Originally posted March 2, 2007.
Read this entire series, for free, via the convenient Left Behind Index. This post is also part of the ebook collection The Anti-Christ Handbook: Volume 1, available on Amazon for just $2.99. Volume 2 of The Anti-Christ Handbook, completing all the posts on the first Left Behind book, is also now available.
Left Behind, pp. 253-255
After Carpathia outlined his eagerness to support the U.N. in any way possible, someone interjected a question about the disappearances.
“Someone interjected” — that’s all we’re told. This “someone” is the first person we’ve met in many chapters who seems to have any grasp on the situation, any sense of perspective.
The world has just witnessed the biggest thing since the K-T event and yet, a mere seven days later, no one seems to be paying attention. Everyone else seems to be pursuing other agendas and obsessing over things that wouldn’t have seemed important even before the disappearances. This might have seemed truthful if Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins had portrayed this as denial — people still reeling, in shock, and unable to comprehend or consider that nothing will ever be the same. But it’s not presented that way. Everyone has simply moved on.
Buck Williams isn’t the one who raises this question at the press conference. This is strange, since he’s supposed to be working on a Global Weekly cover story about the disappearances. He never seems to get around to writing that story but he never gets in trouble for this because, despite it’s name, the “Weekly” hasn’t had a deadline during the past seven days.
But now that the Most Important Point has been “interjected” back into the story, we get treated to Carpathia’s theory:
“Many people in my country lost loved ones to this horrible phenomenon. I know that many people all over the world have theories, and I wish not to denigrate any one of them, the people or their ideas. …
“Many people” isn’t quite right: everyone would have a theory. Everyone would have to have a theory because this is what we humans do — we look for meaning and try to make sense of the world.
But this isn’t how things seem to work in Left Behind. Our main protagonists have read the book jacket — they know they’re in a Darbyist Rapture novel and they’re not interested in exploring any other possible explanations. Yet somehow even the characters who don’t know it’s the Rapture don’t seem interested in exploring other theories. Those who do have theories — like the charter pilot Buck hired — are regarded as oddballs and exceptions.
Seven days after the fact would be almost too late for Carpathia to try to introduce a new theory. The Official Story would have emerged within the first day or two — official whether due to pronouncement by officials or due simply to the conventional wisdom settled on by TV talking heads. Lots of alternative theories would also be kicking around. Such alternatives, regardless of whether they were more or less plausible, would be dismissed as “conspiracy theories” by those with a stake in the Official Story.
Let’s consider what some of those theories might be. We’ve already mentioned a few in earlier posts: Space/dimensional alien abduction, rapid-acting flesh-eating airborne bacteria, wormhole, shift in space-time continuum, shrink ray, scientific experiment gone awry, nefarious something in the water, sorcery, the Old Ones, mass hallucination.
Whatever Official Story is settled on, the Space Alien theory would likely be popular enough that it would have been addressed, publicly and officially, within these first seven days. It’s not an unreasonable theory. It would be irrational to conclude that space aliens were to blame for your missing car keys, but faced with a global phenomenon that could not have been caused by anything we know of on earth it seems reasonable to look for extraterrestrial explanations.
So well before seven days had elapsed, scientists from NASA and SETI would have held press conferences to discuss whether or not they had noticed anything unusual — solar flares, gravitational anomalies, unexplained radiation/radiowaves/photon showers, missing time, etc. So too would pretty much every other scientist whose work involved measuring or monitoring pretty much anything: carbon dioxide, ozone, temperature, barometric pressure, wind speeds, volcanic activity, ocean currents, bird migration, insect reproduction, you name it.
Likewise, philosophers and religious leaders would all be coming forward to comment on the possible supernatural explanations. The disappearance of the Darbyite born-againers would not leave a secular, religion-less world. Leaders from the many remaining, undiminished religions would likely point to the Event as vindication of their tradition: Behold, the true God has cleansed the world of the infidels! The Official Stories from the Vatican or Tehran would be quite different from the OS in Washington. These competing religious explanations, I would guess, would be among the most widely accepted, particularly outside the West.
The main resistance to such religious theories wouldn’t be from secular/atheist scientists, but from the insurance industry, which could not afford a billion simultaneous claims being classified as “acts of God” and therefore legitimate. Insurer’s would likely be backing some Doomsday Cultist theory that sought to classify the disappearances as some kind of mass-suicide. (If you’re wondering who would win a power struggle between the Vatican and Hartford, just take a look at America’s health-care system.)
So waiting seven days to reveal his theory means Carpathia is late to the party. The terms of debate — Official Story, competing theories, “fringe” theories — would have already been set. Nicolae hopes to overcome this with his dazzling charisma and a scientific dream team:
“I have asked Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig of Israel to work with a team to try to make sense of this great tragedy and allow us to take steps toward preventing anything similar from ever happening again.
“When the time is appropriate I will allow Dr. Rosenzweig to speak for himself, but for now I can tell you that the theory that makes the most sense to me is briefly as follows: The world has been stockpiling nuclear weapons for innumerable years. Since the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 and the Soviet Union first detonated its own devices September 23, 1949, the world has been at risk of nuclear holocaust. Dr. Rosenzweig and his team of renowned scholars is close to the discovery of an atmospheric phenomenon that may have caused the vanishing of so many people instantaneously.”
Even L&J seem to realize that this is inadequate, so they add a bit more technobabble, but first we get this strange little interlude:
“What kind of phenomenon?” Buck asked.
Carpathia glanced briefly at his name tag and then into his eyes. “I do not want to be premature, Mr. Oreskovich,” he said. Several members of the press snickered, but Carpathia never lost pace. “Or I should say, ‘Mr. Cameron Williams of Global Weekly.‘” This elicited amused applause throughout the room. Buck was stunned.
What’s so stunning? Buck is wearing a baseball cap and he hasn’t shaved, but he’s not in disguise. He might not have yet met Carpathia personally, but he had an interview scheduled with him, and he knows that Carpathia had read about the car bombing — a story likely accompanied by a photograph of Buck. Carpathia would have been interested in that story because of their mutual friendship with Rosenzweig, but also — and this gets glossed over due to its not making a whole lot of sense — because he has been working closely with the same cabal of international bankers that arranged the car bombing. Photographs of the intended victim are usually a part of the process of having somebody killed. So I don’t see why Buck should be “stunned” that Carpathia recognizes him, or for that matter why Carpathia should decide to say his name here as though he were a talent-show magician pulling a rabbit from a hat.
But back to the “atmospheric phenomenon”:
“Dr. Rosenzweig believes that some confluence of electromagnetism in the atmosphere, combined with as yet unknown or unexplained atomic ionization from the nuclear power and weaponry throughout the world, could have been ignited or triggered — perhaps by a natural cause like lightning, or even by an intelligent life-form that discovered this possibility before we did — and caused this instant action throughout the world.”
“Sort of like someone striking a match in a room full of gasoline vapors?” a journalist suggested.
Carpathia nodded thoughtfully.
Someone asks why such a global atmospheric phenomenon would only have affected some people and not others:
“At this point [Rosenzweig et. al.] are postulating that certain people’s levels of electricity made them more likely to be affected. That would account for all the children and babies and even fetal material that vanished. Their electromagnetism was not developed to the point where it could resist whatever happened.”
You know, because it’s well-known that children have only a fraction of the “electromagnetism” of a fully developed adult.
Look, I’m willing to play along and to suspend disbelief for the sketchiest and most fantastic of premises — wormhole, flux capacitor, tachyons, string theory, dark matter, Hellmouth, red Kryptonite, Dharma initiative. Whatever, I’m game. But it seems L&J have never seen an episode of Star Trek, never read a comic book or even an issue of Weekly World News. They use “electromagnetism” the way B movies in the 1950s used radioactivity — as though it were an arcane and mysterious, almost magical thing that could be invoked to justify anything.
I’m out of my field here. People with more knowledge of the conventions of this kind of writing could probably tell you more precisely why and how Nicolae’s theory fails as plausible science fiction. But it does fail.
That failure further diminishes our respect for Carpathia, and for Buck, and for the entire assembled press corps, all of whom simply smile and nod, cheerfully accepting as an explanation that the unexplained phenomenon is due to some “as yet unknown or unexplained” phenomenon.
Ah, yes, of course. That explains it.