Hattie. When I got further into the manuscript, I realized I needed another character to be in places where Rayford couldn’t be and to tell a different part of the story.”

    Behind the Scenes of the Left Behind Series with Jerry Jenkins.

  • Charity Brighton

    Amazing. The more he explains himself, the less sense he makes. A better author might have had one character be the ‘inside man’, seeing the parts of the story that are right near the Antichrist, and have the other character on the ground struggling to survive and showing the Apocalypse from the view of the vast majority of people.

     Instead, Jenkins chose two inside-men who take turns either watching Nicolae and telling the other what they saw Nicolae doing — it’s like doubling the word count without actually increasing the amount of content.Buck and Rayford could have easily been consolidated into a single character without losing anything in terms of plot or theme development. 

  • aunursa

    and have the other character on the ground struggling to survive and showing the Apocalypse from the view of the vast majority of people
    I imagine that was going to be Rayford’s role … until Jenkins suddenly changed his mind early in Book #2.

  • Bificommander

    From the snippits of Glorious Appearing that aunsura showed previously, I think Fred just nailed the only difference between Good and Evil in Left Behind. Evil commits mass genocide and torture, and the protagonist look on in disgust on how happy Nicolae seems to be about it. Good commits mass genocide and torture, and the protagonists look in awe and admiration at how not-really-happy Jesus seems to be about it.

    That little bit where Jesus throws Leon into the lake of fire is bad, but the next paragraph is IMHO a serious contender for worst paragraph in the series (and imagine the competition for that title) for it’s implications. That paragraph is from Buck’s perspective IIRC. And it describes Buck fawning over Jesus’ kindness, mercy and peacefulness. Why? Because Jesus didn’t crack a joke at Leon’s expense as he did it.

    He didn’t say “You will be forgiven… when hell freezes over! The good news is, you’ll be among the first to know when that happens”. He isn’t ‘Christ. Jesus Christ’, giving ironic one-liners over the corpses of his defeated enemies, before saying “This wine is my blood, shaken, not stirred”. And Buck is in awe. Because the authors want us to be in awe.

    The authors really seem to think that this is their big moment where Jesus portray’s his moral superiority. They apparently wracked their brain trying to write a scene where the ultimate benevolence shows why he is the sinless man who loved humanity so much that he made the greatest sacrifice ever for them. And this is what they came up with. When faced with a defeated, broken, harmless enemy begging for forgiveness, Jesus’ Divine goodness is demonstrated by not snarking as he sends him to eternal torment. And so impressed are the authors with this display of kindness that their author avatar explicitly says how awesome it is.

    If this is what perfect sinless kindness of a divine being is, just imagine what the authors think is ‘good enough’ for how they would like to treat their enemies.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The other best (worst?) part is:

    “Not such a big man now, are you? Where’s the sword? Where’s the army?
    Where’s the cabinet, the sub-potentates? Now you’re only the supreme
    impotentate, aren’t you?”

    – Mac McCullum.


  • Bificommander

     Not too kindly either, no. But as a human being who’s been on the receiving end of the potentate’s wrath for several years, I can forgive him a few tasteless jokes and schadefreude. It’s not nice or good, but understandable at the very least.

    The Jesus example I find aweful because firstly Jesus was never threatened by Leon or Nicolae. They were doing their divinely ordained part in a war that was over before it had ever started. Jesus or God could have taken him out any time they wanted, they just decided to wait 7 years. And now that they’ve been defeated and begging for mercy whatever glimmer of a threat they ever posed is long gone.

    And secondly, because unlike McCullum, Jesus is supposed to represent the high mark in kindness and goodness, and his actions are framed as such. To be honest, I wouldn’t be that much more bothered if Jesus did crack a joke than I already am. What I find deplorable is that the mere fact that Jesus does NOT crack a joke is held up as a great moral example. If Jesus made a joke and Buck’s inner monologue was scrapped, I would dislike Jesus slightly more, but dislike Jenkins less.

    But I guess it’s inevitable. When among your firmly held religious beliefs are ‘god is supremely kind and good entities that loves humanity more than we can imagne’ and ‘god is omnipotent and could handle unrepentant sinners in literally any manner he chooses, and he’s chosen to send them to eternal torment. Also “unrepentant sinners” includes most of the world’s population’…. well, something’s gotta give. And what’s given here is the benchmark for ‘supremely kind and good’

  • vsm

    Schadenfreude and mockery is understandable. “Supreme impotentate” is unforgivable.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Gawd, but I hate Mac.  I don’t mind a bit if a character is the kind of blustery blowhard who thinks he’s the coolest, wittiest guy in the room (and oh, what a touch he has with the little ladies!), but the writer shouldn’t pretend that he actually is the coolest, wittiest guy in the room.

    I know, I know: story of the LB series.

    (Besides which, Mac doesn’t have nearly the reason hate Leon as some others do.  Say what you will about David Hassid (and I can say plenty), but his fiancee was indirectly killed by Leon.  Even from Heaven, David should be the one with the last word against Leon, not Mac.) 

  • Ima Pseudonym


    If this is what perfect sinless kindness of a divine being is, just
    imagine what the authors think is ‘good enough’ for how they would like
    to treat their enemies.

    Most likely it involves very long, very deep ditches and bulldozers.  A lucky few are shot in the head before they’re buried.  L&J then endlessly congratulate themselves on how merciful and compassionate this proves their side is.   

  • hagsrus

    OT: Remember Fred’s tip jar

  • Parisienne

    I think that interview with Jenkins and King is telling. King comes across as self-reflective, articulate, willing to colloborate, willing to learn. Jenkins less so.

    The other thing that most struck me is that RTC Jenkins volunteers the information that his heathen colleague has personally stumped up more than 50% of the injured dude’s medical expenses.

  • zmayhem

    Re “It’s A Good Life,” the short story on which it’s based can be found here. Like many other works of fiction described in these threads, it manages to be more terrifying in just a few pages than the LB books are across their however many thousands. 

  • bekabot

    “Carpathia nodded and smiled and waved to Rayford.

    ‘How can he do that?’ Rayford wondered. …”

    Rayford is confused, you see, because nobody nods and smiles and waves at Rayford.  Nobody ever.  Instead, people hump their shoulders together like moodybirds and look the other way when Rayford appears.  It’s always been that way, and divagations from routine disquiet Rayford.  He doesn’t like them.  He wonders what’s up.

  • Tony Prost

     Intent can never matter. Only the actions and results. We can never know someone’s intent, all we can know is their self-serving description of their intent, for what that’s worth.

  • EllieMurasaki

    …how does that help?

    I mean, obviously intent doesn’t matter to the person who got hurt. Nor should it. But to the person who did the hurting, the people surrounding both those people (at least some of them, under at least some circumstances), and anybody who needs to adjudicate any resulting dispute or criminal charges, intent has to matter.

  • esmerelda_ogg


    intent doesn’t matter to the person who got hurt. Nor should it. – Ellie Murasaki

    You know, I don’t think I’d even go this far in agreeing with “intent is not magic”. If someone steps on my foot, yes, it’s going to hurt. But I do care why and how I got stepped on. Suppose I’m standing in a crowded subway car, and the car lurches unexpectedly, another passenger loses his balance, and steps on me. The physical pain may be similar to having somebody deliberately walk up and stomp on my foot; but, especially if the other subway passenger apologizes, I don’t have the mental pain of “Why did you want to hurt me?” to deal with.

    Yes, I understand that jerks who try to cause pain and then dishonestly claim they didn’t mean any harm are objectionable. I understand that some people are more vulnerable than others. But I’ve come across too many situations in which “intent is not f’in magic” was used as a way of saying “discussion is forbidden – we’ll tell you what you’re allowed to say and to think.”

    It’s (pretty much always) more complicated than that.

  • Lliira

    Regarding intent: yes. It often does matter.

    As with so many other things, the phrase has now been misused often by bullies that the meaning has become sadly muddled. “Intent is not magic” is supposed to apply to people who don’t apologize for hurting you, because they’re good people and they didn’t mean to hurt you, so you should shut up about your pain. Sadly, this happens all the time, metaphorically speaking. If you step on someone’s foot and they say “ow” and you don’t apologize, you’re a jerk. But if you step on someone’s foot and they say “ow” and you say, “I’m so sorry, are you all right, can I help you get better?” and they respond, “no how dare you step on my foot you evil, evil pile of #$%#^(* and furthermore you are a #)$%*# intent is not magic you #)$%(!”, then the person who was stepped on is being a jerk.

    When I threw out my back, I was in the hospital next to a woman whose son-in-law had punched her. She was not in nearly as much physical pain as me, and the physical repercussions for her likely disappeared entirely in a few weeks, whereas mine will likely be with me for the rest of my life. But my back went out because it went out — no one caused it. She was in that hospital because someone close to her chose to punch her. I would not have changed places with her for anything.

  • esmerelda_ogg

     Lliira – I don’t really have anything to add except “Yes, this is what I was trying to say, but you made it clearer! Thank you.”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Battlestar Galactica (2003) meets Left Behind:

    Gaius Baltar as Nicolae Carpathia
    Cavil as Leon Fortunato
    Caprica Six as Hattie Durham

    (Cavil would work better as Nicolae TBH in attitude, but he just cannot pull off ‘charismatic’. He’s more of a gruff old fart with a wit for a turn of phrase. So make him the equivalent of Supreme Commander Leon, since he unintentionally buttmonkeys himself in BSG canon after realizing that his grand plan fizzled out very quickly.)

    Saul Tigh as Chaim Rosenzweig
    Ellen Tigh as Chaim’s wife

    Lee Adama as Buck Williams
    William Adama as Rayford Steele
    Laura Roslin as Amanda Steele
    Kara Thrace as Chloe Steele

    Tom Zarek as Albie (Just like in LB, Zarek seems to have a lot of hidden depths, and you really do want a dude like that on your side – a guy who seems to have all kinds of connections to some very unlikely people and can produce things almost as out of a magic hat? Sign us up. In BSG canon Zarek was able to form repair crews who could quickly patch up ships faster than Galactica’s crews as one example. He also knows assassins!)

    Leoben Conoy as Tsion Ben-Judah (in BSG he had the most fervent belief in various prophecies and messianic indications of greater forces around them)

    Sharon Agathon as David Hassid (seriously, a Cylon who can actually interface her body with computers? Sign her up.)
    Helo Agathon as Naomi Tiberias (because a power couple should remain a power couple)

    A BSG-ish version of Left Behind would be sheerly amazing, because the characters would act nothing like the silly-assed versions presented by L&J.

    Nicolae Carpathia would be the ridiculously, yet dangerously and sometimes menacing megalomaniac L&J tell us he is.

    Leon Fortunato would be the capable henchman/butt monkey who gets quiet revenge on all the people who would underestimate him.

    William Adama would lead a helluva resistance movement!

    Et cetera. :D

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Incidentally a great example of the complexities that come up even with a consequentialist philosophy follows:

    Ontario, in the 2000s (probably 2005 or so) was asked to allow sharia civil courts for Muslims.

    The resulting shitstorm forced the government to pass a law banning all religious courts and forcing any parties in a civil dispute to use the secular court system.

    The right result, for all the wrong reasons.

  • Becka Sutton

    One of the best points about the “Intent is not Magic” thing I’ve seen was in this post

  • vsm

    It’s not the job of the oppressed group to dismantle oppression? People really say that? If so, do they actually mean Gandhi should have sat on his butt until the British realized colonialism was wrong?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not all by ourselves. Or themselves, as the case may be.

  • vsm

    That’s a smart way of doing politics, though it doesn’t seem to be how cnlester understood the objection. Then again, I can’t find anyone else using the phrase or anything like it with a quick search, so I’m not sure how big a problem it is.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    It’s more nuanced than that. It’s that there are oppressors who will never give in, even when presented with the clearest, simplest set of facts ever in the history of education.

    And then there are oppressors who only need the slightest of nudges, and they’ll walk away from oppressive stances.

    And there, where engagement between oppressors and oppressed, is where a possible mutual push and pull is in the cards.

  • Becka Sutton

     Yes, I mentioned that attitude to someone and they said much the same thing. I couldn’t agree with you and them more

  • Dave

    Yes, people do actually say that. 

    No, that’s not what they mean.

    If we agree that something is not my job, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong for me to do it. It might simply mean it’s wrong for everyone else to sit on their butts waiting for me to do it.

  • vsm

    I’m still not entirely sure what it’s supposed to mean. Is it “ending oppression is not the duty of the oppressed, but it is or should be the duty of oppressors (and/or the privileged)”, “ending oppression is not only up to the oppressed”, “ending oppression is literally not the job of the oppressed, so they shouldn’t be expected to treat it like it was”, or something else?

    Sorry if I come off as a smartass or an idiot. I simply don’t get this.

  • Dave

     I understand it to mean that when I find myself blaming the oppressed for their oppression, I’ve taken a wrong turn, and should back up and try again.

    For example, when someone is assaulted and I find myself saying “Well, they really ought not have said that/worn that/acted that way/been in that place,” I’ve taken a wrong turn. 

  • vsm

     Thanks for the clarification. I still think it’s not a very good slogan, on account of how easy it is to misunderstand it, but at least I now know what it’s supposed to mean.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     do they actually mean Gandhi should have sat on his butt until the British realized colonialism was wrong?

    That’s sort of what Gandhi actually did….

  • vsm

    I seem to recall a good amount marching as well.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Oh God, that article (and the one it linked to, “Liberal bullying”) brought up familiar territory!

  • Turcano

    I like to refer to it as Tumblritis.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Caprica meets Left Behind:

    Joseph Adama as Rayford Steele
    Ben Stark as Buck Williams
    Evelyn as Amanda Steele
    Tamara as Chloe Steele

    Andreas Phaulkon as Nicolae Carpathia
    Jordan Duram as Leon Fortunato
    Clarice Willow as Hattie Durham

    Daniel Greystone as David Hassid
    Zoe Greystone as Chang Wong

    It’s harder to figure out the exact analogs for other characters, though.

    Samuel Adama could be Mac McCullum, maybe.

  • PatBannon

    Often, as has been said, people fail to distinguish between “Intent is not magic” and “Intent does not matter.” The first is true, the second, less so. Like most binary thinking locks (“Intent is everything!”/”Intent has no effect!”), constructing it in a one extreme/other extreme sense prevents a person from even possibly being right.

  • renniejoy


    And somehow context gets left out of sooo many discussions…