Sunday, October 31, 2010

Everybody Expects the Ellanjay Inquisition

You'd think now that Ryan's capitulated and accepted that his parents deserve to be in Hell for all eternity because God can't apply the brakes that the other characters would lay off of him. You're thinking wrong, pardner. Ryan is the series' butt monkey further illustrated by the fact that despite Bruce's one in four predictions, he's the only one who actually dies.

But anyway this chapter starts with Bruce calling Judd and saying he's concerned about Ryan. Why?

"Well I have no doubt his decision was real," Bruce said. "I just want to make sure it wasn't something down totally out of fear. He was afraid something might happen to him, that Lionel's uncle's friends or enemies might catch him and kill him."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, let's back up here. Basically the purpose of these novels is to show what happens to those Left Behind, right? To scare kids with the horrors of the Tribulation, right? So in other words, you're using fear in order to chalk up more saveds on your fuselage yet now you're saying that the decision to receive Christ is one that shouldn't be motivated by fear?

Never has the verse, Physician heal thyself, seemed more appropriate.

So Judd decides to rack up more Asshole points by badgering Ryan. Vicki, aka Stepford Wife-In-Training, helps.

"So Ryan," Judd tried, "how does it feel to be part of the family?"

Need I remind you that Ryan's newfound acceptance of this family hinges on him accepting that his old one is suffering for all eternity. Again, this whole having to reject all members of your past family in order to fit in with the new family seems more like something out of Jim Jones's handbook than that of Jesus Christ.

But Ryan has clearly sipped the flavor-aid and responds this way.

"Great," Ryan said. "I still miss my parents, and I know I always will. And I'm still hoping that they somehow became Christians before they died. But I'm glad I'm going to heaven."


Wow...I know Ellanjay means for us to cheer that Ryan's now on the right path, but all I can think of is that quote from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers that Firedrake posted in response to another post. There really is no feeling, no conscience behind those words.

But the fact that Ryan has forsaken his parents to an eternity of suffering without end isn't enough to please the grand inquistor aka Judd. Judd asks, "Isn't it great to have our sins forgiven?" But Ryan demonstrates he still has a little of that pesky self-will and responds:

"I guess," Ryan said. "I wasn't that much of a sinner, though."

Of course, none of them were really that much of a sinner. Judd's sins consisted of not honouring his mother and father, lying to them, committing credit card fraud, and sipping champagne. Vicki's sins were not honouring her mother and father, though frankly if I had them for parents I wouldn't honour them either, doing drugs, and dressing like a skank. Those are the big sinners among the group. The further we get down the line, the harder it is to see what their sins were. Lionel, apparently, thought too much. Ryan's sin was not instantly biting the hook which Raymie presented to him. These are the kinds of sins commmitted by kids all the time. While Bruce Barnes, in Fred's words, was scarcely a quarter-assed sinner, these kids aren't even that. They're ordinary kids who are being treated like they're one step away from the anti-Christ.

"Oh really?" Judd said. "You were the almost-perfect kid, huh?"
"No. But the only time I did bad stuff was when I was mad or something. I was never bad on purpose."
Now Vicki got into the discussion. "Never lied, never cheated,never stole, were never jealous of anybody or wanted revenge? Never gossiped?

Once again, they're trying to unload their product by making kids feel guilty simply for being kids. At least in the adult books, they had the characters commit actual sins even if they confessed to the wrong ones.

That's why I almost want to tell the kids who read this series to sin your hearts out. According to Ellanjay, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't, so you might as well have a little fun before you end up going to hell in a handbasket.

"I'm just saying," Judd said, "no matter how good or bad we are, no matter how much our good outweighs our bad, the whole point is that we fall short. We all need to be forgiven. That's what it means to be saved."
"So I'm not saved because I wasn't really a sinner? I mean, I guess I was a sinner the way everybody's a sinner, but because I didn't see myself that way?"

That last bit of dialogue is the reason editors exist. I've read it several times and I still barely understand what it says. But this still reeks of Judd the Grand Inquisitor/salesman trying to convince Ryan the Butt Monkey that he's really a sinner so he can unload another product on him.

"How do you see yourself now?" Judd asked.
"From what?"
"But not from your sins?"

In a perfect world, Ryan would go, "Look I've accepted my parents are in hell because the almighty creator of the universe can't apply the brakes. What more do you want from me, Torquemadas?"

But anyway, following the inquisition, the kids go to church. It's pretty much a repeat of what was in the adult books with all the problems that go with it. Their kids are gone and all they can talk about is where they were on their personal faith journey?! These are the most self-centered Christians ever. Oh and Bruce warns against using the hypothetical bus scenario all the while using it. No one ever said these books weren't dripping with irony.

Anyway, the next part is another newscast where the kids watch Nicky Semien give his speech to the U.N. I'm fairly certain at this point Ellanjay just copied and pasted from the adult books only pausing to change a few details in his hurry to get this puppy on the shelves. Anyway the chapter ends with the characters all positive that Nicky isn't the anti-Christ, thus allowing the readers to feel smug because they're smarter than the characters.

1 comment:

Firedrake said...

The Roman Catholic version of this doctrine, which is what I was brought up with, is that being sinless is impossibly hard, and the only way to achieve it is via God. This leads quite readily into "everything bad you do is your fault, everything good is God working through you so you don't get the credit".

On this All Hallows' Eve, I think we should pause for a moment and contemplate the legions of emotionless, hollow-eyed, shambling creatures, wandering aimlessly across the ruins of the Earth, looking for souls to take for their dark master... ("How does it feel to be part of the family?")