This week's chapter begins with everyone's favorite part of a novel--exposition and travel logistics--as Sam and Mr. Stein explain to Mac what we already know: how they're going to Tel Aviv to witness to some Rabbi's kids. It's really boring and unsnarkable except for this one line:
Mr. Stein asked Mac why he hadn’t stayed in Petra, and Mac smiled. “I’d get too fat eating all that manna. Plus, I’m having more fun than a coon in a cornfield flying all over the place with Albie.”
Based on that line of dialogue, I'm forced to picture Mac as Wild Bill from G.I. Joe. Yes, I'm a fan of that crappy eighties cartoon invented for the sole purpose of selling toys to eight-year-olds. Stop judging me! Though Cobra Commander would be more threatening than Nicky and this is a villain who got a gigantic laser and the best use he could find for it was carving his face on the moon. Not to mention the time he tried to conquer the world with mind control bubble gum. Plus Cobra Commander is voiced by Chris Latta whose high-pitched raspy voice made him at least entertaining even when his schemes didn't make any sense. RIP, Chris Latta. [/fangirling]
After landing in Tel Aviv, Sam and Mr. Stein meet up with Sabir, who is still driving a taxi cab because the plot needs him to even though it doesn't make any sense. Sam and Mr. Stein cleverly (and I'm putting cleverly in italics because the plan is really stupid) hide the fact they don't have Nicky's Mark by wearing hats and long-sleeved shirts.
They reach the place but don't find Aron or Joel, just a walky-talky. They hear someone say, "Pick it up and move to the right," and being the geniuses that they are, they do. :headdesk: Y'know with that kind of logic, Nicky could probably wipe out the Christians by leaving out envelopes coated with arsenic and a sign that says, "Lick me." It'd work given that the tribbles' minds operate on about the same level as the Super Friends.. Y'know when I set out to do this week's post, I didn't know I was going to make so many references to Saturday Morning Cartoons. Good times...
Anyway, they follow the directions from the walky-talky and eventually run into Joel Ben-Eliezar. Thankfully, Mr. Stein summarizes the story regarding his parents: that they used to be inscrutable and Jewish, but now they've abandoned the faith of their fathers and their cultural identities, and become good RTCs.
So naturally what follows is one of those scenes where they try to convert the stubborn Jewishy Jew. And we learn that apparently Ellanjay believe that being Jewish is synonymous with being an Atheist. Because that somehow totally makes sense. Don't believe me? Let's go through this conversation bit by bit.
“It is true. It is why we have come all this way at such personal risk. We want to tell you the truth about God.”
Joel rolled his eyes. “I have no need to believe in God. There is a scientific explanation for all the questions we have.”
:headdesk: Yeah, there's totally a scientific, non-supernatural explanation for why the Russia-Ethiopia-Libya nuclear payload was swatted out of the skies. Also, people get bamfed out of their clothing all the time. I could go on and on this point, but I think I've made myself clear. I know Ellanjay view the Jewish people as being cute but wrong, but I didn't know that they apparently believed them to be suffering from mental retardation as well.
“Even with everything that’s happened?” Sam said. “The disappearances, the earthquake, the—”
“People believe in God because they’ve been told to. They have an emotional attachment to their faith because it helps them get through. It helps them deal with their pain. I rely on myself and hard work. If a crisis comes, like an earthquake or another natural disaster, I try harder.”
So in addition to being a Jewish Atheist suffering from some form of intellectual disability, Joel also has the nerve to believe that you shouldn't sit on your ass while things get worse until TurboJesus comes and fixes everything otherwise known as that eeevil heresy called "Salvation by Works." After all, it's not like the brother of Jesus said something about faith without works being dead. :eyeroll:
They say something along the lines of "What about comfort?" Joel's response is “The only comfort we have in life is to know we have done something worthwhile. We’ve tried to think independently and struggled to improve the world.” So yeah, right now, I like Joel and hope he manages to escape like Taylor did. As far as I'm concerned, Taylor and Hasina faked their deaths and are off having adventures and being awesome in their own series while the tribbles sit on their asses and wait for God. That's my head canon and I'm not changing it.
Mr. Stein's like "What happens when you die?" Joel says, "Nothing. You get one chance and that's it." Mr. Stein tries to follow up with "With all that's happening in the world, doesn't it make sense to place your faith in God?" Joel's response is “I have faith in myself that I can improve the world. Outside of that, I have no use for faith.”
Not a bad response, I got to say. It would have been nice if Joel had responded by raising an eyebrow and saying, "Wait a minute, you're saying God is causing all these disasters yet you want me to place my faith in him even though he's the source of all evil right now?" But Ellanjay have shut themselves in a nice criticism-proof bubble for years now, so this may be the closest to a skeptical viewpoint we'll get.
Joel's brother Aron finally shows up. Aron tells us that Joel has taken the Mark, but he hasn't bowed down to Nicky's image. Joel has regretted taking the Mark, but given the kind of God worshipped in these books...gonna go out on a limb and say that matters diddly.
The chapter ends with them hearing a commotion. They look and see two guys trying to kill each other with swords in the center of the street. Comparisons to Roman gladiators are made. One of them chops off the other's arm. As he stands around bleeding, a long-haired man (dressed normally for once) comes and heals his arm.
The crowd hushed. The hero worship for the winner turned to silence as the man placed the severed arm back in place, grasped it with both hands at the point of the injury, and said, “I have been given power by the potentate. Therefore, under the authority of the risen lord, Nicolae Carpathia, I pronounce this wound healed.”
The injured man lifted his once-severed arm and raised a bloody fist above his head. “It’s back! He healed my arm!”
Yeah, this is a case of what TV Tropes calls Villain Has A Point. Y'see God loves us, which is why he's using his supernatural powers to kill us all. Satan, aka the Father of All Lies, aka the guy whose supposed to be the villain of this piece, is using his supernatural powers to help people. I don't believe I need to say anymore.
Next chapter...turns out the long-haired guy is one of the false prophets, whose name is Orcus. I have no idea if he appears in the adult books and I don't really care to know anyway. As Orcus is standing around saying, "Praise Nicky!" Mr. Stein gives the usual spiel to Joel and Aron about how Satan can mimic God's power but he's a false god who's evil and if you worship him, you're screwed."
In the midst of all this, we get this passage, which in light of other passages, raises my blood pressure. Once we get further along, you'll understand why.
Joel rubbed his forehead so hard that the bandage came off. Sam saw the mark of Carpathia beside scratches and blotched skin. “I’ve tried to get this off with sandpaper, even tried to cut the skin. But maybe Orcus is right. If he can do these things by the power of Nicolae …”
In response to this, Mr. Stein turns to Aron and says, "We need to talk now." So he pulls Aron aside and does the standard "Jesus is the messiah" spiel. And here's the part where my blood pressure goes up and I get all ranty...bear with me.
Aron focused on Mr. Stein’s words and nodded, asking questions and listening carefully. “If what you’re saying is true, my brother has no hope.”
“You are right. Once a person voluntarily takes the mark, their eternity is sealed.”
If you're not experiencing a white hot flash of fury right now, it's official: you have no pulse. Because it's been established that Joel didn't want the Mark. He only took it because he and Aron were both hungry and there's no way to buy or sell anything without the Mark. Also, the previous quoted passage has made it clear that Joel has regretted taking the Mark ever since.
I had the idea to post a really funny Simpsons clip to serve as a little bit of laughter before the profanity storm ensued, but I can't find the clip I'm looking for anywhere on YouTube, so you're going to just have to endure the Epic Profanity Storm without it. Sorry. If anybody's easily offended by profanity, just scroll past the all-caps part. Now that I've given my disclaimer...
FUCK YOU ELLANJAY!!! FUCK YOU AND THE SHITTY INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE YOU RODE IN ON! BECAUSE YOU'VE JUST FUCKING SAID THAT THIS GUY, JOEL, WHOSE ONLY CRIMES WAS TAKING THE MARK SO HE AND HIS BROTHER WOULDN'T FUCKING STARVE TO DEATH AND BEING JUST A LITTLE SKEPTICAL, IS GOING TO BURN IN FUCKING HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY BECAUSE OF IT! YOU FAIL! YOU FAIL SO HARD YOU DON'T EVEN DESERVE THE CRAPPY HOME VERSION! IN FACT, RIGHT NOW, I'M ENVISIONING TAKING THE CRAPPY HOME VERSION AND DOING ACTS WITH IT THAT ARE ILLEGAL IN ALL FIFTY STATES AND MOST OF CANADA, I HATE YOU SO MUCH! FUUUCK YOU!
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I'm going to quote Romans 8:38-39. Ellanjay have to know this verse; they quote from Romans later on in this chapter. So in short, WTF, Ellanjay?!
Romans 8:38-39New International Version (NIV)
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Okay, back to the story...In fairness, Aron does display some skepticism by saying "Even if he took it in order to help me?" in response to Mr. Stein saying because Joel took the Mark he's screwed for all eternity. Mr. Stein, doesn't bother to answer this legitimate question, instead, stepping around it by saying this:
Mr. Stein knelt before Aron. “Don’t let your brother’s choice affect your destiny. You will not be called to account for his decision. Accept the gift God is offering now.”
But the inevitable conversion scene is delayed as Joel shouts from another room, "Hey look outside!"
Outside, Orcus is preaching simultaneously saying that Nicky is a man of peace, while also saying, "We need to kill all who oppose them!" I could point out all that's wrong with this, but like I said before, right now, I'm siding with the villain of this series because the hero not only crossed the Moral Event Horizon years ago, but also took a steaming dump on it. To quote the late great Roger Ebert, you can't have heroes and villains when the wrong side is making the best sense.
Yeah, sorry for all the links in this post, but it livens up a dull rant and it's about the only thing helping me keep my sanity in the face of the overwhelming madness. I'm starting to think this is what the Nazis saw when they opened the Ark of the Covenant.
Orcus finds an unnamed woman who identifies herself as Jewish and pulls her from her hiding place. Orcus is all "Take the Mark!" but she refuses saying that she can't show allegiance to Nicky because he kills her people. Orcus kills the woman using two swords and there is much rejoicing had by the crowd.
I think Ellanjay realized that Joel was attracting too much sympathy because after this, they have him turn to his brother and say, "See this is why you need to get the Mark!" Like all their attempted Author's Saving Throws, this fails.
Mr. Stein, realizing that a potential sale is slipping away, pulls out a Bible and quotes a long passage from Romans, proving that Ellanjay are familiar with that book. The passage they quote is Romans 5:6-11, if you're curious.
Aron is like "So God becomes our friend simply because we ask him?" Mr. Stein's response is simply "Yes." Mr. Stein goes on to talk about how all our good deeds are rubbish because we're all horrible sinful people who deserve to burn in hell and the only way out of it is to say The Prayer and ask God to forgive your sins." Remember kids, Jesus lived a blameless life and was murdered because you're full of sin and evil aka the Gospel According to Ellanjay.
We also get this passage further illustrating Ellanjay's ignorance of Jewish culture, because remember they love the idea of Jews but not the reality of it, much in the way, New Agers love Native American culture while remaining ignorant of what Native American culture is or of the issues facing Native Americans.
Aron sat and stared ahead. Sam had gone through this same process as Judd and Lionel tried to convince him of the truth. For some the decision was immediate. For others, especially those who were Jewish, it was a more difficult process. There were hurdles they had to overcome that others didn’t. Aron had no doubt been raised to believe Christianity was different from Judaism, and for a Jew to embrace Jesus meant that you turned your back on your faith. Sam knew that wasn’t true, but would Aron see it?
To paraphrase aunursa, to a Jew, Jesus is irrelevant. They don't hate Jesus or spend their time denying that he's the messiah anymore than they do Joseph Smith, Mohammad, or Buddha, because as far as they're concerned, Jesus has nothing to do with their faith.
Mr. Stein is all "Jesus died for your sins! Reach out to him now!" and Aron starts to close his eyes, but just as he does, Joel opens the window and gives away their position to the GC, because Ellanjay were afraid that we might still have sympathy for an eevil sin-riddled sinner like Joel. Mr. Stein's like "Don't put this off" but Aron says, "I'll say The Prayer as soon as we're safe."
Two GC goons haul off Sam and Mr. Stein, taking Aron away in a different vehicle. Mr. Stein says this long prayer, praying to
Sam’s heart pounded in his chest. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the guillotine. When the Peacekeeper returned and roughly pulled him from the car, Sam knew he had only minutes and perhaps seconds to live.
Because I'm beyond pissed off right now, I'm going to spoil the suspense for everyone: NOTHING HAPPENS! According to Wikipedia, both Mr. Stein and Sam make it to the part where TurboJesus slaughters everyone. So like I said before: YOU FAIL FOREVER, ELLANJAY!
:deep breath: Sorry about all the profanity, rage, and links in this week's snark, but this week's selection really got to me. Think of this series as being like the Vincent Price movie, The Tingler. The only way to keep it from sinking its evil into you is to scream and rage against it. Rage, rage against the idiocy and the cruelty of it all!