Home » Edge of Apocalypse » EoA: Addiction Counselling and Prayer, RTC Version

EoA: Addiction Counselling and Prayer, RTC Version

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 252-256 (Chapter Forty-Four)

In keeping with the theme of Polka-based intros, I’d like to introduce you all to the catchy Clarinet Polka by, of course, Walter Ostanek. 😛

In addition, for readers who’ve followed along, you know that I self-identify as a QUILTBAG person, and as such I really was moved by this heartfelt open letter originally linked to by Fred Clark over on Slacktivist: John Shore’s Open Letter to Gay People.

We now turn to the drug counselling session for Darlene Rice, who, we should recall, was last seen at lunch with Abigail, where she admitted she had problems coping with her son’s death and had been taking high doses of Valium as a result.

I’d like to note that I don’t like the Christian-themed drug-counselling in this chapter, because inappropriate coping strategies (i.e. drug use) do not point in a straight line from surrendering to a drug to surrendering to God (to be fair, this is my interpretation of how Abigail’s advice and Darlene’s discussion with the counsellor are being presented). In point of fact I would say that such conversions born from someone wanting a hand up from a desperate situation are probably at the worst time, because the decision to convert may not have been made with the full understanding or honest desire of the person undergoing conversion.

I knew someone who’d converted after nearly hitting bottom from drugs and partying, and the thing I found bothersome was that when I struck up an acquaintance with him, I was mostly just wanting to chat with a fellow university student (and to be honest he was kind of cute 😛 ), while he clearly saw a notch on his evangelical belt in front of him, and it showed in his earnest desire for me to meet his fellow compatriots and develop “a personal relationship with God”.

Granted, this person did clean up his act post-conversion, but it seems likely that a different, non-religious catalyst for change in his life could equally have worked had his life-stream gone a little differently.

Let’s follow the chapter along, as Darlene meets with a counsellor named Margaret at the Living Waters Recovery Center in Tucson, Arizona. In the book, it notes that she’s been at the Center for “a few weeks”.

Margaret looked up from a report, smiled, and began.

“We’ve finished the assessment. During the days you’ve been here we all think you’ve been very cooperative. In the end, you are the one who will be directing your own recovery. It may look like we’re the ones in charge, but not really. A person has to understand they have an addiction, and then they have to want to get better. From our perspective, it looks to us like you do. That’s a really good thing, Darley. We’re very encouraged. You should be too.”

Ok, so far so good. This is fairly boilerplate stuff I’ve heard from various sources regarding addiction treatment, and so on and so forth. Sounds like Parshall did his research.

Some wrinkles have come up, though. Judge Strong Rice didn’t show last visiting day:

Margaret continued, “We’ve got a picture now of your situation. I’d like to talk to you about the next steps. First, I noticed that your husband, Fortis–“

“We all call him Fort.”

“Okay. Fort didn’t come during visiting day yesterday. No big deal. People have busy schedules. But I just wanted to ask some more about him.”

The thing that comes out of the next few paragraphs is that some gender-essentialist thinking seems to have gone into the structuring of how Darlene and Fortis view this counselling business. Without going into a whole load of detail over what gender essentialism means, one aspect of it that’s relevant is the hidebound old “women = emotional, free to talk about emotions, men = rational, do not talk about emotions” dichotomy. To be fair, Fortis is also shown to be holding some relatively ineffective viewpoints about how to recover from addiction, as not all addicts can ‘just help themselves’ (as witness the frequent relapses of smokers who try to quit cold turkey):

Darlene decided it was time to blurt it out, so she said, “Fort hasn’t bought into this whole counseling thing. He’s very traditional. A private man. He’s not convinced I really have an addiction. He doesn’t like the idea of a group program where people tell other people their problems. His attitude is–just stop taking the pills. Plus, there is the other thing…”

(…)

The fact that this is a Christian drug rehab center. Oh, my, he really does have a problem with that.” Darlene gave a little chuckle. “Fort says that ‘too many people use God as the front man for all their problems.'”

It’s interesting to note that the essentialist ‘be a man’ concept of “just stop taking the pills” is considered ‘strong’ compared to the ‘wishy-washy’ group therapy idea. It’s probably not entirely coincidental that Fortis’s name translates as “strong” in cod Latin.

It’s also worth noting that the men in this series (as I believe I mentioned before) are the ones generally resistant to Christian teachings while the women are the path-breakers in converting to Christianity (the RTC variety of LaHaye-ism being of course the only acceptable one in LaHaye-sponsored books). Joshua Jordan and Fortis Rice both seem to believe “those are helped who help themselves”.

The next segment where Darlene discusses Abigail sounds vaguely innuendo-y in a couple of places. But what’s interesting is that holding the Christian faith is compared to a kind of power; that’s not an analogy I’ve seen before, at least not one used widely.

“Yes. My good friend Abby Jordan recommended it. I’m so glad she did. Abby is one of those ‘glow-girl Christians.’ That’s what I call it. You know, they have an inner glow. Like the power light on your curling iron that lets you know it’s hot and ready to go. Anyway, she’s got a power inside that other people don’t have. I’d love to have that.”

Darlene and Margaret go on to discuss the usual “transformative power of Jesus Christ” (Margaret says she was also an addict once, but converted and this helped her to end it) that I’ve seen in other literature – this concept is all about the idea that humans can’t help themselves unless they are willing to accept Jesus Christ into their lives and let Him aid them in whatever changes they want to make.

They go on to discuss the “all people are sinners” doctrine; Darlene concurs that she believes she is a sinner, and Margaret applies (indirectly) the “wages of sin is death for which Jesus substituted Himself” doctrine as she talks about the “washing away of all sins”.

Fred Clark discussed conversion scenes like this, calling them “intrusively intimate“, and I tend to agree (see also his “LB: Explicit Content” writeup). It’s the same when Parshall tries out his version of it in this book:

“Yes. I believe all that,” Darlene said. “I remember what Abby used to tell me. She used to ask me whether I was willing to invite Jesus Christ into my heart, to forgive my sins, and to change my life forever. I’d change the subject. I wasn’t ready. But now I am. I want Jesus to be my Savior. I mean…personally. Not just some religious figure on a cross or in a picture. But to be real…I want to meet Him in my heart. I don’t want to put this off any longer.”

They both bowed their heads.

Just then, Darlene had the instinct to get down on her knees. So she did. Margaret followed her to the floor, sitting next to her, both of them resting their arms and hands on the couch.

The “instinct to get down on her knees” for prayer seems like Darlene has never heard of or seen prayer stances before. That’s patently unrealistic, and caters to the feelings of RTC readers that they’re “in on” what Parshall’s trying to say. In reality almost any television show in the 1950s to the 1970s likely had scenes of a child praying before bed, usually kneeling at bedside. Therefore the “instinct” of getting on her knees to be closer to the floor is likely to be simply a learned response to the “I’m praying” thought, and it’s hardly as mysterious as Parshall makes it out to be.

And then she Prays The Prayer. To Parshall’s credit, I think this is less formulaic than the ones Jenkins has his characters recite when they convert to RTCs. He’s also set the stage for a more realistic way in which these newly converted RTCs will adopt the dialog and mannerisms of people like Abigail, since the Rapture hasn’t happened yet and she can help her friend Darlene along the path, as it were.

“I am a sinner, God,” Darlene said, with her eyes closed tight, her voice trembling. “No surprise there, right? You always knew that. And I know that. I believe your Son, Jesus, died on the cross for my sins. Then He walked out of the grave because, well, He had to, because He’s the Son of God. Not a problem for God’s Son to get that done. So, God, I want Jesus Christ to come into my heart. Please have Him come, God. I need Him to save me. Clean me up. Not just the pills. But everything…”

Her words were wavering and caught in her throat as she continued, “I want Jesus to be totally in charge. A changed life. Transformation. Please, God, I need this so badly…”

This version, however, is also uncomfortably intimate as are the stories and prayers Jenkins has his characters tell in the Left Behind series. I used to skip those, actually, because having the characters recite their backslid old lives seemed kind of redundant; as Fred Clark pointed out the scenes are actually for the RTC audience to vicariously witness sin and be free to denounce it.

Just as Jerry Jenkins had his characters bubbling over with excitement about praying the prayer and wanting to announce it, so Parshall does with Darlene:

She got Abigail Jordan’s voicemail and said, “Guess what, Abby dear! I prayed a prayer today. And anyway…I guess I’ve become a glow girl!”

Is it just me or does “glow girl” sound kind of California-esque? (Or maybe WWE-esque?)

The chapter ends on a more tense note, as she wonders what she’s going to tell her husband. Given that she confesses that things have been ‘interesting at home’ when we last saw Darlene, and that she’s worried, not excited, about telling her husband, I have to wonder at the unfortunate (and hopefully unintentional) subtext that LaHaye and Parshall have introduced to the Fortis-Darlene relationship. I would like it if he was not an abusive husband, but then why emphasize “interesting” and have this uncertain thought?

Re: Christian counselling.

To the credit of the Center as portrayed here, Margaret has been relatively un-pushy about her own faith, and while she and Darlene seem to have discussed it prior to what we’re shown here, I think she did wait for Darlene to take the initiative in discussing matters of Christian faith.

That said, it still strikes me as a bit inappropriate to have an avowedly religious-themed program of addiction treatment. As I noted previously, it is possible that the converter to a new faith has not been properly and fully informed about what demands his or her new faith shall make, and also possible that a conversion to religious faith is used as a “short cut” method of treatment, intentionally or not.

I expect we will see more of Darlene later on, but for now the chapter ends. We’ll meet back with Josh and Abby as they continue to break the law, in palatial digs of course. See you next time.

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16 thoughts on “EoA: Addiction Counselling and Prayer, RTC Version

  1. I’ve certainly met people who’ve moved from one addiction to another, with God just one step on the circuit.

    What I know of effective addiction treatment tends to go along the lines of taking control of your own life instead of doing what the destructive pattern tells you. Seems to me that’s exactly the opposite of the surrender that RTCs talk about.

  2. “I’ve certainly met people who’ve moved from one addiction to another, with God just one step on the circuit.”
    Cheech & Chong had that nailed about three decades ago: “before I found the Lord, I was all messed up on drugs. Now that I’ve found the Lord, I’m all messed up on the Lord.”

  3. I like the first part of that prayer. If I were suddenly visited by an undeniable vision of God and I would come to a realization that my agnostic worldview was incorrect, this sounds about how I’d pray. But the part of Jesus taking complete control sounds just creepy.

    Side-note: A while ago I found a good anime music video about Mai HiME. The lyrics were a bit hard to make out though, and I thought the song was called “Girl revolution”, which made sense because Mai HiME is a magical girl show, so the video was about them. Only recently did I find the actual lyrics, and apparently it’s God revolution, and the whole text could work well as a Dominionism-themesong, with lyrics like “It’s time to let it go -forgetting what we know -and let God take control”. That was a suprise. I do wonder why the person who made music video chose it. The tune is catchy, sure enough,.so did he just pick it for the tune? Or does he like the message? Mai HiME certainly isn’t RTC-friendly material, but perhaps this guy/girl just isn’t like the Rapture Ready posters who consider every bit of popular fiction a sure sign that those people are obsessed with such sinfull things as magic, zombies, Ophra or whatever. Whichever is true though, there was a lot of editing talent behind that vid. Shame it seems to have vanished from youtube.

  4. So she’s been at rehab for a few weeks. How very nice for her family that they can afford for her to spend a few weeks there. =P I’m not entirely sure how rehab programs are for The Rest Of Us, but holding down a job while going to rehab sounds like it’s pretty de rigeur for anyone who doesn’t have a six-figure salary in their family.

    I too share your concern about Darlene’s comment about an ‘interesting’ home life. Fortis doesn’t come off as a physical abuser, but emotionally he’s probably a child.

    The more I read about EoA, the more it’s like Parshal is using my dad as a model for just about every male character. =P Between Joshua and now Fortis… it’s really rather unsettling.

  5. s it just me or does “glow girl” sound kind of California-esque? (Or maybe WWE-esque?)

    Actually, the first thing I thought of was the organization formerly known as Women’s Aglow, although the ever-helpful Wikipedia tells me that it’s now known as Aglow International, and includes men.

    I used to see advertisements for the women’s meetings, but I should say that I have absolutely no personal knowledge of this group, and I only skimmed the Wiki article. “Humanitarian efforts” and “elevate the status of women” and “awareness of Islam” could cover a whole lot of territory.

    I have no idea if Parshall was giving a shout-out to Aglow. But I found these descriptions interesting:

    Aglow believes that in order to be restored, a woman must first be saved and restored to relationship with God. Part of restoration is discipleship, prayer, encouragement, emotional healing – all of which come through relationship. Aglow believes that true restoration of a woman can only occur after she has reached a place of desperation and is willing to turn completely to God for help. After this act of surrender, God is able to work through her and heal her emotionally and spiritually.

    Doesn’t that sound like Darlene in the counselor’s office?

    It’s also worth noting that the men in this series (as I believe I mentioned before) are the ones generally resistant to Christian teachings while the women are the path-breakers in converting to Christianity
    That’s because their women haven’t “drawn them out” yet!

    [Aglow] believes that women were “uniquely and specifically designed to stand before the man in an intimate, face-to-face relationship.” However, although women were meant to look to God to find their life, identity, value and significance, since the fall of Eve in the dawn of creation, they have looked instead to men to fulfill these needs. [Aglow] states that only when “a woman’s heart is turned back to God to meet her needs, she is…free to be the help God intended her to be: to draw the man out of his aloneness by relating on a level that moves past the surface and touches the deep places of his heart. She is then able to stand in a healthy, face-to-face relationship with him.”

    Which, on the surface, sounds at least somewhat more egalitarian than the “he for God only, she for God in him” hard-line complementarians. But it still places the blame for gender imbalance only on women, neatly ignoring the centuries of patriarchal societies which told women in uncertain terms that their “value and identity” depended mostly on which man they were attached to. And it assigns to women the heavy lifting in creating happy, balanced relationships, and the responsibility for men’s emotional and spiritual health.

    Still, I expect that Judge “just-Fix-It” is going to see the light any day now. Not, of course, that he’ll ever seek therapy for himself; he’ll just get the benefits of Darlene’s hard work, one-on-one with his helpmeet.

    • That is absolutely fascinating, those parallels you’ve drawn! Craig Parshall probably knows someone in Aglow International, if his wife isn’t part of it already. It’s interesting that some of the interpretation of a woman’s role in the husband-wife relationship could also be thought to apply to Abigail: she clearly is “the help God intended her to be”, since Josh gets stopped at one point by Abigail looking radiantly lovely and this makes him agree to be part of Pastor Campbell’s golf shindig.

  6. The comments on these blogs are so great, because we get to see the very different impressions people get of little phrases like “Christian glow-girl.” The first thing that popped into my head was the Glo Worm, those 1980s toys where you’d hug it and it would glow and help you not to be afraid of the dark.

    Other things:

    Just love that the first thing Darlene thinks of that glows is her CURLING IRON. ‘Cause she’s a girl, geddit?

    Love how the story pops right from “I want to quit” to “I’ve quit! And I love Jesus!” Detoxing from just about any drug can be a pretty miserable process (of course, worth it for the result). But just a cursory Googling shows that poor Darlene probably spent part of the previous few weeks experiencing (among other things) insomnia, tremors, cramps and vomiting, and hyper-anxiety. The hyper-anxiety, especially, would suck for someone who already has a history of unhealthy coping techniques.

    Which brings me to the last point: has the main underlying reason for Darlene’s addiction (the sudden and untimely death of her only child) ever been discussed? Because if it’s not, I have my doubts that this detox will take, Jesus or no.

  7. Re: The “instinct to get down on her knees.” Quite aside from all those TV shows, there is the little matter that kneeling is a submissive posture. Coincidence? I think not.

    • Something tells me we’re not talking about the kind of kneel that a freshly-titled knight preparing to receive an accolade from his liege after declaring an oath of fealty would receive (not just because that’s only ONE knee on the ground, not both). That really is how I tend to understand most moderate religious views–not surrender, but understanding God’s ideals (however they’re understood) as worthy of accepting and championing. Mere surrender sounds more like just joining the winning side.

      • And LaHaye and Jenkins (both together and apart) are fond of saying that people didn’t feel right until they knelt, that they were “led” to kneel, etc, It happens a number of times in the Left Behind series and the Underground Zealot series that I can remember, and several times people are “led” to lie flat on their faces while praying.

  8. You know, the emphasis on kneeling is kind of odd, from my more-or-less Catholic viewpoint.

    Because kneeling in public seems to be something that Protestants, Evangelicals or not, look at with great disfavor. At a Catholic wedding Mass (twice, I typed that as “weeding Mass.” Ahem) or funeral Mass, you can always tell the non-Catholic friends and relatives by the way they stay firmly in their seats during the kneeling parts.

    But apparently, private prayer is another matter. I suppose that the submissive posture is okay if no one else witnesses it, as it signifies an encounter between God and the pray-er that’s nobody else’s business; or, maybe, it only counts if you’re led to kneel by the prompting of God rather than the dictate of some old liturgist.

    • “…it only counts if you’re led to kneel by the prompting of God rather than the dictate of some old liturgist.”

      Given the rampant anti-Catholicism in the LaJenkins oeuvre, I’m betting that’s it.

      ‘Course, as a non-Catholic, I do not kneel during prayers at Catholic weddings, nor do I take communion. I feel that if I knelt during a prayer, I would be lying, and my understanding is that communion is something one only takes part in if one is actually a member of the church.

      • You would be quite correct about Catholic rules for Communion.

        (Random thought: where did I see that rumination on why Episcopalians “take” Communion and Catholics “receive” it?)

        And I can see that kneeling during a public prayer signifies agreement with the prayer and probably with the community reciting it, so even if you’re a Christian you might not do it in a church that’s not your own. But I’ve been to services of various Methodist and Lutheran and Baptist congregations, and there was no kneeling in any of them; it’s just not a Protestant thing.

        The peculiar stand-sit-kneel ballet seems to be reserved to the Catholics, and maybe a few high-church Anglicans. And the Orthodox, I believe, stand during the whole thing, kind of like the knight referred to earlier, listening to his marching orders.

  9. So, since I live in Tucson, the part that jumped out at me was of course “the Living Waters Recovery Center in Tucson, Arizona.” So I got curious and went to The Google, and by George, it’s a real church, Living Waters Ministries, with an affiliated Living Waters Christian Counseling Ministry (though no Recovery Center in those exact words). And I looked at their website about their main minister, and and and

    GUYS GUYS GUYS GUYS (sorry for stealing your schtick there)

    He’s writing a series of books called “The Warrior Anointing series”! I haven’t even seen yet whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, but with a series title like that, no wonder Parshall and/or LaHaye had to give him a hat-tip!

  10. Well, I did look a bit more after I posted that. It’s non-fiction how-to-be-a-good-Christian kind of stuff, it seems. And they’ve only been published this year, it seems, so it certainly wasn’t a hat-tip to these particular books. But it does look like he’s the kind of bedfellow LaHaye and not-Jenkins would appreciate.

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