The Indwelling–Left Behind Review

by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 0842329293, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

Plot summary here.

South Park has a much more entertaining version of the birth and possession of the Antichrist: Woodland Critter Christmas  But for the moment, we’re stuck with these books.

One thing I’ve noticed again and again in these books is how rude the Christians get to the non-Christians, as if just because they’re not “believers,” they’re somehow not deserving of basic human respect.

In this case, p. 46, it’s David Hassid, a believer, returning rudeness for rudeness to Guy Blod, the GC minister of creative arts.  Guy is, of course, portrayed as anti-God, profane, ridiculous, self-important, self-absorbed, temperamental, an “artiste,” and flaming gay.  The token Gay Guy must, of course, be a f*g.

And David, like Buck or Rayford or any of the other “believers” in these books who have to deal with non-believers they find annoying, is snippy and rude with him.  We saw this with Buck and Verna Zee, who, by the way, is also gay.

And of course, Rayford gets rude and snippy with Bo, Hattie, Leah, and anybody else he feels is beneath him (even though Leah is actually a believer).  What happened to turning the other cheek?  Is verbal sparring considered a Christian virtue in these books?  And are gays deliberately being portrayed as unpleasant?

On page 60, we finally meet Guy Blod–pronounced gee blod, not guy blood or jee blod or anything else the author thinks it might be pronounced as, and Guy is rather insistent about this.

I’m not quite sure why we are told that “Blod” is pronounced like “cod,” as if Scandinavian.  Scandinavian???

Why is it Scandinavian or an indication of Guy’s fussiness that his last name is pronounced exactly the same way English words spelled “–od” are normally pronounced?  How else would we pronounce it?

Sure David keeps calling him “Blood,” but that’s just David being an ass.  Phonetics don’t support that.

Guy is “outrageous and flamboyant,” with a “small entourage of similarly huffy and put-out men in their late thirties.  Despite their differences in nationality, they could have been quints from the way they dressed and acted.”

Oh my gosh–It’s a gay Ruby Rhod!  Though Ruby Rhod already seems gay, he actually is quite the lady’s man.  Guy Blod, on the other hand, is fully gay.  Gotta wonder if the authors saw Fifth Element before writing this part.  The names even rhyme.

And of course, when David tells him he’ll need a hard hat and protective clothing (for inspecting his 24-foot bronze and iron statue (idol) of the deceased Carpathia), Gay Guy looks at his mates and says, “I love new clothes.”  The stereotypes in this character are revolting.

On page 67, Carpathia, in announcing Greece’s inclusion in what are now called the United Holy Land States, says to the Greeks, “You are a deeply religious people, with a rich place in the histories of many cherished belief systems.”

From this statement, we must assume that the Greeks left behind after the Rapture are still included as “deeply religious people.”  Yet they were left behind.  What religion is deeply ingrained in Greece?  The Orthodox Church, of course!  So what does this tell us, that the authors believe about the Orthodox Church?

I also find it interesting that the “exploding” church goes underground to keep out of GC’s notice.

Why not fill the Orthodox churches, since Carpathia obviously has no problem with those?  Or are the Orthodox churches not really “Christian”?  I see the Orthodox Church is not even called the “church,” but only this new “real-true Christian” church.

I also note that the Greek evangelists who converted them are Messianic Jews who attended Tsion’s conference in Israel, then returned to Greece to “win tens of thousands of converts to Christ.”

BUT THE CHURCH WAS ALREADY THERE IN GREECE!!!  IN FACT IT’S A LONG-ESTABLISHED INSTITUTION!

What are the Orthodox believers, chopped liver?  Are the Greek Orthodox priests incapable of leading their flocks to Christ?

On pages 77 and 78, we read,

Tsion had studied the discipline of intercession, largely a Protestant tradition from the fundamentalist and Pentecostal cultures.

Those steeped in it went beyond mere praying for someone as an act of interceding for them; they believed true intercession involved deep empathy and that a person thus praying must not enter into the practice unless willing to literally trade places with the needy person.

Hm, this concept of intercession is news to me.  I find the Orthodox and Catholic practices of asking the saints for intercession (since the prayers of a righteous man availeth much, or rather are energized) to be more practical than trying to put your mortal self into various emotional and physical contortions to make your prayer effective enough.

I also don’t see why it would be necessary.  Doesn’t Jesus tell us that God is a loving Father who will give us bread and not a stone? who knows what we need before we ask it?

In any case, since I haven’t heard of this practice before, Tsion’s method is my introduction to it: He first examines his own willingness to truly intercede for Rayford.  He can’t trade places with Rayford, who is suspected of assassinating the Antichrist.  “But he could affect that posture in his mind; he could express his willingness to God to take that burden, literally possible or not.”  Er, okay, not quite sure what this means.

“Yet even that did not assuage Tsion’s discomfort.  He tried dropping to one knee, bowing his head lower, then slipping to both knees, then turning to lay his arms on the seat of the couch and rest his head on his hands.”

Naturally, he’s worried about Chloe seeing him, but not because he looks silly: He’s afraid she won’t understand if she sees him “in a posture of total contrition–something foreign to his nature.  He often prayed this way in private, of course–” of course?– “but Chloe would see this ‘showing’ of humility so aberrational that she would likely feel obligated to ask if he was all right.”

But he stops thinking about Chloe and starts feeling “such deep compassion and pity for Rayford that he moaned involuntarily and felt himself sliding from the couch until his palms were flat on the floor.”

Now his head presses against the front of the couch, and his back is to the quiet TV.  He groans and weeps as he prays.  His focus shifts from Rayford to the majesty of God, and he feels unworthy, ashamed and impure, as if in God’s very presence.

Now, “Knees sliding back, palms forward, he lay prostrate, his forehead pressing into the musty carpet, nose mashed flat.”  What?  This is just getting–weird.  Of course, when Chloe comes in and finds him like this, she’s alarmed.  He says he’s just tired, so she tells him to take a nap.

What is the purpose of all this contortioning?  Does mashing your nose against the carpet really make your prayer more effective?

These intercessory prayers really start getting interesting when on p. 232, Tsion begins having out-of-body experiences while praying, looking down on the earth, and having visions of–even interacting with–angels.  (That’s funny, I thought Evangelicalism typically views astral projection as a dangerous Occultic practice.)

The difference between the ascetic prayers of Orthodox monks and what’s going on here with Tsion is described here: Orthodox Monk: Pentecostalism and the Jesus Prayer.  It shows how Tsion is going into dangerous territory because he doesn’t have the advantage of spiritual guides or the asceticism of the monastery to keep him from error (the trouble with God removing all the mature Christians from the earth and leaving baby Christians to figure out how to do things).

A description of the proper use of prayer is here.  It also describes the dangers of seeing angels or other visions during the prayer, as quoted from St. Gregory of Sinai:

It is natural for the mind to reject what is at hand and dream of something else to come … to build fantasies and imaginings about achievements before he has attained them.

Such a man is in considerable danger of losing what he has and failing into self-delusion and being deprived of good sense. He becomes only a dreamer and not a man of continual prayer (i.e. a hesychast). (St. Gregory of Sinai, 14th c., Texts on Commandments and Dogmas)

 

If you are truly practicing the continual prayer of silence, hoping to be with God and you see something sensory or spiritual, within or without, be it even the image of Christ, or an angel, or some saint, or if an image of light pervades your mind in no way accept it…always be displeased with such images, and keep your mind clear, without image or form…and you will suffer no harm.

It has often happened that such things, even when sent by God as a test before victory, have turned into harm for many…who have then done harm to others equally unwise…leading to pride and self-conceit.

For the fathers say that those who live rightly and are faultless in their behavior with other men…who seek God with obedience, questioning and wise humility…will always be protected from harm by the grace of Christ. (St. Gregory of Sinai, Instructions to Hesychasts)

Intercessory prayer, on the other hand, is described here–without all the stuff Tsion is doing.  The closest I can find to such things is this Orthodox Monk blog post on Intercessory Prayer:

In praying the Jesus Prayer, we should not ‘hop around’ various names and intentions: we should once and for all fold into all our being all those people and all those intentions for which we want to pray, and concentrate on the Prayer.

It is a temptation to ‘hop around’ names and intentions; that prevents us from progressing into the depths of the Prayer so as to purify our inner being, optimally so as to purify our heart in conscious sobriety.

On p. 88, Tsion reads Joel 2:28-32, which in the Orthodox Study Bible (based on the Septuagint) is Joel 3:

I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.
For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
As the LORD has said,
Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. (NKJV)

Tsion, of course, relates this passage to the Tribulation, and “the great and awesome day of the Lord” to the Great Tribulation, which is the second half of the Tribulation.  (That’s funny, I always thought Tribulation and Great Tribulation were interchangeable, unless you were referring to tribulations vs. the Great Tribulation.)

He believes the “remnant” refers to the Jews.  And he says, “But I am claiming the promise of this passage, because God prompted me to find it, that our beloved will all return safely to us this time.”

Chloe says, “Is there anything in there that says when the phones will start working again?”  Geez, not the phones again!  😛

Now, I see in the Orthodox Study Bible that–especially since Paul quoted this passage in Acts–the Orthodox Church sees this not just as referring to an incident in Israel’s past, but also to the coming of Christ and also to the End of All Things.

Orthodoxy will often interpret a prophetic passage as having more than one meaning, such as a specific historical event and a future end-of-times event as well.  But that would mean that the “remnant” refers, historically, to the Jews, and futuristically to anyone of any race who calls on the name of the Lord.

But Tsion interprets so literally that he takes “in Mount Zion” to mean those who are physically in Mount Zion and Jerusalem will be delivered, even in the futuristic interpretation.  This is like the characters’ insistence that the Antichrist would be killed by some sort of actual sword or saber, because that was the language used in the Bible, even though swords have been replaced by guns and car bombs in modern assassinations.

And I have trouble with him  “claiming” a “promise” that this refers to their friends who are currently in danger, just because he happened upon the passage at this particular time.  That’s using the Bible inappropriately as a fortune teller rather than as the revelation of God.

On page 102, we read that Chicago has been evacuated and bombed out, so it is now a ghost town.  So–does this mean the traffic is no longer a bear and you can get through in less than an hour rather than three?

Some unintentional (as it often is) humor on page 103:

Some radical journalists, Buck Williams wanna-bes, averred on the Internet that the abandoning of Chicago was the biggest foul-up in history, that the deadly diseases were not a result of nuclear radiation, and that the place was inhabitable.

What?  Buck Williams wanna-bes?  Such an animal exists?

On page 131, we discover that Rayford wears contacts.

Contacts?  The world is coming to an end, infrastructure is being destroyed by earthquakes and bombs and other things, it’s harder than heck to get to the pharmacy or an eye doctor when you’re in hiding, and Rayford wears contacts??

I used to wear contacts.  You need lots of various solutions, which run out quickly and cost money, and they dry out your eyes, so eye drops are a must.  If you don’t keep up with them, they get cloudy and dirty and your eyesight is put at risk.

How can anyone in Rayford’s situation keep up with contact maintenance?  He should have ditched the contacts and started wearing his glasses full-time by now.

I’m not quite sure what to make of a certain comment by Rayford on page 182: Chloe calls him to ask what she needs to do in a certain situation while they’re running from the GC.  Leah tells him to just tell her what to do because he’s back in charge.

Rayford says, “She’s a married adult, Leah, not my little girl anymore.”  Which is true, though in this case he’s supposed to be the leader of the Tribulation Force, not just Chloe’s daddy.

But I’m concerned because, as the Slacktivist blogger has pointed out several times, these books have the earmarkings of a modern Fundamentalist/Evangelical courtship movement.

This movement keeps young women subordinate to their fathers until they marry, at which time the authority is given over to their husbands.  So even a 40-year-old woman who’s never married and has no prospects could still be living with her parents and under her father’s authority.

So when Rayford refers to Chloe as a married adult–does he mean that she would still be “his little girl” if she were not married?  I’m not sure, but it does seem plausible.

On page 186, Buck tells Chaim that if Chaim keeps waiting too long to become a Christian, ignores too many “warnings and signs,” that God will harden Chaim’s heart and not allow him to come to Him.  According to Tsion, this is what the Bible says will happen during the End Times….

But we do not have a Scripture reference for this claim so we can test it, and since premillennialism and the Rapture are themselves not supported by Scripture, it seems to be a moot point whether or not someone can push God away too many times after the Rapture.

On page 211, while Rayford, Leah and Chloe are sitting in a dingy bar (not for the alcohol, of course, but as a meeting place), they discuss how to get to Chicago without looking suspicious.  Rayford comes up with an idea; Leah says, “Good idea,” and Chloe says, “That’s what I thought.”  Ooh, the two women are stroking Rayford’s ego–as if he needs more of that!

On page 225, Buck resumes his never-ending badgering of Chaim to make the transaction–er, to become a Christian.  Chaim wonders if motive would make a difference to his potential salvation, saying that “if I were to do what you and Tsion have been pleading with me to do for so long, I confess it would be with the wrong motive.”

–Er, what motive is that? to get Buck off his back?  Oh, nope, it’s that he feels selfish for getting saved so he won’t go to Hell.

On page 226, we are told that after the Antichrist is assassinated, he rises again, possessed by Satan.  But a quick run through of Revelations 13 says nothing about Satan possessing the Antichrist’s body, but rather about the dragon (Satan) giving authority to the beast (Antichrist).

Also, since verse 10 says “he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword,” and 14 refers to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived, the Antichrist is supposed to be killed with a sword (see Assassins).

But the Orthodox Study Bible says it should be translated “he who is destined for the sword must be killed with the sword,” referring to persecuted Christians.

And Revelations is hardly meant to be literally understood in every jot and tittle.  For example, the dragon and the beast are not literally a dragon and a seven-headed, ten-horned beast that rises out of the sea!

Rather, the Orthodox Study Bible explains how Nero was killed by a slit throat but his empire lived on, revived under Vespasian, while many believed Nero would rise again.  Domitian, who was probably emperor when Revelations was written, was considered “Nero reincarnate” not literally, but because his cruelty was even worse than Nero’s.

This is the historical interpretation, so if you also see this passage as having a future interpretation, then if the historical interpretation is not literal, why does the future one have to be?

On page 243 we read that Michael the archangel (whom Tsion met during his astral projection) is “one of only two named angels in all of Scripture.”

But wait, that’s not right, there are at least three!  Unless you count Lucifer and his fallen angels, besides Gabriel, there’s Raphael in Tobit.  There are even more angels named if, like the Ethiopian Orthodox, you accept the Book of Enoch and 2 Esdras.

Oh, but wait, the Catholic Church is the “Whore of Babylon,” so any way it differs from Protestantism is Eeeeeevil.

Also, Tsion’s conversation with Michael is so stilted as to be unbelievable.  I can more readily believe the angel using such speech patterns as, “Teach me all I am here to learn, great prince who stands watch over the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” but Tsion?

He hasn’t talked like that all through these books, now all of a sudden he sounds like he’s reading some pre-written script for a B-movie.  It just doesn’t sound natural for a modern man to talk like that.

On page 246, Lucifer confronts Michael, his voice turns high-pitched and whiny, his face becomes “a hideous mask of scales,” and he turns into a “slimy, writhing, coiling serpent.  His eyes sank under deep hoods and his voice became a hiss, then a roar as he seemed to transform himself.”  Oh my gosh–It’s Voldemort!

At long last, on p. 255, Buck’s badgering pays off: Chaim is saved and gets that little black cross on his forehead.

On p. 263-4, once again, we see how good Christians conduct themselves as David Hassid says everything he possibly can to offend and rile up Guy Blod.  He makes fun of his name, disses his title, insults his statue–things that, perhaps, you might think in your head, but telling a person these things is downright rude.  Is this how David expects to make converts for Christ as the End draws nigh?

On p. 264, we almost see the long-awaited return of “Buck was struck,” except this time it’s different: “It struck Buck.”  No, unfortunately, “it” is not a truck.  (“The truck struck Buck” would have been perfect.)  “It” is an abstract thought, a realization.  How disappointing.

Oh, what joy to read on p. 266:

Exhausted as he was, David could not sleep.  He lay in his quarters, wondering why he got such joy out of tormenting Guy Blod.

He couldn’t shake from his memory Rayford’s story of having tormented Hattie Durham’s friend Bo, and how Bo had eventually committed suicide.

Sure, Guy was a case, and David enjoyed beating him in a battle of wits and sarcasm.  But was he laying groundwork for ever having a positive influence on the man?

Finally, the clue bus has stopped for David!  He asks God for forgiveness, and to give him special compassion for Guy.

However, I am still bothered, because Rayford and David are feeling regret because taunting hampers their witness to Christ.  Being a good witness should definitely be a concern, but your chief reason for kindness should be, it’s the right thing to do.

On p. 277, we find dissing of the term “religion.”  As if Christianity weren’t a religion itself, and as if nobody could find peace and righteous living through another religion’s tenets, we have our formerly Muslim friend Albie and Buck talking about the “difference between religion and Christianity” and that “religion is man’s attempt to reach God, while Jesus is God’s attempt to reach man.”

Considering that “religion” basically means a system of beliefs about deities, their requirements and how to treat your fellow man, Christianity is just as much a religion as anything else is.

As a writer, such butchering of the language grates on my brain–and makes no sense, because the word “religion” is being unfairly maligned, so preachers can make sermon points and Evangelicals can get a new code phrase to put on T-shirts.

Farther down the page, they insult the intelligence of others who disagree with Tsion.  Albie says how he spent a few days surfing Tsion’s website archives, and read about the plagues, judgments and prophecies.  He says, “How anyone with a functioning mind could read that and not–”

Here he’s interrupted because they have to keep moving.  But his meaning is clear: If you disagree with Tsion’s take on what’s going on, you’re an idiot.

On page 293, a Turk on a news report says he believes Nicolae was divine in every sense, possibly “the Messiah the Jews longed for all these centuries.  And he was murdered in their own nation, just as the Scriptures prophesied.”

So…the people who believe this are not evil, just deluded, wanting to worship Christ but confused about who he is?  So why do they deserve death?

On page 294, we see quoted Matthew 24:21-24:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Of course, these books consider this to be an end-time prophecy, even though many of the prophecies of this chapter (up until verse 29) were fulfilled in AD 70.  That’s when the Roman general Titus put a statue of himself in the temple of Jerusalem, then destroyed the temple, and the Jews suffered unimaginable horrors, horrors that confirmed the description in verses 21-22 that no time ever before or since could ever be as bad.  But read what the Orthodox Study Bible says about chapter 24:

The Scriptures describe the end times in a variety of ways, so that no precise chronology can be determined (see Dan 7-12; Mk 13; Lk 21; 1Co 15:51-55; 1Th 4:13-17; 2Th 2:1-10; and the Book of Revelation).

The Lord’s emphasis is on watchfulness and the practice of virtue rather than on constructing timetables of things that have not yet happened.  In Matthew’s account here, the end is described as encompassing the initial sorrows (vv. 4-14), the great tribulation (vv. 15-28), and the coming of the Son of Man (vv. 29-31).

The period of the great tribulation includes the entire Christian era and is not limited to the final years before Christ’s return.

In Eusebius’ Church History, he, as does the Orthodox Study Bible, connects the “abomination of desolation” in verse 15 with Titus setting up his statue.

Then he quotes from Josephus’ “Jewish War” on the many horrors the Jews went through during the Roman siege and after the temple was destroyed: the famine, murders, torture worthy of Vlad the Impaler just to find a hidden loaf of bread, the dead lying everywhere around the city because they could not be buried by the sick and starving left behind, a mother eating her own baby, a total of 1.1 million lives lost by famine and the sword.

Eusebius notes that this was also foretold in Luke 19:42-44, 21:23-24, and 21:20.  All of this fits Jesus’ prophecies in Mt. 24 so well that, until verse 29, we don’t need to look to the end times to fulfill them.

On page 300, Tsion is trying to interpret the Revelation images of the “sun-clothed woman” “who wore a garland of stars and used the moon as her footstool.”

I love this line: “Clearly she was symbolic, as no woman was that large or had a child in space.”  LOL  Why must it be symbolic?  Because this time the literal way is just too outlandish to work.

The following few pages are attempts to interpret chapter 12 of Revelations.

(Yes, darn it, I’m going to call it “Revelations” because I’ve always called it that and I don’t like changing what I’ve always called something.  That’s why I continued to call my college’s office building “Jubilee” even after they renamed it.  So there.)

Taking out my trusty Orthodox Study Bible, I find how chapter 12 should be interpreted.  Turns out, Tsion gets it right.  Score a point for these books.

On page 309, we read about Buck’s family getting converted to Real True Christians before being murdered.  A pastor tells Buck that Buck’s brother was the:

“instigator.  He confronted your father about his stubborn insistence that he was a believer and always had been.  Your brother visited our house church by himself the first two or three times, and to hear your father tell it, he finally came just to avoid being alone.  Mr. Williams, it took a long time for your father to get the picture….

I just want you to know, sir, that your dad and your brother became true believers, and I’m sure they’re with God right now.”

On page 108 of “Left Behind,” we read that Buck’s family attended church regularly all their lives.  Their pastor was also left behind after the Rapture, and told them that if it had been the Rapture, he and the family would all be gone, and not just the children.  We also read that “the lack of any connection between his family’s church attendance and their daily lives” made him stop going to church when he came of age.

I can understand how not seeing Christianity lived out at home can make you doubt the strength of your parents’ faith and convictions– Christians who don’t follow Jesus’ principles have always been easy to find.

But how is it stubbornness to say that you’ve always been a believer?  Maybe Buck’s father didn’t always follow the faith’s dictates, but he was still a believer because he believed in Christianity.  Wouldn’t it be more correct to say that his actions got him left behind, and not his beliefs?

Note that the guy’s pastor didn’t get Raptured, either, and that now Buck is being told that his father is now a “true” believer.

Hmm….I strongly suspect from this that Buck’s father was in the “wrong” church before.  You can’t just believe you’re a Christian, you have to be in the “right” church, in this case a house church formed after the Rapture.

It’s also not clear how exactly Buck’s family didn’t demonstrate Christianity at home.  Was it a lack of charity toward others, a general air of meanness and selfishness, or was it an acceptance of sex and alcohol and cussing and dirty movies?

This is far more important to understanding why his family got left behind, than whether they went to the right church or believed the right things.

On page 322 Chloe says,

“Surely Tsion will think to bring the computers and necessities.”

Rayford nodded.

“I’d better call him one more time,” Chloe said.  “He may not think to bring the notebooks with the co-op stuff.”

“You don’t have that on your computer?” Leah said.

Chloe gave her a look.  “I always keep hard-copy back-ups.”  [hard copy=printouts, paper]

“But you’ve got it on disks too, right?”

Chloe sighed and ignored her.

What?  What is this sigh?  What’s with this look?  Why is she treating Leah like an idiot for such simple, reasonable questions?  How rude!  Just answer the woman’s questions!

Aren’t Christians supposed to treat each other with love and patience?  All through these books, I keep finding these examples of Christians treating others like annoyances.  They do it to each other, they do it to Hattie, to Bo, to their co-workers….

Rayford leads Hattie on for quite some time then tosses her aside like scum, like it’s somehow her fault for thinking they had something going on.  Then every chance he gets, he pretends to love her (in a sisterly fashion, of course), but secretly thinks how dumb she is.  Buck does the same.  And Rayford tries to sabotage things any time another Christian man starts falling for her.

But there is no scolding from the author or from one of the other characters, just a feeling that the authors think he’s being a decent, Christian man….Sometimes the characters have pangs of conscience, but more often it just passes by without any guilt or scolding.

Then in real life, in the church, we have people using each other and treating each other like dirt, bullying each other, cussing at each other, calling other people names for disagreeing with them on politics or religion or personal issues, jumping to conclusions, without apologizing for their outbursts, without trying to resolve things peaceably, without trying to understand each other.

Having an organ in the church becomes more important than whether or not the congregation is learning how to love Christ and fellow man.

They talk as if it is their right to respond violently–whether verbally or physically–to a perceived slight, even though the writings of the Apostles and the Church Fathers tell us this perception of entitlement to anger and violence comes straight from Hell.  Then these people go to the Communion chalice as if they’ve done nothing wrong.

How can we expect the world to bang down our door when we act like this?  If Christians are just as bad, if not worse, than the “heathens,” then we have nothing concrete to show that our invisible, supernatural beliefs are truth.

Early Church congregations added members through their acts of charity and love, not through having the best, most persuasive speeches, or the most awesome worship music, or the flashiest tracts.

Contemporary accounts I’ve read of the time speak of a Church that was quite different from the surrounding culture, not because of dress or food or music but because they were taking care of each other, rather than following their own selfish interests.

Before you go to Communion, examine yourself: Have you at least tried to make up with the person you hurt?  Have you tried to soothe the person whose feelings you hurt?  Have you bullied anyone?

Have you realized that yelling and screaming or hitting first, then asking questions later, means you will lose friends or family, without them even wanting to tell you the truth about what you misinterpreted?

Have you so affected someone with your harshness and ill-will and abuse that when they see you in church taking Communion, they have a strong urge to run to the bathroom and throw up?

The people in these books remind me so much of real-life Christians who talk about love but don’t show it. It’s enough to lead one to cynicism about religion.  And to make one realize that we can’t judge someone for leaving Christianity if they’ve been driven out by what they’ve seen and heard from fellow Christians. We may not understand them, but God surely does.

On page 343, we find the speech of the potentate of the United Indian States at Carpathia’s funeral.  He says,

[W]hile we once believed that a good man comes back at a higher level, and thus that a bright star like Nicolae Carpathia would be guaranteed the role of a Brahman, he himself taught us–with his brilliant vision for a one-world faith–that even such traditional religious views have lost their currency…when you are dead, you are dead, and there is nothing more….

So Nicolae was preaching this?  On page 345, Fortunato says that any person or religion who believes in a “single avenue to God” or “heaven or bliss in the afterlife is the greatest danger to the global community.”  And all the different religions of the world just abandoned their beliefs about the afterlife because some dude was saying we should all be one religion?  What’s the point of a religion if you don’t believe in an afterlife, anyway?

Most people would reject this, not just accept it because Nicolae said so.  There would be riots all over the world, Nicolae burned in effigy, and the like, if he tried to do this in real life.

But, as the Slacktivist blogger would say, there’s a prophecy checklist that must be adhered to, so all the religious people in the world just toss aside their convictions and dogmas and believe whatever Nicolae says to believe.  Persecution of the Christians and Orthodox Jews must now begin in earnest, after all.

Ironically, Fortunato is right when he says,

[T]here are many ways to ensure eternal bliss, if anything is eternal.  It is not by walling yourself and your comrades off in a corner claiming you have the inside track to God.  It is by being a good and kind human being and helping others.

On page 347 through 351, Fortunato explains to the funeral attendees that–even though it’s just been explained that nobody lives after death–Nicolae is “there in spirit,” they are to worship his image (the statue), and that he “accepts your praise and worship.”

Then he makes clear that everyone is expected to worship Nicolae as the centerpiece of their global religion, that as global citizens they must subordinate themselves to the ones in authority over them.  Smoke and a voice come from the statue, ordering everyone to worship it.  And Fortunato says that anyone who does not worship it, will die.

So somehow, Nicolae has become a god and everyone is required to worship him.  I’m not quite sure how he ended up deified, since the days of emperors or kings or pharaohs who are either put in place by a god, or are a god, are long over–and since in modern politics, even Obama can lose his luster.  I find it hard to believe that all modern people, except for Jews and Christians, would fall for this so easily.

Fortunato and the statue are both speaking in archaic language that sounds like it came out of older versions of the Bible: not “thees” and “thous,” but things like “Marvel not,” “Fear not,” “Worship your god, your dead yet living king,” and the statue’s “I am the god above all other gods.  There is none like me.  Worship or beware!”

Come on, where are the cynics?  In real life there would be cynics wanting to know how they make the voice come out of the statue, hecklers, comedians cracking jokes about the language.  Except that great beams of fire now incinerate three of the potentates.  Fortunato says their replacements have already been selected and,

The Global Community shall prevail.  We shall reach our goal of utopian living, harmony, love, and tolerance–tolerance of all but those who refuse to worship the image of the man we esteem and glorify today!

Jon Stewart would have a field day with this.  But we are presented with people who apparently are the epitome of sheeple, following their leader right over a cliff, agreeing to worship him and consider him a god just because they’re told to.  Maybe this worked in the days of the Caesars, but modern peoples are far savvier.

And it’s interesting how the only item on that list that’s really “bad” is this strange idea of “tolerance” that applies only to people who worship the Beast.  Harmony, love and tolerance are generally good things.

On page 373, Hattie calls Rayford to warn him to get out of the safe house.  Then she says, “It’s all true, isn’t it, Rayford?”

Rayford says, “Of course it is, and you knew that almost as soon as most of us did.  I didn’t think doubt was why you were holding out.”

Hattie says, “It wasn’t, totally.  But I was still holding out hope that it couldn’t all be just the way Dr. Ben-Judah said.”

Rayford: “What’re you going to do about it, Hattie?  You know how we all feel about it and about you.”

So here we have Rayford scolding Hattie for having a mind of her own and “holding out.”  Yes, she knows how you all feel about her: that she’s stupid and a whore.

And believe me, when someone thinks you’re stupid and a whore, you don’t want to be around them.  You don’t want anything you do or believe to be like anything they do or believe.

But of course, Rayford thinks it’s all about stubbornness, Hattie denying the truth of the End Times.  And the authors think the same thing, so we’re supposed to believe it somehow.

On page 375, Albie has just gotten them through a close call with some GC soldiers at the safehouse while the Trib Force was evacuating.  He has so convincingly impersonated a GC officer that Rayford asks to check his mark (the cross that supernaturally appears on Christians–er, Tribulation saints).

Keep in mind this book came out before 9/11, so it doesn’t have anything to do with Albie being Middle Eastern as it might have done in the post-9/11 paranoia.

(Albie was a black market arms dealer, not a terrorist.  Though I imagine if the book had been written in 2002, he probably would’ve been planning to hijack a plane and ram it into the Sears Tower before getting converted.)

Anyway, Rayford asks to check his mark because he’s just been too darn convincing.  Albie says, “In my culture, that is a terrible insult.  Especially after everything we have been through.”

Rayford says, “Your culture never had the mark before.  What’s the insult?”

His reply: “To not be personally trusted.”

I’d agree with that, that not being trusted after going through a lot with and for someone would be an insult.  Still, he underestimates how well he impersonated an officer.  Finally, he lets Rayford look, and sure enough, there is the cross.

Later on he says,

The only thing more offensive than not being trusted by an old friend is your simpering style of leadership.  Rayford, you and those you are responsible for are entering the most dangerous phase of your existence.  Don’t blow it with indecision and poor judgment.

Poor Rayford.  He gets this chewing out because Albie gives him such a hard time about not trusting him that he says Rayford should shoot him if he doesn’t trust him, but Rayford doesn’t want to shoot him, etc. etc.

Satan possesses Carpathia, who finally resurrects, as we’ve been waiting for for this entire 388-page book.  On the last page, at long last, and even though Christians–er, Tribulation saints–have already been running from the GC forces for some time, Carpathia addresses those who call him the Antichrist:

If you insist on continuing with your subversive attacks on my character and on the world harmony I have worked so hard to engender, the word tribulation will not begin to describe what is in store for you.  If the last three and a half years are your idea of tribulation, wait until you endure the Great Tribulation.

(Why am I suddenly reminded of Obama vs. the Republicans?  Weird.)

Woohoo!  Will the books finally pick up the pace now and be full of fun and intriguing action as the Christians run from the GC?

–Or will it follow past books and keep dragging on with logistics like where to put the truck or helicopter or SUV, or who to call when on the phone?

I keep hoping for the former, but expect the latter.  You know a book series is bad when you think longingly on the exciting pace and storyline and depth of characters in the Thief in the Night series.

[1/5/11]

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