L.B.: Finishing Chapter 6

L.B.: Finishing Chapter 6 June 24, 2005

Left Behind, pp. 109-114

The manager of the Midpoint Motel is named Mack. I wish I had been there to make the introductions when Buck Williams checked in: Buck, Mack. Mack, Buck.

Left Behind offers no account of this initial meeting, nor any explanation of why Buck didn't make arrangements to pay for the room while he was there at the front desk. He takes care of that later — on the telephone. Despite the fact that the two men couldn't be more than 50 yards apart, Buck seems more comfortable negotiating even such an elementary patron-clerk conversation by phone. Again we have to wonder, is this some social phobia? Is it a fear of intimacy that seeks a mediating buffer of distance and technology for interaction with others? Or is it just bad writing?

That last is most likely, so take a moment again to marvel at the financial success of Jerry Jenkins' side project running writers workshops. A generation of young writers, one assumes, is being taught that telephone is the key to writing dialogue. Look for one of Jenkins' students to break new literary ground with an epistolary novel composed entirely of text messages.

Buck goes to sleep at the motel watching CNN and musing, for the first time, and in only the most general terms, about the scope and the meaning of the disappearances:

He turned CNN on low so it wouldn't interrupt his sleep, and he watched the world roundup before dozing off. Images from around the globe were almost more than he could take, but news was his business. He remembered the many wars and earthquakes of the last decade and the nightly coverage that was so moving. Now here was a thousand times more of the same, all on the same day. Never in history had more people been killed in one day than those who disappeared all at once.* Had they been killed? Were they dead? Would they be back?

Buck earlier told his father that he has already filed stories on the disappearances — although it's not clear when that happened (perhaps during his long reverie in the O'Hare men's room). But any such story would have required a lead sentence that answered, or at least addressed, the basic questions that every reporter is trained to ask, and that any halfway competent editor would demand: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

People disappeared. Who, exactly? Or, at least, who generally? How many? When? The reader has no better idea of the answers to these questions than Buck does, and LaHaye and Jenkins seem to think the reader should be, like Buck, contently incurious about such things.

L&J have not made it easy to puzzle out when the disappearances occurred. We know it was nighttime over the Atlantic, and that back in Chicago it was after Irene Steele's bedtime (which, based on what we know about Irene, could be 8:30 on nights there's no prayer meeting). Would it have been too much to ask for someone to have glanced at their watch? Or at least at a calendar? We're a 100+ pages in and we still don't know what day of the week or time of the year it is.

In an earlier post I took a stab at a ballpark estimate of the number of disappeared. It's not possible to know how many of the world's 1.8 billion Christians make the cut when it's L&J, and not Jesus, separating the sheep from the goats. Guessing that at least half of those make the grade, and adding everyone who's allowed to order from the children's menu, gives us a total of about 2.25 billion people, or about 37 percent of the world's population.

Nothing could be scripted like this, Buck thought, blinking slowly. If somebody tried to sell a screenplay about millions of people disappearing, leaving everything but their bodies behind, it would be laughed off.

L&J wrote this in 1995, four year's after Michael Tolkin's "The Rapture" and a year after the broadcast of a miniseries based on Stephen King's "The Stand." But let that pass — the problem with this paragraph is that it says "millions" instead of "billions." Again, L&J haven't given even a cursory second thought to what it means for every child under the age of 12 to disappear.

Whatever the precise figure of the disappeared, however, we can safely assume that it included hundred of thousands, if not millions of young, attractive white women. Buck is watching CNN. Think of it: Millions of missing white women, all at the same time. What would CNN do? Would they cover them all? Or maybe just the blonde ones?

Rayford Steele, meanwhile, is shuffling around his living room, periodically hitting redial on his phone. He finally gets through to his daughter's Stanford dorm room and learns from her roommate that Chloe is on the road, "trying to find a way back there."

"She'll try to call you along the way, sometime tomorrow," the roommate says. "If she can't get through, she'll call you when she gets there or she'll get a cab home."

A cab home from where? From Palo Alto to Chicago? That's a hell of a fare. Chloe does, in fact, arrive in a cab about 40 pages from now. It's apparently a local cab. There's no explanation of where she grabbed this cab or how she got from California to Illinois.

It seems like she's taking a cab from the airport. You know, the airport that's shut down. The airport where one of our main characters is a pilot who is now idle at home because no planes are flying. The airport that our other main character fled in order to charter an expensive private flight to New York because no planes are flying. That airport. Chloe apparently flew there. On a plane.

Rayford picks up a newspaper to help himself fall asleep. He remembers here what the authors forgot earlier (see "Yesterday's news") — that this paper went to press before the disappearances: "It should be interesting to read the meaningless news of a world that didn't realize it was going to suffer the worst trauma in its history just after the paper had been set in type."

Rayford lay in bed several minutes, then idly thumbed through the first section of the paper. Hmm. A surprise move in Romania.

That paragraph makes me laugh every time. In a book that offers so much unintentional hilarity, that may be my favorite paragraph.

It is here, in this awkwardly shoehorned-in piece of exposition, that we read the description of Nicolae Carpathia as "a strikingly handsome blond who looked not unlike a young Robert Redford."

We'll be seeing a lot more of Sundance in the pages to come. L&J's prophecy agenda dictates that the Antichrist's rise to power must now eclipse any further consideration of the rapture's aftermath. This means that more and more people in the coming pages will, like Rayford, begin to think: "Forget about those billions of missing children, what's this going on in Romania?"

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I would have guessed that the deadliest day in human history was August 6, 1945, but this Wikipedia list of death tolls suggests that the bombing of Hiroshima may not even be among the Top Ten. The deadliest day was probably Valentine's Day, 1556, when the Shaanxi earthquake killed more than 800,000.


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58 responses to “L.B.: Finishing Chapter 6”

  1. The reason for the surprise fluff piece on Nicky Andes is that all the newspaper reporters are either raptured or desparately seeking dial tone. The publishers (who clearly would never be raptured) decided to run a pre-prepared article to fill space while they anxiously awaited the time when their reporters escape from airport bathrooms and cheap motels.

  2. Later in the book it suggests that the disappearances took place about 11:00pm Central Time. The first chapter in a spinoff series indicates that the rapture took place at the precise moment when a basketball game involving the Lakers ended.
    Also other clues in the book indicate that the rapture occurs during late February (during baseball spring training, 14 months after a New Year’s Eve.)
    It’s fascinating how nearly all of the Evangelicals are missing, but fewer Catholics, and almost none of the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or atheists, and yet almost nobody who’s left behind can figure out that it was only “real Christians” (and children) who disappeared. As you said, I guess they didn’t read the book’s cover and didn’t realize that they are characters in a Christian end-of-the-world book.

  3. I think an epistolary novel composed entirely of text messages could be made to work. But probably not if written by Jenkins & LaHaye. :-)

  4. Later in the book it suggests that the disappearances took place about 11:00pm Central Time. The first chapter in a spinoff series indicates that the rapture took place at the precise moment when a basketball game involving the Lakers ended.
    Maybe God had a c-note on whether they beat the spread. :-)

  5. Later in the book it suggests that the disappearances took place about 11:00pm Central Time. The first chapter in a spinoff series indicates that the rapture took place at the precise moment when a basketball game involving the Lakers ended.
    Maybe God had a c-note on whether they beat the spread. :-)

  6. I think the problem of the lack of curiosity is one of fear.
    As soon as you start categorizing who has disappeared, you start categorizing who hasn’t. Suddenly you run the risk of potential readers falling into the “Left Behind” category. The more vague they leave it, the less chance of alienating their readership.
    It reassures the reader. A sort of message from L&J saying, “Oh we’re not going to be Left Behind and you, Dear Reader, will be with us too.”

  7. Cory Doctorow’s “Eastern Standard Tribe” includes several conversations in text messages (ICQ style, rather than IM style). But then, one of the themes of the book is the creation of virtual communities through electronic communication, so it’s to be expected.

  8. Actually, with all due respect to Fred, the “surprise move in Romania” passage kinda makes sense to me. Had it not been for the abysmal writing preceding (and following) it, it would even do quite nicely to describe a quite reasonable reaction to the “rapture”. RS even stops to think about what had just happened and what would the reprecussions be – all this in the form of the “last thoughts before going to sleep” cliche. The passage and – sure enough – the chapter end with RS thinking “Wonder if he would’ve wanted the job had he known what was about to happen? … Whatever he has to offer won’t amount to a hill of beans now.” Cliche or not – I am surprised L/J know it even exists and managed to use it properly.
    This passage made me laugh, too. The “suprise move in Romania” bit is really good, but the one with Nicolae Carpathia’s birthplace (“Nicolae Carpathia, a 33-year-old born in Cluj”) really made my day. Frankly, I am surprised that L/J even know of any other Romanian city besides Bucharest, the capital. But then Cluj has always been the center of Transylvania, so that kinda figures.
    I’ve been to Cluj (also known as Cluj-Napoca) a couple of times and plan to drive through there some time in July. I will certainly be on my toes and should I see observe any suspicious and/ord devilish activities, I will report to you immediately.
    I mean – come on. The Antichrist is from Cluj? LOL :o)

  9. A brief look at the new “prequel” in the store reveals that Carpathia is actually the result of genetic engineering. Sometimes, the blatant pandering is so transparent it boggles my mind that anyone can buy this tripe. I mean, come on… The Antichrist will arise from genetic engineering?? They should have had him grow from an aborted fetus following the GE, that way we could have worked abortion into it too!
    So, whenever you get back to Cluj, look not for Satanists in black robes conducting dark rituals at midnight… Beware the scientists instead, for they shall bring doom to the world!
    Pfft. This whole thing is so ludicrous I’m almost past of the point of being able to get upset about it.

  10. Maybe God had a c-note on whether they beat the spread. :-)
    If I remember correctly, the game is tied when the Lakers player shoots the ball with two seconds left. While the ball is in midair the shooter and another Laker and several hundred in the crowd vanish, leaving only their clothes and the championship rings.
    It’s pretty hokey, but the book is approved by L&J as an “official” Left Behind publication.

  11. Maybe God had a c-note on whether they beat the spread. :-)
    If I remember correctly, the game is tied when the Lakers player shoots the ball with two seconds left. While the ball is in midair the shooter and another Laker and several hundred in the crowd vanish, leaving only their clothes and the championship rings.
    It’s pretty hokey, but the book is approved by L&J as an “official” Left Behind publication.

  12. I don’t know why it’s increasingly annoying to me that “Carpathia” isn’t even a Romanian last name, but it is. Was it too much to ask that they at least get an “-escu” suffix in there?

  13. And why is Buck watching CNN? Can we assume that Fox News is now off the air since presumably the entire staff got raptured up?

  14. maybe L & J got it from Ghostbusters II…after all Vigo was the “scourge of Carpathia and the sorrow of Moldavia.”
    greatness begets greatness really…

  15. It would be kind of funny if everyone but O’Reilly got raptured, and when Buck flips to Fox, all there is is O’Reilly, out of focus, saying: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry about the loofah! But you’re spinning, God, you’re spinning!”
    Great work Fred. I particularly liked: ” A generation of young writers, one assumes, is being taught that telephone is the key to writing dialogue.”
    Maybe Jenkins was a big fan of the old Bob Newhart albums.

  16. I’m with Mnemosine on this one – this “Carpathia” thing is really annoying. But then again, something like “Popescu” would probably sound funny to most Americans.
    And besides – why does it have to be Eastern Europe? Haven’t our nations suffered enough? Centuries of ethnic and religious warfare, fifty years of Communist rule, two world wars and two Soviet invasions and now this 3rd grade semireligious fiction. You think I could sue them?

  17. Once again, the real-life events of September 11th render the LB portrayal of the rapture quaint. Soon after september 11th, someone pointed out that the most interesting newspaper was not the Sept. 12th edition, with its wall-to-wall covreage of the attacks, but rather the Sept. 11th newspapers, whose coverage contained news about an entirely different world. The entire September 11th newspapers covered things that would be suddenly rendered entirely irrelevant. (Gary Condit! How will he weather the political storm? A Northern Alliance leader was assassinated in Afghanistan… how that will affect the ability of them to hold out against the Taliban…?)
    Whatever political moves going on in Romania that day have just been made entirely inconsequential. Romania has just lost all of its children under 12. An untold number of citizens are just gone, and the country has had to deal with whatever local disasters have been caused by these disappearance. If anything, the promising career of a young, handsome politician on his way up has likely been cut short, as the citizenry is somewhat unconcerned about parliamentary maneuvering, at the moment. The day before the rapture, perhaps Carpathia is the talk of the town. The day after, “Carpathia who?” would be the response to any inquiries about the guy, as the country has many more important things to worry about.

  18. . . . the result of genetic engineering . . .
    Ah, but you leave out the best part. Carpathia is the result of genetic engineering combining the DNA of two homosexuals! So now we’ve got three of the four G’s: God, Genetic engineering, and Gay marriage. You don’t suppose they’ll find a way to work Gun control into the mix too, do you?

  19. You don’t suppose they’ll find a way to work Gun control into the mix too, do you?
    Although I side w/ L&J (or at least w/ the right) on that one issue, you’ll get your gun control wish after the antichrist takes over.

  20. My geneticist wife points out that at this point in time we can barely combine the DNA of two female mice to make a mouse. And when you do that with mice you have to change the DNA of one of the female mice so that it has masculine markers, otherwise the egg won’t grow. And it only worked in two out of 670+ tries. There is no way to combine the DNA of two men to make a seperate child.
    Plus, if he’s an adult, they would have had to do all this cutting edge science 20+ years ago. In a country suffering horribly who could barely feed their own population. Uh-huh.
    Excuse me, I have to help my wife. She’s rolling on the floor with laughter and can’t get up.

  21. Now, if Dracula changed his plans to take advantage of the upheaval — offering order to his friends in the shadow government — the old news would make sense. It would show that even without the Rapture, Sundance would have taken over. The authors could still ignore God’s responsibility, though by assumption He controls all.

  22. Now, if Dracula changed his plans to take advantage of the upheaval — offering order to his friends in the shadow government — the old news would make sense. It would show that even without the Rapture, Sundance would have taken over. The authors could still ignore God’s responsibility, though by assumption He controls all.

  23. Some of those Wikipedia numbers are suspicious. There’s a lot of uncertainty, of course, but I thought Hiroshima and Nagasaki were pretty far down the list and some of the others (e.g., Dresden) were horrific but downplayed since it was done by the “good guys.”
    Read Slaughterhouse Five for a first-hand account of Dresden. A former coworker’s father was in Dresden the day before (talk about yesterday’s news!) and said that the train station was absolutely packed with refugees so I think the higher numbers (upwards of a quarter million deaths) are more likely than the quoted numbers.
    BTW the use of nuclear weapons in WW-II is an incredibly gray moral area, even if you accept the higher figures. What most people forget is that there was an attempted coup after the Emperor had recorded his surrender speech. Without the incredible bravery of a few men that recording would have been found and destroyed, and mainland Japan would have looked like (Saipan?). Remember it – women jumping off of cliffs with their infants to avoid capture by American troops? Estimates of over a million allied troops killed, many millions of Japanese civilians (forced into combat) killed, an isolationist US unable to contain a Soviet Union with ice-free deepwater ports in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Japan (aka communist “North Japan”), western Europe left ravaged since the US had to continue fighting Japan instead of funding the Marshall Plan, etc.
    This may seem unlikely today, but don’t forget that Russia continues to hold onto four islands seized from Japan after it declared war on her. After the first atomic bomb was dropped. :-) (We should also remember that there was a war between Russian and Japan near the turn of the century and the widely feared Imperial fleet was completely shredded by the newborn Japanese fleet. There was a lot of bad blood there.)

  24. Nicholson Baker’s _Vox_ is a transcript of a single phone call. L&J presumably haven’t read it, though, since it’s a little dirty.

  25. Summer: I haven’t read the LB prequels, but McArdle said that the DNA came from two homosexuals. They could be women. Carpathia is male, though, and in keeping with tradition I’ll assume the Y chromosome was donated by Satan. This raises several questions:
    1. When this is written up for the medical journals, does Satan get credit as a co-author, or just a technical assistant?
    2. Does Carpathia have Klinefelter’s syndrome? And if so,
    2a. Why would Satan construct his minion by a method that practically guarantees that he’ll be sterile? Didn’t he see “The Devil’s Advocate”? If I were Satan, I’d watch every movie ever made about me, both to see how I get defeated and because I’d have a huge ego.
    2b. Can we deduce that in the LBverse, Robert Redford has Klinefelter’s syndrome?
    3. Shouldn’t LaHaye and Jenkins have consulted an introductory genetics text, or asked a medical doctor if this scenario is plausible, before printing a million copies of it with their names on the cover and shipping them all over the world? No, of course not.

  26. The bulk of “Voices of A Distant Star” dir. Makoto Shinkai is told through cellphone text messages. It’s also a really fantastic short movie.

  27. beancounter – I don’t think the dropping of the A-bomb is a moral grey area at all. Given the information Truman had, and the lack of knowledge about the long term effects of radiation, it was a no-brainer. Even if you only count Japanese civilian lives, the atomic bombings saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Taking cold war nuclear fears and reading them back into August 1945 is just plain dumb (and I realize you are not doing this, but plenty of others do). It is a terrible tragedy that so many people died in WWII, but the deaths by blast and radiation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are no more tragic than the deaths by incineration at Dresden, the drownings in the pacific and atlantic, the deaths from starvation, cold, shrapnel, blast, or bullets.
    The nuclear genie was let out of the bottle when the Manhatten Project began, and at the time it was widely believed that Germany was also working on an atomic bomb. Those who niavely believe that the genie should never have been released basically ask the allied governments in the darkest days of the war to take a calculated risk that Hitler would not get the bomb. Does anybody doubt that if he got it he would use it? Is the history of nuclear confrontation since 1945 so hideously awful, and so obviously foreseeable by the allies in 1942, that it warrants them taking a chance of Nazi domination of the entire planet? They had no assurance that the Nazi bomb would fail, and every reason to believe that if it succeeded it would be used.
    No, there is no moral grey area.

  28. . . . two homosexuals. They could be women . . .
    Sorry, I was unclear. My sources indicate it’s two males.

  29. Andrew, I’m a little less certain of Nagasaki than Hiroshima, but I think trying to monday morning quarterback 40 years after the fact, especially when we’re smack the middle of two new hotly contested wars, isn’t really worth the doing either.
    I thought ‘Voices of a Distant Star’ wasn’t nearly as cool as the precluding short on the same DVD. The cat one.
    ” Why would Satan construct his minion by a method that practically guarantees that he’ll be sterile? Didn’t he see “The Devil’s Advocate”?”
    Are we arguing that Keanu Reeves is, by sheer fact of his existence, sterile? (After Constantine, I’m willing to go with this… and talk about a great Antichrist figure there. Able to be hit by cars, inexplicably kill livestock and… well… not a whole lot else.)
    … at least Tilda Swinton (sp?) was cool.

  30. Andrew, I’m a little less certain of Nagasaki than Hiroshima, but I think trying to monday morning quarterback 40 years after the fact, especially when we’re smack the middle of two new hotly contested wars, isn’t really worth the doing either.
    I thought ‘Voices of a Distant Star’ wasn’t nearly as cool as the precluding short on the same DVD. The cat one.
    ” Why would Satan construct his minion by a method that practically guarantees that he’ll be sterile? Didn’t he see “The Devil’s Advocate”?”
    Are we arguing that Keanu Reeves is, by sheer fact of his existence, sterile? (After Constantine, I’m willing to go with this… and talk about a great Antichrist figure there. Able to be hit by cars, inexplicably kill livestock and… well… not a whole lot else.)
    … at least Tilda Swinton (sp?) was cool.

  31. On the other hand we have an administration that appears to rejoice in the potential of using earth penetrating mini-nukes against hardened targets. The seem to have delusions that a battlefield earth penetrator will be as clean as the carefully positioned tests blasts in the Nevada desert. But what do they care, they’ll all be raptured away and it will just be liberals and democrats left to deal with the God they had previously denied…. I want to say that’s just a joke, but some days (but only those ending with the letter ‘y’) I wonder if any of them really expect to be living in the world they’re creating in 20 years.
    How many citizens are remaining silent since they too expect to be safely removed from the consequences of their inaction?
    BTW further complicating that issues of 60 years ago are the claims (on the History Channel) that Japan had plans to drop radiological bombs on San Diego (or was it San Francisco). Two things stopped it – we beat them by a week, and the Imperial Navy refused to send any of their few remaining subs to the west coast of the United States.

  32. Something to keep in mind is that the Fundies are not only actively hostile to (and ignorant of) science, they’re deeply, profoundly innumerate. To them, a million, a billion, or a trillion is just “a whole bunch”. Note how politicians get away with numbers that don’t come anywhere near adding up.

  33. As long as the Time o’ Rapture has come up, let me beef about something. The level of carnage among the unraptured bugs me. As RS breaks though the cloud bank in the cloudless sky, he sees multiple impacts at O’Hare proper.
    It seems to me, rapture-caused plane crashes require one of two scenarios. Either 1) the entire cabin crew is raptured and no one on the plane can fly it or 2) whoever is physically flying the plane is raptured at the moment he is doing something crucial and the left-behinds in the cabin can’t take over quickly enough.
    Given the exclusivity of L&J’s club, how many scenario 1’s can there be? With a rapture rate of, I dunno, maybe twenty percent, those are long odds. Furthermore, the planes that crash due to no crew aboard would crash all over. The odds of actually hitting the airport at random would be extreme. I suppose you could have some story about a civilian trying to land, not having the chops and cratering, but it is a stretch.
    Now consider scenario 2. To have multiple impacts you have to have multiple pilots doing the David Blaine right at the moment of crucial flying at 11:00 at night (and midnight from about South Bend eastward.) Yet we have airport-closing carnage everywhere.
    Unless airline pilots are a profoundly pious bunch, I think a night rapture fails to cause quite the conflagration L&J are apparently hoping for.

  34. Once again, thanks, Fred! This post got me thinking about all the grieving parents, friends, lovers (?), spouses, and adult children left behind. I can’t imagine anyone who would not be multiply affected by this, and I can’t imagine denial working for more than a few minutes at a time for a very long period of time.

  35. A surprise move in Romania.
    Reading that just made my day. Which newspaper was he reading, the Frankfurter Allgemeine?

  36. This thread is starting to earn me strange looks from the other cafe patrons. Reading it, I’ve realized that…
    Fundamentalists of the L&J stripe are, like the rabbits of Watership Down, unable to count past five (“one, two, three, four, many!”);The genetically engineered antichrist is, in fact, Bunnicula;
    OK, look, that’s just one rabbit too many for Bugs not to make an appearance.

  37. … at least Tilda Swinton (sp?) was cool.
    This is getting a bit off-topic, but I maintain that Tilda Swinton should have been cast as Satan, not Gabriel.

  38. You do know she’s playing the White Witch in the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia, yes?
    Back on topic…anyone old enough to remember James Watt? “We don’t need to save the whales; Jesus is coming soon.”
    If so, I hope to be there to see the look on Watt’s face when the Lord says, “So, James my son, what happened to all those whales I gave you to look after?”

  39. >>
    Sterile? Ah … it’s been a few months since I read LB, but doesn’t Carpathia have an affair with Rayford’s almost-on-the-side-squeeze, Hattie Durham? And doesn’t she get in the family way and think about aborting it? If I remember right, she ends up miscarrying as a result of being poisoned.

  40. He’s not sterile, huh? So much for the Klinefelter’s theory. I suppose we have to fall back on the “L&J don’t know jack about genetics or reproduction” theory.
    I’m not at all surprised by this, but they missed a genuinely dramatic plot opportunity by having Hattie miscarry. I’d be interested to see how she deals with raising the Antichrist’s child, and how everyone around her reacts. (Or does she try to keep it secret?) But I guess there’s too much moral ambiguity in that, so the authors take the easy way out and abort Hattie’s baby.

  41. “We don’t need to save the whales; Jesus is coming soon.”
    Actually I am old enough to remember James Watt, and I don’t remember this quote. I don’t know whether Watt ever said anything about whales. You may be thinking of the famous quote from his testimony before the House Interior Committee:
    I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns; . . .
    This, coming from an Interior Secretary, sounds like it could be the beginning of a scary sentiment. Unfortunately for a good story, he continued the sentence this way:
    . . . whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.
    Bill Moyers paraphrased the first part of this quote in a speech at Harvard last December (later published in the New York Review of Books), interpreting it to mean “we can do anything we want to the environment because the Rapture could be coming tomorrow.” Moyers has since apologized to Watt after Watt brought the complete quotation to his attention.
    This is not to say that there aren’t folks out there who take exactly the attitude Moyers attributed to Watt. (And, in fact, it’s not even to say that Watt doesn’t take this attitude. Just not, AFAIK, in public.) I swear I saw someone quoted in the New York Times to this same effect fairly recently, but I can’t put my finger on it just now.

  42. “We don’t need to save the whales; Jesus is coming soon.”
    Actually I am old enough to remember James Watt, and I don’t remember this quote. I don’t know whether Watt ever said anything about whales. You may be thinking of the famous quote from his testimony before the House Interior Committee:
    I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns; . . .
    This, coming from an Interior Secretary, sounds like it could be the beginning of a scary sentiment. Unfortunately for a good story, he continued the sentence this way:
    . . . whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.
    Bill Moyers paraphrased the first part of this quote in a speech at Harvard last December (later published in the New York Review of Books), interpreting it to mean “we can do anything we want to the environment because the Rapture could be coming tomorrow.” Moyers has since apologized to Watt after Watt brought the complete quotation to his attention.
    This is not to say that there aren’t folks out there who take exactly the attitude Moyers attributed to Watt. (And, in fact, it’s not even to say that Watt doesn’t take this attitude. Just not, AFAIK, in public.) I swear I saw someone quoted in the New York Times to this same effect fairly recently, but I can’t put my finger on it just now.

  43. As a side note, Slaughterhouse Five cites wildly played-up casualty counts for Dresden based on the work of David Irving. (Yes, that David Irving.) Reputable estimates (citing Wikipedia) place the casualties at 25,000 – 35,000.

  44. McArdle: I’m certainly willing to believe that the line I remember was someone’s exaggeration or caricature of Watt’s actual statement. That was sloppy of me, and I apologize.
    Here’s a more reasoned look at his legacy:
    “In the early days of the Reagan Administration, Secretary Watt virtually shut down the listing of species, regardless of their imperiled status. (The average annual number of listings dropped from 33 in 1976 through 1979 to just 9 from 1980 to 1983.) Watt also insisted that listing decisions be subject to economic analysis by the Office of Management and Budget, which presumably could veto listings that would have negative economic consequences.” (source: http://open-spaces.com/article-v5n3-davison.php)

  45. Just so you know, Lila, I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that I approve of Watt’s record as Interior Secretary, just that we should approach the question on the basis of things the man actually did and said, not on easily refutable fake quotations.

  46. I am still rather dubious of the number of Christians who can possibly have been raptured. Here’s a chart from adherents.com of the different major branches of Christianity, with my annotations as to how many are likely to be saved:
    Catholic 1,050,000,000 (can’t imagine more than 5% or so, given how LaHaye and Jenkins feel about Catholicism. That gets us to, what, 52 million?)
    Orthodox/Eastern Christian 240,000,000 (Orthodox and Eastern Christians have all the same flaws as Catholics, so 12 million)
    African indigenous sects (AICs) 110,000,000 (I can’t imagine any significant number of these are going to be saved – I’ll say 1 million)
    Pentecostal 105,000,000 (Not sure what they think of the pentecostals, specifically, but let’s be generous and save 70% of them, for another 70 million)
    Reformed/Presbyterian/Congregational/United 75,000,000 (Given the number of “nominal” Christians that people like LaHaye and Jenkins must see in such mainline protestantism, I’ll go with about 40% – 30 million or so)
    Anglican 73,000,000 (worse than the Calvinists. Let’s save 20 million)
    Baptist 70,000,000 (okay, these should do fairly well. Let’s save 45 million)
    Methodist 70,000,000 (pretty neutral, I should think. I’ll save half, 35 million)
    Lutheran 64,000,000 (about like the Reformed – 30 million saved)
    Jehovah’s Witnesses 14,800,000 (not too many of these should be saved, they’re heretics – 1 million)
    Adventist 12,000,000 (we’ll give them a bit better than the JW – 2 million)
    Latter Day Saints 12,500,000 (very poorly, 500,000, maybe?)
    Apostolic/New Apostolic 10,000,000 (I assume these folks do well – 8 million)
    Stone-Campbell (“Restoration Movement”) 5,400,000 (let’s save 5 million of these crazies)
    New Thought (Unity, Christian Science, etc.) 1,500,000 (not sure, but let’s go with another 500,000 to even things out)
    Brethren (incl. Plymouth) 1,500,000 (not sure what this is, let’s save another half million)
    Mennonite 1,250,000 (let’s go with another half million Mennonites)
    Friends (Quakers) 300,000 (no Quakers – they don’t believe in nothing)
    So…that gives us 213 million Christians, plus all the children. I will admit that my numbers here could be low. But I think the basic thing keeping the numbers low – the exclusion of the vast majority of Catholics and Orthodox, and of large numbers of mainline protestants, has to be the case based on the premises of the story. Let’s say I’m off by a 50% margin – bump it up to 300 million – still not that many.
    You seem to have calculated the number of children at 1.35 billion. So that means the total numbers are going to be 1.65 billion. It should be noted that in this reading, the disappearance of the children is going to be much, much, much more noticeable than the disappearance of the much, much smaller number of (Evangelical) Christians.

  47. The Bretheren are the sect that started all of this nonsense with darby, and the exclusive bretheren are exclusive because they’re so hip deep into this belief that they’ve absented themselves from the outside world in order to keep themselves pure for the rapture. Their absention includes a prohibition against voting…Although it didn’t stop them funding the Bush campaign this time around.

  48. Pho makes a good point. L&J seem to not know that 90% of flying is done by computer, and has been since the mid 80’s. The cartoon carnage of pilotless planes dropping like turkies from the sky may sound dramatic but it’s pretty much impossible.
    You might have maybe a handfull of plane crashes, if the piolet in control of the plane happened to be about to touch down at the exact moment of rapture. However, God being God, you’d think maybe he’d wait and grab the piolt a few mintes later, once the plane is taxiing in and the co piolot could take over. Or, arrange for weather to sockin all the flights in the approriate timezone, so no one gets hurt.
    In fact, what kind of a God decides to inflict this much carnage just to snag a few folks to heaven early? It’s as ludicrous as the old argument that it was God’s will that sank the Titanic, because there was a sinner on board he wanted to zap. Thousands die so that God can show off his superpowers.
    Funny religion they have there.

  49. [P]lanes dropping like turkies from the sky
    Gotta love a WKRP reference.
    In fact, what kind of a God decides to inflict this much carnage just to snag a few folks to heaven early?
    A big problem I have with LB is the random chance to be saved. In the LBverse, any unraptured folks who happened to be on a plane that went down are not only dead, they are burning in Hell’s eternal fire.
    By contrast, Rayford, Buck, Chloe and a host of others are SPOILER ALERT saved by the end of Book 1. They took advantage of their second chance, to be sure, but that second chance was a random event.
    I have said before that my faith comes from my heart, but my rejection of fundamentalism comes from my head. This is what I am talking about. No loving God would order His creation like this.

  50. [P]lanes dropping like turkies from the sky
    Gotta love a WKRP reference.
    In fact, what kind of a God decides to inflict this much carnage just to snag a few folks to heaven early?
    A big problem I have with LB is the random chance to be saved. In the LBverse, any unraptured folks who happened to be on a plane that went down are not only dead, they are burning in Hell’s eternal fire.
    By contrast, Rayford, Buck, Chloe and a host of others are SPOILER ALERT saved by the end of Book 1. They took advantage of their second chance, to be sure, but that second chance was a random event.
    I have said before that my faith comes from my heart, but my rejection of fundamentalism comes from my head. This is what I am talking about. No loving God would order His creation like this.

  51. “As long as the Time o’ Rapture has come up…..”
    In chapter 1 of LB, the rapture occurs just before sunrise somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, which could be at about 11:00 pm back in Chicago I suppose, although it would probably be later.
    Also, oddly enough, in the last line of the chapter Rayford is fully aware that his wife was right, and the rapture has taken place. If I remember correctly, one of the big plot lines of the book is his slow realization of this, so it is odd to re-read Chapter 1 and find that there isn’t much suspense involved.

  52. It is, of course, Friday.
    As an optional starting point for discussion, I suggest the following:
    http://tinyurl.com/chcet
    “Blockbuster Left Behind Series in Development as Real Time Strategy Computer Game”

  53. Pho:
    “I have said before that my faith comes from my heart, but my rejection of fundamentalism comes from my head. This is what I am talking about. No loving God would order His creation like this.”
    It’s just not an intelligent design, is it?
    (Sorry…)

  54. Left Behind as an RTS game?
    All I can think of are fundamentalist orc legions and exploding sheep. Zug zug.