Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why Josey and Tom Fogarty are better Christians than the Protagonists of this series.

Warning! Long Post ahead! If you don't like long posts on the nature of God and why Ellanjay's doesn't measure up, go play with a piece of tinfoil or something. Sorry for writing the War and Peace of snarks, but there were things that needed to be said.

Thing is I really like Josey Fogarty and to a certain extent, her husband Tom. Josey is so far demonstrating a more Christian attitude than the so-called RTCs in this book and her husband, Tom, while he's a terrible cop for reasons I've already discussed, again he's a better human being than the rest of the RTCs. That's why I am dreading the inevitable moment Ellanjay is setting them up for, when they get saved. Why? Because in Ellanjay's world getting saved means you give up your conscience. I cite as an example Exhibit A: Ryan Daley who stopped caring about his parents' fate when he said The Prayer.

It shouldn't be this way; becoming a follower of Christ should make you a more caring human being, not less, but once you become an RTC, you stop seeing human beings as human beings and start seeing them as people for whom you can sell product to.

Josey is desperately seeking something greater than herself. Even she admits that the New Age stuff she'd been following doesn't bring her any comfort nor does it explain what had happened to all the children.

Vicki asks why she didn't go to church and Josey gives this response.

"I believed what everyone was saying. People said the church was full of hypocrites, that institutionalized religion caused more problems than it solved, that God was in all of us and that we could find him for ourselves. It just seemed to me that the closer I got to finding the god within me, the farther I felt from a real God, if there was one. Then someone invited me to a Bible study. THat wasn't scary. It didn't sound like church. It was just a place to read about the Bible and talk about it."

It's not hard to read this passage and feel your heart ache for Josey. Josey is seeking something bigger than herself but unfortunately the god Ellanjay's self-inserts are going to sell her is a small-minded petty tyrant who hates all the people Ellanjay hates.

Not to mention, Josey makes good points in this passage. It's hard to defend organized religion when just by looking down the pew, you know that for all his high-minded promises to God, Mr. Johnson won't stop drinking, and while Mrs. Ellison will spend good money on herself, she won't give a dime to help the poor, and that for all its virtues, the family of God comes across as the most hypocritical, petty, small-minded family of all. It's not tough to find reasons to quit associating with fellow Christians, but as the old saying goes "The Church is a waystation for sinners, not a country club for saints." The hypocrites and all the other bad people only prove how desperately we need God. To quote G.K. Chesterton, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

Judging by the last part of the quoted passage, it appears Josey did meet a true Christian. This soul, who remains anonymous thanks to Ellanjay, appears to understand the true meaning of Christian hospitality. True Christian hospitality entails extending a welcome but leaving it up to the other person to accept, not trying to cajole or threaten them into heaven. This anonymous soul, who is on my favourite character list and who deserves a name, also isn't threatened by intellectual inquiry into the Bible. Ellanjay and his ilk are desperately frightened by this. They think if one finds out that Isaiah is likely the work of three different authors or that the Psalms weren't written by David that the whole edifice of Christianity will collapse. This anonymous soul on the other hand knows that authorship doesn't matter, that these works have endured because they speak to the truth of human experience on earth and that as long as they do this, they will outlast whatever scholarship can be dug up on them. Did I mention I really like the soul who invited Josey Fogarty to a Bible study?

But her husband Tom is worried about her, which is understandable. He is worried that she is making a decision out of fear and that she'll agree to any promises if it means she'll see her children again. This is a justifiable fear because that's what Ellanjay sell: fear-based Christianity otherwise known as "Do what I say or the children get it."

Again, Tom maybe a terrible cop, but he is a better human being than the rest of the Junior Tribulation Force. With his worries about his wife, he shows that he cares about another human being beyond their potential sales value, and he demonstrates more interest in the missing children than Trib Force Junior does.

"I don't know what to think, Ryan. One of my partners, Eddie Edwards, I think he's really intrigued by all this. He thinks he has it figured out because so many people who talked about the Rapture were among those who disappeared. But there were a lot of people missing who never talked about it. What about them?"

Ellanjay keeps forgetting that the majority of the missing are children who aren't likely to know of the Scoville-Darby works unless they grew up in RTC households and considering that when compared with the world's population at large, there will be a lot more "Pagan" or "Satanic" children disappeared than Christian, it's safe to assume that most of the missing never talked about it. Not to mention all the raptured fetuses and babies who couldn't talk about it.

Meanwhile, Bruce and Lionel have a discussion about Talia and wonder whether her conversion was genuine or not, and I roll my eyes all the way into the back of my head as they continue to insist that conversions shouldn't be motivated by fear when in Ellanjay's universe, that's the only thing that motivates conversion: fear. The only difference between God and Satan in these books is that one is bloodier and more violent and therefore wins.

Anyway, two of Fogarty's colleagues were shot and Judd decides to go with Tom to visit them at the hospital. While on the way, Judd tries to chalk another on his fuselage.

Anyway, so Tom demonstrates again that even though he is unsaved, he has better knowledge of God than Judd.

"Fair enough," Fogarty said. "I'll tell you exactly why. I was raised in a church where I was taught that God was love, but also that if you died with one sin on your soul, you went to Hell. I couldn't make that compute. I quit the church as soon as I was old enough to make my own decisions. I still carried around in my head the belief that there was a God, but that he was a God of love. Not an angry judge, not a crabby parent. Not someone who would create a person and burn him up later."

And the world cheers for Fogarty to resist the legalistic, small-minded RTCs. Fogarty may not know all the ins and outs of God, no one can, but he already believes that God is bigger than he is; that is an accomplishment that Ellanjay can't brag about. As Fred has said before, Ellanjay is the anti-Huck, more concerned with one's own salvation than with the real sufferings of other people. Right now, Fogarty is playing the role of Huck, saying that if God is going to send his fellow man to hell, he'll go to hell too. Too bad, my conversion sense is tingling and I have a feeling he and Josey will become robotic RTCs, blissfully unconcerned with other people's suffering.

Judd wanted to argue. Bruce had taught the kids that hell was a judgment for sin and that had to do with justice. But God didn't want anyone to die and go to hell. He had given the world so many chances to be saved that there was no reason anybody had to go to hell.

Oh really? Well what about tribes deep in the Amazon jungle who haven't heard of Christ? What about all the Indians in the New World before the white man came over? What about the profoundly retarded who lack the means to make such a decision? I'd like to hear Judd's opinion on these people.

But Tom is not easily convinced of this God of love stuff Judd is selling and why should he be? He's been a cop for a long time and anyone who knows anything about cops knows that they see the very worst of humanity. As he puts it:

"I quit thinking of God as someone who made sense. In fact, I don't know if I believe there is a God at all anymore. How could there be a God, in charge of everything, who would allow the things I've seen? People bludgeoned and mutilated, usually by someone they love and trust. I've seen parents murder their own children, children murder their own parents. I've seen people go through things that no one should ever have to endure. Where is the God in that?"

Tom Fogarty has some real questions that deserve answers, not more verses parroted by Judd, and the answer to his questions, I'm afraid, is I don't know. No human can fully understand the workings of another person's heart, but I cling to the Martin Luther King Jr. quote that goes "The arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice." I cling to the belief that though evil is oft so strong, it will in the end be defeated, not by bloody violence, but by love.

Judd doesn't have any answers which isn't surprising. Nothing in his rich-boy upbringing prepares him to answer for the kinds of things Fogarty has encountered. His response is essentially murder makes God sad but God has temporarily given control of the world to Satan so for now things are only going to get worse. I'll let you all point out all the things wrong with that in the comments. This review is getting long enough as is.

"I'm glad for you that you have something you believe in," Fogarty said. "If it works for you, fine. If it works for Josey, I'll be thrilled. Nobody that wonderful should have to go through what she's going through. It's been a long time since I've seen her come to life the way she did around you kids today. She rarely smiles anymore, but the way you saw her today, that's the way she used to be all the time. But parents aren't supposed to outlive their kids. It's too much to ask of a mother to have her children disappear. And it's happened all over the world. And you want to tell me the loving God of the universe did this on purpose? For what?"

Never have I cheered so loudly for a fictional character. Again Tom is demonstrating more of a knowledge of the character of God than Ellanjay could ever hope to obtain. With his line about "parents not supposed to outlive their kids" he shows he knows what Ellanjay refuse to admit: that Zod slaughtered all the kids. Again, gone is gone. It doesn't matter if they were wisked away like Ellijah or killed in a car accident; the feeling remains the same.

Judd gives the most bone-headed response to this.

"To convince you once and for all," Judd said.
"Convince me of what?"
"That he's real. THat he was willing to give up his Son and that he will give you chance after chance to believe that he is who he says he is. He said he would rapture his church, and he did. He's oging to come back again in seven years or so, and that will be the last chance of all for anyone who will still be alive."

Of course, the response everyone is thinking of right now is what about Ryan's parents? He didn't give them chance after chance; he killed them before they could even have a chance.

Judd then tries to sell his bill of goods with the bonus fact that God is going to kill three-fourths of the world's remaining population and Tom gives the response we're all thinking:

"This is your loving God doing this? Wiping out three-fourths of the world after already taking away all the believers? I don't get it."

And with that, I'll leave you until next week. I bet you can see why I like the Fogartys, Tom and Josey, so much: they're among the only humans we've encountered thus far. Once again, I extend the offer that if any of y'all once to write fanfiction for this series, go ahead. Email it to me and I'll post it on this blog. I am particularly keen on fics about Ryan's parents, especially if you have the common courtesy to give them names, and more stuff about the Fogartys.


Firedrake said...

As far as I can see, the basic philosophical problem is that with one's eyes on heaven it's easy to ignore what one's stepping in.

The practical problem, of course, is that no philosophy is resistant against knaves, and anything can be perverted to produce a justification for what people felt like doing anyway.

What we're seeing here, I suspect, is a basic course in self-justification for the hypocritical RTC (admitting the possibility that non-hypocritical RTCs may exist, though I haven't met one) rather than an attempt to enlighten those outside the cult.

As far as I'm concerned, the difficulty with "God doesn't want to send you to hell but has to do so if you don't follow him" is "hang on, he's God - who says he has to do things this way". If only the same people didn't also claim that God is omnipotent...

I think this is the third or fourth time during the public readings of L&J that someone has said "yes, but how can God be this cruel" and the RTC spokespuppet has just quoted verses that have nothing to say. This is a question that L&J can't answer without giving away their whipped-child psychology: sure, daddy/god is cruel, but you still have to do what he says because he's bigger and tougher than you and always will be.

Apocalypsereview said...

Very late to the party here, but I definitely think it's interesting how L&J accidentally have their "skeptics" produce more valid and cogent arguments for their case than their POV characters do for their case.

Judd's arguments fundamentally seem kind of weaksauce when the bald fact is that God has set things up so a lot of good people are gonna die.