Left Behind: Tribulation Force Review–Part 4

Previous parts

In chapter 18, on page 399 of a 450-page book, we suddenly jump 18 months past the events of the story we’ve just been reading.  It’s disconcerting, and seems rushed.

During these 18 months, Rayford meets and marries a woman we barely know a thing about, except for her conversion story, “impeccable taste in clothes” (p. 407) (which I suppose makes her a perfect woman), and that she–gasp!–wears furs (p. 418)!

Other than furs, we’re not real sure what it means to have “impeccable taste in clothes.”  Of course, the story makes no note of this, which is remarkable considering the bad press fur coats have gotten in recent decades.  Maybe the authors think only the liberal tree-hugging wackos would worry about that.

We know that she is a “handsome” woman.  Apparently, being in your mid-40s makes you too old to be called “beautiful” instead of “handsome,” a word generally reserved these days for men and elderly women.

Amanda comes out of nowhere.  Without really knowing this woman, it’s very hard for the reader to make any sort of real connection to her or Rayford’s summarized romance with her.  There is no sexual tension or passion driving the story.  We do not really care if he marries her or not, and we’re not sure he does, either.

On p. 408, Amanda says about her and her now-Raptured husband, “We had been in a dead church all our lives.”  What exactly do LaHaye and Jenkins mean by a “dead” church?  This is a very judgmental term which needs to be backed up with a description.  We have no way of knowing if this church was truly “dead,” or if it just didn’t follow a particular way of doing things.

For example, in the documentary Jesus Camp, a pre-teen girl named Rachael distinguishes a “living” church from a “dead” church by the way it worships, here (at 44:00).  A “dead” church–where God is not present–sits still, sings a few hymns, listens to a sermon and leaves.  A “living” church–“where God likes to go to”–is full of jumping and shouting and praising, not quiet.

Meanwhile, I would distinguish a “living” church from a “dead” church based on love of God and fellow man, not on worship styles, but I don’t presume to say which a church is.

One website includes in its list of signs of a “dead” church, “prayer books or recited prayers” as in most liturgical churches (Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, etc.), use of the NIV translation of the Bible, something called “Lordship Salvation” which supposedly ends up damning people to Hell, baptizing babies, and allowing Christian rock music, along with other signs which are far more legitimate.

In Left Behind, Rayford’s former church is described more as a social club than a church where the Bible is preached.  Of course, I’ve been to lively, Bible-believing churches which barely even cracked open a Bible during the sermon.  Meanwhile, in the Orthodox church, long passages of Scripture are read in every service.

So basically, we have different views of “dead” churches and don’t know which one applies to Amanda’s church, yet we’re supposed to just accept that her church was “dead” because she said so.

I find this paragraph on p. 409, spoken by Amanda, to be funny:

“Well, before I could get my little mind around the idea, I was the only one in my family who wasn’t saved.  To tell you the truth, the whole thing sounded a little white trashy to me.

I didn’t know I had a lot of pride.  Lost people never know that, do they?

Well, I pretended I was right there with my family, but they knew.  They kept encouraging me to go to this women’s Bible study, so finally I went.

I was just sure it was going to be more of the same–frumpy middle-aged women talking about being sinners saved by grace.”

“My little mind”?  “White trashy”?  And don’t forget “frumpy middle-aged women.”  How do we know that lost people never know they have a lot of pride?  I’m not sure I want to know this person.  Not only was she judgmental of the saved before getting saved, but now she’s judgmental of the lost after getting saved.

On p. 411, Irene is described in such a way that she might as well have been canonized as a saint: peace, gentleness, kindness, serenity, confident but humble, outgoing but not pushy or self-promoting….

Note she’s even called “not pushy.”  Yet in the previous book we read that she was pretty pushy about the Rapture, so pushy that she practically pushed Rayford into Hattie’s evil hottie old-nature arms.  We’ve all encountered such pushiness, and some of us have been guilty of it ourselves, to our later chagrin.

Chloe tells Amanda that she had always thought her mother Irene “a little too religious, too strict, too rigid,” only realizing after she left for college that she loved her mother because of how much she was loved by her.

This does not seem realistic.  Sure she’d love her mother, especially when she’s homesick.  But young people who consider their parents “too strict” and “too rigid” often end up rebelling, especially when they go away to college.

On p. 416, we are frustrated with the 30-year-old virgin Buck, who has wasted these last 18 months by casually “courting” Chloe.  It took him at least eight months before he even kissed Chloe or said he loved her.

Then–even though he knows they only have less than seven years to be married and have a family–he takes forever to propose.  He moves so slowly that we wonder if he has any real passion for Chloe, or just “greatly esteems” her (borrowing a phrase from Jane Austen).

Sure enough, he and Rayford are both the perfect Christian men, kissing their girlfriends but never even making out with them until they quickly pop rings on their fingers.

Meanwhile, Hattie the Whore is making babies with the Antichrist without even having the Evil Pope marry them first.  When Nicolae and Hattie announce this to Rayford and his new wife Amanda,

“I didn’t realize you were married,” Amanda said sweetly, and Rayford fought to keep his composure.  She knew full well they were not.

“Oh, we will be,” Hattie said, beaming.  “He’s going to make an honest woman of me yet.”

You see, Hattie’s a whore, so Amanda can make self-righteous comments, because the good guys take forever to even hold hands.  If your old nature keeps popping up, you must be evil.

Let’s forget how Jesus chastised the Pharisees for thinking they were better than the “sinners.”

All of a sudden, I really don’t like Amanda.

[Fall 2008]

My entire review is here.

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