Sunday, February 22, 2015

Context Matters

Like I said, it gets harder and harder to work up the strength to go a few roads with Ellanjay every week. But tonight I have the Oscars to look forward to. Don't care about any of the nominees, but it's being hosted by Neil Patrick Harris so I get to spend an evening alternating between lusting after him and cursing the Heavens for making him Gay. Dammit, Neil Patrick Harris! You're funny, charming, can sing, dance, and act...why do you have to be gay?!

Then of course, I look at pictures of Neil Patrick Harris's equally adorable family and feel guilty for wishing he'd somehow get Amnesia and forget he's Gay.

Okay, now that I've embarrassed myself by revealing to the Slacktiverse that I long for a Gay man's tender touch, let's get back to business.

As a writer/thinking human being, I do like to try to get into the minds of others, no matter how repellant, and figure out where they're coming from. Though in Ellanjay's case, I admit, I spend more time trying to figure out what they were trying to do, given that they fail at everything.

Anyway, my point is, I keep wondering what the hell they were trying to say with last week's line that made me see red about how Israel must confess a specific sin in order to be blessed. Do they realize just how fucking anti-Semitic that sounds? I know they'd be shocked and appalled by all the times I and Fred have referred to them as anti-Semitics. Ellanjay's thinking is probably similar to the kind of thinking seen by a lot of racists which goes along these lines: Racists attend cross-burnings. I have never attended a cross-burning. Therefore, I am not racist.

But I'm not completely sure so I'm wondering if someone more versed in the arguments fundies use can tell me: a) What were they trying to say with the specific sin line? and b) How Ellanjay can justify that it's totally not anti-Semitism?

I'll even provide the line to help you out:

“Israel must confess a specific national sin against the Messiah before we will be blessed. In Hosea 5:15, God says he will ‘go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me earnestly.’

Now that we've got that bit of business out of the way, let's see what this week has to offer.

Sam and Lev are climbing up a high place together. Sam is doing a very nice version of "Lotta bad things can happen out there to your body, your eternal soul...we can offer you protection, my good man."

Lev and Sam look out at a stage where a bunch of GC and a bunch of unsaved are gathered. The GC is committing such eeevils as making a spring of water appear in the desert and provided bread to the hungry and thirsty gathered. Sam is all scornful, once again making the remark about how the GC are doing counterfeit miracles, when suddenly, people in the crowd start dropping dead. Apparently some freaky Dust Devil has appeared and the crowd starts running in fear. The spring of water turns to blood and we get this delightful passage:

The chopper started, and a cloud of dust kicked up and covered the area. Sam strained to see through the binoculars. When the sand cleared, Lev let out a shriek. Bodies dotted the path back to Petra. The stage was gone. There were no Peacekeepers or vehicles or anything that had been there only moments ago.

Y'know I can't help but think of that noxious "Angels in the Alley" glurge, ably taken down by Snopes here. The logic behind the LB-verse is similar. They keep blaming all the misery and suffering on Satan and every time God intervenes, they say a prayer of thanks, but in this section, it's God's fault, not Satan's that these people died. He was the one who sent the dust devil and poisoned the water, thus ensuring that the people who gathered there died horribly and will burn in Hell forever. If He had left them alone, there's a chance they might have converted and be on the side of right when TurboJesus comes back, packing heat. So yeah, not exactly a ringing endorsement of God's love.

If you guessed immediately after seeing all this, Lev decides he loves Big Brother, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. I admit I pretty much saw Lev's capitulation coming, but at the same time, there was part of me that hoped that somehow he'd escape like Taylor and Hasina. But so much for that.

The section ends with Sam walking Lev through The Prayer and we cut to Vicki.

Now, I know many of you, including myself, have pointed out many times that even though they're living through the End of Days, the protagonists (with the exception of Ryan "Butt Monkey" Daley) aren't really suffering much. Well that simply isn't true, because according to the next section, Vicki has to resort to :gasp: :choke: communicating with Judd every night via email and instant messaging, while only getting to talk with him on the phone three times a week. It's like Kurtz said, "The horror...the horror..."

Judd, being the Nice Guy that he is, complains about Lionel and how his injuries are slowing them down, as though Lionel hacked off his arm not because he was in life-threatening danger, but to inconvenience Judd. I admit I'm exaggerating Judd's comments a little for comedic effect, but not by much. Here's what he said, if you don't believe me.

In one e-mail, Judd described his thoughts about Lionel. I feel awful that I resent him. I know there’s no part of him that wanted that to happen, and he’s been through so much pain during the healing process. Yesterday I awoke out of a dead sleep and heard him gasping for breath. I thought he was dying, Vick, but when I got to him, he was crying. He said his arm really hurt, and he was just sad about the things he’d never be able to do again.

All that must make it even harder for you, Vicki wrote.

Yeah. Deep down I know that what happened is not anybody’s fault. But when I think of not being able to be there with you, all those ugly feelings come back.


I know Ellanjay would probably sooner bathe in battery acid than read Doonesbury, but whatever your opinion about the strips' politics, even they knew that losing a limb is a traumatic event that lends itself to a great story.

Anyway, Judd and Vicki eventually get on the phone with each other. Vicki is all "God protected you and Lionel from the GC and if He wants us to be together, we'll be together, and that if he just wants them to be friends, then that's okay too."

Judd basically says the same thing that if God wants them together, they'll be together, and I'm feeling the strongest urge to post this cartoon from xkcd. Yeah, it's probably only tangentially related but humor me here.

The conversation ends with Judd saying that with God in control, there's no way he can blame Lionel for them not being together, and after reading that line, I really hope Lionel shivs Judd in the eye. Because seriously, Lionel, your friends suck.

Vicki hangs up and reads Sam's latest blog post. For those of you wondering, Lev's mother too has abandoned the Faith of her Fathers and become a good RTC. Vicki then decides to read Sam's blog post to the rest of her friends and the majority of her section is taken up with this. Yeah, because the only thing better than Exciting!TV Watching!Action and Exciting!Email!Action is Exciting!Reading!Action. Never say Ellanjay aren't in touch with the youth of today.

Anyway in addition to the stuff Lev and Sam mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, Nicky's miracle worker also temporarily blocked the sun with a cloud and turned a microphone stand into a snake and back again, in addition to creating the spring of water and feeding the crowd bread from a basket that never emptied. Truly their evil knows no bounds!

But don't worry, for those of you confused as to how feeding the hungry is evil, Sam's blog post explains for us.

“‘Do you see the mockery of this? Miracles God performed in the Bible were produced by this faker to gain people’s trust. And they fell for it big-time. The man, or being, whatever he was, said he was a disciple of Carpathia. And while his behavior had been nice up to that point, he then said that Carpathia’s patience had run out and that he would administer Carpathia’s mark. He simply pointed at people, and they had the mark of Nicolae.

Afterwards, as though Ellanjay sensed my critiques about how the villains aren't being that evil, the miracle worker kills a group of followers then resurrects them. Then things become seriously confusing. I thought Ellanjay were trying to have the bad guys Kick the Dog, but what follows...yeah, you have to see it for yourselves.

“‘I have to tell you, Lev and I saw this cloud moving straight for the stage and audience, but we didn’t know what it was. Abdullah said the man onstage told the people the cloud contained snakes, vipers with a deadly venom. That’s when the spring of water turned to blood and the man called the people fools and said Nicolae wanted them dead. He told them to run but warned that the vipers would kill them before they reached Petra.

“‘And that is what happened. The cloud caught up to the people, and there was a line of bodies in the sand. Abdullah was sitting in the helicopter with two of his friends when the evil man appeared before them. The wonder-worker didn’t open his mouth, but they heard him say, “I know who you are. I know you by name. Your god is weak and your faith a sham, and your time is limited. You shall surely die.” ’”

I can't be the only one going "Da Fug just happened here?!" It becomes even more confusing when Sam brings up the Dust Devil and that after it swept through, everything in the desert--the stage, the vehicles, and the people--were gone. Sam and Abdullah talked to Token Jew. Token Jew told them that it was demonic apparition they saw, which only makes things even more confusing. What purpose was this apparition supposed to serve? Was it supposed to win converts to either Zod or Satan's side? Or did Ellanjay just want something creepy to happen but they botched it because they suck as writers?

Sam goes on to say that Token Jew told him that God is doing his winnowing work or in other words, punting those who won't kiss his ass. So it's pretty much like aunursa said in a previous comment about how God created people he knew would never believe and is now killing them for not believing.

Token Jew then quotes from Romans. They don't specify chapter and verse, so I had to do some digging to find it, because I believe in context, but to the best of my knowledge, he quoted the last few verses of Romans 11. As you've guessed, if you actually read the other parts of this chapter, Paul's opinion is more nuanced than Token Jew's. I pick on Paul for being a misogynistic ass at times, but even he wasn't as bad as Ellanjay. Most of the really misogynistic stuff wasn't written by him and he has more respect for the Jewish people than Ellanjay. This isn't surprising, seeing as Paul was originally a Jew and therefore knew its traditions inside and out, but still have to admit, while I have my issues with Paul, I'd much rather follow his version of God than Ellanjay's.

Vicki's section ends and we cut back to Sam.

Apparently now everyone at Petra has the Zod-mark, which is good. Now they no longer have to worry about Token Jew siccing God on their asses for not obeying every word that comes from his mouth. So we have a nice theocratic dictatorship out in the city of refuge.

Token Jew decides to preach a sermon. :groans: Not again! Make the bad men stop with this overused trope, Mommy!

Okay, maybe before we get to the sermon, I need to bring up Chaim's little speech he does as an opener.

“Tsion believes the Lord has told him that no more indecision reigns in the camp. You may confirm that by looking about you. Is there anyone in this place without the mark of the believer? Anyone anywhere? We will not pressure or condemn you. This is just for our information.”

Yeah, it's just for informational purposes. There's no way this will be used against's all perfectly safe, so long as you do exactly what Token Jew says.

Anyway, Token Jew starts his sermon by citing Isaiah. I read ahead and apparently, Token Jew's sermon is entirely made up of quotes from the Old Testament prophets, even though they preached constantly about the Social Gospel which I thought Ellanjay considered a bunch of Islamo-Commie-Fascist nonsense.

Once again, when they quote Isaiah, they don't specify chapter and verse, forcing me to fire up Google to figure out which verses they were mentioning. Can't help but wonder if their target audience would be willing or able to go to that amount of effort in order to understand the book. It's almost as though for all their talk about how it's important to read your Bible every day to better discern God's will for your life that Ellanjay don't really mean it. When they say "Read your Bible every day," they probably mean, "Read the parts we like and don't even think of reading any further lest heretical ideas take root."

Anyway, turns out Token Jew is quoting from Isaiah 10 specifically a few verses here and there, 20-23 and 27, for those who care. It's probably a good thing that Token Jew didn't read the beginning of that chapter. Who knows what ideas his foolish subjects loyal citizens might get?

He then quotes from Zechariah, again without citing chapter and verse, but I believe it's Zechariah 13, specifically the last two verses. And if you guessed the rest of the chapter fails to make the singular point that Ellanjay want it to make, congratulations for being a thinking human being who takes into account context.

Token Jew ends his sermon by preaching a few verses out of Ezekiel. Unlike the previous examples, he does actually cite a chapter, Ezekiel 37 aka the Valley of Dry Bones chapter. Granted Token Jew doesn't bother to supply verse numbers, but it's a start. Since I'm a gentile/amateur theologian, I can't be certain how Jewish people or biblical scholars interpret this chapter, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Ezekiel is saying what a lot of the Jewish prophets said: If you follow the Law and keep to the Faith, you will be restored. I'm also going to assume that when Ezekiel wrote said chapter, he also probably wasn't saying, "At some indeterminate point in the future, TurboJesus will kill all your enemies." Thank goodness we have Ellanjay to tell us how the Jewish people/scholars have been interpreting their own scripture wrong for what appears to be countless millennia. What would they do without him...

Anyway, that's it for this week. I know, I know, another one chapter snark, but hey, felt this one was getting hella long and I try to keep them at a reasonable length as a courtesy not only to my sanity, but to my faithful readers.


aunursa said...

Speaking of movie awards, congratulations are in order for Left Behind alumnus Kirk Cameron.

aunursa said...

A traditional Jewish interpretation of Ezekiel 37 is that it is referring to the dawn of the messianic era.

Ironically we would argue that since none of these prophecies have been fulfilled, Ezekiel 37 proves that Jesus CANNOT be the Messiah. The dead have been raised back to life. The Jewish are still spread around the globe. No one has assumed the throne of king. And billions of non-Jews don't know the one true God.

If the messianic candidate fails to fulfill the prophecies, he doesn't get a do-over. Prophecy doesn't work that way. Nothing in the Hebrew Bible suggests that the Messiah will need to appear a second time in order to complete his assignment.

aunursa said...

In the main series, this scene is told from the perspective of Abdullah (and perhaps Mac McCullum) in the helicoptor.

Firedrake said...

Loss of phone privileges! Truly, we are in the last days.

Meh, people who aren't entirely fit and handsome/beautiful never have anything useful to say. Jenkins and Ayn Rand…

As for the Doings in the Desert, well, it could be something along the lines of "everything that the evil one does is somehow corrupted" / By Their Works Shall Ye Know Them, but it's a bit late for that after all the genuine healing, feeding the hungry, and so on that we've already seen. Goodness, one audience accidentally evaporated by demons is probably still a better success rate than early antibiotics. :-)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: what's the point of preaching a sermon to unbelievers? You don't need to haul them in, you've already got them.

When I was a young firedrake being encouraged to read the bible, it was always along the lines of an official reading schedule - in other words like homework. No better way of ensuring no child will ever read any further!

Blank Ron said...

Firedrake said...
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: what's the point of preaching a sermon to unbelievers? You don't need to haul them in, you've already got them."

You preach at believers to keep them from straying, from thinking for themselves, and to confirm your power over them. You preach at unbelievers to show your flock how much you care for everyone's immortal souls... okay, sorry, I couldn't keep a straight face at that last part...

Firedrake said...

(I meant "to believers", not "to unbelievers", of course.)

Blank Ron: but if they're true believers they can't fall away.