by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 0-8423-2924-2, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

A plot summary is here.

The farther I got in this book, the more I began to really dislike the main characters, even ones I sort of liked before, such as Chloe.  (I’ll go into more detail later.)  I also began to see more and more of the true nature of the authors’ theology.

I will start by discussing the nature of the Tribulation punishments.  In Orthodoxy there is no fixed interpretation of Revelations.  It is said that a good interpretation will use a combination of preterist (Revelation is a coded reference to past events under the Caesars),

futurist (all the events are yet to come and will only be fully understood by the last generation),

historicist (the events span from St. John’s time to the Second Coming),

and idealist (purely symbolic) views (T.L. Frazier, A Second Look at the Second Coming, p. 313-4).

Revelations does indeed speak of Tribulation and God’s wrath.  Whether these events happened in the time of the Caesars, will happen at the End of Time or happen over and over again symbolically, we need to have a proper understanding of God’s wrath.  Is God having a temper tantrum and killing indiscriminately?  Is it a response to offense against a righteous God?

The common witness within Orthodox Tradition is that the wrath of God is a theological term which describes not God Himself, but a state of being in which we are opposed to God….

We may place ourselves in such a position that even the love of God seems to us as fire of wrath. –(Fr. Stephen Freeman, “God’s Wrath”)

In his classic work The River of Fire, Alexandre Kalomiros describes this in great detail.

(Please note that Kalomiros does speak vehemently against Western theology as a whole, even though in reality it’s just some branches of Western theology which fall into this thinking.  This is a weakness of the work.  But such theologies do indeed exist in some Protestant branches, particularly the ones stemming from Calvinism.  I encountered them in Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches, and see them at work in the Left Behind books.)

Kalomiros explains that men hate God because God is seen as a menace, a cruel judge and vengeful inquisitor, who will destroy them unless they do exactly as he requires.  Salvation is “from the wrath of God.”

Kalomiros describes the very kind of god that we hear atheists and Neo-Pagans rail against today.  But we are not to see God in this fashion: He is loving, good and merciful, even in His justice.

He is not ruled by passions as men are.  His punishment is in order to correct, or to stop evil and protect the good.  God is Truth and Light; His judgment is, in reality, how we react to His Truth and Light.

The same fire which will purify gold will burn wood.  God loves all and has compassion even on the wicked; His love will follow them into Hell.  But this love will burn them like fire because they reject God.

If I understand Kalomiros correctly, since God is not the cause of evil or death, the Tribulation punishments should be understood not so much as God’s wrathful acts, as God allowing evil to go unchecked in the world and bring its own punishment on itself.

But whether they come directly from God or from the forces of evil being allowed to do as they wish, they’re meant for the wicked, the enemies of God; they are meant to correct, to lead to salvation.

Focusing so much on the End-Times, especially as an evangelistic tool, is wrong because we should focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Revelations is to comfort us, remind us who wins in the end.  The Orthodox Church does not even read from Revelations in worship services because of the danger of misinterpretation.  The book very nearly didn’t make it into the biblical canon.

We are to focus on our own sins and repentance, not on whether or not we’re nearing the Tribulation.  Note that the Church has seen many Tribulations throughout history, when governments massacred Christians; Revelations is meant to see us through such times.

In these Left Behind books, salvation is specifically described again and again as a “transaction.”  You’re not saved unless you’ve done this “transaction.”

Even if a character is sympathetic to the authors’ view of the End Times, even if a character is searching for the truth, even if a character is curious about Christianity or a decent sort who follows the dictates of his own religion, if he dies from one of the Tribulation plagues before doing this “transaction,” he is lost forever.

For example, on page 230, it is assumed that unless Tsion’s driver “joined the family” before his untimely death, he is now in torment.  We can’t judge in God’s place!

What so offends me about the Tribulation plagues in this book is not that they occurred–Revelation does specifically describe them–but that they punish indiscriminately.  Good, bad, saints, sinners, all could die, even though God made sure Israel could be spared in Goshen and Noah’s family could be spared in the Ark while He punished the wicked.

In Revelations, the wicked are punished, not people who aren’t sure about Christianity or haven’t enacted the “transaction,” but people who hate God and love evil, and refuse to repent of this.  People who hate their fellow man so much that it only seems right that they go through earthquakes, plagues, and have mountains fall on them.

On page 268 of A Second Look at the Second Coming, we read,

Hippolytus’ chilling description [in Against the Greeks] of the end of those who reject the grace of Christ is worthy of contemplation.  Observe that Hippolytus says that it is “lovers of iniquity” who shall be condemned, not “doers of iniquity.”

Of course, we have all been guilty of “doing inquity,” and if this were the sole standard for judgment we would all be lost.  But a “lover of iniquity” isn’t just someone who sins.

[It is] someone who is wedded to his wickedness, who experiences no qualms for his iniquity, and is thus devoid of any inclination toward repentance.  The eternal punishment that Hipplolytus describes is for the truly unrepentant.

The theology of Jenkins and LaHaye fits squarely within the “Western theology” that Kalomiros so detests.  And because of the slander it does to God’s name, we also should detest such theology.

I couldn’t help but note, in the ending chapter as the earthquake kills thousands, that Rayford has far more compassion than the deity he believed had caused this earthquake.

Rayford wants to murder Nicolae, the Antichrist, for his lack of compassion on the people dying around him, but note that Rayford’s deity has caused the deaths in the first place.

The Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in 1995,

stressed that John’s seemingly violent prophecy must be read in harmony with the rest of the Bible.  God’s justice on the world must also be balanced with what John says in his Gospel, that ‘God so loved the world’ that He sent His Son to save it (John 3:16).

‘But to us [Orthodox], God is like the sun, emanating life, grace and honor,’ the Patriarch stated.  ‘Those who cut themselves off from that light find themselves in a hell of their own making.’

In a statement issued by Bartholomew’s office in Constantinople, he added, ‘The future seems to be as uncertain and insecure [today] as it did to the people of the Eastern Mediterranean almost two millennia ago as they read God’s message relayed to them by St. John in the Book of Revelation.

‘Its significance has been reinterpreted by successive generations seeking truth and rational confidence in periods of crisis’ (p. 324-5, T.L. Frazier, A Second Look at the Second Coming).

From An Online Orthodox Catechism:

The figure of the Antichrist has consistently attracted the special attention of many people. Paradoxically, some Christians even seem to be more interested in the coming of the Antichrist than in Christ’s final victory over him.

The eschaton is often understood as a realm of fear: an imminent global catastrophe and devastation. The end of the world is not awaited with eagerness, as it was in early Christianity; rather it is feared and shuddered at with horror.

By contrast, New Testament and patristic eschatology is one of hope and assurance: it was Christ-centred rather than Antichrist-centred. When the apostles speak in their epistles of the nearness of Christ’s Second Coming, they do it with great enthusiasm and hopefulness.

They were not very much interested in the chronological nearness of the Second Coming; more importantly, they lived with a constant feeling of Christ’s presence (the Greek word for “coming”, parousia, also means “presence”).

The early Church lived not by fear at the coming of the Antichrist, but by the joyous expectation of the encounter with Christ when the history of the world would end.

The eschatological “last times” begin at the very moment of the Incarnation of the Son of God and will continue right up until His Second Coming. The “mystery of lawlessness”, of which St Paul speaks, is already “at work” (2 Thess.2:7); it will be more and more clearly revealed in history.

Together with the uncovering of evil, however, there will also be the activity of humanity’s inner preparation to encounter its Saviour. The battle between Christ and the Antichrist will end with the former’s glorious victory.

The sight of Christians is directed to this victory, not to the time of turmoil that will precede it, a time which has, in fact, already begun and may continue for a long time to come.

The end of the world will mean the liberation of humanity from evil, sufferings and death, and its transformation and movement to another mode of existence, whose nature is not yet known to us.

Of this glorious outcome of human history, St Paul speaks as follows: “Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

“For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, than shall come to pass the saying written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor.15:51-54).

Also from this catechism:

Most assuredly, God is not a party to evil, yet evil is somehow under His control: it is God Who sets the boundaries in which evil can operate.

As the opening of the book of Job shows, there is a certain direct and personal relationship between God and the devil (cf. Job 1-2); the nature of this relationship is, however, unknown to us.

According to the mysterious ways of His Providence, and for purposes of edification, God allows evil to act as a means of setting people aright.

This is evident from those parts of Scripture where God is recorded as visiting evil upon people: thus God hardened the heart of Pharaoh (Ex.4:21; 7:3; 14:4); God visited Saul with an evil spirit (1 Sam.16:14; 19:9); God gave the people “statutes that were not good” (Ezek.20:25); God gave the people up to “impurity”, “dishonourable passions” and a “base mind” (Rom.1:24-32).

In all of these instances it is not God Who is the source of evil: in possessing utter power over both good and evil, God can allow evil to operate in order to transform it into a source of virtue and to direct it towards good consequences. He can also use it to deliver people from a yet greater evil.

This is further support to the idea that God Himself is not performing these acts of judgment.  But the Left Behind books come from a belief in a deity who will perform these judgments himself for his own glory (see Cat and Dog Theology and God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine).

From page 6 of A Lutheran Response to the Left Behind Series, put out by the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod):

[T]he novels tend to emphasize God’s power, sovereignty, wrath and judgment far more prominently than they do God’s mercy and grace, patience and forgiveness for sinners offered through Jesus Christ.

Another point made is that these books seem to view the Old Testament and its prophecies as if they are to be read apart from Christ and the New Testament.  I also noted that the books are starting to take on elements of a holy war, as if Christ’s call to love one’s enemies and not murder them has been set aside.

From page 44 of the LCMS paper The End Times:

Nevertheless, dispensationalist teaching contradicts the Scriptures at many critical points and therefore seriously endangers the pure teaching of the Gospel. . . .

Dispensational premillenialism tends to regard the glory of God as the center of theology, rather than the mercy of God revealed, and yet hidden, in the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world.

The visible manifestations of God’s power at the end of history and obedience to the will of God become the primary foci, instead of the grace of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:2)–which by faith the Christian regards and accepts as the place of God’s definitive triumph over sin and every evil (in Lutheran theology, the ‘theology of the cross’ as opposed to a ‘theology of glory’).

In earlier parts of these books, we find Buck carrying on a war with Verna Zee, obviously hating her, snarking at and cutting her down at every possible point, yet claiming to love her.  But in Note 6 of River of Fire, we read that we are not to hate the sinner “for we are all laden with guilt.”

When converted Bible scholar Tsion Ben-Judah finds his life threatened because he told the world Jesus is the Messiah, he is protected by Michael, one of the Witnesses, the 144,000 Jewish converts to Christianity.  Michael has no problem blowing away anyone who might kill Tsion.

While Buck is uneasy with this, still note that Michael is allowed to do this unchecked until the Global Community (Nicolae’s) forces finally find him.

If Christ never lifted His hands to defend Himself, and didn’t allow His disciples to defend His life, why then is one of the 144,000 “Witnesses to Christ” allowed to do it?

When we read the lives of the saints martyred in the days of the Caesars, they might hide from but not murder their oppressors.  They knew that if they died, they would rejoice in God’s presence for all eternity.

Now for the little details in the book:

Final tally for number of times “Buck was struck” appeared in this book: three, on pages 104, 203 and 289.  Four if you count “he was struck”; unfortunately, I didn’t record the page on which that occurred.

By page 213, I was sick of all the little platitudes the book’s Christians kept using to cheer each other up and on.  For example, on that page alone, we see “The Lord will make a way somehow” and “Yahweh is the God of the impossible.”

Even Tsion Ben-Judah is full of platitudes while grieving over the deaths of his family: “I know my Redeemer lives” and “I know that He who has begun a good work in me will be faithful to complete it” on page 204, and “The joy of the Lord is my strength” on page 206.

If my husband and child had just been beheaded, spouting out platitudes would be the last thing on my mind.

Then the little group of Tsion, Buck, the homicidal Michael and a few of his homicidal Witness friends have an impromptu prayer circle which seems far more like a Charismatic prayer meeting, with Buck falling prostrate on the ground.

On page 216, they all become prophets, with the Spirit of God “impressing” on them what they are to do next.  These are dangerous elements of Pentecostal teaching which have misled many into thinking that we can all be prophets.  Such impressions are far more likely to come from our own selves or, even more dangerous, from demons playing with us.

The prayer circle is disordered and seems designed to evoke an emotional response, a spiritual high, which is more likely to be psychological than of God.  Father Seraphim Rose has even argued that Satan is at work in such environments.  I don’t know if this response is psychological or Satanic, but it’s far better to use the prayers that have been given to us by the Church, and not try to get this spiritual “high.”

On page 217, we see that Buck–who only two years before had known almost nothing about Christianity–is catching on fast to Christianese, ending the prayer with that Evangelical catchphrase, “amen and amen.”  How many times have I heard those catchphrases–Father God, amen and amen, and countless others….

I once read about such phrases in a Chuck Swindoll book.  He–a member of the Evangelical Free Church–joked about how often Evangelicals use certain phrases in group prayers, “meaningless repetition,” “tired, overworked words and phrases” such as,

For starters, I dare you to pray without using ‘bless’ or ‘lead, guide and direct’ or ‘help so-and-so’ or ‘Thy will’ or ‘each and every’ or any number of those institutionalized, galvanized terms.  I dare you! –(p. 316, Man To Man)

The irony on pages 234 and 235 was not lost on me, since former President Bush was popular among Evangelicals.  On this page, we discover that Nicolae’s Global Community peacekeeping forces “are restricted by no conventions or rules”–meaning a car can be searched without a warrant–and the use of torture to get information is implied.  Ah, so GC uses Bush’s playbook!

On p. 252, and many other places in the book, we see everyone talking more or less the same: Rayford and Buck call Chloe “hon,” Rayford calls Amanda “hon,” etc.  There are many terms of affection out there, different people use different ones, and “hon” just doesn’t seem to fit for Buck and Chloe’s generation.  These books are weakened not just by twisted theology but by poor writing!

I keep feeling like the Christian characters in this book don’t talk or act like normal people.  For example, on p. 277-8, Loretta doesn’t just set out snacks, she expresses “her delight in offering hospitality as her service to the Lord.”

Also, Tsion Ben-Judah waxes philosophical in a long paragraph about the deaths of his family, and then the others pray.  Keep in mind that his pain is still fresh.  In real life, would he be praying “for relief from bitterness and hatred” or giving in to it for a time?  The others put hands on his shoulders and pray; in real life, wouldn’t they hug him?

On pages 306-7, we find more platitudes, prayers, Tsion’s “grieving wisdom,” kneeling at the drop of a hat, and a constant stream of Christianese as if the characters each swallowed a Bible.

These characters do not seem real; it feels like I’m watching one of those poorly-produced and poorly-acted movies that I used to have to watch at church and church camp.  And yet Jerry Jenkins writes books on writing, occasionally gets featured in Writer’s Digest, and owns the Christian Writers Guild!

On page 283-5, we finally read about how Rayford and Amanda “fell in love”:

In summary, when Amanda first speaks to Rayford about Irene, Chloe suspects her of “having designs on Rayford.”  Rayford is put on his guard, but soon realizes that she “was cordial to him, but never inappropriate, and never–in his mind–forward.  Even Chloe eventually had to admit that Amanda did not come off as a flirt to anyone.”

Instead, she becomes a “servant” to the church, spending her days working at her career and her spare time working for the church doing all sorts of things: “cook, clean, drive, teach, greet, serve on boards and committees, whatever was necessary.”  Rayford admires her spirit but doesn’t think of her “that way.”

There is such a huge lack of sexual tension in this story that one wonders how in the world they quickly fell “desperately in love” when they finally decided to spend time together (as friends, mind).

But then, God forbid that a widow flirt with anybody, let alone a widower, or have any thought of a crush until Rayford finally says it’s okay!  What on earth would be “inappropriate” about a widow flirting with or “having designs on” a widower?  And “forward”?  What is this, 1950?

As I said, these characters don’t act like normal people, and all the Christian women magically become paragons of virtue and service–while Hattie is a whore with no “depth.”

In Rayford’s thoughts on page 283, he speaks of a “lifelong relationship and bond” shared with Irene and not with Amanda, even though in book 1 we got the strong impression that he didn’t even like Irene.

Then he feels guilty for already being closer to Amanda than he ever was to Irene.  So is he bonded more to Amanda or to Irene?

And why does he keep referring to Amanda as “handsome” as if she were an old woman, when she’s only in her 40s?  Better grab a cane!

Since Hattie is a whore with no depth, she must be converted.  On page 285 we read that Rayford “felt he should maximize every legitimate opportunity to persuade her.”

Poor Hattie–He’s not your friend, there to listen to you and help you as you try to pull away from Nicolae’s lack of love for you, he just wants to wear you down until you convert (and he’ll use worn-out business terms like “maximize”)!

On page 295, Rayford tells himself that she’s “not a dumb woman,” yet she sure gets portrayed as one in these books!

Rayford tries to talk her out of aborting the Antichrist’s child–which must surely feel to him like Doctor Who trying to decide whether or not to carry out the commands of the Gallifreyan Time Lords to go back in time to the Genesis of the Daleks and destroy all the Daleks while they are still helpless globs of skin in the laboratory.

After all, the Daleks would become ruthless dictator pepperpots spreading out to all worlds, yelling “Exterminate!” while massacring thousands of innocent people and trying to rule the universe.  But they would also cause treaties and peace among enemies who had to stand together to fight the Daleks.

If you had the chance to abort Hitler, would you do it, even though at that time he was just an innocent child?  Or would that make you no better than Hitler?

Hattie, however, says,

Sometimes you have to look out for yourself.  When I left my job and ran off to New York to be with Nicolae, I thought I was finally doing something for Hattie.  Now I don’t like what I did for Hattie, so I need to do something else for Hattie.  Understand?

Well, no, because her reasoning reads rather like the “dumb woman” portrayal we’ve been seeing all through these first three novels.

Rayford “understood all too well.  He had to remind himself that she was not a believer.  She would not be thinking about the good of anyone but herself.  Why should she?”

Because, after all, she’s not a believer, so of course she’s only thinking about herself!  Duh!  Of course she wants an abortion!  [Insert eye roll and head shake here.]

Rayford goes on to try to persuade her on pages 296-7.  Did I just find a tract about the abortion issue?  Because this sounds like rhetoric, not like compassionately dealing with a real person struggling with an unwanted pregnancy.

He talks a lot, uses logic, but listens very little, and makes no offer to help raise the child.  He basically lectures her like a naughty little girl, for living with a man and getting herself knocked up.

It’s no wonder he does not persuade her.  It’s no wonder she clams up and just wants to get away from him.  On p. 384, we discover that even Buck is unwilling to raise the child of the Antichrist.

On page 292, Buck sits down with the late pastor Bruce’s countless pages of notes about the End-Times.  There are so many pages that Loretta spent hours printing them from Bruce’s computer files after his death.

Buck “drank in Bruce’s Bible studies and commentary, finding his sermon notes for that very Sunday.”  We are told that these Bible commentaries “read like a novel”–unlike this novel, which reads like a Bible commentary.

On page 304, Rayford wants to take over leadership of the little “band of freedom fighters” because he is the “senior member.”  Amanda shyly raises her hand and says she is “the senior member, if you’re talking age.”  Rayford means he’s been a believer a week longer than anyone else.

But that’s beside the point–Not only is a woman calling herself “old,” but the authors have already called her “handsome.”  Why do the authors keep trying to make Amanda seem like a wrinkled elderly grandmother when she hasn’t even reached 50 yet?

Hattie, of course, gets to be “drop-dead gorgeous” even though we have no clue about her actual looks (until we see the movie and discover that she looks like Chelsea Noble).  What is this bias against middle-aged women?

This reminds me of one of the tips from Jenkins’ book Writing for the Soul, as (amazingly) excerpted in Writer’s Digest Magazine in August 2006:

I eschew too much description.  I loved it when great potboiler writer John D. MacDonald described a character simply as ‘knuckly.’  A purist might have demanded hair length and color; eye size, shape and color; height; weight; build; gait.

Not me.  ‘Knuckly’ gave me all I needed to picture the man.  And if I saw him thinner, taller, older than you did, so much the better.  MacDonald offered a suggestion that allowed his readers to populate their own scenes.”

Jenkins goes on to tell how an editor wanted him to go into more descriptive detail about an “oily geek” character in one of his Left Behind novels.  Apparently this was not an important character, and Jenkins argued that the editor visualized a guy

in his 20s, plump, pale, with longish, greasy hair and thick glasses.  What could I say?  ‘Eureka!  You just proved my point!  All I wrote was that he was an oily geek, and look what you brought to the table.’

Every reader has his own personal vision of a computer techie, so why not let each mental creation have its 15 seconds of fame on the theater screen of the mind?

Trouble is, not only is this “oily geek” a stereotype, but he was not an important character, one reason why Jenkins argued to his editor that he did not need more description.

So why do the important characters get the same treatment as the unimportant oily geek?  In the Left Behind books, we get such descriptions as “drop-dead gorgeous” (Hattie) and “young Robert Redford” (Nicolae).

Not only are the descriptions minimal, but they’re clichéd.  When I first started reading Left Behind, I went on to get photos of each character from the movie, because I had no idea what anybody looked like.

Jenkins thinks the reader should bring his own “personal visions” to each character.  I think that’s just lazy writing.  It’s not necessary to describe every single detail about a person, which could get tedious for both the writer and the reader.

But well-chosen and distinctive features not only make a character more vivid, they can be connected to personality traits or explain what a character has to go through each morning just to get ready for the day.

For example, Claire in the Outlander series (by Diana Gabaldon) has a mop of curly hair.  In her own time, she can use creams to keep it under control.  But when she travels to the 18th century, she must constantly deal with hair that has a mind of its own.

It frizzes, and first thing in the morning, it can be quite a mess.  Add a mob cap and you have quite the amusing picture.  But her 18th-century husband loves it.  Also remember the furor when Felicity Porter chopped off her curly hair.

How Jenkins made it into Writer’s Digest or Writer’s Digest Books, I don’t know, especially when I find so many reader reviews on the Web describing these novels (and other Jenkins novels) as “terrible writing,” “bad writing,” etc.  He claims to keep out unnecessary details, for example, yet gluts his books with unneeded phone conversations and logistical meetings.

On p. 310, we read that Bruce’s body “was merely the earthly house of his dear friend.  Bruce was gone.  The likeness that lay here was just a reflection of the man he once was.”

But what about the Resurrection?  Even as a Protestant, I knew our bodies are destined to be raised again, whole and incorrupt, transformed and everlasting, whether we are good or evil.  But this book seems to assume that Bruce’s body was meant only to decompose and turn to dust and only his spirit would still exist.

Buck and his co-worker Verna Zee have had a rocky relationship–or, more properly, a war between them.  Even though Buck is our star, his guilt in this is obvious.

But it seems we are supposed to see Verna as the aggressor, and Buck’s snark as holy snark.  For a time in this book, we think they will lay down their verbal weapons and be at peace, but Verna is blamed for breaking that peace, and the war starts up again.

(For example, on page 343 Verna says, “If that wasn’t [Tsion Ben-Judah at the New Hope church service], I’m no journalist.”  Buck says, “No comment.”)

On page 348, we finally discover why she is so unpleasant: She’s a lesbian!  Buck, of course, uses this information as potential blackmail, so that she won’t tell Nicolae Carpathia that Buck is a Christian.

But it’s not explained why Verna would even worry about being “outed” to her employer in the Age of Aquarius, when New Age religions and liberalism are the order of the day, and conservative Christian beliefs are considered outmoded, even dangerous.

On page 350, we discover that neither Buck nor Chloe knew Verna was a lesbian; it just sneaked out of Buck’s mouth while Buck was arguing with her.  So they decide it was a revelation from God.

So you can show an unchristian lack of love for your fellow humans and humiliate them and use their sexual orientation against them?

Not to mention the way Chloe spent the last several pages ridiculing Verna for putting two and two together and getting the right answer about Buck’s verboten faith and the presence of the fugitive Tsion Ben-Judah at Bruce’s funeral.

Also, Loretta the church secretary is rude to her on the phone, saying Tsion is Loretta’s “secret lover” whom she keeps “under the bed.”  This after Verna has only just stayed at Loretta’s house.

On Verna’s side, we see treachery because she is a lesbian and not a believer.  But the believers act no better toward her.  Is it any wonder that Verna does not want to become a believer herself?

On page 359, we see that the former Pope and Christian clergy who have since apostasized and become part of the One World Faith, all believe that Revelations is meant to be taken symbolically, figuratively and metaphorically.

Meanwhile, “fellow believers,” which would be “tribulation-saint pastors and a few converted Jews,” believe in the “literal and imminent” “wrath of the Lamb.”  Because, after all, a metaphorical view of Revelations is Evil (TM).

On pages 326-8 and 358-9, we find so much attention given to the “wrath of the Lamb” that God’s love and the gospel of Christ seem to have been forgotten.

On page 328, Buck even muses that “wrath of the Lamb” is a great catchphrase for the “current world citizen” to grab onto!  These must be fans of Jonathan Edwards (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“).

What fun as Buck interviews the former Pope, the Pontifex Maximus Peter Mathews, who regurgitates every liberal doctrine you can think of.  Can we really, truly believe that a man chosen to be Pope would so easily leave the most basic tenets of Catholic doctrine?

While the Catholic Church does not hold the same literalist views as the authors, and while there are liberals in the church, the church itself is not at all liberal and Peter Mathews could most likely never become Pope.  (Update 1/25/15: Not even Pope Francis is all that liberal.)

On pages 377-8, Hattie, who has–on Rayford’s suggestion–gone to see Chloe, Buck and Loretta, is subjected to their love bombing.

Chloe puts her hands on Hattie’s shoulders and “feels led” to say that she knows why Hattie is there and how her family reacted to her pregnancy.  She then says that while this little group has definite ideas about what Hattie should know, do and agree with, and while her decisions are “life-and-death, heaven-and-hell decisions,” they will love her no matter what.

Chloe’s language is so stilted that it doesn’t sound at all real; she sounds as if she swallowed a Bible; she talks a lot and listens little; Hattie barely says a word; and she might as well be saying, “If you make the wrong decision you’ll be a murderer who will BURN IN HELL!–but we’ll love you anyway because it’s your decision.”

(But of course, we see on page 384 that Buck doesn’t want to take the baby himself.  He’ll let Hattie raise the child of the Antichrist.)

I’m amazed that Hattie doesn’t run out of there screaming.  This whole scene seems so–fake, somehow.

I am a Christian who believes abortion is wrong, and yet even I feel like cultists are trying to pull Hattie into their little web.  They have their own special language, speak so much and so persuasively that their target cannot protest, and love-bomb potential converts.

Another way of looking at it: Rayford is Dracula; Hattie is Jonathan Harker; Chloe, Buck and Loretta are Dracula’s three brides, surrounding Harker and touching him as they try to lure him into their grasp.

As quoted in the above URL, Margaret Singer writes in Cults in Our Midst: 

As soon as any interest is shown by the recruits, they may be love bombed by the recruiter or other cult members.

This process of feigning friendship and interest in the recruit was originally associated with one of the early youth cults, but soon it was taken up by a number of groups as part of their program for luring people in.

Love bombing is a coordinated effort, usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term members’ flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots of attention to their every remark.

Love bombing–or the offer of instant companionship–is a deceptive ploy accounting for many successful recruitment drives.

The Watchtower Whistleblower writes:

Love-bombing is highly conditional.  The cults will love you to death while you represent a prospective convert to their group. As a member a tight family love will surround you as you faithfully promote their cause.

However, when it is clear that a prospect will not join the group or a member voices doubts, create waves, or leaves the group, all love ceases.  Indeed scorn is immediately heaped on these individuals and remaining members are told not to have any contact with them.

All time, effort and love-bombing is then directed towards new prospects and the faithful members.

It remains to be seen how Hattie will be treated in later books.

In the last book, Nicolae announced to Rayford and Amanda that he was engaged to Hattie and she was going to bear his child.  On pages 390-1 of this book, we find Nicolae is a Beast in more ways than one:

He tells Rayford that Hattie has “always overestimated the seriousness of our personal relationship,” she should have known he had no room in his life for marriage and children, he hopes she will “terminate the pregnancy,” he has “needs,” he does not want commitment, he never committed to Hattie, he already found somebody else, she can keep the ring, etc. etc.

Oh, yeah, and he wants Rayford to give her the bad news because he doesn’t have time to do it himself.

Every female reader is now seething at the Beast.  Many women, including me, have been in Hattie’s position in one way or another, with the man who makes you think you’re the love of his life, then wants out and accuses you of getting too serious, effectively trying to change history as if you have no memory of your own.

And Nicolae won’t even do the dirty work in person.  Poor Hattie is getting dumped on by everybody in these books!

On page 403, as the earthquake demolishes buildings and lives all over the world, as Rayford and the Antichrist take a helicopter to get away from the destruction, we find a good scene reminiscent of 9/11.

Especially since 9/11 hadn’t yet happened when the book was written, I am impressed by the scene, and the evil of the Antichrist as he refuses to help any of the people who are desperate to get onto the helicopter before their building crumbles to dust.

That, of course, quickly changes to Buck’s reckless driving, “speeding through lights and stop signs, jumping curbs, and going around cars and trucks” because he knows the earthquake is coming.

As he drives with no thought for anyone’s safety but his own, he reaches for his car phone.  Unbelievable!  Buck must have a death wish–or a death wish for the other drivers.

On page 407, we read, “And Hattie!  Was it possible she might have received Christ before this?  Could there have been somebody in Boston or on the plane who would have helped her make the transaction?”  As if it were impossible for God to have mercy on whom He will have mercy!

And all this devastation!  We read of so much death, destruction, mayhem, blood, gaping wounds–on anyone who gets in the way of the earthquake, no matter who they are, good, evil, Christian, non-Christian.  Even Loretta dies.  The only difference is that Christians get to go to Heaven afterwards while the non-Christians go to Hell.

These are not all evil people, just people who for whatever reason are not Christians, who haven’t done this legalistic “transaction” as if salvation were a car or a piece of merchandise sitting on a shelf.  Give the clerk your money, sign the contract, and you are now the owner of a brand-new salvation.

We see here a deity destroying good and bad together for the sake of destruction, vengeance and his own glory.  Rayford seems to have more compassion in these past several pages than this deity!  How on earth is this series bringing in converts–through fear?????

The deeper I get into these books, the less I like the characters.  They’re really starting to creep me out.  I wonder what fun awaits in Book Four…..

[February 26, 2009]