Sunday, April 24, 2016

This is It, Folks! We've finally made it to the End!

Okay, maybe this week I'll finish off the series in one blow. If that's the case, you'll get my long ramble about what I have planned after all this, at the end of the post. If not, you'll get a "Sorry, guys," and the long ramble next week. That out of the way, let's get down to business.

First off, much as it pains me, I do have to give whatever poor ghostwriter, who worked on this series, credit: they did not use the phrase "steaming pile of produce." If you ever had any doubt that both Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have been so isolated within their particular subculture that they know nothing about what normal people sound like, remember the phrase "steaming pile of produce." Ellanjay probably considers vegetarianism for hippies and commies, much as they support "Jesus-peace, not hippie-peace," but you couldn't have done a five-minute Google search or hit a thesaurus or something to come up with better words to use? Like you could have said "vegetables sautéed in butter" which sounds a million times better than "steaming pile of produce." But oh yeah, that would require a miniscule amount of research and they are opposed to that. They also probably see cooking as "women's work" and don't feel a need to know anything about it. Though you do wonder how idiots who call cooking, "women's work," explain all those male chefs like Mario Bataly or Chef Morimoto or many others on the food network.

As you can probably guess, Ellanjay fail miserably at trying to capture the transcendent, bliss upon all bliss reality of Heaven on Earth. This is to be expected. It's the kind of task that even talented writers would fail at, because it involves trying to describe the indescribable, something beyond anything ever experienced, so it's not too surprising that Paradise might as well be a Wal-Mart supercenter in Iowa for all they care.

JUDD and Vicki took Lionel to Jamal and Lina’s apartment and were surprised to find them preparing a huge meal. The two had escaped the Unity Army and had hidden near the Siloam Pool. They had fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat from a nearby market.

When they prayed for the meal, thanking God, Jesus answered. In fact, each time Judd spoke with the Lord, he spoke to Judd personally.

Their talk over the meal centered on Jesus and how his presence had changed things. Wild animals seemed tame and walked through the streets without attacking other animals. And the fruits and vegetables were said to ripen on the vine right in front of those who picked it.

Given that later, they quote from Isaiah 11 (verse six if you're wondering), I think it's safe to say that Ellanjay know how miserably they've failed. Because read that passage and tell me that Isaiah doesn't do a helluva better job of describing the utopian vision of Heaven.

But it really is their own fault. Blinded by ego or avarice or both, they didn't recognize that "Hey this would be tough even for a great writer to pull off." They could have easily given themselves an out by going "TurboJesus falls; all the bad people die and all the good people live happily ever after," and been done with it. It would have been lazy, but it's the kind of laziness that pays off. Like when Stan Lee, tired of having to come up with reasons for his characters' powers, just threw up his hands and said, "They're mutants," when it came to the X-Men, a form of laziness that had unexpected metaphorical payoffs down the line.

There's a reason Tolkien just gave us a general description of Valinor, before packing Frodo off to it, and didn't even try to take on the task of describing it. Just said "Frodo went to the Undying lands," and was done with it. As great a world-builder he was, Tolkien knew he couldn't possible write a description of the Undying lands where Frodo and Bilbo spends their days, bathing in the lights of eternal bliss and having the physical/psychological wounds healed. I have my quibbles with Tolkien--great a world-building, not so much with characters--but he was smart to back off there.

But the RTC subculture probably considers Tolkien suspect because he :gasp: lived and died a faithful Catholic and while Christian themes are interwoven into his works, he was also a huge Norse mythology buff and :gasp: didn't feel the need to beat the readers over the head with his messages. He made the kneejerk assumption that they could figure things out for themselves! And while he laid out the heroes' general plan, Tolkien had his characters fail to execute it, rather than have it go completely as planned with no hiccups whatsoever! He had Frodo demonstrate weakness and, when the fate of Middle Earth was riding on his shoulders, Frodo succumbed to the temptation/lure of the ring and failed to destroy it! That monster filling children's heads with such crazy nonsense as "Heroes are human and have flaws like everyone else" and "Power corrupts everyone, good guy and bad guy alike!" Everyone knows that no one draws strength from seeing an ordinary human, with flaws and weaknesses like them, rise to the occasion and become a hero! Overcoming your flaws, rising to the occasion, and succeeding, just reeks too much of doing stuff, which is something Ellanjay are generally opposed to. That and don't you dare have a hero succeed because of his flaws, rather than in spite of them! Won't somebody please think of the Children?

So because Ellanjay probably consider Tolkien to be suspect, for all the reasons I've mentioned, we'll move onto his buddy, the guy Tolkien was disappointed when it turns out that he just zinged him and turned him into an Anglican, rather than a Catholic. I am speaking, of course, of C.S. Lewis. I'm bringing him up because I have a feeling, Lewis will be brought up in the comments. It's just something we can't escape from, comparing this series to The Last Battle. Again, I agree with all the critiques of The Last Battle, but for all its flaws, you can't deny that Lewis was honestly putting forth the effort and trying to tell a damn good story. The Problem of Susan and the many other problems aside, there is some damn beautiful prose in that book. Lewis may have failed to cross the bar he set for himself, but unlike Ellanjay, he at least tried. For that, Lewis has my respect, whereas Ellanjay have nothing but my scorn.

If you're anything like me, you have certain affection for Coulda Been Contenders. Coulda Been Contenders is a term I use for forms of entertainment (books, movies, TV, etc.) where the creator's ambitions far outstretched their talents and for all the story's promise, it fell short for one reason or another. Again, the defining trait needed to be classified as one, is ambition. Or in other words, it has to be a story that somebody believed in, somebody had big dreams and big hopes, so any "X is big right now. Let's throw something together to cash in" product is automatically disqualified. But however much a Coulda Been Contender failed, there's a certain nobility in that they tried. Always had the view that it's better to strive for greatness and fail miserably, than to strive for nothing and succeed. So I rag on Contenders, but I also have great affection for them. Like to study them and take them apart, see if I can spot where they succeeded and where they failed, and wonder what could have been. If they had gone left instead of right, could they have pulled it off, and all that.

Though I honestly wonder if in the RTC subculture, C.S. Lewis squeaks by mostly on seniority. Yeah, he died in 1963, so it's not like he's an ancient writer like St. Augustine (though to be fair, Augustine is suspect because of the whole "he was Catholic" thing), but it's far enough in the distant past that they have an easier time co-opting him. Because I feel a need to remind you that Lewis lived and died an Anglican, which is Catholicism wiped with a dirty sponge (or Catholicism without a pope, so the King of England can divorce his wife and marry his mistress) and he :gasp: had no problems with imbibing alcohol on occasion.

Oh all right, one last nitpick about that passage, then I'll shut the hell up and move on. I thought everybody was supposed to be a vegetarian so what's going on with all the mentions of meat and a few sentences down, Vicki is eating steak?

As Judd and Vicki hang out with Lina and Jamal, Vicki has to explain to them that it will be a while before they see their kids again.

Lina and Jamal said they couldn’t wait to see their children who had died, but they understood it might be some time before that happened.

“Why’s that?” Lionel said.

“You know how there was a gap between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation?” Vicki said, taking a bite of steak. “It’s the same with the Glorious Appearing and the beginning of the Millennium.”

“How do you figure that?” Judd said.

“It’s in Daniel’s prophecy,” Vicki said. “Something like seventy-five days. I can show you after dinner.” Jamal and Lina seemed impressed with Vicki’s knowledge and wanted to know more. Vicki explained what she knew of prophecies from Daniel 12 and Ezekiel 40.

“So you’re saying this seventy-five days is preparation time for Jesus?” Jamal said.

“Yes, at least that’s what Tsion Ben-Judah taught,” Vicki said.

I know Tim LaHaye has little to do with writing these books, but I wonder if whoever does the lion's share of it, fought the urge to type "Tim LaHaye" every time Token Jew's name came up.

That and regarding the whole gap between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, not only is Tim LaHaye like the only PMD who advocates that (most just have the Rapture happen then everything goes to Hell, no 18 mo. grace period whatsoever), but while I know I am bad at math (that stereotype about English majors breaking down in tears when asked to do anything beyond the basics without the aid of a calculator? Totally true), I'm fairly certain that 18 months consists of more than 75 days. In fact, 12 mo. alone is a minimum of 365 days. Yes, astronomy buffs, I know it's technically shorter, but let's not get into that level of nitpicking.

But okay, maybe in that scenario the gap between the Rapture and the Tribulation is measured in weeks. That has a degree of plausibility. One year equals roughly 52 weeks and half it is 26 weeks. But that raises the question: if it the grace period was measured in weeks, now why has it changed so its measured in days? Because there's a difference between 75 weeks and 75 days. Though I suppose maybe I should be grateful for this inconsistency: less story for me to hack through.

Oh and since Ellanjay are citing Daniel 12 and Ezekiel 40 as precedent, why don't we do what RTCs feel we shouldn't, no matter how much they say otherwise, and crack open our Bibles and take a look for ourselves?

We'll start with Daniel, because he's the first one listed. I apologize if I am not as scholarly as our dear Fred is, but even I can point out that Daniel changes the numbers within his own chapter. Spoiler alert: none of said numbers given are 75 days or 75 weeks. Here's Daniel 12:5-7 and Daniel 12:11-12 for your perusal:

Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”

The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”

For the record, according to the footnote, "a time, times and half a time" is defined as a year, two years and half a year. And here's the second bit from Daniel that I promised:

“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

Again, clearly a longer period than 75 days or weeks and I don't see any instances in that passage of "Okay Jesus comes back and kills everyone bad and creates paradise on Earth, but somehow you have to wait 75 days more for things to get really good and then you have to go through a 1000 years before it really gets awesome. Because an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnibenevolent being needs to really warm up before creating paradise apparently" in that passage. In all likelihood, Daniel was just doing what a lot of writers of the Bible did and being generic. Often even when a specific number is given, it's used as a shorthand for "a really long time" much as when hiking, when people ask how much further do we have to go, the general response is a shrug and something along the lines of "a mile, mile and a half." It often means much more than what they've said; they're just giving a generic response as a way of getting the other person to shut up and get back to the hike.

Who wants to be the one to tell them that while the Christian Bible lists Daniel among the prophets, the Tanakh has him listed under the generic section of writings? Pointing that out as a reminder that it's not quite as straightforward as Ellanjay seem to think it is.

As for Ezekiel...I read it and I see no mention of days or weeks in there, just a whole lot of measuring. That's one of the quibbles I have with the book of Ezekiel: after all the awesome trippy visuals and performance art, last eight chapters are pretty damn dull. If any of you have insomnia and don't have any warm milk or Nyquil handy, just read Ezekiel 40-48 and you'll be out like a light.

Then we cut to Conrad's section and immediately I slam on the brakes and am like, "Wait, what the hell?!"

Conrad was so curious about what had happened to Global Community workers that he drove to a GC police station a few miles from Enoch’s house. What he saw amazed him. All employees of Carpathia had died— presumably at the time Jesus spoke. Enoch taught that all unbelievers still alive would die soon.

I thought the whole point of their convoluted mythos was that when Jesus came back, he was going to be all "No more Mister Nice Guy!" and explode all his enemies, so they can burn in Hell and be exploded again for all eternity. What's all this about Unbelievers still being alive?! I thought TurboJesus had gone all Dr. Manhattan on everybody already?

Oh, okay, I know they have that whole Age of Innocence shtick they use as an excuse to weasel out of the consequences of their actions. Again, can't seem to define when exactly the cut-off age is, though it is probably centered around when they start to get hair around their pubes, but even if they're under the Age limit, I thought the whole point was that they couldn't be classified as believers or unbelievers until the invisible line had been crossed, after which they're tried as an adult. Even though the US Justice System, as draconian as it can be at times, recognizes that there's a big difference between a twelve-year-old and a twenty-two-year-old criminal and it's not just "one of them is a little on the short side." There are actually noticeable difference between kid brains and teenage brains and adult brains; science bears this out.

And then Enoch talks. If any of you had doubts that said character is Black, fear not. Ellanjay go out of their way to make sure you know his racial identity. I suppose we should be grateful he never at any point goes, "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies."

“I know you’ve heard Jesus’ voice just like I have,” Enoch began. “I’ve been asking him what we should do, especially since prophecy seems to ignore America. I thought we might try to rebuild this as a Christian nation, but the Lord made it clear he wants us with him.” “What did he say?” Darrion said. “He said, ‘Fear not, Enoch, for you have rightly deduced that you and your flock are to be with me.’ He said he would transport us, that we shouldn’t be worried.”

That line about how prophecy seems to ignore America...It amuses me. It's something Fred has pointed on his blog, something that remains a source of vexation to End Times enthusiasts of any stripes: the Bible says very little about America

This is especially a problem because Rightwing Christianity has an idolatrous worship of both the Bible and 'Murika. So the fact that 'Murika apparently wasn't mentioned by anyone in the Bible, not even Jesus, even though everyone knows it's the greatest, most important country on Earth, is really upsetting and forces them to try to resolve the conundrum in really convoluted fashions. Don't even try to point out that the people who wrote most of the Bible, likely didn't know the Earth was round and the North American continent didn't exist, unless you want to enjoy some spectacular head explosions/fireworks. I was going to quote something often attributed to Sinclair Lewis, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross," but according to Wikiquote, he didn't say it. Sinclair Lewis may have said a lot of cool things, but not that particular cool thing; sorry to disappoint y'all.

And all this about making America a Christian Nation? Again, I thought TurboJesus had exploded all the bad people, leaving only Christians alive! So how is it not a Christian nation?!

Though I suppose in all likelihood, if the RTCs got what they wanted, and let's face it, no matter how much they may protest what they want is the Republic of Gilead mixed in with a few drops of Taliban-era Afghanistan (like I say, the only objections they have to the Taliban/ISIS/Whoever We're At War With, is that they are oppressing people in the name of the wrong beliefs. If they were doing it in the name of Jesus, rather than Allah, they'd be more okay with it), they would soon turn on each other. Just look at all the bloodshed between Christian sects who practice infant baptism and sects who are opposed to it. Heck, the Anglicans and the Catholics have a long history of going at each other all tooth and nail even though Anglicanism, like I said, is Catholicism wiped with a dirty sponge. Once they've burned through their obvious bogeymen--the LGBT, the Muslims, the Atheists--they'd have to find new bogeymen to explain to their followers why paradise hasn't shown up yet, why in fact things have actually gotten worse, not better. But they won't have too much difficulty doing this. As the immortal Rod Sterling puts it: They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find. And it's themselves.

Seriously that episode, "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"...gives me goosepimples no matter how many times I've seen it. Rod Sterling knew a helluva lot more about human behavior than Ellanjay ever will.

Though I thought now that it's, y'know, literally paradise, travel wouldn't be a problem anymore. That if you want to go anymore, just close your eyes, think about the place, and bamf, you're there. Granted this will be somewhat more difficult because there aren't any more mountains or valleys, so if you always dreamed of riding a donkey into the Grand Canyon or climbing Mount Denali, I hate to break it to you, but...

We then cut to Conrad and Shelly.

Shelly held Phoenix on her lap, scratching under his collar. The dog’s eyes closed with contentment, and Shelly leaned over to Conrad. “He’s asleep now. You can kiss me if you’d like.”

Conrad smiled. Since Jesus had come, everyone had worked together, and no one argued or squabbled over petty things. He and Shelly had discussed their problems and worked things out, but now there seemed to be a new depth to their love.

Once again, just as before, they don't bother to explain how Conrad and Shelly patched things up. They just do a "They patched things up BECAUSE JESUS! That's why!" And again, I'll continue to take a dim view of Conrad and Shelly's relationship because of it.

The next paragraph is slightly racy because it has Conrad :gasp: kiss Shelly! I bet some RTCs were up in arms about this because they probably feel you shouldn't kiss anyone you're not related to by blood or marriage, even if you're giving them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. They probably were relieved when studies proved you just have to do chest compressions, not put your mouth over their mouth. Though not too relieved, because they still have to touch a stranger's dirty pillows in order to save their life.

Like I said, because of my general pessimism regarding their relationship, I'll assume this change of heart came about because Shelly realized that as a manly man, Conrad can and will take whatever he wants from her. If she didn't want him to, she shouldn't have tempted him by being all female and alive. Shelly figures if Conrad doesn't take from her, some other guy will and given her limited options, she's decided it'd be better to take her chances with Conrad than possibly run into someone even worse. I mean, doesn't she know that a man can't be expected to demonstrate an ounce of self-control? Seeing men as being something more than walking penises is something those awful, horrible feminists do and we can't have that!

Then TurboJesus just bamfs her and Conrad into Israel, making all Enoch's talk about "how we're going to get to Israel" completely pointless. Meaningless padding in an Ellanjay novel?! Surely, you jest!

So everyone's gathered around TurboJesus and we're about to get to the part where they have TurboJesus do the sheep and goats bit without the full meaning (that you're judged by what you do, not just what you say) sinking in.

Though first a brief cameo:

A commotion rose from Jesus’ left, and the group fell down and wailed, “Jesus Christ is Lord! Jesus Christ is Lord!” A man dressed in black with long hair tried to stand. Z-Van!

It's a brief little bit with Z-Van, but I still like it. I leap like a starving dog on a bone whenever someone calls the Tribbles on their BS, and while Z-Van will never be as awesome as Taylor or Hasina, I still have a certain affection for him. Z-Van provides much needed, albeit much neutered snark to this series. Enough that I'm wondering if he deserves to be promoted into the League of Awesome, though again, don't know what skills he has, beyond being a rock star. Just know that no matter what, I will totally continue to picture him as Madonna Dahmer in the Truth for Youth comics because it amuses me.

Though I do wonder if Z-Van exists as a Take That against Tyndale's rival publishing company, Zondervan.

And of course, like I said, here's the part we've all waited for. Though this post is long as it is, I'm quoting in full, because sometimes you need the full dose to appreciate the stupidity in its undistilled form.

Calmly, the Lord spoke. “Lionel, come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”

“Lord, when did I see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink?” Lionel said. “Or see you as a stranger or see you in prison?”

“I assure you, Lionel,” Jesus said, “when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Lionel nodded. “Thank you.”

Jesus walked to the edge of the platform. With emotion in his voice he said, “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons! For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me no clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.”

Millions protested. “When did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked … ?” The noise of their pleadings reached a crescendo.

Then Jesus said, “I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me. And you will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Really the only response you can give to any of this is "WHEN?!" WHEN HAVE THE TRIBBLES HELPED OUT ANYONE IN NEED, GIVEN ANYONE FOOD OR WATER OR ANYTHING?! In fact, during the horrific disasters, Nicky has been the one feeding and keeping people alive after all these horrific disasters, WHILE THE TRIBBLES SMILE SMUGLY ABOUT HOW THEY HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT!

JUST AS YOU CAN'T HAVE AN ANTI-GUN MORAL IN A STORY WHERE GUNS WERE USED TO SOLVE EVERYTHING, YOU CAN'T HAVE A "FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD" PASSAGE IN A SERIES THAT CONTINUALLY STATES THAT ALL YOU NEED IS FAITH AND WORKS ARE INHERENTLY EVIL AND DISTRACT FROM THE ALL IMPORTANT JOB OF SAVING YOUR OWN ASS!

For the record, the passage they're cribbing from is Matthew 25:31-46. While Matthew isn't as blunt or as short as James, I think most of the writers of the New Testament would agree with the central thesis of "Faith is good, but even Satan believes in God, so you still have to actually do stuff in order to be a good person."

Anyway, bad people are punted into Hell and now we get to what makes up the bulk of the book's ending: the Tribbles stand around and watch heroes of the faith and martyred characters get honored. And though it sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry, Ellanjay assure us that they are thrilled to hear all the stories.

Noah, Samuel, Ruth, Gideon, and many more approached Jesus. The ceremony must have gone on for days, Vicki realized, but Jesus had given everyone his strength and patience.

Me, being the smart aleck, I am, I'm going like, "Uh, someone want to fill them in on some of the less appropriate for all ages parts of their stories?" Like the whole thing where after Noah and God make the covenant, Noah gets drunk and passes out naked in his vineyard. Could also point out that that passage was used to justify slavery and Jim Crow. Ham saw his father's pecker and therefore, his children are damned to work for white people forever Because Reasons! that are totally godly and therefore totally make sense and don't just exist to justify our laziness/hatred of anyone who can't pass a paper bag test!

Samuel does better than Noah, but I feel a need to point out how he was the one who took David to task for sleeping with Bathsheba and murdering her husband, Uriah. The passage in question makes it very clear that it's the prophet's job to speak the truth to power and say, "You're effed up!" even though Power seldom likes being called on their BS. But they probably consider it all the fault of that foul temptress, Bathsheba, for following the Jewish law by purifying herself after her menstrual cycle, even though the law doesn't say anything about making sure that there aren't any prying eyes within a 300 mile radius of her. Because again, we can't expect a man, aka someone the RTCs consider a woman's superior, to demonstrate any self-control. And of course, Bathsheba most certainly wasn't in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. Implying that if she refused, David would have taken what he wanted by force, because he's King and Kings generally don't take No for an answer...that's unpossible!

As for Ruth...someone want to tell them that whole thing about uncovering Boaz's feet and lying next to him...in all likelihood, it wasn't his feet Ruth was uncovering. That and I wonder how many of them quote Ruth 1:16-18 at weddings without realizing that said passage is being said by a woman to another woman: Ruth to Naomi for those of you wondering.

But I suppose they wanted to put in a woman's name in there and couldn't do Mary, because that reeks of Catholicism, and they sure as heck weren't going to bring up Jael, because of the lessons the young women might take from that.

As for Gideon...Gideon really sucked at his job. Won one battle but it was all downhill from there.

After the honoring of the Old Testament saints, the next chapter gets to honoring all those killed during the tribulation. And some ghostwriter tacitly acknowledges that no matter how much the book says, "They never got bored or tired," it really does sound like a never-ending altar call/circle-jerk.

This ceremony didn’t happen like the Old Testament saints. Somehow the Lord arranged it so that only people who knew a Tribulation saint saw that person getting their reward. One of the first Judd noticed was Bruce Barnes, the pastor who had helped him, Vicki, and Lionel understand the truth.

I often wonder about the ghostwriters for his series. I know I sure as hell wouldn't have been hired to ghostwrite in the first place, but I wonder how they manage to resist the temptation to insert lines of erotica at random into this stuff? Because do you really believe that Ellanjay or any editor at Tyndale read these books before sending them to print? Does Tyndale even have editors?

But anyway, since there really isn't much to talk about in this very last chapter, I get to bore you all my philosophy on life.

Heaven, for me, is a puzzle I've been trying to work out all the ins and outs. It's probably one of those things where there's really no way you'll ever know until you cross into that undiscovered country, and sometimes mysteries are better when they stay mysteries. It's okay to have questions, spend the rest of your life rolling them around in your head and never come up with one answer that wraps it all up. It's the reason I've more or less come to dread Trinity Sunday, because great people have put forth a lot of strenuous effort, but no one has or ever will successfully explain the Trinity. You kind of wonder how they came up with such an obtuse doctrine in the first place.

Anyway, so many picture Heaven as like the ultimate five-star hotel where you get what you want, whenever you want. But I am more with Rod Sterling in that while no one enjoys pain and suffering, getting what you want all the time without ever having to struggle or face any kind of loss, would be incredibly boring. Plus, while I won't name any names, if you look over the lives of monarchs or the elite upper-crust of society, luxury has a tendency to stunt the soul, rather than improve it.

I have an easier time picture Heaven for animals than I do for humans. Yeah, I know many sects say that animals don't have souls and therefore, don't go to Heaven or Hell, but fuck them! They clearly don't have souls!

Anyway, when it comes to animals, I picture Heaven for them as being more or less what they knew and loved on Earth. Therefore, Heaven, for an African Elephant, would look like the African Savannah because that's what they knew and loved in life. If you were to drop them anywhere else, like in Yellowstone or something, they would be utterly baffled and wouldn't have a clue as to what to do. But while it looks like what they knew and loved in life, it's also better. Predators still chase after prey, but more for the love of the hunt/thrill of the chase, rather than life and death. Cat enjoys a good run, trying to catch a mouse, and the mouse enjoys trying to outwit the cat, but again, it's done in fun, rather than life and death.

I have a much more difficult time trying to work out Heaven when it comes to people, but I more or less see it as similar to Animal Heaven in that it resembles what a person knew and loved in life. So for an obsessive bookworm, such as myself, it's the ultimate library, where you can read every work of literature, published or unpublished, in any language for all eternity. Finally know all the answers you've always wanted to know and all that. Heck, I might just spend eternity asking God nothing but questions, like "What existed before the Big Bang? Are there really multiple realities? So punctuated equilibrium or slow evolution over millions of years or what?"

I suppose y'all can point out holes in my theory and I don't deny that they exist. Like I've said many times throughout this post, great writers have fallen flat on their faces when trying to describe the indescribable. Hell is easy, because hey we've all felt pain and there's so many ways it can be described, but what do you do with such elevated concepts as eternal joy or eternal bliss? What can really be said about good things except that they are good? So I admit, I probably haven't covered all my bases, but I wasn't really trying to. Don't think I ever will be able to.

Again, fast-forwarding because nothing really happens. Though Lionel's occasionally mentioned beloved Uncle Andre is in Heaven. Apparently he made a last minute conversion, which may undermine all those Hypothetical Bus talks RTCs love to deliver. Oh and Tom and Luke got into Heaven, even though while they were RTCs, they rejected the central tenet of "Do Nothing" and actually went out and did stuff. Died while doing so. Oh and Cheryl is given a one line mention where Vicki sees her with her son, Ryan Victor.

Again, I keep trying to come up with some means, via discontinuity, of giving Cheryl a happier ending, like I did for Dr. Rose and all the members of the League of Awesome. Because she really got treated like shit and deserves better. My head canon for Cheryl is that she meets up with Taylor and Hasina, undergoes a massive amount of training, and basically becomes Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Shows up on the Tribbles' doorsteps and is like, "You took my son. I want him back." But I can't think of an out via discontinuity so I can make this happen.

The story ends with Judd and Vicki walking around. They see some kids and decide to take them in. Minus the part where they quote from Isaiah 11, this is how the series ends:

Vicki stopped, noticing several children standing alone. A light caught her eye and she glanced at Jesus.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t stop them. For the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

“Am I supposed to—?”

“I have already put this desire in your heart, Vicki,” Jesus said.

Vicki walked up to a redheaded girl who was moving a finger through the sand. She couldn’t have been older than seven.

“What’s your name?” Vicki asked.

“Anne,” the girl said.

“Where’s your family?”

“I don’t have any. They’re gone.”

Vicki looked at Judd and extended a hand to the girl. The three walked toward a boy sitting on a rock, and Vicki smiled at Anne.

“You have a family now,” Vicki said.

Aside from the "Well of course, she's not more than seven. The tribulation's only seven years long," complaint, I'll just use my powers of Discontinuity and assume that Anne winds up joining in the quest as depicted in ako's awesome fixfic "Children of the Goats." Yeah, I know, ako has probably died in a freak gardening/vomit-choking/spontaneous combustion accident, so we'll never see a conclusion to said story, but it's still awesome and worthy of being promoted. I will never stop being a believer in Discontinuity, dammit! It's a beautiful thing! If canon doesn't work, jettison the stuff that doesn't work, keep the stuff you like, and mentally compose your own continuation of the series!

So we have at long last reached the end. Victory music. I feel remiss in that I only posted the last movement from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Really that whole symphony is awesome from beginning to end and I advise all my readers to seek it out and listen. Beethoven's 9th is on my list of stuff where, well, if aliens ever show up, beam me aboard their spaceships and ask me to prove that humans aren't just a festering boil on the face of this planet, I'll play them Beethoven's 9th. Because yeah, while we do produce a lot of bad shit like wars and reality TV shows, every now and then we produce truly transcendent beautiful things like Beethoven's 9th or the moon landing and they deserve to be celebrated. Maybe it'll be enough to save us.

As for my final assessment for Left Behind: the Kids? Well, really I can sum it up with the metaphor I've used throughout my snarkings: it's better than the adult books, but it's better the way getting kicked in the gut by steel-toed boots is better than getting kicked in the teeth by steel-toed boots. While it cannot match the adult series in terms of awful, it is still a very, very poorly written, awful series.

And as someone who's a big fan of Young Adult literature in general, I can say that there are writers in the field who have created stuff that's way more worth your time and money than this series. I will only name a few, but Susan Beth Pfeffer's Moon Crash series is awesome, even if I have mixed feelings regarding the fourth book (how do you explain how you both love and hate a book?), Tommy Wallach's We All Looked Up is pretty good--think of it as like if John Hughes wrote a combination End of the World/Coming-of-Age story for teens--and Shaun David Hutchinson's We Are the Ants, is amazing, though RTCs would lose their collective shit over its depiction of the gays as being, y'know, people who aren't too different from everyone else.

I'll wrap up the list of recommendations, but again, I do them, because like I've whined about in many posts, even though I feel most of the truly innovative, great story telling is being done in the field of YA lit, the literati will always look down on it, see it as rubbish for the hoi polloi. Because if common people enjoy and understand it, it does not qualify as True Art. True Art is Angsty and Depressing as Hell; True Art is Incomprehensible to the Layman. If it isn't any of those things, it is not True Art.

So again, we're done for now. I haven't entirely decided what I'll do with this blog yet. I want a few weeks to rest on my laurels and celebrate for a bit, especially since I'll be moving in June and no matter how many times you go through that (my Dad's a preacher, so we move a lot), it'll never stop being stressful as hell. You'll curse and swear as you pack up your life in boxes, load up the trucks, and go to the new place, then you'll curse and swear as you move and unpack everything, but eventually you settle in and make a new life for yourself. That's how these things go. tl;dr, the blog will be on an indefinite hiatus.

Though I have been kicking around a few ideas for future stuff. Maybe it's masochism or something, but I'd actually come to enjoy snarking and don't want to just end it, even if things might be a little less frequent. I would like to do a takedown of the proposed film assuming it ever comes out. Been debating how I'd manage that without somehow putting more money into the pockets of people who don't deserve it, aka Ellanjay, but the Left Behind wiki says limited theatrical release, which is code for "There's no way in Hell it will ever hit OKC or Tulsa, never mind a middle of nowhere town in Oklahoma." So maybe I can more easily justify pirating the hell out of it. Because while I have no objections to ripping off the RIAA, because seriously, eff the RIAA! I have some scruples when it comes to movies and such. But like I said, since it's not likely to hit OK and Ellanjay are disgustingly rich enough, maybe that'll be enough to justify it.

I stand by my prediction that the movie will in all likelihood, suck. It will be better than the books, because the nature of film forces them to make changes to the material in order to adapt it for the screen, but it will suck because usually a shitty source material leads to a shitty movie. And we all know how shitty the source material for the series is.

In the rare instances where shitty source material didn't lead to a shitty final product, it's because someone involved realized, "Hey this sucks," and from there, jettisoned what didn't work, and just did their own thing. Again, the perfect example of this phenomenon is Marvel's series, ROM: Space Knight. Hasbro just told Marvel Comics, "Here's a new toy. Make a comic to promote it." And that's pretty much what Marvel told the people involved with the series. The writers didn't have anything but a toy to work with and unlike Transformers, it wasn't even a very good toy. So the writers just went all out and in doing so, managed to create an incredibly epic story that's also very emotionally involving for something that was created as a toy tie-in. So much so that you wish Marvel would get the rights back to the character, so the original comics can be reprinted and people don't have to hunt for used titles.

But given that Tim LaHaye's grandson has been cast as Nicky, it's safe to say that the people involved with the movie probably don't have a lot of creative leeway. Again, from the trailer, I can tell they've made some decisions I agree with like rather than waste time with a "subversive" school paper, the kids have the sense to GTFO to the countryside and set up a farm, but given that they're still straitjacketed by shitty source material, again, it will probably still suck.

Other ideas I've been kicking around are doing reviews of every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or as Spiritplumber has suggested, taking on Kingdom Come. As for Kingdom Come, let me rest and recover my strength for a bit, provide me with a copy (I still feel a little dirty that I purchased most of the For Kids! books legitimately, thus making Ellanjay more money), and we'll see.

As for the Marvel Cinematic Universe suggestion, I don't know. As you can imagine, I'd enjoy the hell out of it, being able to endlessly fangirl and lecture others about the awesomeness of the MCU, talk about how it works and nothing done by Zack Snyder does, but part of me is hesitant, because like I said, it's more enjoyable to read and rip on bad art. I'm totally with Dave Barry: One of life's little pleasures is seeing a good critic go to town on a really bad movie. So I'm kind of wondering if anybody would enjoy reading endless fangirling, endless "OMG! I love it, want to marry it, and have it's children!" Because I admit that I am often relentlessly self-indulgent on this blog, but I do try to make my posts have some value to my readers and not just be an endless "Mouse Monologues about Stuff."

So that's it, folks. Read and discuss in the comments. I'll still read the comments, because I'm an obsessive geek that way, but in the meantime, again, indefinite hiatus.

11 comments:

spiritplumber said...

Congratulations on reaching the end!

I'm tempted to do a little drabble on Cheryl in the Tripocalypse continuity, if it'd help.

What's a good way to get you a legit copy of KC? (Amazon wishlist, google books, w/e)

Blank Ron said...

Thoughts on your hiatus, your future projects and such when I have a lil time to ponder, but I did want to make one small joke here:
Clearly the long hiatus while God builds Heaven on Earth or Paradise or whatever the hell it's supposed to be is because, well, God knows he's gotta deal with contractors. Whether or not they're RTCs, whether or not they have some weird extra-Biblical superpowers, they're contractors. There's going to be delays like you can't believe. Just one example: granite countertops? All the granite is buried now. And don't get me started on the drywall and OSB. Plus, you gotta be looking at 1290 days, mebbe 1335, just to get the foundations in...

aunursa said...

I think most of the writers of the New Testament would agree with the central thesis of "Faith is good, but even Satan believes in God, so you still have to actually do stuff in order to be a good person."

An RTC would respond that you're confusing belief with faith. Satan believes in God. Heck Satan KNOWS that God exists. But the path to salvation is not to BELIEVE but to TRUST in God for one's salvation.

Congratulations on reaching the end of the series. It's been what almost six years for the journey?

For all the books in the LB series, Kingdom Come is by far the worst. There is no plot. Good luck!

Arynne said...

Congrats on fighting the good fight, finishing the course, keeping--oh, sorry, that's kind of blasphemous.

Small nitpick--it's Nathan the prophet who calls David out on his wicked, wicked ways. Samuel was long dead by then.

From what I can tell, LaJenkins get around the mixed message in the "sheep and goats" judgment by making "my sisters and brothers" specifically refer to the Jewish people. Hence why all the scenes of our protagonists rescuing Jewish prisoners from the Global Community--that fulfills their obligation, so they're golden and don't have to do anything else.

Kingdom Come is even creepier that way. I'm sure your takedown of it would be awesome to read, but I can't in good conscience wish for you to read it.

Anonymous said...

You are officially awesome in my estimation now; I could never have made it through all that without losing my marbles several times. I'm actually sorry it's come to an end; it's been most interesting, as well as entertaining.

I've heard Anglicanism described as "Catholicism with all the ceremony but half the guilt". As for Heaven, David Byrne's thoughts on the matter come to mind too: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/t/talking+heads/heaven_20135027.html. And C.S. Lewis was smart enough to say, at the end of _The Last Battle_, something like (going from memory) "the things that happened were so great wonderful that I cannot write them".

Anyway, a great big Thank You from this side of the Atlantic, and enjoy your hiatus; I look forward to reading your words again.

Firedrake said...

Yay! You made it!

"Steaming pile" on its own has an association for me (I've worked in tech for a long time, and steaming piles are quite a common metaphor for the sort of software the boss buys in because the vendor took him out for a nice lunch). I guess it doesn't for L&J.

Oh, being a chef isn't cooking, it's art. (Don't worry, there's a whole steaming pile of institutional sexism here just as there is everywhere else.)

"In fact, each time Judd spoke with the Lord, he spoke to Judd personally." Total surveillance, total compliance.

I respectfully point you at b-masters.com where the appreciation of bad film is itself raised to an art form. El Santo, one of the reviewers there, has a scale from -4 to +4: +4 is great, -4 is impressively bad, 0 is just sort of there and much less worth your time than a -4.

Then shalt thou count to seventy-five, no more, no less. Seventy-five shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be seventy-five. Seventy-six shalt thou not count, neither count thou seventy-four, excepting that thou then proceed to seventy-five. Seventy-seven is right out.

Making America a Christian nation by vaporising all the non-Christians. Um, yay? (Waves flag nervously.)

Conrad's a male human. Shelly's a female human. They have so much in common! (ObNewDoctorWhoRant: The End of Time, where the two black characters are paired off apparently for no reason other than that they're both black.)

“I assure you, Lionel,” Jesus said, “when you sat at home and briefly thought about doing it for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

It's a weird compression, this litany they use. It's basically the Old Testament plus this Jesus guy as the biggest warlord of all. Maybe someone couldn't afford the New Testament so they ran up a fanfic version.

Heaven has to be somewhat segmented, I think, because people's happinesses aren't necessarily compatible with each other. For example, the tiger problem: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/56/2b/15/562b15497c9025e4f64694f07d483299.jpg . The only way you can fix that with everyone actually together is to rewrite everyone's personality, at which point it isn't them any more. But if you segment it, then Calvin's heaven can have instances everyone he wants to see (including non-people-eating tigers), while Hobbes's heaven can have "people" to eat.

Diana Wynne Jones was writing YA when it was still called "children's books", and I'd definitely recommend her work to anyone who doesn't mind reading something labelled as "for children".

I thought the film of The Running Man was much better than the book, but I'm aware that this makes me a heretic.

Good luck with the move, and please feel no pressure from me - I love reading your stuff, but I realise you're doing this for fun, and if it's not fun it's not worth doing. As far as positive reviews go, what I want is why something works or doesn't - and it's much easier to break apart something bad and pick out individual elements than it is something good, because in something good everything works together.

(Also see email.)

Stardust said...

Good job.

Obviously male cooks are possessed by the devil, and that's how chili was invented, it has the fiery taste of hell imbued into it.

spiritplumber said...

http://emlia.org/pmwiki/pub/web/Tripocalypse.Cheryl.html Cheryl's coda.

Blank Ron said...

errf, hella late, but Things have been happening.
My suggestion for when you feel like handling KC is this: change it up. Instead of analysis and snark, follow the lead of groups like Web Site Number Nine and riff it to pieces. (For those unfamiliar, the idea is to treat the piece like an episode of MST3K, with interjections by characters reading the text rather as if they were watching a movie. Most of these 'MiSTings' used the characters from the show, but others have been used as well as the use of the names of the real people doing the jokes.)
MiSTings are fun group projects; it might be fun to get your regular readers to contribute riffs to an evisceration of KC, assemble it and publish it here. Some might even like to create framing sections in the manner of MST3K's 'host segments,' to ease the debilitating effects of so much bad writing (L+J's, not ours!) and highlight especially awful bits of the book.

What do you think, sirs?

Firedrake said...

Well, clearly Mouse's call, but it sounds like fun to me.

Harrier said...

I'm with Firedrake and Blank Ron, Kingdom Come might be a fun deconstruction, and a reader contribution would add a little zest. However, definitely don't feel obligated to start right away. Take some time for you, Mouse!

I haven't read the whole book, but I should be able to access a copy (church library or from family collection). I do have to say that Kingdom Come is probably the most pointless narratively - TurboJesus destroyed the massive army of unbelievers and punted Satan into hell, but then he... lets Satan out again for a short time so TurboJesus can pull the same trick? Are there good behavior points in Tartarus that Satan earned to get himself a short parole? Why is this happening except to check off a box on EllenJay's End Times List?

As for depictions of heaven, it's one of the reasons I love the tabletop RPG Mage: The Awakening, which gives us the description of the five Supernal Realms (which in the the narrative are the source of magic and of ultimate truth, kind've the Real World with the normal world being the Matrix). Basically the Supernal is awe-inspiring, sometimes terrifying, but touching or entering it is a time when your soul is in harmony with fundamental parts of the universe. It's not supposed to be any one religion's heaven, but mages all try to get there, with good reason.