Sunday, December 6, 2015

And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Body Count

Happy Sunday everybody! Well this week, Mark finally dies. Seeing as we're only 54% of the way in (according to the eBook), that still leaves Ellanjay with plenty of room to pad out the series further. :whimpers: I tell people that high on my list of "Stuff that Makes Me Question the Existence of a Loving God" is that Jim Henson, who by all accounts was a caring man who loved to entertain people, dies in his fifties, whereas Fred Phelps, aka Ass Scunge on the face of humanity, aka the Man for Whom No Profane Words Are Sufficient died at a ripe old age in his eighties. But I think I might add "Ellanjay are disgustingly rich and manage to do very well as writers, despite deficiencies in every aspect of the craft" to the list.

Oh, and like I said in last week's comments, I've decided, when we get to the inevitable scene, to use the term Goysplainning. Seriously every time I read any of the stuff where Our RTC Heroes patronizingly explain about how the Jews are Cute but Wrong, I think of John Redcorn's quote on King of the Hill: "Five hundred years of oppression and somehow I find this the most irritating." Though the Jewish people have the Native Americans beat when it comes to persecution; I don't know the exact number, but as I recall, the Jewish people are more in the neighborhood of "Several Millennia of persecution" rather than just five hundred.

The first section is with Judd and his merry band of friends in Petra. Even though, Lionel is now in Petra as well, we get no mention of him in the opening section, even though they could have easily just said, "Lionel bowed his head in silent prayer" or something, making me wonder "Is Lionel basically Judd's Tyler Durden?" or "Is Judd basically Lionel's Tyler Durden?" I know all these questions can be answered with two words--Shitty writing--but like I said, I concoct wild theories because anything I come up with, no matter how implausible, it's still more interesting and makes more sense than anything that's actually in the book.

Vicki calls everybody together for a prayer circle, so the majority of the first section is them just heaping up endless words. I suppose I could be clever and provide a link to Matthew, chapter 6, specifically verse 7, but that's part of the Sermon on the Mount, which we all know doesn't apply to Christians until after some indeterminate point in the future when TurboJesus kills everyone. I mean, why would you think Jesus meant for us to actually follow the advice laid out in the Sermon on the Mount. Honestly...

As for the actual content of their prayers, well they do sufficient mentions of the Father and the Lord, so there's no chance that someone accidentally prayed to Ahura Mazda instead of God. Smart move, keeping Sam out of this scene; I suppose in all likelihood they've forgotten all about how an Angel was able to bust him out, but maybe they kept him out of this scene because they, like my readers, were probably getting tired of all my rants on the subject.

As you probably guessed, pretty much all the prayers tacitly side-step the whole, "Y'know you could just bust him out" issue. Like I said, I often wonder if there's a trope on TV Tropes that accurately describes these characters, how they manage to be both genre savvy and complete idiots at the same time. I'd scour the website and try to find it myself, but I've got stuff to snark.

I do wonder what having everyone (or at least Judd, Vicki, Eleazar, Chaim, and Chang) pray for him mean for his position on the great RTC hierarchy. Because as many have pointed out, the prayer sense only seems to work when it comes to people higher up on the RTC hierarchy; Loretta felt compelled to call everybody and have them pray for Buck but you never see any instances of Buck praying for those further down on the hierarchy. So I wonder if this scene is a sign that Mark has left the Minor Character Cloud and achieved Main Character status. Spoiler alert: It doesn't do him a lot of good. Then again, since everyone in the LB-verse, including Zod and TurboJesus, is lower on the hierarchy than Our Buck or St. Rayford, maybe I should reevaluate my data.

Okay, I'll get back to the damn book. Just know that all this spit-balling is a heckuva lot more interesting than anything actually written in the book.

We cut to Mark. Mark has a nasty bump on his head and is thinking about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yeah...if I really believed that the series would delve into the fear and pain he must be feeling, regarding his impending death, I would actually believe this. But I don't.

Angel Dude shows up again. Spoiler Alert: once again, he does nothing of any importance in this chapter. But we do finally get his name, which is Caleb. I suppose I could do some research and compare the biblical Caleb to the one depicted in this series, but I'm lazy. Plus, we don't know if said angel is supposed to be the biblical Caleb who helped out Moses (sort of like how the Gruesome Twosome were supposed to be the actual Moses and Elijah) or if Ellanjay just chose a Biblical name for him. Just know that I'm still going to refer to him as Angel Dude, because he does absolutely nothing notable or worthy of being given an actual name. Again, Alan Rickman has more charisma in his toenails than any of the characters, supernatural or otherwise, in this series.

Angel Dude talks about watching Christians get martyred. As you can probably guess, he's pretty nonchalant about it. I suppose it would be too much for him to talk about the pain and suffering the martyred experienced before they died, even if he contrasted it by saying, "Hey, they're now romping around in Heaven," afterwards. Again, just as their Protestant rejection of the Catholic confessional leaves them ill-equipped to talk about sin, it also leaves them ill-equipped to tell martyrdom stories. Say what you will about the Catholics but they knew how to tell some damn good martyrdom stories. They wouldn't have the exchange between Mark and Angel Dude, be this colorless.

“God’s people have always acted with great courage. Some weep at the end, others sing, and some quote Scripture. It is different every time, and yet there are remarkable similarities.”

“Like what?”

“The looks on their faces. The hope that shines through. Those who are doing the killing look like shells, but the ones being executed are truly alive. It happened that way recently with Chloe Williams. She was able to speak of the living Christ before her death.”

“You visited Chloe?”

Caleb put a hand over his chest. “Her heart was breaking over leaving her husband and son, but she expressed her desire to be with Jesus.”

I know, I know, I totally overuse this clip, but I just keep coming back to it. I mean, Mark is supposed to be talking to an Angel, as in a supernatural immortal messenger who exists to carry out God's will. You'd expect a being that's been around for countless millennia, who has seen kingdoms rise and fall, and countless people die under many different circumstances, would be able to convey some charisma/wisdom. But wet newspaper is more charismatic than this angel. Heck, a dirty limerick on a bathroom stall would at least have more insight into human nature and be more entertaining than this angel.

In fact, there's no real reason why God has to dispatch an angel to this character. Said angel doesn't do anything that advances the plot or provides insight into the character; with some rewriting, you could easily have had the words be delivered by another prisoner in a neighboring cell awaiting execution. In fact, I'm just going to go with the Tyler Durden theory regarding Angel Dude. As far as I'm concerned, Angel Dude doesn't actually exist. He's a hallucination brought on by fear. So his mind created this archetype of an angel in order to comfort him and keep him from going crazy in his final hours. All the so-called miraculous stuff that really doesn't amount to anything--like the angel unlocking his cuffs and healing his legs--again, can be explained by the hallucination theory.

Though I suppose the angel could have been sent by Zod to comfort Mark so he'll go meekly to the slaughter without asking too many questions (like why He can't be bothered to miraculously save me like He did so many other tribbles), sort of like how slaughterhouses have it set up so the cow gets electrical jolts to the brain, thus keeping it from freaking out and running away when it's slaughtered and processed. In fact, both theories may be true, given the nature of Ellanjay's God.

Mark is like, "So when I die, are you going to do the bright, shimmering thing like you did with Chloe?" And Angel Dude gives this response, which again only adds more to the Tyler Durden or Electric Shock theory. Because when a comedy made by secular Hollyweird manages to display more spiritual insight...all I'm going to say is that writers of Christian Fiction need to hang their heads in shame.

It's a good rule of thumb: any literature that goes out of its way to explicitly label itself as "Christian Fiction," sucks and sucks hard. Again, we can talk about all the problematic aspects of the Chronicles of Narnia, like The Problem of Susan or how the Calormenes are pretty much Arab stereotypes, but thing is, for all his faults, C.S. Lewis did actually try; he knew it was his duty, first and foremost as a writer of Children's fiction, to tell a story that children would enjoy reading. For all his faults, there's some damn good writing in the Chronicles. Heck, even in the last book, which is justifiably considered the worst book of the series, there was still some damn good poetic writing about the nature of God and Heaven.

Like I said, when you look at all the great Christian art of the past and compare it with the terrible Christian art of the present, sometimes you almost wish it was like the old days where the Church was the only source of employment for artists around and therefore, you couldn't just slap a Jesus-fish on a piece of crap and get by. Because competition strengthens the craft.

Dang, I got on a tear, didn't I? Sorry, just got fired up. As promised, here's Angel Dude's words of comfort to Mark:

Caleb smiled. “Each event is different. If there is need for me to be there and speak, I will.” He tilted his head slightly to the left and gazed at Mark. “Thus says the Son of the most high God: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.’ Be comforted by these words.”

As you probably guessed, Angel Dude is quoting from the Bible, the book of John, 11:25, to be specific. Again, you really wonder if, for all their collective hard-on RTCs have regarding the Bible, whether any of them actually read it. Because if you read the larger context, that chapter of John has one of Jesus's greatest miracles: the resurrection of Lazarus. You'd think that Mark would be like, "So Jesus can resurrect a guy whose been dead for four days, but can't arrange for me to bust out of here?"

Again, I'm forced to conclude that for all their hullabaloo about scripture and how it is so important, that the entire edifice of RTC-ianity hinges on ignorance of the Bible. This would come as a shock to the founder of the Protestant faith, Martin Luther. Yeah, the dude was a raving anti-Semite, but the whole ideal of Protestantism rests on the idea that everyone is capable of studying and communicating with God by themselves and they don't need a Priest to serve as a go-between.

Yet Ellanjay seem to subscribe to the old tradition of "We can't possibly allow those plebians to read and interpret scripture for themselves, lest all Hell break loose." I mean if those peasants start believing that nonsense about selling all that you have and giving it to the poor...

Okay, if you're wondering what inspired this latest rant, I was thinking of something I read a chapter or two later, where Token Jew quotes James 5:8. That little act made my brains crash gears, because seriously have they read any other part of that chapter? I am, of course, referring to the first five verses, which would really hit uncomfortably close to home for a good and faithful RTC. Heck, I'm surprised they would cite anything from James, given that book's central thesis is basically the last verse of Chapter Two: Faith without Works is Dead.

[TANGENT] Y'know I think we might have the workings of a business venture. We could publish special edition Bibles that RTCs can give to their kids, with all the "wrong" passages carefully excised from the book. We could market it as "Make sure your kids stay on the straight and narrow path by getting rid of any of the parts that might get them believing in that Islamo-Commie-Fascist nonsense called the Social Gospel."

I don't think I could actually go through with this hare-brained scheme--heck, the mere act of proposing it, makes me feel like taking a thousand long showers to clean off the grime--but it's more doable than my original scheme of creating Bibles that look and feel like the actual thing (leather covers with gold lettering, the thin pages), but instead of having the Bible in them, it would contain the text of Atlas Shrugged. We could probably make a mint, catering to the RTCs' hard-on for Ayn Rand (because really who would relate to some nonsense about selling all you possess and giving it to the poor), but the trouble is I'm fairly certain Atlas Shrugged isn't in the public domain, so, maybe I should just go with another scheme I've been kicking around: distributing glurgy "Support Our Troops" posters, but with the prayer from Mark Twain's The War Prayer, specifically the part in red, on it. [/TANGENT]

All right, I'll stop talking about Get Rich Quick schemes that will never come to pass and get back to the book.

Angel Dude gives bland words of comfort and leaves. The GC show up and drag Mark and the others out of their cells. And we get some more information, which makes me ponder Mark's place on the RTC Chain of Being.

Mark expected the same kind of fanfare as Chloe, news trucks lined up, the works. But there weren’t even people manning the tables at this hour. A few guards huddled together, trying to keep warm.

I'm going to assume that Ellanjay through this in, in response to all my blather about whether or not, Mark has escaped the Minor Character Cloud to take his place with the Main Characters. I'm going to assume that the whole "no news crews" thing proves that Mark will die the way he lived: as a minor character, who gets fifteen minutes in the spotlight before being shuffled off-screen. But I have to raise an eyebrow over a dictatorship conducting open and televised executions of enemies of the state.

I suppose Ellanjay, if pressed, would make comparisons to Roman gladiator matches where Brave Christians were fed to lions, but from what I've read, the idea that Romans fed Christians to lions, is mostly a myth. It did happen, but not in the widespread numbers the myth seems to imply. Plus if it did happen, it was usually as one of the lunchtime events. Lunchtime events were scheduled during lunch and were usually poorly attended (because the audience was out grabbing a bit to eat), so the gladiators didn't go all out for said events.

But my point is that when it comes to dictatorships, secrecy is the general name of the game. People are made to disappear, rather than given a publicized execution that allows them to grandstand and become martyrs. Again, if they had done any research whatsoever, they could have painted a chilling picture of what it's like to be ruled by a dictatorship, but if they did the research, they might stumble onto uncomfortable topics like Cognitive Dissonance or find out that the majority of Nazis identified as Christians and chaos would ensue.

Steve shows up again and he and Mark exchange some words. Nothing really important. If you're wondering Commander Fulcire brought them out and later executes one (Steve, if you're wondering) in an attempt to shake Mark. As you can imagine it doesn't work.

Ellanjay try to have Mark be all martyriffic, by having him think about how he feels sorry for Commander Fulcire. But read this entire passage and tell me if Mark comes across as someone filled with sorrow.

Mark wanted to tell Commander Fulcire the truth a final time. He wanted to scream at him that Jesus was coming back and would conquer the armies of the Antichrist. Instead, Mark felt compassion for the man who had followed the devil.

“I feel sorry for you,” Mark whispered. Fulcire laughed. “You feel sorry for me?”

“One day every person on earth will admit that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the true Potentate and the Creator of the universe.”

“So you don’t want to save your friends?”

“One day soon, New Babylon is going to be destroyed.”


“And the armies of your leader will go to battle against God’s people.”

“I hope to be there,” Fulcire said.

“You and those like you who wear the uniform of the Global Community will be struck down.”

“With all the weaponry and firepower at our disposal? Not likely.”

Mark looked at the guards with Fulcire. “Do anything you can to stay away from the last battle. Get sick. Run away. But don’t be near Israel in six months.”

Yeah, Mark doesn't sound like he's full of sorrow; he, like every other RTC, sounds like a moral prig, gloating about how all those who laughed at him, will be sorry when they're burning forever. Or I'll be laughing my head off while you burn in Hell.

Plus again, given that this exchange will go nowhere because in all likelihood Fulcire has the Nicky Mark, meaning he's screwed no matter what he does from here until the end of the series...there's no way this exchange could have had any emotional power at all. It certainly pales in comparison to the Biblical version of this scene.

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

For the record, this passage appears in Matthew 26:47-56, but variants on this story are found in all four of the gospels. Again, there is much debate over which of the gospels comes the closest to accurately telling the life of Jesus (about all anyone agrees on is that the gospels weren't meant to be treated as history books and it's a foolish thing to do so), but the fact that that story shows up in all of them, even though they all have Jesus saying different things at his moment of death, says something about the nature of Jesus and how he was perceived.

In the gospels, Jesus triumphs because love is greater than any arms his opponent can muster. In Ellanjay, TurboJesus wins, not because Satan is so hung up on the worship of force and "A Might Makes Right" ideology that he's willfully blind to any other options, but because he's got a bigger gun than Satan. Like Fred Clark says, "Satan tries to wipe out all the enemies and fails. Whereas Jesus succeeds in wiping out his enemies."

Again, it takes me back to the question of whether RTCs actually read the Bible or just worship it. Because again, read any of the gospels and you'd be hard-pressed to match their depiction of Jesus with Ellanjay's TurboJesus. I find myself wondering how they justify the massive gap. Do they think for some reason that Jesus went in preaching against violence and proclaiming God's love, solely as a means of gaining followers, but at the End of Days, he no longer has to worry about attracting followers so all bets are off? How exactly do they resolve the contradiction?

Though I suppose it could be possible that Jesus went out of his mind from the pain of being tortured and crucified and now is all, "No more Mister Nice Guy!" but I still think that would be too much of a leap for Ellanjay to make.

Again, just to further drive home how badly Ellanjay botch the message they're trying to convey, here's an article from Cracked: 5 Sworn Enemies Who Formed Inspiring Friendships.

Said article could better be summed up as "5 Stories about the Power of Forgiveness" and when a humor article on a website infamous for using, ahem, colorful metaphors as a means of getting a point across, shows way more insight into the nature of forgiveness and how violence and hatred scar both of the parties involved, than any Christian Fiction out there, you guys need to hang your heads in shame.

Probably should warn all my readers: make sure to have a box of Kleenex by your side if you do decide to click on that link. Because emotional sucker-punch is really the only way to describe it.

Anyway, Fulcire executes Steve and all the other prisoners right in front of Mark. The prisoners sing, "Nothing but the Blood" as the blade comes down. But Mark continues to be all brave and martyriffic and refuses to renounce the faith. The chapter ends with him being dragged to the guillotine and singing "Nothing But the Blood" as the blade comes down, finally bringing this pointless plot line to an end.

And that's it for this week. I'd thought this would be a two-chapter snark, but I had more to say about this chapter than I thought. Anyway take care of yourselves until next week.


Firedrake said...

Love the title.

Maybe they are each other's Tyler Durdens and neither of them actually exists. That would be nice.

"Father" and "Lord" are both pretty generic terms really. Plenty of patriarchal/authoritarian deities were known as both. Calling the Christians' god "God" is like calling Microsoft's database product "SQL Server" - in both cases it's marketing designed to make you think that only one thing can fill that role.

I can't help comparing this with the Soon series. Slaughter billions? Sure! Bust one guy out of jail before he's tortured to death? Um, don't think we can do that, can we blast the jail off the face of the earth and kill everyone in it by dropping orphans on it from orbit? We've got a special on that today.

Yes, weeping as you're led to your death is clearly a sign of great courage.

I wonder whether some of the mimsiness of angels is because RTC remember that angels are meant to be sexless, and anyone who isn't a manly man is not really very interesting to them? Probably not; that would require some theological sophistication.

I can see it now: "So why did you rapture everybody?" "Spleens. Spleens are delicious. MORE SPLEENS FOR YOUR GOD!"

Eh, you don't need Special RTC Bibles. They already fetishise the book (e.g. "sword drills", and bibliomancy in all but name) as an effective guard against ever having to think about what's in it.

Certainly the historical examples we have of dictatorships seem much happier to have Bob Dissident simply vanish overnight, and "everyone knows" what must have happened to him. If you put it on TV… well, who's the audience?

What is left when I am gone?
Nothing but the blood and loose heads
What can make me whole again?
Scooping up the the blood and loose heads

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but you've been beaten to it:

Anonymous said...

I've always been bugged by the "magical" nature of prayer in RTCanity, as presented by books like these. I mean, is getting everybody praying about the same thing at the same time supposed to make said prayers extra potent? Suppose one person has a headache and can't make it to Vicki's prayer circle--does Mark's angel dematerialize? Is God more likely to listen to prayers that are said en masse than He is to individual ones? Suppose Loretta assumed the sudden urge to pray for Buck was just a bad case of gas and decided to ignore it--would he then have just been left hanging?

Don't get me wrong--I've found comfort in prayer during difficult times, but it's mainly been when I'm on my own. And some corporate prayer can be comforting when it gives one a sense of being part of something bigger--I've never gotten the sense that we're supposed to use it to accomplish a concrete goal (or that God needs it in order to accomplish said goal.)

--Abby Normal

Mouse said...

Abby Normal, It's been established repeatedly that for Ellanjay, religion is akin to spell-casting, rather than, y'know, assurance of things hoped for, evidence of things not yet seen. Heck, the very notion of The Prayer--that it has to be the exact words uttered with the precise amount of sincerity demanded--proves that. Though I have to wonder...Ellanjay have established that if you say it with too little sincerity, it won't work. Have they ever shown what happens when you say it with too much sincerity? Inquiring minds need to know.

Firedrake said...

Mouse, at that point you become an avatar of RTC!God. Which might seem neat, but (a) your consciousness doesn't get backed up and (b) your friends may object to the whole eye lasers thing.