by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 0842361936, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:
A plot summary is here.
Now we get into the prequels of the Left Behind series. I’m getting rather tired of the series, having been reading/reviewing them since 2008–but the first prequel actually held my interest. Well, mostly; some parts dragged.
But the story of the Antichrist’s parents, and how his mother (Marilena) was first accepted by Satan’s minion (Viv Ivins) and then rejected in a horrible fashion, is fascinating. It’s a psychological thriller. Why couldn’t all the books have been like this one?
There are two stories going at once: Alongside the story of Nicolae’s birth and path to adulthood, is the story of Rayford Steele’s childhood, adolescence and college years. While Marilena’s story gets more and more intriguing, Rayford’s story is the less-interesting bit which you want to wave aside to get to the good part.
But then Marilena’s story ends, and Rayford–a college kid–gets caught up in a bad relationship while confiding in Irene (his future wife). Then it finally gets interesting, with a love triangle.
I do have a few quibbles:
On page 33, 9-year-old Rayford has dinner at a friend’s house. His friend’s father asks him to say grace. Ray says the prayer every child says: “God is great; God is good. Now we thank Him for our food. Amen.”
Perfectly normal, right? But the other kids all laugh at it.
Even their father finds something wrong with this prayer, saying,
Is that how your father prays over a meal? I mean, I’m just curious. It’s a child’s prayer. Uh, you’re a child, but you’re becoming a man.
YES! He’s a frickin’ 9-year-old CHILD! My thoughts echo Ray’s: “What in the world was it with these people?”
Ray asks if they want him to pray like his father; they do; so he says, “For what we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful. Amen.”
But even that common prayer does not satisfy them: “Ray got the impression that Bobby and his parents were again amused but had decided not to humiliate him further.”
Ray certainly does not want to recite his bedtime prayer in front of them, the classic “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
I’m not entirely sure if we’re supposed to sympathize with Rayford about this wacky, rude family who picks his common, classic prayers apart (showing why he rejected fundamentalist Christianity), or with the wacky family dealing with such a “badly-trained” child.
But it’s clear that the wacky family considers Ray to be “badly-trained” and spiritually lacking because he prays these same prayers which *I* prayed every single frickin’ day until my adulthood, in a fundamentalist Christian family which made sure I was trained properly.
Prayers which I have taught my son and which he still prays at 9 years old.
I don’t do the “truly thankful” prayer, but I’ve heard it often, and I can’t fathom why this family has a problem with it–or what on earth kind of prayers would satisfy them. We never do hear the family’s version of a “proper” prayer.
But this dinnertime humiliation is not enough: The boy of the family, Bobby, badgers Ray about his prayers later on, too, saying, “That’s how you pray at your house, eh?…And it’s those made-up, rhyming prayers?” Yes, and that’s probably how the kids pray at most other Christian houses, too!
Then Bobby starts getting after Ray, saying that if he doesn’t do the Sinner’s Prayer he’s not actually a Christian–the usual thing which is used to beat Catholics/Lutherans/Episcopalians over the head with how they’re not really Christians, even though they’ve been raised in the church, baptized, confirmed, and truly believe in Christ.
On page 47, we go the other way. Ray tells his parents what happened, and his dad jumps right to,
Holy Rollers. Wouldn’t surprise me if they were snake handlers….Some people, some churches, just take everything a little too far.
They take every word of the Bible literally, believe Jesus has to crawl inside you, that you have to bathe in His blood. If the Bible says you can handle poisonous snakes if you trust the Lord, they do it just to prove the point.
Okay….So now we jump from wacky family who ridicules a child for saying a child’s prayer, to knee-jerk dad who thinks every fundamentalist is a snake-handler. It’s no wonder Ray turned away from religion, only going back to church for the sake of his own children.
I hope this is the point the authors are trying to make, that we are supposed to see the wacky family as overzealous. That we aren’t supposed to think they were right to be overzealous and ridicule a 9-year-old’s prayers.
On page 339, when Irene and Rayford are engaged, he wants sex but she doesn’t before their wedding, even though it’s a while yet until they plan to marry.
She’s not a virgin, but she’s also not a Christian, so it’s not clear why she wants to wait so long–except, of course, to make them act like Christians without actually being Christians, the same as with Buck, the 30-year-old man-of-the-world who was also a virgin before becoming a Christian.
Her only explanation is that she wants to wait. Keep in mind this is set in our future, not in the 1950s, so the sexual revolution and acceptance of premarital sex would have long since happened. For Irene to be so steadfast for so long without a well-defined moral reason, especially when she’s had sex before, is not realistic or believable. After all, once you’ve had it, you begin to crave it if you don’t have it again for a while.
So when she continues to resist–and won’t even go beyond the occasional hug or peck on the cheek–heck, she won’t even hold his hand!–you have to wonder if she’s not actually attracted to him. Is she secretly gay? No, in the future, it’ll be okay to be gay. Maybe she’s just as much a gold-digger as Ray’s ex-girlfriend, then. It seems like the author wants Irene to be a Christian before she even becomes a Christian!
On page 342, we discover that Rayford’s parents “Having married late and waiting to have Rayford, his parents were already pushing seventy”–Considering that Rayford and Irene married in the spring of Rayford’s senior year of college, and the ages of the parents were “pushing seventy” within a year of the wedding, they had Rayford when they were both around fifty–HOW? The authors are aware of the normal age of menopause, right?
On to the next book! Just three left!