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Musings on Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl–Part 3

Previous parts

Before Ellen leaves, Linda is able to see her and say good-bye.  But after this, she hears nothing for months; even Mr. Sands in Washington won’t respond to her letters asking what has become of Ellen.

A little girl in the family finally writes that Ellen is safely arrived, is welcome and eventually will go to school–but also that she’s to be the eldest daughter’s waiting maid.

Linda doesn’t know what to make of this.  Is this a temporary arrangement, or is she a slave again?  Is it possible to trust Mr. Sands, or has slavery perverted him, too?

In chapter 28, we read that slaves could not legally be married.  They would get the consent of their masters and be married by clergy, but it was not legally recognized and their masters could annul it at any time.

And if a master wanted a slave to sleep somewhere other than beside her husband, to perform her usual duties, he could require it.

Linda’s aunt was required to sleep on the floor near Mrs. Flint’s bedroom, and slept there through her own six pregnancies, summer and winter.  She was on-call to bring Mrs. Flint anything she needed during her own pregnancies, and tend to her babies at night.

This hard bed and lack of rest, after working all day long as housekeeper and waiting-maid, led to the premature loss of every one of her own six babies.

When Dr. Flint finally realized what this was doing to her, and that such a valuable slave could die, they let her sleep in her own room in an outhouse except when someone in the family was sick.  She had two more babies, but still, none lived.

Now, Aunt Nancy dies while Linda is in the hiding place.  The Flints are actually affected by her loss; Mrs. Flint even takes to her bed in grief.

But then Dr. Flint tries to use this grief to get Aunt Nancy’s mother, Linda’s grandmother, to get Linda to come home and take Aunt Nancy’s place.  But her grandmother replied,

“It was not I that drove Linda away.  My grandchildren are gone; and of my nine children only one is left.  God help me!”

After breaking her slave down with years of “cruel selfishness,” “incessant, unrequited toil, and broken rest,” Mrs. Flint now wants to make “a beautiful illustration of the attachment existing between slaveholder and slave”: She wants Aunt Nancy to be buried at the feet of her own spot in the Flint family burial-place.

Linda writes that “It had never occurred to Mrs. Flint that slaves could have any feelings.”  The clergyman suggests she consult Nancy’s mother first, and the mother wants her in the slaves’ graveyard with her own family.

After a “mighty grand funeral,” Nancy is buried, and Linda notes,

Northern travelers, passing through the place, might have described this tribute of respect to the humble dead as a beautiful feature in the ‘patriarchal institution’; a touching proof of the attachment between slaveholders and servants; and tenderhearted Mrs. Flint would have confirmed this impression, with handkerchief at her eyes.

We could have told them a different story.  We could have given them a chapter of wrongs and sufferings, that would have touched their hearts, if they had any hearts to feel for the colored people.

Chapter 29: Linda stayed in that hole for almost SEVEN YEARS: August 1835-June 1842.  Imagine having been in a cramped hole since 2003, getting wet during storms, only occasionally getting to come out and stretch your legs.  And the effects of being in there for so long, continued in her body ever afterwards.

Now, a chance arises finally for her and another escaped slave to flee in a ship.  Linda’s grandmother doesn’t want her to go–fearing the chance of seizure more than what being in the hole is doing to Linda–but then someone gets careless and Linda is at risk of being ratted out.  So even her grandmother tells her to leave.

In time it’s discovered that the suspected betrayer did not actually see Linda.  But for now, they have to assume she did, and Linda flees.

Chapter 30: And she’s out and off!  Off she goes with her friend Fanny on a ship headed to Philadelphia.

Chapter 31: She’s in Philadelphia.  Exercise and rubbing her limbs with salt water have nearly restored their use.  She’s taken in by a black minister and his wife, and they also find neighbors to take in Fanny.

She meets with members of anti-slavery societies, and things are going well for her and Fanny–until she goes on a train and discovers that blacks are not allowed in first-class cars for any money.

Chapter 32: Linda finds her daughter Ellen, but discovers that Mr. Sands did not emancipate her as he promised, but actually gave her to his cousin’s eldest daughter.  Ellen is supposed to be her waiting-maid when she grows up, so Ellen has not even been sent to school.

So Linda writes to Dr. Flint and his daughter, asking the price at which he would sell Linda so she can be free.  Only through her own freedom can she protect her children.  But instead he responds that she should go back and submit herself to her rightful owners, “and then any request I might make would be granted.”

Chapter 33: Linda’s health is much better, but her limbs still swell up when she does a lot of walking.  She finds a job as a nurse to a baby, which is supposed to last for a month, but her legs bother her so much (from going up and down stairs all the time) that she can no longer work.

Instead of firing her, Mrs. Bruce makes some changes to save Linda steps, and gets her a doctor.  Mrs. Bruce is kind and helps thaw Linda’s heart, but Mrs. Hobbs is reluctant to give up little Ellen, making Linda suspicious that she might sell Ellen if times get too hard.

So her distrust for white people begins to go away, but not completely.  But Linda’s brother William comes home from the sea, so they are finally reunited.

Chapter 34: It’s amazing when a bully of any type claims to have treated their target very well, basically playing the victim.  I’ve had this happen to me–with the bully claiming to have bent over backwards for me, even though they had been making my life miserable with covert and overt persecution and gaslighting–and here it is happening to Linda:

The girl who owns her has received her letter asking for permission to be sold; the girl’s brother writes back, saying how Linda had never been treated badly or like a slave, but as one of the family, so they thought she was above disgracing herself by running away.

Somehow the family has taken her letter to mean she wants to come “home,” and the brother writes how she will be received with open arms, with no resentment, and made happy, etc.

But Linda recognizes that the young boy could not have written this himself, and the disguised hand of Dr. Flint.  So she does not respond.  As she recounts,

“I did not return the family of Flints any thanks for their cordial invitation–a remissness for which I was, no doubt, charged with base ingratitude.”

I’ve seen the same thing myself, the bully making demands that cannot be met without psychologically destroying the target, then petulantly claiming that their olive branch was thrown back at them.

Her son Benny is sent to her, to her great joy.  Dr. Flint, meanwhile, has come North looking for her, but can’t find her, because she has heard about his visit and gone to Boston for the duration.

In the summertime, as a nurse she needs to take her employer’s baby outside for exercise, but Southerners are everywhere.  She writes,

“Hot weather brings out snakes and slaveholders, and I like one class of the venomous creatures as little as I do the other.  What a comfort it is, to be free to say so!”

Chapter 35: Unfortunately–and showing a detail that Margaret Mitchell got right–the North has segregation and prejudice, despite having no slavery.  Linda encounters it on a steamboat, in a cab, on a train, in various places.

On a train she gets put in a Jim Crow car.  Rather than sitting in a decent seat in a cab, she’d have to sit on top of the trunks in a truck.

As a servant her employer, Mrs. Bruce, could save her from some of these indignities, but she still finds “cruel prejudice, which so discourages the feelings, and represses the energies of the colored people.”

Finally, at a luxury hotel, she follows the other nurses–all white–into a long hall with her charge.  A man, who is in charge of ordering everything, points her to a chair; she sits down, but he says the baby is to sit there, while she stands behind the chair and feeds her.  Then she is to go to the kitchen for supper.

Linda sees the other nurses eyeing her “with a defiant look, as if my presence were a contamination,” even though many of them are only a shade lighter than she is (her parents were mixed race).

She says nothing, but picks up the child, goes to their room, and refuses to go back to the table.  Her defiance is not that of a drama llama, but quiet, polite and dignified–and thereby probably far more forceful than a rant or tirade.

Mr. Bruce has her meals sent to the room, but after a few days, the white waiters complain, “saying they were not hired to wait on negroes.”  The landlord wants Mr. Bruce to send her down to her meals, and “the colored servants of other boarders were dissatisfied because all were not treated alike.”

Linda really shows her mettle in the following:

My answer was that the colored servants ought to be dissatisfied with themselves, for not having too much self-respect to submit to such treatment; that there was no difference in the price of board for colored and white servants, and there was no justification for difference of treatment.

I staid a month after this, and finding I was resolved to stand up for my rights, they concluded to treat me well.  Let every colored man and woman do this, and eventually we shall cease to be trampled under foot by our oppressors.

…And may we all stand up to our own bullies with such quiet dignity.

To be continued….

Musings on Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl–Part 2

Part 1

Young Mr. Flint is about to get married.  Linda writes,

I knew that the young wives of slaveholders often thought their authority and importance would be best established and maintained by cruelty; and what I had heard of young Mrs. Flint gave me no reason to expect that her rule over them would be less severe than that of the master and overseer.

Truly, the colored race are the most cheerful and forgiving people on the face of the earth.  That their masters sleep in safety is owing to their superabundance of heart; and yet they look upon their sufferings with less pity than they would bestow on those of a horse or a dog.

The wife of old Dr. Flint is an example of someone who goes through the motions of piety, but has a hard heart.  Even though Linda was in no way at fault for the attentions of her master, Mrs. Flint has been jealous of her, sometimes going into Linda’s room as she slept, suspecting Linda’s baby belongs to Dr. Flint, and having murderous thoughts toward her.

In fact, to Mrs. Flint, Linda’s pregnancy is proof that Linda has been sleeping with Dr. Flint, and she refuses to believe otherwise–even though the baby’s father is actually Mr. Sands.  She threatens to kill Linda.

We must always check our jealousy, whether it has no basis in fact or we actually find our love in bed with someone else, lest it lead us into violent, sinful thoughts and deeds, and bar us from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, we read that Linda dreads the day’s dinner party.  She is to wait on Dr. Flint and his wife along with the other guests.  Mrs. Flint has not been to the plantation since Linda moved there, and Linda has not seen her face-to-face for five years; she

had no wish to see her now.  She was a praying woman, and, doubtless, considered my present position a special answer to her prayers.  Nothing could please her better than to see me humbled and trampled upon.  I was just where she would have me–in the power of a hard, unprincipled master.

She did not speak to me when she took her seat at table; but her satisfied, triumphant smile, when I handed her plate, was more eloquent than words.

The old doctor was not so quiet in his demonstrations.  He ordered me here and there, and spoke with peculiar emphasis when he said ‘your mistress.’

I was drilled like a disgraced soldier.  When all was over, and the last key turned, I sought my pillow, thankful that God had appointed a season of rest for the weary.

You see how jealousy–and believing it to be justified, even when it’s not–causes ugly self-righteousness.

Mrs. Flint believes she has the proof that Linda has been sleeping with Dr. Flint, and lords it over her with great smugness; since the truth is quite different, she looks like a spiteful, vindictive shrew instead.

When Linda is forced to be servile to her, handing her a plate of food, Mrs. Flint shows that she considers it her due, that Linda deserves all she’s gotten, that Linda has been just terrible to her.

But Mrs. Flint has judged without true knowledge, without even trying to find out the truth.  She is unapologetic for it.  And that is true ugliness.

The wife of young Mr. Flint soon shows her colors.  When the monthly slave rations of meat are handed out, a faithful, very old slave hobbles up to get his;

the mistress said he was too old to have any allowance; that when ni****s were too old to work, they ought to be fed on grass.  Poor old man!  He suffered much before he found rest in the grave.

Yet Scarlett O’Hara said that no one would treat their slaves the way the abolitionists and Northerners had represented…..

Young Mrs. Flint and Linda get along very well for a week.  Then old Mrs. Flint comes over and has a long conference with young Mrs. Flint.  Linda is allowed to leave the plantation “on one condition,” but old Mrs. Flint doesn’t want her to leave it at all.

“If she had trusted me, as I deserved to be trusted by her, she would have had no fears of my accepting that condition.”

Jealousy clouds our eyes and distorts our reason so that even the innocent seem guilty; it leads us to commit sinful offenses against others.

Young and old Mrs. Flint and old Dr. Flint decide to bring Linda’s children to her; Linda sees right through this, and knows the real reason is not to get her family back together, but to break them all in to “abject submission to our lot as slaves.”

A friend of Linda’s family visits the plantation, and innocently mentions to her that the children are coming; Linda writes that this information “nerved me to immediate action.”

In the middle of the night, Linda runs off.  Her children are with her grandmother.  She soon finds refuge in the home of a woman who owns slaves but is kind to them.  Hidden away in a little attic, Linda can see Dr. Flint going to his office each day.

Thus far I had outwitted him, and I triumphed over it.  Who can blame slaves for being cunning?  They are constantly compelled to resort to it.  It is the only weapon of the weak and oppressed against the strength of their tyrants.

However, in revenge, Dr. Flint thrusts her brother William, her aunt and her two children into jail, swearing that her grandmother will never see them again until Linda is returned.  Linda wants to go to them, get them freed, but William sends her a note begging her to stay put.

One day, Linda hears Dr. Flint and the constable in the house, and is terrified when her door opens.  But it’s just her benefactress, telling her that Dr. Flint borrowed $500 to go to New York to find her.  So for the moment, she is safe.

After Dr. Flint has spent quite a bit of money going on a wild goose chase to find Linda, and on jail costs for Linda’s brother and children, he decides to accept the offer of a slave trader–who is actually there on behalf of Mr. Sands, Linda’s lover.  But Dr. Flint doesn’t know that Mr. Sands is involved.  The slave trader then rushes to sell them to Mr. Sands, safely out of Dr. Flint’s hands.

Linda’s friends and relatives help her hide in various places, out of Dr. Flint’s hands, for months.  Nobody else has any idea where she is, and she’s so well hidden that everyone thinks she’s long gone to the Free States.

She acknowledges that many slaves have had even rougher treatment than she did: cruelly overworked, branded, beaten, bruised, whipped, heel-strings cut, chained to a log while working, torn by bloodhounds.

Still, from street conversations she overhears from her hiding place underneath a roof, Dr. Flint is considered even by white people to be a “d**ned brute.”

Dr. Flint goes off to New York again to find Linda, comes back empty-handed, and when her little boy Benny asks if he found his mommy, threatens to cut off his head.

It’s terrible when someone is so used to raging and using his temper to control people that he (or she) will even scream at a child he thinks is somehow offending him.

Months and seasons pass, yet Linda still stays in her tiny hiding place, barely able to move, exposed to much of the weather, because no chance for safe escape has yet come.  She gets very sick, and then her grandmother “broke down under the weight of anxiety and toil.”

Her grandmother is very popular in the neighborhood with the white women because of her baking business; now these women attend on her needs during her illness.  Not to be outdone, old Mrs. Flint goes to see her as well, and makes a big show of being so condescending.

Linda’s son has just been badly bitten by a dog, and his wounds sewn up.  When Mrs. Flint is informed of why Benny is lame, she says,

“I’m glad of it.  I wish he had killed him.  It would be good news to send to his mother. Her day will come.  The dogs will grab her yet.”

Can you imagine such words from someone who claims to be Christian?  and all because she imagined Linda to have designs on her husband, when the truth was she did not?

Linda finally gets some good news: Her grandmother recovers.

Linda’s lover–whom she hasn’t spoken to in a few years–is elected to Congress as the local Whig candidate, despite Dr. Flint’s attempts to turn voters against him.  Linda finds a way to get his attention and plead with him to free her children.  He promises to do so, and to look for a way to buy her as well.

Linda has been living scrunched up in this tiny part of her grandmother’s house for several years now.  She arranges for two letters written by her to be carried up to and mailed from New York, to Dr. Flint and her grandmother.  She claims to be living at a certain address in Boston.  Her grandmother knows about the ruse.

Dr. Flint goes to her grandmother with the letter addressed to her, and reads it to her–only it’s not Linda’s letter.  It’s actually a fake letter he wrote, saying that Linda regrets running away and wants to return.  Dr. Flint wants to send Linda’s uncle to find her, but he doesn’t want to go.

Dr. Flint prefers not to go, either, since the laws in Massachusetts make it a difficult place to retrieve a runaway slave.  He writes to the mayor of Boston, but gets no response.

Meanwhile, after almost 5 years of living cramped in that tiny dark hole between the slanted roof and the inside wall, Linda is in danger of becoming permanently crippled.  So she begins going down to the storeroom for a few hours every morning.

She passes over the years so quickly in her writing, but imagine how long and grueling they must have been for her!  She can only hear her children’s voices, not see them or cuddle them or kiss them goodnight.

In her hiding place, she is so cramped she can barely move, has to stay in bed, and is exposed to heat and cold.  She suffers illness because of this, and now is in danger of losing the use of her limbs permanently.

Yet her friends and family still have found no way for her to safely escape.

Linda’s former lover, Mr. Sands–after she’s been in the hiding place for several years–has now gotten married to somebody else.  I wonder if it broke her heart, but she says nothing about this.

Instead, she wonders if he’ll still keep his promise to free her children, especially now that her brother William, his servant, has gotten his freedom while they traveled up north.

William soon writes to his family that Mr. Sands always treated him kindly, but he always wanted to be free.  Mr. Sands is a bit miffed, though not bitter or resentful, since he planned to set him free in five years anyway.  But William knew plans could change, and wanted to take his chance while he could.

Linda records a longer note for Mr. Sands, including good wishes, God’s blessings for his kindness, begging forgiveness, etc.  William’s own record of the note says, “Sir–I have left you, not to return; when I have got settled, I will give you further satisfaction.  No longer yours, John S. Jacobs [his real name].”  I especially love how he signs it.

Dr. Flint’s family heard about this, of course, and laughed.

Mrs. Flint made her usual manifestations of Christian feeling, by saying, “I’m glad of it.  I hope he’ll never get him again.  I like to see people paid back in their own coin.

“I reckon Linda’s children will have to pay for it.  I should be glad to see them in the speculator’s hands again, for I’m tired of seeing those little ni—rs march about the streets.”

Such a spiteful woman–I hope she plagued Dr. Flint’s heart out.

Mrs. Flint’s spite and vengeance know no bounds: She decides to tell the new Mrs. Sands who is the father of Linda’s children (thereby stirring up trouble and jealousy in the Sands household as well as her own).

She also wants to tell her “what an artful devil I was; that I had made a great deal of trouble in her family; that when Mr. Sands was at the north, she didn’t doubt I had followed him in disguise, and persuaded William to run away.”

It’s a clear case of the bully claiming to be the victim and engaging in a little character assassination.

Mr. Sands beats her to it, however.  He and his wife meet little Benny in the street, he tells her he’s the father of Benny and Ellen and that the mother is dead, and now she wants to see them.

She and her sister want to adopt the children, but Linda is so scarred by slavery that she trusts neither of them; she fears that they would eventually sell the children if they fell on hard times.

Linda sends a message through her grandmother to Mr. Sands that she is not dead and wants them freed; he says they are indeed free, but they’d be better off in the north, because Dr. Flint is saying they still belong to his young daughter, who was not old enough to consent to the sale.

So they send Ellen to live with Mr. Sands’ relatives in Long Island, and go to school, with Benny going to the North with his uncle soon after.  Mrs. Flint, of course, is not happy.

To be continued….

Musings on Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl–Part 1

[Review originally posted for my Facebook friends in late 2010 or 2011.  At last count in February 2015, this page on my website has received nearly 2000 hits.]

Summary here.

Harriet A. Jacobs was a negro slave in the 19th century, using the fake name “Linda” for herself.

Page 40 is making me angry on Harriet’s behalf.  After all the sexual harassment he’s made her put up with, and other psychological abuses as well, her master has refused to allow her to marry the free black man she loves.

She’s upset; he hits her; she cries, “I despise you!”

In response he says,

Do you think any other master would bear what I have borne from you this morning?  Many masters would have killed you on the spot.  How would you like to be sent to jail for your insolence?

And he accuses her of ingratitude for all his supposed “kindness and forbearance.”

Harriet, I’ve never been a slave, but I have been where you are.  I just want to slap that slaveowner.

Some of us have truly done favors out of the kindness of our hearts, only to have those favors spat upon; we have a right to claim ingratitude.  But this guy is the type who wants to make you think you owe him something so he can have control over you.

And appeals to these hypothetical “others,” the Grand Society who would treat you far worse for what you have supposedly done, to make you think you should be grateful for the “mild” way he’s abused you.

He’s “only” yelled and screamed at you.  Or “only” hit you.  Or “only” cussed at and belittled you for your horrible behavior.  This guy is a real piece of work.  😛

And she has no one to go to for help, of course, since she’s his property.

Don’t you dare go and tell anybody how I’ve treated you.  Don’t tell your mother I touched you like this.  Or don’t tell the police I’m slapping you around.  

Or don’t go crying to your friends/husband/ boss/teacher about how I’m beating you down verbally or physically, because I don’t need the headache….

Abusers of any stripe deserve to be brought into the light and their deeds exposed.

Here we have a real-life depiction of slavery, from a real-life slave.  So incredibly different from the fictional Gone With the Wind, written at a time far removed from slavery, from the point of view of slave owners, even though it was based on stories told to Margaret Mitchell by relatives who lived during that time.

So when Mitchell writes that slavery was nowhere near as bad as the abolitionist propaganda, whom are you going to believe?

And here’s the meat of it: The slaveowner, Dr. Flint, says,

I will be lenient towards you, Linda.  I will give you one more chance to redeem your character.  If you behave yourself and do as I require, I will forgive you and treat you as I always have done; but if you disobey me, I will punish you as I would the meanest slave on my plantation.

Then he proceeds to forbid her even mentioning her love’s name again.  And we know what he means by obeying him: Not only must she shut out of her life the one she wanted to marry, but we just know Dr. Flint is going to expect her to become his mistress.

Contradicting Gone With the Wind, this real-life slave writes on p. 49-52,

I could tell of more slaveholders as cruel as those I have described.  They are not exceptions to the general rule.

I do not say there are no humane slaveholders.  Such characters do exist, notwithstanding the hardening influences around them.  But they are ‘like angels’ visits–few and far between.’…

I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks.  It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched.

And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.

On pages 58 to 62, after she has become pregnant from Mr. Sands, a white friend of her family–hoping to so enrage Dr. Flint that he will sell her to her lover–Linda once again stands in front of her master after an estrangement.

He says that though she has been criminal towards him, he can pardon her if she obeys him.  She says, “I have sinned against God and myself, but not against you.”  In response, he curses her.

As the classic abuser, he claims that he has been lenient, that he might have whipped her to death.  He says that her “mistress, disgusted by your conduct, forbids you to return to the house.”

Because, apparently, sleeping with a man she loves, after her master has forbidden her to marry, is just so disgusting, and because she deserves whatever she gets.

He says her “ingratitude chafes me beyond endurance.  You turn aside all my good intentions towards you.  I don’t know what it is that keeps me from killing you.”

Then he negotiates with a “friendly proposition” which is far more advantageous to him than to her: If she will cut off all communication with the father of her child, her master will “forgive” her “insolence and crime” and take care of her and her child; she must promise at once, and this is the last act of “mercy” he will show her.

Her lover is willing to buy her and take care of her child, which would be a far better state than the one she is in now, and Dr. Flint has cursed her and her child, so of course she scorns the “friendly proposition.”

He says that “a woman who had sunk to my level had no right to expect anything else.  He asked, for the last time, would I accept his kindness?  I answered that I would not.”

He says,

Very well, then take the consequences of your wayward course.  Never look to me for help.  You are my slave, and shall always be my slave.  I will never sell you, that you may depend upon.

So her hopes are dashed because she refuses to give in to her master’s cruel demands.  And, of course, her master considers it to be her fault, not his for making such unreasonable demands on her.

She is bedridden for some time.  Forbidden to have any doctor but her master, she has no doctor at all; when her illness grows worse, he is sent for, but she screams as soon as he enters the room.  So he leaves again.

She finally gives birth to a boy, who is premature–4 pounds–and both mother and child are sick for the following year.  Yet he lives into his 30s, which is far more than we could have expected for a child like him of his time.

Dr. Flint looks after her health, and does not fail “to remind me that my child was an addition to his stock of slaves.”

He sends her brother William to bring constant notes to her.  Since the subject of his notes in the past has been the various ways she could please him sexually, she doesn’t need to tell us what these notes are about.

One day, she hides herself from Dr. Flint when he comes to see her.  He leaves, sending William with a note demanding to see her, and she goes.  He

demanded to know where I was when he called.  I told him I was at home.  He flew into a passion, and said he knew better.  Then he launched out upon his usual themes,–my crimes against him, and my ingratitude for his forbearance.

The laws were laid down to me anew, and I was dismissed.  I felt humiliated that my brother should stand by, and listen to such language as would be addressed only to a slave.

Because her brother, powerless to defend her, begins to weep for her, the doctor is irritated.

Just as with any abuser, because the third party–friend, family member–feels for the abused, in the eyes of the abuser he can do nothing right.

The master’s abuse of Linda now spills over onto her brother simply because he sees and recognizes the abuse.  William is yelled at and put into jail for coming later than usual to the office.

William asks to be sold, which incenses his master, who says he was put there to reflect and has shown no evidence of repentance.  Because his master can’t handle the office work without him, he lets him out, but “with many threats, if he was not careful about his future behavior.”

It is dangerous to show any sign of contempt or shock at an abuser’s behavior.  I have seen for myself what can happen, and have been punished for it, so I feel for William as well as Linda.

The baby finally grows healthy after a year.  Linda writes,

His father caressed him and treated him kindly, whenever he had a chance to see him.

He was not unwilling that he should bear his name; but he had no legal claim to it; and if I had bestowed it upon him, my master would have regarded it as a new crime, a new piece of insolence, and would, perhaps, revenge it on the boy.

O, the serpent of Slavery has many and poisonous fangs!

In Chapter XVI, Dr. Flint gives Linda a choice between a cottage for herself and her children–supposedly “merciful,” but she knows better, that there would be no escape from him there–or his son’s plantation and slavery for her children.

Typically putting the responsibility for his lack of anger management on other people, he claims that her willfulness drove him to be harsh with her before, and, “You know I exact obedience from my own children, and I consider you as yet a child.”  (Note that Linda was already in her early 20s.)

She chooses the plantation.  In the editor’s notes to the book, we read:

Norcom [Flint] was a loving and dominating husband and father.  In his serious and sophisticated interest in medicine, his commitment as a physician, and his educated discourse, he appears unlike the villain Jacobs portrays.

But his humorlessness, his egoism, his insistently controlling relationships with his wife and children, and particularly with his daughters–for example his obdurate response to the disobedience of his beloved daughter Mary Matilda, mentioned in Chapter XLI–suggest the portrait Jacobs draws.

This impression is supported by his quarrelsomeness with his neighbors and his unforgiving fury against those he viewed as enemies.  It is underscored by his admitted passionate responses to women.  (p. 274)

Flint’s son, Mr. Flint, is no better.  In fact, he says that his father should have “broke her in long ago.”  He whips women and children slaves so much that the spirits of the mothers have been too broken to intervene.

Linda’s son was left behind due to illness; she was obliged to bring her daughter along, but was not allowed to take proper care of her.  The poor little child was left alone.

Keep in mind that her brother was not even five, so she was no older than a toddler.  Finally, Linda sent the child to her grandmother, and excused this to Mr. Flint by claiming the girl was sick.

But through all of this, Linda had a plan she would not disclose to anyone: of securing freedom for herself and her children.

To be continued….

Left Behind Review: Desecration

Desecration by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 1414334982, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

A plot summary is here.

On page 2, we read:

Rayford and his extended Tribulation Force would continue what he called Operation Eagle.  The name was inspired by the prophecy in Revelation 12:14:

“The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”

Dr. Tsion Ben-Judah, spiritual mentor of the Tribulation Force, taught that the “woman” represented God’s chosen people; the “two wings,” land and air; “her place,” Petra–the city of stone; ” a time,” one year–thus “a time and times and half a time” to be three and a half years; and the “serpent,” Antichrist.

But according to the Orthodox Study Bible, this passage is both historical and futuristic at the same time.  The woman’s flight in verse 6, which describes her place prepared by God in the wilderness, where she will be fed for 1260 days,

may refer to the flight of the Jerusalem church (embodying true Israel) to Pella before the outbreak of the Roman war.  It illustrates there is no place for the Church in this age.

The 1260 days, or three and a half years, is the classic period of apocalyptic woe (see 11:2): as bad as it is, it is temporary, not the end of things.

At verse 11:2, the OSB also explains that “time, times and half a time” or “42 months” or “1260 days” is one-half of seven and symbolizes “what is not full or final but temporary, incomplete.”  The wings in v. 14 refer

to the original Exodus, as the flood [verse 15, sent by the dragon] may also be the threat of drowning in the Red Sea. However, Satan is unable to prevail.

The Jewish Church safely completes its exodus and is preserved during its apocalyptic period.  And the Church in general will be preserved: the gates of hell cannot prevail against her.

So what Ben-Judah interpreted so literally and minutely to refer to leading all the believers to Petra by land and air transport, where God will tend to them while Nicolae sends troops against them, was really just meant as an allegory to show that God will ultimately prevail in Satan’s attacks on the Church.

But somehow, Ben-Judah sees a specific place (Petra) and airplanes, helicopters, cars, etc. in these verses.

On page 15, somehow Buck and Chaim start reciting the Genesis passage in which God calls Moses to be his mouthpiece, with Buck as the voice of God and Chaim as Moses.  It’s a weird passage, with no justification I can see for why Chaim would be Moses.  It just seems to be a sudden conviction for the both of them.

But why Moses?  Where does it say in Revelations that some guy will be chosen to be Moses?  Moses was already reincarnated, his own self, as Moishe, one of the prophets at the Wailing Wall.

It seems rather presumptuous to presume that Chaim is Moses and this Genesis passage should apply to him, or that Buck should speak for God, or that Chaim should do miracles like Moses.

At the end of The Mark, we read that Chaim is supposed to “lead the remnant of Israel and additional tribulation saints to the promised land of safety” as “a latter-day Moses.”  The authors are really stretching here.

On pages 231 to 236 of The Mark, Tsion tells Chaim about his calling to be Moses and stand up to the Antichrist, that he’ll be provided manna, his clothes will not wear out, and God will protect him as he leads the people.

This takes the above-referenced Revelation passage to an extreme, and as usual, Tsion is strangely sure of something that is nowhere so explicitly laid out in the Bible.

He’s just stringing together passages that have nothing to do with each other, over something that’s meant to be allegorical.  On the one hand he’s taking that passage far too literally, but on the other hand not literally, because he’s adding all sorts of things to it.

The funny thing is, after Tsion and Buck have convinced Chaim that he’s Moses, we read on page 18, after Chaim has asked (like Moses) for somebody else to be sent, “But there was no Aaron.  Tsion was at the safe house, not having felt led to help in person.”

Easy excuse!  (“Sorry, I don’t feel God’s leading.  You have to do it, though it was my idea.”)

Then we read further: “The only other member of the Trib Force with Jewish blood, though he had grown up in Poland, was David Hassid, and he had his own special skills and assignment.”

Which may be true, but why does the “Moses” have to be Jewish?  And what does being Polish have to do with it?  Tsion just seems to be pulling stuff out of his butt lately.

On page 19 is more unintentional humor as David–probably referring to his laptop–tells Leah to pull over because he has a message from Tsion, one to send to Chang, and “It’s too hard with this thing bouncing in my lap.”  Excuse me, what’s too hard?

Hey–page 25 has another “Buck was struck”!  Haven’t seen those for a while.

On page 55, Hattie the whore-turned-annoying saint has now turned into a prophet, confronting the Antichrist in the same way any woman wants to confront the jerk who impregnated her, promised to marry her, and then tossed her aside like some clingy lady obsessed with marriage:

“Liars! Blasphemers!  Antichrist!  False Prophet! [etc. etc.]…Yours is the empty, vain tongue of the damned!”

And just like any man who doesn’t want to take responsibility for what he’s done, he has Fortunato point his finger at her, call down a fireball, and burn her to a crisp.

So much for any shippers who wanted Ray to be with Hattie now that both his wives are gone/dead and it wouldn’t be an affair.

On page 151-3, we find an interesting letter sent from Hannah Palemoon to David Hassid.  David has just lost his fiancée when she got burned to a crisp, so the relationship between them is just friendship, but a close friendship.

He decided to go one way while the group went another, but didn’t even mention it to her first; she wrote him an e-mail about it, then she anxiously awaited his reply….

I know how she feels, after being left out of so many things by a person I considered my best friend for several years, or, as Hannah put it, “My friend, my buddy, the one I assumed I would lean on, is gone, just like that.”

But David is a much better friend than mine, because he responds to her e-mail, and does it kindly, reassuring her of his friendship.  However, tragically, she gets the response after he’s already been killed by GC Peacekeepers.  This is a little subplot which got me anxiously turning pages to see what happened.

On page 162-4, Nicolae has allowed a new Jewish temple to be built–just so he can desecrate it by riding and then butchering a large pig right in the Holy of Holies, then flings blood at the altar.

The Slacktivites, or regular commenters on the Slacktivist’s Left Behind blogs, have mentioned and laughed about this scene many times, so now, finally, I can read it, in all its bloody grotesqueness.

On page 168, Nicolae–who has, of course, offended a mob of Orthodox Jews by desecrating their temple–is now facing a riotous, “mutinous multitude.”

But Chaim, who has taken on the new persona of “Micah” (an anagram) and the powers of Moses, tells the mob in his strangely stilted and melodramatic wording, “It is not the due time for the man of sin to face judgment, though it is clear he has been revealed!”

Of course not, because–as Slacktivist reminds us from time to time–it doesn’t fit with the prophecy.

We see more of this stilted language on page 245, when an angel says to Rayford, “Why are you so fearful?  How is it that you have no faith?  Be of good cheer!  Do not be afraid.”

It’s as if the authors (and many other authors as well) expect angels, prophets, etc. in modern times to speak in King James language, even though the language of the King James Bible fits the time in which the translation was written.

I would expect an angel in the 21st century to speak in the language of 21st century people so they can understand him more easily: “Why are you so afraid?  Why don’t you have faith?  Cheer up, and don’t be scared!”

On page 233, Tsion has written another missive to his Web flock, and he writes,

If you choose Christ, pray this prayer with me: Dear God, I am a sinner and separated from you.  I believe Jesus is the Messiah and that he died on the cross to pay for my sins.  I believe he rose again the third day and that by receiving his gift of love I will have the power to become a son of God because I believe on his name.  Thank you for hearing me and saving me, and I pledge the rest of my life to you.

But–but–where is the repentance of those sins, and asking for forgiveness of them?  As for Christ dying on the cross to pay for our sins–I won’t get into that, but the theology is not quite Orthodox.  I do, however, go into this subject in depth here.

On page 263, the seas have turned to blood, so now every “species of aquatic life” is dying.  So we have more death, even of innocent animals.  These books are an orgy of death!

On page 315, we have yet another scene of a believer, Chang this time, being snotty to unbelieving co-workers.  These scenes do get old after a while. What part of being a believer makes it okay to treat your fellow man like crap?

On page 324, Chaim pulls out an urn full of Hattie’s ashes, and gives it to Rayford for safekeeping, saying that he hopes to one day toss them into the wind from a high place at Petra, as “We do not worship the remains of those who go to God before us.”  This is obviously a dig against the Catholics and Orthodox, who venerate relics of saints.

On page 363, Chaim gets to do his Moses thing some more by prophesying and raising his arms as quail, manna and water are provided to the Christians at Petra, same as to the Israelites in the desert.

On page 365, as the Tribulation Force gathers to count its losses (Hattie and David), Rayford shows the urn and Hannah passes around David’s phone.  (She passes around his phone?  Why would she do that?  What, more phone worship?)

On page 366, Carpathia happily proclaims himself in a high-level meeting to be Anti-Jew.  On page 369, he describes what are, essentially, concentration camps for Jews found without the Mark.

But would the world actually stand for this?  Certain Middle Eastern countries would, but much of the world sees anti-semitism as evil, sees anything associated with the Nazis as evil.

On page 385, there is a little disagreement during a Trib Force meeting, between Chloe and Rayford.  We read, “Rayford looked to Buck, not wanting to be parental when Chloe’s husband was right there.”  Then Buck takes her hand and says, “Don’t talk yourself out of an interesting assignment.”

So–the men had to keep the unruly woman in line, the woman who had other opinions on what should happen, the woman who disagreed with the leader, and since her husband was there, he had the job to squelch his wife’s objections?  Otherwise Daddy had to do it, to a grown woman?  Ugh!

On page 405, Carpathia’s minions are about to wipe out all the believers at Petra.  We won’t find out what happens until the next book.

[11/2/11-11/16/11]

 

Left Behind: The Mark Review–Part 6 (Last)

Previous Parts

On page 308, we read Rayford’s thoughts that:

But if there was someone who seemed healthier more quickly than most, it was Hattie.  The irony of that was not lost on Rayford.

Fewer than twenty-four hours before she became a believer, she was suicidal.  Months before, she had admitted to any Trib Force member who had the endurance to debate her that she understood and believed the whole truth about the salvation gospel of Christ.

She simply had decided, on her own, to willfully reject it because, even if God didn’t seem to care that she didn’t deserve it, she did care.  She was saying, in effect, that God could offer her the forgiveness of her sins without qualification, but she didn’t have to accept it.

But once she finally received the gift, her mere persistence was wearing.  In many ways she was the same forthright woman she had been before, nearly as obnoxious as a new believer as she had been as a holdout.  But of course, everyone was happy she was finally on the team.

Poor obnoxious Hattie.  Even becoming a believer doesn’t stop her from being obnoxious.

Rayford finds her doing a womanly task–changing the baby–and asks if she has a minute.  She says, “If this guy is drowsy, I’ve got all the time in the world, which–according to our favorite rabbi–is slightly less than three and a half years.”

Just a harmless joke that anybody might make, but Rayford thinks, “Hattie isn’t as funny as she sees herself, but there is something to be said for consistency.”

Yes, there is something to be said for consistency: Ray is still condescending to this person whom he once wanted to pork.  Love them, then devalue and discard them–Dang, Rayford sounds like a narcissist!  Knowing what we know about him, yeah, “narcissism” fits him like a glove.

Anyway, Ray hems and haws a bit before finally getting around to saying that he needs Hattie to do a favor that has to do with Chaim.  She says,

“Isn’t he the best?”

“He’s great, Hattie.  But he needs something Tsion and I don’t seem to be able to give him.”

“Rayford!  He’s twice my age!”

Oh, geez.  She’s redeemed yet still she’s painted as the whore!

The “favor,” by the way, is for her to transfer some of her new believer bounciness into Chaim.  In a nonsexual fashion, of course.

On page 312, Buck, who is impersonating “Corporal Jack Jensen on behalf of Deputy Commander Marcus Elbaz [Albie],” is watching as prisoners in the detention center are made to choose between the Mark and the guillotine: “Buck watched the process, despairing at the masses who ignorantly sealed their fate.”

Yes, Buck watched as the masses ignorantly sealed their fate.  They’re ignorant, yet this seals their fate?  They can’t possibly change their mind later if they got a mark they didn’t actually fully understand?

Somehow I think that God would snatch souls out of Satan’s very grasp, even if Satan had a signed contract saying they were his.  Not to mention, you would think that Buck would at least try to stop the proceedings, maybe quietly pass out some Chick Tracts.  (Everyone loves Chick Tracts!)

But then his phone vibrated–woowoo!  I bet Buck loves having his phone on vibrate.  Then his phone shows how much it loves him back.

On page 339, Tsion once again deceives his readers with the false security of Once-Saved-Always-Saved, telling them that once they decide for Christ and get God’s seal on their foreheads, or accept the mark of loyalty to Antichrist, “[Y]ou cannot change your mind!”

And that he believes that when his flock is forced to make public their beliefs, choose for God or the Antichrist, they will be “unable to deny Jesus, unable to even choose the mark that would temporarily save our lives.”

I bet this would be news to the Early Church.  Not only did the Epistles warn us to stay steadfast in the faith, that we needed to work hard to stay Christians, but many people were turned away from re-joining the faith after having chosen loyalty to the emperor over martyrdom.  People are weak.

On pages 342 to 343, Tsion basically invents a way of explaining Exodus 32:33 to fit with once-saved-always-saved: When Moses asks God to blot his name out of God’s book rather than punish the Israelites for their many sins, God says he will blot out of the book whoever has sinned against Him.

Tsion comes up with the idea that this is referring to the book of the living, and that the book referred to in the New Testament is the book of Christians.  He has no sources to base this on other than “my contention” and “to me”–and having to make the Bible conform to Calvinist doctrine.

This is not the traditional view of the Book of Life, rather, that it and the Book of the Life of the Lamb (which Tsion says is referred to in the New Testament) are one and the same thing: a roster of the righteous, out of which to be blotted means (physical and spiritual) death.

The Talmud and the Book of Jubilees also refer to a Book of the Dead, where the wicked and their deeds are recorded.

Tsion’s version is not one I’ve heard of before: Growing up in the Nazarene tradition, I always understood there to be one Book of Life with the names of the redeemed, not two separate books, one for the physically alive and one for the spiritually alive.

With his lack of cited sources, or even a reference to any tradition, Tsion appears to have invented this solely out of his own head, and with some prooftexting, in order to fit with his contention that none of his flock need fear choosing the Mark over salvation out of brown-underpantsing fear.

R. Kruspedai said in the name of R. Johanan: Three books are opened [in heaven] on New Year, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate.

The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of life; the thoroughly wicked are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of death; the doom of the intermediate is suspended from New Year till the Day of Atonement; if they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death.

Said R. Abin, What text tells us this? — Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.

‘Let them be blotted out from the book — this refers to the book of the wicked.

‘Of life — this is the book of the righteous.

‘And not be written with the righteous’– this is the book of the intermediate.

R. Nahman b. Isaac derives it from here: And if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written, ‘Blot me, I pray thee’– this is the book of the wicked.

‘Out of thy book’– this is the book of the righteous. ‘Which thou has written’– this is the book of the intermediate.

Talmud – Mas. Rosh HaShana 16b, translated into English with notes, glossary and indices under the editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, B.A., Ph.D., D. Lit., Soncino Babylonian Talmud

I see I’m not the only one to have noticed this strange teaching of Tim LaHaye’s:

Scripture-Twisting in the LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible

The Book of Life: One Book or Two?

On pages 348 to 354, we read about a kid, Chang, who doesn’t want to take the Mark, is a believer, resists all he can, but is forced to take the Mark by his father.  But underneath the Mark can still be seen (to other believers) the cross of Christ.  So it’s not all-or-nothing after all?

At long last, I have finished book 8.  I’m halfway through the series (I think)!  On to book 9….

[5/4/11-6/22/11]