Originally posted April 20, 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. 265-268
Have you seen that bit with the offering plate? They pass this thing around in church and people fill it up with money. Clearly, that’s what this whole “church” thing is really about. Money. All those priests, pastors, ministers, chaplains, friars, missionaries, etc. — they’re all just in it for the money.
That’s one theory, anyway, albeit a ridiculous one I’ve never heard anyone seriously advocating. But I’ve heard theories like it. Such theories always tell you much more about the theorists themselves than about the supposed subject of their theories.
If some hypothetical anti-clerical zealot were actually to make the argument above, you would have to conclude one of the following things about them:
1. They might be attacking a straw man they know to be false. Unable or unwilling to engage the reality of what churches actually are, they’ve decided instead to sketch a ridiculous caricatured version and then attack their own creation as though it were the thing itself. The anti-church critic, in other words, might be a dishonest hack.
2. They might not know any better. Perhaps, somehow, they’ve never encountered anyone who worked at or even attended a church, and so they have no idea what churches actually do or how or why they do it. In other words, the critic might be well-intentioned but massively ignorant. (At some point, of course, such utter ignorance can only be maintained willfully — thus ceasing to be well-intentioned.)
3. They might think this is how everything works. They may subscribe to some materialistic grand scheme or ideology (Marxism or laissez-faire anarcho-libertarianism perhaps). or they may be, themselves, primarily driven by this kind of motivation, so they just assume that no one else has any other motive either.
None of these options paints a very favorable picture of our hypothetical critic, but then it would be difficult to imagine any way of favorably viewing anyone who would seriously put forward such a stupid argument.
Which brings us to today’s section in Left Behind, wherein we encounter something very similar to the hypothetical critique above. This is a dazzlingly awful passage, almost Bushian in its ability to combine pedantic smugness with a near-total misapprehension of reality. It’s a bit like the song “Little Known Facts” in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown — with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in the role of Lucy, taking the readers by the hand and, with grating condescension, explaining how snow comes up “out of the ground — like grass.”
Rayford drives to the church to pick up a replacement copy of the In Case of Rapture video. Chloe tags along because she’s afraid to be home alone in case the robbers come back for the rest of Raymie’s toys.
The Rev. Bruce Barnes is saddened, but not surprised by the news of the break-in. “It’s as if the inner-city has moved to the suburbs,” he says.
You know, the “inner-city” — nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Not that that’s a code word or anything. Not at all. And the New Jerusalem will be a glorious suburb.
Rayford leaves the church and becomes a whirlwind of activity:
While they were out, Rayford bought items that needed to be replaced right away, including a TV and VCR. He arranged to have the front door fixed and got the insurance paperwork started.
Because the insurance companies, like the police, aren’t busy with anything else. While Rayford attends to all of this, Chloe apparently goes back into the state of suspended animation in which she seems to spend all of her time apart from her father. (Again, she has no job and she’s not in school — what is she doing all day? She’s like Carol Brady.)
And then, inevitably, the phone rings. It’s Hattie. Rayford tells her about the robbery, and Hattie provides the awkward segue into the heart of this section of the book:
“Things are getting so strange,” she said. “You know I have a sister who works in a pregnancy clinic.”
“Uh-huh,” Rayford said. “You’ve mentioned it.”
“They do family planning and counseling and referrals for terminating pregnancies.”
“And they’re set up to do abortions right there.”
Hattie seemed to be waiting for some signal of affirmation or acknowledgment that he was listening. Rayford grew impatient and remained silent.
Hattie apparently listened politely while Rayford told his story, but that was different because it was his story. Hattie mistakenly thinks she’s due the same courtesy. Her misunderstanding is all part of that wacky battle of the sexes — it’s just like that book, Women Are From Venus, Men Are From the Planet of Impatient, Misogynist Jackasses.
“Anyway,” she said, “I won’t keep you. But my sister told me they have zero business.”
“Well, that would make sense, given the disappearances of unborn babies.”
“My sister didn’t sound too happy about that.”
“Hattie, I imagine everyone’s horrified by that. Parents are grieving all over the world.”
There, at last, is the sentence we should have been reading over and over again for the last 250 pages: “Parents are grieving all over the world.” Every child on the planet disappeared on page 15 of this book and here, on page 266, is the very first mention of Rachel crying for her children. Oddly though, Rayford’s comment doesn’t seem to refer to all parents — just to those of “unborn babies.”
“But the women my sister and her people were counseling wanted abortions.”
Rayford groped for a pertinent response. “Yes, so maybe those women are grateful they didn’t have to go through the abortion itself.”
“Maybe, but my sister and her bosses and the rest of the staff are out of work now until people start getting pregnant again.”
You can see where they’re trying to go here, but what on earth is she talking about?
Hattie’s sister works in reproductive health, at a pregnancy clinic. Last Monday, every child on earth disappeared and every pregnant woman on the planet became instantaneously unpregnant. This development raises some rather urgent questions about, you know, the future of the human race. The idea that Hattie’s sister and her coworkers would be sitting around idle is inconceivable — conceivability being the key word here. All of those formerly pregnant women are going to need medical examinations to confirm that the Divine Abortionist didn’t create complications. The still unresolved question of future fertility — for those women, for all women and for all men too — would need to be explored. Hattie’s sister wouldn’t be out of work, she’d be working 18-hour shifts.
“… my sister and her bosses and the rest of the staff are out of work now until people start getting pregnant again.”
“I get it. It’s a money thing.”
“They have to work. They have expenses and families.”
“And aside from abortion counseling and abortions, they have nothing to do?”
“Nothing. Isn’t that awful? I mean, whatever happened put my sister and a lot of people like her out of business, and nobody really knows yet whether anyone will be able to get pregnant again.”
I am not up to the task here. I cannot begin to catalog all that is wrong with this bizarre straw-man. Do L&J really think that places like Planned Parenthood “have nothing to do” apart from “abortion counseling and abortions”?
But buckle up, it gets worse, with Rayford rolling his eyes and silently mocking Hattie all along:
Rayford had to admit he had never found Hattie guilty of brilliance, but now he wished he could look into her eyes. “Hattie, um, I don’t know how to ask this. But are you saying your sister is hoping women can get pregnant again so they’ll need abortions and she can keep working?”
“Well, sure. What is she going to do otherwise? Counseling jobs in other fields are pretty hard to come by, you know.”
Wait, didn’t we just say that parents are grieving all over the world? I’m thinking the grief counseling centers might be hiring. Then again, those grief counselors are a bunch of evil bastards. It’s a money thing. They want there to be more grief just so they can keep working.
The good news, at least, is that those sick monsters running the orphanage industry are out of work too, so maybe now they’ll finally stop going around killing parents just so they have work to do.
He nodded, feeling stupid, knowing she couldn’t see him. What kind of lunacy was this? He shouldn’t waste his energy arguing with someone who clearly didn’t have a clue, but he couldn’t help himself.
“I guess I always thought clinics like the one where your sister works considered these unwanted pregnancies a nuisance. Shouldn’t they be glad if such problems disappear, and even happier — except for the small complication that the human race will eventually cease to exist — if pregnancies never happen again?”
Silly Hattie. Silly, foolish, female Hattie just doesn’t have a clue. She doesn’t realize that the ultimate goal of abortion rights advocates is universal forced sterilization. After all, what else could “pro-choice” possibly mean?
The irony was lost on her. “But Rayford, that’s her job. That’s what the center is all about. It’s sort of like owning a gas station and nobody needs gas or oil or tires anymore.”
“Supply and demand.”
“Exactly! See? They need unwanted pregnancies because that’s their business.”
“Sort of like doctors wanting people to be sick or injured so they have something to do?”
“Now you’ve got it, Rayford.”
… I …
I give up. If the authors can’t be bothered to forge a trail through the twists and turns of their logic here, then I can’t be expected to map it out it for them.
Just go back to the beginning of this post and re-read my hypothetical critique of the church. It is, as I said, massively and pervasively inaccurate — a dismissive straw man that corresponds to nothing in the actual world. Re-read the possible reasons someone might advocate such a theory: intentional dishonesty, ignorance, ideological myopia, projection. (Am I missing something? Are there other possible explanations?)
So, then, two questions: 1) Which of these do you think explains this passage in Left Behind? And 2) Does it really matter?