Edge of Apocalypse: pages 214-218 (Chapter Thirty-Seven)
Continuing on from where we left off – just to quickly recap, we’re sitting down in the golf club’s restaurant (golfers usually call it the “Nineteenth Hole” as it’s often a pub as well which serves alcoholic drinks) with Joshua Jordan and Paul Campbell.
Josh has just said that he’s observed that all the hard work in the world isn’t “enough” for God. So, according to Campbell, what is? Josh, at this point, is in the place of their straw-person proselytiz-ee who just needs the right words, according to LaHaye and Parshall.
“As skilled and disciplined and accomplished as you–or anyone, for that matter–might be…regardless of that, it’s not enough to please God.”
“Sounds like He’s hard to please,” Joshua shot back with a chuckle.
The pastor replied simply, “Exactly. God is hard to please. Impossible in fact.”
What I find interesting is that Josh uses the capitalized “He” even though he’s technically a nonbeliever.
Also, I don’t think LaHaye and Parshall meant for this interpretation, but any time a human being says of another human, “[Person] is just hard to please” I always end up thinking that it really means that [Person] is in some kind of authority over someone else and likes to abuse the terms of that authority. A human being saying that of God – well, I’d be inclined to say politely that their religion is not for me and go about my day.
Campbell begins going on about how pointless it all is to try and jump in the hamster wheel without the right equipment (in this case, being armed with the Sinner’s Prayer):
“The Bible says every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory that we were originally designed for. We all have an inherent sin flaw, and we act on that. That blocks our ability to connect with God.”
“So what’s your solution…to not sin? Act self-righteous? Be pious? Go to church?”
This doctrinal interpretation of human flaws and the relationship one has to have with God and Jesus as a consequence is very reminiscent of the material I used to devour in my WWCOG Days – the concept of sin as “falling short of the mark”, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion as substitution for the “wages of sin being death”, and humanity being permitted “for six thousand years” to “go their own way”. The real kicker is that the doctrinal justification for obeying human governments was that for all their flaws, they were still granted quasi legitimate authority by God’s command for lack of anything better until Jesus Christ, in his own time, would return to this Earth – after, of course, the no-Rapture-whatsoever End Times.
Now Joshua was getting impatient. If there was a problem, then he liked to figure out the solution. Campbell was proposing a tragic problem for the human race, and no solution.
“Then what?” Joshua asked. His voice was loud enough to draw the attention of a group of women eating lunch at a nearby table who turned and looked.
Campbell replied, “Accept the one solution that God’s given us. That’s the only remedy that will work. The only thing that will enable us to have any kind of relationship with Him. To receive forgiveness for sin. Take us out of the enemy camp and put us into friendship with the Creator of the Universe. That’s it. Nothing else will do.”
Tailoring the message to the recipient is a pretty standard technique of lowering “sales resistance” if you’re trying to get someone to sign on to something, so I have to admit that Campbell using that military analogy was a smart thing to do. He also continues the military adaptation of the message he wants to get across when Josh says he doesn’t quite like what he’s hearing.
Joshua was looking for loopholes. “So no multiple options available? Look, if I’m way up in the stratosphere flying at Mach one and I encounter problems with my aircraft, I’m not going to limit myself to one single solution. I’ll try multiple strategies to get control of that airplane.”
“Let’s use a communications model. You’re up in that aircraft. You want to contact the control tower. The radio has to be set on the right frequency. If the tower has only one frequency available, it doesn’t make much sense to say you don’t like that frequency and you’d rather have multiple options…”
Planes don’t normally fly in the upper stratosphere*, but certain specialized aircraft have been designed to do so. As an aside, this makes me wonder what special stuff he did for Rocky Bridger as the golden-boy protege of said General.
“So, what’s the single frequency for God?”
“The Bible makes it crystal clear. (…) The perfect Son of God, offered as a perfect payment for the price of my sin–and yours.”
And there you have it, folks. Same doctrinal interpretation, just a different sect.
Campbell furthers the analogy after Josh brings up the standard “Who could do this? What man or woman could pay the wages of sin for all the people born and dead on this planet?” It’s a stock rhetorical question I recognize from other literature I’ve seen. The thing is, it’s always used as the lead-up to the supposedly mind-blowing conclusion…
“Because an ordinary man could never die for his own sins, let alone billions of others. But then, that’s the point of those Bible prophecies I was talking about at church. God has given us the guidance from His Word, like landing lights on an airport runway. Pointing the way directly to Jesus as the one and only Savior. God made into man. Fully human, yet fully Divine. Incomprehensible? Yes. But when Jesus was crucified, it was literally the blood of God being shed, which is the only thing that can cleanse the sins of thirteen billion people. Obviously, Josh, God thinks human beings are worth saving. It’s that simple. And that profound. The only thing left is how we respond to that.”
Which kinda falls flat on its face. Anyone raised in even a mildly Christian houshold, or who even learns basic Christian mythology about Easter, learns that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. This, even without the breathless bumpf of Campbell’s, would be a big “this person was supernatural” bell-ringer. So it’s just the technical details being filled in at this point: the exact reason for death and resurrection is to “die for one’s sins” and to then return as a noncorporeal entity from where he originally came.
The real fun’s about to come, though, folks, because Josh seizes the opportunity to ride his own hobby-horse (as the End Times etc appear to be for Campbell at this stage):
“We both realize that this may be the last and best chance we have to stop America from being sucked into a global commune. A place where liberty gets destroyed by redefinition. Our borders start to evaporate. Where we have to ask permission of the international community before we take action to defend ourselves. Where the vision of men like Patrick Henry and George Washington gets erased from the memories of our grandchildren. According to what you said last night, if that happens, it could be the beginning of the end. One long, ugly global nightmare. Well, I’m not just going to sit back and watch it happen.”
Of course not, Joshy. You’re only meeting with your Roundtable for steak and potatoes and a chance to rub your fancy house in the noses of all those other people. As opposed to, y’know, creating the appearance, if not the reality, of a secret cabal moving into place to oppose the legally constituted government of your nation in ways that might be considered underhanded, if not actually seditious.
Governments, however they are formed, derive their legitimacy in some way or another from the willingness of the people to obey them. Even the Soviet government, for example, possessed a legitimacy because enough people in that country were willing, if grudgingly so, to follow its edicts and directives. Western European nations, as well as many North and South American nations, have for at least a hundred years (Mexico as a federal republic was constituted as such in the 1800s, for example) been explicitly constituted on the basis of the right of the people in those nations to choose their own leaders.
So it is especially crucial in the US context to consider that attempts to change the government by methods other than peaceful ones governed by the Constitution and the laws promulgated under that Constitution, go against the basic principle that the people shall have the right to choose who shall lead them.
It’s pretty interesting how political conservatives in the US love to drape themselves in the flag and talk a good game about government and personal accountability, and then turn around and act in ways that prove they don’t think anyone but rich people are actually trustworthy – otherwise why such punitive drugs laws that disproportionately affect black people? Why such intrusive spying on Arabic citizens? The list goes on of who they don’t trust to be in the United States of America.
If they had their way I bet they’d seriously consider suspending elections because they don’t really trust “the people” when it comes right down to it. The only reason this hasn’t happened yet is that even George W. Bush wasn’t stupid enough to think he’d survive the shitstorm which would follow a second Reichstag Fire.
Pastor Campbell, however, doesn’t take Josh’s bait – yet:
“Nations are made up of people. That includes you. So, you may want to consider looking to your own salvation first, Josh. You may be surprised what God has in store for you once you sign onto His team.”
Nothing like the present, eh, Campbell? At least you didn’t invoke the freakin’ hypothetical bus this time.
Josh replies that he hasn’t got the energy or the desire to think about this when he’s got his RTS-RGS post-mortem, his Congressional inquiry thing, and the publicity that just exploded in the press surrounding what he did in the inquiry. Full plate, for sure.
Campbell notes that it’s God who’s got the controls, not Josh. In the process he gets to help be LaHaye’s hobby horse rider about why the United States gets zero mention in Biblical prophecy:
Campbell nodded and said. “You mentioned Patrick Henry. Wasn’t he the one who said that God directs the destinies of nations?”
“Sure. But then he rose up, shook his fist at Great Britain, and fought for freedom. I can’t wait for divine intervention, Pastor. I need to act.”
“Just one thought. Something I didn’t get a chance to share last night.”
“God’s the keeper of the timetable. He’s the only one who knows the exact timing of the end. I’ve made the Scriptures my lifelong study. You want to know where the United States is mentioned?”
Josh, of course, is curious, and Campbell notes that it isn’t directly mentioned at all. Any sensible person would likely conclude that perhaps the prophetic passages discussed in the Bible were never meant to apply thousands of years into the future and are of little use in interpreting what might be in store for the Earth in the 21st century. However,
LaHaye Campbell insists that the USA has gotta be in there.
[Campbell said,] “(…) Why no clear, specific mention of America? Maybe He simply doesn’t want us to know the fate of our nation in advance. So we can rise to the challenge. Seek His face while there’s still time.”
Ok, LaHaye is officially seriously reaching, real hard. He really really wants the USA to fit in somewhere, even if only because it would probably justify his appeals to American exceptionalism that are all over this book.
The chapter ends with some weird staring, and Josh shaking hands and saying, “Great game, by the way. You gave me a run for my money. Let’s do it again sometime.”
We just got done having to witness the greatness of Josh Jordan and now he’s acting like he’s doing Campbell a favor praising Campbell’s golf game. I wonder if LaHaye plays golf with underlings because they’ll purposely throw the game so he always wins.
The recurring theme of the major character being an overweening arrogant arse of unbelievable proportions seems to be a common one in LaHaye-sponsored books, and Jerry Jenkins’s own Soon series seems to not be immune, either. My suspicion is that Jenkins’s tried and true formula of the major author avatar being in conscious imitation of Tim LaHaye has found its way into Jenkins’s own books.
As for Parshall, it seems that Parshall took at least some of his cues from Left Behind, and so this is the result.
So, with that, we end our mutual meeting of the egos and move on to another very egotistical and ambitious person: Jessica Tulrude. See you all next chapter and we’ll follow her around for a while.
* Firedrake has noted that planes do fly in the lower stratosphere routinely, but not so much the upper. My bad.