NRA: Roll, Jordan, roll


We could say more about this extravagantly awful scene in Nicolae. We could talk about how the whole business about “oars … just like in the Bible” seems to be a long way to go for a belabored “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” pun, and how the Bible really doesn’t say much of anything about “oars” anyway. We could goggle at the botched cliché of Buck standing in the bow, the wind whipping his hair like he was Leo and/or Kate in Titanic. But all of that pales in comparison to the overriding, overwhelming wrongness Gorenberg mocks in this passage and to what he says it reveals about the jarringly untrue and unreal “landscape of their imagination” the authors present here and throughout these books. [Read more...]

NRA: Your young men shall receive phone calls

"Jerusalem, it's a heckuva town. The Temple's up and the Kidron is down ..."

But this is how God communicates with Buck in this chapter because this is how the authors imagine God communicates with all Christians. This is what they imagine it means to “walk in the spirit.” It requires us to break the code and to solve the puzzle based on nothing more than strong feelings and random snippets of Bible verses that can be taken to have applications they never had in context. [Read more...]

NRA: In the house of the Lord forever

Our story takes place here. Except it's not here. It's nothing at all like here.

Here in Nicolae, for the authors, the presence of the Temple is meaningless except as some lights in the background behind the Western Wall. For the authors, the rebuilt Temple means nothing. It changes nothing. That is simply impossible. And it renders everything else in this chapter impossible as well. Buck Williams is in Jerusalem, and yet it is a kind of Jerusalem that would be unchanged by the rebuilding of the Temple — which is to say it is not Jerusalem. It is nothing at all like Jerusalem. [Read more...]

NRA: Walking in the spirit


Buck Williams isn’t warned by God in a dream. He’s warned by God in a dream in which he’s a Bible character being warned by God in a dream. This dream-within-a-dream is kind of trippy and Inception-like, but it’s not as dizzying as the endless recursion of literalism and inerrancy fueling the authors’ logic here. [Read more...]

NRA: The antichrist power


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. [Read more...]

NRA: What Would Rayford Do? (Do the opposite)

The difference between a literary masterpiece and something else can sometimes boil down to whether the artifice of the unreliable narrator is conscious or unconscious.

Broadly speaking, we expect good characters to have good motives and evil characters to have evil motives. Rayford Steele doesn’t fit into such tidy categories. He has horrible motives, but he seems to believe — sincerely — that his motives are good. He’s a bad guy who thinks he’s one of the good guys, a cad who thinks he’s a gentleman, a jerk who thinks he’s a mensch, a negligent bystander who thinks he’s a hero. [Read more...]

NRA: The imminent Rapture is not imminent

Bladerunner (1982).

These books are fictional, but they’re meant to provide a fictionalized description of future events that will occur just as described — a kind of historical fiction about the future. That means the standard for accuracy that it would be unfair to apply to 1984 or to Blade Runner must be applied to these books. By fudging on the precise year in which their story is set they don’t allow us to state conclusively that their predictions have failed and that their prophecies have gone unfulfilled. But we can state conclusively that the imminent Rapture they continue to prophesy was not and is not and cannot be “imminent.” [Read more...]

NRA: The Restaurant at the End of the World


In this scene, Jerry Jenkins achieves a vivid, palpable realism. The effect is brief, but it is powerful, visceral. … You, the reader, suddenly realize that you are about to be swept along, accompanying Rayford Steele and Hattie Durham for an entire meal. Your fight or flight instinct kicks in, your pulse quickens, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. It becomes difficult to articulate your thoughts into anything clearer than a primal, howling Noooo! And that is exactly what this experience would be like in real life. [Read more...]