TF: Battle come down

TF: Battle come down December 14, 2011

Tribulation Force, pp. 443-445

After crushing insurrectionists in several locations with deadly force, the “potentate” of the one-world government addresses the world via radio:

“Loyal citizens of the Global Community,” came the voice of Carpathia, “I come to you today with a broken heart, unable to tell you even from where I speak. For more than a year we have worked to draw this Global Community together under a banner of peace and harmony. Today, unfortunately, we have been reminded again that there are still those among us who would pull us apart.”

Here again we encounter the all-sheep-are-wolves problem. I fairly sure that we’re meant to be appalled by this talk of “peace and harmony” from the man who just obliterated Washington, D.C. And I’m guessing that the next paragraph is meant to underscore Nicolae’s hypocrisy:

“It is no secret that I am, always have been, and always will be, a pacifist. I do not believe in war. I do not believe in weaponry. I do not believe in bloodshed. On the other hand, I feel responsible for you, my brother or my sister in this global village.”

In any other book, I’d be certain that this was meant as a heavy-handed display of that hypocrisy. But hypocrisy is only possible when the principle being violated is a legitimate one, and in the world of Left Behind it has been firmly established that there is no such thing as pacifism. We can’t read this as a criticism of Nicolae’s phony pacifism, because in the universe of these books, all pacifists are phonies.

I call this the all-sheep-are-wolves problem because that seems to describe how the authors arrived at this conclusion. The Antichrist, they believe, will rise to power “under a banner of peace and harmony,” but he will actually be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, using such talk to disguise his true purpose of global tyranny. Thus, for students of Tim LaHaye’s school of “Bible prophecy,” any leader who speaks of peace and harmony is a potential Antichrist. LaHaye urges his disciples to follow his example by presuming that anyone who speaks in such terms should be presumed guilty until proven innocent — proof of innocence, in this case, coming only when the person in question dies without having created a one-world government and declaring himself the Antichrist. Barring such proof, treat every apparent sheep as a wolf.

Thus after more than 800 pages of the authors insisting that pacifism is always a sham and an illusion, we can’t really be disillusioned by Nicolae’s sham pacifism.

Nicolae babbles on for another half a page before concluding with a final sentence that’s legitimately chilling:

“Above all, do not fear. Live in confidence that no threat to global tranquility will be tolerated, and no enemy of peace will survive.”

That last bit is creepy, in part, because it’s familiar. It’s the kill-all-the-bad-people strategy for peace — which is to say a recipe for endless total war.

Nicolae’s statement is followed by another report from the same “CNN/GCN correspondent.” This is the poor guy who was sent to report from the smoldering ruins of Washington, D.C., and is now anchoring the broadcast from his remote location:

“This late word: Anti-Global Community militia forces have threatened nuclear war on New York City, primarily Kennedy International Airport. Civilians are fleeing the area and causing one of the worst pedestrian and auto traffic jams in that city’s history. Peacekeeping forces say they have the ability and technology to intercept missiles but are worried about residual damage to outlying areas.”

Very little of that makes any sense at all, but I am glad he managed to work the traffic angle in again.

This insurrection, you’ll recall, is being coordinated by former President Fitzhugh with the assistance of patriotic “East Coast militias” (?). Why would Fitzhugh want to nuke New York City? The insurrection’s initial strike, one would think, would want to be something to rouse the larger population to rally against the OWG. Killing 10 million or so civilians doesn’t seem like the shrewdest approach to persuading others to join your struggle.

Or maybe this is all sheer propaganda — the plan to nuke New York just being a nasty lie invented by Nicolae to rouse sentiment against the insurrection. (It wouldn’t be the first time a leader has tried to consolidate unchecked power by demagoguing over an impending enemy attack on New York.)

And why the airport? Is that just because the Very Special Plane usually flown by the Very Special Pilot is headed there?

And what does Jerry Jenkins mean by “outlying areas”?

Jenkins ideas regarding that last question may be answered in the following paragraph, in which the same on-the-scene reporter brings us this news from overseas:

“And now this from London: A 100-megaton bomb has destroyed Heathrow Airport, and radiation fallout threatens the populace for miles. …”

OK. It seems Jenkins doesn’t quite appreciate the scale of the damage the bomb he’s describing would do. Via this blog, I learn of Carlos Labs’ Ground Zero mapplet, which allows us to visualize just how large the scope of the destruction would, in fact, be, from “A 100-megaton bomb” on Heathrow Airport.

Or close to it, anyway. Here’s a look at what the range of the destruction would be from the Soviet “Tsar Bomba” — that was only a 50-megaton bomb, but it’s the biggest bomb ever tested. Keep in mind that Jenkins’ bomb would be twice as large:

And here’s a look at a similar explosion at JFK airport.

Note that the “outlying areas” would be places like Trenton and Atlantic City:

I’m guessing those circles, indicating the range of total destruction, are quite a bit bigger than Jenkins was thinking.

“And now this from London: A 100-megaton bomb has destroyed Heathrow Airport, and radiation fallout threatens the populace for miles. The bomb was apparently dropped by peacekeeping forces after contraband Egyptian and British fighter-bombers were discovered rallying from a closed military airstrip near Heathrow. The warships, which have all been shot from the sky, were reportedly nuclear-equipped and en route to Baghdad and New Babylon.”

“It’s the end of the world,” Chloe whispered. “God help us.”

Her appropriate response is quickly forgotten as the car-pooling Tribulation Force presses on through the second-seal traffic jam in search of some way to get to Bruce at the hospital.

“Maybe we should just try to get to New Hope,” Amanda suggested.

“Not till we check on Bruce,” Rayford said. …

And Jenkins whisks us along, with the remaining pages of the book attempting to first build up readers’ suspense over Bruce’s fate and then have us mourn his death.

He doesn’t want us to give a second thought to the obliteration of London, but how can we not be concerned about that great city in which there are more than 8 million people, and also many animals?

It’s impossible to read this glib, passing reference to the destruction of London without thinking back to the miraculous protection of Israel from a similar nuclear attack early in the first book. The contrast between those two incidents confronts us with the matter of theodicy in the Left Behind universe.

“Theodicy” refers to the problem of evil. Briefly, if there is a God who is all-good and all-powerful, then why is there suffering, pain, evil and death? To paraphrase my favorite protest sign, why has this all-powerful God allowed stuff to get all fussed-up and bullstuff? (The poetry of that sign defies translation into family friendly terms.)

Christian theologians have a variety of responses to the problem of evil (none of which is terribly satisfactory, I’m afraid). But those responses are all geared toward this world, not to the world of Left Behind, which introduces a huge and hugely important difference: direct and explicit divine intervention on a massive scale.

We spent a great deal of time discussing the absurdity of the way the anti-nuclear miracle in the first book seems not to have changed anyone’s opinions on the existence of God. (One would think that the destruction of the entire Russian nuclear arsenal by an all-but-visible Hand of God might be a factor in considering that question.) But we haven’t considered what such an explicit act of divine intervention would mean with regard to the problem of evil.

The anti-nuclear miracle sets a precedent, indicating that neither human choice nor the physical laws of the universe in any way constrain God from intervening to prevent suffering. That miracle turns every other instance — every occasion on which God does not miraculously intervene — into an instance of deliberate divine non-intervention.

In other words, why did God protect Jerusalem, but not London (home to nearly a quarter million Jews)? Intervention in the first case entails divine complicity in the second.

The authors don’t address this because they’re not really interested in the problem of evil. As far as they’re concerned, that problem is solved. Suffering, evil and death, they say, are all deserved. They subscribe to a variation of that hyper-Calvinist theodicy which holds that all humans, everywhere, are indistinguishably and infinitely loathsome in the sight of a holy God. (Rachel Held Evans calls this “pond-scum theology.”)

This isn’t really a solution to the all-good/all-powerful dilemma. It dodges that question by redefining God’s “goodness” as something wholly other than what we humans understand as good — something that actually, from our human perspective, appears monstrous.

So I find pond-scum theology to be blasphemous even in its most consistent form, but it’s even worse here in the Left Behind series, where the authors embrace this hyper-Calvinist theodicy, but not hyper-Calvinist soteriology. They want to say, in other words, that the unredeemed deserve perdition while the saved — the real, true Christians like their heroes — deserve salvation.

This just gets more explicit and more ugly as the series progresses. In today’s section, the authors’ God refuses to protect London from destruction, but in the volumes ahead, God takes a more active role in raining fiery death down upon the cities of the world. In the volumes to come, the God of these books acts directly as the author of evil and the source of suffering. And the authors will never pause to consider what that suggests about their God’s character.

In Tim LaHaye’s favorite book of the Bible, Revelation, a heavenly chorus repeatedly interrupts the narrative to sing a hymn of praise: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” In that hymn, the worthiness of God is located in God’s sacrificial rejection of power. LaHaye’s take on Revelation alters that hymn of praise into something more like “worthy is the God who slays.” That relocates God’s worthiness. For LaHaye, God is not “worthy” because God is good or loving, but rather because God is powerful.

That doesn’t just raise questions about the character of God, it raises questions about the character of the authors. It hints that the authors and their protagonists have chosen to be on God’s side mainly because it’s the winning side.

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  • Re Ten: I’m reminded of Star Trek V: “What does God need with a starship?”

    Actually, merging Star Trek V with Left Behind might make something halfway decent out of both of them…if only because we get Kirk, Spock, and McCoy as heroes instead of Rayford and Buck.  Even (especially!) Spock is a better example of Christian behavior than those two idiots.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    you might be able to cram it on an R-36M (aka the SS-18 Satan). Maybe.

    “Wait, it’s actually CALLED that?!”
    “Funny how these things work out sometimes, isn’t it.”

  • It would be a good idea for Fred to appoint someone about 20-30 years younger than himself as his designated LB deconstruction heir.  I nominate Jessica R.  Though I wouldn’t deign to ask her age. 

  • OrcAttack

    Well, the story can’t tell any more about the nuking of London.  To do more would have required Ray or Buck to be there.  The authors are, once again, condemned by the frame in which they chose to tell their tale.  It has to come on the news, or by being related by someone else to the TF.  They could have had more shock and horror, but the good guys are supposed to know this sort of thing was coming.  Heck, if Buck would actually do something, anything, the rest of them would have been expecting it today. 

  • Anonymous

    Oh no way could I do any kind of deconstruction of these books, besides a weekly missive of “This really, really sucks ya’ll.” And considering what happens to Hattie in the sequels, direct exposure to these books might lead me to drive to Jenkins’ and LaHaye’s homes to egg them. 

  • Haven

    So much win to everyone involved in these. Thanks for digging them up.

  • Joshua

    I was just mentally using the rule* that the damage radius goes roughly as the square root, so the Tsar-Bomba’s actual blast is probably not too far off what a “real” 100 MT bomb would do.

    * this is an empirical rule I got off the FAS website or somesuch. Another rule quoted on Wikipedia has a third-root, I think????

    According to a link that I have now lost with very detailed information about nuclear explosions (yeah, a better reference would be hard to find :), the radiative effects of an airburst are inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the detonation. That’s simple physics. If you are in the air, the shock wave strength also dissipates at the same rate.

    But a lot of the atmospheric shock wave doesn’t penetrate the earth, instead it travels along the surface. If you are any reasonable distance from ground zero, and at ground level, the shock wave strength is inversely proportional to the distance from ground zero, not the distance squared.

    So for large airbursts, the surface shock wave comes to dominate over the radiative effects as it is dissipating more slowly. IOW, for large airbursts, any structure on the surface close enough to be destroyed by the heat or other radiation would be well and truly destroyed by the shock wave soon afterwards,  but things further out would find the shock wave to be the dominant problem.

    So if all that is accurate, the shock wave from a 100MT airburst would destroy things out to double the range of the Tsar Bomba, even though the burn would only destroy 40% further.

  • Joshua

    Hmm, as I read through Wikipedia and other links, the shock wave effect I’m talking about is called the Mach effect, but I could find no support for the actual maths I described. So there is that.

    Also, the rate at which the shock wave dissipates in air, disregarding this effect, might be proportional to the cube of the distance, not the square as I said above, as it doesn’t just dissipate over the surface area of the expanding sphere like heat, but rather the volume as the mass of air it travels through absorbs its energy.

    The high-energy radiation also dissipates quicker than distance squared, as the air is not transparent to it., especially section 5.4.1;, especially section 1.1.

  • Anonymous

    I always figured that the former Prez just tucked the bomb into his briefcase before he left the Oval Office. Makes as much sense as hiding the only or one of very few bombs of this size before everything else is sent to the OWG (wouldn’t someone notice the disappearance of something that BIG?). Then there’s the plane(s) and an airfield with a long enough runway, and the crews needed to service the plane(s) and the bomb and oh, it all just boggles the mind.

  • Anonymous

    You must be on the west coast. Here in the hinterlands, even the idiots who thought that terrorists were coming to bomb their little village after 9/11, didn’t break out the iodine after Fukoshima.

  • Nice info. Thanks. :)

    (Jenkins is therefore guilty of some massive overkill in deciding all these things have to be 100 MT bombs. When the Tsar-Bomba’s effective range covers most of Paris, then you can expect a bomb with twice the explosive capacity is going to literally wipe a city off the map each time it gets used. And then all that fallout! O.O )

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it’s just a New England joke. Especially the bit about the road construction.

  • “Loyal citizens of the Global Community,” came the voice of Carpathia,
    “I come to you today with a broken heart, unable to tell you even from
    where I speak.

    Who the heck begins a speech this way?

    Oh, right, the authors. Because they understand that great literature involves driving instructions and logistical planning, and lack of such details creates immeasurable sense of mystery.

  • Terrain plays a big role in all of this too.  Relatively flat areas like London, Paris, or D.C. allow the shockwave to disperse pretty far.  That reporter in the ‘outskirts of Washington’ is more likely in Baltimore (or better yet, Philadelphia, as Baltimore’s going to take a beating from any sizeable nuke Washington D.C. catches).

    Hit a large city in a valley and the shockwave is more contained…but the damage to the city is worse. 

  • Now what did Jessica do to deserve such a fate???

  • Ngh, now I’ve actually read the rest of the stuff, was too sleepy last night.

    One immediate conclusion springs in the mind: these passages just betray the utter lack of research. I’m not an expert on nuclear weapons, just a random bystander, but even I can see that there’s gigantic gaping holes in the research. If you, as an author, say “I’m going to drop a 100 megaton nuke in London”, you’d darn well should at least do some minor research on what the heck would happen. 10 minutes in Wikipedia would show you that the biggest nuke ever was 50 megatons, would have caused third-degree burns in 100 kilometer range even when most of its thermal energy escaped to frigging space, and made windows shatter in Finland when it was detonated in Novaya Zemlya. A logical course of action would be to tone down the yield just a little. Just saying.

    The second question that obviously comes in mind is this: Why target airports? Why why why why? If you have a weapon of mass destruction, you drop it where it can cause most destruction – not in a location that was specifically chosen to be secluded from the population centers to avoid potential disasters.

    Again – my only guess is that, due to the *ahem* peculiar mental disposition of the authors, disrupting logistical narrative creates a sense of unimaginable thrills for them, and they expect the readers to be interested of the same things too. How will the authors describe the travel arrangements in a world without JFK and Heathrow? Can we even imagine such a world? Where, oh where, will they fly in a world where two major airports are gone? The readers are dying to find out! NOT.

    Point the third: The fact that Israel was shielded and London, with its sizeable Jew population, was not, is a good point. The fact is, Israel also has a population of non-Jews. Is it just an issue of holy ground, or something? Why aren’t rational people, regardless of their religious views, going to Israel, because they can easily see that a nuclear attack against Israel was thwarted and it would be stupid to be anywhere else in the event of an all-out nuclear war? Can’t the authors just accept the fact that there might be some cunning unbelievers like that? Oh, wait, unbelievers can’t be cunning, sorry, forgot.

  • Anonymous

    How will the authors describe the travel arrangements in a
    world without JFK and Heathrow? Can we even imagine such a world? Where,
    oh where, will they fly in a world where two major airports are gone?
    The readers are dying to find out! NOT.

    That’s a good point.

    My first thought was that the airport is the only part of most cities they’ve ever seen. They may have visited other parts of the cities, but the airport’s all they’ve ever seen.

    After all, the rest of the city is filled with foreigners.  The airports are full of people like them.

  • In some cases the airport is located away from the city to prevent disaster.  There are some major cities where this is no longer the case, as the city has grown up and around the airport (New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego being textbook examples).  L&J have an aviation fetish, and it shows in their writing.

    The whole thing begs the question, “Why use a nuke when you’ve got more than enough conventional weaponry to do the job?”  If Nicolae just wants to destroy Heathrow, he just has to pull out one of the long-range bombers the nations of the world have supposedly surrendered to him, or park an aircraft carrier off the coast of Britain and let his warplanes do the job.  As someone else on here said, for someone who wants to promote himself as a man of peace, Nicolae Mountain-out-of-a-Molehill has racked up a pretty sizeable body count.  Between D.C (just under 1 million for the city and 5 million for the metro area), New York (around 18 million if you count the metro area–8 million for the city alone), and London (around 8 million) along with whatever collateral damage was done in Chicago I’m figuring 17-30 million and counting–if he hasn’t passed Hitler and Stalin, he’s certainly in the #3 spot by now, and that’s only with 18 months on the job!

    His mind mojo had better be something really special if he expects people to continue to buy his story.  That, or the Left Behind universe is populated entirely by congenital idiots.

  • Apocalypse Review

    That said, God and TurboJesus manage to exceed Nicolae by a few orders of magnitude in the succeeding books (O_O)

  • Ken

    “Loyal citizens of the Global Community,” came the voice of Carpathia, “I come to you today with a broken heart, unable to tell you even from where I speak.

    Who the heck begins a speech this way?

    Dick “Undisclosed Location” Cheney?

  • Anonymous

    “It is no secret that I am, always have been, and always will be, a pacifist. I do not believe in war. I do not believe in weaponry. I do not believe in bloodshed. On the other hand, I feel responsible for you, my brother or my sister in this global village.”

    This sounds like any non-pacifist monger in charge. Ellenjay do a fine work of spreading lies and misconceptions to teach that christianism and pacifism must be ardent rivals… and being a kind of mennonite, it makes me sick

  • I especially love how LaJenkins don’t think there can be any clever people among the heathen, considering how they, and thus all of their heroes and good guys, are so monumentally stupid.

  • Apocalypse Review

    There’s definitely some authorial lack of proper fictional structure, since they apparently have no idea how stupid it is to make Rayford so mulishly militant about his Christianity to the point of being blatantly disrespectful to Supreme Commander Leon (“Hey, Leon.”), as well as Nicolae himself (“wrath of the lamb!!!!111!@#@#@!”) – and expecting that this wouldn’t raise red flags about Rayford either being a mole, or a distraction from other moles.

  • Those who have been following Ruby’s dissection of Soon (a Jerry Jenkins solo effort) know that Jenkins has no sense whatsoever of the  scale of what nukes can do. For those who haven’t:

    In the first chapter, two nuclear warheads are sufficient to split China in two and create a tsunami that makes  the Boxing Day tsunami and the tsunami that hit Japan in  March combined look like a child splashing in a bathtub.

    In the next chapter, Our Hero (who makes RayBuck look good) goes to a funeral at Arlington where we find out that the Pentagon was “virtually vaporized” by a missile launched from a North Korean sub, but the cemetery next door is apparently undamaged. I might buy this if what hit the Pentagon was a neutron bomb. In story, the plant life has had thirty-six years to cover. Unfortunately, there’s no indication that Jenkins even knows what a neutron bomb is, much less thought about using one here, and IRL, North Korea barely has Hiroshima level nuclear capability, which is quite enough  to make  a mess of Arlington Cemetery (bearing in mind that mapplet Fred linked to just shows thermal damage  and not the shock wave).

  • Oh man, I’ve given that exact same theodicy argument when critiquing settings with a theological focus and explicit divine intervention… sometimes. The “free will” argument in particular ceases to be valid if it can be arbitrarily ignored. I love this blog for reminding me I’m not alone.

  • Split China in —

    *jaw drops*

    Jesus. I thought the book was bad enough even before being reminded of stuff that rushed past the first time I read Ruby’s deconstruction, but holy good gravy!

    I just cannot brain this.

    The Edge of Apocalypse version of a NK nuke attempt made a smidgen more sense, realism-wise.

  • Split China in —

    *jaw drops*

    Jesus. I thought the book was bad enough even before being reminded of stuff that rushed past the first time I read Ruby’s deconstruction, but holy good gravy!

    I just cannot brain this.

    The Edge of Apocalypse version of a NK nuke attempt made a smidgen more sense, realism-wise.

  • Anonymous

    Where the hell did they get the time, the money, the resources, and the
    minds to build a bomb like this and how did they pull it off under the
    watchful eyes of the Global Community?

    The Ethiopian government already had one and the GC just confiscated it, duh!  Ethiopia’s armed forces may not look crazy impressive compared to the global superpowers, but that’s just because it sunk most of its gold into sprinting down the Future Tech tree.

    Why do you think Russia allied itself with Ethiopia before attacking Israel?  They were hoping that megabomb could crack God’s forcefield.  Unfortunately it didn’t arrive in time; a donkey can only haul a hundred-megaton device so quickly.

  • Anna

    First thought on looking at the Heathrow bomb-damage map: holy crap, my home is in that big red circle.

    Second and far more irreverent thought: at least John Betjeman gets his wish

  • Anna

    (I have no idea how I managed to mess up the html tags that badly. Sorry. I meant to link to

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Regarding the “Tsar Bomba”:

    It was built and detonated by the Russians just before the Atmospheric Test-Ban Treaty.  Pretty much AS a record-breaker, so the Russians could claim the biggest bomb.

    The Tsar Bomba was a three-stage Tellar-Ulam design using multiple fusion Secondaries & Tertiaries (possibly production bombs’ fusion secondaries ganged up).  The original design yield was 100Mt, but the blast radius from that was so large it could not be air-dropped without destroying the drop aircraft and was too heavy (27 tons) for any missile, so they sheathed the secondaries and tertiaries with lead instead of depleted uranium, cutting the yield in half and the blast radius by 20-30%.

    Weighing 27 tons (over twice that of a Grand Slam), the bomb casing itself was almost as large as the fuselage of the drop aircraft (a highly-modified Tu-95 heavy bomber) and hung on the outside recessed into the fuselage as it was too big to fit in any bomb bay.

    The drop was made by the Tu-95 from an altitude of over 10,000 meters, with a detonation altitude of 4000 meters.  The drop aircraft was 45 klicks away from Ground Zero at detonation, and the blast still almost clawed it out of the sky.  Everything within 50-100 klicks of ground zero was flattened, but radiation spill was minimal for a nuke of that size due to the lead-for-uranium substitution.  Declassified footage exists on YouTube; just search for Tsar Bomba.

    The Tsar Bomba (and its original 100 Mt design) were record-breakers, pure and simple.  The only way you could use one as a weapon would be in a suicide attack or as an emplaced nuke-mine; they were just TOO BIG for anything else.

    I can only speculate that Jenkins used the “100 Mt bomb” because it was the largest ever designed and he wanted to show Big Overkill.  Actually, in nukes over 50 Mt, most of the additional explosion energy just blows out the top of the atmosphere without doing much more damage in atmo or on the ground.  But it SOUNDS Real Big And Serious.

    Plus, I have found in wargaming experience that those without any real-world military or nuclear experience are not only foaming eager to use nukes (real or fictional), but always want to use the BIGGEST nukes they can.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    In other words, why did God protect Jerusalem, but not London (home to nearly a quarter million Jews)?

    Fred, Jews are important only insofar as they are related to Israel.
    Once outside of Israel, they turn (without exception) into Hollywood
    producers and secret bankers.
    — Tybuilt

    Because in Israel, they’re pieces on the End Time Prophecy gameboard, fulfilling God’s Prophecy.  Outside of Israel, they’re just Christ-Killers.

    That’s why before I knew of the term “Christian Zionism”, I called it “Anti-Semitic Zionism”.

  • Daniel

    Off topic, I know, but just imagine how outraged the residents of Tunbridge Wells would be if the Tsar Bomba went off at Heathrow. That sort of thing is all very well in the city, but we don’t want it here, thank you very much. It’s only a shame the offices of every national newspaper would be destroyed. So many undeliverable letters to the editor…