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EoA: Meet the Pastor

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 200-202 (Chapter Thirty-Five)

(I should warn that there will be discussion of the concept of dubious consent in relationships in this writeup)

We’re back with Josh, Abigail and Deborah; they’ve just finished up with Pastor Campbell’s sermon and now we move to Abigail’s goal of getting “mission-specific” Josh to become an RTC. This is the beginning of that process.

The crowds were spilling out of Eternity Church now that the evening service had ended. Deborah Jordan was busy chattering with some friends in the vestibule, making use of her time off from West Point and quickly catching up before she had to return the next day. At the front of the sanctuary by the pulpit, Abigail was holding one of Joshua’s hands with both of hers as they approached the pastor, but she let go so her husband could shake hands with Paul Campbell.

You know, I’m curious. Who would Deborah know at that church? Some commenters here have remarked upon the way in which this book seems to be aimed at a military readership; could Deborah chatting with friends be regarded, perhaps, as her friends seeing her membership in a RTC type church as being indicative of the military’s tacit acceptance of a religious membership which endorses potentially apocalyptic thinking?

Could that, then, be LaHaye and Parshall trying to reach out to a military audience already primed to believe their version of how events might play out in the Book of Revelation?

This possibly worrisome phenomenon is not without foundation. Operation Enduring Freedom was at one point termed “Infinite Justice” before someone realized it could be insensitive to Muslims. At least one Army General has explicitly cast the wars the USA is currently prosecuting in religious-warfare terms.

I’ve touched on this theme before, and I feel this will probably come up again, of the way in which this book seems to endorse the primacy of the military. It’s proven worthy to keep in mind as we keep reading.

Moving on, we have some quick introductions:

“Pastor Campbell, this is my husband, Joshua. I think you’ve met before…”

“Yes, once or twice awhile back,” Campbell said with a relaxed grin. “It’s a pleasure. And a privilege. I consider you an American hero.”

Joshua always flinched a little with that one. Not that he was embarrassed. But he could never see himself that way. He was a mission-and-duty guy. How could he accept the “hero” label for just doing his best at what had to be done?

Oh, bullshit, Joshua. You’re such an overweening prima donna showboat this false modesty doesn’t do you any credit whatsodamneever. Also LOL MISSION AND DUTY GUY. Nice callback to “mission specific” there, Parshall.

Paul Campbell, however, seems to have a sharp eye for who he wants to proselytize to, personally, one -on-one:

Then Campbell looked over at Joshua and studied him for a minute. “This may be a shot in the dark. But here goes. Are you a golfer by any chance?”

Now, what’s been discussed before is that this book tries, in a very obvious and unsubtle way, to make Joshua and Abigail both very special people, who’re super-competent (when LaHaye and Parshall allow them to be, anyway – considering they hamstring Abigail to some extent to fit her into their idea of gender roles), wonderful, deserving… the whole schmeer.

Watch this:

[Abigail] couldn’t hold back any longer and blurted out, “He’s understating it, pastor. He’s practically a pro. You ought to see his handicap.”

“Oh,” Campbell said with a chuckle. “Maybe I’d better rethink my invitation then. You’re liable to humiliate the rest of us…”

(alterations mine)

PARSHALL, YOUR LICENCE TO USE ELLIPSES WAS REVOKED. YOU HEAR ME? REVOKED.

I hope to blazes he doesn’t do this as badly in the sequel because my god, what a crap narrative tool his abuse of ellipses is.

Now, notice that Josh isn’t just any golfer – oh, no. He’s numero uno, a veritable Tiger Woods! (As if LaHaye and Parshall would make him a bumbling weenie on the links, anyway.)

“Well, tomorrow is my day off. It’s a dark secret among the clergy. We really do like to go out and play rather than work all the time. Anyway, we had a foursome scheduled for eighteen holes tomorrow. But one of our group had to bail out. So we need a fourth. Would you be interested?”

For an instant Joshua knew exactly what his answer was going to be. He had a ton of work waiting for him at the office. He had financial reports from his multiple companies that needed review. He had an R&D meeting with his engineers on refinements for the RTS system. And he also planned to have an extended phone call with his lawyer, Harry Smythe, to find out what else he knew about his congressional situation.

You know, I can sympathize with Josh (stopped clocks! Horrors!) – being stuck in the middle of a Congressional inquiry and an in-depth post-mortem over how well RTS-RGS worked has got to take priority over a golf game that could end up taking several hours of his time.

Somehow, and I’m not sure what LaHaye and Parshall were aiming for here, Abigail’s mere presence makes him change his mind:

Then Joshua caught his wife out of the corner of his eye. She was looking right at him, straight as an arrow, with a glowing smile on her face.

Wow, he thought, there is a beauty about her right now that I can’t really describe. Different. He was caught off guard for a second.

(italics in the original text)

I wasn’t aware that Parshall was trying for a romance-novel subtext to this action-adventure thriller, but hey, if he can pull  it off, great. Thing is, it’s just oddly placed. It really is. If Parshall were writing this in their bedroom as a prelude to Josh and Abby funtiemz, okay, it would work.

Anyway, Josh agrees to meet the Pastor at the golf club the next day for tee-off.

As Joshua was driving home through the New York City traffic, he noticed that Abigail wasn’t talking, but she had her head back against the headrest and a smile on her face. There was a special aura of peace about her.

“You’re noticeably quiet.”

“Contented, that’s all.”

Joshua almost chuckled at that. During the sermon that night he had felt like he had a freeway rush-hour running through his brain. Contentment?

That analogy seems a bit odd, since rush-hour traffic is usually anything but. If he meant that his thoughts had become cluttered with the onslaught of material Paul Campbell introduced in his sermon, then the analogy works a little better.

Parshall avails himself of gender-essentialist button-pushing in the audience while abusing ellipses again:

[Deborah said,] “Okay, Mom, share your secret of contentment with Dad…”

Abigail threw her daughter a look that without any words seemed to contain all the wisdom and experience of womanhood in it.

Deborah got the silent message and muttered, “Fine.” She quit talking and sat back in her seat.

(Bold mine)

I can’t help but get a little bit weirded out at the notion that Abby’s basically telegraphing the message, “Do what your husband wants”. LaHaye and Parshall seem to love shoving skeevy subtext into the relationships of the characters who are nominally the “good guys”. We’ve got Strong Rice’s “interesting” relationship with Darlene, and now we have Unfortunate Implications in Abby possibly implying that she accepts the idea of wifely subservience to her husband.

I mentioned “dubious consent” in my warning note above, and this is where those Unfortunate Implications come in. It is possible to create conditions where consent is apparently given to sex, but in actual fact one party isn’t really consenting because they 100% want to, but out of a sense of duty or obligation. Given Josh’s tendency to want to dominate and be in control of situations, it’s possible – though I couldn’t tell you with any certainty if this actually happened, given the limited back story available to this point – that he’s badgered Abigail into sex when she was wavering instead of enthusiastic.

We still have a good chunk of the book to get through; I will fully admit that the analysis of the problematic aspects of this book could easily be an entire writeup in and of itself, and I encourage discussion on this point, while asking that commenters please adhere to basics of courtesy regarding trigger warnings, and where necessary, using the ROT13 text-encrypter to allow readers to decide for themselves if they wish to read spoilers and/or potentially disturbing discussion.

For this reason I’ll stop here, and take up the remainder of the chapter another time.

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11 thoughts on “EoA: Meet the Pastor

  1. I still find the idea of a “named” church somwhat strange. When and where I grew up, a church was called “St Somebody’s” (or, for “odd” sects, something like The Free Church or The Quaker Meeting House, but not having a saint-name definitely made them seem exceptional). Eternity Church just seems awfully generic to me. (And I remember the time in North Carolina where Cary Church of God and Cary Church of Christ were clearly glowering at each other across an intersection…)

    More worrying than the PR guys doing the operational naming is probably the Christian-based training formerly given to missile silo commanders. USAF, as one might expect.

    Joshua accepts his duty, except when it’s to obey people he doesn’t like. How’s that again?

    The way I read the “contentment” bit, it’s certainly that he’s not feeling contentment – either because it was an up-and-at-’em sermon or because he wasn’t really paying attention. Abigail on the other hand has clearly been sitting under the alpha-wave emitters and is looking beautiful because all her worries have been temporarily toasted away.

    • (And I remember the time in North Carolina where Cary Church of God and Cary Church of Christ were clearly glowering at each other across an intersection…)

      *gigglesnorts*

      Joshua accepts his duty, except when it’s to obey people he doesn’t like. How’s that again?

      Clearly, Senators on Armed Forces Committees have no business asking him questions about stuff that he made for the Pentagon under contract. HDU Senator Straworth!

      Abigail on the other hand has clearly been sitting under the alpha-wave emitters and is looking beautiful because all her worries have been temporarily toasted away.

      I wonder what on Earth she gets out of those sermons that Josh isn’t getting, because hell if you’re not right that she seems to derive enjoyment out of the sermons. I have to wonder though – how can she just enjoy her Pastor telling her the whole world’s going to change? O.o

  2. So his wife becomes radiant with beauty at the prospect that someone else is going to go through the effort of converting her husband to her religion? What a nice woman. Just like Buck at the wailing wall, eagerly hoping that their unsaved friend is about to talk to some RTC authority who will talk to them about Jesus so that he doesn’t have to.

    Not that I can’t understand the problem here. There’s not so much you can demand from your spouse, and the usual style of confrontational witnessing is going to be problematic when it doesn’t work, since it can result in a bitter fight. But in these novels there’s an extra hamstring: It’s the wife who’s an RTC. Which means the ‘ideal women’ in LaHaye’s novels (same for Irene Steel) have to navigate between the RTC ideal of aggresively witnessing, and being loyal and submissive to the unsaved husband. Come to think of it, in Left Behind I think we heard of several husbands that were left behind (Rayford, Buck’s brother), and sometimes a teenager left behind, but have we heard of many left behind wifes who’s husbands were Raptured. Or am I misremembering that? What was Rayfords new chick’s history again? I forgot myself if she was married to an RTC, but I think her husband just died in a Rapture-crash. I fear that may be a dark gender role message here. Women are supposed to obey their husbands, even if they are unsaved. But manly RTCs don’t tolerate women who don’t meekly accept Jesus when they want to (bye bye Hattie). I fear for the level of douchbaggery we’ll get when Ruby Tea gets to the point where Paul’s wife Jae gets ‘saved’ in the Soon review.

    Though I must say, I don’t quite see the “Do what your husband wants”-message in the quoted text. Oh sure, the wisdom and experience of womanhood is cringeworthy, but I don’t see it quite match up with being obedient to the husband (though I’m sure LaHaye would think that’s included in any female wisdom). I mean, here she’s using it as an excuse not to tell her husband that she’s confident her unsaved husband will get a suprise conversion sprung up on him by her friend, without any of it being traced back to her. Also a bad message, but about as far from obedience to your husband as we ever get from an RTC wife.

    • I agree with most of your points. I think some of the conflicts can be resolved with a hierarchy of priorities, though. Submission of a wife to her husband is a very important thing; winning souls is even more important; but sticking to assigned gender roles is even more important than that, so important that I think the authors don’t even consciously think about it. In this case: Abby doesn’t actively try to convert Josh, because actively trying to convert people is a “manly” thing to do… but she does set him up to be converted, because understanding people and being sneaky is a “womanly” thing to do.

    • The thing which makes me see the “do what your husband wants” is that if you start with the notion of sexually dimorphic gender roles and the previous shout-outs to that in this book (Deborah likes girly things, etc) then it’s not much of a leap to the notion that doing what he wants can include srryvat yvxr lbh unir gb fngvfsl uvz frkhnyyl jura ur jnagf vg.

      Deborah’s reaction is interesting, incidentally. She kind of just mumbles “fine” and sits in her seat without further conversation. One wonders what she thinks of that “womanly knowledge” Abby’s trying to convey nonverbally.

      • Hmm, sorry, I still don’t quite see it here. I hate trying to give these writers the benefit of the doubt (Zod knows they’ve done nothing to deserve it), but this is a pretty big stretch. The womanly experience, corny as it is, isn’t a direct link to divinely ordained seperate gender roles. And I do find it a relatively big leap from that to the darker parts of their Gender roles.

        Mind you, I’m not saying I find it imporbable that LaHaye does believe that the Yes spoken by a woman at the altar implies a permanent Yes valid for all later requests by the groom (so obviously it isn’t against her will or anything cause she agreed to it 15 years ago). But frankly I think there’s plenty of up-front nastiness in these books so looking for potential hidden nastiness isn’t strictly neccesary.

        As a disclaimerI have little personal experience with the RTC culture, and am not a US resident, so it is possible that you’re noticing a dog-whistle here that I’m unfamiliar with. But I’m only hearing the regular bad writing.

  3. I can’t wait for the golf scene. I listened to it on CD, and it contains both massive amounts of preening douchebaggery AND little knowledge of how golf is actually played.

    Jae’s conversion takes place over the course of the sequel to Soon, Silenced, and it is very,very strange. It consists of long passages from Acts just plopped onto the page, and Jae muses over them. She is also alone for the majority of the conversion process–Paul isn’t even there to berate her until 3/4’s of the way through the book.

    • Well it sounds still like it will annoy any actual atheists, but I suppose Paul badgering her into it would have been much, much worse to read.

  4. “Joshua almost chuckled at that. During the sermon that night he had felt like he had a freeway rush-hour running through his brain. Contentment?”

    So, has LaHaye ever been in rush-hour before? It can often be a long, grueling drive that takes hours to go a couple of miles, foot by foot, and when your lane finally starts moving all the people from the other lanes try to merge into it and everything is stuck at a standstill yet again. It is nothing but irritation, building tension, and road rage.

    It is the feeling of never getting anywhere and all you are doing is wasting time when you need to be somewhere else.
    …Which actually does sound like sitting through that sermon.

    • Well, based on what we’ve since read about Buck’s* handling of the World-Ending Traffic Jam over at Slacktivist, it would seem that the proper response to rush-hour traffic is to drive on the shoulder or median, and take advantage of exit or turn lanes, while laughing at those people who didn’t think of it first. “Suckers!”

      * Granted, that’s Jenkins’ Gary Stu, not LaHaye’s, and Jenkins isn’t in on this one.

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