NRA: The antichrist power

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 165-174

I finally figured out what this scene reminds me of, and it’s given me a new sense of how the Antichrist’s supposed mind-control mojo works.

It reminds me of Improv Everywhere — the “New York City-based prank collective that causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places.” Specifically, it reminds me of what Improv Everywhere often does to its “audience” — to the unsuspecting members of the public on the street who are initially unaware that they’re witnessing an act of guerrilla theater.

Think of it: It’s January and you’re riding the subway on your way to work in the morning. A dozen people enter the car at the next stop. One of them appears to be a businessman, a stock-broker maybe. He carries a briefcase and has a newspaper tucked under his arm. He’s wearing a suit jacket and tie, and an overcoat because, again, it’s January.

But he’s not wearing pants.

That’s bonkers. Pants are not an option in public or in January, and particularly not in public and in January.  The social mores requiring pants are firmly established. We all know this. We all know that one cannot just walk out the door, get on the subway and head to work without putting on pants.

But what we’re less sure about is what we’re supposed to do when someone else seems unaware of this rule. It seems like we ought to do … something. But we have no clear idea what that would be.

It would be one thing if this otherwise unremarkable commuter seemed drunk or high, or if he seemed to be having some kind of mental breakdown. We would be able to explain and accept this sight if it seemed this was just some college student dropping trou for some kind of “wacky” hijinks. But this guy isn’t acting wacky or drunk. He seems utterly nonchalant and perfectly normal — except for the bonkers fact that he’s not wearing pants.

This being New York, someone says something. The man looks down, as though he hadn’t realized. “Dammit,” he says, “I was in such a rush this morning I must’ve forgot.” Like he’d left his cell phone on the nightstand. Or like he’d left a window open and the forecast calls for rain.

This man is on the train without pants. Bonkers. But exponentially more bonkers is his apparent inability to acknowledge how bonkers it is.

This is not a thing that happens. This is not something that actual people actually do. Yet here is an actual person actually doing it. And he’s so calm and nonchalant about the whole thing that you can’t help but start to second-guess yourself.

Well, he doesn’t seem to think this is weird, so maybe … You start involuntarily grasping for some correspondingly casual and matter-of-fact, sensible explanation for this very strange thing — some way of reinterpreting it as some kind of normal you hadn’t previously realized could be normal. Maybe it’s like he said. Maybe he just was in a rush and he somehow forgot

A dozen more people get on at the next stop. Two of them aren’t wearing pants. They seem like otherwise normal people, yet neither of them seems aware that they’re not wearing pants, or that three people riding the subway without pants is a full-gonzo bonkers thing that never happens.

On the one hand, the pants-less newcomers just made the situation three times more strange. But on the other hand, the nonchalance of the first guy now has social support. You’re now faced with three people whose demeanor quietly insists that your bewilderment is uncalled for.  The number of witnesses silently testifying that this is all perfectly normal is increasing, and thus so is the pressure to consider that view. Plus, what you’re seeing now is no longer unprecedented. Some part of your brain says, “Oh, look, more people who forgot their pants. I’ve seen this before. This is something that sometimes happens. …”

Another bare-legged commuter gets on at the next stop, and the next. Both ideas get a little bit louder. “Something very, very strange is happening” vs. “How is it I’d never noticed people doing this before?”

Finally, at the eighth stop, a street vendor enters the car with a big duffle bag filled with pants he’s selling for $1 and at last it becomes clear that this was all some kind of joke — a show. The audience laughs and cheers and applauds.

They’re laughing because it’s a funny joke, but they’re also laughing because they’re relieved. They’re relieved to finally have the explanation they’d been trying to figure out, and they’re even more relieved to have that explanation confirmed as Possibility No. 1 rather than Possibility No. 2. Possibility No. 1 was “this is not normal.” Possibility No. 2 was “If this is normal, then I must not be normal.” If their nonchalance is correct and this is not bonkers, then I must be bonkers.

As with many good pranks, there’s an element of something like cruelty involved. It’s a bit like gaslighting, this trick of causing people to second-guess themselves. That initial tension enhances the delight that follows, so in the end it’s all good (although I do worry a little about anyone who got off the train before the big reveal).

The No Pants Subway Ride seems to draw its inspiration from the classic Hans Christian Andersen story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” That’s such a familiar story that it’s gotten reduced to something of a fable about the perils of flattery and pompous hypocrisy. We thus sometimes lose sight of what it reminds us about the incredible power of social pressure to align ourselves with whatever it is we’re told to understand as normal. Improv Everywhere’s subway stunt highlights that part of the story. In their version, the emperor is in on the joke — making that pressure all the more powerful.

It’s not surprising that a bunch of unsuspecting commuters can be semi-convinced to accept pants-less subway riders as somehow normal — as a thing that apparently just happens. What’s more alarmingly strange? The sight of a businessman who casually forgets to put on pants? Or the sight of a human being, addicted or traumatized or both, sleeping on the sidewalk unaided and unnoticed? Once you’ve been taught to overlook the latter, overlooking the former isn’t that big a stretch.*

This is my new theory, then, about the source of the Antichrist’s “mind-control” mojo. This is a feature of the power of antichrists in the biblical sense (as opposed to the pop-culture idea of “The Antichrist,” embraced and read back into the Bible by “prophecy scholars” like Tim LaHaye). Antichrists — in the Bible itself, the word is always plural — seduce us into being “conformed to this world,” as St. Paul said.

By “this world” Paul wasn’t referring to the Other — to those nasty unbelievers, Ninevites, humanists and liberals with their rock music, R-rated movies, two-piece bathing suits and other degenerate symbols of their “worldliness.” For Paul, as for Jesus, “this world” refers to a system — to the oppressive, unjust status quo of The Powers That be, which compels and cajoles us all to participate in its oppression and injustice.

In this system, any nail that sticks up will get hammered down. But, as Andersen’s story reminds us, the real power isn’t in the hammer. The real power lies in the ability to convince us that we don’t want to stick up. That power is so effective that very little hammering is ever required.

We can imagine an evil tyrant –a The Antichrist — who was able to re-enact the parade in TENC as a demonstration of his unchallenged power. He would be able to parade down the street naked with all the people marveling over the splendor of his imaginary finery. And they wouldn’t entirely be pretending — in a sense, they would actually see the new clothes that weren’t there. Such power would be indistinguishable from supernatural “mind control.”

(In this version of the story, of course, the little child who exposes the emperor’s nakedness would be quickly and efficiently silenced and permanently disappeared. That’s how emperors do things — employing the hammer when necessary so as not to need it most of the time. This is why if you’re denouncing the emperor it’s prudent to do so in coded symbolism — writing of multi-headed beasts and dragons and the like.)

I’ve now strayed rather far afield from my initial point, and from the scene in Nicolae that we’re supposed to be discussing this week. So let’s get back to that.

Rayford Steele and Hattie Durham are sitting in a restaurant discussing the sorry state of her relationship with Nicolae Carpathia. That’s what’s going on here — a conversation about a woman’s relationship with her boyfriend/fiancé.

On that level, the scene doesn’t work very well. Hattie is such a straw-woman caricature of the authors’ idea of women that she seems wholly unreal and unbelievable. They portray her with such condescending contempt and then, through Rayford, treat her with such condescending contempt that this whole scene winds up repulsive and unreadable. Hattie isn’t recognizably human, yet we’re instinctively forced to side with her due to the abuse she’s suffering from Nicolae, Rayford and the authors, so we wind up, as readers, pulling for the one character against whom the deck is obviously stacked. That makes for an unpleasant reading experience.

We could delve into more of the specific reasons that this scene fails as an attempt to portray a conversation about the state of one woman’s relationship. We could highlight the hilariously unnatural dialogue, or the hideousness of Rayford’s narcissism.

“Rayford was biding his time,” Jerry Jenkins writes, after Hattie complains that she’s just become “a piece of furniture” to her boyfriend. It’s a telling description of Rayford’s role in every conversation he ever has. The man never listens, he just “bides his time” until he has a chance to say whatever it was he was going to say anyway.

“There was so much he wanted to tell her,” we’re told, although we’re never told what that might be, because Rayford winds up biding all of his time and never tells Hattie much of anything — not even the things he knows that she really needs to know for her physical and spiritual survival. For most of the conversation, instead, Rayford peppers Hattie with questions about how much Nicolae knows about himself and Buck and Chloe. He learns what he needs to learn from her and that’s all he seems to care about.

We might also step back a bit to explore the punitive function of this scene. Hattie is intended here as an object lesson for all the women and girls reading this book. She is being punished for not being a chaste, submissive “little wife” like Irene Steele. That punishment is clearly intended to warn any women who might be considering any other possibility in life beyond becoming Irene: Faithfully serve your unfaithful husbands without complaint. Cook dinner and collect knick-knacks and wait for the Rapture and never worry that you’re just a thing — a replaceable object wholly interchangeable with Amanda White or any other subservient “little” woman. Otherwise, you’ll end up unloved and pregnant with Satan’s baby.

But all of the many ways we could critique this scene as an ordinary conversation about the state of one woman’s relationship would be beside the point, because the biggest problem with this scene is that it attempts to present an ordinary conversation about the state of one woman’s relationship.

That’s bonkers. Hattie isn’t just dating some random guy. Her “boyfriend” is The Antichrist — the global “potentate” who just spent the previous two days nuking dozens of cities and carrying out the worst mass-murder in the history of the world.

That never comes up in this conversation.

Whatever the merits of analyzing what it means for her marriage prospects that her boyfriend seems a bit stand-offish of late, the fact that he’s just indiscriminately slaughtered tens of millions of people — including everyone in Hattie’s home town — would seem a bit more urgent as a factor in the status of this relationship. Yet Hattie, Rayford and the authors themselves completely ignore that. (I’d think of this as Hattie’s “Don’t Cry for Me Global Community” moment, but Nicolae’s crimes are so much greater in scope than Peron’s atrocities that it almost seems unfair to Evita.)

So we start this scene wondering what Hattie and Rayford will say about this slaughter. Then we’re gradually unnerved as we gradually realize they’re not going to discuss it. Then we’re further unnerved as we realize they are, instead, going to discuss trivialities that it ought to be utterly impossible for them to discuss without in some way accounting for the fact that Chicago and New York and London and a dozen other cities were just obliterated.

It’s bonkers. But Hattie and Rayford are nonchalantly behaving as though it’s not. The authors themselves steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the mind-blowing, delirious bonkerosity of the scene they’re presenting.**

This happens all the time in these books. Reading the Left Behind series means constantly being gaslighted by the authors, constantly second-guessing one’s response to the deeply weird scenes unfolding as though they were completely normal.

That glib presentation of normalcy sometimes half-lulls us into playing along, shrugging off the sense that — “Omigod, none of this makes any sense because all of these people lost all of their children a week ago.”

Either the authors and their characters are completely bonkers or we are. Fortunately, in these books, we’re never seriously forced to consider Possibility No. 2.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I’m not trying to lead us into a discussion here of our obligations or best-practices when we encounter the homeless on the street. That’s an important conversation, but a separate matter from my point here, which is that in New York, as in almost any other great city, it would be impossible to function without the ability to see homeless beggars as normal. Or, I guess, to not seem them, and to make not seeing them normal. “This world” is the system of this world, and to live in this world forces us to get with the system. That’s why antichrists are so powerful.

** I have to wonder if Jenkins even realized what’s going on here. Had he planned this conversation and then inserted it here in Chapter 9 without realizing that the events of Chapter 8 had rendered it impossible? Did he even notice the problem with locating this conversation in this context? Or was he just typing so quickly, with so little care, that it never occurred to him?

We should always try to presume incompetence, rather than malice, so I suppose it’s better to suggest that Jenkins is a horrifically shoddy writer rather than an evil huckster deliberately selling a shoddy product that he knows is full of gaping plot holes like this one. But either way, the scope of the incompetence and/or malice is so staggering that I marvel at how he was able to do it.

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  • aunursa

    But he’s not wearing pants.

    That used to be a recurring dream. I was the man. And when I realized to my horror that I wasn’t wearing pants, I woke up.

  • hagsrus

    Does anyone not have this dream? I even remember it at age about seven going to school in my pajamas and asking a friend “This is a dream, isn’t it?” To which she nodded.

    And subsequent variations. I’m usually alerted to the dream state by how totally unconcerned everyone is about my partial or total nudity.

  • Ben English

    Not having pants specifically has never happened, but I do sometimes dream that I’m randomly naked in the presence of others and while it’s not seen as normal, it’s also not treated by me or them as particularly abnormal. It’s always “Why are you naked?” or “You should get dressed.”

    Except that part of my brain that polices social norms, which begins to make me feel more and more self conscious.

  • Dogfacedboy

    I once dreamt that I was in a play and had to appear naked on a theatre stage. And I’d invited all my relatives. Who are all RTC’s who don’t approve of sins like nudity. And I didn’t know my lines. And I think there were Nazis in it, who may or may not have been just actors. It was a pretty bad dream all around.

  • Panda Rosa

    Your description makes me think of a surreal version of “The Diary Of Anne Frank (the unexpurgated version) Recently there are found a few pages on (I’ll put it politely) Anne’s thoughts on her blooming femininity, and her examing her female parts.
    Maybe you’re just facing the major challenges of youth.

  • Phoenix Feather

    I have a lot of dreams like that, where I’m in a play and it’s opening night, but I don’t know my lines, or my role, or what play it is. Oddly, though, I’ve never had a naked dream. My theory is that it’s because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so appearing in front of a crowd completely unprepared would be worse to me than appearing naked.

  • Tim Lehnerer

    Six years after I graduated college, I still have astonishingly vivid dreams of having to write a paper that’s due tomorrow for a class I skipped fourteen weeks out of fifteen. When I wake up I invariably have to remind myself that I’m not actually going to college any more. I haven’t had the “forgot to put clothes on before going out” dream, but this appears to be my own personal anxiety rerun.

  • general_apathy

    Yeah, I get that one too (though I’m still a student). I did actually miss an exam once, due to a region-wide transit failure, and since then it’s always been in the form of missing the train. I always thought the idea of a “realistic dream” was just people exaggerating, but this is accurate down to the smell. It’s bizarre.

  • Daniel

    No, there’s others. A few times a week for three months after I’d completed my Master’s I’d wake in a cold sweat at stupid o’clock in the morning having dreamt I was due to take my GCSEs and hadn’t revised. I actually used to get out of bed wondering if I’d got time to cram before I remembered I’d finished GCSEs seven years earlier.

  • ophelia

    I’m almost 30 and finished law school 3 years ago, yet I frequently dream that I’m in high school and have to take final exams for classes that I never attended. I wake up in a panic about not being able to graduate before I remember that I graduated from high school over 10 years ago. Dreams are bizarre things,

  • Kenneth Raymond

    Same here. Never had the lack-of-clothes dreams (that I can recall), but I get some about having missed a class all semester just before a major test (oddly, often science classes like chemistry, which I’ve never been bad at but weren’t my favorite)… and, more recently, ones where my teeth are breaking apart and falling out of my mouth. Not fun in the slightest, especially since I have a problem with unconsciously clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth.

  • spinetingler

    The losing teeth one used to happen to me regularly, until I got oral cancer and one of the possibilities was having all my teeth pulled so they wouldn’t fall out due to the radiation. I stopped having the dream after that, with the possible horror of the dream far outpaced by the actual potential horror of the cancer treatment.

  • ShifterCat

    Willy Nilly, postman, asleep up street, walks fourteen miles
    to deliver the post as he does every day of the night, and
    rat-a-tats hard and sharp on Mrs Willy Nilly.

    Don’t spank me, please, teacher,

    whimpers his wife at his side, but every night of her married
    life she has been late for school.

  • Phoenix Feather

    Also, there are no Nazis. Now I feel a bit cheated on that end. :/

  • Veleda_k

    I had the no pants dream (A friend drove me into down and dropped me off. When I noticed I had no pants I was upset because a) I had no wallet, so no bus pass, and no change to call someone to get me, and b) because my friend drove me all the way without mentioning I wasn’t wearing pants.) When I woke up, I had somehow removed my pajama bottoms in my sleep.

    ….Dun dun DUN.

  • Wednesday

    I don’t have the no-pants dreams, or any no-clothes dreams.

    I _do_ have dreams where I’m trying to put on my pants (which I’m
    holding in my hands), or my pants are on backwards and I need to take them off to turn them around, and constantly looking for a place to do so in privacy, but I keep getting interrupted by people who walk through locked doors.

  • Daniel

    I don’t remember ever having the naked or partially naked in public dream but I once had a dream David Bowie was spitefully breaking all the handles off my mum’s favorite mugs because he was pissed off I wasn’t paying him enough attention. I kept asking him to stop, and promising we’d hang out, but he just kept smiling that evil smile and smashing away. That dream actually left me feeling quite upset.

    I’m sorry. It’s after 4am and I’m knackered.

  • Veleda_k

    That’s an awesome dream. (Though I’m sorry it made you upset.)

  • Daniel

    It was just his face… he enjoyed it. He didn’t want my mum to have a comfortable cup of tea, or one she could have enjoyed in a nice mug. It kind of lowered my opinion of Bowie, actually. If he ever comes round, I’m giving him one of my old mugs, so it doesn’t matter if he gets stroppy. I’ll still offer him cake though. We can’t defeat monsters by becoming monsters.

  • Panda Rosa

    Even Cookie Monsters?
    I do get what you mean.

  • Daniel

    I think Chloe calls Buck the Cookie Monster.
    I would like to see a recast, reimagined sesame street a la Christopher Nolan’s terribly serious Batman films starring David Bowie as the Cookie Monster.

  • ReverendRef

    In previous years when we (football officials) wore white knickers (we wear black slacks now), I had one pre-season dream where I forgot to pack my knickers. The solution was to wrap myself in athletic tape and I walked out onto the field looking like “The Mummy.”

    Every year, before every first game, I also have a bad dream relating to football. It’s no wonder I go through my game bag five times before every game.

  • Lorehead

    That’s so much funnier if I read it with a British accent.

  • Lori

    To the best of my memory I’ve never had the naked dream. I’ve had other versions of the anxiety dream, but not that one.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah, neither have I.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Me neither. I’ve had plenty of the “it’s the end of the semester and I’ve never been to class” dream, but not the naked dream.

  • SororAyin

    I had a dream where I was naked and walking through a crowded shopping mall. I was upset at my nudity at first, but nobody seemed to notice. After a while, I started to feel sexy and sensual walking around in public without a stitch of clothes on. I’m not sure what that says about me, and I’m not entirely sure I want to know.

  • Miff

    I’ve never had a dream of such, although I’ve had dreams when I’m “back in school” despite having been homeschooled…

  • Phoenix Feather

    Curious. Does that mean you’re back at your house? Or sitting in a school you’ve never attended?

  • banancat

    I know it’s a near-universal dream, but I’ve never had it. I have been naked plenty of times in dreams (aside from the sexual ones), but it has always had a theme of either (non-sexual) intimacy/comfort or rebellion, rather than embarrassment. For example, I had a dream senior of college that everyone in my class was just hanging out naked, with lumps and hair and everything normal about bodies that we usually try to hide even when naked. After going through all the late nights and tough tests and job interviews together, I felt a sense of closeness to them. In another sense, I’ve had a few dreams where I was naked for comfort (like on a hot day) at hypothetical places where it was socially acceptable but against a rule for that specific place (like a public pool).

  • Antigone10

    A friend of mine does nude modeling for art schools, and she had a dream where she was supposed to get naked, but underneath her robe was clothes. She kept trying to get them off but there were more and more clothes underneath them.

    The human brain is weird.

  • eamonknight

    I think everyone has the “naked in public” dream once in a while.

    As a teenager, my younger son went through a phase in which he would extemporize yarns which always started with “So I says to the Pope, ‘Pope….'”, rambled on at some length, and ended with “….and that’s when I realized I wasn’t wearing any pants”. They were excellent dinner table entertainment ;-).

  • aunursa

    They portray her with such condescending contempt and then, through Rayford, treat her with such condescending contempt that this whole scene winds up repulsive and unreadable… We could highlight the hilariously unnatural dialogue

    “Schoolgirl” in the Left Behind series…

    Book #1, p 405: Her reaction was more than worth the wait. She folded her hands and drew them to her mouth, her eyes filling. Then she took his hand in hers. “Oh, Buck,” she whispered. “Oh, Buck.”
    “It’s nice to see you, too,” he said.
    Chloe quickly let go of his hand as if catching herself. “I don’t mean to act like a schoolgirl,” she said, “but have you ever received a direct answer to prayer?”

    Book #2, p 37: “I thought I was on his mind, Dad. Now I sit here like a schoolgirl, wondering and hoping. It’s all so stupid. Why should I care? I just met him. I hardly know him. I just admire him, that’s all.”

    Book #3, p 169: “He was a world traveler, an international politician, a leader. He was already the most famous man in the world. I knew he was going places. I felt like a giggling schoolgirl and couldn’t imagine I had impressed him in the least.”

    Book #3, p 380: Hattie stood awkwardly, and her chair scraped the floor as she turned to embrace Chloe. They held each other for a long minute, and then the entire party moved into the other room. Hattie tried to smile. “I feel foolish,” she said, “like a blubbering schoolgirl.”

    Book #5, p 377: Rayford shrugged. “It’s not like we talk about it.”
    “Does he know you had a crush on me once?”
    “Hattie, you sound like a schoolgirl.”
    “Don’t deny it.”

    NOTE: “Schoolboy” appears three times in the series: once in a positive sense (Tsion preparing for his “Who is the Messiah?” broadcast), and twice referring to unsaved characters (Chaim and Leon.) Jerry Jenkins never uses “schoolboy” for Brave Sir Rayford (“Captain Steele, stop acting like a blubbering schoolboy!”) or the GIRAT (“Having the unspeakable honor of hitting the ENTER key to post Tsion’s message online, Buck was as giddy as a schoolboy.”)

  • VMtheCoyote

    Alongside your point, which is… yeah, ow, that is some awful sexism, I’d also like to point out this quote: “I don’t mean to act like a schoolgirl,” she said, “but have you ever received a direct answer to prayer?”

    Has anyone ever said this, in the history of human language?

  • Lorehead

    I’m sure there’s an audiobook, so the answer is, in all likelihood, sadly yes.

  • Guest

    Aunursa, you are really starting to worry me. What is the source of this strange obsession?

  • aunursa

    As I said last year: If I were truly obsessed with the LB series, I would spend four years of my life conducting a complete analysis of Left Behind, page by painful page. Then I would spend another three years picking apart the sequel, Tribulation Force. And then the LB movies….

    (Actually it takes only a few minutes to search online editions of the LB books for the words “schoolgirl” and “schoolboy.”)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Says the person that breathlessly galumphs into any comment thread no matter what and insists on telling us all about the very latest and greatest in the frakkin’ movie.

  • aunursa

    Hey, if the other commenters are apathetic about the upcoming film, I’ll be happy to stop posting about it.

    However it seems that at least one person is interested.

  • FearlessSon

    Nah, we appreciate your efforts, anursa. Much like Fred, you risk your sanity to bring us juicy morsels to snark apart.

  • Matt

    I have only known two people who use that ‘like a schoolgirl’ phrase. Both of them were born before World War II. I don’t know what that means.

  • themunck

    I admit that I have used the phrase “giggle like a schoolgirl” a few times

  • Daniel

    I use it- whenever I have to say the word “titmouse”.

  • StevoR

    “Three little girls from school are we … ”

    – The Mikado, Gilbert &Sullivan.

    Now that’s what I think of with the word..FWIW

  • aunursa

    Otherwise, you’ll end up unloved and pregnant with Satan’s baby.

    Not to worry. God will abort the pregnancy in Book #5.

  • Zornorph

    Hattie should have provoked Nicolae into throwing her off the balcony.

  • reynard61

    What? You mean take a Stand against him? ;-)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    What you did there. I see it.

  • themunck

    Completely OT: You won. And EH is being a creepy stalker by reminding me of this by posting a reply to something I posted on another site. 3 years ago. And then commenting “thanks for keeping your activity public”. EH, since I know you’re reading this: You are one creepy fucker.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve seen EH upvoting comments on this blog even after EH claimed to have left. (-_-)

  • Enopoletus Harding
  • Invisible Neutrino

    Oh look, it’s you. IIiiiiiiiii thought you weren’t ever coming baaaaaaaack.

  • WingedBeast

    So… God performed an abortion.
    Abortion is evil.
    Abortion is evil because God hates it.
    Therefore, God hates himself.

    And suddenly the entire series and, indeed, the L&J theology makes so much more sense.

  • Phoenix Feather

    Isn’t it later revealed that her baby’s death was caused by Nicolae trying to poison her? Or something?

    Then again, since God’s plans and Antichrist’s plans always seem to align perfectly, I guess it was God’s abortion either way.

  • aunursa

    In fact Hattie’s baby is stillborn, and it’s implied that it’s a result of the poison.

    However the Tribbles all constantly prayed for Hattie and her unborn. So it’s arguable that God could have saved the baby and yet chose to ignore the prayers.

  • banancat

    Also, isn’t God’s abortion basically a reward for Hattie becoming a RTC or at least considering it? Not sure if I’m remembering that right though

  • LMM22

    Also, isn’t God’s abortion basically a reward for Hattie becoming a RTC or at least considering it?

    I’m hoping you’re making that up, because the theological implications there would be … difficult, to say the least.

  • aunursa

    Also, isn’t God’s abortion basically a reward for Hattie becoming a RTC or at least considering it?

    No. Hattie doesn’t become an RTC for another three books.

  • FearlessSon

    Let me guess, at the point that Hattie inevitably starts wanting her “baby” back?

  • aunursa

    I have to wonder if Jenkins even realized what’s going on here. Had he planned this conversation and then inserted it here in Chapter 9 without realizing that the events of Chapter 8 had rendered it impossible? Did he even notice the problem with locating this conversation in this context? Or was he just typing so quickly, with so little care, that it never occurred to him?

    No. No. Yes.

  • lampwick

    What I keep wondering is what the _readers_ think. Out of all the people who read these books, didn’t some of them stop and wonder about these questions, or others? This says something about basic reading protocol — that the writer is supposed to give us a lucid and consistent story, and if he/she doesn’t, the idea is that we fall out of that story. But, apparently, some people (many people) don’t.

  • aunursa

    Out of all the people who read these books, didn’t some of them stop and wonder about these questions, or others?

    Only a small minority of readers. The vast majority of them are so fixated on what will happen next to the Tribbles, that they don’t notice any inconsistencies or plot holes.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    [I]n New York, as in almost any other great city, it would be impossible to function without the ability to see homeless beggars as normal. Or, I guess, to not seem them, and to make not seeing them normal.

    This (like most things) brings to mind a sad but powerful Louis CK joke:

    We picked her [my friend’s cousin] up at port authority bus station. She had never been to any city before. And we’re picking her up at the port authority, that smelly hole of a place. We pick her up there, and she’s just freaking out at New York. She’s never seen anything like it. And we pass this homeless guy and she sees him. I mean, we all passed him, but she saw him. She’s the only one who actually saw him. We didn’t.

    Me and her cousin were like, “So? He’s supposed to be there. So what? There’s a perfectly good reason why that’s not me and it’s him. The right people always win, I’m sure of it.”[…]

    His cousin immediately just gets–“Oh, my God! Sir–are you okay? What happened?” What happened?! America happened. What do you mean what happened? Like she thinks that he just fell into that. Right now. … So she’s down there. “Sir, can we call someone?”

    And me and my friend, we’re from New York, this is the crazy part, we immediately go to her, we start correcting her behavior, like she’s doing something wrong. She was so confused. “Why, is he okay?”

    “No, no, he needs you desperately. That’s not the point. We just don’t do that here–you silly country girl.” … It’s weird. Because if you did see a guy who was dressed up fall into shit and vomit and garbage, you’d go, “Oh my God!” And you’d stop and dust him off, and you’d laugh at him a little bit–but you’d help him. But then a guy who’s been there for a long time, you go, “Fuck him.”

  • Panda Rosa

    Your comments are true, that’s why they make me sad.

  • bificommander

    For a darkly humorous take on the subject.

  • D Johnston

    I just realized what these books remind me of. Have you ever read one of those collaborative stories where each writer only knows what the last writer contributed? They get silly in a hurry as the story veers way off course, ending up on the other side of the planet from where they started. Course, those kinds of stories are intentionally silly, aren’t they?

    Normally I’d tear into Jenkins here, but in this case I feel he doesn’t bear nearly as much of the blame as LaHaye. Jenkins is an awful writer, but in this series he was presented with a restriction that would even stymie a master – the guy in charge planned the whole thing around a series of set pieces (to move into film/video game terminology for a moment) that had to be used in sequence, regardless of whether or not they made sense. In this case, Rayford couldn’t talk about the mass nuking because that would destroy the whole “the bad guy doesn’t know what we’re doing” thing that they’ve worked so hard (excuse me, “worked” so “hard”) on establishing. The story is built on such a delicate framework of logic errors that anything sensible would actually bring the whole thing down.

  • aunursa

    Don’t let Jenkins off the hook. He fully embraces the Tribulation timeline formulated by LaHaye.

  • Phoenix Feather

    When I first read Left Behind, I thought it was a collaborative story where LaHaye and Jenkins each took turns writing the next scene. And I remember thinking how well it turned out for being a story with two separate authors, each with their own agenda.
    Even though I know better, sometimes I still imagine that’s how it was written. It makes the story far easier to swallow.

  • Lorehead

    No it wouldn’t. Rayford was Nicolae’s personal pilot. He was there, he saw everything, and Nicholae knows that. More importantly, the objection here is not even so much that Rayford doesn’t take a risk to warn Hattie of the things he knows from being a RTC, but that they behave as if the bombs had never dropped at all. Everyone knows that they did.

  • GeniusLemur

    I think you’re being unfair to Jenkins. His thinking is very reasonable: the global mass murder is done, so no one has any reason to worry about it. You’ll notice he keeps using this trick to streamline the narrative:

    -the nuclear attack on Israel is done so no one worries about it.
    -the sudden disappearance of every child in the world is done so no one worries about it.
    -the massive numbers of plane crashes that went with the disappearances are done so no one worries about them.
    The abandonment of all democracy is done so no one worries about it.
    -Bruce Barnes’ death is done so no one worries about it.
    and so on.

    I mean, how could he keep the story moving forward if he had to worry about all this stuff that’s all over and done with?

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Someone somewhere–most likely, several tens or hundreds of thousands of someones–said or thought exactly the same thing as you did here while reading these dogs…only it sounded like a completely rational and reasonable reaction to them. As Aunursa keeps pointing out, there are fans of these books who think that not only were they Bestest Books Evar, they practically treat them as Bible 2: The Revenge.

  • Matri

    Only “tens or hundreds of thousands”?? Have you been paying attention at all?!??

    There are millions!!

  • Ima Pseudonym

    I was foolishly hoping that the number might actually be relatively small, like the number of people who have surgically-implanted Spock ears. Naive, I know. Welp, there goes my sleep tonight…

  • GeniusLemur

    Actually, that explains a lot about how L&J and their followers think:
    Jesus’ life on earth is done, so they don’t worry about it.

  • christopher_y

    The tick list theory of fictional composition.

  • Susan Paxton

    I suspect Albert Speer had deeper conversations with Eva Braun than this….

  • GDwarf

    By forcing us to question what’s normal I think that pranks like what Improv Everywhere do are important and healthy. If you can question pants, then you start learning how to question other things, and you start legitimately asking “Wait, why are pants mandatory anyways?” Further, every life benefits from some surreality and randomness.

    Of course, surrealism, no matter how or why it’s used, always has at least undertones of horror. Indeed, much of the best horror is a normal person suddenly put in a world that doesn’t make sense. That’s what our prayer-shielded protagonists should be going through every time they interact with those near the Antichrist: They don’t act quite…right. They aren’t concerned about all this death, or they praise him as “a man of peace” right after he nukes major cities. The closer one gets to the Antichrist the less sense things should start making. Heck, why not have it that he legitimately believes he’s doing good because the world he, and those near him emotionally or physically, sees is different from the one non-mind-mojo’d people see? That would be chilling.

    Instead we get the interesting achievement of surreality caused by banality

  • Ima Pseudonym

    “Heck, why not have it that he legitimately believes he’s doing good
    because the world he, and those near him emotionally or physically, sees
    is different from the one non-mind-mojo’d people see? That would be

    You’ve just put a hundred times more depth into this in the two minutes or so that you used to post this that the authors did over a decade and more than a dozen novels. Unfortunately, the authors don’t *like* depth–they honestly seem seem confused by it–and many of their fans don’t particularly like any degree of ambiguity, grey areas or anything other than the absolute black-and-white (if alien and utterly horrifying) morality Timkins try to depict, either. It seems to make a little more sense if you keep in mind that, in the authors’ heads, Good and Evil aren’t anything you actually *do,* they’re just teams that you pick before they pick you.

  • mistformsquirrel

    Now I’m imagining Nicolae as the The Pyro. This amuses me.

  • FearlessSon

    “One shudders to imagine what inhuman thoughts lie behind that mask, what dreams of chronic and sustained cruelty…”

  • Dogfacedboy

    Faithfully serve your unfaithful husbands without complaint…collect knick-knacks and wait for the Rapture…otherwise, you’ll end up unloved and pregnant with Satan’s baby.

    Jeepers. And it gets worse in Hell?

  • lowtechcyclist

    Reminds me of this old Doonesbury:

    “Yes, ‘This is your life,’ Henry Kissinger! And what a glamorous life it’s been! Here to tell us about your salad days, one of your old girlfriends – Ms. Marlo Thomas! Welcome, Marlo! When you think about Henry Kissinger today, what are you reminded of?”

    “Ralph, I’m reminded of the many children who were maimed and killed during the Christmas bombings of Bach Mai hospital!”

    “But that’s…that’s awful!”

    “You bet! Why do you think we stopped dating?”

    Except for the part where, as Fred notes, Hattie doesn’t stop dating Nicolae.

  • arcseconds

    Last week I talked a bit about ‘so bad they’re good’ movies versus ‘so bad they’re awful’ ones, the last category in particular I focused on big-budget movies where no-one seems to care.

    I also mentioned Left Behind seems to have aspects of both.

    One of the things about phone-it-in big budget movies is that everything’s just kind of pinned on to a formulaic plot in order to get the cool scenes the makers want to wow the audiences with. They don’t bother working out how to justify how we get from one scene to another.

    That’s one way in which Left Behing resembles these films. They’re not following a formulaic action-movie plot, but they do have LaHaye’s checklist to go through. There’s also some moralistic points they want to make along the way. So there’s a bunch of stuff that has to happen, but they don’t bother thinking about whether the scenes they want to show actually make any sense as a whole. On to the next scene! We’ve got 3 more Revelations tie-ins, 4 more little take-home messages for young RTCs, and 5 more opportunities for Buck and Rayford to sneer at yet enjoy for theselves the pampered lives of high-ranking Antichrist staff before we close this book and move on the sequel…

  • GeniusLemur

    And they’re not even that worried about the checklist anyway. In this book, we’ve spent more time on Buck’s car shopping than the checklist, God, and prayer combined

  • arcseconds

    yes, it seems they get a bit distracted from their overall plan by their MarySuing.

    At any rate, they clearly don’t love the world they’ve created, their characters (apart from Buck and Rayford), their story, or their craft, because they spend no time polishing these things. Not even in a clumsy, amatuerish kind of way.

    (And they love Buck and Rayford in the way the worst sort of fault-blind, doting and aspirational parents love their children… there’s something a immature and creepy about it)

  • Carstonio

    you’ll end up unloved and pregnant with Satan’s baby.

    And Mia Farrow will play you in the movie.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Don’t you be dissing Mia Farrow. She was the voice of Peter Beagle’s Last Unicorn. My childhood memories may never recover from such intemperate dissing.

  • Carstonio

    You mean that playing Hattie would be an insult to the talented star of Rosemary’s Baby?

  • Phoenix Feather

    Agreed, Mia Farrow is wonderful. Although watching Rosemary’s Baby for the first time after 20 years of watching The Last Unicorn was a vaguely traumatic experience.

  • Carstonio

    Imagine Hattie in a soap opera written by Ellanjay: “Nicolae doesn’t make time for me, because he’s always off slaughtering billions in world wars. Whenever he has his family over, the smell of brimstone lingers in the house for hours. And you think a man who knows every human language would remember my birthday.”

  • Panda Rosa

    And even that would be more worthwhile than THOSE books.

  • ReverendRef

    That sounds more like Hattie in a soap commercial during a soap opera:

    Cloe: “Hattie! My hands!”
    Hattie: “What? You’ve been soaking in it.”

  • Matt

    Thanks. Now when I think of Hattie, I will think of Mel Brooks “The Producers” or Springtime for Hitler in said film.

  • FearlessSon

    Otherwise, you’ll end up unloved and pregnant with Satan’s baby.

    Good thing then that devout Christian woman all across the country are firmly supporting abortion rights, just in case someone happens to get pregnant with the Anti-Christ’s child.

    I am sure they would wish no such horror on anyone… right?

  • aunursa

    Later in the flight, Hattie herself had brought up the issue again. “Why do you want to make me feel guilty for considering an abortion?”

    “Hattie,” he had said, “I can’t make you feel guilty. You have to make your own decisions. What I think about it means very little, doesn’t it?”

    From Nicolae, Chapter 14

  • VMtheCoyote

    Oh my God.

    “Hattie,” he said, “I can’t make you feel guilty. You should feel guilty on your own. What’s wrong with you, that you don’t feel guilty about this? Are you even a Christian? What I think about it means very little, but let me remind you what you should think about it, mostly the parts involving you being a horrible no-good skank who had the gall to get pregnant with someone else’s baby, out of wedlock, even though he was the Antichrist – don’t ask me how you should’ve known, we all knew just fine – and then think about having an abortion to save the world from the Spawn of Satan. God is against the murder of babies! If he’d wanted that baby aborted, he would’ve made it stillborn before you thought about having an abortion. It probably died because of you. Skank.”

  • Ruby_Tea

    Oh no, they wish a much worse horror on a nonbelieving slut like Hattie: that she have a terrible, complicated pregnancy, a hellish labor and delivery that includes being bounced around the back of a car driven over earthquake-ravaged roads to the hospital, only to arrive at the hospital and be sneered at by an evil nurse for being a nonbeliever, and finally being delivered of a stillborn baby of indeterminate sex that the doctor won’t even let her look at.

    Because remember, it’s the nonbelievers who are the ones without morals and ethics.

  • LMM22

    I once had a _Rosemary’s Baby_-inspired discussion with my mother about whether or not late-term abortions were ethical if you discover that you’re pregnant with the antichrist.

    It was one of the more surreal conversations I’ve had in a long time.

  • FearlessSon

    This happens all the time in these books. Reading the Left Behind series means constantly being gaslighted by the authors, constantly second-guessing one’s response to the deeply weird scenes unfolding as though they were completely normal.

    I suppose it helps if you only ever read each chapter as its own thing, completely independent from any other chapter and with no greater context to fit into.

    You know, kind of like the way idiot literalists tend to read the Bible.

  • FearlessSon

    The No Pants Subway Ride reminds me of something that happens here in Seattle ever so often. We have a streetcar that serves the South Lake Union commercial neighborhood of downtown. Said neighborhood is, ironically, north of Lake Union but at the south side of downtown, a mile or so east from the Space Needle.

    Anyway, this streetcar is called the South Lake Union Trolley. So there is an event called “Ride the S.L.U.T.” The idea is that a bunch of people get together wearing no pants and ride the South Lake Union Trolley together. To be fair though, that does not mean that people go completely barelegged, just so long as they are wearing something other than parts. Kilts are a popular choice for men or skirts for women when they ride the S.L.U.T.

  • Elizabeth Coleman

    It was called the S.L.U.T., but then someone noticed and changed it to the South Lake Union Streetcar. :-( You can still get the “I rode the S.L.U.T.” t-shirts though.
    Also, I think you have your maps upside down….

  • FearlessSon

    Gah! Stalactite / stalagmite! Yes, I got that backward. I meant to say that the street care is north of downtown, while south of Lake Union.

    And yes, it is officially the South Lake Union Streetcar, but I cannot think of anyone who actually calls it that.

  • Hypocee

    The Somebody Else’s Problem field, Life, The Universe, and Everything

  • VMtheCoyote

    For the record, that might be one of the best uses of Mood Whiplash I’ve read in a long while. Quite sobering and effective.

    The scene continues to be something between mind-bogglingly insane and mind-bogglingly awful. How are we supposed to side with Rayford – I mean, last week or so we talked about what a jerk he is to Hattie, which he is, but he is also completely unconcerned with the fact that Nicolae just murdered millions (billions?) of people! He’s more concerned with the placement of silverware than Hattie’s feelings, or the waiter’s, or the murder of millions. He’s more concerned with his own appearance than Hattie’s feelings, or the murder of millions. He’s more concerned with shaming Hattie for reciprocating his feelings back when he tried to have an affair with her than he is for her feelings, or for his own conscience, or than he is with the murder of millions.

    Isn’t he supposed to be immune to the mind-control?

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Of course he is. He’s a sociopath. It’s not like he’s going to be influenced by emotional appeals to compassion or decency….

    Re-reading these books through Fred’s lens has shown me how to write a self-centered sociopath. Two different flavors of them, Buck & Rayford.

  • VMtheCoyote

    I dunno, we have a couple of regulars here who are sociopaths, and any one of them is a better person than Buck or Rayford – by any measure you care to use.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I think it’s more that they’re narcissistic, but narcissism has considerable overlap with sociopathy.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Yeah, I have to go with the “malignant narcissist” diagnosis for Rayford, at least (and for Paul Stepola). Buck and Michael Murphy are a little different–many narcissistic qualities, to be sure, but I hesitate to label them with full-blown malignant narcissism (I’ve known too many people who think anyone they don’t like is a narcissist). Buck and Murphy are perhaps more of the histrionic bent, but there is actually significant overlap when it comes to personality disorders.

  • Daniel

    The greatest gift Rayford Steele had ever received had over time become his greatest burden: he had been blessed and cursed with tremendous self-knowledge after his rebirth. Both his friends agreed, until one of them had died, that Rayford’s estimation of his own qualities was, if anything, too low. He had been gifted a certainty about his actions and character that made him stand out in the world, strong, humbly proud, meekly assured and righteous. He could now talk about himself in the third person, and he would, when the time was right. But this gift allowed him to see all his forgotten vices with perfect clarity in the behaviour of others, and when he saw this he ached for them, still lost at the bottom of that trench he had, through his own tenacious humility, climbed out of. He could sympathise with the lost. A wise man said: “there by the grace of God go others”. It was Bruce Barnes.

    The restaurant was noisy with strange conversations. People were discussing cities Rayford had recently flown from, he assumed because they had recognized him and were glad he was safe from the attentions of the Antichrist. Then he remembered he had something to tell them, when the time was right. After the coffee. He hoped it would come with a free mint.

    Rayford’s heart bled for others, but part of his new faith-arguably the most important part- was evangelism. As with so much else Bruce Barnes had explained this. To convert… that was too weak a word… to SAVE others Rayford
    first needed to enumerate in detail as excruciating as Jesus’ suffering on the
    cross which had prompted Him to swear ultimate vengeance on all creation all
    the sins of the godless other he was saving. No one could hear the good news of Jesus’ bloody, torturous sacrifice without knowing why they had personally made all his suffering necessary, how every whip crack and nail knocked in was their fault. But this part was hard. It was always hard to have Rayford’s self-knowledge, to know how the sinner would deny their sins and insist they
    were right. They’d ignore the clear evidence of the perfection to be found in
    Jesus that sat opposite them at a now empty plate telling them all the reasons
    they were evil. They’d ignore it because of pride. Pride and ignorance. He’d
    take the precaution of demanding the sinner stayed silent until he’d finished
    evangelising. Some called him condescending. These were the irredeemably lost. The very last thing he was was condescending. Condescension is wrong when someone talks down to someone on the same level as them. No one else had Rayford’s burden to bear, no one else had his will to save and need to keep silent. No one else had the cosmic charge he’d been given. He humbly accepted his role as saviour, and others calling him condescending did so because of their own wounded pride. He remembered Buck’s stories about Verna Zee. She was condescending.

    Rayford’s great self knowledge was a double edged sword, definitely. He knew now he was right, about everything, but other people preferred to live in happy denial. He had learnt to bide his time, to wait to evangelise at the point they were most receptive. There had been lots of receptive people at the bombed out wards of the hospital where Bruce Barnes had died, weeping in the wreckage, people who didn’t even know him were calling Bruce by other names but all crying gratefully at Rayford’s constructive criticism, which he offered freely and loudly and at length, even when his throat hurt. He didn’t even resent that their thanks was unvoiced- sometimes, as he knew too well, the words just wouldn’t come. Many stood gaping in silence at his powerful words. He knew they’d thanked him in their hearts, and that was as much as they could do, so he accepted it. He’d left his address with a nurse, and he was sure there’d be some thank you cards when he got home.

    In the restaurant where time had stopped he was trying to remain objective, rational, sensible as Hattie poured out her heart to him. But her heart was soiled and he wanted nothing to do with it. He subtly let his eyes wander around to gauge the moods of the other diners, to see how they were behaving so he could act accordingly and better fit into his role as unsaved to throw Nicolae’s spies off the scent. There were several men around, any of whom could have been watching him- they all looked unsaved. Some were talking to the women that had been left in various chairs around the place, all perfectly normal, but some seemed to be listening to the women too. Convincingly- even Rayford had almost thought they were genuinely interested in what the women were saying. These were the people discussing the cities he’d been flying to with the Potentate. He had to be careful. Any one of the men in there might talk to Nicolae, and let him know Rayford had been there, talking to the mother of his child. He hadn’t trusted his co-pilot. Stories of his act of defiance- causing Nicolae to fall down and be momentarily embarrassed- had probably got out. That’s why Hattie had asked for the news to be turned off. Legends were probably being made about Rayford’s adventures already. He was probably already a Robin Hood figure to these men. But did he want this? These were lecherous, depraved men, as he had once been. Rayford knew they were only pretending to listen to the women they were with so they could exploit the bond she’d think had been created to… he shuddered. He was so glad he no longer thought like this, but he knew other men, all other men, did. He was determined no one should make that mistake about him. No one looking would imagine he was listening to Hattie. Though he’d love to he couldn’t save everyone, he thought, wondering if he’d get a free mint if he ordered coffee. Heaven was probably already quite crowded.

    Hattie was still unsure of herself, and she was looking to Rayford to define her as she always had done. But Rayford was now burdened with the double edged sword of self knowledge, and he could not perform that role for her any longer- for better or worse she had made her choice to be intimate with another man and now she must lie in it. Although, and here Rayford had to suppress a snigger, she had never actually taken the vows “for better or worse”. He could hardly blame Nicolae for abandoning her- that was the gist of her whining. She’d been a fool to let him get intimate with her without first getting a ring on her finger. It had been a petty attempt to get back at Rayford, and she could hardly be surprised that Nicolae was just being a man. Rayford’s sympathy only went so far, and she was an unwed mother- only two letters away from being an anagram of “monster”. No one was obliged to sympathise with outcasts. Women like her were not made to be happy.
    “I like the ball pool” he said again
    “Yes,” Hattie replied, looking rather beautiful as her eyes shone with what Rayford thought may be water. “It doesn’t seem to get used much though.”
    Rayford’s brow wrinkled. He couldn’t imagine why this would be the case, but he dimly remembered there being something in the news a while ago. That was before Rayford Junior had gone to camp, somewhere far away, and before his first wife had stopped being there. His emotions had run the safely masculine gamut when his wife and child had gone. He had been sad, hungry, tired and puzzled. It had been awful for him.

    “I really need to talk to someone… Rayford… and I feel awful that it’s you I’m talking to!” It was water, it turns out, and Hattie let it flow down her face now. This was low- playing vulnerable to get Rayford’s attention, using Rayford’s newly discovered sympathy against him. He was a man, how else would she expect him
    to react to her vulnerability than to be attracted to her? It wasn’t his fault he was a man. It was his blessing and his curse. Fortunately he had self-knowledge enough to recognise what she was doing and resist it, and condemn her inwardly for it.
    “I mean, I’m twenty nine and the only person I can tell my problems to is… I’m sorry… I mean I just wish I had someone my own age to talk to. Another woman.”
    Hattie was still the naïf he’d been nearly led astray by so long ago. Then she’d expected him to leave his wife for her, now she thought another woman would be able to help her in some way. Poor, foolish Hattie. He could even excuse her vanity and rudeness- the pilot of Global Community One was her guest but all she wanted to talk about was herself. Most people would kill for the opportunity to eat with him. Most people would offer to pay. She was off again, sniffing, trying to regain her composure, silently, subliminally letting Rayford know she wanted him. He would resist. She’d always been a shell, beautiful but empty. Now Rayford pitied her all the more- she was trying to fight against her biology and develop an interior life of thought, but she hadn’t Rayford’s self knowledge- she couldn’t know it was a fruitless exercise for a woman of her sort. Rayford loved his new self-knowledge. He knew just what to say, but he had to bide his time. Hattie carried on about her misery, never once asking about Rayford, never once apologizing for the years of teasing. Rayford choked down his anger. He was glad his daughter had not ended up like this, and he had worried when she’d gone to university. Now she was obedient and stayed at home, and Rayford couldn’t have been happier without two sons.

    Hattie could have been talking about anything, it didn’t matter. They had been eking out painfully awkward conversations since she’d mentioned Rayford’s second wife. Rayford couldn’t remember her name, but his love for her was on an almost exclusively spiritual level, as he’d remarked when having her costly diamond ring engraved. Of course, he was still a man, and he’d not failed to notice his new wife had a stunning body for her age, and she could hold her own in conversations about clothes and cooking and furniture. She was blessed with self-knowledge, and knew never to offer an opinion about things that she shouldn’t understand like politics, sport or current affairs. Their relationship was happy. She knew she lacked Rayford’s wisdom and never questioned him, and in return he bought her pretty things she could show other women to encourage them to emulate the Steeles and try to get saved. Eventually. This was that thing Nicolae and Hattie did not understand- respect. It was the respect he’d felt at the happiest time of his marriage, when Bruce and Buck had first met his second wife and were amazed by her. After a while she had spoken, to tell Buck how great his articles were and Bruce how wise he was, and Rayford’s friends had liked her even more. Rayford had never been happier. Respect.
    “Amanda!” He shouted triumphantly.

  • Original Lee

    Daniel, I hope you’ve saved these marvelous posts somewhere, so that you can change all the names and publish them as a book. I promise to buy a copy.

  • Daniel

    Thank you. To paraphrase another short, big nosed ball of bitterness “oh but I have… oh but I will”

    He also describes my feelings about Timkins’ whole oeuvre:

  • ReverendRef

    Or was he just typing so quickly, with so little care, that it never occurred to him?

    When I was in high school taking a typing class (yes, back then it was Typing), I was a pretty good typist but could never break the 70 wpm barrier. The instructor told us that people who consistently type more than 70 wpm don’t actually read what they type, they just see the word (not the letters, but the word) and it translates immediately to their fingers and the keys.

    Trying to put the best spin on these books with a decent explanation for why words don’t make sense, maybe Jerry is one helluva typist.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    That DOES explain why he craps these books out so fast. -_-

  • Daniel

    So in a very literal sense then he’s actually a talented writer. How apt.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Nicolae’s crimes are so much greater in scope than Peron’s atrocities that it almost seems unfair to Evita.

    And Juan Peron himself pales compared to the dictators who followed him, both after 1956 and 1973.

  • AnonymousSam

    Cook dinner and collect knick-knacks and wait for the Rapture and never worry that you’re just a thing
    — a replaceable object wholly interchangeable with Amanda White or any
    other subservient “little” woman.

    Don’t be silly, Fred. Christians know that divorce is immoral and adulterous and that’s why Jesus forbid it, not so people like you can redefine marriage. No Christian would divorce their wi–

    How many Christians got divorced last year?

    Well, uh



    No real Christian would divorce their wife.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    And even if they do, it’s the my-divorce-is-~special~-syndrome.

  • gpike

    My bro and I just realized something: Left Behind is SO MUCH FUNNIER if you imagine it as a poorly animated, badly written, and horribly dubbed 90’s anime. Buck has a tiny head, 6 ft. long arms, and huge “yaoi hands”. Nicolae is a hot bishie, but acts really “evil-gay” and sounds like James from Pokemon. I would say that Hattie has huge boobs… but then… I’m pretty sure that’s already how the original authors envisioned her anyway. >_>
    The important thing, of course, is to imagine every line being delivered as though from a really terrible dub actor – in a manner in which no human being would ever actually speak.

  • Skweisgaar Skwigelf

    Is there ANYTHING that isn’t funnier if it’s a terribly produced and dubbed 90’s anime?

  • Laurent Weppe

    The worst part from your post is that it’s not even hard to make a much better version of the chapter: just include in the miiddle something like:

    «Rayford knew that Hattie was beating around the bush: she kept talking and talking about her fiancé’s coldness because she did not dare mention the [insert susperlative depiction of the recent slaughter]: the horror of it all all lay behind every word she spoked, every frightened glance she made around her.

    Rayford wished he could burst the abscess: push Hattie to say out loud how wrong all of this was, but he feared that any attempt on his part would cause Hattie to snap at him, or worse, to wall herself up in silence, so he bid his time, hoping that, if Hattie could not bring herself to say out loud that her fiancé had treated millions like cattle to be slaughtered, she’d at least give him informations about the Antichrist and how much he knew about him, Buck and Chloe

    The moral would still be as fucked up: it would still be “try to be anything else than one obedient little wife and you’ll end up unloved and pregnant with Satan’s baby”, but at least the lampshade hanging would provide enough she’s-not-completely-heartless-she’s-just-so-terrified-by-the-enormity-of-it-all-that-she-behave-that-way sugar coating to make the heinous core not so fucking obvious.

  • Michael Pullmann

    I imagined a bit where Rayford tries to talk about it, but Hattie just blows it off. And he slowly realizes that the mind-whammy is preventing her from realizing, on an emotional level, the horror of what’s happened. And then he’s torn between despair at thinking her soul might be lost to Hell already, and resolve to do everything in his power to get her out of Nicolae’s clutches.
    All that, of course, requires Rayford not to be a complete asshole written by complete assholes.

  • Ymfon

    Yet another example of Jenkins’ unintentional humour: Hattie complaining that Nicolae treats her as a piece of furniture, while Rayford patiently waits for the chair-filling on the other side of the table to stop making noises so that he can talk about himself.

  • Ethics Gradient

    I’m getting slightly worried we’ll never make it out of this restaurant alive. We’ve been here since July 19th, and it’s boiled down to “Ray is an arse. Again.” We made the date for the meal back on May 17th, and that was a little earlier in the day – and Ray did nothing in between.

    I’m seeing the NRA posts like Zeno’s Paradox – each time we revisit, we make it half the distance to the end of the bistro scene, but that means we’ll never get there. It’s an infinite geometrical series, each term half the size of the previous one.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    We’re stuck in Global Bistro for eternity with Rayford and Hattie. It’s like No Exit but too much fun to try to leave.

  • Daniel

    Hell is other diners.

  • bekabot

    Luis Buñuel is probably filming the whole thing* from a booth in the corner.

    *(the whole thing)

  • Cathy W

    At least there’s the chance it converges on dessert?

  • Phoenix Feather

    This is unrelated to today’s post, but maybe you guys can help me with something? I’m trying to find a post Fred wrote a while back. It was something along the lines of how the Tribbles think the message of Christianity is not about kindness or forgiveness but “about God and the Antichrist” (I believe that is the exact quote by Chloe, and she’s telling Ray he needs to tell Hattie about God and the Antichrist when they meet up, but I my memory is vague and I may have fudged it up a bit.) The point of quoting that passage, says Fred, is that the RTCs define themselves by their opposition to the Antichrist rather than any Christ-like qualities.

    I want to quote Fred’s passage on Rapture Practice, but I’ve searched for over an hour and I can’t seem to find this post. Any one have any idea what I’m talking about?

  • Kenneth Raymond

    Might it be this one?

    In these parting words, Rayford summarizes what he considers the key point of his hourlong speech. Here is the core of his message — of the authors’ message — of his and their version of the “gospel”: “The Antichrist and all.” Again, consider how strange this is in the best-selling “Christian novel” of the last two decades. Not, “Jesus and all,” or “Jesus’ return and all,” or even “God’s righteous wrath (and our righteous schadenfreude) and all.” The Antichrist and all.

    The central figure in this message is not Christ, but the Antichrist. It’s fair to ask, then, if LaHaye and Jenkins’ religion might not be more accurately called “Antichristianity.” In their defense, however, we should note that the essential focus of their religion is not to celebrate or serve the Antichrist, but rather to oppose him. That would make their religion something more like “Anti-Antichrist-ianity.” To their way of thinking, Anti-Antichristianity is pretty much the same thing as Christianity. That’s not unreasonable, if the same semantic logic that makes “not unreasonable” mean the same thing as “reasonable” were to apply here. But opposing Christ’s opposite doesn’t make you Christian, and the enemy of God’s enemy isn’t necessarily God’s friend.

  • Phoenix Feather

    That’s it! Thanks Kenneth! :)

  • newbiedoobiedoo

    “Rapture practice” is a brand-new book by Aaron Hartzler, BTW.
    Read the dust jacket before opening; some people missed it.

  • Phoenix Feather

    Yeah, the book and the blog were named after the same thing lol. I actually read it when it came out, and it was really good! Hoping to do a review of it one of these days…

  • elephantasmagoric

    If the writers were any good, Hattie’s arc should read kind of like ‘The Last King of Scotland’ with her in the place of McAvoy’s doctor.

    She’s someone who feels specially selected by a charismatic man who, sure, has grey areas but being in charge is tough, right, and you have to be hard sometimes, especially when times are so difficult. All the children are gone and people are going utterly crazy and, really, he’s trying to do the best he can. Once the necessary evils are done, things will get better, right? Somebody has to make the horrible choices. Somebody has to be the uniting figure. He’s the only one with the vision to guide them through this mess.

    Besides he’s offering her so much more than a sexual relationship- he’s her mentor and he gives her so much confidence, when everyone else doesn’t see her for who she really /is/. He encourages her and doesn’t treat her like meat, like all the other men she knows.

    Except that the rumours start reaching her and she doesn’t want to believe them, she really doesn’t, but sometimes, when it’s the middle of the night and she’s missing her niece, she can’t help that uncomfortable niggle. And eventually the rumours start adding up until she feels like she’s drowning in them; until she has to admit it’s true. But if she does that, then she won’t be safe anymore. And she’s all her sister has left after her family died in that car crash during the disappearances, so she has to keep her safe. She knows her life isn’t the only one at stake or she would have run a long time ago. There are islands, tiny, yes, disapearing under the weight of climate change, yes, but they’ll go unnoticed until everyone else has finished destroying each other. But without taking her sister…

    She’s scared to displease him, because his charisma is terrifying and she knows he holds a grudge. So she goes through the motions and hopes he gets bored and forgets all about her so she can slip away and forget everything. But the paranoia is mounting and she feels like she’s being watched every day.

    She heard that her ex-colleague is in some kind of resistance movement so she meets with him. She can’t come out directly with her problems, so she coats it in banal relationship troubles hoping he’ll pick up the hint, the code she’s weaving through the dialogue. Half the world has been nuked- surely he’ll realise this is a cry for help?

    He doesn’t. He spends the whole time starring at her tits.

    Maybe Verna Zee will be more useful.

    (apologies for both the abuse and/or neglect of proper punctuation)

  • Jim McCaskill

    Just curious but if Rayford married Amanda, but Irene’s still alive and with Jesus and Rayford knows this…is he STILL cheating on Amanda or are the authors down with polygamy?

  • aunursa

    “I was so afraid this would be awkward,” Rayford said.

    “Not at all,” Irene said. “I didn’t begrudge you a good wife and companionship. I was so thrilled that you both had come to Jesus. You’re going to find that He is all that matters now.”

    Glorious Appearing, p 397

  • Jim McCaskill

    Thanks. Do bad I can’t read that quote and not be creeped out by it lol

  • Sue White

    So, which one does he get to sleep with?

  • aunursa

    Neither. (Irene and Rayford are together in Book #16, while whats-her-name is completely forgotten after the prologue that L&J copied from the end of Book #12.) **

    [T]hey still loved each other, but not romantically. Their entire hearts’ desires were on the person of Jesus and worshiping Him for eternity. In the Millennium, they would live and labor together with Kenny and raise him, but as there would be no marrying or giving in marriage, their relationship would be wholly platonic.

    “It’s bizarre,” Chloe told Cameron. “I still love and admire and respect you and want to be near you, but it’s as if I’ve been prescribed some medicine that has cured me of any other distracting feelings.”

    “And somehow that doesn’t insult me,” Cameron said.

    Kingdom Come, pp 2-3

    ** Books 13-15 are prequels.

  • Sue White

    “Medicine” that “cured” her of those Things That Must Not Be Mentioned. Because sex is a disease. And somehow that doesn’t inspire me.

    I get the impression that Jesus only neutered the people who died and were resurrected, is that right? So Rayford might still have “distracting feelings”. Or not. I guess I should read it myself instead of making you do all my homework. :-D

  • aunursa

    A note by Tim LaHaye at the beginning of Book #16 indicates that only those born after the beginning of the Millenium will be “sinners in need of forgiveness and salvation.” Cameron, Chloe, Irene, and the others who returned from heaven are “redeemed saints,” while Rayford and the others who survived the Tribulation are also saints.

  • Sue White

    I just love trying to figure out the demographics of the LB world. So there’s redeemed saints, and surviving saints, and the new sinners. I guess they’re the only ones who can have sex, I mean, distracting feelings. Doesn’t the whole process of human history just start over again, now that there are Unsaved Souls again? Is there going to be another Second Coming? What was the point of all that rapture drama anyway, I thought it was supposed to be the End of the World ™.

  • aunursa

    The redeemed saints return to earth in their “glorified bodies.” The surviving saints continue to age at a much slower rate in their original bodies. At the end of Kingdom Come, Rayford’s body is 1049 years old, whereupon he and the other surviving saints receive their eternal glorified bodies.

    The children born during the Millenium have until age 100 to accept Jesus as their Lord and personal Savior. Those who refuse drop dead on their 100th birthday, and their souls go straight to hell.

    At the end of the Millenium, Satan is released from torment for a brief period. He leads an army of the remaining sinners into a final battle against Jesus. The Prince of Peace merely speaks, and the billions of sinners are instantly vaporized.

  • Sue White

    Gak. I hate to think what the authors think those people were supposed to do for friggin 1000 friggin years. Holy crap! I assume the narrative just skips over all that.

    And that final battle sounds like the most pointless, anticlimatic battle ever.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Even the End Times battle with Nicolae had a little more drama to it, it seems, although all that ends up happening is TurboJesus mass murders people by the thousands as he speaks and, I think, waves a big ol’ sword.

  • Sue White

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around that 1000 years. Do people still watch TV, or invent things, or get sick? Does Rayford still fly planes? Are people effectively immortal, and if so, do they take up increasingly reckless hobbies? Or do they spend all day, every day, for 10 goddamn CENTURIES talking to the new kiddies about Jesus (who I guess is living among them and can talk to them himself, with magic telepathy even)?

    I give up. Excuse me while I go have another steaming pile of fresh produce drenched in boredom.

  • aunursa

    Do people still watch TV, Yes. or invent things, Yes. or get sick? Those without a glorified body can get sick, but they can’t die. Does Rayford still fly planes? Yes. Are people effectively immortal, Yes. and if so, do they take up increasingly reckless hobbies? Don’t know. Or do they spend all day, every day, for 10 goddamn CENTURIES talking to the new kiddies about Jesus…? Yes. Cameron and Chloe set up a youth ministry in which they spend their time preaching to the children.

  • Sue White

    You could write the Cliff’s Notes for this series. :-D

    I can’t even imagine what the phrase “youth ministry” would mean in this sort of context.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Buck, who calls himself Cameron because there’s “nothing to buck anymore” (HO HO L&J THAT WAS SO WITTY) runs the youth ministry and rehashes all the stuff from the Bible without extemporizing.

  • Sue White

    Of course there’s nothing to Buck. All the evil Verna Zees have been banished.

    I’d love to know how he rehashed the book of Revelations, now that he’s lived through part of it.

  • aunursa

    Verna’s fate after the events of Nicolae is unknown. In the LB Wiki her spiritual state is listed as “Presumably condemned.”

    In the non-canonical LB Dramatic Audio, it is assumed that she perished in the Great Earthquake. But there’s enough leeway for someone to write about what really happened to her (hint, hint.)

  • aunursa

    Excuse me while I go have another steaming pile of fresh produce drenched in boredom.

    This book is endorsed on the Left Behind website…
    Chapter 41: Will Heaven Ever Be Boring?

  • Sue White

    Are the characters in the later books “in heaven”, or is it some sort of glorified Earth? Because it sounds to me like they’re still in a temporal, day-to-day, year-after-year existence as we know it. Only much, much longer. And there can’t be any conflict, because that’s Bad. Nothing to buck. I would think that after a few hundred centuries of getting up, praising Jesus all day and going back to bed (no sex!), even the most devout RTC would be begging for death. Unless the Jesus Lobotomy removes that part of your brain that gives a shit.

  • aunursa

    Readers get a glimpse of heaven through Irene’s eyes in the second half of Prequel #3, The Rapture. There is no conflict, but lots of choral music and praises to God and Jesus. And Jesus praises those saints who had died as martyrs or had devoted their lives to spreading the Good News.

  • Daniel

    “Their entire hearts’ desires were on the person of Jesus and worshiping Him for eternity.”
    It’s a point that’s been made by many people before, but isn’t this what dictators aspire to? If this is Timkins’ view of heaven I’m glad I’m damned.

  • Michael Pullmann

    LB’s God sounds more and more like Jasmine from Angel, doesn’t he?

  • depizan

    I’m pretty much asexual, and I still find that to be creepy beyond words.

  • Laurent Weppe

    Don’t have much too add except that mine is one more vote or “This is creepy as hell”

  • elephantasmagoric

    I’ve never understood this. The countless excuses for abstinence-till-marriage talks is that it’s desecrating something holy and wonderful (and didn’t either L or J release some sex-in-marriage guide?). If it’s supposed to be holy after the married couple has said the magic words, why would God eliminate something consecrated once they get to heaven? It makes no sense to ban something sacred- in fact it’s blasphemous.
    The only reason L&J might say God would do that is if, deep down, they believe there is something fundamentally wrong with sex itself- even the ‘right’ kind of sex.

    Actually that explains a lot.

  • trogon

    I think it’s down to literalism again, specifically the “find an individual sentence that looks vaguely applicable and rip it out of context” aspect of it. Sex outside of marriage is verboten; there is no marriage in heaven; therefore there is no sex in heaven.

  • elephantasmagoric

    Then why is marriage such an important part of fundie Christianity if it doesn’t even feature in their perfect afterlife?! URGH. I suspect it’s all about social control- especially of women.

    As a child exposed to more extreme forms of Christianity, I was always disturbed by the kind of dilemmas this brought up. Trumpeting marriage as woman’s purpose and goal then ripping it away when you reached heaven seemed cruel. If heaven was supposed to be the fulfillment of your perfect potential- and a woman’s potential was measured in romantic success- this seemed so contradictory.

    I think your view of its source -literalism- is correct but it requires a lot of doublethink… More than I could handle.That and the unfairness of rape in a world where your entire future happiness depended on your purity before marriage led to question a lot of things… But of course logic has nothing to do with the RTC.

  • TheOldMaid

    I think Fred, Aunursa, Lawfulgoodwonk, and I are the only people on this site that I know of who have actually read the final volume. And by “read it” I mean that we’ve all probably memorized whole stretches of it like poetry, or homework, or something. LGW actually liveblogged the entire volume, but I can’t find it on the net now. (Thank you, last year’s print button, all 52 pages of it…)

    Book 16’s approach to women is … odd. More so than usual. In my study questions guide I mentioned that most of the women in the story were housewives, and now that they’ve been to Heaven, they’re no longer married and so technically out of a job. But it isn’t portrayed the way that, say, Glorified doctors are out of a job because they never get sick. The doctors find something else to do. The housewives all move in with their ex-husbands and basically become their housekeepers.

    Also, not to trigger anybody, but [attempted] rape still exists in Book 16. A woman WHO HAS BEEN TO HEAVEN and is GLORIFIED is jumped and beaten up in her own home by an unsaved teenager. Reportedly “she fought him, but he overpowered/subdued her — but before he could proceed, he died in her arms.” Apparently he was struck by lightning, but only AFTER he’d beaten her up. It was believed that he wanted to produce a half-Glorified race that might live longer than 100 years, but it didn’t work because Glorifieds are sterile.

    His friends later complained that God killed someone for “merely wanting to make love to one of His Glorifieds.”

    None of the good guys challenge the wording, the problem of someone being attacked in her home, or notice the can-you-really-beat-up-an-angel/Glorified problem. Could the resurrected Jesus get beaten up?

    Keep in mind, though, that the series wrote Moses and Abraham as being able to be killed in Book 6 even though Torah says they’re both dead (and therefore in real life would only come back in Glorified forms).

  • The Old Maid

    Oops, meant to say Moses has died and Elijah was taken alive into Heaven. The next time they appear anywhere in bodies, it would be in Glorified bodies.
    I don’t know why I said Abraham.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I just noticed that the page numbers haven’t incremented since last time’s. :(

  • Kenneth Raymond

    It’s a deep, rich vein of horrible to mine. Takes time to pull it all out and then get it up to the surface where it can be sent to fuel the cynicism forges.

  • prelapsarian

    I think I’ve figured this out. It’s completely banal to the characters because it’s not about the post-Rapture world. LaHaye & Jenkins view the real world this way. RTCs are being persecuted, children are disrespectful, and vandals are running wild in the streets every day in their minds, but we still go on with our lives, so their characters get on with theirs. L&J must live such an insecure existence.

  • Tim

    Your last section in the article about assuming incompetence vs. ascribing malice reminded me of a quote from Peter F. Laurence’s book, The Peter Principle. “I sometimes wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or imbeciles who really mean it.”
    Unfortunately, I think LaHaye and Jenkins are imbeciles who really mean it.

  • Eric Oppen

    “Let the wind blow high, let the wind blow low,
    Through the streets in me kilt I’ll go,
    All the ladies say ‘Hello!

    Donald, where’s yer trousers?'”

    –Sorry, couldn’t resist.