Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hospitality is meaningless

Bit disappointed that no one laid into me for that whole Kurt Vonnegut thing in my last post, but then again, maybe I was wrong to assume that his fans are rabid and quite possibly insane. Anyway, same rule about links still applies.

The beginning of this chapter is really, really boring on both the American Front and the Guys Front.

In America, they're looking for Janie because if she rats them out to the GC, they're screwed. There is a brief poignant moment when they come across the body of someone who died looking for wood during the freeze, but in true Ellanjay fashion, it isn't dwelled on much.

Now with Judd and Mr. Stein...Well I'm happy to say, Ellanjay didn't wuss out. They actually went to Mali. Unfortunately all they do in their section is walk around the airport, so jury's still out on whether they'll actually show us anything of Mali or if they'll just wuss out and spend all their time at the airport. But regardless, it won't mean anything given that they managed to make visiting Israel and seeing some of the most holy sites in Christendom, seem about as memorable as looking at the side of a bus.

Anyway, they find Janie, who has a woman with her named Lenore. Basically they chew Janie out and she's all "I needed a smoke like you wouldn't believe," and introduces Lenore. Janie also says that life at the school isn't so bad aside from all the God stuff, which is a clear sign that Stockholm Syndome she's on the road to someday becoming a good RTC.

Lenore has a baby, Tolan, and naturally her arrival plus Janie's insistence that she won't go back to the school without her, sparks debate among the RTCs. They do eventually decide to take Lenore and her baby in, but still yet another lesson repeatedly learned as a result of these books: hospitality means looking out for your own. You owe no one else anything.

There is an interesting little conversation at the end of this section. Apparently Janie has the gall to refer to herself as a "Child of God," which makes Conrad say, "Uh...no you're not," and start going through the "Christ died for you" spiel. It's kind of confusing: I thought it was standard Christian doctrine that everybody was created by God; therefore we all bear a touch of the divine and can be considered Children of God, regardless of our Saved/Unsaved status. But then again, I'm one of those shiftless hippies who believes that she isn't in any position to make statements about who is or isn't going to heaven, so what do I know?

Janie, who I'm liking more and more, calls Conrad on his bullshit, saying essentially, "So you don't think I'm a child of God? Well what about Lenore or her baby?"

But Conrad has this to say:

"What you believe is that we're all part of God and that God rewards and punishes people simply by what they do."

"Yeah, so?"

"God's not like that. He wants to be our friend, but we sinned, and that separates us from God."


Okay, I'm seriously scratching my head right now. I don't wanna launch into the whole Theodicy debate because there's no satisfactory answer to it, but isn't "God rewards and punishes people by what they do" a standard part of Christian doctrine? In fact, don't Ellanjay's heroes frequently get rewarded for their virtuous behavior and snigger at the poor souls suffering as a result of the disasters brought about by God? I hate to belabor a point but Strawman Has a Point.  I know the point of this kind of fiction is to set up Strawmen for the brave heroes to knock over, but Ellanjay can't even do that right.

As for the last part, anyone remember being a kid and being told by your mother or father that if friendship comes with strings attached, then they aren't really your friend? The same applies to God. Just as if your friend demands you jump through hoops to please them, means they aren't really your friend, if God can't accept humans as the sweaty, flawed creatures he created, then he's not your friend either. In fact, given all the shit he's put humanity through in this book, kissing up to him basically makes about as much sense as kissing up to an abusive spouse in hopes that maybe he'll beat his other children rather than you. It's just sick and wrong.

But Janie, in a move that makes me like her more and more, refuses to buy what Conrad's selling and we end that section with Conrad rolling his eyes and thinking about how she won't listen to the truth.

In Mali, Judd and Mr. Stein are still at the freaking airport. Mr. Stein talks about how unlikely it is that someone like him would be chosen to be a messenger for God and brags about how he's memorized scripture. He then recites something from Psalms, which makes me roll my eyes. Because Jews apparently never ever read the Old Testament and therefore Psalms would completely baffle them. Anyway, a pilot with the Super Special Awesome Secret Mark comes up to them, introduces himself as Immen and says that God sent him to help them and that's where the Judd and Mr. Stein's section ends.

In America,  there's actually a nice bit where Shelly and Vicki read emails after which Shelly teases Vicki about her crush on Judd. Naturally, Vicki denies having a crush on Judd and while this is standard teenage banter, it's actually kind of nice. Even in the face of the apocalypse, teenagers will be teenagers and it's nice to see them occasionally act like teenagers.

Mark returns with Lenore and her baby, apparently ahead of Conrad and Janie by a few minutes, and the chapter ends with Vicki saying "We need to figure out what to do about Janie." Already my teeth are in grinding position because when they mention "doing something about Janie," I sincerely doubt they mean continuing to welcome her in Christian hospitality and love and probably mean telling her she could either accept Zod or be chained up in the basement or something like that. I would say they could just kick her out, but you know they would never just do that what with their paranoia that she'll rat them out to the GC. So they'll probably decide they need to really drive the point home. My rebuttal is essentially Revelation 3:20.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Note, that it's all between them and God and that in this, God is not forceful at all: he simply waits. He doesn't strong-arm you or kick the door down or anything.

Oh and regarding my whole links game, if any of you can think of any good "America" ones, that would be appreciated. I'm starting to run out of them and I'm trying to liven up my posts here.

8 comments:

Firedrake said...

The bit about Lenore's baby brings something into focus for me, and it's the reason why the Christian-warriors-of-the-apocalypse story jars so badly against the spy/thriller/conspiracy story. Conspiracy stories are about exclusion: you can't go to the cops, you think very carefully before trusting anyone, and the number of people involved has to stay small. Every extra person who gets access to the truth increases your risk of exposure.

And I'm sure you see where I'm going with this - one of the points of Christianity, and even RTCism sometimes, is to bring the truth to everybody. It's not a deadly secret, it's something you actively want as many people as possible to know.

Mouse said...

That's a good point, Firedrake. If this was a straight-up conspiracy thriller, the behavior of the heroes probably wouldn't gall me as much, but since these are Christians and they're supposed to be the good guys...yeah you can kind of see where I'm going with all this.

aunursa said...

He wants to be our friend, but we sinned, and that separates us from God."

I have fun teasing Evangelical opponents with this one. I point out several heroes in the Hebrew Bible whose sins did not prevent God from having a relationship with them. And I note that in claiming that God cannot have a relationship with sinful humans, my opponents are attempting to place a limit on His omnipotence. I tell them, "God is not bound by Evangelical Christian theology; He can have a relationship with whomever he wants."

aunursa said...

Mr. Stein talks about how unlikely it is that someone like him would be chosen to be a messenger for God and brags about how he's memorized scripture. He then recites something from Psalms, which makes me roll my eyes. Because Jews apparently never ever read the Old Testament and therefore Psalms would completely baffle them.

Mr. Stein grew up in a Reform household with little observance other than reciting the prayer for lighting candles on Friday night and occasional attendance at synagogue services. He probably considered his studies in preparation for his bar mitzvah ceremony to be the pinnacle of his Judaic studies.

Observant Jews (including Reform and Conservative) who participate in weekly services are fully capable of reciting from memory many Psalms in English or Hebrew. Every Jewish daily and weekly service includes several selections from the Psalms. A page in the the back of our prayer book lists all of the Psalms used in the book. IIRC, something like 80 of the 150 Psalms are recited in all or in part.

tinita said...

Meaningless or no use if we do it just to show to other but not to the intend that you show it for that what you feel because you love too not but you have too. Just making sense! :)

the family international (tfi)

Antigone10 said...

Hey, why should we give you crap about Vonnegut? People like what they like. I find Jane Austen to be as boring as reading Biblical genealogy, but I respect other people like her and what she did for female authors.

Antigone10 said...

Hey, why should we give you crap about Vonnegut? People like what they like. I find Jane Austen to be as boring as reading Biblical genealogy, but I respect other people like her and what she did for female authors.

Mouse said...

Besides my thing about Kurt Vonnegut was more a potshot at me: I like the guy's quotes, but for some reason, I can't get into his books. I feel bad because he seems like the kind of guy it'd be fun to chat with but still.