On page 242, Chloe is described as “suddenly on the phone to her girlfriends all the time…” LOL, how quaint, a phone. This book was written in 2005, so the authors have no excuse! Don’t they know kids these days would rather use their computers and text messaging to communicate with each other?
On page 247, we finally find out information we could’ve used back in the first few books: how th’ heck Rayford, just another airplane pilot, ended up the pilot for Air Force 1. Turns out he saved the lives of his passengers in a dramatic near-miss with another plane which missed the instructions from the control tower. And he was in ROTC. So he ended up on the reserve list for Air Forces One and Two.
The time to explain to us how Rayford and Buck ended up in their high positions, was in the first few books, not now! Sure the whole back story could wait, but summaries would’ve been helpful. Otherwise, we just have Buck who never actually bucks much of anything or writes, either, and Rayford who suddenly becomes the pilot for the Antichrist.
Now we even find that Rayford and Tribulation Forcer Abdullah already knew each other, as on page 271 and after, Rayford becomes a consultant on arming commercial planes against terrorists. On page 276, we find that Rayford is supposed to become a friend to Abdullah (“Smitty”), who is painfully shy, so that Smitty will open up to him about his ideas for arming planes.
On page 258, Rayford asks Irene, “VBS? What’s that?” She describes Vacation Bible School. Now come on, why would Rayford not know what VBS is? Lots of different kinds of churches host VBS and post signs all over the place, not just Fundamentalists!
On page 259, Irene complains to him about their church, saying,
Our church dances around the truth. We sing, we read a few verses, pastor Bohrer doesn’t so much preach–and he never teaches–as much as he just shares thoughts. Like a homily.
Listening to him is like reading those inspirational books full of partly true but mostly made-up stories of long-lost kitties finding their way home, orphans teaching some curmudgeon a life lesson, an elderly woman–“
Hey, wait a minute. Like a homily? What’s wrong with a homily? Catholic and Orthodox churches often do short homilies rather than sermons; my priest can pack quite a bit of hard teaching in one ten-minute homily.
Heck, it’s better than what I had been getting in Evangelical churches as of late, because it skipped the prooftexting, theological errors, skits, etc., instead getting to the heart of Christianity.
She complains that their church doesn’t get into the “real truth,” the “hard truth.” Yet, in 2007, even in a Fundamentalist church–the Nazarene church where I grew up–I found a skit, a dinky Scripture reading which was then used to make some vague point about life rather than hard theological truth, and all the things that Irene here complained of.
This is not a “liberal” problem, but one that fills churches all across the spectrum, where “purpose-driven” Evangelical churches (the ones that teach the theology you find touted in these Left Behind books) do what feels good and gets people in the pews.
Even where I found preachers teaching in long sermons full of theology and sin, they used paraphrases such as the Message Bible, the theology was wrong, the Scriptures were prooftexted (i.e. pulled out of context to make a theological point). I had to leave Evangelicalism and go to an Orthodox church, to find good, hard, Biblical and theological truth–in ten-minute homilies.
To my pleasant surprise, on page 276 when Abdullah is described to Rayford, the authors “get” shy, quiet people like me:
…[Abdullah] has a lot to offer in the way of ideas, according to his superiors. He knows a lot, thinks things through, and is far and away their best pilot. The trouble is, he’s quiet and apparently painfully shy. He’s best in one-on-one situations when he has learned to trust someone. He suddenly becomes a fount of information.
They have put him in uncomfortable situations with dignitaries, diplomats, and the like. He clams up.
We don’t want you to fake or manufacture anything. We just want to see if you can become his friend. And while that may take some time, you understand that terrorism is not on anyone else’s calendar or clock. If this guy has as much to offer as we think he does, we need to start mining it.
Rather than force or shame him into opening up, they work with his natural temperament. Bravo! I can attest to the failure of trying to force a shy, quiet person to start talking, and then blaming that shy person for “not trying hard enough.”
On pages 291 to 292, Abdullah explains Muslim ritual prayers to Rayford. Instead of appreciating the beauty of the prayers, Rayford finds them “terribly ritualistic and depressing,” reminding him “of his own feeble attempts at religion: the obligation to go to church when he could and guilt when he found excuses not to.”
It probably wouldn’t help to tell him that the Muslims got prostration from the Orthodox Church, some branches of which still do prostrations in services.
On page 310, now we get to see Cameron in action, the star reporter–unlike during the entire series before the prequels, when he barely seemed to care about his job. The Slacktivist especially gets after him for never actually doing his job.
Nicolae’s narcissistic sociopathy is also finally showing up. No more do we read that he’s evil, while he promotes peace and other things generally considered good; now we know that he truly is the kind of evil which hides itself behind goodness.
For just one example, on page 364, we read, “Nicolae had learned the art of humility. Or at least of appearing humble.” One huge red sign of narcissism is claiming to be humble. (My ex-narc-friend Richard actually wrote on his Blogger profile that he’s humble.) A truly humble person will never say so, or think so, because he’s too humble to think he’s humble.
But during the rest of the series, we were often told he was evil, while he tried to promote peace and harmony among all. We should have been shown his pathology in a more convincing manner, such as getting into his head, because oftentimes very few people really know what’s going on in the head of a narcissist.
Only going into the heads of the Tribulation Force, was very limiting, often leading to questionable choices by the “good guys”–such as working for the Antichrist–so we can listen in to his private conversations without changing point-of-view.
I feel cheated because we are getting so much background information and rich characterization that was sorely missing from the rest of the series.
A scythe should have been taken to much of the series, cutting out all those boring phone conversations about logistics, sermons, and repeating what we already knew. Then there would have been plenty of room for this background info, interspersed throughout maybe three books instead of twelve.
On page 366, Cameron notes that his coworker Lucinda is very religious, with Christian “artifacts” (picture of Jesus, etc.) in her office; he’s met other Christians at work, but “most were pretty laid-back about it, almost secretive. It was as if they knew they were in the minority and didn’t want to look like weirdos.”
Um….Being a “person of faith,” as he terms it, I, too, wouldn’t talk too much about it or post a bunch of Christian stuff in my cubicle or office. But I wasn’t hiding my faith, nor did I fear looking like a “weirdo.” I was just at my job doing my work, not proselytizing.
I do believe the placement of Chloe’s skepticism in this paragraph is deliberate:
But on the negative side Chloe seemed to think the world revolved around her, that she answered to no one, and that she knew better than anyone else anyway–in particular, her mother. She believed only in what she could see and touch. To her God was okay as a concept, but He certainly didn’t really exist, not as a person.
I think atheists would object to skepticism being equated to teen-age self-absorption.
On pages 368 to 369, and 371, we find a power struggle between Irene and Chloe: Irene wants to dictate whether Chloe goes to church, and where she goes to college, even threatening to not pay for college if Chloe doesn’t go to church until she leaves home! But Chloe has full scholarships, and wants to go 2000 miles away to Stanford, also against her mother’s wishes (it’s “too far”).
Fortunately, Rayford mediates, getting Irene to back off and let Chloe make her own decisions. He doesn’t understand Irene’s trouble with Chloe, or with her going to Stanford; he’s proud of Chloe, considers her an ideal daughter.
The basic problem is that Chloe doesn’t want to follow Irene’s religion. Since Irene loses that fight, she “had grown chillier than ever.” It’s the classic problem of a parent not wanting to let go of her child, who is now nearly an adult and needs to make her own decisions. I’m on Chloe’s side in this one.
On page 385, we find more clumsy dialogue: Buck says, “I am always busy, and though you are more than twice my age, you are busier than I.” No contractions, and “busier than I” instead of “busier than I am” or “busier than me”?
These authors have no feel for how people actually talk. It’s one thing to write that way, but even English majors and writers don’t follow precise grammar in speech.
On to the next book. This is almost done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!