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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  • EllieMurasaki

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.) 

  • GeniusLemur

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

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • hagsrus

    OT: Remember Fred’s tip jar

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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,

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • Tricksterson


  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tricksterson

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

  • 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.

  • Fusina

     Aaahhh… ambiguity strikes again…

  • 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*

  • Persia

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

  • 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.

  • 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…”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  •  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.

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

    She is an angel!

  •  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.

  • 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.

  • GeniusLemur

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Lori


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

    That’s disturbing.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.