If someone were to put a gun to my head and was like, "All right, which trope in story-telling pisses you off the most?", more and more, I'd say, with little hesitation, "The Informed Attribute." Because if someone has to inform me, at every opportunity they can, that Character X is a genius, even despite however many times Character X makes mistakes that a reasonably bright fifth-grader wouldn't, then they've failed. Saying something is X many times, does not make it so! Or to lace it with the gratuitous pop culture references, telling me that nu!Trek Kirk is the greatest leader ever, won't cancel out the many times all his decisions end badly and he's just a smirking douche towards everyone around him!
I'm bringing this up because they keep saying things like the opening line to this week's chapter:
CAMERON WILLIAMS was convinced that in a thousand years he would never get used to the bizarre supernaturalism of everyday living now.
Like I keep screaming at both Ellanjay and the GOP, saying something is so, does not, in fact, make it so!
Cam-Cam and Chloe are meeting up with Abdullah and his wife and kids. Abdullah is a character from the adult books, whereas I snarked and finished the kids version, so hardcore fans, forgive me if I get stuff wrong. But then again, given that all characters in Left Behind, exist to reflect the eternal glory that is Bucky-Boy and Ray-Ray and have no other traits aside from showing how good Bucky-boy and Ray-Ray are, I probably won't make too many egregious errors.
The former Jordanian fighter pilot and eventual convert— after he lost Yasmine and their children to the Rapture— quickly told Cameron of the glorious reunion with his family. “And, as you know, marriage is not the same as it was before all this. Which, in our case, is fortunate.”
Maybe the backstory is that Abdullah was unfaithful or treated his wife horribly, because as one of the scary Ay-Rab Moooslims (and you just know that Ellanjay are one of those idiots that use "Arab" and "Muslim" interchangeably, not realizing that one is a racial term and the other is a religious one), there's no way he could have been a good husband and father, but my kneejerk response is, again, "Poor Yasmine and Poor Beverly LaHaye and Poor [Insert Jerry Jenkins Wife's Name because I'm too lazy to look it up]." Like I keep saying, given who she's married to, you can't really blame Beverly LaHaye for taking advantage of whatever opportunities she could, to escape from Tim. Blame her for a lot of other things, but a thousand mile move is a little understandable in her case.
And we get some descriptors of Abdullah's kids:
Bahira was a beautiful, tan-faced girl who took after her mother; Zaki was darker, like Abdullah, and seemed shy, if not aloof. They were fourteen and thirteen in real years, but their new bodies reminded Chloe of how her little brother, Raymie— twelve at the time of the Rapture— looked now, as though he were in his midtwenties.
Wait I thought the magical age in the MK was 32 and everyone would look like they were 32 for all eternity. Unless they, like Ray-Ray, both managed to miss the Rapture and survive the entire tribulation. People like Ray-Ray will continue to age at the same rate for 1000 years until TurboJesus drags Satan out of Hell, where he's been proclaiming "Jesus is Lord" for the past 1000 years, just so he can put Satan back in there and let him proclaim some more.
So in Ray-Ray's case, I'm going to be like, "Ever read any myths from Ancient Greece? Good. Then this will all be new to you.
Ray-Ray aside, there are some real interesting implications to get into with this "Everybody's Forever Young" bit. Raymie was twelve when the Rapture happened, but in the afterlife, he gets aged up so he's perpetually thirty-two. Or in other words, he becomes an adult without any of the crucial formative years and experiences in between.
But it becomes even creepier when you think of the unborn. In one of the prequels, a woman meets up with a daughter who she had aborted. Said daughter is aged up to thirty-two and has totally forgiven her mother. So we all know that Ellanjay consider each and every unborn child, be it fetus or embryo, to be a person, equivalent in value to a living, thirty-one year-old me.
But like I said, given their kneejerk opposition to any form of birth control, combined with the fact that as many as three-fourths of all fertilized eggs will fail to implant on the uterine wall...yeah, there's really no way this can't be any more disturbingly Orwellian or like something out of a Brave New World, with God basically creating personalities from scratch for people who never actually experienced anything, never breathed the open air or felt the sun on their skin.
Plus, given that in the prequel, the lady's aborted baby bears no grudge against its mama and has been enjoying romping in the eternal, golden bliss of Heaven, whereas if her mother hadn't gotten an abortion, aborted baby might have grown up and fallen away from the church after she's too old to squeak by the "You Must Be This Tall To Burn Forever" line and wound up in Hell. So how exactly is abortion a bad thing? Aborted baby is spared a life of pain and suffering and goes straight to Heaven, and its Mama doesn't have to deal with pregnancy, which takes a toll under even the best of circumstances, to say nothing of the assorted irritations that come with having a kid. So it all works out well for everyone, making me reiterate my question: How is abortion a bad thing?
Plus, since Ellanjay believe that no sin, however great, can permanently separate someone from God, so long as they seek forgiveness for it, couldn't someone who got an abortion, just ask for forgiveness afterwards and be totally free and clear? The unborn's eternal soul is saved and so is the mother's. A win-win all around.
All right, I'll stop talking about abortion and move on.
TurboJesus continues to walk around, talking about how great everything is, spitting out random biblical quotations like a poorly programmed AI. I keep saying we should be grateful that Ellanjay were too wussy to have TurboJesus and Zod speak in anything but quotes from the Bible, because otherwise there would have been a scene where TurboJesus or Zod started sobbing, because they wish they could be as manly as Ray-Ray and Cam-Cam. But I'm wondering if that scene would be more or less entertaining than what we're actually getting. Just know that I totally picture Jerry Jenkins sitting around going "Buck Williams...he's the man, whose name you'd love to touch," just like Homer Simpson when he changed his name to Max Power.
And like spiritplumber said last week, those of you who have always dreamed of going to the Dead Sea, well you can kiss that goodbye, because now it's all freshwater and Woo-Hoo.
“The water that flows toward the eastern region goes down into the valley,” Jesus said, “and when it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. Every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will still be given over to salt. Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and they will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.”
After much googling, I discovered that TurboJesus is quoting from Ezekiel 47. Given all the trippy imagery and performance art in the Book of Ezekiel, it continually disappoints me that Ellanjay stick to the last eight chapters, aka the most boring parts of Ezekiel. I've more or less accepted that they aren't going to touch Amos, because he's so plain-spoken you really can't twist his words to mean anything other than what he says they mean, but I thought they'd be totally on board with the bizarre imagery of Ezekiel. I thought they liked the books of the Bible where they can twist the imagery to mean whatever the heck they want it to mean.
I'll let the geography buffs take a crack at pointing out all the flaws. Because I believe in knowing your limits and I know mine and wouldn't be able to do a good teardown.
Anyway, some more world-building before we cut to Token Jew.
The idea of so much water in this desert fascinated Cameron. He had spent a lot of time in this region during the Tribulation and had often wondered what it would look like if there had been enough irrigation.
Jesus said, “I will give the rain for seeds sown and bread of the increase of the earth. It will be fat and plentiful. Cattle will feed in large pastures. There will be on every high mountain and on every high hill rivers and streams of waters. Waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.”
Oh, Ellanjay, how you show your ignorance with every line you write. Because the reason Israel doesn't look like Iowa isn't just because of not enough irrigation. Certain plants require a specific kind of soil in order to grow and most food crops demand so much by way of nutrition that trying to grow them out in the freaking desert...let's just say you'd start to think that Sisyphus got off easy. He just has to push a boulder up a hill.
Because in all this talk about farming and whatnot, y'know Ellanjay is envisioning something similar to the system we've got now, massive industrial agriculture, where rather than take in account the environment you're in (no matter how much we try to pretend otherwise, Arizona and Massachusetts are two different environments with different needs) and plan accordingly, you just plant the same five crops and slather everything with petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, without any consideration as to the needs of the soil or environment you're in.
Well, okay, I suppose since this is the MK, which is supposed to be Heaven, no matter how unappealing it sounds, Ellanjay would say that they no longer need to worry about pests or disease destroying the crops or leeching the nutrition from the soil. Fair enough. But what gets me is how damn boring and unappealing everything must look.
Since the closest Ellanjay have every been to a farm is when they are speeding down a highway, I'm assuming the farms in the MK would look much like the ones along the highway, where like I said, it's just the same variety of wheat or corn as far as the eye can see. You know if I were to say anything about permaculture or any other more sustainable and aesthetically-appealing means of farming, they'd look at me all blankly.
But I keep thinking, "Y'know this is supposed to be paradise and they're supposed to be here forever, so wouldn't the MK dwellers, given that they don't have to worry as much about food, want to really go all out on aesthetics?" I wouldn't object too much to farming and taking care of animals in paradise, but there is something to be said for aesthetics. Wouldn't you want to go all out, take advantage of unlimited resources to create something truly spectacular in its beauty? Create the greatest, lushest, most verdant, a veritable forest of a garden and do what you can to breed and produce even more beautiful plants. Because if I'm going to be stuck in a place for a while, I'd like for there to be something pretty to look at, like a big, shady tree or something. I know humans don't need beauty to live, the way they do food, shelter, and water, but there is something to be said for it. It is a psychological comfort and don't underestimate the appeal of psychological comforts.
One final quibble before I shut up and move onto Token Jew's part: I thought that Chaim's magical all-purpose fertilizer made Israel the leading producer of food in the world, made every square inch overflow with crops, so what's all Cam-Cam's talk about Israel being a desert? Well, okay, given the numerous Acts of God back to back, I imagine that the landscape would take one helluva of a it and basically be Hiroshima, circa August of 1945, but still.
Anyway, now to Token Jew:
Tsion Ben-Judah felt particularly privileged as one of the chosen people and a tribulation martyr. Of most interest to him on this day at the cusp of the Millennium was to try to understand how the Old Testament law would mesh with the work of Christ on the cross. How thrilling to learn that the glory of the Lord would fill the temple and that the Mosaic laws would be observed— even the sacrifices. Every year they would observe both Passover (the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread) and the Feast of Tabernacles. No lamb would be slain at Passover, thus making plain and memorializing annually that Jesus had been the perfect and once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world. And for these observances, even the Gentile nations would be required to have representatives sojourn to the temple.
Oh boy, so much to work with. But the biggest thing that keeps making be go all "WTF?!" is all the stuff about Old Testament Law. When has Token Jew been shown practicing Old Testament law? I thought that immediately upon converting, he would realize, "Okay, so all the stuff about bacon and shellfish has been overturned 'Because Jesus That's Why!' but that one verse about homosexuality is sacred and must stand for all time."
Yeah, there's a whole lot of stuff we could take on with this Old Testament law bit, but I'm thinking mostly on the stuff related to food, about keeping Kosher and all that. Even though Ellanjay probably wouldn't object to stoning your teenage son for disobedience. I'm just wondering if this is supposed to be another detail of the MK: everybody keeps Kosher, even if they didn't while on Earth.
Though that might answer the conundrum I had regarding pigs. I'd been wondering what their place was in the millennial kingdom, because unlike cows and chickens, pigs are bred strictly for their meat, but if everybody's a vegetarian, nobody gets any bacon. Though that's true if everybody's Kosher, now. I just wonder how many of Ellanjay's supporters would collectively lose their shit if they're told "Congratulations, you don't get bacon cheeseburgers or Easter hams in Heaven."
And I know I'm anal-retentive as hell, but I keep thinking about this stuff because Ellanjay give me nothing else to think about. I also find myself wondering about what happens with male livestock in the MK. Because basic knowledge regarding livestock is that you keep only a few males around to impregnate the ladies. The rest are gelded (or castrated to be blunt) and sold for meat. Bulls are famously ill-tempered, but anyone whose raised chickens will tell you that if you have more than one rooster hanging around the hen house, said roosters will indulge in an activity that's currently illegal in all 50 states of the US, with little if any prompting from the humans.
So I'm wondering what is happening to all the male animals in the MK? Because the humans aren't eating meat anymore, but neither are the predatorial animals, so if the herbivores are still humping and reproducing at the same rate, with all their young surviving to produce even more young, yeah, I'm wondering how long until the MK smells worse than the Augean Stables.
Okay, I suppose the animals, like the humans, no longer need to have sex and poop. Fine. But I'll still question why the hell, they are even around in paradise, because it's probably safe to say that the tribbles don't decide, "Y'know, I always wanted to learn everything I could about grizzly bears and now I can, since they no longer attack people." I know I should stop with all the gratuitous Simpsons references, even though I am more Simpsons references than man, but if animals in the MK were like the ones in The Simpsons' Garden of Eden, it would make so much more sense.
Though I'm going to assume that Ellanjay never define who or what these nations are. Yeah in the next paragraph, they talk about the twelve tribes of Israel, but they are aware that ten of said tribes disappeared during the Babylonian Captivity, probably marrying into other populations and ceasing to carry on the Israelite identity. It was kind of standard protocol back then. If the other guys conquered you, their god or gods were clearly mightier, so you better abandon your faith/identity and get on the winning side, if you want your life to be somewhat comfortable.
Though the next paragraph which begins with "Tsion was dizzied"? You have no idea how long I spent, shaking my head at that line. Maybe it's because I'm an anal retentive English Major, but I was like, "Seriously, you couldn't have thought of another way of conveying this?" Ah heck, I'll give up and let Inigo Montoya speak for me.
Then we cut back to Cam-Cam to hear TurboJesus talk about the new government.
Jesus said, “The Lord is King over all the peoples of the earth. The Lord is one, and His name one.”
And yet it soon became clear that Jesus, while the ultimate sovereign, would not be ruling alone. He began calling out from the multitudes counselors from each tribe who would adjudicate all matters among the citizens. These would serve as judges who would report to the ultimate judge of each tribe, one of the twelve apostles. Cameron thrilled to see these heroes of his faith take their places with Jesus in the temple.
Then the Lord explained that the judges would report to the king of Israel— in this case, Jesus’ prince, David himself.
So even though TurboJesus and Zod are supposed to be all-powerful and all-knowing, apparently they need to delegate. Though in all this talk about Judges, I'm the one who is going, "Even Deborah?" I often wonder how RTCs handle her, because Deborah clearly had no problem holding authority over a man and chewing out Baruch when he screwed up. I'm assuming they skim over Deborah, especially the part of the story with Jael. Who knows what lessons the young ladies might take from the story of Jael? Even though, "Sometimes you must drive a tent spike through an asshole's head," is probably a lesson that all children would benefit from hearing.
And of course, this government is imposed from above, with none of the populace being allowed to vote or have any say on who will represent them as judges. But Ellanjay would probably be appalled if we used words like "Junta" or "Dictatorship" or "Autocracy" to describe this government. Because again, they have nothing wrong with tyranny, so long as it's being done by the right people for the right reasons.
Though of course, Ellanjay would envision the glorious kingdom of heaven as having all the hierarchies (and by extension, the inequalities, because anytime there's a hierarchy, inequality goes hand in hand). Yeah, I know it's the same in the Bible in that none of the prophets can imagine a world where there isn't a king who rules above all, but I'm willing to cut the prophets some slack; they were living in the Bronze Age and they at least produced some beautiful writing. Because there's no reason why there has to be a stratified hierarchy except that Ellanjay are unimaginative. Why not have everyone broken down into small tribes, with each living and conducting their own affairs as they see fit, though occasionally working together in Iroquois Confederation-style alliances?
That's something I find myself thinking about in these books. Ellanjay probably are the type who believe that life, back in the era of the hunter-gatherers, was brutish and short, but archeological evidence doesn't hold that to be true. In all likelihood, humans enjoyed a longer, healthier, overall happier lives, before the advent of agriculture. Most of the stuff we complain about in civilization, the constant warfare, hard labor, and massive divisions between the upper and bottom rungs of society, didn't really emerge until the advent of agriculture. As soon as you start dividing up the land, saying things like, "This belongs to us and no one else!" you find yourselves in a helluva lot more fights than in the days of hunting and gathering, where if you crossed a group of jerks, you either drove them off or they drove you off and hey it wasn't too big a deal; there were plenty other places to hunt that animal or eat that fruit.
I know, everyone's getting tired of the philosophical lectures, but give me a little credit. Earlier in the snark, when Cam-Cam was narrating about how he always wondered what the deserts would look like if properly irrigated, I found myself fighting the urge to do a lecture about the !Kung. For those too lazy to click on the link, the !Kung are a group of hunter-gatherers who live in the Kalahari desert on the continent of Africa. The Kalahari is considered to be one of the most harsh, inhospitable environments on Earth. Yet studies have shown that far from living lives of constant struggle, pain, and misery, the !Kung actually spend fewer hours working than your so-called civilized men. Supposedly when droughts struck ranchers living near the area, many of the ranchers would choose to defect and join them, because they were attracted to the lives of leisure led by the !Kung.
Okay some of you are going, "But I don't particularly want to live in a desert." And hey, I respect that. I'm bringing up all this stuff to again, illustrate how disturbingly unimaginative Ellanjay are, that they can't envision any society where everyone's roughly equal and no rules are imposed without the agreement of everyone, and citizens are free to devote their time and labor to whatever activities they wish, so long as it doesn't harm the tribe. There will probably be mentions later on of taxes and prices, because the idea of trading and bartering without having to spend time collecting pretty paper or metal to get stuff? That's unpossible!
Though the simplest explanation is probably the old adage from Animal Farm: we are all equal, but some are more equal than others. No matter how much Ellanjay talk about how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, Ellanjay can't envision a world where they aren't the biggest cheeses around.
We cut to Token Jew. All he does in this section is watch David wail out the 51st Psalm. Naturally the way Ellanjay stave it, with David wailing and acting so pathetic that you want to slap him so he'd shut up, robs the 51st Psalm of much of its emotional power.
A common mistake that many make, is that they treat all parts of the Bible the same, reading the histories and genealogies and poetry all the same, with no acknowledgement of any differences. Even though with modern literature, there's the understand that a novel and a poem are two different forms with different rules, and of course, there are differences between genres. A Young Adult Science Fiction Novel has different rules and conventions from a tender, coming-of-age literary novel meant for grownups.
Psalms were basically hymns or prayers, so while there may be an element of truth in them, they aren't literally true the way a history book is. Myself, I envision the 51st psalm as something composed out of fear and desperation, the kind of prayer made in the dead of night or the heat of a crisis. It'd be the kind of cry where the only ones who would hear it, outside of David and God, would be maybe a few servants in the background. The point is that a psalm like that would be very different in style and tone and treated very differently, than one of the other psalms that were clearly composed as hymns of praise, meant to be performed before an audience in religious ceremonies.
Of course, the order of the Psalms does come across as kind of arbitrary and weird at times. Everyone knows the 23rd Psalm, but ever read the one before it? Because there's some serious mood whiplash going on there. In Psalm 22, the psalmist is all "Why has God forsaken me?" which is very different from the 23rd which is all "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want."
But like I said, in staging the scene the way they did, Ellanjay rob David's words of their power and make him sound whiny. I'm going to assume that they won't even get into any of the stories involving David's family. The whole thing with Absalom and all...David's family sounds like a Bronze Age version of something you'd see on the Jerry Springer show.
TurboJesus is all "Hey, we're cool, bruh." We then cut to Ray-Ray as TurboJesus explains how things will go down in the MK. Because it was vitally important to switch to Ray-Ray's POV; we couldn't have possibly told the next scene from Cam-Cam or Token Jew's perspective. The characters are so distinct in their personalities that this closing bit could only have been told through Ray-Ray's eyes.
TurboJesus just quotes more and more Bible verses. Because Ellanjay haven't heard of one of the principle rules of any entertainment: Don't remind the readers of better entertainment they could be enjoying. Because this is some good stuff, but it was better when it was Isaiah saying it, inside the original context he intended.
But Ray-Ray is confused and seeks out Token Jew for comfort.
Just what did it mean, Rayford wondered, that “the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed”? Back on the causeway with Tsion, he sought the older man’s opinion.
“No one born during the time of the kingdom will die before age one hundred,” Tsion said. “And when one dies, he will be considered young, for everyone else will live for the entire Millennium. And you know, Rayford, the only ones who will die will be Gentiles who do not trust Christ for their salvation.”
I know, I know, it's really unseemly to toot one's own horn, but Ellanjay have just confirmed that no one can die in the MK until their 100th birthday, thus making all my advice in this post, totally valid. So let me reiterate to all the COT: go ahead and sin your hearts out. Have sex as act of mutual love and pleasure, rather than just for reproductive purposes alone. Get drunk or try out whatever mind-altering substances you want.
Heck, with no death around, if you've always wanted to try Banzai Skydiving or BASE Jumping or some kind of extreme sport, but you've held back out of fear of, y'know, dying, now that's no longer a problem. So my advice to the COT: do whatever you want. Just make sure to say The Prayer before you go to bed on the night before your birthday. Though I'm not sure if this whole "Die on Your 100th Birthday" thing also takes into account time zones, so be careful.
Though I'm going to guess this whole "No Death" rule won't be touched on at all. Even though you can't tell me that there won't be a few people who'd take advantage of the opportunity to live out their Deadpool or Wolverine fantasies.
Ray-Ray asks the obvious question: Why would one of the COT not believe/trust in Christ? And we get an answer, which to no one's surprise, is pure weaksauce, that I'm posting because it really needs to be seen to be believed.
“Amazing. But then, even among us Gentiles, how could a child born into this new world ever choose not to trust Christ?”
“It’s a mystery,” Tsion said. “Imagine— children of the Tribulation, when they reach an age of understanding and, thus, accountability, become the only unregenerate persons alive. And each one born here— without birth pangs, according to the prophecies— still must come to a place of repentance and a decision to become a follower of Christ.”
“Then that person would be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, would live in the physical presence of Christ, and would be influenced not only by his immediate family but also by every other person with whom he comes into contact.”
Tsion nodded. “And yet the Scriptures are clear that at the end of all this, Satan is loosed again for a little while to tempt the nations, and the army he amasses is as numerous as the sand on the seashores. So not only will there be those who choose their own ways, there will be countless numbers of them.”
“Hard to imagine.”
“Especially now, when everyone you see is either a believer or too young to be accountable.”
:headdesk: Like I said, they don't even try to come up with an explanation. There really isn't anything you can do with this kind of laziness except stare in appalled horror, because They Just Didn't Care.
Again, if the rebellion that comes up later on was like ako's "Children of the Goats," it would work. But it's not, because Ellanjay Just Did Not Care!
We end with this charming bit.
On the one hand, Rayford was grateful that such a return to the hatred and rebellion of his former life would not occur for a thousand years. On the other, he shuddered to realize that very soon, this idyllic kingdom would begin to become populated by those who— against all odds and all reason— would eventually spawn the fire of war that the evil one would fuel.
Uh, Satan only gets out of Hell, because God lets him out. After he lets Satan out, God proceeds to punt him back in again. So yeah, FAIL!
And that's it for this week. I'll try to cut down on the philosophical discourses, but I like to think that while I'm being preachy, I'm not dull. And of course, if you think I'm full of it, feel free to let loose in the comments.