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.
To be continued….