The chapter starts with Judd finally getting home and seeing his family is gone. He had already suspected it was the rapture; now, he's getting confirmation in his family being gone.
So he and all the other protags head over to New Hope Village Church. And they face no trouble whatsoever. No roving gangs, no wrecked cars blocking the way, no nothing. Remember this was the scene just a chapter or two ago.
Yet they face no trouble getting to church and when they do, Bruce doesn't greet them with a shotgun he's keeping by his side in case he needs to defend his church.
Bruce is described as a "man in his thirties with curly hair and wire-rimmed glasses." I suppose this is a step up from saying he's a young Robert Redford, but I have a question related to continuity. I want to know if this is how he's described in the adult books. I'd be surprised if it was consistent given Jenkins's style of writing.
Bruce shows admirable restraint, if you want to call it that in his conversation with Ryan.
"Did you lose some family?" the man said.
Ryan nodded. "They died," he managed.
"No, they are in heaven with Jesus."
"They didn't get taken," Ryan insisted. "My dad died in a plane crash and my mom in a car accident."
Bruce manages to resist telling Ryan the truth according to this series: that because God can't apply the brakes, his parents are doomed to burn in hell forever and ever without end. Maybe he resists because he knows that would be bad for his sales pitch, but this fact is never visited upon by anyone in the series. If they did, there would be questions raised, and Ellanjay, who are the Gods of this universe, wouldn't like those questions.
Now here's Bruce's story.
"I lost my wife and my young children. They disappeared from their beds, and I knew immediately that I had been living a lie. I had been to Bible college and was a pastor, but I always thought that I could get by, living for myself and never making the decision to receive Christ."
Nice to know, Bruce couldn't even be bothered to give the names of the people he lost. I mean, they're just his wife and children. Surely he couldn't care that much.
But then again, maybe he doesn't. He does seem to be more preoccupied with his own salvation then with the fact they're gone. It makes me long for Clarence Gilyard's portrayal of Bruce in the movie. It wasn't a perfect performance but at least he was expressing honest grief about what happened.
But Bruce has some good news. They can say the prayer and when Jesus slaughters them during the next seven years, they get to be in heaven too!
"That won't take away your sorrow, your grief, or your loneliness. I can't even imagine a day when I won't cry over what I've lost. But now I don't apologize for telling everybody who comes in here how they can receive Christ. It's really quite simple. God made it easy."
And for the price of three payments of $19.95 plus your eternal soul, you too can be saved! Bruce's pitch so far makes me think of infomercials but then again, he too, is stressed with the importance of moving product.
Anyway, here comes Bruce's pitch.
"First," he said, "we have to see ourselves as God sees us. THe BIble says all have sinned, that ther is none righteous, no, not one. It also says we can't save ourselves. Lots of people thought they could earn their way to God or to heaven by doing good things, but that's the biggest misunderstanding ever. The Bible says it's not by works we have done, but by his mercy that God saves us. We are saved by grace through Christ, not of ourselves, so we can't brag about our goodness."
The Bible also speaks of Jesus saying this in Mark 10:17-22
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Not to mention Matthew 25:31-46 defines the righteous as those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in strangers, and visit prisoners. I suppose that works can count as meaningless if done solely in thought of getting rewarded with eternal life, but what if these works were done simply out of human compassion as Jesus intended?
Bruce then gives the standard spiel about Jesus dying for your sins and warns against making a hasty decision, which makes me laugh, because according to the laws of Ellanjay's universe, the word of Jesus is supposed to be so amazing that you decide instantly.
So they watch the video and we are spared Vernon Billings's preaching, thank God for small favours, and we are left with this question: "Will you receive Christ?"