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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 18, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that manages to be even crazier than L. Ron Hubbard's fiction, while managing to cram just as much religious nonsense into every page. Last time we finished hearing about the first few years of the tribulation, and watched Buck discover... something. What happens this week? A little violence, a lot of sinister innuendo, and that basically sums it up.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to Ken for making a very specific point very compellingly:

"For all Rayford's education and intelligence, he felt he had been a fool."

Rayford is educated and intelligent?

He may be a skilled pilot (though flights are back to normal and he's not being asked to work). But every decision he has made in his life and this book indicates he's not intelligent.

He had a loveless marriage, a wife who rejected reason and intelligence long ago, a daughter he treats like sh*t (The Rapture comes and he makes her travel solo from CA to PA??) and who acts much more like a young adolescent than a college student, and no close friends or acquaintances.

Ted Kaczynski had a better social network than this guy. You would think an intelligent, educated guy would have friends with similar intelligent interests. But unless they were all Raptured--clearly not the author's intent, and something that would really make Rayford the runt of the litter--we haven't seen him do or say anything to anyone that would indicate his intelligence and/or education.

And it's really, really hard to argue with that. I don't want to speculate as to why Rayford comes across as such an idiot, but I suspect it has to do with it being easier to tell the readers that someone is intelligent than it is to show them that someone is intelligent. So, as always, I blame the authors' intrinsic laziness with the fiction. Well done, Ken, and keep at it everyone!

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.


Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by the Showcase Showdown...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot. Lying hypocrite. Christian.

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." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist. Clumsy on slides. Travels a lot. Graduated from Princeton. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics. Fast runner.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid.

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.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. Botswanan national.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kinda a douche. Died by falling off of the Staten Island ferry.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.


Chapter 18: In which Buck gets a new job, the angels sorta get attacked, Chloe lectures Ray on women, and more vaguely sinister events stumble about drunkenly.

Page 321- Line 1-2:
Buck followed Steve to his office. "Did you hear about those kooks at the Wailing Wall?"

I suppose I might respond, "So what else is new," especially given that the authors don't have nice things to say about the "zealots" but, hey, I'm better than that. In any case, the chapter opens with Steve trying to talk Buck into taking over his job. Buck is reluctant. And this goes on for a couple of pages, during which my margin note reads: "Do I even care about any of this?" I really have to answer, "No," and I'm betting you don't care either. Eventually the conversation turns to Carpathia and his ultimate ambitions.

Page 323- Line 25-30:
"If you ask me [Plank], Romania is too small for him. Europe is too small for him. The U.N. is too small for him."

"What's he gonna be, Steve, king of the world?"

Steve laughed. "That won't be the title, but don't put it past him."

Oh, so ominous. So threatening. So utterly ridiculous. But, hey, I guess when you have Satan on your side, all things are possible? Regardless, the conversation continues to wander randomly around the issue of whether or not Carpathia is dirty. And then they turn to CNN, which is reporting on some strange goings-on with our old pals Eli and Moishe, the guys who are haranguing for Christ down at the wailing wall.

Page 325- Line 17-23:
"A heckler asked why they [Eli and Moshe] had not disappeared [in the rapture], if they knew so much. The one called Moishe answered, and I quote, 'Where we come from and where we go, you cannot know.' His companion, Eli, was quoted, 'In my Father's house are many mansions,' apparently a New Testament quotation attributed to Christ."

Steve and Buck exchanged glances.

I'm guessing those glances signify: what the fuck does that mean? Because I really don't see how those answers relate in any way to the question asked. The first boils down to "Screw off" and the second sorta means, "Woot! I'm rich!" I guess you have to be evangelical. Regardless, I wish we'd just hurry up and get to the devouring already because the suspense is killing me.

Page 325- Line 24-26:
"Surrounded by zealots most of the day, the preachers were finally attacked just moments ago by two men in their midtwenties." [emphasis added]

Oh, for crying out loud! Once more (see page 302- line 8-15) we have a commentator on CNN referring to orthodox Jews at the wailing wall as "zealots." Meanwhile, the two freaks screaming about Christ 24 hours a day are just "preachers." Once again, just to be clear, devout Jews are "zealots" while screaming obnoxious evangelicals are "preachers." Lovely.* As you might guess, things don't go well for the attackers.

Page 326- Line 3-12:
"The one wielding the knife surges forward first, displaying his weapon to Moishe, who had been speaking. Eli, behind him, immediately falls to his knees, his face toward the sky. Moishe stops speaking and merely looks at the man, who appears to trip. He sprawls while the man with the Uzi points the weapon at the preachers and appears to pull the trigger.

There is no sound of gunfire as the Uzi apparently jams, and the attacker seems to trip over his partner and both wind up on the ground."

Wow! It's like the religious intolerance version of the Keystone Cops! More seriously, I'm a little uncertain how an individual can "surge forward." Do you need special training for that? And does it bother anyone else that Eli, one of god's angels, has to fall to his knees and pray for god to save their ass? Way to delegate, god.

Page 326- Line 16-22:
"As we speak, both attackers lie at the feet of the preachers, who continue to preach. Angry onlookers demand help for the attackers, and Moishe is speaking in Hebrew. Let's listen and we'll translate as we go.

"He's saying, 'Men of Zion, pick up your dead! Remove from before us these jackals who have no power over us!'"

Remember, folks: god of love. Eli then decides to get in on the act.

Page 326- Line 26-28:
"'You who aid the fallen are not in danger unless you come against the anointed ones of the Most High,' apparently referring to himself and his partner."

I guess that answers one question: what's worse than a screaming street preacher? One that's protected by supernatural forces. In any case, it turns out that the dudes on the ground are dead and some IDF soldiers come on out to see what's what.

Page 327- Line 8-12:
"Moishe is speaking again: 'Carry off your dead, but do not come nigh to us, says the Lord God of Hosts!' This he has said with such volume and authority that the soldiers quickly have checked pulses and carried off the men."

Um... right. We are WAY over the top writing-wise at this point. I can actually see the authors getting all excited about the action they're narrating. Just awesome. Anyway, there's some pointless dialogue about the t.v. and then we jump back to Rayford and Chloe, who have arrived in New York and are talking about Hattie. Chloe observes that if she were Hattie she wouldn't come to see Rayford, Rayford responds that he's glad Chloe isn't Hattie.

Page 328- Line 18-26:
"Oh, don't put her down, Dad. What makes you any better?"

Rayford felt awful. Chloe was right. Why should he think less of Hattie just because she seemed dim at times. That hadn't bothered him when he had seen her only as a physical diversion. And now, just because she had been nasty with him on the phone and never acknowledged his last invitation to meet today, he had categorized her as less desirable or less deserving.

Dude, what the hell? You've thought poorly of her for a dozen chapters or more! It had nothing the hell to do with a phone call or anything else. Just... wow. The discussion continues and Chloe goes on to say that he can't treat Hattie as though "what happened" was just as much her fault as his. Rayford disagrees and Chloe lays her version of the smack... well... down, as it were.

Page 329- Line 18-20:
"No, it wasn't, Dad. She was available. You shouldn't have been, but you were giving signals like you were. In this day and age, that made you fair game."

Um... no. I mean, I know I'm an atheist and therefore inherently immoral in the authors' eyes, but if someone is married they are not "fair game" even if they are trawling for a lover. They are, in fact, a giant mess of trouble. But what the hell do I know? I'm just a happily-married non-Christian, which means that from the authors' point of view, I don't exist. So, hell, pay me no mind. Anyway, Rayford confirms that the last time he spoke to Hattie she was mad, and Chloe has a question for him.

Page 330- Line 1-4:
"Then what makes you [Rayford] think she's going to be receptive to your heaven pitch?"

"It's not a pitch! Anyway, doesn't it prove I care about her in a genuine way now?"

Speaking from experience, no, it doesn't. Having someone try to force their religion on me does not- generally speaking- make me feel like a valued human being. And then it gets even more stoopid.

Page 330- Line 12-15:
"Does she [Hattie] have any religious background?" [Chloe asked]

"I don't think so."

"You never asked? She never said?"

"Neither of us ever gave it much thought."

Wow is that ever a damned stupid assumption! Just because someone doesn't ram their religious views down your throat at every opportunity, it does not mean that they haven't given it "much thought". It may, in fact, mean that they just consider it impolite to inflict their views on others. But, apparently, that isn't a valid answer to the authors. Lovely. In any case, Chloe explains that he can't expect that Hattie will be receptive to Rayford's god talk, especially since he's offering it as some sort of consolation prize for losing Rayford's attention.

Page 331- Line 10-14:
"But my [Rayford's] attention is purer now, more genuine!"

"To you, maybe. To her this is going to be much less attractive than the possibility of having someone who might love her and be there for her."

"That's what God will do for her."

And I couldn't have said it any better myself: the entire message of this book is that true Christians don't have to love their neighbors or their enemies, love is what God does. It's really, really sad when you get right down to it, because it means that the religion acts to split its followers off from their fellow man. And given that I believe that all we really have is each other... yeah, I'm not into that. Anyway, Chloe keeps giving advice and eventually gets a rise out of Rayford.

Page 331- Line 23-27:
"Then you [Rayford] owe it to her to make that clear. But don't be so emphatic, and don't choose that time to try to sell her on-"

"Stop talking about my faith as something I'm trying to sell or pitch."

Well then stop treating it like it's a time-share you're selling on commission! I take you as seriously as your behavior warrants and, right now, you're ranking about midway between "arms dealer" and "used car salesman." Seriously, you can't scream about how solemn and sacred your views are one minute and then try to sell them like a microbrew the next.

Or, I guess you can since Rayford is gonna do both. He's gonna have to do them next time though, because this marks the halfway point of the chapter. Come back next time when we catch up with Buck, who has caught up with Hattie, who is basically whoring around New York. It'll be awesome.

* It may be worth noting that the authors might perhaps be trying to use the proper noun version of the term (i.e. Zealot) that refers to a first century Jewish political movement to expel Rome from the middle east. If that's what they mean, it's dubiously appropriate if only because it's equating the evangelicals with the hated Roman empire, which is funny as hell. And if that is what the authors mean, I find it more than a little doubtful that a non-raptured CNN announcer would use the obscure historical meaning of the term rather than the more common "religious wackos" meaning of the term. So, decide for yourself I guess.



Blogger scripto said...

"Chloe observes that if she were Hattie she wouldn't come to see Rayford, Rayford responds that he's glad Chloe isn't Hattie."

Ewww. Me too. The whole subtext of this thing is creeping me out. What creeps me out even more is Rayford's unwarranted smug assertion that, even though he is border line retarded and not what you would call a deep thinker, he's privy to some sort of special knowlege that the rest of the smarty pants world can't fathom. I've met people like that. Fundamentalists, anti-vaxers, truthers, birthers, New Agers...

Friday, April 09, 2010 6:06:00 AM  

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