L.B.: The real sin of the Rev. Bruce Barnes

L.B.: The real sin of the Rev. Bruce Barnes February 4, 2006

Left Behind, pp. 195-197

To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,

But life without meaning is the torture

Of restlessness and vague desire —

It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

— Edgar Lee Masters, from "Spoon River Anthology"

Rayford Steele's wife, Irene, was snatched away by God because she was a Real True Christian. She had learned to be an RTC at the New Hope Village Church. Looking for answers, Rayford drives to the church to meet with the Rev. Bruce Barnes — one of only a handful from the congregation who were left to live because they were, it turns out, not really Real True Christians.

"How did you miss it?" Rayford asks Barnes. And the now-penitent visitation pastor tells him. Barnes offers a three-page monologue describing a life of hypocrisy and insidious sin. The acts he details are … well, rather unimpressive, actually. The guy may have been a half-assed pastor, but he was scarcely even a quarter-assed sinner.

I told my wife that we tithed to the church, you know, that we gave 10 percent of our income. I hardly ever gave any, except when the plate was passed I might drop in a few bills to make it look good.

I probably shouldn't downplay this too much, since Ananias and Sapphira were punished rather severely for a more extreme case of something similar — but this still seems rather petty. Yes, lying to his wife was wrong. And the hypocrisy of trying to look generous when the offering plate was passed was wrong. But we're also talking about his tithing back to the church the income he just received from the church — which makes the whole thing seem like the way Barnes & Noble promises a 35 percent discount on a 50 percent markup. (And for Judas' sake, haven't these people ever heard of pre-addressed offering and tithing envelopes? With this kind of shoddy bookkeeping you just know somebody on the finance committee was skimming.)

The real sense you get reading this — and reading about all of Barnes' other sins — is of a not-very-imaginative pastor standing in the pulpit, just knowing that his congregants have sin in their hearts, but unable to imagine what that sin might be. LaHaye and Jenkins here are poorly served by their Protestant rejection of the sacrament of confession. You'd never read such a paltry list of sins in a novel by a Catholic priest like Andrew Greeley.

I encouraged people to share their faith, to tell other people how to become Christians. But on my own I never did that.

Here again, the hypocrisy is probably worse than the actual sin of omission. Evangelism is a Christian imperative, but it is not a universal gift, so I'm not completely sure his failure to exercise that gift even is a sin of omission. (And, in the context of this book, Irene is never condemned for not telling her husband and daughter "how to become Christians.")

The real dynamic here, I think, is that when evangelism is reduced to a sales pitch, to telling "other people how to become Christians," then it becomes an awkward, embarrassing, cringe-inducing experience for all involved. The only way to get Christians to engage in this mutually painful form of marketing is to lay on the guilt as thick and heavy as possible. This is part of that guilt trip: Move the product or you're going to Hell.

Barnes goes on to confess that, "I hardly ever read my Bible except when preparing a talk or lesson." He views this as another sin of omission, a failure to carry out another Christian duty. L&J insist that Christians must carry out such duties, and so they include this too in their guilt-trip. But what if Barnes' real failure here is not his failure to carry out his duty, but rather the fact that he seems to view such things as duties to be carried out?

My job was to visit people in their homes and nursing homes and hospitals every day. I was good at it. I encouraged them, smiled at them, talked with them, prayed with them, even read Scripture to them. But I never did that on my own, privately.

We've already discussed that Barnes wasn't good at this — that he shows no hint of awareness of the kind of human suffering one encounters in "homes and nursing homes and hospitals every day." But bracket that for now.

If Barnes really spends his work-week carrying out such a ministry, is it then a sin of omission that he fails to do this same work as a volunteer on his days off? For that to be true, we would have to conclude that all paid ministry is illegitimate. We would have to conclude that those selfish bastards at the local rescue mission don't really care about the poor because, after a long day ladling soup and doing laundry on the clock they don't go and do those same things again on their own, privately.

Fortunately, we're spared having to dwell on the illogic of this confession by Barnes' next statement, in which he seems blissfully unaware that he is refuting his claim to have been good at his job:

I was lazy. I cut corners. When people thought I was out calling, I might be at a movie in another town.

Here, finally, we come to some full-fledged sin. Not just sloth, but also a kind of theft from the offering plate that's far graver than his confessed skimping on the tithe. Barnes is also guilty of being a shoddy craftsman. Being a visitation pastor is his vocation, and failure to seek excellence in one's vocation — as Calvin, Luther and Aquinastotle all taught — is a sin. This latter point doesn't occur to Barnes because it doesn't occur to L&J: witness their own slapdash, lazy, corner-cutting approach to their vocation as novelists.

So far, then, Barnes has confessed to petty avarice, pride and sloth. Throughout most of Christian history, pride has been considered the most serious of the sins. Within American evangelicalism, however, it takes a backseat to what is regarded as the naughtiest of evils:

I was also lustful. I read things I shouldn't have read, looked at magazines that fed my lusts. … I wasn't a rapist or a child molester or an adulterer, though many times I felt unfaithful to my wife because of my lusts.

There it is. In L&J's world, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life aren't enough to make you a really bad person. You've got to have the lust of the flesh. For L&J, nothing says "sinner" like sneaking a peek at Playboy. (Except, perhaps, sneaking a peek at Playgirl — but that's another subject.)

It's also kind of quaint that Barnes looked at actual "magazines." Usually, when writing a book set in the "near future," the authors will look at technological trends and, projecting them forward, try to imagine how such technologies will reshape the world of their novel. Here, as with the advent of cell phones, L&J failed to predict the rise of Internet porn. Predicting the near future is a tricky business, though, so I'll give them a pass (without even speculating on whether they actually failed to foresee this trend or just pretended to).

And while we're on the subject of cataloging sins, let's note that it's a bit disturbing the way Barnes lists rape, child molestation and adultery together without any sense that one of these things is not like the others. He lumps these together as though they are mere points on a spectrum of sexual sins, as though all of these are forms of pleasure, as though no distinction can be made between predation and akrasia.

"I had a real racket going," Barnes was saying, "and I bought into it. Down deep, way down deep, I knew better. I knew it was too good to be true. …"

Here's where he loses me completely. What "racket"? What part of Barnes' miserable, stunted, furtive, hollow existence could possibly be regarded as "too good to be true"?

A reader might have hoped — against all prior evidence to the contrary — that L&J, were attempting something subtle here. Perhaps they intended readers to see Barnes as a sad little man living a life of quiet desperation. But no, they genuinely seem to think that Barnes was enjoying the high life as he took license with the promise of God's forgiveness and pursued the pleasures of the flesh. They seem almost jealous of his sleepwalking, half-dead existence. It's the same jealousy one sees whenever a particularly colorful former sinner stands to give his testimony, and everyone inches forward in the pews to hear again about Brother Jim's wretched past of unbridled womanizing and drunkenness.

What's striking here — and all the more striking because the authors themselves seem not to notice it — is how color-less Barnes' life as a sinner was. It would be wrong even to say he had lived the life of a sinner — he hadn't lived life at all.

This, I would argue, was Bruce Barnes' real sin. And it's far more dangerous, far more soul-killing, than the full-blooded pursuit of pleasure by a Brother Jim, or a Faust, or a Qoholeth. Sin boldly. Better to be a crack addict chasing a counterfeit of the pearl of great price than to be chasing nothing at all.

In my favorite prayer of confession from The Book of Common Prayer, we say, "Too often we carry on our lives as if You did not exist." Bruce Barnes is certainly guilty of that, but he also carried on his life as if he did not exist. He confesses to a litany of petty sins, but not to the sin of pettiness itself — of living a small, numb, meaningless life. That's the kind of sin that breaks God's heart.

Barnes wasn't "left behind" — he stayed behind on his own.


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90 responses to “L.B.: The real sin of the Rev. Bruce Barnes”

  1. This is part of that guilt trip: Move the product or you’re going to Hell.
    The Reverend Barnes doesn’t get to get raptured.
    Being raptured… is for CLOSERS.

  2. As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forego (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversations he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at least he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.
    — The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis

  3. Barnes goes on to confess that, “I hardly ever read my Bible except when preparing a talk or lesson.” He views this as another sin of omission, a failure to carry out another Christian duty. L&J insist that Christians must carry out such duties, and so they include this too in their guilt-trip.
    I’m sorry, Christian evangelical pre-millenial dispensationalist fundamentalists consider it a hell-worthy trespass not to read the Bible? These guys are almost uniformly, shockingly ignorant of what the Bible says beyond a few choice passages (Leviticus, Revelations, stuff about Sodom); hearing L&J argue, with a straight face, that people who don’t read the Bible for fun is just… inconcievable.

  4. And the hypocrisy of trying to look generous when the offering plate was passed was wrong. But we’re also talking about his tithing back to the church the income he just received from the church
    Any significant tithe is done by check (nobody puts 10% of their income in the collection plate as cash) – the church would be expecting records and to know how much he was tithing. This doesn’t pass the smell test.
    Usually, when writing a book set in the “near future,” the authors will look at technological trends and, projecting them forward, try to imagine how such technologies will reshape the world of their novel.
    The internet is all porn in later books, after the authors do some late night surfing of their own. :-)
    He confesses to a litany of petty sins, but not to the sin of pettiness itself — of living a small, numb, meaningless life.
    Unfortunately, too many people use language like this to force others into their own grandious schemes – you’re morally suspect if you don’t want to “save the world”, by either the right’s or left’s ideology (and just coincidently giving the speaker power over you). There’s no sin, IMHO, in lacking a delusion of grandeur.
    For example, C.S Lewis (I’m paraphrasing from memory) had a comment in a book about everyone wanting to be a “great lover” – instead of the mundane (“small”??) life of going thru a dull patch in a normal, every day marriage, they run off w/ the pool boy/girl to have the drama of “look what I gave up for love” and the related emotional rush.
    IMHO, the world would be better off if people sinned small by looking at dirty pictures (to whatever degree that’s a sin – I can’t say I care if you do) than sinned ‘boldly’ w/ cocaine and hooker binges. Saying the second is OK if ‘balanced’ by big works you approve of is just selling a Clinton-era indulgence.

  5. I have to say that Fred is the reason I keep visiting this site, and commenters like Scott are why I enjoy it so much.
    Scott’s comments remind me of an AA slogan: “Keep on trudgin’.” ‘Tis an honorable thing to muddle through, to treat people well, to strive not to fuck up too badly, to remind oneself that one’s needs shouldn’t come before everyone else’s. Yeah, and if that means toughing out a dull spot in one’s marriage, then stop complaining and do it.
    There is a political dimension to this, too. What Scott terms “grandiose” in personal terms is called “utopian” in political terms. We know what happens when utopians get power. L&J and all millenial dispensationalists are utopians who believe that the path to heaven runs through Armageddon.

  6. Scott,
    I agree, the world would probably be a better place if people “sinned small” with dirty pictures . . . but is that a realistic interpretation of “sinning small?”
    I mean, as a non Christian I find it hard to believe that L&J enforce not just “True Christianity” but perfection on those that they chose to rapture. It sounds like they say that this small stuff wasn’t just the small stuff, it was the big stuff, the stuff that kept Banes on Earth.
    This demand for perfection from the raptured questions obscures something that I thought I understood about Christianity, and that is that faith in Jesus Christ as one’s personal Lord and Saviour is the key. Can someone be saved, and still peek at the dirty pictures? Not according to L&J.
    So when Fred says, “Where is the sin of pettiness?” I think he’s asking a question that might have saved Barnes if L&J had asked him it before the rapture. If Barnes understood that his preoccupation with the small sins was petty, he might have asked, well, what’s the big sin? And that’s the sin of not having faith in Jesus Christ, which Barnes doesn’t seem to understand is the root of his problems. So to L&J equivocate all sins to this one. Big and small, every sin is not having faith in Jesus Christ.
    The problem for me is that Barnes still couldn’t understand what he’s missing. The traumatic experience of being slapped silly isn’t going to bring you to faith, and L&J’s rapture was just that. Through pain someone doesn’t come to love . . . unless it’s a really sick and twisted love. A Stockholm syndrome of the soul, perhaps.
    Anyway, the grand point of all this is that L&J don’t understand “sinning small,” because they have no conception of “sinning big.” Barnes doesn’t understand the differences between his sinning and “big sinning,” so he beats himself up. But when it comes down to it, L&J don’t understand his motivation to beat himself up.
    I’ve never met a perfect Christian though. For me, the difference between Barnes and Irene is that Barnes was aware of his mistakes. If he was a true L&J Christian, he shouldn’t have been. He should have been Steele or Williams, with no conception of his shortcommings. In real life, it isn’t the bad Christians that “sin small,” it’s the good ones.
    ETA: I’m looking back over this . . . and I don’t know that I’ve made my point, but I’m posting it anyway.

  7. Big, small, the size of the sin is almost immaterial. For one thing, God can forgive about any sin, so obsessing over anything isn’t going to do anything but keep you away from God that much longer. I think Fred nailed it with the pettiness thing. The problem comes in when your life is about petty things. Sure, everyone has everyday business to attend to, and sure, that everyday business may not look spectacular. But the King of the Universe has created each of us and invited us into a radically close relationship. Should a person in that relationship then live for the everyday things? Seems like Bruce isn’t really in it. But LaHaye and Jenkins seem to be mistaking the symptoms for the disease here.

  8. “Bruce Barnes”? I still can’t get over these people’s names. L&J must use a name generator, that’s all I can say. Or they randomly pull out whatever words they think of first.
    Again, very good post, Fred! I’m glad my prophecy was right, in that I posted on an earlier topic that my favorite moments were a.) when Chole returns home, b.) when they meet Bruce Barnes, c.) Rayford feeling God’s spirit [we haven’t gotten to this nebulous, cold passage yet, but we’re close; I swear, either God is evil or Rayford is the most unfeeling man in the history of the human race–he barely notes it for more than a paragraph, and never really mentions it again!], and d,) when Cameron “Buck” Williams begins hitting on Chole in a juvenille, grade school romance full of awakwardness. Plus there’s Nicolae Carpathia’s incredibly pointless “demonstration of power” (the narrative and advertising description of it that I’ve seen is identical) at the end of the book that’s basically the equivelant of a B action movie villain killing off his top men for no reason other than “HAHAHAH! I was using you all along! I couldn’t possibly need you further! Witness my power, though no one [that I know of] will remember a bit of it in five minutes!”
    I can’t wait until Fred gets to the end.

  9. The tithing bit confused me too. Aren’t donations to your church tax-deductible, in the US? If people really are contributing significant sums (or claiming that they are), they’re not going to just drop it in the collection plate, right?

  10. The trouble with the Screwtape quotation incandescens quoted is that it’s an excellent clinical description of depression (been there, done that, burned the ugly ugly T-shirt). In his writing over the years Lewis struggled IMHO unsuccessfully with the problem of the religious significance of mental & emotional illness, and I see this discussion heading that same way.
    One of the intrinsic difficulties with evangelical Christianity, and not just the fundamentalist-dispensationalist variety, is that it places great emphasis on your inner state. Barnes is Unsaved because, whatever he did, he did not have the right inner state, that sense of interior spiritual conviction that lets the True Believer know he is truly Saved.
    At least, that’s what I think L&J are trying to say. But we can see in this discussion where the uncomfortable cracks are in their viewpoint. If Barnes could achieved the proper inner state with the right medications, how much of a moral/theological failure were his emotional lacks?
    This is why I personally am 100% for justification by works, dudes. If Barnes visited the sick and imprisoned and helped them feel better, it doesn’t matter much why he did it or how he felt about it. It’s nice to give someone a meal prepared with love, but a lot of the time what they need is a *meal*.

  11. Well, you have to remember that he thinks his sin is telling his wife that he tithes, not that he tells the church. Was his wife raptured? If so, then she is a Good Wife ™ and wouldn’t worry her pretty little head about the taxes, and wouldn’t dream of checking his finances. Just sayin’.
    (cjmr: got my 1040 started yet?)

  12. No, I don’t. And you’re a fine one to talk about tithing. If you don’t mind the fact that we don’t have the statement of giving from the church yet and thus can’t take our offerings off our taxes, I can do it this afternoon.

  13. “Bruce Barnes is certainly guilty of that, but he also carried on his life as if he did not exist.”
    I am too lazy to seek out the quote, but I (vaguely) remember a statement from a famous rabbi (I’ll just call him Shlomo for the sake of the story) to the effect, “When I die, I will not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ but instead, ‘Why were you not Rabbi Shlomo?'”
    Or, for those who prefer an attempt at humor, another story concerned the expansion of the Nerf(TM) line of products, listing various increasingly unlikely ideas culminating in the Nerf Life, in which nothing painful or eventful can ever happen.
    Good stuff, Fred. One of the highlights of my week.

  14. If failure to seek excellence in one’s vocation is a sin can’t we argue that Barnes’ obvious “going through the motions” is evidence that being a pastor was not his vocation? It might have been his job and he excercised free will in choosing it but perhaps it wasn’t his calling. Also this whole post reminds me of the “hot/cold/luke warm spit you out” passage in the Bible but at the moment I’m too slothful to dig it up…

  15. Left Behind Again

    Since Slacktivist has been updating his Left Behind ultra-mega-mondo review on a fairly regular basis lately, I haven’t been making reference to the new entries, but there’s a good and important passage in this week’s entry that’s worth drawing attention

  16. …so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients
    said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing
    neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one
    “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to
    steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of
    the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of
    curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of
    fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in
    the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give
    them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature
    is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

  17. I think Spherical Time is really onto something here:
    For me, the difference between Barnes and Irene is that Barnes was aware of his mistakes. If he was a true L&J Christian, he shouldn’t have been.
    This seems to be an unspoken teaching, not just of L&J but of many salvation-centered denominations: once you’ve been saved, you never have to worry about sinning again. And while they’d never put it that way, the corollary is as ST described. I know that some people have an almost allergic reaction to the “we are all sinners” formula, but if you think of it not as “we are all shameful little worms who should spend our days in self-flaggelation,” but “we are all imperfect, as is our nature as human beings,” it can inspire such virtues as compassion and non-judgementalism. I don’t think its a coincidence that LB, which seems so rooted in “we’re saved and therefore without sin,” is also so strikingly lacking in those virtues.
    The trouble with the Screwtape quotation incandescens quoted is that it’s an excellent clinical description of depression
    Thank you, Doctor. I really needed to hear that. I was upset by the quote in a way that didn’t seem at all healthy. It’s always uncomfortable to recognize yourself in a less than flattering portrait, but instead of a spur to self-examination and change, this one felt like an utter condemnation, saying in effect, “See, you really are guilty and deserve all the misery and self-loathing that you feel.” Remembering that what I’m dealing with is not a special failure but a special challenge helps a lot.
    Back to this week’s reading, one thing that struck me about the list of Bruce’s sins is that they’re mostly sins, not against God or against Man, but against the church. It sounds like Bruce was left behind mostly for failing to work long enough hours for the church, recruit new members for the church, or give enough money to the church. (BTW, any thoughts on what Bruce did with all that tithe money he pocketed? I’m sure “men’s magazines” aren’t cheap, especially at newsstand prices, but it’s hard to imagine anyone spending anything approaching 10% of their income on them.)
    VKW, The rabbi was named Zusia, and I agree, it’s a wonderful, and wonderfully apt quote.

  18. The trouble with the Screwtape quotation incandescens quoted is that it’s an excellent clinical description of depression
    To me, this sounds like another version of “Most men lead lives of quite desperation”.
    pharout: Revelation 3:15-16 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
    So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

  19. It’s also kind of quaint that Barnes looked at actual “magazines.” Usually, when writing a book set in the “near future,” the authors will look at technological trends and, projecting them forward, try to imagine how such technologies will reshape the world of their novel. Here, as with the advent of cell phones, L&J failed to predict the rise of Internet porn.
    They didn’t even need to predict the rise of internet porn. They simply could have . . . borrowed . . . some existing technology from an old TV show that did use futuristic stuff. Anyone ever hear of a holodeck?
    Had I had a holodeck when I was 15, I probably would’ve been in there for years . . . can anyone say “Yeoman Janice Rand”?

  20. I get it now. The torture of being Left Behind is getting caught up in soap opera written by middle schoolers.
    What’s hell going to be like? Perhaps sinners in hell will be forced to read and reread the entire LB series for eternity.

  21. The trouble with the Screwtape quotation incandescens quoted is that it’s an excellent clinical description of depression [snip]
    One of the intrinsic difficulties with evangelical Christianity, and not just the fundamentalist-dispensationalist variety, is that it places great emphasis on your inner state. Barnes is Unsaved because, whatever he did, he did not have the right inner state, that sense of interior spiritual conviction that lets the True Believer know he is truly Saved.
    So if the Saved have an inner feeling of certainty, does that mean they’re manic?
    :sotto voce: Sure would explain the behavior of the PMD fundies my college roommate hung around with.

  22. I’m sure “men’s magazines” aren’t cheap, especially at newsstand prices, but it’s hard to imagine anyone spending anything approaching 10% of their income on them.)
    Yeah, but most assistant pastors don’t make much money.

  23. So, if the experience of giving in to sin is one of clinical depression…
    And clinical depression can be fought off with prozac and other pharmaceuticals…
    Does that make Elrond Hubbard the devil?

  24. Thanks Bulbul…hmm only sort of fits with this I guess…
    Obviously the movie Barnes was watching wasn’t “Defending Your Life”

  25. Back when I was in high school, I told a friend (someone I looked up to in my church’s young adults group) that I had been in the SCA, doing medieval reenacting, when my dad had been posted to the West Coast, and I was thinking of getting involved with the SCA again on the east coast. This friend highly disapproved — he equated the SCA with D&D (which he thought was satanic or something), and, aside from that, as a distraction from the True Business of a Christian, i.e., spreading the gospel. (This guy would take his New Testament on the Metro and use his commute as an excuse to accost fellow passengers with the Gospel.) I was, and still am, a history buff; got to look at some medieval manuscripts and early printed books last weekend, and it just made me tickled pink to see, and handle, medieval MS. I never did rejoin the SCA, but my interest in costume, art, period music, textiles, etc., are abiding. These things make me happy. But I was made to feel guilty for spending money and/or time on myself and on anything that was considered self-indulgent because it was secular. I’ve tried to retrain myself not to feel that way, but old habits die hard.
    So, yes, basically, to this sort of Christian, anything pleasurable that isn’t directly related to the spreading of the gospel is a sin. You can’t just read a good book or listen to music. If you’re reading a book, it ought to be Christian literature. If you’re listening to music, it should be Christian music. If you practice some sort of art or craft, you ought to be using it for the glory of God, not simply enjoying it for its own sake. I think this makes fundie artists, writers, etc. think less about the actual technical aspects of their craft. Maybe this is an explanation of why the LB books are so bad. What the authors are doing, they do to the glory of God, so their focus isn’t on the actual craft of storytelling so much as it is on their “mission”, i.e., spreading the Word.
    Granted, there are a few religious artists/musicians/etc. out there who do halfway decent work, but, IMO, the imperative to do everything in such a restrictive context seems to make many Christian fundamentalists’ work insipid and shallow. Artists and musicians in previous eras did wonderful work in both religious and secular contexts (thinking about Bach and various 17th c. painters, here), so it’s possible to do good religious art, but those artists also did secular work and they had to compete in the marketplace with other artists doing the same thing, so were forced to hone their craft. And shoddy work wasn’t accepted because it was “Christian” and therefore somehow holier.
    Think I should go sign up for that art class my sis was talking about. And maybe the weaving class I’ve been eyeing, while I’m at it. And NOT feel guilty for spending the money on myself.

  26. If you practice some sort of art or craft, you ought to be using it for the glory of God, not simply enjoying it for its own sake.
    As Fred and others have commented before, what glorifies God (not in the fundie view, but in mine) is doing whatever you do the best you possibly can. I also think that your creative spirit is your direct pipeline to God — whether you get paid for your art or not, whether anyone else ever sees it or not, when you are creating God is there with you. To do less than your best (however good, bad or indifferent that best may be) perverts that gift and sins in a much deeper way than leering at magazines.
    Btw, if you mark something up 50% and discount the marked-up price 35%, um, aren’t you losing money?

  27. “self-indulgent because it was secular.”
    it is amazing how backwards the general ethos of evangelicalism in America has gotten. it is insanse to think that Jesus himself could not be a pastor or board member in most evangelical churches, could not be a missionary in most evangelical mission organisations, and would probably not have been raptured in LB. Jesus was secular. God used the most secular medium possible- human form- to communicate to people. this fundamentalist elitism is nothing short of phariseeism and arrogant pride.
    but it is an ethos, almost a non-descript undercurrent- most pastors, most congregants would glide by blissfully unaware of this guiding thought pattern, and most would do so with *good hearts.* (not to downplay right heart. i agree, works are significant, and it seems that Jesus thought they were imperative (matthew 24?) but he also talks about us knowing him as necessary. so i guess it comes down to what we consider knowing him. unfortuantely, evangelicals would raher concieve of “knowing jesus” in a “serendipity christian bookstore” pink and fluff meely feely kind of way, rather then actually knowing Christ, and being HUMBLED and made HONEST by who HE is.)
    but we have slowly asked Jesus to leave our churches-
    “its ok Christ, we can handle it from here. look, we got this new projector, and Tim Lahaye is teaching a writing conference, so your fire and creativity just kinda cut our efficiency- so, see ya.”
    btw, “tithing” isn’t even a biblical precept for “christian” financial responsibility. it is par for the course for LJ to perpetuate the idea that “10% is God’s and 90% is mine so back the hell up.” it would be “unrealistic” for trained EV pastors to tell their congregations that they don’t have to give 10%, that was for a specific past time, in a specific past culture. the NT seems to say that if someone is one of Jesus’ people that part of that realisation is “ok, so how do i use all this that i have to serve other people?” (and in so doing serve Christ). but this concept is lost to the sales men style of propagation of evangelicalism, where reading your bible is more important then knowing Christ and doing something about it.

  28. When I was a child, my family was poor. My Dad used to scoop up a bunch of those blank offering envelopes from the pews, taken them home, put blank pieces of paper in them, then fold them over and put them in his pocket. Then he could take an envelop out of his pocket every Sunday — one that looked like everyone else’s — and put it in the plate, just like everyone else. He gave me our real offering of $1 a week to put in the plate. He said he did this so that no one would feel sorry for us, and that it was a secret.
    His system worked fine until I learned about the sin of pride in my Sunday school classes and started asking him some difficult questions. Then he just told me to be quiet.

  29. I’m sorry, Christian evangelical pre-millenial dispensationalist fundamentalists consider it a hell-worthy trespass not to read the Bible?
    Part of it is the Protestant idea of the Bible as being the sole authority. This in direct contrast to Catholic church, which until recently actively discouraged its adherents from reading the Bible on their own.
    Aren’t donations to your church tax-deductible, in the US? If people really are contributing significant sums (or claiming that they are), they’re not going to just drop it in the collection plate, right?
    Sure you do. That’s what the pre-printed envelopes are for. That reminds me: I have to call the church secretary to get my tax form for 2005.

  30. Insta-reaction:
    1. Is this a parallel-universe interpretation of scrupulosity? Sounds like No and Yes.
    2. Yes, tithes are tax deductible. I do hope the little woman (as in, as little as Hattie) Mrs. Barnes didn’t just sign their tax return without reading it. Unless she did read it and someone wrote the wrong numbers knowing they were wrong. But that’s the kind of sin that’s called a “crime.”

  31. If you’re deducting your donation, you can’t just be dropping it in an envelope in the plate. Either the IRS is taking people’s donations on faith, or someone in the church can match the envelope to the donor and provide a record that you include with your form, right?

  32. “Btw, if you mark something up 50% and discount the marked-up price 35%, um, aren’t you losing money?”
    1.5 * (1 – 0.35) = 0.975
    Indeed! :)

  33. Scott:
    “IMHO, the world would be better off if people sinned small by looking at dirty pictures (to whatever degree that’s a sin – I can’t say I care if you do) than sinned ‘boldly’ w/ cocaine and hooker binges.”
    I want to agree with you here, except that another cool line Screwtape (BTW; show of hands here–how many atheists secretly enjoy reading C.S. Lewis? I used to think I was unique, but I keep meeting more and more of these folks. Maybe it’s because his ‘general’ philosophy is so good, whereas his religious philosophy is so tweedy and unconvincing).
    Anyway, according to the Lewis-ian consensus, “great” sins are in a weird way less reprehensible than “petty” sins because great sins tend to require some virtue as well. Looking at dirty pictures? Any dope with a computer and some discretion can do that. But to, say, commit actual adultery requires a certain amount of courage (a definite virtue) and committment (a tenuous virtue). I think Lewis even gives the example of Attila the Hun. Something like, “Yeah he was brutal and murderous, but it can’t also be denied he was BRAVE.”
    Remember when Bill Maher got shouted down (and eventually kicked off the air) for saying the terrorists at least had the courage to use their own bodies as weapons, whereas we in the West tended to lob cruise missiles from a thousand miles away? It might’ve been an impolitic thing for Maher to say, but he was also right.
    It would only take a slightly better world than this one in which to imagine Islamic terrorists, instead of using their bodies as deadly weapons against others, use their bodies as nonviolent weapons in the mode of Gandhi’s example. They’ve got all the courage and committment they need–they just keep getting tripped up by their hatred.

  34. The above comment was mine, by the way. Forgot to append my name and blog.
    More from Scott:
    Unfortunately, too many people use language like this to force others into their own grandious schemes – you’re morally suspect if you don’t want to “save the world”, by either the right’s or left’s ideology (and just coincidently giving the speaker power over you). There’s no sin, IMHO, in lacking a delusion of grandeur.
    I pretty much agree with you here. Although it might be a good idea to have some larger goal for yourself than just the satisfaction of daily needs and wants, too many folks peddle You-Need-Something-Worth-Dying-For rhetoric for the wrong reasons. Either they’re a one-issue person who has a very specific idea of you, yes YOU should consider dying for, or else they’re an adventurist in the worst sense of the word–like Teddy Roosevelt or David Brooks–who believes that a “great nation” has to be constantly fighting and struggling or else it will stagnate and become decadent. (Teddy Roosevelt was the rare militarist who actually did some fighting himself; Brooks, meanwhile, has never even BEEN to Iraq)
    Which reminds me of three years ago, when we as a nation were busy brainwashing ourselves into thinking this war would be a good and noble thing, some twittering militarist fuckstick pontificated, “Are we really going to become a nation that thinks nothing is worth fighting for?”
    Note the slippery ellision: something “worth fighting for”. “Fighting for” being a term of art to suggest a noble, civil effort, rather than the vastly more accurate “killing for” or “dying for” or “engaging in sexual torture for”.

  35. BTW; show of hands here–how many atheists secretly enjoy reading C.S. Lewis?
    Me me ! I loved Narnia (except for the last book, that one was a bit lame) and The Screwtape Letters.
    Lewis strikes me as one of those few theists who actually believes that their theism is logically justifiable — and not based merely on faith. Lewis’s arguments are ultimately not convincing, but you’ve got to admire the effort. Plus, he can actually write well, which is more than I can say for LB&J or whatever their initials are (I keep confusing them with a sandwich). Lewis doesn’t just hit you on the head with apologetics — he strives to make you experience what it’s like to be a Christian. I wonder, are there any modern authors who can do the same ?

  36. If you’re deducting your donation, you can’t just be dropping it in an envelope in the plate. Either the IRS is taking people’s donations on faith, or someone in the church can match the envelope to the donor and provide a record that you include with your form, right?
    There are numerous ways to do the accounting (each congregation member being issued personal-numbered envelopes being the most common–I used to be #126) but, yes, the church usually issues you a giving statement at the end of the tax year that you use when filling in your tax form. And the IRS does trust you to report those donations–you don’t have to send in the receipt with your tax form (unless you give a one-time material gift of over a certain amount). But you better be able to produce it if you are audited. Or at least the corresponding cancelled checks.

  37. Lewis strikes me as one of those few theists who actually believes that their theism is logically justifiable — and not based merely on faith. Lewis’s arguments are ultimately not convincing, but you’ve got to admire the effort.
    Yeah, I suppose so. But frankly I have the reverse problem with him: He seems to protest too much. I was 150-some pages into Mere Christianity when I thought to myself, “If this were true, I can’t believe it would take this much explaining.” He’s like Plato that way–the only real “philosopher” I’ve ever read: The writing is brilliant, scintillating, mesmerizing and totally wrong.
    Personally, I’ve always known that I was ever going to find faith, that it would probably NOT be an intensely intellectual experience for me but would rather be transcendant and direct and personal. And I’ve had experiences like that–but none of them had the least bit in common with any specific religious tradition that I’m familiar with. I dunno, there is the “lost hour” I spent sitting and staring at the two Assyrian shedu (these guys, with the wings and lion bodies: http://www.metmuseum.org/Works_of_Art/department.asp?dep=3) at the Metropolitan. So that means, what, Inannaism is the one true way?

  38. Fred, I was wondering if you had seen Ingmar Bergman’s chamber collection on losing his Lutheran faith. (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence) Winter Light is an astonishing piece on the theme that L&J only wish that they could comprehend. ( Incidentally, the spider in Darkly might be a good stand in deity for the Left Behind universe.)

  39. The real reason the sins of pastor Barnes are so inconvincing is of course that the writers themselves are so lacking in imagination and compassion.
    Their characters are counterfeit because they are.

  40. bugmaster:
    “Lewis doesn’t just hit you on the head with apologetics — he strives to make you experience what it’s like to be a Christian. I wonder, are there any modern authors who can do the same ?”
    how modern? like technically modern? what about poets? it is interesting to live in a culture where most christains believe the best way to explain God is by linear rhetoric. but linear rhetoric falls short of being able to give voice to “God” on so many counts, eh?
    i have recently gotten really immersed in the poetry of Gerard Manly Hopkins- wow. *good* poetry involves you in the process, not merely proving a point.

  41. So that means, what, Inannaism is the one true way?
    There is no one true way, no magic formula that works for everyone. Christianity works for Fred, music works for my DH, if Inannaism works for you, go for it! — besides, you gotta love the poem about her beer party with Enki.

  42. “…besides, you gotta love the poem about her beer party with Enki.”
    Oh absolutely! There’s that great part in which Enki hands over the mes (mes=divine essence/nature/elemental concept) to Inanna for such things as falsehood, truthfulness, beer-brewing, music, and fellatio. Resurrecting the Inanna-cult would awesome and I’d join in a second!
    …What I meant by “one true faith” was that I somehow doubt that the various Lewises and Dostoivevskis and Pope Bennys and Jack Whelans of the world, when they lament the plague of modern secularism, would feel that Inannaism is exactly what they had in mind for an alternative: “Any faith better than no faith . . . er, except that one. No, uh, not that one either. *Sigh* no, that one’s no good either . . . Okay FINE! When I said “any faith” I really meant CHRISTIANITY, are you happy???”
    P.S. Everyone should take a look at the new illustrated book “Inanna: From the Myths of Ancient Sumer”, by Groundwood Press:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0888994966/sr=1-3/qid=1139346402/ref=pd_bbs_3/102-8772260-8492151?%5Fencoding=UTF8)

  43. Great post, Fred.
    One question. Didn’t anyone ever take Barnes aside and make him say the “the words”?
    That’s all it takes to get yourself rapturred, right?

  44. Let me second Jay’s recommendation of Hopkins’s poetry as a beautiful, brilliant, and smart Christianity without that pushy aftertaste. But for anyone looking him up at home, his name spelling is Gerald Manley Hopkins – you can find some of his stuff online at http://www.bartleby.com/122/ .
    -Roger

  45. Glad I didn’t miss much! And this whole subject is something I remember being a big deal back in my Christian College days. Things like “finding God’s will for your life” and “sharing the Gospel” were huge issues that (especially as first-year students) were laid on you all the time. But not by professors – it was other students! Luckily, the professors we had got us to understand that living our lives fully meant getting past the guilt trips.
    Pharoute was right on with his post where he wrote “If failure to seek excellence in one’s vocation is a sin can’t we argue that Barnes’ obvious “going through the motions” is evidence that being a pastor was not his vocation?” Of all the jobs in the world, being a religous leader *has* to be something you love to do, doesn’t it? However, talk to any pastor and they will tell you, it isn’t easy work. Mainly, there is never any *down* time – you never get to leave your job!
    So Barnes got kind of burned out under all the scrutiny – and maybe that was a sign he shouldn’t be doing this job. But sucking at your job or doing the wrong job for you (if it’s being a pastor or whatever) as the standard for not delivering you from evil??? L&J have set a bar no one could reach.
    Last thing – I think the Barnes and Noble mark down point is not that they make a lot of money off you by scamming you into thinking you got a great discount – it’s that the discount is only 2.5%. If I recall correctly from my bookstore days, it costs a bit more (in shipping, labor, etc.) to have to return the book to the publisher than to sell it for 2.5% less than the bookstore paid for it. The Gene of Gene’s Books (once the greatest independent bookstore in all of Southeastern PA IMO) used to make a mint by selling remainder books at ridiculously slashed prices.

  46. What’s striking here — and all the more striking because the authors themselves seem not to notice it — is how color-less Barnes’ life as a sinner was. It would be wrong even to say he had lived the life of a sinner — he hadn’t lived life at all.
    In each book in the series, L&J have at least one of the characters relay their conversion story, which includes an acknowledgement of their sinful nature. While most of the sins are as colorless as that of young Barnes, the authors imply that all those unsaved (faux Christians as well as the faithful of other religions) have lower moral character than the raptured.
    Btw, if you mark something up 50% and discount the marked-up price 35%, um, aren’t you losing money?”
    Not at all. While you’re giving a net discount of 2.5%, you’re reaping a huge increase in sales that an advertized 35% discount will bring from naive customers.
    /Iknowwhatyoumeant.

  47. My mistake. I incorrectly read the 50% markup as being 50% above the previous retail price … not 50% above the cost to the seller.

  48. In my favorite prayer of confession from The Book of Common Prayer, we say, “Too often we carry on our lives as if You did not exist.” Bruce Barnes is certainly guilty of that, but he also carried on his life as if he did not exist. He confesses to a litany of petty sins, but not to the sin of pettiness itself — of living a small, numb, meaningless life. That’s the kind of sin that breaks God’s heart.
    After a week to mull, I’ve come to the conclusion that Bruce Barnes needs to pick up a copy of The Living Bible translation. It’s a paraphrased version (and therefore scary to some denominations), but sometimes it really cuts to the chase. I don’t have a copy in front of me, so these are best-guessed remembrances of the paraphrased version. Bruce Barnes lives his life as if either of these interpretations does not exist :
    “Can you sin so unspeakably that the heavens shake? If you sin again and again, does it knock God off his throne? Or if you are wonderfully good, is this some great gift to him?”
    (Elihu, the rarely-mentioned fourth friend of Job, laying the smacketh down on Job and his three friends; also the only human of the five not to receive a divine rebuke)
    An observation on the poster’s observation that “is the going-through-the-motions incompetence an evidence that being a pastor was not Bruce Barnes’ vocation” … part of me wants to agree. There aren’t enough jobs to go around, and Barnes is filling a job that a more committed person could have taken. So in a sense the parishioners got cheated in that they didn’t get the kind of visitation pastor they needed/deserved. On the other hand, if Bruce Barnes looked at magazines and fantasized to the point that he felt he was sort-of-cheating on his wife (sort of a Rayford Lite), then we might have to respect that. His wife deserved to be the center of his attention, and he really did expend energy outside the marriage. If Bruce Barnes really was skimming money (in the sense that he spent it somewhere else and covered it up — and what did he spend it on?), and his conscience rebukes him for it, then his conscience may be on to something. (Scripture has an awful lot to say about money.) On the other hand, there is insufficient data to conclude that this man would have lusted less or tithed more — or even dared to truly live, to live a better, “higher” life — if he had chosen another way to earn a living. Vocation requires honest self-examination, but there is also the external-witness aspect. As Paul said in one of his epistles,
    “Never let it be said that Christians are poor workers.”I wonder what Bruce Barnes would say to that.

  49. Re: paltry sins
    Obligatory Simpsons Quote, from “Homer Loves Flanders”:
    Father sheep: What’s wrong, Jeremiah?
    Jeremiah: It’s not fair. My brother Joseph has a sin to confess. I wish I had one too.
    Father sheep: Oh, don’t you see? You do have a sin to confess — the sin of envy.
    [sheep baa their laughter]
    Todd Flanders: It’s all well and good for sheep, but what are we to do?

  50. Next thing you know L&J will write that Barnes took two newspapers out of the box and only paid for one!!! Off to the fiery lake for him!

  51. Mara–
    I have run into the attitude you describe, but oddly enough, in an entirely secular context.
    I work with a dog rescue organization, and my fellow dog rescuers and I frequently get asked: How can you waste all that time, money etc. on DOGS when there are PEOPLE desperately in need of help?
    To which my answer is threefold:
    1. I do, in fact, spend a fair amount of time and money helping people. (Indeed, some of what we do in dog rescue can be seen as helping people–we not infrequently find homes for dogs whose owners are desperately ill or have suddenly become homeless, e.g. in Hurricane Katrina.)
    2. Dog rescue is a hobby. I don’t do it instead of saving the world, I do it instead of going on cruises.
    3. I truly admire you, my critical friend, for devoting your entire life and income (beyond what is needed for minimal food, shelter, clothing and medical care) to those less fortunate than you. I can only suggest that the time you spend walking around criticising others for not doing likewise could perhaps be put to use serving the poor.

  52. Lila, you could also respond to your friend by reminding them that there is a universe of suffering out there, and there is always someone worse off to help. You could waste your life searching for the worst-off person in need of aid — better to help what you can see, and do what you can, when you can. If *everyone* did that, the results would be much better than if everyone helped only the worst-off.
    Further, by your friend’s logic, NO animal would be deserving of help until ALL humans were free of suffering. That is not how empathy works.

  53. A fifth reason for Lila’s good deed: it doesn’t just help good people who need shelter for their animals; I’m guessing it can stop dangerous people as well. There is a theory that people who hurt animals move up to hurting humans if they learned that there were no serious consequences the last time they hurt a living creature. So if they escalate until forcibly stopped, it benefits both animals and humans (and possibly society as a whole) to stop them right from the start.
    There’s also the fact that God created the animals so if God values them then shouldn’t we value them as well.
    “Bruce Barnes”? I still can’t get over these people’s names.
    The women’s names are a little better; although still unusual, they tend to be chosen to illuminate character. (Although I’m scratching my head at “Leah Rose” and “Hannah Palemoon.”) The ones that most readily come to mind are Rayford Steele’s wives. Wife #2 is Amanda White, a good woman who missed the rapture by a few hours. (Irene witnessed to her; Amanda was impressed with her but decided to sleep on it. Two hours later her family was gone.) Amanda is about as white-hat as can be. (Get it? “White Steel” … possibly a reference to “the sword of the Spirit.” Alternately, it could be simply coincidence.) Amanda is terrible with names, though, so she nicknames Irene “Iron Steele.” And compared to the vacillating Rayford and Chloe, they can be steely in comparison.

  54. Missed by…scant…HOURS?!

    Shouldn’t she have undergone the spiritual transformation by then? I would think that the declaration of faith would be its result, not its trigger! {sigh} Needing to say “the words”…is this fellowship with God, or sorcery?
    Wait, never mind. Somewhere in “The Regime”, Irene tells Rayford that she’s trying to commit to memory as much Scripture as possibly PRECISELY to give the Satan that much less ability to go after her. This is kind of like how some spiritual thrillers, like Peretti’s “This Present Darkness”, suggest that saying “I rebuke you in Jesus’s name!” is guaranteed to drive off demons and [some of] their influence. Yes, this is sounding a LOT like sorcery…

  55. Side note (why can’t Typepad have an edit button…?)…
    From skimming, I notice that a big part of the symptoms of humanity’s ethical collapse after the rapture is supposed to be a marked increase in blatant sexual imagery in the media (e.g. the vast majority of television channels being sex elementals). And yet…lust is far from being the most serious vice. The formulation in the medieval era, I understand, was as follows:
    Lust
    Gluttony (these two were the least serious, but which was stronger was debatable; I’m going by Dante here)
    Avarice
    Sloth (i.e. main vice of Barnes)
    Wrath
    Envy
    Pride (original Latin is “superbia”, so probably specifically the “puffing up” variety)
    Wouldn’t lots of ostentation (q.v. avarice, envy, pride) work better than unbridled lust to depict total corruption?

  56. Wouldn’t lots of ostentation (q.v. avarice, envy, pride) work better than unbridled lust to depict total corruption?
    What are you, some kind of commie!?! Avarice, envy, and pride may be deadly sins, but they’re also great for the economy.

  57. The women’s names are a little better; although still unusual, they tend to be chosen to illuminate character.
    Don’t forget: Chaim Rosensweig, Tsion ben-Judah, David Hassid. The Jewish characters have VERY Jewish names. I guess cause they’re all Israeli. Are there any non-Israeli Jewish characters in Left Behind? Maybe they don’t exist … all the Jews have moved to the expanded Israel.

  58. And Hannah Palemoon (emphasis on the family name) for the signal Amerindian. {sigh} Would it have been THAT hard for LaHaye and Jenkins to research out an actual Cherokee/Sioux/Crow/etc. name, using the original language? (And no, I didn’t check to see what Hannah’s lineage was.)

  59. And Hannah Palemoon…for the signal Amerindian. {sigh} Would it have been THAT hard for LaHaye and Jenkins to research out an actual Cherokee/Sioux/Crow/etc. name…
    Could anything be more laughable than an Anglo author trying to make up names for non-Anglo characters? Even Anglo authors other than L&H seem to have an inborn knack for making up truly laughable names. It’s like deer who instinctively freeze in headlights: An urge toward doom. A white guy is sitting down with his pencil and paper and thinking, “Hmm, I need an ethnic character. What should the name be…?”
    1.) Native American: Attach an old-timey-sounding Anglo name to an nature-adjective/nature-noun combination (“Jebediah Red Hawk”, “Elizabeth Blue Pony”)
    2.) Russian (or any Slav, really): A clownlike combination of v’s, sh’s, ir’s, ich’s and ov’s. Must be intrinsically hard to sight-read and pronounce. (“Vladisovomir Sashakov Androsirovichokovomir”)
    3.) Chinese: Two to four syllables that jangle like a handful of keys. Make sure to ignore declension so it looks “right” and makes Anglo readers think they know how to pronounce it, even though they actually don’t. When in doubt, sprinkle “Ling”‘s and “Wang”‘s liberally about.
    4.) Vietnamese: Similar to Chinese, just make sure the syllables end in an’s or at’s. And do NOT, under any circumstances, bother to do the 5 minutes of basic research it would take to learn how many names a typical Vietnamese person bears.
    5.) Spanish: Remember that all Spanish names end in “ez” and you’ll be fine. Oh and make sure to give Latins exactly two names; just like us Anglos, Latin women completely drop their maiden names when they get married, right?

  60. There’s also, in LaHaye’s own work, Ming Toy for a Chinese character.

    That’s certainly the first I’ve heard of an “oy” being used in any sort of romanization of Chinese. Not to mention that I’m not even sure if Ming is a Chinese given name (and THEN there’s the fact that the Ming dynasts weren’t even of Chinese lineage…).
    {sigh} They should just use an on-line random name generator and be done with it. That probably isn’t going to help with Amerindian names, though. Unless there ARE generators that work with the actual languages in question, that is (this sort of thing is a particular nuisance with novels set in the 19th-century west–romances, standard westerns, etc.).
    By the way, you forgot Polish. You probably want to do such things as end all masculine given names with -slaw {wishes he knew how to get the hatch mark through the “l” on a Macintosh}, all feminine given names with -slawa, and all family names with -ski. That last one changes on whether the bearer is male or female? Outside of America, it usually only accrues to higher-born families anyway? What are you talking about?
    As for your sample names sets…
    1. I’m not going to make the attempt. I don’t know the full nature of ANY Amerindian language (not even Wampanoag, and I live in Eastern Massachusetts. So that should tell you how adept I’d be with any other such tongue).
    2. Gerasim Fyodorov Kozachuk {hopes he remembers the spelling of the family name properly}
    3. Zhao Waiho (I probably loused SOMETHING up. I only found the components in a phone book anyway, so I don’t even have declension marks. {sigh} Where’s a good on-line hanzi dictionary, for making sure the components of the given name make sense together?)
    4. Phanh Minh Ngoc (There isn’t usually a FOURTH part to the name, is there? Three, I’m sure about…)
    5. Alicia Gutierrez de Coronado ({sigh} I think I’ll check an on-line Spanish phone book, next time)

  61. Missed by…scant…HOURS?!
    Shouldn’t she have undergone the spiritual transformation by then? I would think that the declaration of faith would be its result, not its trigger! {sigh} Needing to say “the words”…is this fellowship with God, or sorcery?
    Heh….it’s always interesting when I come across people who think of salvation as a transformation rather than a transaction.
    I think the common metaphor where I grew up was of immigration. An immigrant might come to the country, live here all his life, discard every element of his native culture and replace it with white-bread America–but if he has a green card till the day he dies, he’s still not an American citizen. For that he has to fill out his paperwork and swear his oath.
    I don’t know what you think of that as a metaphor for salvation, but it’s not that uncommonly used, and it’s certainly how we humans (or at least we Americans) handle a lot of things.

  62. Skyknight —
    Not to drift too far OT, but Ming is a common Chinese given name. It means “light,” and the character for it is a representation of the sun and the moon together. (It’s very pretty!)
    /nitpick

  63. As long as we’re into nitpickery, it should be _Gerard_ Manley Hopkins, not Gerald. (The original reference had the “Gerard” right, but omitted the “e” in “Manley”; a comment corrected the latter, but then got the former wrong.)
    As long as we’re into C.S. Lewis, clearly many of you have read more of his work, read more widely, and read more deeply than I. But how many of you have actually played Screwtape (in Dear Wormwood)? And won an acting prize for it??
    I rest my case. Whatever it may be.

  64. Re: Names
    Lets not forget their impressive ability to capture authenticity in the names of people from the Middle East: my favourite has to be Abdullah SMITH, who is from Jordan. Apparently he is a member of the ancient Hashemite clan of Smith (“you are from the Es-Salt Smiths?”, “No, the Amman Smiths” …)
    And we must also include our friendly Iraqi smuggler, whom everyone calls Albie, since he is from Al Basrah (Al B, get it?!)
    But even worse than the names, most of which are somewhat plausible (there are actually Cameron Williamses, Chaim Rosenzweigs and David Hassids running around), is the way that everyone talks in Southern-sitcom-Amerenglish, no matter that they’re Chinese, Romanian, Italian, Israeli, Arab, etc. First time I read “Tribulation Force” I nearly lost it laughing when an Israeli rabbi starts talking about “what I call the jealousy factor”. The Antichrist himself comments on a jet with “talk about huge!”, while his deputy opines that “the fear factor has worked well”. You’d better be up on your ABC and CBS, or you’ll have no idea what anyone’s talking about.

    BTW, for anyone interested, LaHaye has just published another series of novels: “Babylon rising”; it’s pure Indiana Jones. That is, if Indy was rude and incompetent, and spent his time following clues left by a psychotic relic collector named Methuselah, trying to convince the govt that evangelicals aren’t terrorists (!!!!!), and escaping the constant murder attempts of an only marginally more competant international assasin called (wait for it) Talon (who, incidentally, has two trained hawks who are adept at killing people!) LaHaye has got to be the only adventure writer who can make Matthew Riley’s “Seven Deadly Wonders” seem like Shakespeare.

  65. Assassin? From what I skimmed, I thought Talon was part of the Anunnaki council of seven high diabolists. Not exactly a killer-for-hire, since he won’t be hiring himself out.
    {quiet chuckle} I’ve been debating internally whether I should do a companion lancing of either “The Rising” and “The Regime”, or the Babylon Rising series. However, being (a) an agnostic, and (b) someone who doubtlessly has less theological understanding than Fred, I’m not sure how well I’d do…

  66. Abdullah Smith sounds like he’s supposed to be a Black Muslim/Nation of Islam character. Any evidence that he is, or that he may have originally been written that way and changed?

  67. I wish. Nah, he’s an actual Jordanian Arab, apparently from the liberal, pro-West technocrat class. Actually, he doesn’t even seem to know much about Islam per se (in common with every other ‘Muslim’ character in the series), let alone Farrakhan’s freaky version. But I can’t hold it against him (Abdullah, I mean) since he can’t know any more about anything than his author.

  68. Oh, and re Talon
    No, he wasn’t one of the Council, they just employed him and threatened him a lot when he failed all the time (although he did rack up quite an impressive body count of redshirts along the way).
    But he didn’t just kill people, oh no. His first major assignment was to paint “J316” in huge letters across the UN building one night, and frame the evangelical community, thus making the FBI believe that evangelicals were a more serious terrorist threat to the world than al-Q (again, WTF!!!?). LaHaye obviously forgot that evangelicals already dominate the executive and legislature, making such a charge enormously unlikely.

  69. Ah, but did they dominate the executive and legislative offices when he was (very quickly and sloppily) writing the thing?

  70. “…thus making the FBI believe that evangelicals were a more serious terrorist threat to the world than al-Q”
    ‘Cause the FBI and every other gun-toting, anti-drug “security” agency in our government isn’t absolutely riddled with evangies, right?

  71. Don’t forget: Chaim Rosensweig, Tsion ben-Judah, David Hassid. The Jewish characters have VERY Jewish names. I guess cause they’re all Israeli.
    Well, the men’s names tend to show their ethnicity, which is not the same as illuminating character.
    Using names as a shorthand for character illumination is always a potential trap for a writer. Tolkien used to go for it and take his chances. (For example, the long-time reader could tell which characters were Elves, and even identify which race of Elves [e.g. High, Deep, Sylvan]. If we can guess a given Elf’s ethnicity, we might [rightly or wrongly] deduce certain things about his upbringing and his society’s values. But that doesn’t guarantee that the specific Elf will never stray from his culture. Technically many of the Elves we actually met were misfits, which is why they didn’t stay home. That appeared less often in the Hobbits, but it existed.)
    Obviously this doesn’t work with real people, except possibly in the cultures that cause the individual to earn (or, alternately, deserve) his name. Maybe Tsion, Chaim and David have Jewish-sounding names. (I forgot about the good daughter “Naomi Tiberias.”) But does that predict their personalities? Maybe if we knew in advance that Tsion is Orthodox, we could make a handful of educated guesses about his values. But that still won’t tell us much about his personal tastes and feelings.
    (And it won’t necessarily tell us that Tsion will make some very hot-button statements on vol. 2 pages 332-333.)
    Now Irene and Amanda’s names do suggest personal tastes and feelings. As we get to know them better, we find that the educated guesses we made about them have proven to be correct. Amanda comments that “Irene” sounded like an old-lady name. “I remember thinking that Irene sounded more like a name of someone many years older than your wife. She was about forty, right?” (v. 2 p. 410) (Note that Amanda is about fifty as she says this.) And compared to each other, they do seem to live the credo “you’re only as old as you feel.” Irene sounds prim, sounds old-school, sounds like a homebody, and so she turns out to be. “Amanda,” though not a trendy name, is more modern and the character’s portrayal reflects this. Her name means “worthy of being loved” and Rayford treats her much better than he did Irene. She’s a more elegant dresser; she hugs and kisses people; she’s much quicker with a compliment. She wears an occasional fur and streaks her hair. She identifies herself as “an executive” who is “not the sort to impose on others,” that is, she doesn’t feel she has anything to prove. Her latest venture involved doing business with the garment industry. (Chloe, who is used to Irene’s reserved manner, jokingly asks her father what planet Amanda is from … Chloe also makes faces at her father behind Amanda’s back, trying to get Rayford to laugh. Chloe seems less mature in vol. 2 than in 1. But I digress.)
    >Are there any non-Israeli Jewish characters in “Left Behind”? Maybe they don’t exist … all the Jews have moved to the expanded Israel.
    Oh, they exist. The “two witnesses” Moses and Elijah scold ethnic-Israel-living-in-national-Israel by invoking the rapturist prophecy that 144,000 Jews will convert to rapturist Christianity. (In these novels’ interpretation, the 144,000 are the number of preachers, not the total numbers of Jews who come out of the great tribulation right with God.) But what the two witnesses say is, “Do not wonder why so few of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are from Israel! Israel remains largely unbelieving and will soon suffer for it!”
    Having said that, you’re right that the specific Israeli Jews named get most of the attention. The (mostly-diaspora) Jewish evangelists are … well, not cannon fodder, but they’re not the stars. Their role is absolutely crucial to the rapturist interpretation, but they tend to be treated as a group. (As far as I can tell, when the Jews reject the Antichrist, the “camps” where said Jews go don’t seem to specify whether they contain more Returned or Diaspora.)
    But yes, what’s in a name? They are one tool to bring characters to life, but they lead to certain consequences.
    1. They can overshadow real people who share a character’s name. Although people might not mind sharing a name with a protagonist, odds are someone wouldn’t be too thrilled to have the same name as the Antichrist. Naming him something peculiar and impossible offers some small protection. However it also rusns the risk of being wooden, at best.
    2. An overshadowing name can distract us in other ways. When we hear the name “Damien,” do we think of a priest who dedicated his life to comfort Hawaii’s lepers (and died with them), or do we think of a 70s movie villain? Which one deserves to be remembered?
    3. There are perfectly good works of fiction with characters named John and Mary. (There also are plenty of bad works.) If you give your character a distinctive name, you can create a sense of community among readers. When we join a literary conversation, we instantly recognize Aslan and Tumnus, Gandalf and Frodo. As much as readers have tweaked Rayford’s nose for his distinctive name, it does transform him into a universally recognized figure in literature. There will only be one Rayford.
    4. Then again, when you give a character a distinctive name, the reader expects a story that is worthy, a story that can live up to the name. Not everyone can write for Aslan, Tumnus, Gandalf or Frodo.
    I’m not sure where all this was going, except that names are tricky things and not altogether reliable as a predictor of character.

  72. “And compared to each other, they do seem to live the credo “you’re only as old as you feel.” Irene sounds prim, sounds old-school, sounds like a homebody, and so she turns out to be. “Amanda,” though not a trendy name, is more modern and the character’s portrayal reflects this…”
    Here’s an aside: A lot of American parents I know are giving their kids’ names without a lot of thought for how easy or hard it will be to bear that name once one gets older. The classic example is naming girls “Amy”–not “Amanda” with “Amy” for short, but “A” “M” “Y”, full-stop, on the birth certificate. “Amy” works pretty well for an infant, a child, a pre-teen, even a teenager. It would connote a fun-loving, Peter-Pan-type, in a twenty-something . . . and then it would begin to wear a bit thin. “Grandma Amy?” that’s just weird.
    But don’t think I’m being discriminatory toward girls: The plague of “Matt”–again not “Matthew” but just “Matt”–is pretty awful too. Matt begins to sound stupid and juvenile before the kid even gets to college. There’s something passive-aggressive, blunt, and stupid about “Matt”.
    Oh and my name sucks, too, which is why I’ll forever be “J” to you good people.

  73. Argh. I was going to mention that. I have visions of nursing homes filled with 80-year-old patients named Tiffany, Britney, and Madonna, and the only widower on the floor is named Justin. (There used to be an Elvis, but he’s gone.)
    There’s a belief among some Christian denominations that the name on your baptismal certificate is the name recorded on the divine roll call at the end of history. What a thing, to go through eternity, with a name like Lexus. I read once about a pastors telling the parents No, I won’t do that to the baby, You Change It, but that’s rare.

  74. Grandma Amy?” that’s just weird.
    J., that’s a generational thing. Ask your grandchildren what they think – “Amy” will be a seriously old-fashioned name to them. “Diana” sounded pretty weird as a name for a princess 25 years ago, but we’ve got used to that one too.

  75. Since all the Amys are only now having kids, we’re probably about 20 years away from ‘Grandma Amy’. And Grandma Jennifer, Grandma Stephanie, Grandma Christine and Grandma Michelle sound just as strange to me as Grandma Amy–having gone to school with lots of girls with those names–but Grandma Karen and Grandma Kathy probably sounded strange to the last generation, yet there are lots of them now..

  76. Aw, “Grandma Amy” isn’t all that bad. At least “Amy” is a familiar name. Many of the elderly people in my area have names that have been out of use so long they sound bizarre. Some are still occasionally used–I have met one or two girls named “Lois”, like my grandmother, and heard of a handful of younger women called that. Others have fallen out of use entirely, and still others must have been peculiar even when they were given. One aged friend of the family is named “Leviathan” (pronounced “Lev-AH-than”); I don’t think there’s a “Behemoth” in the area, but I csan’t be sure.

  77. “the good daughter Naomi Tiberias.”
    Oh yes, I’d forgotten about her. At least she has a non-cringeworthy name. But something I found really weird was the matter of her Israeli ‘customs’. In the final book, she and a Chinese boy called Chang (of course) pursue a romance of sorts, wherein she’s constantly telling him that certain things are against her culture: eg, entering his house alone, holding hands, etc. Fair enough, the book reveals she comes from a strict Orthodox background, probably Haredi. But this setup is immediately destroyed when (in the same passage) she allows him to escort her around isolated places without a chaperone, drink water from her cupped hands, and run his fingers through her hair (!!!!). What kind of Haredi code of etiquette is that?
    And her father’s no better. When Chang first meets him all seems ok, leaving aside a really, really lame joke (“do you like my lake?” – he’s Mr. Tiberias, get it? ho ho ho. Never mind that Lake Tiberias is miles to the north, and there’s another lake almost right in front of them at the time. No wonder Chang just gives the guy a vacant stare), he announces to the young man that wearing a hat in the presence of one’s elders is “rude in just about every culture”. All well and good, except that the ‘hat’ he’s wearing is almost certainly a kippa, which is the one thing that a Haredi would never insist another remove as a sign of respect.


    “Tsion will make some very hot-button statements”
    And on a similar note, re Tsion’s mission:
    First of all, what kind of a first name is Tsion anyway? I acknowledge that they may be people with such a name out there, but I have never in my life met or heard/read about a Jew, Israeli or otherwise, named Tsion. For crying out loud, its the name of a mountain, or collectively of Israel or the Zionist movement/utopia. (Mind you, the propensity to name people after mountains doesn’t just appear here. Nicolae Carpathia anyone? When I asked a Romanian friend of mine about NC as a name, he looked at me like I was crazy then burst out laughing.)
    Secondly, the beginning of Tsion’s involvement in LB and the Trib Force and the end of days was his commissioning by the Israeli govt to do a study into all the sacred Jewish texts, as well as those of other religions, to determine once and for all what characteristics the Messiah would have, how they would recognise him, and when he would appear.
    All I can say to this is, unless Shas or some other Orthodox party somehow massively increases its Knesset representation and takes over the govt, there is absolutely Buckley’s chance of any Israeli govt initiating something this provocative (and these novels are supposed to be set up so that its “these events could occur at any moment” premise holds true). The govt has no interest in inflaming religious sensibilities any more than it is. It already has enough trouble trying to prevent ultra-right Jewish (and Christian) groups demolishing or damaging the Dome of the Rock to rebuild the Temple. This would be just the sort of thing they’d go out of their way to keep off the agenda.
    Secondly, what did they expect the conclusion to be? LB clearly suggests that the govt (and whole population) expected a specific answer, and anxiously waited to find out the Messiah. This of course would be true if the whole country were datim (‘religious’) and accepted Tsion’s credentials (he’d have to be one of the Chief Rabbis), but of course the country and govt is dominated by secular Israelis, who are largely unconcerned with the identity of the Messiah, and would take umbrage at some Orthodox rabbi telling them who they had to obey.
    All this ignores the fact that there are dozens and dozens of different theories as to the Messiah’s identity, mission, characteristics, etc. Rabbis have for two thousand years argued about this, and come to wildly different conclusions. Why should this rabbi, no matter how wise and knowledgeable, come to find the definitive answer?
    Plus, if Tsion did name an actual person, the govt would then be under enormous pressure from the religious establishment to abdicate in favour of this man’s kingly imperium. What govt would willingly commit such suicide? Actually, NC himself was the only one who actually grasped this concept. During Tsion’s broadcast he yells, “I know what he’s going to do – he’s going to say he’s the Messiah [and declare himself king]!”
    {Incidentally, did Tsion actually do any research at all? In his speech, all he does is quote the NT and Alfred Edersheim, a job taking all of half an hour to do. Maybe he took the job on a lark and just bummed around the whole time, congratulating himself on what a big grant the govt had foolishly given him?)
    The long and short of all this is: What kind of Israelis are these? Like none I’ve ever come across. And one could forgive this if LaHaye was just a Bible Belt country bumpkin who didn’t know any better; but he’s not. For years now he’s met with (certain) Jewish leaders, and visited and led tour groups through Israel, meeting with plenty of Israelis along the way. A man like this should KNOW stuff like the Jordan river is just a puddle, and can’t support thriving river traffic (Buck at one point takes a midnight cruise along the Jordan), and KNOW that Galilee is a place that still exists!! Gaaah!
    {Sorry, that was not really in relation to anything, it just felt good getting it off my chest.}


    “Jewish evangelists are … well, not cannon fodder, but they’re not the stars. Their role is absolutely crucial to the rapturist interpretation, but they tend to be treated as a group.”
    Exactly. They are supposedly the prime movers in the tribulation, yet they are only ever alluded to, and never mentioned by name or specific achievements. The whole action centres around Buckford Stud and his Southern cronies. {Sigh.}

  78. Oh….I had to be at Wal-Mart lately (It’s the only place I can find the non-slip shoes I need for work around here), and I was browsing through the books there. The Regime is now out, telling the story of how little Nicky rises to power in Romania.
    I mention this because, incidentally, we learn that Abdullah “Smith” does have an actual Arabic name after all. “Smith” is apparently a nickname given him by fellow pilots who (surprise, surprise) cannot pronounce his real one. Odd how we just now found this out, no?

  79. Something about the “transaction” line has been jogging at me. (And it’s not just the fact that it’s one of Rayford’s catchphrases. Volume 4: Rayford worries that Hattie may have died — again? she almost-dies a lot in this series — and sincerely hopes she got saved in time. “Was it possible that someone onboard her plane could have helped her to make the transaction?”)
    No, it’s the fact that there’s something unexplored in the way that the characters Loretta (see previous post/discussion, “God’s battered wife”) and Amanda failed to “make the transaction” in time to (to borrow a great phrase) “book a reservation on the rapturemobile.” And we chew on it because, truly, the novels attempt to explain how to get saved without explaining why two sincere women simply didn’t make the cut. Or at least, the novels fail to satisfy a lot of the posters here as to what, exactly, these women did wrong.
    At one point Amanda says that her old church was a “dead” church, yet she was uncomfortable with New Hope, the new one. She went to New Hope to please her family, but neither her family nor her new church really spoke to her. Only Irene struck her as “real.” Amanda didn’t dislike what New Hope was offering, so much as that she liked what Irene was offering. (Wait for it.) Amanda decided to sleep on it; you know the rest. Simultaneously, we are aware of Loretta, a character who has always made New Hope her spiritual home and clearly felt “at home.” Put together, these two characters remind me of the revival-tent challenge: “So you go to church? You ought to go to church. But you can no more become a Christian by going to church than you can become an automobile by sleeping in your garage!”
    (I’ve had door-to-doors ask me to come to their church. Sometimes they are not satisfied to hear that I attend one but it’s not theirs. “But can you go to heaven from there?” I get asked. There is a legitimate tension between “needing to attend a church that feeds us spiritually” and “needing to be right with God for oneself, and if you’re not, simply moving to another building isn’t enough.” The door-to-doors I am thinking of right now are a family group who reconciled the tension by repeating their premise that switching to their church is the best move on both fronts.)
    Amanda had mourned her family and adjusted to post-rapture life long before the audience met her. If she was as “shattered” as Loretta, we never saw it. Instead we meet a confident (and saved) woman who testifies to Rayford and Chloe with a wry amusement and gentle self-deprecation that sounds a little like, “Silly me. I can’t believe I fluffed up on that. I’ll know better next time.”
    Loretta was surrounded by her faith. She grew up in it and was/is as sincere as she ever knew how to be. The novels make plain that no one could tell she wasn’t right with God by looking at her, including her. As far as everyone could tell, she was saved, even Super Saved, a role model. Yet for some reason she didn’t make the cut.
    Here’s what keeps coming up in the discussion: Amanda and Loretta didn’t Say The Words. Bruce Barnes specifically says that Loretta never actually accepted Christ for herself.
    Wait a minute. What do people think baptism, confirmation, and vows of church membership are about? What do people think partaking of the holy feast is all about? Don’t we “say the words” in some form as part of these rituals? In fact, don’t we say them again and again?
    Granted, different denominations use slightly different phrases, but the pattern should be approximately the same. Sin is bad. We’ve all done it. God rejects sin. We who choose God choose as God chooses, that is to reject sin. We accept who Jesus Christ is and what Jesus Christ did to justify us and release us from the wages of sin, which is death. We promise to follow God through Christ and to support the body of Christ with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service. We believe in the things taught in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed and the Bible.
    Was Amanda ever baptized? confirmed? a church member? We don’t know. (A coveted No-Prize to the first poster who can cite a post-rapture character getting water-baptized.) But we do know that Loretta was widely known as “a spiritual giant.”
    We also know that Bruce Barnes was widely known as the visitation pastor, whether or not he was good at it. It would be reasonable to conclude that these latter two have been baptized/baptized-and-confirmed, and that they made some sort of declaration of faith (such as taking a vow) at some time.
    This means that either there’s something hugely wrong with their baptism/confirmation/membership/swearing-in-as-pastor … because the alternative is that there is something very petty wrong with it. (“Petty” as in, “you didn’t Say The Words because you said you and The Words include thou. You’re out.”)
    So is it possible that there was something hugely wrong with their sacraments?
    Remember that these novels don’t draw on one unified denominational body. Rapturists can use peer pressure (sales being a form of peer pressure), but there isn’t a magisterium, or a principal’s office. Rapturism may draw on the Puritans for, say, gender role and the isolation/gated-city mentality, but it can also draw upon the northern Calvinists for a taste of predestination, or on the Anabaptists for its views on baptism, and so forth.
    (I am reminded of a megachurch preacher Frederick KC Price who commented on baptism, “You can go into the water a devil and just come out a wet devil.” In this scenario the Christian can still believe in “One baptism” in keeping with the Nicene Creed … it’s just that the baptism has to be a “real” one. This is distinct from the old pre-Nicene internal battles over whether a fallen Christian had to get rebaptized to be allowed back into the community of faith. In that scenario, the first one was real but forfeited.)
    In the Anabaptist tradition, it was argued that minors should not be baptized because baptism is a conscious choice to reject sin and choose God through Christ, which leads to being “born again” (baptism in the Holy Spirit). Therefore the Anabaptists rebaptized their members who had been baptized as children. In effect, this action suggested that other denominations did not have the authority to baptize children; otherwise, the rebaptism would be a violation of the Nicene Creed. (“We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.) So the Anabaptist tradition appears in L.B. in the rapture of the children. (They were unable to give consent to their own baptism — whether they were baptized or not — so they get a free pass. Otherwise they would have had no way out of judgment.)
    How this ties into Loretta’s story is this: either Loretta was baptized as a child (her parents taking vows on her behalf; in effect, claiming this child for God), and Loretta was confirmed as a teenager/adult, when she would have made a declaration of faith for herself … or Loretta was baptized as a teenager/adult and made a declaration of faith for herself. Either way, she made a declaration of faith for herself.
    Why doesn’t it count?
    Well, she could have been faking. Bruce Barnes is proof of that. But did she fake her baptism, her confirmation, her promises at church membership, and every holy feast from which she had partaken, for her whole life?
    Now it certainly is possible (outside of L.B.) for someone to actually be a fake. Revelation specifically mentions a church that contained real true believers who have since become “lukewarm” almost to the point of falling away. But L.B. proposes a variant of Christianity in which it isn’t possible to fall away. There are only two categories of people: the once-saved-forever-saved, and the never-saved. Loretta is publicly identified as a never-saved, and is publicly humiliated.
    Y’know why this bothers us? Really, why it bothers us?
    It bothers us because Loretta has a lot in common with Paul’s youngest apprentice/”son” Timothy. Paul tells us plainly (2 Tim. 3:15) that “from childhood” Timothy had been belonged to the Christian faith; “from childhood” he had been surrounded by it. He grew up in it and continued in it all his life. Timothy never had a Damascus-road experience. He never had a Mountain-top experience. He never got the Assurance (the feeling of solidity of one’s salvation that hits you like a board) that is so common in the L.B. novels. Certainly, Assurance is real. (For example, the Methodists commemorate the day John Wesley felt it. They call the day Aldersgate Day.) But it’s also fairly rare. Timothy was nourished and nurtured in faith by his mother and grandmother. He would have been baptized/baptized-and-confirmed, then would have made more declarations of faith when he became a missionary. He did the daily plain plodding of faith with no fireworks, only a lifetime of committment.
    The novels trouble us because they haven’t convincingly shown us what Timothy did that Loretta didn’t do. The novels state that Loretta “drifted along and never actually accepted Christ for herself”, but the novels haven’t satisfied posters that Loretta didn’t “say the words” any differently than Timothy would have done.