35. Bonus: Volume 7 (L.B. Indwelling) discussion topics: Part 1 of 2

Left Behind: The Indwelling: The Beast takes possession: (Volume 7) discussion topics and study guide, Part 1 of 2

(Added Added August 2016; split into two parts September 2016)

Reader’s discretion is advised.

(Note: Volume 7 contains multiple references to The Types of Death That People Don’t Talk About. It is possible that members of your Bible study group have been touched by suicide, murder, abortion, the death of children, or combinations thereof, and have never mentioned it to you. Your host would ask that the group be allowed to proceed at their own pace, to skip questions, or to adjourn as desired. Above all, don’t take a survey or play “can you top this?” games. Rather, “be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” [Eph. 4:32].)

(Note 2: If you or someone you know is having intrusive thoughts and feelings like the characters’ thoughts and feelings, your host would urge the Gentle Browser to contact 911 or other first-responder, or a suicide prevention hotline. We are not alone; we live in God’s world. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ saith the LORD, ‘plans to help you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future’” [Jer. 29:11]. Help is available. You are not alone.)

(Note 3: The spoilers already mentioned this. In Volume 7, Satan is given the fictional power to resurrect the dead in body, soul, and spirit. This plot point could upset the faith of some. Your host would ask that the Gentle Browser prayerfully consider whether your study group is ready or not yet ready for such advanced material.)

For the reasons listed above, Reader discretion is advised.

This concludes our introductory comments.

Discussion topics

Discussion topic: Let’s start with an easy one. Volume 7 is rude. Of course it is the evildoers who use the racial slur (pp. 142, 166), but we never learn why it is included. (Guy’s “foul-mouth rantings” were not included.) Mr. Wong’s sense of entitlement leads him to make such a fool of himself that pilgrims mistake him for a sub-potentate (pp. 323-325). And of course Carpathia/Satan’s first act as a resurrected being is to give God the finger (p. 364).

But the Tribulation Force has its own unquestioned attitudes. Tsion commits an egregious rudeness, which we will address in turn. “Smitty” gives Mac McCullum the finger, and Mac teases Smitty about his broken English (pp. 90-91). Buck Williams thinks that Stefan’s “Middle Eastern maleness” should have “come to the fore” in some way that aligns with Buck’s expectations of him (p. 41). David and Guy’s mutual rudeness might be fueled by certain attitudes: some theirs, some ours. (Put it another way: is Guy the way he is so that the audience can laugh at him? Why or why not? If Guy were heterosexual, would their battles be the same, or would they be different? Would the plot point of building an idol be the same, or would it be different?)

Rayford even challenges Albie’s Saved Status, citing Albie’s recent behavior. By Rayford’s own reasoning, Albie has the right to check Rayford’s Seal. Neither Rayford nor Albie could see a Saved Seal on the other man during the entire 21 months of their acquaintance, and Rayford has behaved badly for several volumes. Additionally, Rayford could have told Albie that Ernie faked the Seal (Volume 5, pp. 302, 311-312, 320). Perhaps everybody ought to get spit-shine tested, as equals? But Rayford is the boss, and he neither apologizes nor explains. (Also unexplained: Albie is named in the Volume 8 cast of characters as a “Professed Believer,” not as a “Believer.” Why is that?)

Finally, Rayford calls Chloe’s excursion “monumentally stupid” (p. 210), which is not only rather brazen (coming from the man who just wasted four volumes trying to murder Carpathia) but also not even the dumbest thing the Trib Force has done today.

Only two characters comprehend what they have done. Chloe is rude to Nurse Leah (pp. 210, 322). Chloe finally admits that she snubbed Leah because Chloe has been stealing from her (pp. 333-334). Meanwhile, David Hassid’s conscience reproaches him (pp. 266-267). Guy is understandably suspicious of David’s apology (p. 273). Unfortunately Guy’s suspicions prove to be correct, as David chooses to placate the rude, rich Mr. Wong at Guy’s expense (p. 320).

“By this shall all (men) know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). What would “all men know” about the characters, based on their words and deeds, both to outsiders and one to another?

Related: do you find that it is easier or harder to treat strangers as well as you treat your loved ones? Do you find it easier or harder to treat your loved ones as well as you treat strangers?

Discussion exercise (optional): The Trib Force characters are in hiding, including those who hide in plain sight. David thinks that it would be unsafe to declare himself a believer to a GC insider (p. 267); his apology won’t include that detail. But as the song says, “Evidence! Does your life give enough evidence? Would they put you away? What does your life say?” Choose a character in Volume 7 and develop whether the person would be convicted of being a Christian based on the available evidence—other than by using the forehead Saved Seal; the GC cannot see it. This is not intended to challenge a character’s salvation, but to explore whether the unsaved would notice the difference. It needn’t be as elaborate as a Mock Trial (e.g., “Trial and error,” Joan of Arcadia) unless you have enough interest and enough players.

Discussion topic: Guy Blod sniffs that David Hassid “obviously has some hang-up about the human body and can’t appreciate the beauty.” In other words, David is being called a prude who cringes at the indelicacy of a human in his birthday suit. When reading this passage, your host instantly thought of another David—the one by Michelangelo—a statue so iconic that even The Simpsons ran an episode about it. Next, we recall the portraits of our parents Adam and Eve, and how few of these paintings include clothes. Then there are the many “baby pictures” of the Christ Child, all of which show the Holy Prepuce intact. (Purportedly there are enough “authentic” relics of said skin to wallpaper a small room.) Finally, there was the time that the “art nun” Sister Wendy Beckett was invited (ambushed?) to evaluate the infamous painting P*ss Christ. Art, in short, is visceral. Then we get Guy and David using words like “thingies” and suddenly a fertility idol sounds like the starting point, with all roads going downhill from there. (If the “profane and anti-God” Guy Blod sculpts a “tasteful” nude, it would be his first.)

We all like to believe that we could resist reverencing the image of the beast if it were ugly. In the real world, our idols do not necessarily look as ugly on the outside as they are beneath the surface—and the things of God that could satisfy our souls do not necessarily look lovely in our eyes. Have you ever pushed away a messenger or message of the things of God because they seemed unlovely in your eyes? Can you describe a time when you were tempted by sin because it appeared pleasing and desirable in your eyes?

Related: There was a time when the best artists (painters, writers, musicians, etc.) worked for the church. Do you think that is still true today? What do you think has changed?

Related: “Modesty culture” has its own issues. There is far too much “code” in clothing. Even the Amish may show too much skin and polish for some cultures. Who decides what is modest and respectful? Who decided that a farmer should go to church dressed like a banker, but a banker gets to go to church dressed as himself? Who decided that women should wear heels which injure their bodies from foot to spinal column, or that men should wear nooses which increase their risk of stroke? Who decided that hazarding one’s health, or pretending to be someone else, is considered modest, proper, or respectful? And who decided that “sensible shoes,” which are more modest than heels that reveal (naked!) toenails, should have become code for women who are like Guy Blod, but they’re women. (See “Verna Zee,” Volumes 1-3). What is the difference between “modesty” versus “respectful, appropriate and in good taste”?

Discussion topic: In earlier volumes, Carpathia not only funds abortions but enacts mandatory amniocentesis of every pregnancy on earth. He intends to force an abortion of “any fetal tissue determined to result in a deformed or handicapped fetus” (Volume 3, pp. 132, 369-370). He also makes use of “assisted suicide and reduction of expensive care for the defective and handicapped” (Volume 3, p. 132). In other words, Carpathia is killing GOMERs and anyone else who is not dead yet. Why do you think Carpathia did not euthanize the purported stroke victim Chaim Rosenzweig when he had the chance? Also, how does your church respond to these issues and patients? What is it like to be sick or old in your church?

Discussion topic: Re-read Buck’s conversations with Chaim. Buck warns Chaim not to wait until God hardens his heart i.e. Chaim would become incapable of repenting. (Trivia alert: Buck’s cyberzine is called The Truth—but after God hardens the hearts of unbelievers, they could know the truth and it still won’t set them free. Compare John 8:32.) When Chaim challenges this as inconsistent with a loving God who is not willing that any should perish, Buck admits he doesn’t understand it but that Tsion says it is in the Bible (p. 186). Discuss this “hardening of heart” issue.

Buck gets Chaim to agree that Chaim is lost (p. 197). Chaim calls himself the Antichrist’s personal Judas (pp. 226-227) and declares that he would only be getting saved out of selfish motives. Buck responds that “we all come to faith selfish in some ways” (p. 227). Buck has “heard Bruce Barnes say people sometimes come to Christ for fire insurance—to stay out of hell—only to later realize all the benefits that come with the policy” (pp. 228-229). Buck tells Chaim that whatever Chaim’s motive might be for getting saved, it won’t change if they survive the plane crash. Chaim will still have the same motive (p. 230). So if nothing changes, why would Chaim delay? Why not be saved now?

To what extent is Buck saying that all contrition is imperfect contrition (selfish motives) versus perfect contrition (true sorrow and penitence)? Can there be both? Why or why not?

Discussion topic: Leon Fortunado suddenly has superpowers. For some reason, David Hassid is the only one who notices, let alone the only one who is surprised. (He cannot understand how the idol speaks: Guy insists he has nothing to do with it, and Fortunado is absent.) Fortunado can call down lightning upon his rivals. He can hypnotize people who are watching television. How would that work, exactly?

In Rev. 13, the “beast from the sea” has already been “wounded” and “healed” before the “beast from the earth” begins to perform signs and wonders. (Does the Mark of the Beast count? After all, at this point it is primarily bookkeeping.) Author Tim LaHaye’s nonfiction books confirm the timeline:

After the Antichrist has been slain and resurrected, the false prophet will cause men to build an image … and will demand that it be worshiped. By some mysterious means unknown in the previous history of the world, he will give life to this image. How long it will manifest life we are not told …. Its speech will be caused by the False Prophet, who in turn will get his authority from the Antichrist and the dragon Satan himself. He will issue an order that all who do not worship him will be killed. Revelation 20:4 tells us that many will be slain by the guillotine.

–(Revelation Illus./ELC, p. 255; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 187; Rev. Unveiled, p. 225)

In the novel, Fortunado manifests new powers at least two days before Carpathia comes back from the dead. Discuss the superpower of your choice and/or discuss the discrepancy in the timeline. Also, why do modern writers say “guillotine” when it had not been invented yet? The word in the Greek is “beheaded,” which is not the same. Thoughts?

Discussion topic: Tsion decides to devote himself to “intercession” for Rayford. The former rabbi (Orthodox Judaism) defines it as a discipline “largely a Protestant tradition from the fundamentalist and the Pentecostal cultures. Those steeped in it went beyond mere praying for someone as an act of interceding for them; they believed true intercession involved deep empathy and that a person thus praying must not enter into the practice unless willing to literally trade places with the needy person” (p. 77).

Left Behind is a rapturist series. The rapturist Scofield Reference Bible, 1917, c1909 describes intercession by quoting Col. 4:12:

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand {g} perfect and complete in all the will of God. {where g = Matt. 5:48 plus note.}

The footnote states: “A touching illustration of priestly service (see 1 Pet. 2:9 with note), as distinguished from ministry of gift. Shut up in prison, no longer able to preach, Epaphras was still, equally with all believers, a priest. No prison could keep him from the throne of grace, so he gave himself wholly to the priestly work of intercession.” –(SRB-1917, p. 1265.)

Footnotes to 1 Pet. 2:9 state that:

In the dispensation of grace, all believers are unconditionally constituted a “kingdom of priests” (1 Pet. 2:9, Rev. 1:6), the distinction which Israel failed to achieve by works. The priesthood of the believer is, therefore, a birthright, just as every descendent of Aaron was born to the priesthood (Hebr. 5:1).

The chief privilege of a priest is access to God. Under law the high priest only could enter “the holiest of all,” and that but once a year (Hebr. 9:7). But when Christ died, the veil, type of Christ’s human body (Hebr. 10:20) was rent, so that now the believer-priests, equally with Christ the High Priest, have access to God in the holiest (Hebr. 10:19-22) ….

In the exercise of his office the New Testament believer-priest is: (1) a sacrificer who offers a threefold sacrifice: (a) his own living body (Rom. 12:1, Phil. 2:17, 2 Tim. 4:6, 1 John 3:16, James 1:27); (b) praise to God, “the fruit of the lips that make mention of His name (R.V.), to be offered “continually” (Hebr. 13:15, Exod. 25:22, “I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat”); (c) his substance (Hebr. 13:2, 16, Rom. 12:13, Gal. 6:6, 10, 3 John 1:5-8, Tit. 3:14).

The N.T. priest is also an intercessor (1 Tim. 2:1, Col. 4:12). –(SRB-1917, pp. 1313-1314)

Many Christians agree with much of the above interpretation but may disagree with specific interpretive sub-points. These would say that only Christ can offer the kind of mediation in which He willingly stands in our place and bears the costs of our sins. We are all priests, but only Christ is our High Priest. We can pray for the alleviation of the temporal consequences and punishments due to another person for that person’s sins. We can offer up our sufferings for the conversion of another. We can “rejoice in [our] sufferings for [another], and fill up that which is behind of”—[in many translations, “lacking in”]—“the afflictions of Christ in [our] flesh for [Christ’s] body’s sake, which is the church” (KJV, Col. 1:24). They would propose that this is what Epaphras was doing. But we cannot trade places with another person or offer up vicarious atonement for the sins of another in the way that Christ does.

Compare and contrast what Tsion is doing to what Epaphras was doing. How does Tsion’s practice of intercession conform to and deviate from what your church teaches about prayer in general and intercession in particular?

Discussion topic: Tsion also has two visions: one with Michael (pp. 232-235, 241-248), and one with Gabriel (pp. 300-304). The narrative cites Joel 2:28-32 as proof of their authenticity (p. 88). Tsion has detailed conversations with the archangels. He even describes their appearances.

In the Seventies, Christians had a great dread of anything “New Age,” including astral projection. The reasoning was that the fruits of the Spirit would abide always (Gal. 5:22-23), but the gifts of the Spirit were meant to establish the church. When they had done this, they would cease (1 Cor. 13:8-10). As a result, there were disagreements between believers who taught that all gifts had ceased, versus believers who taught that specific gifts (faith healing; speaking in tongues) would continue. Some proposed a compromise: that the church was established, but individuals might experience gifts of the Spirit.

Therefore, if one would determine if a new thing purportedly came too close to New Age infiltration, one should evaluate the message without the marvels. This was consistent with how Jesus did it. He performed miracles for a time. He had multitudes of followers for a time. Why did the cheering stop? Perhaps it was because He ceased performing miracles and started talking about commitment. Commitment led Jesus to a cross. New Age teachings had nothing to say about a cross. New Age buildings didn’t include them. Much has changed in the past forty years. Nowadays one can find “Christian yoga,” mega-churches in secular buildings, and Tsion visiting angels instead of angels visiting him.

Read the passages carefully. Is there any area where the visions speak where the Bible is silent? What do you think about Tsion’s visions? What does Tsion learn from them?

Discussion topic (in five sub-topics): After Chloe learns that children “no older than three and a half” are being taught to goose-step and reverence Antichrist Carpathia, and to pray a perverted “Our Father” to Satan in Antichrist’s name, Chloe and Tsion have a dark conversation (pp. 55-60). We must examine their debate and their reasons.

Chloe says, “I have been studying death.” She will kill herself and “commit infanticide.” Tsion insists that she is not being “honest” as long as she uses those words instead of the words he requires: “kill my baby.” Tsion has other responses, which we will address in turn. For now, we will start where he starts, and address his choice of words. What Chloe proposes is called “murder-suicide.” Tsion is trying to talk her out of it.

–“Masada shall not fall again”

It took almost three months for Masada to fall. The Sicarii Jewish rebels watched the Roman legions build a ramp up the very mountainside. Judaism prohibits suicide, so they drew lots. The selected few would kill the rest. Therefore, only the last man standing would be committing suicide. So they did. According to Josephus, 960 people died.

In Left Behind, it is true that Chloe is living in dark times. It is true that Baby Kenny could be captured and indoctrinated into beliefs and deeds that would honor Antichrist and the Devil. Alternately, the enemy could recognize Baby Kenny and, shall we say, do things to him. This could cause the Tribulation Force to yield up individuals and information that they otherwise would not have volunteered. Chloe claims that if such things happen, it would be Tsion’s fault, not hers.

Nevertheless, Chloe has certain advantages. She has proof that her side will win. She knows how future history will unfold according to prophecy (or at least, according to the outline of the authors). She even helps her side to win: she is in charge of the Co-op which will feed them enough to survive the entire Tribulation. Also, Chloe has a plane. Chloe has a chopper. Through her Co-op, Chloe has boats and ships and trucks and Land Rovers and Suburbans and puddle-jumpers and jets and planes and choppers.

Chloe also has guns. Ken Ritz had a Beretta (Volume 4, p. 342) and a 9 mm (Volume 4, p. 351), and he is very specific that he carries these weapons whenever he joins Chloe’s husband. When Ken dies in their presence, Tsion and Chloe claim his belongings (Volume 5, p. 233-234). Chloe’s got a gun. Babies, on the other hand, hate getting shots. Chloe has chosen a method that ensures that her baby dies crying. She will use the lethal-injection death penalty recipe—but she doesn’t have all of the ingredients. Kenny absolutely will die, but he may not be unconscious when he dies. (Your host did not specify the potion because a distraught reader who is overly fascinated with such things should contact 911 or other first-responder instead. Help is available. You are not alone.) If Chloe is convinced that she is doing the right thing, why don’t the authors remind Chloe that she has a gun? Maybe because it would be unpopular?

Chloe’s premeditation becomes the more blatant when we compare it to Leah’s impulsiveness. Leah Rose attempted suicide after the Rapture (Volume 6, p. 95). She “swallowed everything in the medicine cabinet … but apparently much of what I ingested countered whatever else I took.” Moreover, the 38-year-old Leah’s character has a history of suicide attempts stretching back to her teenaged years (Volume 6, p. 93). Consider: a head nurse fails to read the labels on her prescriptions, but Chloe who knows nothing about medicine methodically studies and steals until she has acquired what she wants. Chloe would only try once. Chloe has ensured that she would only need to try once.

Do you think Chloe is having a Masada moment? Why or why not? How long do you think Chloe has been planning to do this?

–Appeal to the masses

Next, Tsion informs Chloe that nobody else shares her point of view. In Logic Theory, this tactic is called “appeal to the masses.” Conveniently, it is a stratagem when you use it and a logical fallacy when your opponent uses it. Children learn this argument from an early age:

Appeal: “All of my friends are doing it.”

Correct answer: “And if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it?”

Appeal: “Billy and Janey’s parents bought them one. Why can’t I have one?”

Correct answer: “Because Billy and Janey’s parents won’t buy you one.”

Appeal: “Everyone else is having sex.”

Correct answer: “Then you won’t have any trouble finding someone else. Lose my number. Bye-bye.”

Tsion recruits Kenny to help him Appeal to the Masses. (Whenever they say “baby” Kenny knows that they are talking about him. Tsion elicits the word “baby” so that Baby Kenny will run to Mommy and hug her.) Tsion claims that, by Chloe’s logic, “Cameron [i.e., Buck] and your father [Rayford] would be justified” in killing themselves. Then Tsion would have to do it as well. “Neither do I [Tsion] want to live without you and the little one …. Where does it end?”

Chloe, horrified, replies, “The world needs [them] …. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t …. Oh, Tsion, you would not deprive your global church of yourself.” When Tsion states that the world needs Chloe too, she ignores it. Apparently, the appeal to the masses has struck a nerve, but appeals to Chloe herself are ineffectual. Why do you think that is?

–Bad chicken

In the series finale of M*A*S*H* Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce chafes to be released from a sanitarium. Days earlier, he and some refugees had been hiding from an enemy patrol. Inexplicably, a refugee had brought a chicken. “Every time it made a noise, I was sure the Chinese would hear it and find us. Everybody’s life was in danger because of that [****] chicken!” Hawkeye continued to curse and revile the refugee until she silenced it. The patrol left, and the bus escaped. Since those events, Hawkeye has deteriorated physically and mentally. Therapy exposes the truth: the mother smothered her baby. Hawkeye is safe and free because of a child’s death. He repressed the memory, then blamed the woman and her imaginary chicken for putting him in peril.

Now despite the intensity of the performances, the episode is somewhat constrained. It’s all about Hawkeye. We never learn what the mother was thinking or feeling. We will never know if the baby was wanted, or thriving, or loved. All we know is that the baby was sufficiently inconvenient and insufficiently “good.”

Baby Kenny, in contrast, is a very good baby. He often sleeps through the night (p. 289). He asks for his parents (p. 231, 289), but he never whines for them. Baby Kenny is cute and obedient and convenient to tend no matter how many times he is passed around. The worst things anyone can say about him are that he was fussy once upon a time—in the swelter of August (Volume 6, p. 323)—and that Tsion, a man, thinks the baby’s diapers are too messy (p. 299). Kenny even sleeps through the evacuation (p. 380).

Tsion Ben-Judah argues that Baby Kenny should live because he is adorable, because he is sweet, because he is wanted and healthy and happy, because he “has brought so much joy to this house.” What about babies who are colicky, who have tantrums, who are not healthy, who are not whole, who are not wanted, and have brought a burden to their house? Are they less precious, less worthy of life? Should Baby Kenny’s life really be weighed on the scales against how “good” he is? As a bonus, Tsion mentions (p. 57) that if Chloe herself had been good, she would not have been left behind, and she wouldn’t be in this situation.

Chloe resists Tsion’s scattershot approach by keeping the debate circumscribed to her two ultimatums: she won’t let Baby Kenny fall into enemy hands; and “I cannot live without him.” Do you think Chloe’s insistence that Baby Kenny ought to be killed may be all about Chloe? What do you think about Tsion’s tactics of “good” baby and “good” mother? What do you think about Tsion’s attempt to appeal to guilt?

–You sank my battleship

In such a sprawling book series, it is possible to lose situational awareness. These are just big words that mean “losing track of your game pieces.” An example: previously, Hattie Durham was poisoned (Volume 5, pp. 23, 61, 76, etc.). She then miscarried (Volume 5, pp. 73-79). Second-hand exposure to this poison also killed Floyd Charles, who was Hattie’s and Chloe’s doctor (Volume 6, pp. 32-33; 41, 47). The authors must be blood donors: all donors know that anyone who partakes from a long list of prescription drugs cannot donate blood. This is because some drugs may cause certain birth defects in the unborn child of a pregnant recipient. Even when the drug has been diluted twice—once in the donor’s body, again in the recipient mother’s body—some drugs remain sufficiently potent to do third-hand damage.

In Volume 5, the reader never learns whether the poison was radioactive, chemical or biologic. The narrative eventually decrees something “like” but not actually “a time-released cyanide.” It “can gestate for months” before it “kicks in” (Volume 6, p. 32). The characters never do learn how it spreads from person to person; they cannot detect it; and they have no idea how or why it activates. It all sounds rather arbitrary. By these broad parameters, how would they truly know when it has claimed its last victim?

When Chloe has nightmares about “all the predictable stuff—convinced you’re going to have a monster, convinced the baby has already died, certain your baby doesn’t have all its parts” (Volume 5, p. 352), neither the characters nor the authors take her seriously. Now we have an agitated patient exhibiting an atypical mental state—a patient whose godchild (Hattie’s stillbirth; Volume 5, p. 371) and whose doctor died of a “timed-release” poison (Volume 5, p. 34). Someone probably should test Chloe for poison.

Just a thought.

–Tom & Brooke & Tsion & Chloe

In April 2005, model/actress Brooke Shields promoted her book Down came the rain which chronicles her experience with postpartum depression. In response, actor Tom Cruise swiftly retuned his own publicity tour. As a Scientologist, Cruise disagreed with Shields’ choice of treatment. Shields responded that Cruise had never been pregnant and so would do better to stick to fighting aliens (a reference both to his then-current film War of the worlds and to one of the tenets of Scientology). They eventually made peace.

As it happened, the controversy drew attention to new developments in the field. Until fairly recently, “everybody knew” that PPD could only manifest in a patient during the first few months post-partum but not beyond the first birth anniversary. We now know that PPD can manifest and linger for years. In retrospect, this makes sense. Puberty, peri-menopause, menopause, and senile dementias all take more than a year. Was it truly so unthinkable that PPD also might manifest for more than a year?

Obviously Left Behind #7: The Indwelling was released on March 30, 2000, five years before the Shields/Cruise debate. Still, the debate brought much-needed awareness to three PPD risk factors. These factors are: genetic predisposition; hormonal imbalance and other symptoms of a complicated pregnancy/birth; and environmental stressors.

Chloe certainly has experienced stressful life changes. During the Rapture, she is left behind. Since then, she has become a stay-at-home wife and mother—if a safe house counts as a home—while also running a business. In time her “Co-op” becomes so massive that it takes four people to replace her (Volume 11, p. 267). On a personal note, repeatedly Chloe is injured; now she no longer looks like herself. (“She was [Buck’s] sweet, innocent wife on one side and a monster on the other”—Volume 4, p. 252 …. “Chloe still had a severe limp, and her beauty had been turned into a strange cuteness by the unique reshaping of her cheekbone and eye socket”—Volume 5, p. 4.) And this is a truncated list! (Optional exercise: list additional stressors in Chloe’s life. Your host was able to count more than twenty.)

Secondly, Chloe had a difficult childbirth (Volume 5, pp. 363-397). The narrative refers to Chloe’s distressed breathing and need for oxygen no less than fifteen times. Dr. Charles detects a slowing fetal heartbeat for several days but cannot treat it. He contemplates performing a C-section, at home. He decides to induce labor, and then he is late in arriving. At least Dr. Charles believes in PPD (Volume 5, p. 111) and in hormones: “[Pregnancy and childbirth] floods the body with a hormone wash and turns a woman into a mother hen” (Volume 5, p. 367). To sum up, Dr. Charles confirms that Chloe experienced both hormonal changes and a difficult delivery.

Thirdly, there is the notion of genetic predisposition. Irene Steele was raptured before we could learn her medical history, but Rayford we know. Chloe’s father Rayford has gone (to use the technical term) action-hero-monomaniacal-nuts. He has been fantasizing, raging, craving the chance to murder the Antichrist—to assassinate him, to slay him, to whack him, to give him a dirt nap.

  • “Rayford had never dreamed that he might be an agent in the assassination, but at that instant he would have applied for the job” (Volume 3, p. 65).
  • A lethal head wound is “too good for [Carpathia]. Rayford imagined torturing the man” (Volume 4, p. 84).
  • Rayford wants to be “God’s hit man” (Volume 5, p. 100).
  • Rayford has “pleaded with God to appoint him. He wanted to be the one to do the deed. He believed it his destiny” (Volume 6, p. 2).

Rayford has been having these intrusive thoughts and feelings since before the Wrath of the Lamb Earthquake. That was 21 months ago. If there is a genetic component to mental disorders, Chloe has proof that the potential for murder runs in her family. Oh, and for thinking that God told them to do it. Maybe God has not specifically said Yes just yet, but they are pretty sure they can wear Him down.

During her illness, Shields learned that (in a few patients) post-partum depression can signal the onset of bipolar disorder. If Chloe has PPD or even bipolar moments, would anyone recognize it? They notice that her highs are so high and her lows are so low, but they don’t do anything about it. Rayford notices her “fierce determination that was more than just that of a protective mother” (p. 346). He calls it crazy to take on twelve soldiers, but he perceives that Chloe is looking forward to it. Rayford is right to be concerned.

Yet when Chloe reveals her fear and distress to Tsion, he asks her, “Is this a sign of faith, or a lack of faith?” Perhaps if she would just take more Vitamin F (faith) and do (spiritual) exercises, her problems would disappear. Tom Ben-Judah, meet Tsion Cruise.

Finally, the purported cure includes irony. When Chloe steps out in faith—or becomes inexplicably stimulated? discuss—and goes for a drive, people yell at her. They insist she will expose the safe house (pp. 181, 195, 210). The male characters are checking in and out of the safe house with the frequency of a Holiday Inn, but they blame Chloe (and Hattie, sixteen times). They forget that if Rayford and Buck never come home, it falls to Chloe to find the next safe house. (Tsion and the baby are new in town and wouldn’t know where to look.) They also fail to perceive that Baby Kenny may be in greater danger if Mom stays home (staring at him with those strange, sad, wrong eyes) than if she wanders the streets.

Altogether, Chloe qualifies to have post-partum depression, whether or not she has it. Do you think she has it? Why or why not?

What about depression in general? Her father has had explosive rages that include throwing furniture at Hattie (Volume 6, p. 57) and sobbing fits (Volume 6, p. 62). He wonders if he is clinically depressed (Volume 6, pp. 63-64) and calls himself “a sick man” (Volume 6, p. 65). Pop psychologists say that rage is depression directed outward, and that depression is rage directed inward. Do you think Chloe might be clinically depressed? Do you think Chloe is very angry? Both? Neither? Other?

–Section summary

This discussion topic is intended to evaluate Chloe’s competence, her mental state. Is Chloe operating under diminished capacity? To what extent is she under duress? As Chloe proposes the murder-suicide of herself and her child, to what extent do you regard Chloe as fully responsible and accountable for her decisions and actions?

Discussion topic: Tsion makes one more argument, one that bespeaks his state of mind more than it does Chloe’s.

“[Chloe, you are] buffering your convictions with easy words. You’re no better than the abortionists who refer to their unborn babies as embryos or fetuses or pregnancies so they can ‘eliminate’ them or ‘terminate’ them rather than kill them” (p. 58).

Abortion is mentioned frequently in the series, despite the fact that none of the characters actually have one. (Well, Nurse Leah had an abortion twenty years ago. It was awful.) For a more detailed exploration, see the anti-abortion and pro-life discussion topics in the Series Stray Spoilers/Discussion posts.

Jesus often told stories because He wanted people to understand Him. Established Christians may forget that. We sometimes speak in code, comfortable in our jargon, and we forget that guests and newcomers do not know that code. Chloe and Tsion have known each other for years and speak in code. The Gentle Browser who is new to Left Behind Land should be advised that “abortionist” is one of the worst things any character can ever call another character. Ever. “Abortionist” may be the ultimate obscenity, the 12-letter obscenity, the series equivalent of “ye who doth love the mother (or father) carnally and inappropriately—See also: Nero, Absalom, Tamar and Judah, Lot and both daughters, etc.”

(Aside: with the obvious exception of Nero, every one of those 12-letterers became ancestors of the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ our Lord. Even Absalom: his daughter Maacah—whom he named after his mother Maacah [2 Sam. 3:3]—married Rehoboam son of King Solomon and Naamah the Ammonite. King Rehoboam and Maacah’s son was King Abijah [1 Kings 14:31, 15:2, 2 Chron. 11:20-22.]. As for the different spellings i.e., is it the same Absalom, see Judg. 12:6. And we all know King David, descendent of Tamar (probably a Canaanite like her mother-in-law), Judah, and the Moabite Ruth. Yes, the 12-letter word is a real word. Yes, words like “sin” and “death” are real words—but with our God, they are not the last word.

Does this mean, Let us sin, that grace may abound! Certainly not. When the Corinthians reported that a man was 12-lettering his father’s wife, Paul told the church to kick him out [1 Cor. 5:1-5]. Those who have died to sin ought not to live in it anymore [Rom. 6:1-11, Hebr. 10:26-31; John 20:19-23; 1 John 1:8-9, 5:16-17]).

Lest the Gentle Browser wonder if we are exaggerating the ferocity of Tsion’s statement and Tsion’s intent, consider the Catholic catechism and commentary on the Commandment: Thou shalt not kill. (If the Gentle Browser finds the font too small to read and would search other websites, the especially useful passages are CCC 2271, CCC 2272, CCC 2274, and CCC 2322.) Tsion of course is not Catholic. He would use the Left Behind Wiki, which compares abortion to child-burning, to the human sacrifice of children to the god Molech [Moloch] (Lev. 18:21, 20:1-5; Deut. 12:31, 18:10; 2 Kings 17:17, Ezek. 23:37, 39; Acts 7:43). As for the child-burners, there are a few of those in the Messianic line as well [Ahaz, 2 Kings 16:3, 2 Chron. 28:3; and Manasseh, 2 Kings 21:6, 16; 2 Chron. 33:6].

This is what Tsion is calling Chloe when he says she is “no better than an abortionist.” It is arguably the ultimate obscenity of the series. It’s bad. It is really, really, incredibly bad. It is so bad that the authors have to go back in the prequel mini-series and fix it. In its entirety:

Irene saw two women embracing and weeping. “Your child?” Irene asked.

One met Irene’s eyes and nodded. “I had her aborted sixteen years ago. She forgives me.”

–(The Rapture: Volume 15-called-Prequel-3, p. 179).

It is commendable that the authors acknowledge unborn children as people. Also, it is commendable in narrative and reasonable that the aborted child, in emulation of God, also would forgive and welcome their loved ones home. Yes, abortion is a real word—but with our God, it is not the last word. That is not a threat. That is grace.

But at this point Tsion and Chloe are ensnared in one of the darkest moments of their days. It says something about Chloe’s state of mind that the Ultimate Obscenity does not halt her in her tracks but the weakling Appeal To The Masses halts the conversation. It says something about Chloe’s state of mind that when Tsion calls her “no better than an abortionist,” it makes her cry but it doesn’t make her yield. Tsion may have silenced her, but he didn’t change her mind.

When Tsion calls Chloe “no better than an abortionist,” what do you think he thinks he is saying? What do you think he is thinking? What do you think Chloe is hearing? What do you think she is understanding?

Related: The series condemns abortion and makes life hard for Hattie Durham in particular for desiring one. Chaim is unapologetic about killing Carpathia. Buck struggles to know whether to condemn Chaim or to shrug it off, since Carpathia won’t stay dead. Tsion condemns Chloe’s plan to murder her son. He says that Chloe is “no better than an abortionist.” But Tsion shrugs at Rayford’s attempt to murder Carpathia. Tsion explains, “Off the top of my head, I believe we are at war. In the heat of battle, killing the enemy has never been considered murder” (p. 89). Rayford actually was not in the heat of battle; he has been premeditating this for years. Is Tsion referring to spiritual warfare? If so, is that what spiritual warfare looks like?

As the diverse characters seek abortions, plan to commit suicide (either directly or suicide-by-cop), plan to murder Baby Kenny, and plan to murder Carpathia, are the characters subscribing to the same line of reasoning: that the circumstances warrant it? Why or why not?

Discussion topic: “The bolt of Tash falls from above!” … except when it gets hooked on a watermelon halfway. Chaim Rosenzweig boasts of his scheme to kill Carpathia. (Off-topic and not required: see the brooding 21 Jump Street episode “Orpheus 3.3” to see if Chaim could have completed it before being shot by Carpathia’s bodyguards. Viewer’s discretion is advised.)

Chaim acts out of hatred. Hattie wants revenge. Rayford is driven by both revenge and rage. Technically Chaim and Rayford also could be committing “suicide by cop” because they know their actions will provoke the Antichrist’s bodyguards, and they don’t plan to be taken alive. Finally, Chloe wants to commit murder-suicide in despair. Interestingly, Chloe’s appetite to fight twelve soldiers might qualify as suicide-by-cop if we consider her frame of mind—but not if we propose the actions (separated from the emotions) as a fight-to-the-death to rescue her son.

Of all of these characters, the unsaved Chaim is the only one who ever contemplates, let alone expects, any afterlife consequences for his deeds. The premises of the series assert that this is because he is the only one who faces any afterlife consequences for his deeds. It is a foundational premise of the Left Behind series that saved characters will be unable to lose their salvation. They will be unable to fall away. The novels do not teach an understanding of salvation that includes state-of-grace and state-of-sin. A saved character may commit sins, because they are “not perfect, just forgiven.” However, a saved character cannot be in a state of sin.

This can be taken or mistaken to mean that saved characters do not believe in mortal sin. Volume 7 puts several characters in situations that seem designed to test that belief. This is why we had to evaluate Chloe’s mental state first. Chloe is losing her bearings. We had to determine if she also is losing her mind. If Chloe is sane, she might meet the criteria for mortal sin. These include:

• Full competence and personal responsibility (culpability)
• Full knowledge and foreknowledge (awareness and premeditation)
• Full and free will (without duress)
• Forewarning (Tsion—the unofficial “pope” of the series—prohibits it)

Note that Carpathia’s three pledged assassins meet an additional measure: “with malice.” This would be the most difficult to attribute to Chloe. She loves Baby Kenny. Yet one of the reasons she wants to kill him is the premise that it guarantees him entry into Heaven. The series premise of Age of Accountability is a temptation to her.

Chloe risks another temptation in “once saved, forever saved.” It is a premise of the novels that God will let Chloe into the Intermediate Heaven because she has the Saved Seal. If Chloe were to kill her baby and herself, is God still obligated to let her in? No matter what? To what extent must God comply? To what extent must God obey—even if a character wearing the Saved Seal deliberately disobeys? The Bible reminds us that “God is not a man, that He should lie (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Titus 1:2). Therefore any problem must be in human understanding.

In the novels, the premise of Chloe’s Saved Seal would suggest that Chloe gets in—in the novels. Tsion Ben-Judah supports this conclusion.

“In later teachings I [Tsion] will elucidate on why the mark of the evil one is irrevocable. If you have already trusted Christ for your salvation, you have the mark or seal of God on your forehead, visible only to other believers. Fortunately, this decision, mark, and seal is also irrevocable, so you never need fear losing your standing with him.” (Volume 6, p. 327)

Tsion then quotes 1 Cor. 15:57-58 and especially Rom. 8:35, 37-39. These latter are the verses that remind the faithful that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Volume 8 adds a few crucial words that are not spoken in those verses. Your host has underlined the added material:

“The Bible says that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and that has to include our own selves.” (Volume 8, p. 354.)

The saved characters assume that since nothing can separate them from the love of God through Christ (which is true), then nothing can separate them from the Body of Christ. Unfortunately there are multitudes of characters at the Great White Throne Judgment who are not separated from the love of Christ, but are separated from the Body of Christ:

Rayford once would have been horrified to hear these judgments. Now, as he saw Jesus’ tears as He pronounced sentence, Rayford understood as never before that Jesus sent no one to hell. They chose their own paths.”

–(Volume 16-called-13 a.k.a. Sequel 1, pp. 351-352).

Even Carpathia is not separated from that love. Carpathia admits that he knows Jesus loved him (Volume 12, p. 309). Jesus continues loving Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia even as Carpathia goes into the lake of fire. Nothing will separate Carpathia from the love of Christ—but Carpathia is separated from the Body of Christ. All characters who are separated from the Body of Christ are doomed, lost.

Jesus is shown crying over the lost. He is crying because He loves them. And Jesus didn’t wait for you to be saved before He started loving you, either. But the characters, and the reader, need to be saved and in the Body of Christ to be in Heaven with Him.

This is a grievous realization for the unsaved characters, but—unless your host is mistaken; discuss—we may have saved characters who are making the same error. The characters are so agitated about what an Antichrist might do to them that they forget what the Living God could do to them (Matt. 10:28; Isaiah 8:12-13; Hebr. 10:30-31). The characters are so fixated on an external Antichrist that they overlook a closer and greater danger: the spirit of antichrist that lurks in every human heart.

By chance or God’s grace the characters are prevented from reaping the consequences of what they would sow. The two Saveds (Chloe and Rayford) and one Unsaved (Hattie) are unable to kill their targets. Chaim does assassinate the Antichrist, but Chaim gets saved about 24 hours later. Therefore he receives a full and eternal pardon. What if the narrative had not intervened? Can a saved character commit a mortal sin according to the tenets of the Left Behind series?

Jesus said, “Thou shalt not tempt the LORD thy God” (Matt. 4:7; Deut. 6:16; Exod. 17:2, 7). To what extent would Chloe be tempting God with her proposed murder-suicide? Would your answer be different if this scenario had happened earlier in the series, before Chloe or any character received the Saved Seal? Would your answer be different if this scenario had happened before the Rapture?

To what extent would Rayford be tempting God with the murder of Carpathia? By Volume 11, pp. 147-149, Buck admits to one kill and Rayford admits to two kills, “both in self-defense.” Would your answer be different if it includes an examination of the other deaths credited to the Tribulation Force in the series? Would your answer be different if the scenarios had happened before Buck and/or Rayford received his Saved Seal and/or before the Rapture?

Discussion topic: Not all readers would agree with a proposal above that “the spirit of antichrist lurks in every human heart.” After all, when we get saved, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us (John 14:16-17; 1 Cor. 2:10-13, 3:16-17; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30; 1 John 3:24, 4:2-4). The Holy Spirit will never lead us into error. Therefore, if we cannot feel the Spirit’s leading, either we are not listening, or we are not obeying. Where there is no obedience, there is no guidance.

Our enemy is a predator. We can eject a predator from our homes, without always successfully removing the individual from our lives. An enemy might peer or shout through the windows. He might send messages into our supposedly secure home through the telephone, or through the mail. He might send one of his own to befriend us; we then allow that trusted “friend” to enter into our home. A predator might not need to break a locked door—the goal is to break the targeted person.

The characters in Volume 7 really, really want to do what they are doing. Rayford even convinces himself (and tries to convince the reader) that his idea is of God. Before they act, none of them—Rayford, Chloe, Hattie, Chaim—truly care about God’s opinion, not enough to actually ask Him. Interestingly, Tsion does not mention God’s opinion either. Tsion gives only his own opinions (“off the top of my head”) and feelings (“Neither do I want to live without you and the little one”). Alternately, we could be looking at scenarios known as “it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” Why do you think there is so much sinning going on in the Tribulation Force? Discuss what they could do about it.

Discussion topic: Tsion Ben Judah is a celebrity, even a superstar. In the area of his specialty he has no rival: “the 28 percent of Scripture that is about prophecy” (LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, p. 27). Tsion is charismatic—that is, he has the quality of being followed. Tsion is contagious—that is, other characters almost squeal with delight when they meet someone who has met the great man (Volume 4, p. 216; Volume 5, p. 22, 46; Volume 7, p. 12). Tsion is supreme—Antichrist Carpathia himself is stilled, cowed, “embarrassed” by Ben-Judah (Volume 2, pp. 387-396). Tsion is a Biblical superhero—he even gets a congratulatory phone call from Elijah the Tishbite (Volume 2, p. 398). (Moses says hi.)

Here in Volume 7 a nameless pastor gushes, “you can tell Dr. Ben-Judah that he has at least one church out here that could lose its pastor and never skip a beat. We all love him” (p. 310). Tsion is something else—he is an illusion, a mirage. Your host has attended the funerals of pastors, including our own. All we can say is that it is a pretty sorry indictment of Pastor Nameless and his church if Nameless can be replaced by a televangelist, however well-intentioned.

The matter is complicated by the fact that Left Behind is a rapturist series. Rapturists often have non-denominational leanings, though of course an occasional rapturist may surface in any congregation. This is because of soul liberty, also called soul competency. The problem is that non-denominational groups do not have a magisterium or equivalent. They have a marketplace. In their rejection of hierarchy (intermediaries) to uphold soul liberty and local control, they risk yielding to a different external force: money. The assumption is that if a preacher, a teacher, an author, a book, is popular, then it must mean that God is prospering that work. Discernment is required: both John the Baptist and Jesus were popular, for a time. So was disco. So was Carpathia.

It is true that the character Tsion is good at doing the things he is designed to do. He is telegenic in a media-saturated story. He teaches what his creators teach, but in more accessible vocabulary. He is growing his church. He is famous. He is always right about prophecy (in the novels). What he doesn’t understand is why none of this works on Chloe.

The truth is that Chloe’s purported spiritual director has gone from ancient scrolls to the Internet without ever passing through meatspace experience in pastoral care, much like the science-fiction characters who skip from the Stone Age directly to the Space Age because someone broke the Prime Directive. The truth is that Tsion is not a pastor, not really. Rather, he is a man who has been given so many pastoral responsibilities that he assumes he is one.

Tsion doesn’t do the marrying, the burying, the baptizing, the chastising. He doesn’t do the marital counseling, the pre-marital counseling, the bereavement counseling. He is not the one who gets the telephone call in the middle of the night. He doesn’t lead the flock, feed the flock, shepherd the flock, or protect the flock. And when was the last time Tsion led a weekly worship service? Tsion might be able to meet the “felt needs” of “a cyber-congregation of one billion people,” but can he truly meet the needs of a lost world?

It is interesting that a GC shill also mentions that the GC “is not meeting the felt needs” of the television audience (p. 290). Many churches fall into infotainment, infomercial, poll-driven entanglements. We want to attract new people; we want to “grow the church.” (We want to be like that church in Time Changer: the building is only five years old, and they’re expanding already. We are not saying that Christians should not enjoy each other’s company. We merely suggest that Scripture states, I was an hungred and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me (Matt. 25:35-36). It does not say, I was bored and ye took me bowling.)

Again, discernment is required. There are worse things Tsion could do than to drag Chloe and company to an (abandoned) bowling alley once in a while. (Even the characters in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s “moon” series who were starving to death found time to form a book club and to play football on their last Thanksgiving.) Rather, Tsion’s “parishioners” need more from him than to swell a progress i.e., to increase the number of hits on his website. They need spiritual nourishment. Growing the church is not just easier, but it also fits better into a management-by-objective, goal-oriented, one-and-done checklist. Feed the sheep, again? But they just got fed last week!

Perhaps the Gentle Browser noticed it in earlier volumes. Perhaps you only noticed it just now. Chloe needs someone who knows the other 72 percent of the Bible. She needs someone who knows her, personally. And Tsion needs to know his audience. He decides to use pop psychology on Chloe rather than using Scripture. But pop psychology carries its own risks. For example, when Tsion suggests that maybe they all should kill themselves, a Masada Chloe might suggest that she alone should kill the others, since she has made her decision. A despondent Chloe might claim that she deserves to die. A crowd-following Chloe might profess a misguided sense of comfort and gratitude that everyone else is going into death with her. On the other hand, a Stanford University Chloe might have read Tolkien, and might have responded to Denethor contemplated murder-suicide, but he was wrong and so are you.

Chloe has a job feeding millions of people (Volume 5, page 346). Millions of people (Volume 11, page 264). Has it occurred to Tsion that Chloe is overworked? That doesn’t include the added work of caring for a baby as a semi-single parent. Her husband comes and goes as he pleases, and it always is possible that he will not return. If Chloe had wanted to be alone, she wouldn’t have gotten married. For her part, Chloe plans to commit murder-suicide of herself and their child behind her husband’s back. She sees no need to inform him even after the crisis has passed. Has it occurred to Tsion that Chloe’s marriage might be in trouble? Finally, as we mentioned in a previous topic, has it occurred to Tsion that Chloe might be sick in her mind? And what could he do about it if she were? He uses pop psychology but that doesn’t make him a doctor.

Instead, Tsion calls her the worst thing he knows. He honestly believes this would work:

Chloe: “Behold, the earth is corrupt and all that dwelleth therein! Goodbye, cruel world!”

Officer Bob: “Lady, hand me that baby and climb down from there! If you do this, you’ll be no better than an abortionist!”

Chloe (*blinks*): “Oh, wow. I never thought of it that way. Here. I hand thee the baby. Verily, from on high I climb. See, again am I one height with thee. Give me back my baby.”

Officer Bob: “Absolutely, citizen. I could take the baby into protective custody, or take you to jail, or take you to a hospital for observation. But I’m not going to do any of those things. I know you were only sinning. That sort of thing will get you left behind. Go, and sin no more.”

(Exeunt.)

That approach would not work for Officer Bob, and it did not work for “Pastor” Tsion. Chloe has a plan. She has the will. She has the murder weapon. Furthermore, she still may have it as the novel ends; there is no indication that Tsion confiscated it.

What could a pastor do to protect Kenny and comfort Chloe? Could he baptize the baby? Not according to Tim LaHaye’s Revelation Unveiled (378 pp., c1999). Tsion’s co-creator states, “There is no scriptural verification for [infant baptism]” (p. 73). Actually, the series makes no mention that Chloe has been baptized. Should Tsion baptize one or both characters now? Why or why not?

Could Tsion enter into a season of prayer and fasting for Chloe’s healing and Kenny’s safety? Again, no, not according to Tsion’s creators. Rev. Unv. (p. 66) lists “fasting on Fridays and during Lent” as one of “the changes and doctrines that have their source in paganism [and were] added to the Church during the [Thyatira or Roman Catholic] period.” Did LaHaye object to the fasting, or to the choice of days upon which to do it? The text does not elaborate. Jesus approved of fasting under specific circumstances (Matt. 6:16-18, Matt. 17:21n; Mark 9.29n), but neither does our Lord elaborate. What do you think?

What about prayer? Tsion urges Chloe to pray for their loved ones to come home (p. 60). On the one hand, this is good. They should be praying for their loved ones. It might help to pull Chloe out of her personal downward spiral, by connecting her to the community of saints. On the other hand, one suspects that Baby Kenny’s enchanting yet uncomprehending mimicry of Mama is the prayer most pleasing to God that day. (One also suspects that Chloe’s secret prayers include asking how she can get God and Tsion to change their minds—and Tsion may well be praying, Please hurry up and bring home her husband and father who know how to handle this young lady).

Tsion goes to great lengths to conduct an intercession for Rayford (who, at the time, is asleep and contented in Pastor Demeter’s care; pp. 107-113). Tsion states that “true intercession involved deep empathy and that a person thus praying must not enter into the practice unless willing to literally trade places with the needy person” (p. 78). Without knowing it, Tsion offers to trade places with someone who is better off than he is.

Tsion only prays for Rayford and company (p. 60) and for himself (p. 57). Tsion never prays for Chloe or Kenny. It also never occurs to Tsion to perform intercession for Chloe and/or Baby Kenny. For Chloe, it may be the Batman Rule. (In the Timmverse DCAU, Batman defeats a telepathic attacker after warning him, “My mind is not a fun place to be.”) It’s understandable, but it’s still a problem. It gives the impression, however unfair, that Tsion did not try Chloe and find her hard, but rather that he found her hard and therefore did not try.

Baby Kenny is even more problematic. Is Tsion willing to literally trade places with the baby? The premises of the Left Behind series would suggest no, he would not. After all, Baby Kenny is unsaved.

“Sin isn’t necessarily just things we do,” [Chloe] had said. “It’s what we are and who we are. We’re all born in sin and need forgiveness.” –(Volume 16-called-13, p. 63)

To fix this, Baby Kenny must be able to lisp a Sinner’s Prayer (Volume 1, p. 216). He must understand it; he must be able to put it in his own words that would “cover the same territory” (Volume 1, pp. 446-447). He must assent to it. And he must tell the truth. (“Well, Mom, you have to mean it if you pray that prayer” –Volume 16-called-13, p. 290.) Unfortunately, the 14-month-old Baby Kenny cannot do any of these things he must do to be saved. (Unable to perform the works to be saved? discuss.) If he dies, he is safe in the arms of Jesus, but he cannot be saved alive—not until he is old enough. By the standards of Left Behind, Baby Kenny is not only unsaved but unsaveable. Why, then, would Tsion want to exchange places with him? (He doesn’t, and he doesn’t.)

When Hattie Durham threatens, “I’ll have an abortion before I’ll let him hurt me or my child,” Buck Williams replies, “You’re not making sense. You would kill your child so [Carpathia] can’t?” (Volume 4, p. 297). Now Chloe is threatening to kill her child so the GC can’t. From Baby Kenny’s point of view, Kenny would still be dead. Tsion fails to mention this little detail.

Chloe’s other worry is that the GC will not kill Kenny but will raise him as a Satanist. It is commendable that Tsion is willing to lay down his life to protect the child. But Chloe wants to know what happens next, after Tsion is dead and Baby Kenny is taken alive. Tsion doesn’t have an answer to that.

The truth is that Tsion does not have an answer to a lot of things. Tsion never addresses Fortunado’s claim (Volume 4, pp. 41-43) that Carpathia revivified him from the dead. (Tsion’s silence will lead to serious trouble in Volumes 7-12.) Tsion’s visions do not actually address anyone’s problems, including his own. Tsion calls Chloe “no better than an abortionist” but never addresses the paradox of the novels: if Age of Accountability is true, then it (unintentionally) could make abortionists into great missionaries who hazard their own souls to send little babies straight to Heaven, with no chance of the babies’ souls ever being damned. Sending Baby Kenny straight to Heaven is exactly what Chloe wants! (Metaphorically speaking, Tsion drops a nuke without tracking the fallout.)

Tsion believes in “claiming the promise in the passage” (p. 101). That is, he believes that if his Bible opens to a particular passage, it means that the prophet Joel predicted traveling mercies for Rayford Steele and Buck Williams thousands of years before they were born. (Is Tsion using the Bible for fortune-telling and/or treating it as a Magic 8 Ball? Discuss.)

It is true that there are Biblical passages which Tsion could apply to their immediate situation. Unfortunately the purported pastor, the former rabbi, has nothing Biblical (or even commonsensical) to say to a friend who would “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Tsion the rabbi does not even recall, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me” (Psa. 23:4). Were not words like this written for such times as these?

If Tsion really wants to “claim the promise in the passage,” perhaps he should be letting his Bible fall open to topics like these:

• Faith (1 Peter 1:3-9; Hebr. 11, esp. verse 1). Faith is knowing that the sun is shining even when your eyes are closed. Faith is knowing that a handful of seeds contains a garden.
• Perseverance (Luke 18:1-8, 21:19; Rom. 12:11-12; Heb. 2:1-3, 10:32-39; 2 Pet. 2:20-21). Will not God vindicate His faithful ones who cry to Him day and night? But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?
• Worship. God’s people should avoid “will worship” (Col. 2:11, 23; Rom. 13:14; 1 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:21; Jude 1:23). “Will worship” often has “a show of wisdom and humility. It typifies any use of carnal means to kindle the fire of devotion and praise” (Lev. 10:1-6, SRB-1917, p. 193). Rather, God’s people should worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24, 9:38; Phill. 3:3; see also Matt. 2:2, 11; Luke 2:37). And they should worship together (Hebr. 10:25). A coal separated from the fire swiftly grows cold.
• Discernment (1 Kings 3:9-12; John 16:12-15; Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 2:12-16; James 3:17; 1 John 4:1-6). “Ask and it shall be given to you” applies to protection against “itching ears” too.
• Obedience (Matt 22.1-14; Matt. 25; Mark 4:1-26; Luke 13:6-9). Those who love God keep His commandments. God cannot redeem anyone He cannot command. How can one claim to love God if they have no interest in learning about His character, His nature, His will, or His plans?
• Commitment (Luke 9:51, 62, 22:42; John 10:11; Eph.6.10; Hebr. 10:35-39). Jesus could have chosen to leave the Garden of Gethsemane. He chose to stay, for us and for our salvation. The hands and feet of Jesus remind us of His love for us. Can we not stay awake with Him for one hour?
• Presence (Psa. 139:1-18; Isa. 43:2; John 14:23, 20:22; Rev. 3:20). When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit He is saying I will give you the very breath of My life. We can never run away from the Ever-present One. That is not a threat; it is a gift. God is not out to break hearts but to melt them.
• Hope (Jer. 29:11; Lam. 3:21-26; Psa 10:17, 16.5-8, 33:18-22; Rom. 5:2-5, 8:24-25, 12:12, 15:4, 15:13; 2 Cor. 4:16-18). From an old rugged cross to an empty tomb, a hopeless end became our endless hope.
• Peace (Matt. 8:23-27; Mark 4.37-39; Psa. 23; Psa. 107:23-30; Isa. 43:2). “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” Yes, He cares. The storms of life won’t always be calmed—but He gave us Himself to calm the storms inside.
• Death (John 11:25, 14:1-6; Rom. 14:8; 1 Thess. 4:14; Phill. 1:21; Psa. 23:6, 116.15; John 3:16). For the Christian, death is not the extinguishment of the light, but rather the candle going out because the dawn has come.

The reality is that Tsion is less prepared to be a pastor than was Bruce Barnes, the “visitation pastor” who “was lazy,” who “cut corners,” who “smiled at” those he visited, and who sometimes did not arrive at all if the visitation conflicted with a movie he wanted to see (Volume 1, p. 196). (In the Volume 1 discussion, we asked whether Bruce had met anyone who was dying hard. It is unlikely that a mourning family would have tolerated such brazen neglect.) But Bruce probably at least went to Bible college.

Unfortunately for Tsion, the mature Christians were all Raptured. This limits the number of people who might instruct him. Perhaps Tsion forgets that he is styled a rabbi. It is probable that very, very few rabbis were Raptured. He might even find one who survived Ha’Shoah. Obviously they would disagree about Jesus, but there must be some Jewish shepherds left to teach Tsion how to nurture, admonish, and defend his flock.

Sadly, the standards for “rabbi” in Left Behind Land appear to be similarly in flux. Tsion holds two doctoral degrees (Jewish history; ancient languages), but he is not a “rabbi” in the shepherding sense of the word. He has no religious training. He attended a secular university. Tsion was 19 (compare Volume 2, p. 107) when he studied under Chaim Rosenzweig, the atheist Jewish botanist. They spent enough time together to become mentor and star pupil. Tsion became a “scholar, historian, and educator” (Volume 2, p. 318). Tsion taught at an academic institution, where adult students “evaluated” him. Small children do not “evaluate” their educators. Shut-ins do not “evaluate” their visitors. Tsion was grading students for a semester, not teaching on Shabbat in a synagogue and watching a congregation grow up and grow old. Rabbi Tsion’s title is a courtesy, not a reality.

Finally, Tsion does not have even the training of the ordinary Christian in the church pews. The faithful Christian must have listened to years or decades of sermons, participated in years or decades of Bible study class, sung hundreds or thousands of hymns. Some of it probably remains on the tip of the tongue, so to speak. Some of it probably has been absorbed into your general life in Christ, just as food you can no longer taste has built up your body to make you stronger, to run longer. (Exercise daily: walk with God, run from the Devil.) And of course we have Bibles, so that we can be nourished again and again. Tsion had the opportunity to read the New Testament in 22 languages (Volume 2, p. 319)—but Christians who can read in only one language were reading it more frequently and thoroughly than he ever did. That was part of why he was left behind.

(Having said that, does the Gentle Browser remember last week’s sermon? Describe sermons, classes, etc. that have stayed with you and have contributed to your life.)

None of this is intended to disparage Tsion Ben-Judah, merely to learn from his mistakes. Indeed, aside from being unsaved, none of his choices would have seemed like mistakes at the time. Clearly he is a hard worker. (Twenty-two languages!) He liked teaching. He had no reason to think that he would ever change careers, let alone end up in a doomsday story. Only the reader can indulge in hindsight. Tsion did not know that he had decades to learn from wiser minds and hearts, from real rabbis, real pastors, real teachers, the real community of saints. He missed his chance. Now he lives in a world without freedom of worship, freedom of association, freedom of speech. It’s done now.

Tsion does not even share a cultural background with the Trib Force. Chloe comes from a community and a century which tends to over-spiritualize medical, emotional, or financial problems, and which also rationalizes, medicates, or throws money at spiritual problems. There is no reason to think that the Trib Force has mended these bad habits merely because the world is ending.

Finally, Tsion cannot call an ambulance, the police, or a suicide hotline. Those resources no longer exist. The few that do in the novel are in the hands of the Devil.

All of the above leaves the untrained and untried Tsion to tackle problems that would make even an experienced pastor cringe. Chloe is presenting Tsion with one of the hardest battles of theodicy: she may be losing faith because bad things are happening to other people, to other people’s children. How would you answer someone who is losing faith because others suffer?

Altogether, Tsion is in an unenviable position. Yet he does two things that make a difference. He is resolute to protect Baby Kenny, from both the GC and from Kenny’s own mother. And Tsion appeals to relationships. Why did the weakling Appeal to the Masses tactic come closest to success? Perhaps it is because God is a relationship. Our God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Our God is a relationship, and He designed us for relationship with Himself and with each other. Chloe’s choices cannot be separated from those relationships. It is here that Tsion struck a nerve, however crudely and uncomprehendingly.

Section summary

If you wish, design a course of study for Tsion to catch up in the time that is left to him. Assume that the Tribulation Force can obtain what he needs, to the extent that it still exists.

Every child of God is given talents (Matt. 25:14-30). At the same time, everyone owes God a sum of talents we never can repay—so He simply gives it to us (Matt. 18:23-35). Have you made the most of the talent and time that is given to you?

If someone came to you in pain, would you know the difference between a hard day versus a crisis? If someone came to you for spiritual help—for something this dangerous, something this serious—would you know how to help them? That doesn’t mean, could you do it, but rather do you know when you don’t know enough? Do you know what you know and know what you don’t know, and where, when, and how to get an expert for what you don’t know? Is your family, your workplace, your church prepared with a plan of whom to call for emergencies? Does everyone know where to find that list?

Related: there are times when a sin also is a crime. There may be pressure to “try harder,” pressure not to “split up a godly family” or not to “expose the church to scandal.” The individual may need help, but there are times when that help has to happen behind bars. Would you make that phone call?

Continue to Part 2 of 2. Return to Spoilers.

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Author: The_Old_Maid_of_Potluck

Author of Potluck2point0: The resource formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net (a.k.a. My humongous [technical term] study of "What's behind 'Left Behind'").