Originally posted May 13, 2005.
Left Behind, pp. 92-96
Left Behind is filled with moments of accidental honesty in which Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins admit that the Christians aren’t just “Raptured,” they’re dead. We find two such passages in this section, first in Buck’s phone conversation with Hattie Durham, and then again in his talk with the late Lucinda Washington’s teenage son.
Buck pulled out the number the beautiful blonde flight attendant had given him and chastised himself for not trying again to reach her earlier. It took a while for her to answer.
“Hattie Durham, this is Buck Williams.”
“Cameron Williams, from the Global –“
LaHaye & Jenkins never seem confident that they’ve established Buck’s nickname, so they keep having him re-establish it.
“Mr. Williams, what did you call yourself?”
“Buck. It’s a nickname.”
“Well, Buck …”
This is the third or fourth such scene in the book, and it won’t be the last. It reminds me of the old Saturday Night Live sketch in which Dana Carvey reimagines the moment at which Gordon Sumner informs his mates that, from now on, he wishes to be called “Sting.” Or of Paulie Shore’s insistence that we refer to him as “The Weasel.” Buck and his creators seem not to realize that nicknames are bestowed, not asserted.
Buck tells Hattie he has “good news” for her:
“Oh, thank God! Tell me.”
“Someone from my office tells me they reached your mother and that she and your sisters are fine.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
By “fine” what Buck means is that Hattie’s family are not among the disappeared/dead. They both regard this as good, even joyful, news, which for Hattie it certainly is.
L&J, however, do not consider this good news. The fact that Hattie’s mom and sister are “fine” means that they, like Hattie, were not raptured. They were “left behind” and that, to L&J, is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. Worse even than having your life end in a flash as you’re zapped right out of your clothes.
After the obligatory discussion of the state of the phone lines Hattie asks Buck about his family. This gives her a chance to fill in the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time about the fact that all of the prepubescent children in the world having gone missing, a detail which, again, the GIRAT hadn’t yet noticed himself, having spent most of his time since the event meditating in a men’s room stall:
“I got word that my dad and brother are OK. We still don’t know about my sister-in-law and the kids.”
“Oh. How old are the kids?”
“Can’t remember. Both under 10, but I don’t know exactly.”
“Oh,” Hattie sounded sad, guarded.
“Why?” Buck asked.
“Oh, nothing. It’s just that –”
“You can’t go by what I say.”
“Tell me, Miss Durham.”
He’s still not putting this together, even with help.
“Well, you remember what I told you on the plane. And on the news it looks like all the children are gone, even unborn ones.”
Even unborn ones. That, for L&J, is the most significant — almost the only significant — implication of all the children being taken. God has a special love for the unborn, a special love he demonstrates at the beginning of the book by slaughtering/rapturing them all.
L&J are so enamored of how this scenario reinforces their politics that they scarcely consider any other implications from the elimination of this entire demographic slice. Thus we’re told and retold about pregnant women suddenly no longer being pregnant (abortion via divine intervention is, apparently, OK), but never about the scenes that would have played out in every elementary school classroom in the world. They pay no more attention to this event, or to its impact on others, than Buck does.
In the year 2000, about 30 percent of the world’s population was under the age of 15. That’s about 1.8 billion people — a larger group than the roughly 1 billion Christians on the planet.* But Buck doesn’t notice that they’re gone until Hattie points it out to him. Twice. Some guys just aren’t good with kids, I guess.
Buck makes one more phone call before heading to Waukegan:
Buck checked the phone log in his laptop for Lucinda Washington’s home number and dialed. A teenage boy answered …
Yeah, poor kid’s a teenager, so he got left behind. Once you start growing hair around your naughty bits, God doesn’t want you anymore. Fourteen-year-olds will be tried as adults.
“My mom’s not here,” the young man said.
“Is she still at the office? I need a recommendation where to stay near Waukegan.”
The timeline isn’t very clear — with one protagonist seeming to sleep the night away while the other is sequestered in the men’s room — but less than a day has passed since global catastrophe struck. And this is how Buck talks to people on the phone?
“She’s nowhere,” the boy said. “I’m the only one left. Mama, Daddy, everybody else is gone. Disappeared.”
“Are you sure?”
“Their clothes are here, right where they were sitting. My daddy’s contact lenses are still on top of his bathrobe.”
“Oh, man! I’m sorry, son.”
“That’s all right. I know where they are, and I can’t even say I’m surprised.”
“You know where they are?”
“If you know my mama, you know where she is, too. She’s in heaven.”
Lucinda Washington, we are told, is in heaven. That’s where Christians believe they will go when they die. So doesn’t this mean, again, that Lucinda is dead? What else could it mean?
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
* So how many people were raptured at the beginning of Left Behind? All the children and all the Christians, we’re told, which comes out to about 2.8 billion people, or around 46 percent of the world’s population.
That figure, however, is too high for several reasons. First, there’s the matter of overlap — some of those 1.8 billion children are also Christians, and we shouldn’t count them twice. Also, that figure for children is based on age 0-14, and L&J seem to want to set their “age of accountability” somewhat lower than that. Finally, that figure of 1 billion Christians includes an awful lot of people whom L&J would say don’t really count as their kind of Christians — such as Russian Orthodox, mainline Protestants or Democrats.
I can’t precisely account for these factors, but we can take a shot at a ballpark guess. Let’s be optimistic and say that half of the church makes the cut, so let’s say 500 million Christians. Since most of the church is in the developing world, we’ll guess at a very high percentage of these Christians being children — say 30 percent, or 150 million. So we’ll take that 150 million from the total number of children, which we’ll reduce to an even 1.5 billion to leave behind the 13 and 14 year olds, and we’re left with: 0.5 billion + 1.35 billion = 1.85 billion.
That’s still about 30 percent of the world’s population. Gone. Poof. And what’s Buck doing? He’s sparing no expense so that he can get to New York in time to cover “a conference of Jewish Nationalists.”
Update/correction: Andrew Cory provides a more accurate figure for the number of Christians worldwide — which is more like 1.8 billion. So, if we still guess that half of these are deemed acceptable as “real” Christians according to L&J’s standards, that changes our Rapture Total to about 2.25 billion, or roughly 37 percent of the world’s population. (thanks, AC)