Sunday, April 24, 2011

Branding Jesus

Happy Easter and how is everybody! I got in the Easter spirit by watching The Last Temptation of Christ. Great movie, definitely a nice palate cleanser after having to deal with Ellanjay's view of God. Consider Temptation to be the movie, Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ wishes it could be: a wrenching, passionate look into the life and times of our Lord. The trouble with so many movie portrayals of Jesus is that he comes across as distinctly unpassionate, reciting platitudes and parables with all the fervor of a wet piece of cardboard. This is a mistake: regardless of what you belief about Jesus Christ, surely he must have been more charismatic to make men leave their homes and families to follow him. But in Temptation, we get a sweating, striving, passionate Jesus that makes the whole film worth watching, even if Willem DaFoe is a little too Aryan to properly portray Jesus. Anyway, long story short, watch The Last Temptation of Christ; don't read Ellanjay's books.

But I vowed to snark as long as people will read my snarks, so here goes.

Anyway, Judd is told to cut out of his speech:

"Mentions of God. About the disappearances being a 'wake-up call.'"

Frankly I agree with them and not just because I hate Judd. A tragedy should not be used as an excuse for an altar call. It is a ghoulish and evil practice and should be stopped. We would be offended if a competing airline used the 9/11 disaster to advertise their services; why should we use Jesus the same way?

Apparently the graduation services are going to be airred live on CNN and if you can't point out all the things unrealistic/wrong with that scenario...Well I don't need to fill in the blanks, now do I? Anyway, even Leon Fortunato (have fun taking apart that name) is going to be there which causes the valedictorian to faint leaving Judd to the rescue!

Okay, I do believe in giving credit where credit is due so here we go: I liked the first part of Judd's speech where he asks for a moment of silence for those lost to the disappearances. This is the only instance of anyone mourning in the Left Behind universe. I cite as example, exhibit A: Rayford who forgot all about his wife once he was saved.

Now that I've given credit where credit was due, let me say something shocking: the speech quickly goes downhill after Judd confesses to having written the Underground. Afterwards, it turns into your standard altar call which is wrong for reasons I've already mentioned.

Next chapter, we find out the consequences of said speech: Judd is expelled, given no school credit, is banned from every college, and has to sign a document saying that he won't make disloyal statements against the NWO.

Remember how in a previous chapter one of the YTF, Mark, had expressed an interest in joining a militia? Well that plot thread is abruptly picked up.

"Tomorrow night we're simulating an attack," Mark said. "I can't say much, but the militia is big. I think God is going to use it to overthrow Carpathia."
"That doesn't square with scripture," Judd said.
"What are we supposed to do, roll over and play dead?" Mark said.

That's a good question, Mark, because right now that is the TF's plan. Well actually, the plan is to hide in a hole and did I mention it is a very selective hole? Bruce stalwartly refuses to let the other members of his congregation know who the anti-Christ is because he deems them worthy of immense suffering. So in a way, I like Mark though the idea of a child becoming a soldier sickens me: at least he's doing something.

Judd is still trying to talk Mark out of it, though.

"But Carpathia has gathered all the nuclear weapons," Judd said. "What chance could you possibly have? It's like a slingshot against a bazooka."

Apparently Judd hasn't heard of guerilla warfare. Sure the militia would die if they faced the enemy directly but in guerilla warfare, that seldom happens. The militia may be small but they can raid Nicky Karakoram's stores of supplies and weapons and generally make pests of themselves. After all, we had nukes and all kinds of superior weapons and we still lost Vietnam. It's very hard to take out guerilla fighters.

Well anyway, Mark, Judd, and Vicki go to the training exercise, but while they're there, the NWO goons show up. But it turns out that the militia had expected them to show up; in fact, they had planned this training exercise as an excuse to draw them out, while the rest of the militia attacks. Needless to say, faced with actual action, the YTF beat a brave retreat and we don't find out how the attack goes. But right now, I like the militia because they're doing a hell of a lot more than the TF hiding in their hidey-hole.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Evils of Syncretism

So Vicki's back in school and gets some news from Bruce: Janie, her jailbird friend, the one she took a shiv for, is coming to live with her and Chaya. But it isn't long before trouble strikes! Apparently Janie is still a party girl, still drinks and smokes, and gets into trouble. This is all very shocking to Vicki who had expected her to change overnight because it's not like smoking and drinking are diseases with causes that take time to fix and must be addressed before they can be. No, apparently, they're supposed to instantly straighten up and fly right in the presence of Bruce "Useless" Barnes.

But we get evidence that Vicki isn't completely pure as snow when she prays this to Zod:

"Lord, if it's okay with you, I pray that Judd and I would become more than just friends."

You just know Irene Steele would get the vapors if she heard such ungodly talk. But this is a fairly normal prayer for a teenage girl--praying that some boy would like her--so I'll let it slide.

Anyway they celebrate Thanksgiving now renamed Fall Festival Day by the eeevil NWO and discuss distributing their paper via the mail. They do this and there's a big jump to Christmas Eve. I have to say, this is somewhat shocking that they would actually fast-forward a good chunk of time given Ellanjay's fetish for making sure that you know exactly what a character is doing and when. I would applaud them for just fast-forwarding through all the phone calls and other minutia they're obsessed with but my bad writing sense is tingling, telling me something is waiting for me.

Anyway, Vicki gets a cross necklace for Christmas and Ryan is pissed when she assumes Judd gave it to her and storms off upstairs, only to catch Janie smoking something in her room. But she denies everything when the YTF question her.

Next chapter is a big jump to four months later and we get yet another ridiculous name, Judd's religion teacher, Mr. Syncrete. Now, I guess Syncrete is supposed to be a play on Syncretism which defines as:

the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.

So naturally I'm guessing this is Ellanjay's way of attacking Syncretism, though syncretism is a natural part of human nature. When two cultures meet, both sides will draw ideas from the other. No culture exists in a vaccuum; even America, is blending together of a wide variety of cultures and beliefs, yet they manage to coexist mostly because of syncretism. Though we may have pillaged and plundered Indian cultures and saw them as inferior, we also drew a lot of our native dishes and place names from them; nearly every state in the union has an Indian name.

In fact a lot of Christian practices are syncretism. The characters celebrated Christmas which is basically a pagan solstice festival dusted off and given a Christian feel (don't tell me Ellanjay really believes Jesus was born on December 25), as is Easter. I could go on and on about examples of syncretism but my main point is this: Syncretism exists as a natural flowing from the interactions of various cultures.

But naturally, Ellanjay see anything less than purity as evil (though when you think about it, purity doesn't really exist) so Mr. Syncrete is an eeevil employee of the NWO teaching system what with his insistence on tolerance for everyone even if they aren't Judeo-Christian.

For some reason though, the NWO requires religious education for graduation. Why, I don't know. You'd think the anti-Christ would oppose that sort of thing, learning about other faiths than the one he's trying to promote but maybe I should give up trying to apply logic where it doesn't belong.

So apparently Judd and Mr. Syncrete get into debates. Unfortunately, it's not much of a debate: it lasts two sentences long. You can't help but feel ripped off that Ellanjay can't even set up a decent strawman for their protagonist to knock down. Here's the stunning debate:

"You have no basis for saying that," Mr. Syncrete said once. "Give me one shred of evidence that the so-called Ressurection isn't the work of fishermen turned fiction writers."
"I'll give you the evidence," Judd said, "if you'll admit that the Ressurrection of Jesus, if it happened, changes everything your teaching."

First of all, Judd, no way a sixteen-year-old boy can do what centuries of Christian apologists couldn't: prove that Jesus rose from the dead. It's one of the things we accept on faith and many of us feel that the teachings of Christ's life are way more important than whether or not he rose from the dead. Unless you can pull out time-lapse photos taken from the tomb, you can't really prove anything. And don't point to apologetics: all that proves is that a lot of people believe something and that doesn't necessarily make it true.

But anyway Judd is offended by the test he has to take for Mr. Syncrete and is even more offended when he finds out that by walking out on the essay part of the test that he has failed the class. Entitled much, Judd? You're a constant pain in the ass to the teacher, and you still expect to get an A even though you didn't do the work. The test was to show how much you've learned, Judd, not what you believe. You couldn't just bullshit your way through the class?! I am totally on Mr. Syncrete's side and not just because I like his name.

Anyway to end the chapter, Janie is busted for drugs and Bruce decides to send her back to the Detention center. Oh and even though he failed one of his classes and acted like a total turd to his teacher guess what? Judd gets to be salutatorian for his graduating class. :starts massaging temples: I wonder what pearls of wisdom we have to look forward to in the next few chapters. I might need to start drinking something stronger than water to get through this.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

There is No Power in the Blood

Okay, so Judd and the other manly members of the YTF are debating what to do about uniforms whether to go along with the crowd and wear the doves or to stand out and wear red Xs. Me, I wonder why the NWO would give them a choice in this. I suppose they hope the Christians will single themselves out, but really can you count on that? I guess Ellanjay is trying to draw parallels with the Jews in Nazi Germany being forced to wear yellow stars but the thing is, they weren't given a choice. They weren't asked to wear either swastikas or stars; it was stars all the way. So add this to a long list of things Ellanjay know nothing about.

Oh and I was wrong: I thought Vicki was being sent to an Adult facility but apparently she is being sent to live with you guessed it, Bruce "Useless" Barnes. Oh and if you're wondering she and Chaya will be living together in Bruce's house and the heretic in me wants to write some femmeslash, but I'm too lazy. I'd like to remind y'all I'm still accepting fanfiction for this series. It doesn't have to be Vicki/Chaya femmeslash; frankly I want fics about Ryan's parents.

Anyway, they talk about the news how there's theft and violence everywhere which is surely a sign of the End Times. :eyeroll: Uh, tribbles I hate to break it to you but fastforward to 2011, US is involved in three military quagmires and theft and violence is pretty much all over the evening news and Jesus still hasn't come back.

But then again, this is another failure of imagination on Ellanjay's part. They occasionally mention violence but it's always in far-off places; so far the only one who has experienced real suffering as a result of the Tribulation is Vicki. (I'm not counting Ryan because he immediately forgot about his dead parents when he became a Christian. I'm not kidding; there hasn't been a single mention since his conversion.)

Judd tells his friends about the fact there's little money in his father's bank account and they decide the best thing to do is for him to go to Israel with Bruce. Yeah, I don't get it either. Anyway they get to Israel in time for Nicky Chittagong to announce the new temple. Moise and Eli are there as well, and I'm starting to wonder if they have some sort of Tourette's Syndrome only one that causes them to shout random bible verses rather than the usual swears.

In the second chapter, we finally get some mention of Ryan. At last! I was starting to wonder if he had managed to escape the books and he and Tom and Josey and Verna and Hattie were hanging out together drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and talking about their lot in life.

Okay basically Ryan spends his time hanging out among the stacks of bibles and reflecting on how everyone ignores him. Okay, maybe he doesn't use the exact word, "ignore," but he seems aware that he's a background character and doesn't complain too much about it.

Meanwhile Vicki meets up with Chloe Steele, who's worried about her dad. Why I don't know. Since Rayford Steele is Tim LaHaye Mary Sue surrogate, he's destined to survive to the end of the series.

Anyway, she and Vicki gossip about guys. Apparently her dad's relationship with Amanda White is progressing faster than her relationship with Buck Williams. I could make a joke about this being the case with two virgins but I don't think I will. Anyway, here's what she has to say.

Chloe shook her head. "My dad says he may be married before Buck and I are."
"Your dad? Marry who?"
"Amanda White," Chloe said. "She knew my mom. It took my dad some time, but they're getting serious."

Okay that last part screws with the chronology in so many ways. Granted Ellanjay have been playing coy about just how much time has passed since God slaughtered all the children, but they make it sound like Rayford and Amanda have been dating for months, not days.

"Buck hasn't proposed?" Vicki said.
"No and I'm not going to push him. The night he left for New York he told me he wished I could come with him."
"Why didn't you?"
"That would be inappropriate," Chloe said sarcastically. "Anyway, being apart has helped me love him even more."

Oh this passage is begging for some dirty jokes specifically about Chloe dating Rosie Palm and her five sisters, but I don't think I will mention that. I'll just say that in Ellanjayland even hip college students are into Victorian-style courtship.

What are the manly men up to? Well they're busy making a website as a means of distributing the Underground. They're still printing up paper copies but now they have a website to post Bruce's ramblings on. And we get some criticism in there.

"Everybody has their own interpretation of the Bible," the message read. "Stop trying to scare people into believing what you believe."

Pretty half-hearted critique. I would have pointed out that this interpretation that Bruce clings to didn't exist before some Darby guy put it together in the 19th century and point out how it ties God's hands and denies the power of his love. But that's just me. Ellanjay have existed in an echo chamber for so long, I don't think they know what criticism sounds like.

Bruce naturally compares himself to Jesus and they watch some footage of a temple sacrifice. Because those eeevil Jews with their stubborn "La-la-la...Can't hear you" denial of Christ have decided to start sacrificing animals again, Zod has started turning the blood from the animals into water.

Bruce explains.

"The Jews who didn't believe that Jesus is Messiah have gone back to sacrificing animalsto show their devotion to God," Bruce said. "What they're doing is rejecting the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. They're doing it their own way and that's displeasing to God.
"But why does it have to be blood?" Ryan said.
"Blood is the symbol of forgiveness," Bruce said. "In the Old Testament it says there is no forgiveness of sin without shedding of blood. That's why Jesus had to die. By turning the blood to water--something powerless--God is showing his disapproval of the sacrifices in the new temple.

Okay, there's a lot of wrong in here to unpack and I'm afraid I'm not able to do it all. I lack Fred's knowledge of theology and I lack a knowledge of Jewish law and customs. I'm just going to end this post by saying that I don't believe my God's hands are tied by blood or the lack therof.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why the Kids books are better than the Adults.

Is Left Behind: the Kids a good series? No. There are tons of YA authors who are more in touch with youth culture and deal better with issues such as the end of the world and religion a million times better than Ellanjay. Read Katherine Paterson, read Ann M. Martin, Jerry Spinelli, anybody but Ellanjay if you want good YA fiction. If you really want post-apocalyptic YA fiction, I recommend Susan Beth Pfeffer's last survivors series. It's dark, grim, and shows how people really react when the end of days is on them.

But is Left Behind: the Kids better than the adult books? Much as it pains me to admit this, I have to say, yes. While the kids has nearly all the flaws of the adult series and is terminally boring, it lacks the creepy sexual politics and so far, things are actually happening in these books. I don't know why the kids is better than the adults, but note when I say better, I don't mean they're good books. These are still terrible, terrible books. In short, Left Behind: the kids is better than the adult books the way a kick in the gut is better than a kick in the teeth.

So apparently the temple in Israel has already been built. Got to hand it to Nicky Cherskiy: he works fast. Not to mention, he has the incredible ability to move mountains since the muslims don't object to them building on the dome of the rock because apparently he moved it.

Oh, and Bruce met up with some guy from Singapore who's giving them permission to use the stadium Dr. Ben-Judah uses, to hold meetings there. It is then they find out that Vicki has been arrested and their mole at the school, Coach Handlesmen, is in trouble. Naturally Bruce decides to go to Singapore. Why?

"Wait," Judd said. "If God wants you in Singapore, that's where you should go."
"I wouldn't want to abandon Vicki or Coach Handlesmen when they need me most," Bruce said.
"You're not abandoning them," Judd said. "They would want you to follow God's leading. I'll go back."

And naturally Bruce decides a sixteen-year-old boy is the perfect candidate for negotiating the release of a comrade from NWO (New World Order) goons. Once again, Bruce proves how useless he really is.

So Vicki is in the slammer and is visited by Chaya. She advises Chaya to get an apartment near Bruce and that's all the happens in her section. Back to the manly men.

Judd arrives back in Chicago and is shocked, shocked, to have his luggage searched by NWO goons. Judd's outrage at this seems quaint in our post-9/11 days of full-body scanners, but this was composed in 1999 aka pre-9/11, so I suppose we can give Ellanjay a pass on this.

Basically the NWO goon is searching Judd because his name came up in an investigation of Coach Handlesmen and I point to sections like these as proof that the kids books are better than the adults. Stuff is actually happening: christians are facing actual persecution and the NWO goons are actually doing something.

The NWO goons search Judd's computers but the hard drive's crashed and they can't find anything on him, so he's free. But at the end of the chapter, we finally get some mention of money woes.

It was a bank statement. His father's account which he thought would easily last the next seven years, was dangerously low. They would be lucky if the money lasted seven months.

Okay, this is bothering me. Judd is a rich kid: he lives a house that's big enough that each of the YTF can have their own room and it's in a wealthy Chicago suburb. So how is it that he managed to drain the account so fast with the YTFs' expenses. Granted that trip to Israel couldn't have been cheap, nor could the paper, but could they really have drained his father's account with living expenses alone?

Next chapter, we're back to Vicki in prison. Vicki gets shanked. Now, for some reason, we're back to Judd. Why we haven't heard from Ryan or Lionel in a while, I don't know. I imagine them hanging around off-screen at some support group for victims of Ellanjay Abuse with Hattie and Verna.

Basically the NWO has stepped up the number of guards at the school and Judd has decided to become Valedictorian, because apparently in Ellanjayland people actually listen to valedictorian speeches, so Judd sees this as his chance to evangelize.

Back to Vicki. She survived the stabbing so we can cancel that candlelight vigil we had planned but now she's being shipped from Juvie to an adult facility. Why we keep cutting back to Judd, I don't know; right now her story is more compelling, but she's a chick and Judd's a dude so therefore, his story is considered more exciting.

Anyway, Judd gets called to an assembly where it is told that there will be zero tolerance for those who evangelize and they're given new uniforms to wear. The uniforms are black with white doves on the shoulders and those who don't want to wear the dove, get uniforms with red Xs.

And that's the snark for this week. I would have done a third chapter but I think this post is long enough.