NRA: A lesson for the ladies

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 153-156

It’s Hattie Durham’s turn in the spotlight. Here in the middle of the third book of this series, the authors are taking time to reintroduce several of their peripheral characters, reviewing and revisiting their roles and histories in multi-page flashbacks.

Hattie’s Official Character Summary in these pages comes through the point-of-view of Rayford Steele, which echoes back to how we originally met her, through Rayford’s eyes, in the opening sentences of the first book:

Rayford Steele’s mind was on a woman he had never touched. With his fully loaded 747 on autopilot above the Atlantic en route to a 6 a.m. landing at Heathrow, Rayford had pushed from his mind thoughts of his family.

Over spring break he would spend time with his wife and 12-year-old son. Their daughter would be home from college, too. But for now, with his first officer fighting sleep, Rayford imagined Hattie Durham’s smile and looked forward to their next meeting.

Hattie was Rayford’s senior flight attendant. …

She was, from the opening page, defined by her relationship to Rayford and by her effect on Rayford. But this is never reciprocal. “Hattie was Rayford’s senior flight attendant,” but Rayford is not Hattie’s pilot. The possessives, like Hattie, belong only to him. Hattie is portrayed as the temptress distracting Rayford from his family, but he is not portrayed as the married man stringing her along.

For a brief instant in that first book it seemed like this might lead to something interesting. During the initial panic of the Rapture, we meet Hattie again from Buck Williams’ point of view and she’s nothing like the home-wrecking hussy Rayford described. Buck actually seems impressed with her as she struggles to maintain order and her composure in the face of a disturbing, bewildering crisis.

It seemed like the authors might be signaling that Rayford’s perception of Hattie was unreliable — distorted, unfair. It seemed that maybe they were suggesting that there was more to this woman than what the narcissistic pilot was able to see.

Alas, though, it soon became clear that such subtleties are not part of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ approach to storytelling. In their view, it was Buck who was mistaken about Hattie when he first met her. He couldn’t understand her, the authors suggest, because he did not yet know Rayford, and Hattie is defined by Rayford. She is “Rayford’s.”

The multi-page reintroduction and review of Hattie’s story here could have been a chance to shift away from this awful, reductionist portrayal of Hattie Durham. LaHaye and Jenkins might have softened that a bit in the retelling, or suggested perhaps that both Rayford and Hattie have grown since we first met them at the beginning of the story. But instead the authors double down, reinforcing the worst aspects of their Hattie-hatred by repeating it all in concentrated form. Once again we see that she is defined by Rayford Steele. She is the “other woman,” and nothing more.

The scene starts with what I think is meant to be a piece of advice for godly married men. Rayford wakes up in his New Babylon palace quarters and prepares to meet Hattie for dinner:

He certainly didn’t intend to stay out long with Hattie Durham. He dressed casually, just barely presentable enough for a place like Global Bistro, where Hattie and Nicolae were often seen.

As a good Christian married man, it is imperative that Rayford not create the wrong impression for Hattie or for anyone else who may be watching. By appearing “just barely presentable,” he clearly signals his disdain for her so no one gets the wrong idea and Rayford doesn’t jeopardize his good Christian witness. It’s fine that the entire world knows him to be a loyal servant of the Antichrist, but he can’t have anyone suspecting he might be an adulterer.

Due to his eavesdropping on the plane, Rayford knows Hattie is no longer officially the “personal assistant” of the Antichrist/potentate, and he assumes this demotion is what she wants to talk with him about:

He would have to let her play the story out with all her characteristic emotion and angst.

Re-encountering the condescension and contemptuousness toward Hattie in this section, my initial thought was that someone should have reminded LaHaye and Jenkins that women would be reading their book too.

Women, after all, make up a big chunk of the audience for Christian-brand fiction. Just from a marketing perspective, it seems like a bad idea to alienate so many potential readers with dismissive caricatures. Most of this section has the awkward tone of those “you know how women are” jokes told at men’s prayer breakfasts — the kind of thing some men say about women when they’re sure that no women are listening. So why didn’t the authors realize that women are listening to this passage?

But then it hit me. The authors haven’t forgotten about their women readers. This passage is intended for those readers. It’s directed toward them. This whole survey and summary of Hattie’s history is meant to be a lesson for the ladies.

He would have to let her play the story out with all her characteristic emotion and angst. He didn’t mind. He owed her that much. He still felt guilty about where she was, both geographically and in her life. It didn’t seem that long ago that she had been the object of his lust.

Rayford had never acted on it, of course, but it was Hattie whom he was thinking of the night of the Rapture. How could he have been so deaf, so blind, so out of touch with reality? A successful professional man, married more than 20 years with a college-age daughter and a 12-year-old son, daydreaming about his senior flight attendant and justifying it because his wife had been on a religious kick! He shook his head. Irene, the lovely little woman he had for so long taken for granted …

Write this down ladies. These are your options: Hattie or Irene. You can be an “object of lust” or you can be a “lovely little woman.” You can be a wanton floozy working for a living and leading good men astray, or you can be a mother and a homemaker who has her priorities straight.

Hattie was 15 years his junior, and she was a knockout. Though they had enjoyed dinner together a few times and drinks several times, and despite the silent language of the body and the eyes, Rayford had never so much as touched her. It had not been beyond Hattie to grab his arm as she brushed past him or even to put her hands on his shoulders when speaking to him in the cockpit, but Rayford had somehow kept from letting things go further.

Remember, ladies: No touching! Irene was allowed to touch Rayford, but that was only because she was prepared to bear his children.

The responsibility to ensure that no touching occurs is entirely yours, ladies. That’s why the authors can say that Rayford never touched Hattie even when she touched him. And why Rayford’s “necking session” at an office Christmas party doesn’t count against his spotless record and his claim that he “of course” had “never acted” in response to the wiles of these seductresses. (If Rayford had groped Hattie, you get the sense the authors would have described it by saying, “It had not been beyond Hattie to press her breast into his outstretched hand as she brushed past him.”)

Rayford reminisces a bit more about the awkward dinner at which he had attempted to convert Hattie to the Rapture Gospel after awkwardly attempting to apologize — and to demand/receive an apology from her — for their prolonged non-affair of “the silent language of the body and the eyes.”

And here is the final lesson for you ladies: If any untoward touching, glances or body language occurs, you must forgive without qualification and you must apologize for your role in provoking it. And you should probably also apologize to the man you’re forgiving for allowing him to place himself in the uncomfortable position of having to ask for your forgiveness.

Rayford and the authors again lament Hattie’s failure to embrace the One True Gospel as it was presented to her in Rayford’s “earnest and focused” proselytizing. And they again attribute her rejection of this gospel to her willful hardness of heart and not to the horrifying context of having to sit through a passive-aggressive sermon from a creepy old married guy.

Less than two years later, Hattie was the personal assistant and lover of Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist. Rayford, Buck, and Chloe were believers in Christ.

So let that be a lesson to you all.

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  • Well, yeah, that’s the whole point of my snarky-ass comment.

  • Ben English

    Not to mention how it rings hollow given the supposed world they’re living in–being a member of an RTC church would be, in their world, a million times ‘worse’/more subversive than being gay. It’s another instance of Jenkins and LaHaye doing fuck all to think through the implications of their world building.

  • Ben English

    I love how the narration is all “Ooh, Bad Hattie” because she’s the ‘personal assitant and lover’ of the Antichrist, when our POV character is the personal pilot of the Antichrist’s plane and his daughter is married to to the head of the Antichrist’s global media machine. Hattie brings Nicolae lunch. Rayford flies him out of harm’s way as he gives the order to bomb San Francisco.

    Also Hattie didn’t know he was evil when she took the job. Rayford full well did.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I think I’ll be a horrible, independent, working floozy, thanks.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Complete with a “He’ll make an honest woman of me yet! *shows off sparkly ring*” moment.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Bleh. This comment was supposed to be in response to someone else. Apologies.

    And now Disqus isn’t letting me post my comment where it should have been. Damnit, Disqus….

  • Hexep

    i am so happy that Fred posted this today. I met several Christian people last night and told them about this blog and about Fred’s work deconstructing this series, and now if they come to check it out, this will be on the top of the list!

  • “I think this building should be condemned. There’s serious metal fatigue in all the load-bearing members, the wiring is substandard, it’s completely inadequate for our power needs, and the neighborhood is like a demilitarized zone.”

    – Egon Spengler.

  • rikalous

    “It’s like someone who had no qualms about being a murderer and the world knowing about it, but objected to having a reputation for stealing candy from children.”

    That sounds like a fun villain, actually.
    They may not have morals, but at least they have class. They’d be the
    kind of villain who gives the hero a nice meal where the talk turns to
    how the hero is going to be brutally murdered in the morning, and wish
    them pleasant dreams with all sincerity.

    Speaking of non sequiters, all hail the chair leg of truth, for it is wise and terrible.

  • Daniel

    Rayford Steele’s mind was on a dinner he’d never touch. He was sitting before a crisp linen table cloth, elegantly decorated with a single small flower in a simple white vase, and two crystal glasses of mineral water. Across from him was sitting a woman he’d never touched, a once beautiful, now fat, young woman who had formerly been his flight attendant. She was the concubine of another man, a far more evil man who most certainly had touched her. Rayford was unhappy. He had carefully calculated his appearance for this meeting so that no one would get the wrong impression. He had arrived at the Global Bistro- the One World Government was exceedingly brand aware- in an un-ironed shirt and his least smart chinos. He wanted to make sure everyone there knew he was not interested in the woman he’d never touched. But once he had arrived at the restaurant the maitre d’ had told him they didn’t allow men in without a tie.

    “Don’t you know who I am?” Rayford had asked, knowing full well everyone knows the pilot of Global Community One (very brand aware)
    “Yes, sir,” said the Maitre d’ “I loved you in Ice Station Zebra, and I also know
    who you’re dining with- and, well, it wouldn’t do to have you eating with the
    First Lady of the Global Community without a tie… would it?”

    Rayford despaired- was their no limit to Nicolae’s powers of manipulation? Now they thought Hattie was the impotent- IMPORTANT one at this meeting. To say he imagined the world had gone topsy-turvy would be putting it mildly. He took the tie he was offered, and to demonstrate that he certainly wasn’t thinking of touching Hattie he took it with as little grace as he could manage. It was a vile red-and-yellow striped thing, and he felt like a fool wearing it.

    Rayford Steele’s mind was on this, and on dinner, when his waitress came to take his order, and also the order of Hattie, who had arrived. Although he had previously thought emotion was the preserve of women, Rayford had become more emotionally aware since the poorly attended funeral of Bruce Barnes. He had a check list of feelings he could convincingly pretend to be having, and was using all four at this meeting. Hatred, pity, contempt and pride. He felt himself growing as a person.

    “Hello, sir,” she said, and then Rayford felt the blood drain from his face as she spoke to Hattie “And Madam First Lady… I’m sorry I’m not sure how to address you…”
    Hattie grinned warmly at the young girl, barely older than Chloe, and replied
    “Madam First Lady’s a bit of a mouthful- so just call me Hattie, if you’d like. And how should I address you?”
    The girl had smiled and Rayford grimmaced. The blood rushed to Rayford’s face
    just so it could drain back out again. So this is the way things were done by the upper echelons in the OWG? He’d have to put this right.
    “My name’s Usma, miss, erm, Hattie…”
    “And mine’s Captain Steele. And I’m hungry.” He said.
    Usma turned back to Hattie.
    “Don’t worry about him, he’s upset about the tie. Before OWG men would have killed for that tie- it’s from the old MCC.”
    Usma, originally from Pakistan, was apparently a great fan of cricket, and she smiled. She then congratulated Hattie on her pregnancy! If only she knew the truth, thought Rayford sadly. “Hmm, sadness… that’s five.” His former senior flight attendant complimented Usma’s headscarf, and the girl thanked her effusively, all the while apparently ignoring Rayford. The world was going insane.

    Rayford’s waitress, whom Rayford knew he would never touch, wore a head scarf, although it did not cover her face. She was extremely pretty, and Rayford could see in her large green eyes desire for him as she asked if he wanted a salad. She was pretending to think he was gay, a clever ruse. He was the pilot of an aircraft after all, and what young woman doesn’t dream of being groped by a pilot? He fingered his wedding ring. They gave their orders, and Hattie and Usma twittered on like women, until the now calmed younger woman went off to get their food.

    He thought again about how awful this One World Religion was. Usma had clearly been a Muslim, and she still wore the veil, but the OWR hadn’t made her stop. No one but Rayford seemed to see the tyranny of such permissiveness, and he was glad that he had. It would be an effort to keep this knowledge a secret, but with the Lord’s help he knew he could die without telling anyone how they might save their own lives.

    Usma, and several of the other women there, had breasts. Rayford could feel them pointing towards him, and instinctively he held up his wedding ring to ward off their advances. “So many horrid, horrid women,” he thought, “and some of them might be on their…” he couldn’t complete the sentence, and the blood rushed again.

    Hattie had been talking about something for the last five minutes, and Rayford had stalwartly ignored her, knowing she was just prattling. She was, after all, the girlfriend of the man he was risking his life to spy on, and she could have nothing of consequence to say to him on any subject. How had he ever wanted to…?

    As he looked at her now he couldn’t imagine why he’d ever considered an affair. She hadn’t been pregnant for even a year, but she had put on weight, particularly around her mid section, and her stomach bulged like a beach ball.
    She’d also allowed her breasts to get larger, and had made a token attempt to
    cover them by wearing clothes, but Rayford could tell. Under her clothes she was naked, he knew.

    He missed Irene. He’d loved her, in a way, and even though he’d not been there during either of her pregnancies he couldn’t remember her ever being this grotesque, glowing and smiling in an attempt to seduce him. He missed Irene. Even though they had had their disagreements when she was there now that she wasn’t he found her much more loveable. He thought about the old saying “women- can’t live with ’em.” He smiled.
    “I’m surprised you find that amusing.” said Hattie. “I mean, I haven’t even got to the part where I tell you how we’re planning to administer the HPV vaccine world wide, and save millions of lives.”
    Did she know he hadn’t been listening? No. Of course not. She was Hattie, after all. Vapid, stupid, mentally absent Hattie, a thing of breasts and legs and buttocks and a smiling, welcoming mouth and…
    How he missed Irene. And that other one, Angie or whatever.

  • Daniel

    This may seem a little vulgar, so I apologise. But given Rayford and Irene had two children together, supposedly via the normal means, can you imagine them having sex? I mean, the way the characters are written, could you (no pun intended) conceive of that? Rayford is basically Peter Sutcliffe in uniform, and Irene seems like the sort who’d have a full on hysterical fit if she saw a penis, so really how the hell did they do it? My guess is rohypnol. Rayford’s definitely the type.

  • But the “lovely little woman” was Irene, not Hattie. Maybe that was your point, but if so, I’m not seeing it.

  • arcseconds

    For those of you who aren’t getting your recommended daily intake of snark, I give you The Comics Curmudgeon, who, amongst many (or at least several) other comics, has Gil Thorp (Jerry’s old comic strip) in his crosshairs.

    Some of Josh’s subjects, under the light of his arc-lamp, are not unreminiscent of L&J, inasmuch as one starts to get the impression that behind the obvious incompetence, there’s a hyper-ironic, postmodern, existentialist (or possibly absurdist) narrative waiting to be unfurled.

    They bring into question the whole concept of narrative entertainment….

  • JennyHegemony

    I think the point is that no one, in fact, wants to be thought of that way. Given the choice, even a good RTC like Noble would rather people see her (on screen, at least) as the knockout contended over (sorta) by the hero and the villain than as the canonized-but-frumpy angel in the house.

    Of course, Irene doesn’t get many lines, so that may be more the reasoning there. But it’s fair to suspect that our natural interest in the imperfect might make Hattie a more interesting character to an actress than Irene.

  • Amtep

    You can have mine if you want. I find it pretty useless — the indicator is always on, no matter what. I had it checked several times and they assured me it was properly calibrated though.

  • Sue White


  • It’s a small note in the face of all this disgusting condescension towards poor Hattie, but I find it funny that LaJenkins keep harping on the 15-year-age-difference thing. 15 years is really not much (plus, hello, Buck is ten years older than Chloe!). I’ve been doing some stuff lately: my great-grandparents on one side of the family had 14 years between them, and my great-great grandparents on one side had a 35 years between them. And in both cases, family lore has it that the marriages were happy and successful.

    Just seems weird of our esteemed authors, is all. Also, their harping on it doesn’t make Hattie sound younger than she is–it makes Rayford sound older.

    Also, and off-topic: I just posted Part 2 of my blog’s first ever guest critique of a Christian movie!

  • Abel Undercity

    “Hello, boys” directed at Buck and Rayford? That happy image is going to stay with me all day.

    Oh, and the Doctor putting the kibosh on TurboJesus. That too.

  • She isn’t saved, and the only characters for whom we get to read their thoughts are the saved ones

    I admit I’m somewhat grateful they won’t make her a viewpoint character for that very reason. Let’s face it, they’d never do her viewpoint justice. Hell, I doubt they’d even make it semi-believable.

  • Sue White

    They’re always harping on age differences. Probably their way of reminding us who’s who in the pecking order.
    My parents were 13 years apart but I don’t remember them ever talking about it.

  • Daniel

    exactly- it’s the authority those extra years give the characters. Buck had the good sense to be born ten years before Chloe, illustrating what a dynamic and effective man he is. I have encountered many people in my life who derive their sense of authority from having the same good sense. There’s one thing all your fancy book learnin’ can’t give you- and that’s the ten more years that I’ve had to waste than you, so give me deference.

  • Ben English

    I’m recalling something in the epistles to Timothy about not letting people hold you in lesser esteem because of your age… something like ‘don’t do that’.


  • Daniel

    The problem there is that in order to understand that instruction you have to read it literally- and as everyone knows, “literally” means “so that it agrees with my existing prejudice”.

  • Daniel

    The title of an up-tempo country hit.

  • Daniel

    So what you’re telling me is that Timkins have stolen a plot from the Flintstones? I really hope there’s a little green Jesus that only Buck can see who gets him into all kinds of scrapes.

  • Daniel


  • P J Evans

    It’s always like that. That’s part of the fun.

  • NelC

    A thing of beauty! Laughing like a drain, here.

  • Verna Zee is defined by not worshiping Buck’s dick.

  • bekabot

    Here we observe Rayford making a case for himself. Which is weird, because on the basis of what the text has had to say, nothing has ever really gone on “between” Rayford and Hattie other than a certain amount of straight-person tension which they both wish weren’t there. That’s what Rayford testifies to and a reader naturally supposes, though the story is written from Rayford’s point of view, that Hattie would concur. One supposes Hattie would concur because she’s never done anything other than brush past Rayford and look at him; so she can’t be convicted of flirting. (One supposes, once again, that if Hattie found Rayford irresistible she would be more forthcoming, if only because she’s full of emotion and angst.)

    Rayford’s problem, therefore, is that Hattie can’t be convicted even of flirting.

    So Rayford’s further problem is: what can he convict her of?

    That’s what this whole thing sounds like: like Rayford’s answer to some kind of commission of inquiry. “Brother Rayford, we have long been dismayed about your conduct”, something like that. What doesn’t fit, in this narrative, is that between Hattie and Rayford, there has been no conduct. Yet Rayford havers on and on interiorly, acting as his own lawyer, and even the way he havers is off-key; he doesn’t build a case on the basis of his never having come on to Hattie; instead he seems to be trying to build a case on the basis that Hattie was always coming on to him. (“But gentlemen, what could I do, she was always there, taking up…space.”) This is weak showing and Rayford seems to know it, so he hops onto ground of which he is surer: in the years since, Hattie has become, not just any secretary, but personal secretary to the Antichrist, which is surely not a vocation for an innocent. (Though Rayford is the Antichrist’s pilot — but one inconsistency at a time.)

  • I’m sure they treat their pets far better. They don’t blame a dog for having been born a dog.

  • Please warn if you’re gonna pull out a rape joke.

  • bekabot

    I wish I could give this more than one upvote…

  • Daniel

    I’m sorry. I know this sounds like awful back peddling but it’s only now I read that back I realise that’s what I said- I was actually just trying to make the point the Rayford is horrendously sleazy and misogynist, the kind of man who regards spiking a drink as “helping things along”. I didn’t consider what it was I was actually saying, so I am sorry. Although I do stand by the comparison with the serial killer.

  • Yes, I didn’t think you meant to hurt anyone :). I just expected “vulgar” to be about the idea of Rayford and Irene having sex (eew!) so the rape reference was a shock.

  • Imo, Jenkins has an age kink. Otherwise he wouldn’t stroke the age difference in the books so much.

  • Daniel

    Yeah, vulgar was in reference to the sex. I think it is an interesting question given what we know about the characters- can you imagine collapsing in lovelorn ecstasy onto a pile of hand crocheted doilies? I’ve probably spent too much time thinking about this, and I think part of Rayford’s hatred for Hattie is that he knows he wouldn’t be as good in bed as the anti-christ.
    I’m getting more vulgar to cover up the embarrassment from the earlier comment, as you can see.

  • I think the only person who could give Rayford competition in the “bad in bed” department is Buck.

  • christopher_y

    Mine were 13 years apart too. It was particularly common in that generation where a lot of people had to put their lives on hold because of a spot of bother in Europe and the Pacific. That was also LaHaye’s generation, wasn’t it?

  • I woiuld argue consensual doggy style. That way Rayford never has to see Irene’s face, he can just pretend it’s Hattie he’s boinking.

  • J Neo Marvin

    “Hattie was Rayford’s senior flight attendant,” but Rayford is not Hattie’s pilot.

    Reminds me of the famous anecdote where Charlie Watts punched a drunk Mick Jagger at a party and said, “Don’t you ever call me ‘my drummer’. You’re MY lead singer.”

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Construction project, everybody! We need to build dozens hundreds lots of shiny new Internets to present to Daniel!

  • Rayford and/or Irene doing anything but missionary position with the lights out? Doubt it.

  • Jamoche

    I had a friend who really believed that men and women couldn’t be friends without it leading to sex – or at least used that as justification for cheating on her husband and then accusing me of cheating *with* her husband. Which I found out when she told my *mom*.

  • People who cheat are always the most afraid of other people cheating on them.

  • Jamoche

    “She was, after all, the girlfriend of the man he was risking his life to spy on, and she could have nothing of consequence to say to him on any subject. ”


    ETA: When I first wrote this I thought “and this is what James Bond does all the time” but I couldn’t quite pin down why that didn’t apply.

    On further reflection: L&J appear to think they’re writing in that genre, so somewhere in the back of their minds they realized that “spy gets info out of villain’s girlfriend” is a scene that has to happen, but as usual it’s completely incompatible with the characters they’ve got.

  • Jamoche

    “But gentlemen, what could I do, she was always there, taking up…space.”

    In the close quarters of an airplane, even!

  • Daniel

    I think she’d find any kind of sex degrading. Maybe consensual blindfolding, for both partners, so no one has to see anyone or thing of what they’re doing, and Irene can make them as frilly as she likes- kind of a craft project. I honestly imagine the two of them just rubbing together painfully for a couple of minutes, looking horrified, saying goodnight and going to sleep. Rayford certainly doesn’t strike me as the passionate type.

  • I doubt they’d even make it semi-believable.

    Too true. They try to give Hattie’s viewpoint a few times in the prequels, and, from what I can remember, it mostly consists of her thinking about how she wants to steal Rayford from Irene so she can keep him for herself. Which felt out of character given the Hattie that we actually see in the series. I suspect her POV was only tacked on because Jenkins wanted to prove that Hattie was as bad as he claimed by having Hattie herself say it. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work at all; it just made the series seem even more disjointed.

  • Daniel

    That is perfect. I don’t know if “the new statesman” reached anywhere outside the UK but the main character in that series thought his incredibly speedy performance showed his virility, and so he timed himself to see how fast he could finish. I imagine Buck is much the same, and no amount of telling him otherwise will ever convince him. I think he probably has a list of personal bests.