Left Behind: Chapter 6, Part 2
As always, we have a comment of the week. Choosing such a comment this week was, however, quite difficult because we had an embarrassment of good commentary. Ken's bitter observations about Rayford's love for his kids were an immediate crowd pleaser. Likewise, scripto saved me the trouble of making a joke about how long it's been since Irene had her liquor cabinet stuffed. And, of course, many of you contributed to a fairly involved debate about whether being married to Irene, or Rayford, would be more likely to produce hard-core alcoholism. Given that this was very much a collaborative effort, it doesn't really feel right to single anyone out but, alas, I will do so anyway. So this time as a sort of first-among-equals prize I'll recognize JLT for a particularly well-argued comment:
I think, that being married to Mrs. Steele would be a very good reason to start drinking.
* She listened to Christian radio the whole day (that alone is a sufficient reason to drink IMO).
* she decorated the house with frills, needle point, and country stuff.
* she treated Ray as if he were a hardcore alcoholic for having an "occasional hard drink" (he hadn't been drunk for years).
* she tries to revive her marriage by sending her husband cookies with hearts on it.
* she constantly preaches to her family about her new-found belief.
If Rayford weren't such an asshole wouldn't you feel really sorry for him?
It's a compelling case, I have to admit. At the same time, amidst all our concerns for Rayford and Irene's tendnecy to hit the sauce, has anyone wondered what reading about these schmucks has done to me? If I weren't a teetotaler with a lot of willpower, I think this book would have done me in completely. In any case, well-done everyone, and hang in there: plenty of opportunities to win the best comment to come!
And with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag.
In descending order of god's love. He told me!
Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot.
Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.
Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority."
Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde.
Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.
Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford.
Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.
Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.
Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible.
Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy.
Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal.
Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.
Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.
Page 106- Line Pickle:
No quote, but as we open Buck has managed find himself a hotel room and to reach his father by phone. They spat a little bit and he learns that his (Buck's) brother's wife and children are apparently gone. At this point it seems uncertain to Buck and his dad why, but we realize that she has most likely been raptured. Since she's so good and forgiving and all, you remember.
Page 106- Line 16-20:
"I can't imagine he'll [Buck's brother] want to talk, Cameron, unless you have some answers." [Buck's dad said]
"That's one thing I haven't got, Dad. I don't know who does. I have this feeling that whoever had the answers is gone."
This is probably meant as a "D'oh!" moment for all us unbelievers, but I can't help but echo Ken's sentiment that at least now we can have socialized medicine. Anyway, these two blather on for another page or two, boring the ever-living crap out of the reader before we get to some more thinly-veiled propaganda. Specifically, Buck's father says that he doesn't think the disappearance was due to god's judgment and Buck asks him why not.
Page 108- Line 27-30:
"Because I asked our pastor. He said if it was Jesus Christ taking people to heaven, he and I and you and Jeff would have gone too. Makes sense."
"Does it? I've never claimed any devotion to the faith." [Buck answered]
So, yeah, if you're a mainline protestant, you're basically fucked. Interestingly, however, the authors never really say anything about what happens to Catholics. The pope is eventually mentioned, but in a very ambiguous light. Given my knowledge of evangelicals, my guess is they just didn't want to sully the page by referring to the hated Roman Catholic church, but it's still a pretty striking omission. Anyway, the discussion only gets better on the next page.
Page 109- Line 1-10:
"The heck you haven't. You always get into this liberal, East Coast baloney. You know good and well we had you in church and Sunday school from the time you were a baby. You're as much a Christian as any one of us." [Buck's dad said]
Cameron wanted to say, "Precisely my point." But he didn't. It was the lack of any connection between his family's church attendance and their daily lives that made him quit going to church altogether the day it became his choice.
This is interesting to me. The authors obviously realize that hypocrisy drives a lot of people away from Christianity. They also clearly want to argue that to be a "true christian" you have to give over every aspect of your life to your religion.* The funny thing is, though, that they miss the main point of a lot of us who left the faith. I may have left Christianity partly due to the hypocrisy, but I stayed out because it just doesn't make any damned sense at all. Atheism may not have very good bake sales, but it also doesn't ask us to believe ten impossible things before breakfast on pain of eternal torment.
Page 110- Line 14-17:
If somebody tried to sell a screenplay about millions of people disappearing, leaving everything but their bodies behind, it would be laughed off.
Sadly, no, it wouldn't, because there seem to be a distressing number of people who can't tell fantasy from reality:
Anyway, Buck continues musing to himself and has a phone conversation with the hotel clerk where he promises a tip if the clerk will slip a fresh bandage under the door. Note that he doesn't ask for a bandaid or gauze or anything, but a bandage. I earned every merit badge there is for first aid when I was in the Boy Scouts and I gotta tell you, if someone just said "get me a bandage" but didn't specify the nature of the injury, I wouldn't have the foggiest notion what the hell to get them. Likewise, I'd probably question the wisdom of shoving medical supplies through a crack in the door of a dingy hotel. But, hey, I'm not a prescient motel clerk, so what the hell do I know? Regardless, it's a riveting conversation, just like all the others I don't transcribe out of a misplaced sense of mercy. Then Buck decides to go to sleep.
Page 111- Line 27-29:
He [Buck] was the type who could look at his watch before retiring and wake up precisely when he told himself to.
Okay, one, "retiring"? What the f-ing crap? Who talks like that? Two, can anyone do that? Just look at their watch and wake up exactly when they mean to? Is there anything Buck Williams can't do? Well, he can't write a decent sentence, so I guess there is one thing. Since Buck is heading off to sleep, the narrative- if you can call it that- returns to Rayford, who is contemplating reading the paper. Yes, that's right: we get to read about Rayford's internal debate over whether or not to read a fucking newspaper. Tedious uncertainty, thy name is Rayford.
Page 112- Line 9-12:
It should be interesting to read the meaningless news of a world that didn't realize it was going to suffer the worst trauma in its history just after the paper had been set in type.
Aside from the fact that this yet again reminds us of what a colossal ass Rayford is, I actually find the sentiment pretty amusing. See, on the one hand given my reality-based perspective, I have to think that the Holocaust or the Black Death probably represent much better candidates for worst global trauma ever- at least from a human perspective. From a non-human perspective, I dunno, maybe the P-T extinction event? On the other hand, the authors have a point that this would fuck everybody up, but I think primarily just because all the children would be gone, no matter what their country of origin. And that would probably upset people** a lot, even if losing the adult evangelicals would just make U.S. politics a lot more pleasant and rational. But on the gripping hand, this statement doesn't even make sense within the authors' own belief system. Because you know what the "worst trauma in its history" would be then? Noah's f-ing flood! Why settle for the rapture snatching a few million people when we can think about god wiping out virtually the entire human race, plus associated animal species, except for a tiny handful of survivors locked in a giant wooden boat for a year? Call me crazy, but I think that would be the worst goddamn trauma in global history. For crying out loud, LaHaye and Jenkins, you're getting spanked on theology by an atheist! Is this your A-game? Because it sucks! Anyway, Rayford gets a call telling him his daughter, Chloe, is on her way. He then eventually starts reading the news and runs across a story about- you guessed it- the antichrist.
Page 113- Line 23-27:
Democratic elections became passe when, with the seeming unanimous consensus of the people and both the upper and lower houses of government, a popular young businessman/politician assumed the role of president of the country [Romania].
Yeah, well, that's rarely a good sign. This is, of course, just the antichrist starting his rise to power. We know that, but Rayford is blissfully ignorant because he hasn't figured out yet that he's trapped in a terrible Christian "novel".
Page 114- Line 6-9:
Wonder if he would've wanted the job had he known what was about to happen? Rayford thought. Whatever he has to offer won't amount to a hill of beans now. [emphasis original]
Bum-BUM-BUUUUUMMMMMM!!!!! And you have to love that sentence construction. It's like they think that if they torture the English language long enough, it'll confess.
And with that, dear readers, we reach the end of Chapter six. if this seemed like a short installment, you're right, it was. Sorry about that, but sometimes the chapters are short and the natural break-points are awkwardly placed. Also, sometimes I just don't care. It's not like I get paid to do this for crying out loud! Tune in next time for Chapter Seven, when we talk about cabs, aliens, and the bible. You'll love it.
See you then.
* I always find this more than a little creepy. I feel like I want to make silly baby voices and ask, "Who's a widdle parasitic meme? Who's a widdle parasitic meme? You are! You're a parasitic meme! Yay!"
** Well, people other than Rayford, anyway, who seems to be only faintly concerned with the fate of his remaining child.
Labels: Left Behind