EoA: Proselytizing with Golf (Part One)

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:

Extract from Revelation Unveiled

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.

EoA: CSI: Philadelphia

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 206-210 (Chapter Thirty-Six)

And we’re back with FBI Agent John Gallagher, doing his FBI thing. It’s a pretty short chapter, but what I like is that at least Parshall’s showing him detecting, which is more than I can say for when Jenkins no-showed Buck Williams’s GIRATing.

This time Gallagher is investigating the death of Roger French, who we know fits Atta Zimler’s M.O. thanks to our previous reading, as well as seeing Gallagher way back in Chapter Eight (Oh, and when I looked back there I just realized the book says he likes Ho Hos). So let’s follow along as he does his thing. First he talks to the two local police officers who first got called in. We learn that Roger French is a commercial insurance broker. They then question why the FBI’s involved.

“[A federal crime] that is currently under investigation.” Gallagher said with a half-smile. “Look, fellas, I caught the report on my laptop while I was out doing fieldwork on a case a couple states away. I had put a crime profiler submission out over interagency-net. Crimes within driving distance from upper state New York…crimes of a certain nature. Yours popped up. Here I am. Don’t mean to be pushy, but you know we feds have superior jurisdiction. So, what’s your theory?”

I like the technological up-to-date-ness of this, actually. In the old days Gallagher might not even have seen this until after the body was in the morgue and the reports were all typed up and filed away – and that could have been weeks or months after he first put out the request for information on unuusal murders of people with no known connections to organized crime.

And speaking of no connections – hell, Roger’s so clean I could use him to squeek my whiteboard if I ever had to:

Maybe a drug deal gone bad,” he suggested. When Gallagher tossed him a skeptical look, the detective added, “This part of town has developed some illegal drug traffic.”

The FBI agent had to ask the obvious, “So, is our guy here, Mr. French, a known drug dealer or user? Or maybe a frequenter at coke or heroin parties?”

The detective looked over at his partner who shook his head no.

“Any hint of drugs found here in this office?”

“Just some Tylenol in his desk.”

Gallagher had to restrain himself at that one. But he kept it professional.

“Any prior criminal record?”

Both detectives shook their heads.

“Any prior arrests? Outstanding warrants against Mr. French? Any judicial warrants of any kind out against him?”

The two detectives kept shaking their heads.

“Does your PD have anything bad to say about Mr. Roger French?” Gallagher said, now venturing into sarcasm. “Parking tickets…books not returned to the public library…”

The senior detective cleared his throat and finally said, “The deceased appears to be clean.”

For lack of better, however, the local cops are still of the belief that French might have been a dealer. His wife, apparently, has been preliminarily cleared of any suspicion of foul play. Gallagher starts filling in some of the blanks as he points out that French was likely tortured, and gets in a little dig at Iran in the process:

[Gallagher said,] “Perfectly standard interrogation technique, of course, if you live in, say, Iran. But, gentlemen, this is Philadelphia…” Then as he surveyed the body he added, “I think he put up a fight. Maybe reluctant to talk, otherwise no need to turn up the juice on this poor guy…”

The ball finally drops in this chapter when we see Gallagher put the pieces together:

“Mr. French is the son-in-law to Mr. Rocky Bridger, a retired general.”

“Where was the general detailed?”

“The Pentagon.”

Et voila. We learn that Gallagher also found out about the voice mail that Roger left for his wife, which puts a rough time on when the murder occurred, and he worked out how long it would take to drive from the swamp where Zimler left the dead body, to French’s workplace. By this point Gallagher’s pretty positive it’s Zimler who’s behind all this. He wraps up, leaves his card with the detectives, and heads off.

He calls his boss, Miles Zadernack, next.

“Miles, Gallagher here. That case I’ve been working on turned up something big. I think it needs a focused, special investigation.”

“What do you have?”

“My favorite subject…Atta Zimler. Miles, I think he’s entered the United States.”

(…)

“I’ve been piecing together the trail. It has all the elements of the modus operandi of our terrorist assassin.”

Unfortunately for Agent Gallagher, Zadernack appears to be pretty uninterested in picking up this trail, and orders Gallagher back to New York. We get the dun-dun-DUN cliffhanger with this final set of paragraphs:

John Gallagher clicked off his Allfone cell. His chest was burning again. Zadernack had already derailed his investigation of Ivan the Terrible, the talk radio host.

Now this. His first thought was, admittedly, one of base self-preservation. Am I getting canned? Demoted to a desk job? Reassigned to Montana? Something’s coming down. Whatever it is, this is not going to be good for John Gallagher.

What he didn’t expect, though, was something far worse.

Notice Gallagher gets an Allfone. That means he’s one of the really good guys. As opposed to that no-name Cal Jordan.

But what could be worse than being reassigned by his boss? He hasn’t done anything that wildly out of protocol, though it’s probably pushing things a bit to go ahead on an investigation that hasn’t been specifically assigned by his supervisor. Still, the ending of the chapter does make you wonder. I guess we’ll have to wait to find out, because next chapter we’re back to golfing, as only Joshua Jordan can do it.

EoA: Golfing with Campbell

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 203-205 (Chapter Thirty-Five)

We break from the family chat (minus Cal) to move to golfing with Pastor Campbell.

Despite his misgivings about being a captive audience to a sermon lasting eighteen holes, Joshua was looking forward to playing golf. The Hanover Course was an excellent one, and he’d had the chance to play it only twice over the years.

Now, even remembering that Josh isn’t just a golfer, he’s a serious enthusiast verging on Gary Stu proportions, this sentence still kind of humanizes him a bit, because many people do play golf and those that enjoy the game have their preferred courses. The place called St. Andrews in Scotland is sought out by some golfers who want to be able to have played at the place where golf is said to have originated, as an example.

Now, I’ve gone and trashed LaHaye, Parshall and the adult Jordans for giving Cal short shrift in this book, as well as making Josh a real showboating jackass at times, but this paragraph kind of has to make me eat my words a little. 🙂

Standing on the high plateau at the first hole, Joshua took a few seconds to gaze over the forest tree tops, out to the cityscape at the end of the horizon. He had forgotten what an impressive view there was of the New York City skyline from the first tee. What if the RTS hadn’t worked perfectly…just think. Abby and I would both be gone. Cal and Deb too. Manhattan out there would be nuked. So many dead. Come on, Josh, it wasn’t really you who saved the city. No way. You’ve always known that…

[ italics in the original text ]

Whoa. *falls over* Meta-Josh just came out again!

I won’t even tweak Parshall for abusing ellipses again.

Now, after staring and admiring the momentary appearance of meta-Josh who puts his son on equal footing, mentally, with his other family members, and realizes it was his team, working with the US military, who had saved New York, we return back to the usual Joshua Jordan, flanked by Paul Campbell and a couple of guys who don’t even rate last names: Bob and Carl. (Actually, I’m suddenly curious about whether Parshall might have been thinking about that Bob and Carl.)

Josh tees up and gets ready to roll, swinging that club in true Gary Stu fashion:

But when Joshua swung through, it was with the velocity of a pitching machine. There was that sound of the solid crack as his round, little white-coated Bridgestone B330 lifted up into the air and continued arching and then finally disappeared down onto the fairway past the two-hundred-yard marker. The laughing had stopped.

I’m just agog that Parshall described the freakin’ golf ball that Josh whacked with his golf club. There’s something marvellously weird about a book that goes to the extent of containing the details of a golf ball the main character strikes. Just out of curiosity, I googled the damn thing, and apparently Parshall picked, like, THE most perfect golf ball or something (the way you make a golf ball can influence how well it flies through the air, resists deformation, that kind of thing. Check out the physics of golf balls if you’re curious).

Incidentally, the book says the ball sailed out past 200 yards, which sounds like Josh used his #3 Wood (his #1 probably would just get to 300 yards, since he’s Mr. Great Golfer).

The pastor, of course, can’t possibly exceed Josh, oh no:

Joshua noticed that Paul Campbell had a strong athletic build and an easy swing. He didn’t tee off with the power that Joshua had. But he was controlled. He put his ball about sixty feet behind Joshua’s.

Well, talk about your backhanded complisults.

Of course, Josh being Josh, he’s on the green in two strokes. Woohoo. *twirls finger* And Campbell’s right up behind him in three strokes. Unfortunately for Josh, he surprisingly misses the hole on the first putt, but Campbell gets it in, so they tie at a par 4 because Josh has to take a second putt.

(Aside: you can tell I used to do this golf thing for a while when I was younger. I got bored of it, though, as 14 year olds are wont to do when the game seems to be mostly populated by much older men and women who’ve been doing this sort of thing for a long time.)

The other two guys with totally forgettable names barely get a mention as the book says by the seventh hole, Josh’s ahead of Campbell by two strokes and those other whatstheirnames are “lagging behind”.

However, Campbell hasn’t taken a moment to sermonize – yet. But at the tee-off, that’s when it begins, after Josh dunks his ball in the golf ball washer. (and please, the joke about washing his balls is transparently obvious. 😛 )

Campbell went on to say, “Golf always reminds me of something.”

“What’s that?”

“It reminds me of life. Similar in some ways. But also dissimilar.”

That’s just the bait on the hook, but Josh decides to bite anyway:

“Let me guess,” Joshua said with a slight air of amusement. “Golf is like life because it’s full of unexpected hazards. Water hazard over here. Sand trap over there. Deep woods that will put your ball down onto a tree root. Am I close?”

“Right on target,” Campbell said with a chuckle. “You’ve landed on the green…”

“So, how is golf dissimilar then?”

Campbell didn’t respond. Instead he looked Joshua Jordan in the eye with a look that had nothing to do with swinging a club.

The pastor finally said, “I think I’m going to let you figure that one out on your own.” Then he added, pointing to the tee, “Okay, leader, swing away…”

Parshall, for the love of– *exasperated groan* NO MORE ELLIPSES!

In golf, being able to land on the green (the putting area) on the first shot is considered very good. So Josh, according to Campbell, is on the right track.

Finally, note that “leader” thing. I didn’t mention it before, but Parshall made him the leader of the golf foursome. Naturally, since he’s Josh freakin’ Jordan. Only peons and duffers get shoved to the last slot.

In terms of literary analysis, I think LaHaye and Parshall (particularly LaHaye) must like golf, and are using this as a way to reach out to their intended audience, since typically older males with some money are the ones who can afford the so-called “green fees” to be members of golf clubs that are somewhat exclusive in their membership. It’s also been observed that for some reason the “Tea Party” has a fairly large cross-section of older people in its membership – again, the kind of politically conservative older people who’ve got some money they can afford to spend on things like golf, or travelling, or what-have-you.

Not a bad idea, I’d suggest; an author who wants to use his or her literature to relate aspects of political viewpoints that he or she believes the audience will share will try to create characters who look and act much like the audience does, or would like to do. To go back to Left Behind for a sec, Rayford Steele, the $100k a  year airline pilot who can afford a nice house and car, is the primary point of view character in that series and is a fortysomething white male. All the trappings of success a Real True Christian would have.

Ditto Joshua Jordan. He’s the kind of successful (for certain values of success) fortysomething man with his trophy wife and two healthy kids that LaHaye puts forth as his template for what a Real True Christian (well, Josh hasn’t converted yet, but it’s probably not spoiling much to assume he will convert at some point) can gain as a reward for service to LaHaye’s idea of who (or what) God is.

Hell, if I was writing this kind of book and wanted to appeal to RTCs the last thing I’d do is put in a main character with hard leftist political ideals who swore every second word. There is such a thing as aiming for realism, since die-hard leftists rarely get the kind of jobs that let them make the kind of money Josh is making.

Even though I may be a pretty die-hard leftist m’self. 😉

Anyway, that’s pretty much it for this chapter. Next chapter, we’ll meet back with Joooooohn GALLAGHER!