Sunday, July 19, 2015

As Preachy As I Want to Be

Hey everybody! Again, sorry about last week, but I'm here right now, so let's get to this.

Like I said last week, Judd is in New Babylon with some German guys, having been delayed in his efforts to get to Petra, because of vital, plot-related purposes that certainly have nothing to do with money. This is vital stuff that cannot be safely excised from the story because otherwise the readers would lose much needed plot/character development. Important stuff is happening!

Okay, I think I've run this joke thoroughly into the ground. I scoured TV Tropes trying to find the one perfect trope that describes this whole thing with the Germans in New Babylon. The closest term I can think of is Plot Tumor, but I'm not sure if that's the best term. It is somewhat accurate in that like a tumor, it saps away strength and the plot skids to a halt, but then again, given how little anything that happens in this series has to do with what happens next or what happened previously, I'm forced to conclude that this entire series is nothing but plot tumors stringed together.

I suppose you could point out, as many have, in Raiders of the Lost Ark that Indiana Jones's actions have very little bearing on the plot, that if Indy had stayed home and played canasta with his buddies, the Nazis still would have gotten their faces melted, but at least, Indiana Jones had awesome stunts to go with its illogic. There are no cool moments in the LB-verse: no awesome one-liners or Crowning Moments of Awesome. Yeah, I know, I need to deal with my addiction to TV Tropes, but there is a reason they have a page called "TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life."

Plus in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the bad guys get their faces melted off, at least, you know they've done something to deserve it, by virtue of being Nazis. Like I said, no matter how much the characters talk about how eeeevil Nicky is, I have to take his side. He's doing his best to try to keep the infrastructure intact, try to keep the world together, actions which would save more lives than anything the RTCs have done, which is mostly wring their hands and pray that the heathens became RTCs before they died. So yeah, I'm on Team Satan, because everyone else sucks.

Anyway, so Judd is watching while the German believers run around trying to secure the hideout. Given what I read last week, how the text seemed to imply that even though the Germans had the Zod-Mark and believed in all the PMD stuff, that they were totally interpreting this all wrong somehow, I thought there'd be some part where Judd patronizingly explains how they're totally wrong for wanting to do stuff or something. Guess what? Judd and Westin's actions amount to fuck-all in this chapter! They could have been safely cut out of the story and it wouldn't affect anything. In fact, I'm starting to wonder if the Tribbles aren't basically cardboard cut-outs painted lime green, because as I keep saying, nothing happens. They go from plot point to plot point, just gawking at all the suffering and misery like a bunch of slack-jawed yokels. Even when Lionel lost his arm, it didn't seem to impact him much!

Anyway, Judd's delicate sensibilities are shaken as the Germans talk about bombs and booby traps. Because even though he's a member of a resistance group, apparently the idea that they might be forced to kill GC soldiers in order to protect themselves and others, never occurred to him. Even though we're six years into the Apocalypse...

Judd had felt unnerved by Rainer and the others talking about war and killing. There was quite a difference in being against the Global Community—escaping from them and fighting for the souls of people who had not yet taken the mark—and actually killing Carpathia followers. On the other hand, God was going to judge evil. Judd wanted to hear what Tribulation Force leaders would say. Would they actually shoot to kill and be a part of the final battle?


Someone really needs to tell me why exactly, no matter how much stupidity you get exposed to (and there's a lot of it on the Internet), it never stops burning?

Because every time the Tribbles are all "Oh noes!" about all the killing, I'm like, you guys have read ahead, right? Here's a hint: when TurboJesus returns, he comes packing heat. There really is no difference between you killing them and TurboJesus killing them, because THEY'LL STILL WIND UP IN HELL HAVING THEIR INTESTINES PULLED OUT BY DEMONS NO MATTER WHO DOES THE JOB!

Do they think it hurts less to be eviscerated by TurboJesus as opposed to an anti-aircraft missile or whatever the Tribbles use?!

Besides, we've seen time and time again, how Ellanjay feel about pacifism. Even though there's a long tradition of Christian Pacifism, they spend so much time worrying about wolves in sheep's clothing that they fail to see that it's the wolves in wolves' clothing responsible for most of the misery in the world. Here's a hint: Adolf Hitler didn't rally Germany by being all hippie-dippie peaceful.

But yeah, it's stuff like this...given the dim view RTCs have of pacifism, you wonder why Amish fiction is so popular among them. Because that's a major part of their tradition, aside from the buggies and funny clothes.

Plus as many will point out, pacifism is not synonymous with being a wuss. There are many examples of this throughout history, but the story of Dirk Willems from the Anabaptist tradition, is a good example of the difference between RTCs and, y'know, actual Christianity. Because in that story, Willems could have interpreted his pursuer falling through the ice as proof that he had God's favor and just let the poor man drown; instead, Willems went back and rescued his pursuer, an action that led to him being martyred.

So yeah, shut up, Ellanjay. Because you suck at everything!

Sorry to get so long-winded. Buttons were pushed, is all I can say.

Anyway, while Judd and Westin are just watching stuff, Rainer and Klaus leave the hideout with guns, in hopes of drawing the GC away. I'll spoil it for you: we find out in the next chapter they die. And of course it's all told secondhand, robbing the reader of any opportunity to feel anything for the characters. Granted they wouldn't have felt much, given that we'd just been introduced to the Germans, but still.

They cut to Vicki's section and as you guessed, nothing really happens. The Brave Tribbles Bravely Watch the news and Bravely Say Disdainful Things about Nicky (though they're safely hidden away so they're in no real danger), but Vicki does receive an email from Token Jew.

There really isn't much to snark regarding his missive. Just that Token Jew is all "Trust God" regarding her marriage to Judd. But we do get a nice example of Ellanjay's talent for completely missing the point regarding scripture.

Y'see Token Jew cites Luke 16:19-31. This is one of the most famous stories from the gospels. You may know it as "The Rich Man and Lazarus" story and while I could just provide a link, I'm going to quote the entire passage, because it needs quoting.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Now throughout history, most people interpreted the moral of this story as "Seriously don't be an Asshole and ignore the appalling misery lurking beyond your doorstep." Whoever wrote this passage would probably agree with the sentiment in this photo on Facebook. Yeah, much of the stuff that gets circulated on Facebook is pretty much worthless (see previous mentions about Internet and stupidity), but occasionally you find a gem. James certainly would.

But according to Token Jew, me, along with James and many others throughout history, have been interpreting "The Rich Man and Lazarus" all wrong. Here's how we should read it, according to Ellanjay's mouthpiece:

The story of the rich man in hell and Lazarus who was a believer—see Luke 16:19-31—is quite clear. In the next life we will still recognize not only those we knew on earth, but as Lazarus, he recognized Abraham who had lived hundreds of years before him. Even those in torment recognized those in paradise. That would indicate we all will recognize one another in the next life. Remember, Paul said, “For me to depart and be with Christ is far better.” So we will have an even better relationship then than we do now.


It's times like this all I can really say is, "Wow..." Because somehow the message that Token Jew managed to take from this passage, which has tugged at the hearts of so many Christians throughout history, is not, like I said, "Don't be an Asshole who Ignores the Appalling Misery of your fellow man," but, "When we get to Heaven, all those horrible sinful sinners will be able to watch us living it up in the golden light of Heaven, while they get their insides pulled out by demons." There really are no swears, no curses that adequately describe what I'm feeling right now.

I will admit that I will not make any definitive statements regarding the afterlife. I am not God, so I am in no position to dictate who will burn in Hell and who will go to Heaven. I'm one of those weirdoes who tends to believe, like that friend Anne Lamott quoted, that “You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

I will make a few statements regarding the afterlife, though. My views are mostly in line with Slacktivist's in that while there is much we do not know about God or Jesus, how much actually happened and how much was filled in (because the Gospels weren't meant to be history books, no matter what RTCs believe about them), but I do believe that reading the stories of Jesus gives you some insight into the character of God. And frankly I can't picture Jesus, aka the guy who said "Forgive them, father" as his enemies were torturing and killing him, being the kind of guy who roasts people for all eternity for the horrific crime of not saying The Prayer.

Because while most people would, on occasion, envision all the bad people of the world being punished, preferably in a similar fashion proposed by the Mikado in Gilbert and Sullivan's musical, most would blanche at the idea of it lasting for all eternity without any possibility of parole or release or whatever. Plus, in that song, the Mikado was singing about punishing people who had actually done something to deserve it and by deserving it, I don't mean "They believed slightly different things about our Invisible Sky Daddy!"

I could also point out that the Luke passage in question never says that Lazarus ever said The Prayer and became a good RTC. It said he was a beggar who lived in squalor yet went to Heaven, whereas the Rich Man, who ignored his suffering, went to Hell. That believer line is just Token Jew leaping to conclusions: that of course, Lazarus was an RTC, who believed in every dot and tittle of PMD teachings, even though most people were illiterate and he probably didn't own a Bible, and Darby/Scofield, who compiled this convoluted time line, didn't exist yet.

So for all we know, regarding Lazarus, is that he may have lived and died a Jew or maybe he believed in something else entirely. You can't automatically jump to the conclusion that he was an RTC, especially since during the time Luke was written, the people of that time had entirely different issues/concerns from modern-day Christians.


I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to be so damn preachy this week. Like I said, buttons were pushed.

We cut back to Judd, who is continuing to play the part of Brave Sir Robin, as he watches Rainer and Klaus (aka those guys who are actually doing stuff that would be exciting to see onscreen) fire at the GC in an attempt to lead them away from the hideout. We must never forget how Ellanjay know nothing about what makes for good, dramatic storytelling as we just watch Judd wring his hands and PEOPLE TALK ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING, AS OPPOSED TO SHOWING ANY OF IT! But I suppose that might lead to the readers being like, "Okay, so why exactly aren't the Tribbles, y'know, joining them? Given that they know if they die, they get a one-way pass into Heaven and are spared horrific misery, you'd think they'd actively seek martyrdom at the hands of the GC. Why aren't they?" And we can't have the readers asking those kinds of questions, we just can't.

Anyway, the chapter ends with another guy, Gunther (because all foreigners have Obvious Foreign Names, remember?), leading Judd and Westin away to a super-secret, even more underground part of the hideout, where they'll be safe. Why are they only leading Judd and Westin to this super hideout? Because the rest of the German believers know that as Minor Characters, they are at best ancillary satellites to the Main Characters. They know that the Main Characters matter above all else and that the best a Minor Character can hope for, is a few lines/moments onstage, and for a Main Character to cast his shining countenance upon them.

Okay, they do make a half-assed attempt to justify taking Judd and Westin to the hideout. They say it's because Westin is the only pilot here and Judd has a fiancée waiting for him, but a reasonably bright Kindergartener could poke holes in that wet tissue paper-thin logic.

And I'm done for this week. I apologize again for getting so damn preachy, but like I said, buttons were pushed. Also, it's my blog and I'll be as damn preachy as I want to be! In the mean time, take care of yourselves and remember that apparently there's no such thing as "justifiable homicide in defense of art" so no matter how tempting it may be, to beat out lengthy messages in Morse Code on Ellanjay's skull using a tire iron, it just isn't worth it.


Firedrake said...

Maybe a sort of plot leak? An opening in the story pipework that bleeds out any narrative pressure that might have built up?

A really simple way to make the Nickygov look evil would have been to have them persecuting someone other than our smarmy heroes and their tribe. But that would have required the self-awareness to realise that the heroes weren't terribly interesting or sympathetic characters.

After all, it's kind of obvious to anyone brought up in western traditions that the Christians are meant to be the good guys. I think that's why these books hold such perverse fascination: the authors had mass culture on their side, and blew it.

aunursa said...

This is one of the stupidest plot points. And that's saying something.

This group of RTCs has determined that a Bible prophecy is that RTCs will be called out of Petra before it is destroyed. So they TRAVEL TO PETRA in order to be in place so that they can leave Petra and thereby fulfill the prophecy.

aunursa's head meets desk. Repeatedly.

aunursa said...

When he had learned everyone's name, Otto said, "I will be brief. I know you are on a mission and you must go. I did not know if I would find any brothers or sisters inside the palace, but I am so glad I did. My friends, and I, we consider ourselves fulfillments of prophecy. Do you want to know why? We were holed up in Germany, hiding mostly but fighting the GC when we could, and God -- who else? -- led me to Revelation 18. It dumbfounded me; what else can I say? You know the passage. I have it memorized. I'm no scholar, no student, no theologian, but I try to stay a step ahead of my people so I can teach them a little. Well, Revelation 18 talks about the coming destruction of this city, this one right here. Beginning at the fourth verse it says,

'I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her word; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.' Therefore her plagues will come in one day -- death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord who judges her." '

Well, you could have knocked me over. 'Come out of her, my people'? What were we to make of that except the obvious? People of God -- at least some -- were going to be here until just before this happens! Who were they? I could not imagine believers being here, and if they were, not for long. How could they be? If the GC and the Morale Monitors are killing people all over the world for not bearing the mark of Carpathia, what chance would someone stand here?

We didn't know, but we wanted to find out, and I tell you, playing hide-and-seek with the GC in Germany was getting old. Nearly forty of us packed up and headed this way -- no easy trip, I want to say..."

From Book #11, Armageddon

Mouse said...

Allow me to join in the headdesking, aunursa. Because seriously...that's the moral they take from the scripture. Fred Clark once said about people who go on expeditions in search of Noah's Ark that their equivalent would be people who hear the tale of the ant and the grasshopper and go out in search of talking insects. But I'm seriously starting to think that's true of Ellanjay, given that they interpret the moral of "The Rich Man and Lazarus" not as "Don't be an Asshole by ignoring the suffering of those beyond your doorstep," but as "Those sinful sinners will be able to watch you live it up in Heaven as they get ripped apart by demons"...I know it's cliché, but there are times in which all you can say is "What is this I can't even..."

Stardust said...

To be honest, I can kinda get that reaction, if only because my immediate reaction to that story isn't 'be nice to beggars' it is 'oh, they expect him to be nice to beggars, but they will not practice what they preach and take mercy on his begging? niiiice, what a bunch of hypocrites'.

So, if I were someone who genuinely believed in that sort of thing, my horror-reaction might be: 'well, since there is a double standard there, I need to take some kind of delight in this suffering to justify that double standard or it is going to bother me endlessly.'

of course my actual reaction would be 'ok, time to be atheist' but yeah.