Edge of Apocalypse: pages 211-214 (Chapter Thirty-Seven)
O-kay. We’re back with Joshua Jordan and Paul Campbell, and as only a LaHaye-sponsored character could do, Josh has continued to maintain the lead on the best EVAR golf course.
The first seventeen holes flew by. Joshua and his partners were having a good time. The course at Hanover Golf Club was every bit as difficult as Joshua had remembered. When they got to the last hole, Joshua’s ball was about ten feet off the green. Campbell’s ball was a few feet back on the fairway.
When we left off they were at around the seventh or eighth hole, so this backtracking by Parshall kinda niggles a bit.
But here’s Josh, ahead of Paul Campbell by three strokes (natch) and the other two whatstheirfaces don’t even rate on the page. This hole’s a par four, and Josh is aiming to get the ball in with two strokes to spare to get right in on par. Let’s follow
Gary Stu Josh as he gets the ball in for the final hole:
Joshua knew that his opponent had played a respectable game, even making him sweat a little at the beginning of the back nine. But Joshua’s powerful command of the game was finally edging him away from his competitor.
Joshua carefully eyed his ball, then studied the distance to the green and to the cup. Campbell was watching him.
“I’m starting to recognize that look on your face. You’re aiming for a birdie on this last hole, I’m sure of it!” Campbell shouted out to him. “You’re going to try to drop that ball right into the cup.”
As Joshua pulled out his nine-iron, he smiled and shot back, “It’s crossed my mind…”
“Rub it in! Go ahead, rub it in!”
Hey, Josh? Try not to let that ego get in the way of your golf game, huh?
Anyway, Josh thinks he’s got it, takes a swing, whacks that ball… and whoops, it sails right across the green and off the other side! Not kidding, folks, it happened to Gary Golf Stu:
But without backspin the ball hit the green hard and bounced once and then skipped over the hole and then caught the down-slope on the other side of the green and started rolling away from the pin, now picking up speed.
I might die of shock here, people!
But notice the common problem of fanfic Sues and Stus rearing its head here: “flaws” that the character has or commits aren’t seriously designed to affect the character’s basic aura of awesomeness that would make them immune to a nuke even without the RTS-RGS. It happens here: Josh makes a mistake in the game that doesn’t totally blow it, since he’ll still come in tied with Campbell in the worst case.
I wonder if he’s the kind of guy who throws his golf club when he screws up a shot, though, considering this:
Joshua kept his cool, as he always did. But he was already adding it up in his head. If Campbell did well in his final stroke or two and Joshua didn’t, things could get very interesting.
Pastor Campbell, on the other hand…
Campbell took out his nine-iron. He looked relaxed in front of the ball. He swung.
His ball went up into the air and then landed down on the green with a vicious spin, slowing down, but still heading right toward the cup, and then picked up the slight down-slope and kept rolling. Joshua was watching, and now he was concerned.
The ball was rolling up to the cup. But just before it got there it angled off and caught the edge of the round hole.
The ball rimmed the cup and rolled around the circumference once and then dropped into the cup with a clunk.
Well, how about that, huh? On top of that, Campbell himself seems surprised at the shot, as it was a pretty lucky one. Josh ribs him a bit with this:
“Great shot!” Joshua called out. “Now how do we account for that? Divine miracle or minister’s luck?”
Josh quickly moves to take his next shot, and BAM! gets it into the hole in one go:
But inside Joshua’s head, he had closed out the emotions that tell you how much winning is important–winning at everything–and he was now running on automatic.
It was his own mental formula developed in those situations where he had been up in the thin air, going several hundred miles per hour in a military jet when things suddenly went bad, and he had to make them good–or perish.
Direction, altitude, power, precision, control.
Joshua couldn’t see the hole from down where he was, so he was “flying by instruments,” as he called it, just using the flag on the pin that Pastor Campbell was holding up there on the green as his guide.
This time the ball goes into the hole, so there we go! Josh still has a two-stroke lead in the end, so his ego doesn’t have to worry about any “interesting” aspects of the golf game. Just to round things out, the two nobodies in the foursome have caught up just in time, and everybody continues wowing over his game:
Bob and Carl, who were playing back, had arrived just in time to see Joshua’s magnificent shot.
When the four of them were back at the clubhouse there was a general celebration over Joshua’s mastery of the course. At the same time, Pastor Campbell said that it had been the best eighteen holes that he had ever played at Hanover.
And so it is written, that all shall witness the glory that is Joshua Jordan. So mote it be. *bows head*
Getting back to the book analysis again, the chapter segues to just Josh and Paul as the two whatstheirnames have to “rush off to meetings”. Just like Darlene praising Abigail for her sandwich consuming skills and being self-deprecating about it, we have Paul doing a very similar thing:
“You really forced me to up my game,” the pastor said. “But at the same time, hey, I’ve got to admit…some of my shots were flukes. I don’t think I earned my score today, shooting just two strokes behind you. You, on the other hand, really earned your score. You play the game with a tremendous amount of skill. And discipline.”
Again, let us bask in the radiant glory that is Joshua Jordan, for none shall compare to his greatness.
*blinks* *recovers from spots in eyes from the brightness*
So, now we get down to brass tacks, folks. Paul and Josh start discussing religion again. Josh thinks he has the answer to Paul’s earlier question:
[Joshua said,] “The answer to your little riddle. You said that life was dissimilar to the game of golf.”
[Campbell said,] “Right. So, what’s your answer?”
“I think your point was that it may take discipline and skill to achieve things in life. Obviously. But that somehow those things aren’t enough.”
This, I think, is seguing into the side of the debate that LaHaye takes in the question of “faith/salvation by grace” or “faith/salvation by works”; as an aside, some Christian sects try to reconcile the dichotomy of a person who could be entirely faithful “by grace” but show no outward sign of it by saying that the works that a person saved in Christ does will be motivated by being in a state of grace.
LaHaye, as you can see below, takes the “faith/salvation by grace” perspective. Unless one has specifically “prayed the prayer” (as Fred Clark notes, this has elements of D&D style magical thinking, where a specific incantation or spell has a definite effect that then influences subsequent activity by the player), one can do all the good works one likes and none will be recognized by God or by Jesus Christ. What follows is the (clickable image) extract from the Google Books search of Revelation Unveiled by Tim LaHaye:
This clearly explains why he and his coauthors (Dinallo, Jenkins, Parshall) can write such overweening egotists and yet present them as being the archetype of what one should aspire to be as a person “saved in Christ”. What has always mattered to LaHaye is that his preferred characters be people who are Real, True, Christians because he and they say they are, and have done the magic formula that proves it. Even if, by their actions, they’re complete fucking douchebags*.
While to many Christians of the variety being aimed at by these books, the words of a former Christian – now atheist – may have little weight, I would like to say that I personally would prefer that were the Christian God and Jesus Christ to truly exist, that they would be so broad-minded and so considerate of human failings and foibles that any person who did right by his or her fellow people should be granted eternal life regardless of whether they ever recited a formulaic prayer given in a few lines by Tim LaHaye or Jack Chick.
Tying this all back to the book, we will see that Pastor Campbell essentially ends up arguing the LaHaye perspective: that Joshua Jordan can only be truly redeemed should he do what Abigail Jordan has done and be a particular type of Christian. Interestingly there’s a symmetry here between Irene Steele and Abigail Jordan: both are the wives of very driven, very masculine-stereotype men and both have turned to a fundamentalist type religion and are anxious that their husbands also convert. But both husbands are reluctant to do so, although for different reasons. Rayford simply is tired of his marriage and whatever Irene says goes in one ear and out the other as he imagines his fully-loaded 747 linking up with Hattie Durham’s airport terminal.
Josh, for his part, I can sympathize with a bit in that it seems a bit unfair to simply put one’s life in the hands of a God one can’t sense in any way that’s objectively reproducible. He’s clearly needing some convincing from Paul Campbell. Incidentally, for readers of this blog, Fred Clark on Slacktivist has written of the common mistakes such evangelicals tend to make – primary among them assuming that nobody except for their particular sect has heard of Jesus Christ in Canada or the USA. The fact that this is particularly absurd when discussing people raised prior to the 1980s (culturally, Canada was a bit more homogeneous back then than it is today, and in fact in some schools in BC, the Lord’s Prayer was unofficially permitted to be led by a teacher as late as 1985 – and judging from stories I’ve heard about many parts of the USA, the heavily dominant Christian character of many places has been evident) doesn’t seem to have entered the minds of LaHaye and coauthors.
Because of the length of my analysis, I’m going to break here and take up the remainder of the chapter in a part two to follow soon.
* Please excuse my language; there just is no stronger phrase I can come up with for the kinds of things Rayford Steele, Buck Williams, Joshua Jordan (vis-a-vis Cal in book canon), and Michael Murphy get up to and how they interact with other people.