(Added April 2017)

On SilverBlood Voyager, Ferengi hell, and Roseanne’s final season:
Legacy as a character on television


I thought to pick
the flower of forgetting
for myself
but I found it
already growing in his heart.

(Ono No Komachi, Sent to a man who seemed to have changed his mind)


For this Lenten season, your host was prompted to spend some time with assorted fictional characters who all die horribly and then no one even misses them.

Unpause; or, If you prick us, do we not Silverbleed?

The Star Trek: Voyager episode “Course: Oblivion” is the Kansas song, the Psalm 88 of Trekdom. It is StarDate 52586.3. The good ship Voyager seems healthy, happy, and only two years from Earth. The crew has just invented an enhanced warp drive with a top cruising speed some fifty times faster than Starfleet’s standard-issue propulsion systems. (Some fan somewhere on the Internet did the math.) Almost immediately the ship and its crew die of radiation poisoning.

In a cruel twist, the characters have always known that their engines emit “subspace radiation.” They just didn’t think it would be a problem because that radiation is not harmful to humanoids. When their chief engineer melts to death, they learn that they are not humanoid. They are not the carbon-based, electro-chemical, bags-of-mostly-water crew of Starship Voyager. They are the duplicate, liquid-metal, bio-mimetic “SilverBlood” Voyager, and the warp engine that would have blessed anyone else is killing them.

Characters grieve, rage, debate, and beg, but none of it is enough. They are stranded: unable to go forward, unable to get home. The one choice that affects the outcome is that they refuse to kill some bystanders who deny them safe haven. They have children on board, and they still can’t do it. SilverJaneway is not biologically human, but Thou shalt not kill is bred in her silverbones.

In saying No, they rescind their last chance at survival. Soon over 80 percent of the ship is uninhabitable, held together by forcefields. Even their time capsule—made from “unaffected components”—is destroyed when they foolishly trust their melting rocket launchers to boost the probe. (At this point they literally could have tossed it out a literal open window and it would have survived.)

It is StarDate 52597.4. A passing vessel detects their distress call. SilverHarry, last as he was first, looks toward his deliverance through smoke and flames and hopelessness. SilverBlood Voyager explodes less than six minutes before the rescuers can reach him. Of course the ship is the Original Voyager. They have no way to know who died, or how many died, or if anybody died. (Four different Originals express doubt that the debris field is a ship at all.) Just a drop of deuterium in an endless sea. The Originals see only dust in the wind.

“Course: Oblivion” is a very polarizing episode, which is odd as it is not at all controversial. For all its idealism Star Trek has never hesitated to slay innocent people to tell a story. The franchise has killed individuals (TOS: “City on the Edge of Forever,” TNG: “Vengeance Factor,” “Half a Life,” DS9: “Past Tense”), starships (TOS: “Doomsday Machine,” “The Ultimate Computer,” “The Tholian Web,” TNG: “Best of Both Worlds,” DS9: “Emissary,” “VOY: “Deadlock”), cultures, tribes, and nations (TOS: “The Mark of Gideon,” DS9: “Duet,” VOY: “Remember”), and planets/empires (TOS: “That Which Survives,” TNG: “The Last Outpost,” “The Inner Light,” “Relics,” “The Chase,” VOY: “Prototype,” “Year of Hell”), etc. Indeed, Star Trek: The Original Series mentions deaths, investigates deaths, witnesses death, or causes death in well over half of its 79 episodes.

What makes “Course: Oblivion” unique is that no one knows that SilverBlood Voyager lived and died. Of the complaints against the episode this is the most constant: how dare the writers kill the last man and/or destroy the time capsule. No record is left. No witness is found. Nobody learns anything. In the other episodes just listed, some witness is identified. Someone learns the truth. But these characters die alone and unmourned, and viewers hate it.

Fans grieve for the characters and praise their courage in the face of impending death. Such fans often have fascinating world-building theories: for example, that the SilverBloods found a safer route. This made for a happier crew with more time to play, with their toys and with each other. It also makes for a more wrenching contrast between their origins and their fate.

Unhappy viewers call the episode bleak (which it is), tormenting (which it also is), inexorable (yes again), cynical (a matter of opinion; do they mean that only cynical people can appreciate it?), and pointless (um, maybe that is the point). Yes, the characters’ fate is unfair, arbitrary, and all those other words in the thesaurus. At the same time, those viewers often are the same who complain that it happens to doppelgangers, rather than to “the real characters” and so “they don’t count.” (More on this later.)

All of these sound like legitimate criticisms, but your host believes that these are points in its favor. In a way, the most meta review agrees. That reviewer proposes that (aside from the tragic ending) the episode is representative of the series, that it is the Voyager series. Hence the divided opinions.

In terms of construction, the episode is sympathetically directed by Anson Williams (who also directed the prequel “Demon”). There are some astronomical errors, along with the discrepancy of disintegrating characters who retain pristine hair and uniforms. (With over twenty performers, it must have wildly expensive just to paint their faces.) Favorite non-speaking performance: the poor ghoul hunched over the helm in place of Paris. Your host especially would commend the music. It’s haunting, quiet, not overly complicated, and thematically appropriate (e.g., squelched [muted] trumpets when the deflector fails, contrasted with a distant clarion call when the rescue ship appears just out of reach). As a franchise Star Trek’s music tends toward the soap-operatic. Swelling strings, blaring brass, wailing woodwinds, and extreme electronica declaim this is funny; this is scary; this is wuv, twue wuv!. Sometimes your host wants to hear the dialogue, thankyouverymuch.

Even critics admit the story is framed by great performances. The brotherhood of SilverTom and Harry is evident. The SilverBloods Chakotay, Tuvok and Neelix sleuth about the ship with Holmesian efficiency. SilversTom and B’Elanna show a genuine chemistry and tenderness. It is a little odd that B’Elanna passively lets Tom plan their honeymoon, but he finds one that would have enchanted them both. (Chicago during Prohibition was crawling with gangsters. She could have ridden shotgun with said shotgun and had a happy time. Fast cars for him, whack-a-mole for her.) Still, true to her wary nature, B’Elanna’s wedding speech doesn’t contain any actual vows. SilverJaneway is as confident and stubborn as ever. SilversChakotay and Tom’s reaction to her charge to lead the lemmings off the cliff is heart-breaking and mostly believable. Many fans regard SilverJaneway’s actions as negligent. Perhaps. But nothing would have saved their ship.

Viewers first realized that SilverBlood Voyager was not the Original when they saw the bridegroom wearing lieutenant’s pips. (Original Tom recently was busted down to ensign.) After that, they counted the discrepancies. One of the more metaphysical was the difference between how SilverJaneway perceives her Original counterpart versus how she sees herself. Would the Original Janeway have shot the miners? Janeway has killed before to save her crew. Would she murder to save her crew? SilverJaneway decides she cannot shoot the miners, and that’s the last we ever see of four of the eight starring characters (Silvers Tuvok, Paris, the Doctor, Chakotay). SilverJaneway not only clings to her sense of humanity even if it kills half of her command inner circle, but she attributes more humanity to herself than she does to the Original. “Even if we did find the Original Janeway, how do we know she’d help?” asks the troubled SilverCaptain. The Doctor is bewildered by the question. “She’s you.” Well, yes, but who am I?

Not all discrepancies are sad ones. This crew seems genuinely creative. We might even use the word gifted. Consider their known accomplishments:

• Their “enhanced warp drive” is faster than any starship engine known to the Trekverse (save only the slipstream tech assimilated by the Borg).

• Their environmental controls can simulate both Class-M worlds and Class-Y environments. (The Originals could not create a Class-Y environment even on the holodeck.)

• As a result, the SilverBloods can both outrun more foes and explore more worlds.

• Although the line “through the center of the galaxy” is clearly writer’s error—no one could go “through” the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s core—their upgraded systems allow them to skirt the galactic center more closely than can most ships. (The star map in “Message in a Bottle” shows that even the extinct superpower who built the Hirogen relay network chose to travel the long way around.)

• Speaking of the Hirogen, the SilverBlood sensors can operate to almost one-quarter of the alien sensor network’s range. (I.e., the SilverBloods can detect stellar phenomena six months in front of them and/or 2-3 months [round trip] to either port or starboard. Given that they plan to reach the Federation in “two years” and a few days, a six-month range is almost one-quarter the size of the aforementioned network.)

• To cite a second example, the SilverBlood Voyager sensors observe the Original vessel—with both vessels traveling at high warp—that is a staggering twenty-two light-years away (208,136,070,396,777.6 kilometers), and in sufficient detail that the audience recognizes it through the snow on the viewscreen. (In contrast, this episode confirms that the Originals have to get within 5 million kilometers just to puzzle over the “erratic” readings of SilverBlood Voyager’s transponders. The Originals only enter “visual range” at less than 400,000 kilometers distance.)

• SilverSeven’s nanoprobes adapt [become impervious] to the subspace radiation that is killing them. That is a staggering achievement, albeit limited in application. (It’s the same sort of thing that makes self-appointed wags ask, If the black box is so indestructible, why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff? Well, because the plane wouldn’t fly, of course.)

Super sensors, engines, shields, life support systems and better-than-Borg tech? The Originals could not do any of these things, let alone all of them.

As for how they got a ship, how they got their own holodoctor, and how they became Class-M lifeforms, the series already provides that answer. (“It reminds me of the Australian Aborigines. Their creation mythology states that their ancestors actually dreamed the universe into existence.” —episode, “Waking Moments.”) The hardest part should have been finding enough puddles, not explaining their behavior.

However, once they dreamed their ship into existence, the SilverBloods should have two more advantages. Their ship is “born” new. It left the demon planet without the 200-plus hull breaches that the Originals had accumulated. The SilverShip is not held together by 24th Century duct tape but by living material. It might even have a limited ability to heal itself, a la Borg Lite. (Personally, your host has always puzzled over the “neural gel packs” in Engineering. They are purported to be alive; they can even get sick. Nevertheless they were installed because they are supposed to be superior to traditional hardware and software. Now imagine a whole ship like that.) Surely the SilverBlood vessel would be at least as strong and unspoiled as was the Original Voyager when fresh out of Spacedock.

The other superb advantage is that the SilverBlood Voyager may have been born ahead of schedule. In the four years the Originals have been in the Delta Quadrant, their ship has fallen behind their Starfleet maintenance schedule. But the SilverBloods may have dreamed into existence the refits and upgrades for which they knew they had been scheduled. (Yet another reason that the 200-plus hull breaches would have been rendered immaculate: Starfleet would have replaced the hull plating.) To coin a phrase, a tough little ship.

The episode is not perfect. For your host, we noticed dialogue gaffes.

• Chakotay: They are starting to remember their existence before Voyager. This is incongruous and just wrong. The crew are unlikely to remember being puddles, rocks, lava, or dust storms as anything more than a haunting, a skin-crawling sensation. It is fair to throw SilverJaneway’s line in her face that the hallucinations and fever-dreams of the dying feel real to them.

• Janeway: How do you know where we belong? For all we know, the Original Voyager has been destroyed, and we are all that is left. Surviving as a message-in-a-bottle would be commendable. Lying about it? Not commendable.

• Janeway: For all we know, we are supposed to be living their lives. Recall that neither the Harry Kim nor the Naomi Wildman who landed on the Demon Planet were native to the starship that landed. They were duplicates who escaped from a duplicate Voyager. They replaced the Harry-1 and Naomi-1 who died in the episode “Deadlock.” It is accepted by all known Janeways (and by the television audience) that Harry-2 and Naomi-2 are supposed to be living their lives. But SilverTom posits, if you needed a drink of water and I showed you a painting of water, would you be satisfied with that? Thus SilverTom denies the equivalency of Harry-3 (SilverHarry).

• Chakotay: I’d like to think I know Kathryn Janeway pretty well myself. And as much as she would want to get her crew home, I don’t think she’d be willing to kill them in the process. An impudent line, to say the least. The episode “Timeless” (which aired weeks earlier) shows a Janeway who knowingly risked her ship on a technology that killed all hands twenty-five (25) consecutive times. Only the Doctor’s suggestion saved the ship on the twenty-sixth and final attempt.

To make the episode perfect, these lines should have been defended or omitted.

Other viewers could not overcome the storyarc’s technobabble. In “Demon” the SilverBloods purportedly could not adapt to a Class-M environment, and the Original starship could not replicate a Class-Y environment. They’re half right. On the Class-Y planet [500 degrees K = 226.85 C = 440.33 F] the primordial SilverPuddles maintained a constant temperature of “only twelve degrees” [minus 261.15 C = minus 438.07 F]. Under different circumstances the Voyager scientists could have spent several days studying these wondrous creatures.

Clearly the SilverBloods are not a cold-blooded species. But it’s uncertain how they could be a warm-blooded species as science defines the term. What is certain is that the Class-M temperature onboard Voyager is, say, 70 degrees F [294.261 K = 21.1111 C]. SilverTom and SilverHarry adapted instantaneously, transitioned seamlessly, from one temperature extreme to another. In fact the SilversTom and Harry flitted back and forth from the planet to Voyager four to six times between them, and suffered no deleterious effects from any temperature change. They only exhibited distress when breathing the wrong atmosphere. The demonstrated ability of the mimics to adapt to the Class-M temperature foreshadows their ability to adapt, more slowly, to other factors of a Class-M environment.

Other viewers could accept sentient puddles of dichromates spouting the occasional implausible one-liner, but they balk at the notion that the duplicates could be so convincing that they convinced even themselves. Can silver blood really copy a soul? Well, we don’t even know how carbon-based beings get a soul. Did the Originals all stick their thumb in the droplet that mimicked B’Elanna’s thumb? Does the silver blood infect and tour the humanoid body and brain, before exiting and returning to its liquid state? Or did The Doctor provide blood samples from the crew? Scripture declares the life is in the blood (Lev, 17:11,14; Gen. 9:4, Hebr. 9:22). This is why some sects teach that it is against their religion to donate blood. Is the soul in the blood?

Still other viewers solve the problem by proposing that the silver blood created multiple copies. As each crew departed for space, the planet got lonely and created more duplicates. Thus any glitches are the result of replicative fading.

At this point your host concluded that we are Solving The Wrong Problem. Even the transporter can create ensouled characters ex nihilo (TOS: “The Enemy Within,” TNG: “Second Chances,” VOY: “Tuvix”). If the transporter can do it, surely the living silver blood can do it.

Secondly, viewers cannot have it both ways. Let us invoke C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories. No one criticizes Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy for forgetting much, much more: their soldier father, their loving mother, their friends, their besieged England, their very planet, and their home. Susan was even planning to get married in Narnia. None of the Pevensies express regret that their parents know nothing of the wedding, or that their parents will never meet their grandchildren, if and when. None of them ponder whether they could get married in Narnia and then be free, or unfree, to marry someone else on Earth. The Pevensies have forgotten Earth. Even when they die, the earthling Pevensies do not immediately report to earthling Heaven, where their parents await them. They first go to Narnian Heaven, where their heart is.

So, no, your host will not criticize the mental toddlers of SilverBlood Voyager for forgetting their labor and birth, no matter how piercing and memorable the participants would have perceived it at the time. Unlike the Pevensies, the SilverBloods are not living a double life. This is their first one. And at the risk of becoming sentimental, it is safe to say that wherever the Originals go when they die, the SilverBloods are going there too.

For the Pevensies it is more than a matter of living in Cair Paravel for fifteen years. Narnia accelerated and altered their biology (a fact much attested in the book series). Narnia therefore feels more “real” to them. (“Every blade of grass just looked like it meant more.”) Were the amnesiac SilverBloods also accelerated and altered? Possibly. We have no way to know how a Silverblood brain works. But it is plausible that “subspace radiation” is not harmful to humanoids because humanoids do not live or exist in the subspace layer. To be exposed to the radiation, they would have to be where it is. Perhaps in some way we not do yet understand, SilverBlood life does extend into subspace. Whether or not the SilverBlood lifeforms had a sensitivity to extra dimensions before they met Voyager, they almost certainly have it now.

Is it really so surprising that Voyager would be Narnia to the SilverBloods? For lifeforms that never had color vision, or eyes, or individual consciousness, or collective consciousness, or dreaming, or language, thoughts or feelings, the sudden inrush of sensations must have hit them like a board. Of course the SilverBloods are going to be intensely creative, endlessly curious, exasperatingly strong-willed, and bewildered by the capriciousness of death. Like little children, they are seeing everything for the first time.

In retrospect, there always were clues in “Demon” that SilverTom and SilverHarry began as the children of Voyager rather than the crew of Voyager. Content as they are to toddle after the grown-ups, they also display their eagerness to please, their abject terror at the prospect of being abandoned, and their unfiltered, gobsmacked wonder at their first sight of their home. SilverHarry in particular is close to breaking into song like Julie Andrews and spinning on a hilltop. (Before the sequel the music in his head must have switched from The Sound of Music to Come Sail Away). It is not the behavior we expect of Starfleet professionals, as the exhausted, hungry, jaded Originals scold him.

The SilverBloods embrace life. Star Trek: Voyager has been reproached for its tendency to “press the reset button,” i.e. to deliver calamities without consequences. (Let the record show that TOS invented this phenomenon as well. In addition to its time-travel stories, the series has killed and revived Kirk in “Amok Time” and “The Enterprise Incident,” Spock in “Wrath of Khan/Search for Spock,” McCoy in “Shore Leave,” and Chekov in “Spectre of the Gun.”) But the infamous Reset Button is a tactic of the writers, of which the characters are largely unaware. The Voyager crew themselves are more likely to press the Pause Button.

The Originals, sounding for all the world like a character in a Left Behind novel, rely on miracles, or technology, or the miracle of technology. (“Engaged in the riskiest endeavor of his life, Rayford had cast his lot with God and the miracle of technology—” Left Behind #9, Desecration, page 1.) It is rather brazen of the fans to criticize SilverBlood Voyager for being so providentially clever, given some of the divinely madcap stunts the Originals have done.

• “The Gift.” The character Kes—introduced as a human butterfly who would pollinate the ship’s gardens and then die of old age—is revealed to be a battle angel with superpowers approaching the Q Continuum and looking at Superman in the rear-view mirror. Even Superman could not get a starship out of Borg space unless he picked it up and carried them there.

• “Dark Frontier.” Like the Romulans, the Q, and Species 8472, the Borg develop a convenient fascination with humanity. This allows Janeway to steal technology from them.

• “Timeless” (again). Not one, not two, but three of the command crew (FutureChakotay, FutureHarry, the Doctor) violate the Temporal Prime Directive.

• “Endgame.” Admiral Janeway, Captain Janeway, and the entire starship knowingly violate the Temporal Prime Directive. So repeatedly we have characters who deliberately destroy a timeline that actually has worked out quite well for trillions of other Federation citizens. Screw ‘em (apparently).

What would the series have looked like without these contrivances? Consider what would have happened if the starship Voyager had not taken a mere seven years to reach their home. In fifty years, the crew of Original Voyager would consist of (say) Captain Doctor, First Officer Naomi Wildman, and Engineer-or-Pilot Miral Paris. (Tuvok would have died of early-onset dementia. In Vorik’s case, most likely shot by a jealous husband.) The ship has added less than ten Delta Quadrant citizens and has lost all but one of them (Icheb the Borg boy, whom they would not have met). Aside from their bookend babies (Naomi, Miral), they are not having children. They lack the computer core capacity to create a holographic crew. They are utterly unprepared for a ship full of old people too feeble of body and mind to push a button at their posts. The ship needs not just to double its crew but to triple it: one crew to tend the ship, and one crew to nurse the aged. And for this they lack the resources, air, or living space.

But worst of all, the Originals lack the will. They are so tunnel-visioned on the Alpha Quadrant (where their “real” lives await them) that none of these characters are willing to do the incremental, boring, painful things that they know will work. It’s all about winning the wormhole lottery, the get-rich-quick scheme, the magic beans. It is a series of grand adventures, but it’s not much of a life.

In contrast the SilverBloods are marrying and giving in marriage, two years before that other couple gets around to it. They are having children. Ensign Harper’s human name suggests a nine-month human gestation. Therefore these SilverBloods were pairing off within a month of their own conception. Granted, one known marriage and two known children are not much in the grand scheme of crew replacement. But they are doing exactly what Picard’s crew or Sisko’s crew or any other Starfleet crew would do: getting on with their lives. These characters are living their lives Unpaused. No wonder they’re happier.

One other behavior merits mention. The first SilverBloods urge the second away team of Originals to remove their space suits. Some viewers interpret this as malicious. Possibly. It is arguable that SilverTom and SilverHarry just want to touch more Originals and make more SilverBloods. They may not comprehend that the environment could kill the Originals. After all, it didn’t occur to them to alert the newcomers to the plight of the real Tom and Harry, but they didn’t interfere with their rescue either.

Still, at the time the fans had valid reasons to speculate that the motive was malicious. In early story sessions, some ST: Voyager series writers proposed that the doppelgangers should make it all the way to earth. Then, after their hero’s welcome, the SilverBloods would go insane/turn evil and murder everyone in sight (including some of the stateside families). Thus bitterness and hatred would be aroused among those who had been united in their longing for Voyager’s return. Your host is gratified that the series writers did not choose this version. We already have plenty of homicidal impersonators (TNG’s “Conspiracy,” DS9’s Changelings, VOY’s Species 8472, etc.).

One last reason to explore darker motives. The SilverBloods have elements in common with The Twilight Zone. That series earns a whole chapter in Bertonneau & Paffenroth’s The Truth Is Out There. One episode in particular strikes the authors as Augustinian. St. Augustine argued that children are not spiritually pure—they are physically helpless. We think children are innocent because we love them, because we envy them, and because we can control them. Augustine maintained that if children had the strength to enforce their wishes, the power to take what they want, we would swiftly learn the difference.

Little Anthony (Billy Mumy) is superficially no better or worse than any other child (“It’s a Good Life”). He is adorable; he is curious; he is perceptive; he wants to be liked; and he wants to be loved. He just happens to have “monstrous” superpowers that will kill them all. In the end, even he will die. Evil destroys itself.

The hymn tells us In our end is our beginning. Little Anthony makes Augustine’s argument devastatingly clear: children are not innocent. And neither are the SilverBloods. They tried to sink the Original Voyager with all hands. They tried to drown them in SilverQuicksand, tried to crush them under pressure in a SilverSea. The only reason both crews escaped alive is that the Originals found a way to spank [electrocute] SilverHarry. He is feeling pain. He doesn’t like it. The parents have found a way to control their deadly children. Suddenly both sides feel extremely motivated to resolve their differences.

At the start of “Course: Oblivion” SilverJaneway is self-assured that she is a child of the universe, the same as any lifeform born to other lifeforms, that she has a right to be here. When she starts dwelling on that other Janeway, she’s not so sure. The Originals could have killed them. Perhaps it would have been prudent to kill them, given the coercion, the lack of remorse, and the imminent threat to life. Kathryn Janeway spared them once. Would she spare them twice?

Which brings up the final objection from viewers: SilverJaneway’s doubt is half-paranoia and half-legitimate. By secular-science reckoning, the SilverBloods artificially skipped over one billion to four billion years of evolution. By mystical reckoning, the Originals made a godlike impact upon a species that was not only pre-warp but pre-sentient. The Silvers became both conformed to and transformed to the image of their creators. And then the Originals disappeared. They left without a backwards glance. Of the many fanfixes in fanfiction—(controlled reliquification [SilverPuddle stasis]; the intervention of Q)—the invocation of SilverSeven’s interplexing beacon [cf. “Timeless”] is the most intriguing, and the most grave. The two ships always had each other’s telephone number. Neither ship ever thought to use it.

(Again, regarding the episode “Timeless,” every version of Seven of Nine should have received FutureHarry’s transmission. Those starships for whom the message was not intended would have perceived it as an attempt to communicate, a distress signal possibly, and would have replied.)

By the standards of mere logic, it is a contrived coincidence that the two starships would ever meet again. But by mystical standards their encounter is both essential and inevitable. As the SilverBloods shrink before the mystery of death, of course they would seek and draw nigh unto the face of their creators. But their creators are imperfect. The Originals gave the SilverBloods sentience and community, but they never gave them goals, a sense of purpose, something to live for. Perhaps they couldn’t.

To their credit the Originals haul nacelles the instant they hear the distress call. But in the end they had a massive impact on the SilverBloods, and the SilverBloods had next to none on them. The only people who ever knew that they existed, are unconcerned with whether they still exist. The Originals do not acknowledge their offspring even in death. The Originals may remember what they did, but they have no idea what they have done.

When the Originals chose to show mercy, both crews lived. In “Course: Oblivion” the SilverBloods show mercy as they were shown mercy—and they die. They may have been born as alien children, but they died as honorable men and women. They died as grown-ups. Grown-ups choose. The SilverBloods met their end as neither monsters nor martyrs, but as people. Of their many accomplishments, this one is the most important, even if nobody ever knows it. Would you still do the right thing if nobody saw, and nobody knew?

Do the duplicates “count?” Do they matter? Some viewers say No. They rejoice that at least this episode is not canon. Clearly this declaration is headcanon, rather than canon. It would be like saying that the Federation-Dominion War is not canon because the Original Voyager never experienced it. Yet “Course: Oblivion” itself is not sympathetic all of the time. For example, not one character’s death was deemed worthy of even a commercial break.

“Course: Oblivion” carries the added burden of asking us to care about duplicates in a mythos that prefers originals. Duplicates get little respect in Star Trek. To use just one example, it is implied that images or copies of “real” characters have been utilized as sexual playthings (TOS: “The Man Trap,” “Shore Leave,” “Spectre of the Gun,” VOY: “Body and Soul”). Worse, when the “real” victim learns of the infraction (TNG: “Hollow Pursuits,” “Galaxy’s Child,” DS9: “Meridian”), the scene may be played for comic relief, as something at which the audience is intended to laugh. Seen in this light, SilverTom’s grief and rage at the death of his wife is tainted by a profound humiliation: the dread that the sacredness of his love was directed toward something that (in his mind) would horrify and sicken the “real” B’Elanna, were she ever to learn of it. For SilverTom, death is a release from torment and a fitting punishment—and far too many viewers are willing to give it to him. But SilverTom is wrong. The SilverBloods arguably are the only duplication in Star Trek in which the originals being duplicated both planned it and gave their blessing.

Do the duplicates “count”? Well, your host thinks they do. We have not yet found supporting verses in the Bible [compare Exod. 25:16, Exod. 25:21; Deut. 10:2, Deut. 31:26 to 1 Kings 8:9, 2 Chron. 5:10, Hebr. 9:4], but apparently the Talmud states that “both the (second set of) tablets and the shards of the first set were kept in the holy Ark.” That is, the spark of holiness does not depart from some broken thing, or broken person, that was touched by the finger of God. It also does not depart if an Ark, or a starship, is never found. We do not know if the writers had this aim in mind, but the writers have crafted an episode around the Kobayashi Maru Scenario. There is no correct solution; it is a test of character.

SilverBlood Voyager was destroyed. One hundred fifty people died. An entire species perished. SilverJaneway’s benediction is simple and fitting. “This crew’s existence may have been brief, but it’s been distinguished. None of you deserve to be forgotten.” The SilverBloods were “ten months, eleven days” old when they learned the truth. Your host is inept at reading Stardates, so our best calculation is that SilverHarry and the ship were ten months, twenty-two days of age when they died.

The ship was lost. It happens. There but for the grace of God go I.

Keeping sweet with the Ferengi

The fictional Ferengi were introduced (badly) in Star Trek: the Next Generation. They were refreshed and reimagined in the spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (If you haven’t seen the series, look for an introductory tie-in titled Legends of the Ferengi. Try to get the audiobook narrated by Armin Shimerman.)

Put simply, commerce is the Ferengi religion and profit is proof of holiness. Acquisition and liquidation drives their cultural and socio-political constructs. Citizens live by 285 Rules of Acquisition which they consider holy writ. In Ferengi thought, the universe is a Great Material Continuum through which flows the Great River. This continuum has myriads of worlds, all of which contain too much of one thing and not enough of another thing. The Ferengi mystically sail the Great River which connects these distant shores, thereby profiting from the universe’s efforts to achieve equilibrium.

Profit defines their afterlife. When Ferengi males die, they expect to ascend to the Divine Treasury, where they bid on their afterlives, or to descend to the Vault of Eternal Destitution, the desolation of bankrupts and failures. In the episode “Little Green Men” a Ferengi family awakens in an exotic but ugly room. One whimpers, have they died and gone to Ferengi hell? To this Shimerman’s character “Quark” (his faith unshaken) retorts that they must be alive because “the bar was showing a profit.”

Of course, the Ferengi can know the fear of hell while still alive. The scariest thing in Ferengi society is Liquidation, a blend of the Spanish Inquisition and the tax audit. Sinners have been known to be displayed upon the sacred high place of the people and thrown to their deaths. (cf. “Bar Association,” “Small children would bet on where you would land! Your spattered remains sold as feed mulch for gree-worms!”)

Consider the episode “Body Parts.” Liquidator Brunt suspects Quark of secret sin. Brunt tricks Quark into selling his body to Brunt on the Ferengi Futures Exchange. The Liquidator then demands delivery of the merchandise. If Quark kills himself, he is a “good” Ferengi. If he refuses, he breaks a sacred contract and receives temporal ruination and eternal damnation. Quark chooses to live. He is publicly excommunicated and his possessions liquidated. His government claims even the clothes he is wearing, because he bought them with the profit he earned with his holy business license. At no time does the Liquidator renounce his right to collect the merchandise i.e., to have Quark put to death. Rather, every day that Quark lives is a fresh day that the heretic fails to repent, recant, and make restitution. He is allowed to live as a public example.

Most Ferengi who meet Liquidators do not fare as well as Quark. Still, while the Liquidators are both aggressive and numerous, space is vast, the pickings are good, and Ferengi Heaven is open to any Ferengi male who dies with decent coin in his pocket.

We noted that male Ferengi find their profits, if any, waiting for them in the afterlife. They meet the Registrar and the books are opened. No profit-and-loss statement, no business plan, no tax return can be hidden from the scrutiny of the eternal bouncer. If the supplicant fails the holy audit, he goes to Ferengi hell. If the supplicant passes the holy audit, the Registrar will accept his bribe and usher him into the presence of the Blessed Exchequer. After bribing the Blessed Exchequer for a license, the supplicant uses his remaining profit to bid on lots at auction: to acquire the afterlife package deal of one’s choice. (As for the lots themselves, it sounds like the Showcase Showdown packages on The Price is Right.)

At this point canon falls silent. Extracanonical sources disagree on what else, exactly, the Ferengi are doing at this auction. Many sources argue that the supplicant can bid on only one lot. Furthermore, he must achieve the winning bid. If he fails to win that one lot, he loses his profits and plummets shrieking downward to Ferengi hell. Even if he wins that one lot, he does not stay long in Ferengi heaven. Purportedly Ferengi males get reincarnated. Thus they are buying the life they’d like to live next.

Of course, Satisfaction is not guaranteed (19th Rule of Acquisition). Maybe the individual will prosper in his next life. Maybe he won’t. Whatever the outcome, eventually he will die, report to the Registrar for another holy audit, and start the cycle all over again. Your host has not found any canonical nirvana, rite, or mechanism by which a Ferengi could stay in Ferengi heaven forever. Apparently the cycle only stops if the individual goes to the Vault. (Either that, or when the universe dies in the Big Crunch.)

Therefore your host prefers the rarer and more obscure extracanonical interpretations. Heinlein’s Baslim would observe that one bid is not an auction, and where no minimum has been set, no less than three bids are permitted. For example, hew-mon auctions may have a ringer in the audience, an accomplice of the auctioneer. His function is to drive up the bidding—but no profit is acquired if the auction house buys back the lot (i.e. the ringer made the winning bid). Logically, the Divine Treasury might not bid against itself, as this could cause expensive lots to go unsold. Moreover, it would be unprofitable for the Divine Treasury to leave even the most modest lots unsold. Consider Rom. According to Ferengi theology, Rom bought the life he has now and was happy to get it. (Question: does anyone think Rom was a financial genius in a previous life? No? Didn’t think so.) Finally, it would be unprofitable to toss a Ferengi into the Vault when he did earn enough profit to meet the Blessed Exchequer. Even hew-mon businessmen know that something is better than nothing. How many lives can a Ferengi live between now and the Big Crunch? That’s an awful lot of return visits. That’s an awful lot of profit. Can a profitable Divine Treasury be so imprudent?

And so, a lenient interpretation of Ferengi heaven is just as valid, if improbable. The supplicant should not go to Ferengi hell if another outbids him. He just bids on something else. Nothing is known, in canon or out of it, regarding whether winners may purchase more than one lot, or whether a winner may resell a lot, but the Rules suggest that that they can and they do. (12th Rule of Acquisition: “Anything worth selling is worth selling twice.”) Such a heaven would be both solipsistic—each winner pursuing his own private vision—and fluid, expanding, ever-changing as new lots are purchased, sampled, and resold throughout eternity. And on all such transactions the Divine Treasury levies a service charge (naturally).

In truth, your host cannot recall if the following is fanon’s pseudepigraphical conjecture or merely personal headcanon, but it works. There ought to be a Great Material Continuum in the afterlife—it’s all in Plato, bless us, all in Plato—wherein Ferengi would live without fear of the auditor, the taxman, the freeloading relative. There ought to be lots for sale that let the supplicant stay in Ferengi heaven, without having to relearn learn toilet training and tax accounting ever again.

We are aware that many fans will insist there is no wiggle room: Ferengi get reincarnated and that’s that. Let us propose a compromise. Any reincarnation can only happen when the Ferengi male has concluded his heavenly business. Presumably a Ferengi who plays to a profitable stalemate (cf. Data and Kolrami playing Stratagema, TNG “Peak Performance”) could stay in Ferengi heaven indefinitely. And it wouldn’t be a staid, dour auction where the slightest twitch of a nose is a bid. No, Ferengi heaven would be fun, like a stock exchange floor in full scream. (It is canon, we seem to recall, that the Ferengi revere the ancient hew-mon site called “Wall Street.”)

Little is known of Ferengi hell. The very name of the Vault of Eternal Destitution just sounds gray, like mental depression, like old pavement. Some extracanon material suggests a listless place of shades, alone together, too oppressed in the general gloom to move or to speak. Other versions suggest a horrifically lively place. Evil entities called Auditors punish debtors (i.e., sinners) by purchasing them and making them work off their debt. Naturally the debtors can never repay, what with them accumulating new debt such as exorbitant income taxes and outrageous rent for their very cages/quarters. Lost souls also get audited daily. The numbers that doomed them are brought to mind forever, because the debtor did not pay enough attention to those numbers in life.

(In theory it is possible for lost souls to bribe their way out of Ferengi hell; in reality, the odds are not zero but they are statistically zero. If the doomed had that kind of profit and acumen, they wouldn’t have failed the holy audit in the first place.)

Legend suggests that the bogeymen who terrify Ferengi children at bedtime are evil spirits from the Vault, who steal profit from naughty children and give it to charity.

Fandom frequently asks why the Alpha Quadrant tolerates the existence of the Ferengi. The two most frequent answers tend to conflict. On the one hand, there is an over-confidence toward them that tends toward disdain. When a powerful alien asks Commander Riker if it should destroy a Ferengi vessel for Riker, Riker declines. He is comfortable in his belief that the Ferengi could “learn and grow” i.e., to learn to be more like his own nation (TNG, “The Last Outpost”). Frodo Baggins spared Saruman, but that incident lacked the quiet air of superiority we see here.

On the other hand, wars are expensive. Even for the Federation, wars are expensive. They probably should be more grateful that the Ferengi Alliance has never gone to war as we define the term. Several of the great powers of the Alpha Quadrant no longer use money; instead, they have replicators. This makes it easy for their governments to track all economic activity and to enforce transparency. The Ferengi use replicators and money. At that, they are the largest nation that accepts cash and opacity. They move effortlessly from one method of accounting to another. By any standards the Ferengi have very deep pockets. They are the superpower of all those nation-states that do not subscribe to the replicator way of life—or to the Federation way of life. The Ferengi may be avaricious, duplicitous, and relentless, but they also are neutral. They are the closest thing there is in Star Trek to a Swiss bank account. No one is ever going to declare war on the Ferengi; it is unprofitable. Too many customers (and nations) have too much to lose.

Put all this together and it becomes clear why viewers debate if the Ferengi are a legitimate fictional culture or merely a parody of a real one. For obvious reasons, new Ferengi characters tend to be explorers seeking new markets. The Ferengi must have nurses, teachers, bricklayers, firefighters, file clerks, and artists, but those aren’t the citizens we are likely to meet. We are more likely to encounter the sort whom the Federation would call predatory: robber barons, corporate raiders, space pirates, pickpockets, moneylenders, moneychangers, traveling salesmen, used-starship salesmen, casino owners, and purveyors of holosuite fantasies (i.e., owners of a No-Tell Motel).

The fact that alien races object to the Ferengi way of life is baffling to them. Do not hew-mons read the weather? Earth’s atmosphere is inherently unsettled, yet farmers plant before spring rains and reap during the fall drying. One can rail against the Great River (of air or of space-time), or one can make a life in it. This the Ferengi believe they have done.

Actor Armin Shimerman was one of the first DS9 performers to embark on the convention circuit. We witnessed him speaking enthusiastically to a room of less than twenty people. (Fandom didn’t know him yet.) The fans would inquire, “Where would you like to see Quark in the future?” The actor quipped, “Miss Dax’s bedroom!” Then, more seriously, Shimerman replied that he “would like to redeem the Ferengi from their introduction as hyperactive space gerbils.” Aliens in Star Trek are supposed to hold up a mirror to the audience, to help us see in our blind spot—to comment on the human condition. Since that time, actor and series have done a masterful job of developing an alien intelligence both arrant and shrewd—a species that exposes said blind spots whilst remaining oblivious to its own.

QUARK: “You Federation types are all alike: You talk about tolerance and understanding, but you only practice it toward people who remind you of yourselves. Because you disapprove of Ferengi values, you scorn us, distrust us, insult us every chance you get.”

CAPTAIN SISKO: “Quark, I don’t have to stand here and defend myself.”

QUARK: “Tell me, Commander, would you allow your son to marry a Ferengi female?”

SISKO: “I never thought about it!”

QUARK: “Exactly my point! …. The way I see it, hew-mons used to be a lot like Ferengi: greedy, acquisitive, interested only in profit. We’re a constant reminder of a part of your past you’d like to forget …. But you’re overlooking something: Hew-mons used to be a lot worse than the Ferengi. Slavery. Concentration camps. Interstellar wars. We have nothing in our past that approaches that kind of barbarism. You see? We’re nothing like you. We’re better.”

—from “The Jem’Hadar”, ST:DS9

But the Ferengi do wage war, practice slavery, and commit genocide (sort of). Half of all Ferengi routinely subjugate the other half. The default setting for Ferengi females is captivity when alive and Ferengi hell when they die. It is extremely illegal for them to earn profit, not to mention nearly impossible. Ferengi females receive no education, employment, or even clothing. Only lodging and food are provided, sometimes just enough to keep them alive. They are treated as little more than breeding stock. They even can be sold into “indentured servitude.” Ferengi males make no apologies. Money spent upon a wife or mother or sister or daughter is money that the male cannot hoard for himself. Besides, the Ferengi male can expect a visit from the Liquidators if he violates those boundaries.

(Aside: it is said that Gene Roddenberry personally suggested the misogyny aspect of Ferengi culture.)

The result is that the majority of lost souls in Ferengi hell may be female. Their only hope of salvation is to have a male take them into the afterlife with them. To put the matter beyond all doubt: the only way a Ferengi wife, say, can escape perdition is if her captor-husband purchases an afterlife package with her in it. If nobody buys her, well, too bad, so sad. She’s off to hell.

It’s bad enough that there must be females in Ferengi hell because her male redeemer chose to spend his money on an eternal Jet-ski instead. But if a female cannot leave her house, cannot visit or be visited, then she cannot spend time with him. If she cannot read, then she cannot send or receive letters; she cannot operate a space phone to call him. Ferengi females cannot even speak to a male without his permission. Under such circumstances, how can a female even have the chance to build the kind of relationship that would later motivate her father, husband, brother, or son to want to save her?

The 18th Rule of Acquisition states, “A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all.” Females are unpersons. But what kind of unpersons are they? Not all fanon believe that Ferengi females go to the Vault. Some argue that females get reincarnated instantaneously, with neither reward nor punishment imputed to their souls. The second theory is that females would be treated as any living thing that is not Ferengi: trees, livestock, etc. They go around just once. When they die, they go wherever those things go. The third theory is that Ferengi females just vanish. Death is extinguishment, extinction. In none of these versions is there any motivation for males to intervene.

(In the interest of full disclosure, some explanations are just plain quirky—which doesn’t necessarily mean they are false. Fandom often jokes that no male in the Vault would be permitted the comfort of females; therefore, no females would be there. It also is joked that females could still go to Ferengi heaven without profit in hand. They just have to be really good at oo-mox. Then again, it wouldn’t feel much like heaven to the female if that’s what she had to spend eternity doing.)

The affliction of Ferengi females is so entrenched that we don’t even know when, how, or why it started. Did the first Grand Nagus introduce this horrific misogyny or merely canonize it? It is this sort of thing that makes us reluctantly accept that yes, the Divine Treasury could be self-destructive enough to kill their golden goose (i.e., banish males to the Vault even after said males arrive in the Treasury).

We realized something else while scribbling. Your host is a Christian, and we believe that one of the most precious gifts God has given humanity is children—that is, God has given us the incredible privilege of helping to populate Heaven. That doesn’t happen with the Ferengi. As mentioned, the majority interpretation is that Ferengi heaven only admits visitors, not residents. If this is accurate, then except for the people who work there, Ferengi heaven is empty. In contrast, Ferengi hell is always growing. Ultimately, it will absorb all Ferengi living. As SilverJaneway learned to her grief, it is possible to have countless adventures, to get it right again and again, and still lose everything on one bad roll of the dice. All dogs may go to heaven, but all Ferengi go to hell, eventually. The Ferengi religion is a system gamed against the player. The house always wins.

Who will deliver the Ferengi? Would you believe … the house of Quark?

No, seriously. Time reveals Quark to be a heretic from a family of heretics. Quark owns a business in alien space where clothed females are both his employees and his customers—which in his culture is as scandalous as a Puritan running a bar in a nudist colony. He has three forbidden love interests: a Cardassian college professor; a Ferengi female posing as a male business partner; and a Klingon wife. His nephew Nog joins Starfleet, a nonprofit organization run by people who disparage his species. (Quoth Tom Paris, “Didn’t they warn you about Ferengi at the Academy?”) Quark’s brother Rom marries a Dabo girl (a variant on the stripper with a heart of gold) and, worse, marries for love. And if Rom isn’t in danger of Ferengi hell already, he organizes a labor union. Finally, Quark’s mother taught Quark to read, not just Ferengi First Readers—(See Brock acquire. Acquire, Brock, acquire.)—but also taught him the “holy writ”, the 285 Rules with commentary. Ishka (“Moogie”) soon attracts the attention of both the Liquidators and the Grand Nagus—and defeats them all.

The series concludes with the elevation of Rom as the new Grand Nagus of the Ferengi. Presumably Nagus Rom will issue edicts that liberate his mother from the prospect of Ferengi hell by liberating all of them. Then he really should get around to liberating hapless males like himself who are inept with money. The heretics have won … presumably. Presumably also we humans cheer, given that the premises of Ferengi hell anger and disgust us. It needed to be addressed.

But suspension of disbelief is not limited to the incredible appointment of Rom (as in, how credible, really, is this appointment). On the Great River, the Grand Nagus is the captain of the Ferengi ship of state: both politician and pope. Yet when Grand Nagus Zek spoke ex cathedra that females now could wear clothing in public, he was driven from office (“Profit and Lace”).

And that’s before Quark opens his mouth. Quark has met the wormhole aliens (“Prophet Motive”). He also believes he has met Grand Nagus Gint, who wrote the foundational Rules of Acquisition (“Body Parts”). Gint chortles that he called them rules as a marketing scheme. Nobody would purchase a book called Suggestions of Acquisition, Gint says. (239th Rule of Acquisition: “Never be afraid to mislabel a product.”) It is precisely because Quark is a heretic that he can hear and see and ponder all this without his head exploding. But there is a whole nation-state that might not be able to handle it. The Ferengi people have followed the Rules of Acquisition for ten thousand years. What is the House of Quark supposed to say to them?

Compared to changing the minds of the living, changing the fates of the dead is easy. If Rom can empty Ferengi hell with the stroke of a pen, did Ferengi hell exist in the first place? And how many innocents suffered before they came to this conclusion? Or does Ferengi hell exist in a radically different form? That is to say, what does a sinner look like? Rom is in a position to define “sin” and its opposites: holiness, happiness, and peace. But can he make the living believe it? Can he make the living live it?

Which brings us to:

Farewell to Roseannadu

Few plot twists on television are more infamous than the conclusion of the Roseanne sitcom series. The bull-in-a-china-shop rampage of Season Nine would seem to be a betrayal, an unworthy ending of a strong and relatively consistent storyline. The finale reveals the whole series to be a deceit and a fantasy.

In the end is the beginning. The closing monologue reveals “Roseanne” to be an unreliable narrator. Viewer confusion arises because both Roseannes speak (performer and character), and both are exposed as unreliable narrators.

For the character Roseanne, the unreliable-narrator revelation is obvious. We learn that almost no character has been portrayed accurately. The audience has developed relationships with the characters. Some we like. Some we loathe. In the finale, all of those relationships between audience and character are broken. And by this, we do not mean that Roseanne changed her fellow characters so that they would be unrecognizable and wouldn’t sue her. Rather, with a stroke of the pen, Roseanne arbitrarily “fixed” them in her eyes, and broke them in ours.

For starters, heterosexual characters are rewritten as homosexual characters, and vice versa. The Beverly Harris character is made homosexual (bisexual, really, because Jake) so that she would stop submitting to men and looking to men for validation. But the Beverly character becomes increasingly shrill and manipulative as part of that process.

Also, the Jackie Harris character is made heterosexual “because I always pictured [my sister] being with a man. [My sister] has been my rock.” Instead, series-Jackie arguably becomes the most neurotic character and certainly the most promiscuous one. When Jackie and her husband Fred do the math, it is revealed that Jackie has had sex with approximately sixty different men—so far. (Fred marvels, “I don’t even know sixty people.” Jackie replies dismissively, “Well, I didn’t ‘know’ all of them.”) Of all those men, Jackie meets less than five who would have been good to her (Gary, Art, Ty, Fred). Of the two men she does date, both relationships end in disaster, with Jackie and the man pointing fingers at each other for being inflexible.

As for Jackie being Roseanne’s “rock”? After watching the episode “Let Them Eat Junk,” your host hopes that Dan and Roseanne changed their will and gave the minor children back to Crystal and Ed (cf. episode “Second Time Around”). Also, Jackie’s nieces should have torn her money in half.

Next, we learn that the Becky/Mark and David/Darlene marriages never happened. Instead, the marriages “really” took the form of Becky/David and Darlene/Mark.

It is true that the series includes a brief Becky/David flirtation. Bratty Becky initially found Motorcycle Mark appealing in that he had been self-supporting from the age of sixteen. Becky wanted to move out of her parents’ house, and Mark was the fastest vehicle to take her there. But as the years go by, the younger Becky passes Mark intellectually—he had dropped out of high school—and he remains aloof, which frustrates the attention-seeking Becky. Moreover, he fails a trade school certification course and loses her respect. (Did Mark have dyslexia? ADD? Too many blows to the head from his abusive parents? He knew that he learned best with his hands; he knew he would fail a written test. No one believed him. In a tragic footnote, Glenn Quinn is the first of the actors to die—a flickering candle extinguished too soon.)

Under such circumstances, David the Doormat, the only character to graduate from high school, starts to look appealing to Becky. Late in the series, Becky expresses a desire to become a doctor, which she seems to think she cannot do as long as she is married to Mark. David would be more emotionally supportive, although it is unlikely that he could support her financially. Again, it is important to Becky that she can respect her man. David may be too much a boy for her taste, long-term.

But it is the changes to Depressed Darlene that cause the greatest shockwaves in Seasons One through Eight. In the series, Darlene morphs from fearless tomboy (the star of both the basketball and baseball teams), to a wintry teen, to an experimental author. Darlene meets the immature and clingy David in school detention. In such a relationship, Darlene feels safe. The two share a passion for underground comics, with Darlene as writer and David as illustrator. Darlene’s talent is rewarded with a college scholarship. David does not get in. The characters live in sin for a few months, with Darlene the student supporting David the runaway. (Having nothing else to do, he does not even get a job.) Darlene soon discards him for someone who does have a job and a sense of purpose. The other man just as promptly discards Darlene as an icicle, a cold heart, a fake. David the Doormat takes her back.

Late in the series, Darlene reveals that she was offered a $30,000-per-year position as an advertising copywriter—and she turned down the job. It was uninteresting, she says. She wants to finish college, she says. Her mother Roseanne is aghast. (“No Conner has ever turned down a job, ever! It’s the same reason drowning people don’t flip off the lifeguard.”) Darlene’s father Dan metaphorically turns to ice. We learn that Dan Conner has never earned $30,000 a year in his life. And so when Darlene delivers a dangerously premature baby, she does not have the excellent health insurance that this coveted job would have provided.

The loss of a Darlene/David marriage does more than to deform Darlene’s whole life. It creates an alternate reality with no plausible way for the Conner girls and Healy boys to have met. Becky might have met David in detention, had Becky the good student ever received detention.

But the Darlene/Mark scenario has no foundation. From the start series-Mark was aware of series-Darlene’s low opinion of him. For his part Mark the mechanic once expressed irritation toward series-Becky’s desire for a career because “there’s no way you could earn as much money as me.” Mark the amateur chauvinist might not have considered Darlene’s writing to be a real career worthy of relocation. Mark the abuse survivor might have been unsympathetic toward the much-loved Darlene’s stories of teenaged angst. Oh, and when the 18-year-old Mark was introduced to the series, Darlene was twelve. (Can you say “jailbait”?) Dan Conner generally is a forgiving father, and he learned to appreciate Mark for their shared love of shop class as soulcraft—but when Dan is truly angry, he is truly scary. Just ask Fisher. This is one of those things that Dan Conner never would have tolerated.

So what is left? Well, we have a scenario in which alt-Darlene and alt-Mark must have become a couple very recently, perhaps four years after series-Darlene met series-David. What is the alternative? Was Darlene even the middle child? Was she really the oldest? Another possible scenario is that Depressed Darlene never became either depressed or a writer. Instead, she may have continued in the sports/tomboy vein until her path crossed Motorcycle Mark’s path.

We call the series-Becky character Bratty Becky, for so she is; for example, she shows respect toward teachers yet feels free to show disrespect at home. The other Conners are consistent. They are equally sarcastic to strangers, employers, enemies, friends, and each other. Becky is unique in her efforts to ingratiate herself to strangers. Becky also is rather brittle. Did alt-Becky experience childhood depression instead? Would she have been strong enough to overcome it? Did nobody have it and Roseanne simply invented it? Did alt-Becky and alt-David create comic books together? If not, what interests could they have in common? Did any of Roseanne’s children inherit her writing talent? Or did Roseanne invent this too?

Roseanne said that she “fixed” her children and their marriages. (“I guess I was wrong. But I still think they’d be more compatible the other way around.”) The series version is what she wished had happened. Really? In her preferred version, the series version, the Conners ended up with two college-aged daughters, with neither of them in college. This is in spite of the fact that their college tab was already paid. Darlene had her writing scholarship, but then she went and got pregnant. And the Conners gave Becky a sum of money to enroll her in community college. It wouldn’t have paid for a trip to grad school, but it could have gotten her certified as a medical technician, dental hygienist, paralegal, etc. This would have given her the economic stability to chart her future. Instead, Becky insisted on putting her husband Mark through trade school, and we saw how that ended. Moreover, the Becky/Mark and Darlene/David couples fought constantly. Repeatedly they separated, and most of those breakups were initiated by the daughters rather than by the sons-in-law. This is “more compatible” than the alt-marriages?

By rearranging the couples, Roseanne indulges the fanfiction market but alienates the television audience. We are left with two unappealing prospects. Either the Becky/David and Darlene/Mark marriages are happy and Roseanne Conner is just messing with them for some mean-spirited private reason—or the alt-marriages are worse than the ones we saw in the series and Roseanne really did “fix” them. Either way, the audience never truly knew these characters, and we never will.

Yet for some reason David Jacob “D.J” Conner finds his voice in Season Nine. This choice is not rescinded. We didn’t know him either—he was comic relief, the pesky little brother—but here at least we see something that makes sense. D.J. becomes an amateur filmmaker. We cannot know if D.J. chose this hobby or if Roseanne merely imputed it to him. In a manner of speaking, the results are the same. It is doubtful that alt-D.J. knew CPR. If he had, he would have noticed that Dan looked far worse than the vomiting bride. This is not to single out David Jacob. Over twenty witnesses saw Dan’s condition, and none of them recognized a heart attack that day. Why did D.J. begin to make movies? Because that is a form of witnessing. Witnessing leads to testimony—and testimony has the power to change things, in Heaven and on earth. The D.J. character of Season Nine became a filmmaker to give voice to the child’s grief and pain, and to Roseanne’s guilt. D.J. must have been the one who found his father’s body.

Compared to the discombobulating revisions, the rise of D.J. Conner and the death of Dan Conner are almost reasonable. Let not the Gentle Browser misunderstand: your host watched much of Season Nine through our fingers, and cringed. Season Nine obliterated the two immutable premises of the series: the Conners’ financial struggles, and Dan and Roseanne’s marriage. Your host was embarrassed for the characters and embarrassed for the performers. Then we realized that that was the whole point: shame.

“When you’re a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security.” Well, they were never secure. Dan Conner was never the sole breadwinner of the family. During his drywalling days he probably earned less than $18,000 a year. His bike shop dragged the family deeper into debt. He quit a job at the city garage—the only job he ever had that paid benefits—to bid for a prison construction job. Since he did not live to do that work, he left no income. He blew his last paycheck on a trip to Disney World. He left four healthy adults and a sick grandchild as boomerang dependents for his widow to feed. He left two minor sons with no support. He left two mortgages on his house. He left no pension, no health insurance, no life insurance. Dan Conner died broke. He was married for 23 years. He was 44 years old.

In retrospect it is easy to distinguish the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Shame is an intruder, unwelcome, unspoken. George Bailey and Angel Clarence explore this theme more eloquently in It’s a Wonderful Life. Roseanne Conner uses her writing to wrestle with a forbidden question: would she rather have Dan and no money, or money and no Dan? In Season Nine, she concludes that she would rather have her husband. And so, after writing him out of her tale, she writes him back in.

Thus in her fantasy, Roseanne Conner gains both money and husband. In her reality, she has neither money nor husband. By the cruel standards of Ferengi hell, Dan Conner would have gone there. Roseanne Conner has never heard of Ferengi hell, but her behavior hints at the pain and shame of one who has been taught the wrong definitions of success. Dan was a success—as a human being. He was rich in love, rich in friends, rich in possibilities. He was witty, generous, loyal, and kind. He worked doggedly; he played joyfully; he dreamed big. He never stopped hoping, never stopped trying, never stopped believing. On the one hand, the series did not portray him accurately, in the sense that he reacted to plot points that either were mutilated or nonexistent. On the other hand, the series portrayed him more faithfully than it portrayed any other character, including the narrator herself. It is no coincidence that Dan Conner is one of television’s top-ten favorite dads. By worldly standards he had very little, but he gave all he had.

We mentioned that the closing monologue also exposes Roseanne-the-performer as an unreliable narrator. This requires the audience to know something of the creation of the series. Characters came and went based on the availability of the performers. Characters, performers, and writers also came and went based on their ability to live peaceably with Roseanne-the-performer. This may be why the closing monologue includes lines that would exasperate Roseanne-the-character, especially this one:

“I learned that dreams don’t work without action; I learned that no one could stop me but me.”

It’s easy for a performer, and for the audience, to observe where Roseanne Conner could have made different choices. When she lost a job for lack of computer skills, did she sign up for computer classes? No. Should she have encouraged her husband to purchase a motorcycle store if the previous owner went bankrupt? Probably not. Should the Conners have sent Roseanne to community college instead of sending Becky? Maybe. Should the Conners have rented part of their house to paying boarders instead of letting their unemployed adult children move in with them? Almost certainly. Do Dan and Roseanne have even five dollars—the price of a Little Caesar’s pizza—in a retirement account fund? Almost certainly not. And so on, and so on.

But if determination and hard work were enough, then the Conners would have prevailed. Dan and Roseanne have been known to work four simultaneous jobs between them (example: “Vegas” / “Vegas Vegas”), plus unpaid maintenance of the family and home. Twice Roseanne loses a job (11 years of seniority at Wellman Plastics; fry girl at a chicken joint) because of extortionist bosses. Neither standing up to them nor bowing down to them makes any difference. Telemarketing does not pay enough. Shampoo-girl at the beauty salon ends when she is hit by a customer’s car. The department-store cafeteria closes.

The series ends with Roseanne owning a quarter share in a luncheonette that might not support her a year from now. Her business partners have incompatible agendas. The diner faces competition from stronger restaurants with drive-through windows. Commodities prices (beef, wheat, etc.) could rise. Road construction or the death-spiral of the town’s largest employer (Wellman Plastics) could chase away their customers. And if the diner does close, sister Jackie will lose her income and her house, and will try to move in with Roseanne yet again. In truth, outside forces can and do undermine Roseanne’s efforts.

In contrast, Mark the mechanic would have excellent job prospects if he lived in the economy of today. (The Gentle Browser is invited to notice all tire stores, oil-change establishments, auto garages, and collision/body shops along your route today. For every ten such businesses you pass, do you see almost ten Help Wanted signs?)

It’s difficult to predict the future. The Conners, a family of nine with only one high-school graduate (i.e. David the starving artist) and one college student (Darlene the creative writer) are particularly unprepared for that future. This is the true purpose of schooling: to teach a child how to learn. A comprehensive education should prepare the student for opportunities—for careers—that do not yet exist.

In the end, where Roseanne the character may struggle for the rest of her life, Roseanne the performer has succeeded. It is one thing to note that Roseanne Conner is not successful like her namesake. It is another thing to assume that it’s a character flaw that she’s not. The fact is that if Roseanne Conner did everything on Someone Else’s List, then they would just find something else to complain about. In other words, it was never about the list. As the character protests in the aforementioned “TWSotF,” “It’s like you’re one of them and you’re putting us down.” Or to go back to Star Trek for a moment, “It is possible to do your best and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.

Closing thoughts

Not all Gentle Browsers come to this site for our material on the Left Behind series. This is one of the few Lenten seasons that your host has not added to that project either. But there is a theme in common: relationships. Left Behind introduces over fifty Saved protagonists, who then watch their families get saved. We can count on one hand the number of saved characters who will never see their families again, characters who know beyond all doubt that their loved ones are in hellfire: Hattie Durham (dead sister Nancy), Leah Rose (dead husband), little Ryan Daley (dead mommy and daddy), and Cendrillon Jospin’s parents (dead birthday girl). The overwhelming majority of saved characters join their families in Heaven. In Left Behind, virtually all broken relationships are healed. This year we find ourselves writing about relationships that are broken: between characters, between character and writer, between character and writer and audience.

These broken relationships stir up strong emotions. We can hardly criticize viewers who declare that the finale of Roseanne ruined the reruns for them. Your host had much the same reaction to How I Met Your Mother. We learned that The Mother was long dead and that the Narrator was eager to remarry—“had the hots” to remarry—at the same time. We were given no time to mourn The Mother, and no permission either. The series should have been called How I Am So Totally Over Your Mother. (The fact that it took years just to give her a name probably should have tipped us off.)

The starship SilverBlood Voyager perished, failing to leave even a memorial buoy of their existence. Ferengi females live and die by the billions and are only remembered if a male redeemer deems them worthy of remembrance. Roseanne Conner succeeded in leaving a legacy of people who never existed, not as we knew them. The reactions of their disparate audiences have certain themes in common: resentment, denial, fear.

Resentment is awkward. Resentment is real. “Course: Oblivion” is the only eulogy the lost souls of SilverBlood Voyager will ever get, and audiences resent having seen it. They feel “tricked” into watching, “betrayed” by being led to care about “imposters,” as if they were the next-of-kin of whom SilverTom spoke with such feeling.

Meanwhile, thousands or millions of Ferengi females live right here on earth, crying in the dark where nobody knows and nobody sees, except we earthlings call them women. In fact it is worse—many places on earth are dangerous for all human souls: men and women and children. We resent that nagging feeling that we could get up off our left behinds (and our right behinds too) and do something to help them. Bad Ferengi! to spoil our leisure with your appeals to our conscience!

And then there’s Roseanne (one, the other, both, take your pick), who admitted that she told us a story but so what? It’s her story and her right to do as she pleases. It doesn’t matter; it doesn’t count. Viewer resentment arises from our internal conflict. We know these characters do matter; therefore we should care. If only they did not matter, then we would be free not to care, and we wouldn’t have these uncomfortable feelings.

Resentment emerges frequently in storytelling, both false tales and true. Pixar’s Inside Out is a light-hearted illustration of the almost oppressive relentlessness of Joy—of inappropriate pressure to “put on a happy face.” Sadness is misunderstood and rejected. But Sadness is the emotion which helps us to process loss, the emotion which alerts us when we are overwhelmed and need help. The characters must learn that there is a difference between making a young girl happy versus doing what is best for her.

Betsy Burnham’s When Your Friend is Dying includes a devastating incident in which her church’s prayer circle walked out on her. If she were really saved, they maintained, then her cancer would have been cured. They considered her an imposter and resented her for it. Another friend who was not in the prayer circle then appeared in the author’s life. He remained steadfast through the end, becoming an answer to a different prayer. (Because this is a true story, your host sometimes wonders if the others read the author’s book after her death, and came to see their mistake and did better next time. We hope they did. We like to think they did.)

But the most exhaustive treatise is Barbara Ehrenrich’s Bright-Sided. Ehrenreich cites numerous examples in which people in distress were urged to minimize asking for help. The pressure was the same regardless of whether the supplicant was physically ill, financially desperate, spiritually troubled, or legally within their rights for redress. The author concludes that people in distress may be coerced to “look on the bright side”—to be quiet—because their distress and their needs are inconvenient to others. Resentment arises in the stronger party when the weaker party will not, or cannot, follow the script.

“It will never happen to me.” Denial and resentment and fear can walk hand in hand. If it happened to you, then maybe it could happen to me. “If we can find something that separates us—something you did wrong—then I will not do that bad thing, and it will never happen to me.” But if nothing separates us, then the victim may not be a worse person (Luke 13:1-5), and the observer may not be a better person. We might not be special! We can quarantine the other person, or stop watching that television show, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Jesus says I am special to Him—but if I were special, it wouldn’t happen to me. What happens if it does happen?

Sometimes we find it hard to give ourselves permission to feel grief and hurt. Some of the pressure is external (our need to be acceptable in the sight of other people), and some is internal (when we struggle to trust God and ourselves with strong emotions). Often we must remind ourselves that God does not condemn us, even though others might, when we do not immediately put on our “company faces” or resume normal routines after a life-shattering experience. Christians have a Savior Who understands what it is like to be like us (John 11:35, Hebr. 2:18, 4:15). Jesus wept. Sadness is not a sin.

Resentment, denial, and fear are not necessarily the reasons that Rapturist Christians believe in the Rapture. (In truth, most Rapturists believe it simply because they believe that the Bible teaches it.) But we all have emotional needs for acknowledgment, to know that we know that we are special to someone.

Hal Lindsey makes the bold claim “that many of you who are reading this will experience this mystery. You will never know what it is to die physically” (Lindsey, Rapture, p. 43). As Abanes notes, “The inescapable theme permeating the messages of the prophecy pundits could not be any clearer: we are a special generation. Hence, we as individuals must also be unique in God’s eyes. Every person alive has the distinction of being picked to see history’s culmination. Such a notion is much more appealing than the thought of having to work a boring job for the next twenty or thirty years, only to die in obscurity as billions of people have previously done. Many cannot resist believing that they stand at the very pinnacle of history” (Abanes, End-Time Visions, p. 316).

(Carl Olson, Will Catholics Be Left Behind, page 202, footnote 69)

(i.e., Olson quoting Abanes quoting Hal Lindsey)

Think about that. To die in obscurity, as billions of people have previously done. Dead like the SilverBloods. Dead like the Ferengi. Dead like Dan Conner. Ah, wait, the Gentle Browser says, Dan Conner will be remembered. Yes, but how accurately? Yes, but for how long? In time everyone who knows him will also be dead. Dead like our grandparents. But we remember our grandparents. Yes, but do you remember their grandparents? Or their grandparents? Or your 129th grandparents? Or do you only know that they existed because you are here?

And that’s just the souls who were fruitful and multiplied. The village old-maid (*cough*), the hapless soldier, the child who died of fever: none of these left any proof they were ever here. But the broken branches and the main trunk all end up the same: dead. Even countries die, with new tribes and new faces wandering through some graveyard gone to nature and plowing their fields with no knowledge of the way things used to be. (To some extent we all eat Soylent Green.)

Even being famous won’t necessarily make a difference. Consider Eve, “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). When is Eve’s birthday? How many children did she have? What lullabies did she sing? What stories did she tell? Did she paint? Did she study the stars? Was she a cat person or a dog person? Was she brave, smart, happy? Were they in love? Which one died first? How old was she when she died? Where is she buried? What do you mean you don’t know? It’s your MOM! We know so little that many people do not even believe Eve was real—and those of us who do can’t prove it.

Sometimes viewers just aren’t in the mood for stories that hit too close to home. That doesn’t make the story bad, or in some other way unworthy of the telling. We all ponder such questions sooner or later, or sooner. As a perpetual celibate, your host has made peace with the fact that no one person’s world will be shattered if something happens to us. Aside from any pets, your host will never be the most important person in anybody’s life. If the Gentle Browser finds this prospect distressing, then the celibate vocation probably isn’t for you. But even with people who come from large families, eventually someone will be the last one. If the Lord tarries His Coming long enough, the day will come when none of us now living are left, and the Lord will be the only One in this world Who still remembers us.

What a blessing that we have a God Who never forgets us, Who neither leaves us nor forsakes us. What a blessing that as Christ rose, we will rise, and all who seek His face will live in His Presence and His peace forever. Sin and death are real words—but with Christ our Lord, they are not the last word.

I take, o Cross, thy shadow for my abiding place
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the Cross.

In this season of Lent, let us remember the One Who never forgets us; let us return to the One Who never leaves us; let us live for the One Who died for us; and let us be ready when we die to meet, to join, the One Who lives and reigns forever and ever.




On money as a character on television

This article originally appeared on the World’s Finest: Batman, Superman, and Beyond website.

Money. We need it, we want it, but when we get it we don’t always know what to do with it. Parents often don’t teach money skills. Schools often can’t teach it because parents tell schools that only parents should teach it. Too many children learn nothing about money. Then years pass and the parents wonder why their 30-year-old children won’t move out of the basement.

It is staggering that people can be financially illiterate in a culture that celebrates money. Specialty newspapers, broadcast stations, and websites provide us with daily or hourly updates about other people’s money. This information is entertaining but often useless. Strangers determine the interest rate you pay for your purchases—but who makes you overspend? Alan Greenspan has no voice in your personal decision to max out your credit cards. The fluctuation of the dollar versus the pound is irrelevant to your decision to finance a shiny new car instead of paying cash for a dependable used station wagon with no options.

What messages do the media send about money? Advertising tries to teach us to spend. Lottery shows teach us to waste money. (The lottery is “the tax on people who are bad at math.”) Televised game shows are marginally better, since they allow participants to trade a certain talent for money. One contestant solves puzzles. Another answers trivia (“in the form of a question, please”). Those contestants who trade their dignity for a chance at a prize are likely to go home with neither item. Reality shows are a warped exaggeration of game shows.

Reality programs teach money skills in brazen and cruel ways. Yet they also illuminate personal failings that a contestant would not have acknowledged under more polite circumstances. A reader once asked Rabbi Joseph Telushkin his opinion of the Who wants to marry a millionaire series. He replied that it reminded him of

“a famous story told of George Bernard Shaw, who once met a beautiful woman at a party and asked her if she would sleep with a man for a million pounds. ‘I would,’ the woman answered. ‘And would you sleep with a man for five pounds?’ The woman grew indignant. ‘What do you think I am?’ she asked. Shaw responded, ‘We’ve already established what you are. Now we’re haggling over the price.’”

So if you believe the media can educate the public about money, you could do worse than to look to its storytellers. Let’s start with the Star Trek spinoff Deep Space Nine. (If you haven’t seen the series, look for an excellent introductory tie-in titled Legends of the Ferengi. Try to get the audiobook narrated by Armin Shimerman.) The Ferengi worship money. Citizens live by 285 Rules of Acquisition which they consider holy writ. Ferengi women receive no education, employment, or even clothing. Only lodging and food are provided, just enough to keep them alive. Ferengi men make no apologies. Money spent upon a wife or mother or daughter is money that the man cannot hoard for himself. Indeed, the man must hoard so that he can take it with him. For when the Ferengi die, they expect to go either to the Blessed Exchequer to bid on their afterlives, or to the Vault of Eternal Destitution, the desolation of bankrupts and failures. In the episode “Little Green Men” a Ferengi family awakens in an exotic but ugly room. One whimpers, have they died and gone to The Bad Place? To this Shimerman’s character, his faith unshaken, retorts that they must be alive because “the bar was showing a profit.”

We shake our heads at the fictional Ferengi, and indeed the other characters in DS9 almost universally loathe them. But at least the Ferengi are honest enough to admit that they worship money. Ferengi aren’t the only species who don’t let a little thing like death disrupt their financial influence and dominance. (Human financial planners describe estate planning as the tool the dead use to impose their values upon the living.) Ferengi aren’t the only beings who use money to measure self-worth. And the Ferengi aren’t the only creatures to make beggars of their loved ones.

Situation comedies also examine our behavior with money. Two sitcoms made money a starring character: Good Times and Roseanne. While these series would never be mistaken for each other they have themes in common. The parents tell their children plainly that they want the children to go to college. The parents cannot pay for college. The children become frustrated and try to marry out. Then the new spouse loses his own financial prospects. The child and spouse move back home, bringing more mouths to feed. The wife earns minimum wage or less, yet she is employed more often than her husband precisely because her employer can pay her less than a man. (In one episode of Good Times James Evans is told to his face that the company intends to hire his wife to save money. As a Black employee and a woman, Florida Evans would fill two quotas. If the company hired James, it would have to hire a second person to fill the second quota.) And both series show characters falling prey to get-rich-quick schemes. Is it coincidence that the get-rich-quick storyarcs were the most reviled aspect of both series, criticized both by the audience and by some of the actors?

Television series which make money a starring character portray the sheer desperation behind lack. They also inquire whether love alone is enough to hold together a family without food.

An alternate reality appears in sitcoms like Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In this series a poor teenager is sent to live with wealthy relatives. While the culture clash is entertaining, the series never did answer one question: If Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv are so wealthy, why did they take in Will but leave his mother in the ghetto in Philly? By all accounts Will’s mother is a wonderful woman who just happens to live in a dangerous neighborhood. (Did they answer the question and we missed that episode?) No such confusion is to be found on The Bernie Mac Show. Bernie Mac’s nieces and nephew have been removed from their drug-addicted mother. Much culture clash ensues. For Bernie Mac, the challenge is not just to teach the children about money, but to convince them that money is only a small part of a well-disciplined life.

Still another series with financial overtones is The Golden Girls. This 1980s gem is making a surprise comeback among college students. (Perhaps this is because so many teenagers grew up without ever knowing their grandparents … though we would prefer to think they watch because the series is funny. Fornicating, yes, but funny.) The Southern belle Blanche takes in tenants to help her pay the mortgage. The first tenant is Dorothy, a cynical substitute teacher whose ex-husband took her money and ran off with a trophy wife. Another tenant is Rose, a widowed housewife whose natural sweetness and sheltered background have left her unprepared to be poor in old age. The third tenant is Dorothy’s widowed mother Sophia, who marches into the pilot episode with the brusque line, “Go pay the cab. Nobody died. The home burned down.”

These characters pool their financial resources to survive. Yet money also exposes their weaknesses. Blanche fears old age. (She was a great beauty in her youth.) She looks to men for validation. As a result Blanche attracts numerous con artists, including a bigamist, an abuser, and a pen pal in prison. Blanche’s housemates are also good-looking, but the con men gravitate to Blanche because an anxious person with property is more attractive than a penniless lady or gentleman with a great personality. (Some of you single or widowed readers may have had a similar experience.)

Originally Rose works to supplement a small pension. When her late husband’s company declares bankruptcy it cancels that pension. She applies for higher-paying jobs but is turned away because of her age. A few seasons into the series, Rose’s daughter asks Rose for a financial accounting. The daughter is horrified, Rose humiliated. The adult children had been told that their father Charlie was a great success. How then could Rose have been reduced to renting a spare bedroom in a stranger’s house? The daughter accuses Rose of wasting Charlie’s life savings. Now the children will inherit nothing from their father. An angry Sophia rebukes Rose’s daughter. Charlie had left Rose almost nothing. When Rose called her dear late husband a success, she meant as a human being. He was a devoted husband and a loving father. These things meant everything to Rose—but when the children hear Charlie described as successful, their attitude is that success equals money. Therefore Rose is called a fool or a thief is she cannot document the money’s existence. Sophia (who has been poor) appreciates that human relationships create their own measure of wealth. Rose’s situation demonstrates how even happy families sometimes have very different values about money.

Dorothy and her family provide the most stark illustrations of money. Everyone wants Dorothy’s money. Her ex-husband Stan tries to rekindle their relationship simply so that she will pay his bills. When Stan finally makes serious money, he becomes more attractive in her eyes. But in the end, Stan is Stan. He springs a prenup on her on the day of their wedding—a document which ensures that the aging Dorothy will receive absolutely nothing if he abandons her yet again. Dorothy is forced to admit that Stan’s money is the only thing that could have made her desire such a scoundrel.

Next Dorothy must fend off her freeloading adult son. Michael, aged 23 and white, marries Lorraine, aged 44 and Black, to take responsibility for making her pregnant. It turns out to be the only responsible thing he does. The couple overcomes the objections of both families, but their marriage cannot survive Michael’s laziness. He will not get a job; very well, Lorraine throws him out. She is already carrying one baby, she says. Michael tries to move in with his mother, but Dorothy too tells him to get a job. Then his grandmother Sophia gives Michael money and Stan takes him in. Dorothy must convince her relatives to stop coddling Michael and throw him out. In theory Michael is the best educated, healthiest, and most employable person in his family. He just doesn’t work. In contrast his 85-year-old grandmother takes a job as activities director at a nursing home, and works herself into the ground in the stunning “The Days and Nights of Sophia Petrillo” (a.k.a. the nectarine episode), while Michael roams southern Florida moaning that “There are just no jobs out there that are right for me.” The parallels to Stan are unmistakable. Dorothy’s dilemma echoes the dilemma of real-world parents who don’t want to carry their adult children. She is not cruel, but she is resolute, and she is right.

Finally, Dorothy has to accept the changing reality of her relationship with her mother. Dorothy never wanted to put Sophia in a nursing home. A previous stroke had left Sophia too ill to take care of herself. Dorothy placed her in Shady Pines and liquidated Sophia’s estate to pay for her care. When the money was gone, Medicaid/Medicare took over. Sophia eventually recovered. Dorothy lives under a black cloud of guilt because she doubted her mother would ever recover, and she didn’t fetch Sophia from Shady Pines when she did recover. When the nursing home burns down, the now-healthy Sophia has no place to live. She moves in with Dorothy. Sophia loves her daughter, but she hated the nursing home and she salts that rain cloud every chance she gets.

In a follow-up episode Dorothy catches Sophia hiding a modest investment. Setting aside any quibbles about whether Medicaid/Medicare has a claim to that money, Dorothy is outraged on a personal level. “It’s all right, Ma, I don’t need a vacation. It’s all right, Ma, my old car will last another year. I scrimp and save and do without to take care of you, and all this time you were holding out on me!” Dorothy insists that from now on she will not purchase so much as a toothbrush for her mother. But tempers cool, and Dorothy reconsiders.

What Dorothy really wants to know is, Why? Why would Sophia hide money? Sophia has two reasons. One is image. Being poor hurt her. Having her home sold out from under her humiliated her. She admits she is very sensitive to other people’s opinions. “How many times have you heard, he provided well or she didn’t leave a dime. I don’t want anyone saying that about me. And after I die I want you kids to be able to buy something nice and say, I have this because of Ma. That’s how I want you to remember me.” Dorothy thanks her, then admits that she now enjoys taking care of her mother. “Enough to buy a pool?” Dorothy replies, “Don’t push it, Ma.”

Sophia has another reason. She could outlive her children. (They think Dorothy might die in one episode, and Sophia’s son Phil does die.) Sophia never wants to end up in Shady Pines again. Later Sophia witnesses a financial disaster that confirms her worst fears (and perhaps ours as well). “The girls” spend the night in a homeless shelter looking for a valuable jacket they accidentally donated. As they search, Sophia meets a friend her own age. This woman is so poor that even Shady Pines won’t accept her. The government’s poverty programs have not protected her. She is just another widow in her eighties who has fallen through the cracks. No wonder Sophia is such a pack rat. We all say, It will never happen to me. The truth is, you don’t know that.

According to The Golden Girls’s internal chronology, Sophia would have been born in 1900. It’s just as well that she’s a fictional character. She might not have liked the 21st Century. Medicaid has been cheated too often by prospective patients who hide money in their children’s names so that the government will pay for their nursing home care. Sometimes it is the children who think of it. They promise to take care of Ma if Ma gives them their inheritance a little early. Then they “take care” of Ma by impoverishing her enough to qualify for Medicaid instead of, say, using her money to get her the best care.

To combat this fraud, Medicaid enforces a three-year “Lookback” rule. “Lookback” means that if a patient moved money out of her name within the past three years, Medicaid assumes the transfer was made to hide the asset. The burden of proof is upon the patient to demonstrate honest intentions. If Medicaid does not believe her, she is penalized “x” number of months for each offense. “Penalty” means that they don’t pay her. They don’t house her. They don’t feed her.

As states struggle to balance their budgets, several have quietly adopted a Lookback period of six years instead of three. The AARP is still howling. They protest that sudden health catastrophes do occur, and that few people can reasonably prophesy what their health might be four years from now, let alone seven. Additionally, elderly relatives who transfer their assets to their relatives do not necessarily see a penny of it again. Relatives divorce, remarry, or get sued. Ma’s money walks away in the legal settlement. Finally, many people ask Ma to trust them with her money when they have shown no restraint with their own money. Few of these “helpers” can endure a financial fast of three years. In fact statistics show that more than half of all people who come into a large sum of money spend it all within a year.

States argue that a six-year Lookback will force more people to buy nursing home insurance. Thus fewer people will need Medicaid; Medicaid can pursue its original mission of helping the truly destitute. Also, we know we will grow old someday and we have decades to plan such eventualities. Surely in our modern era people are better educated about their finances. An obvious problem with the states’ argument is that the people who are already too old or too sick to buy nursing home insurance will fall through the cracks. And then there’s that “sudden catastrophe” scenario. Most people don’t know this, but many nursing homes will accept residents as young as teenagers, so long as they follow the same rules as Grandma and Grandpa (and as long as the facility gets paid). But how many people buy nursing home insurance when they’re still in college? Finally, this type of insurance is not standardized yet, so it’s very inconsistent, confusing, and discouraging.

So if you have a Sophia in the house, don’t even try to touch her money. If you touch it, use it to get her the best care. If you wouldn’t want to live in the El Cheapo wing at The Home, then maybe Ma doesn’t deserve to be treated that way either. Besides, Ma’s grandchildren will learn from your example. Surely what was good enough for Grandma will be good enough for you. In the end, I did right by her is a much better feeling than, Ewww, sick people.

Your host always did have trouble closing this article, so we’re just going to stop now. We will just note that not everything on television is garbage after all.

Book review: The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Kanata a.k.a. Kanata Konami

(Added September 2016)

Because sometimes you’ve just got to read a kitten manga.

Chi’s Sweet Home is the endearing tale of a lost kitten who finds a home. How long is this one’s list of recommendations? They just keep coming: Anime Diet, Bookworm’s Corner, Comics Reporter, Comics Worth Reading, iFanboy.com, Manga Critic, Manga Curmudgeon, Manga Xanadu, Mania.com, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and at least ten more.

The manga opens with a tiny gray-and-white tabby wandering away from Mama-cat and falling into the path of Yohei, a human toddler about the same mental age. The Yamada family take her home with them. Chi (so called because she used to wee around the house) and Yohei learn toilet training together, as well as how to eat, sleep, play, and share. Yohei’s parents try to find the kitten a home and are saddened by the long list of pleas from strangers who also are trying to give away cats. Chi is so little that she cannot eat solid food and has no chance of surviving on her own. The humans soon realize that this squeaking pile of fluff is here to stay. (They don’t put up that much of a fight.)

Much of the collection is simply vignettes of life: baby’s first bath, baby’s first kibble, first time she can jump so-high, and first encounter with bouncy-balls. Only six characters appear in the first book: the four Yamadas (Daddy, Mommy, Yohei, and Chi), the landlady, and a sleek and handsome bobtail nicknamed “the bearcat” for its sheer confidence and size. The simply told tale shows Chi’s excitement, wonder, and puzzlement at the complexities of her world. Mommy scolds her for destroying houseplants, but it’s fine to chew on grass outside? Daddy stays home from work sick one day but doesn’t play with her? And is the Bearcat a foe or a friend? Through Chi’s eyes we see all things afresh, as if for the first time.

Light sketch pencils and subtle watercolors render the panels luminous and airy. Yes, this manga is in color (rather rare for the genre). So effectively does the art communicate a kitten’s point of view that the reader has no idea how compact the Yamadas’ home really is. Only after Part 1 (478 pages) do we learn that the humans’ 4-room apartment is only 670 square feet.

For the Yamadas, a loving family and kind, characterization is gentle and leisurely. Mommy is a stay-at-home mother who takes care of Yohei and his kitty-sister. Daddy warms to the kitty quickly—the title was serialized in a men’s weekly magazine, after all—and cannot resist buying her toys and treats. They even dream about her. Chi’s relationships with them get tested now and then as they do things for her good that make her angry, such as trimming her claws or taking her to the vet. But overall, Chi and the Yamadas make each other very happy, and not coincidentally the hordes of voracious readers.

It would seem incredible that any but an inveterate cat-hater would criticize a kitten manga, but complaints do exist. These fall into two categories: dialogue and a lack of unifying plot. (Personally your host was more distracted by the “smile of fear” and “smile of sadness,” both of which are staple illustrations in manga but are less commonplace in Western art.)

Nevertheless, hypercritical reader, meet nitpicking reviewer. Your host diligently counted every word of Chi’s dialogue for the first 100 pages (“Homemades 1-12”). We did not penalize artificial contractions like “ain’t, gonna, wanna, lemme, or gimme” on the grounds that, while not Oxford grammar, they are all pronounced correctly. Chi “speaks” 476 words and lisps 59 of them. This is a ratio of about 12.4 percent. Chi is a baby. Babies use baby talk. The only person in Chi’s life who can understand her anyway is the Bearcat, and he is a mighty hunter, not a speech therapist. If the Gentle Curmudgeon truly finds this percentage of twee too insurmountable, one can always pretend it is a wordless book. The art certainly is expressive enough for it. Alternately, may we suggest the related manga FukuFuku, about an adult grumpy cat. Otherwise, Chi’s efforts are quite respectable when compared to a species that cannot correctly pronounce Arya, nuclear, or February.

As for the other objection, that the series has no plot, what of it? Babies do not have a plot. Babies have lives. Consider the TV program Seinfeld, “the show about nothing.” Your host found the series unappealing and its popularity inexplicable. Clearly many earthlings disagreed. Then of course there is the great Bambi. Bambi has no plot. Bambi needs no plot. Sometimes there is no accounting for taste. Therefore, if any should disparage Emergency Kitten for lacking a plot, your host is of the opinion that plot is not your real problem.

What the collection does have is choices. Chi and the Bearcat are living in an apartment complex that prohibits pets. One might question why their owners allow them to roam outside where the cats would be seen, but the author attempts to show the escape-artist inclinations of such smart kitties. Bearcat ultimately is caught because he cannot resist his mad desire to hunt (steal) just one more meal: defrosting salmon, bucket of chicken, and Chi’s own plate. Chi’s owners watch in distress and awe as the Bearcat’s owners are evicted. “They chose their cat over their home.” The Yamadas are left to wonder, what will they do about Chi? And where did Chi come from? She was too little to be separated from her mother. Did Chi once have a home? Does someone miss her there? But these are long-term questions and do not hover sword-of-Damocles style over day-to-day living.

[SPOILER]: Chi and the Yamadas return in the brand new manga series, Chi’s Sweet News, set in Paris, in fall of 2016. [/end SPOILER]

The comic, originally serialized in the seinen (Japanese men’s magazine) Weekly Morning (2004-2015) is available both as a traditional manga (right-to-left) and in the reviewed omnibus edition (3 volumes in one “part”/book and published Western-style i.e. left-to-right). The title’s popularity has grown exponentially: as an anime (animated presentation) available on DVD and by streaming Crunchyroll; plus calendars, posters, and official websites of Chi’s plushies photobombing their way around the globe. A new anime adaptation in 3D-CG is scheduled to air on October 2, 2016.

Summary: instant classic. Read this.

The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, Part 1 by Konami Kanata (Kanata Konami). 478 pages.

Originally published in Japanese as Chiizu Suiito Houmu 1-3. First published Tokyo, Japan: Kodanasha, Ltd., c2004-2006. First serialized in Morning, Kodansha, Ltd., 2004-2015.

English language version: Omnibus edition. Printed Western-style (left-to-right). Contains 3 volumes per part: “Homemade 1-56” vignettes plus 3 bonus vignettes: “A cat meets FukuFuku,” “Kitten FukuFuku,” and “Kitten FukuFuku: You Called?” Imprint New York: Vertical Comics/Vertical, Inc. (www.vertical-comics.com). Translation copyright 2010, 2015 by Vertical, Inc. Manufactured in Canada.

Omnibus edition ordering information:

The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, Part 1. (Volumes 1-3.) 478 pp. ISBN 9781942993162
The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, Part 2. (Volumes 4-6.) 464 pp. ISBN 9781942993179
The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, Part 3. (Volume 7-9.) 480 pp. ISBN 9781942993483
The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, Part 4. (Volumes 10-12.) Publication date December 2016. (est. 480 pp.) ISBN 9781942993575

See also:

http://www.crunchyroll.com (streaming website for the anime)
http://www.discotekmedia.com (another streaming website for the anime)
http://www.chi-sweethome.tumblr.com (Chi calendar and posters)

Winner (multi-year awards): Manga.Ask.Com, Best Children’s Manga.
Nominee: 2010 Cybils Awards.
Nominee: 2016 Dwayne McDuffie Awards. (Results to be announced in February 2017).

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

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

(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 (Part 2 of 2)

Discussion exercise (optional): Fun with math. How long was Antichrist Carpathia dead, versus how long was Jesus Christ dead?

Antichrist Carpathia is assassinated on a Friday. Sculptor Guy Blod has approximately 29 hours to create the idol, and it has to be finished by Sunday sunrise. (It is.) Let us propose that sunrise is 6 a.m. (0600 hours). Carpathia was scheduled to be buried on a Sunday at 2 p.m. (1400 hours). Instead, Carpathia comes to life between 1330 hours (1:30 p.m.) and 1400 hours (2 p.m.). Tsion has not yet seen the indwelling when he has to abandon his television. Let us propose it was as late as 1359 hours (1:59 p.m.). Therefore Carpathia had been dead for 8 hours (less a minute) from Sunday sunrise. Guy’s deadline adds another 29 hours. Tsion Ben-Judah states that “two hours” after the assassination, GC-CNN news confirms the death. This gives us a total of 39 hours dead, less a minute. Your host calculates that Carpathia died at 11 p.m., on Friday night. (Sources: Volume 7, pp. xii, 65-66, 217, 292, 362, 364-366, 370.) Put it another way: Carpathia is dead for two “darks” and two “brights.” Perhaps the artificial darkness of idol-smoke in the midday sun counts as a “both,” a bright and a dark. Perhaps.

Regarding Jesus, most Christians observe Good Friday, Low Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday. Scripture tells us that Jesus died at 3 p.m. (1500 hours) (Matt. 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46). The women went to His tomb to anoint Him. They arrived just before sunrise “on the first day of the week” i.e., Sunday (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1, John 20:1). Again, let us name 6 a.m. (0600 hours) as sunrise. Since the women arrived just before sunrise, let us propose it was as late as 5:59 a.m. (0559 hours). From Friday at 3 p.m. (1500 hours) to Sunday sunrise at 5:59 a.m. (0559 hours) also is 39 hours, less a minute.

In both cases, the Gentle Browser is invited to check our math. Notice that we have sought the maximum number of hours (39 hours). It could have been less. That’s a bit of a problem, because Jesus said He would be dead for more. Jesus said “three days and three nights” (Matt. 12:40). Three days and three nights is 72 hours, not 39 hours. As a child, your host was told that two “brights” (part of Friday, all of Saturday), plus two “darks” (Fri/Sat overnight, Sat/Sun overnight), plus one “both” (sunrise Sunday) counted as three days and three nights. As a child, your host was told by another teacher that a 24-hour clock running on modern time can be divided into three days and three nights.

As an adult, your host became aware of alternate theories. A small but vocal minority argue that Jesus died on Good Wednesday, not Good Friday. Their argument is:

• The Jewish day runs from sunset to sunset, because “the evening and the morning were the nth day” (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).
• The first month of the Jewish year was called Abib (Exod. 23:15, 34:18; Deut. 16:1).
• Later, that same first month was renamed Nisan (Esth. 3:7).
• The Passover is to be observed on the 14th day of the first month (i.e., Nisan) of the Jewish year (Exod. 12:18; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:1-3, 28:16).
• The Feast of Unleavened Bread following the Passover is to be observed for seven days (Exod. 12:15, 18, 34:18; Lev. 23:6; Num. 28:17).
• Therefore, The Feast of Unleavened Bread following Passover is to be observed from 15 Nisan through 21 Nisan.
• The lamb is to be slaughtered “in the evening” of the Passover, on 14 Nisan (Exod. 12:6; Deut. 16:2, 6; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7).
• Jesus was and is the Lamb of God (Exod. 12:5, 46; Numb. 9:12; Psa. 34:20; Isa. 53:7; John 1:29, 13:1, 19:36; Acts 8:32-35; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:6, 13:8).
• Most Gentile Christians know only of the weekly Sabbath: the day of rest. In Judaism, that day runs from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (Gen. 2:2-3, Exod. 20:8-11, 23:12, 34:21; Deut. 5:12-15; Isa. 58:13).
• Most Gentile Christians do not know that there can be more than one Sabbath in a week.
• For example, there are three Sabbaths in Passover week. There is the regular weekly Sabbath (the day of rest). Also, the first day (15 Nisan) and the last day (21 Nisan) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are High Sabbath days (Exod. 12:16; Lev. 23:7-8, Num. 28:18, 25)
• All four Gospels agree that Jesus was Resurrected on the first day of the week (i.e., Sunday). At that point, the weekly Sabbath day had ended. See Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1, John 20:1.
• John clarified for a Gentile audience that Jesus died before a High Sabbath (John 19:31).
• This “high” Sabbath and Day of Preparation referred to the onset of Passover. It actually was not customary to refer to an ordinary Friday as a capitalized Day of Preparation for an ordinary Sabbath (the day of rest).
• Therefore, Jesus may have died before one Sabbath and was risen after another Sabbath. (This was the first day—“the evening and the morning were the nth day”—of Passover/the Feast of Unleavened Bread.) Jesus definitely was Resurrected after that weekly Sabbath which is the day of rest.
• This gives us 72+ hours in the grave. It is a better fit for Matt. 12:40.
• So three days and three nights before Resurrection Sunday … gives us dead at 3 p.m. on Good Wednesday. (Ta-da!)

In the Left Behind series, there is a hierarchical disputation between the real Christ and the fictional Antichrist. (These are just big words meaning “one-upsmanship.”) Antichrist Carpathia wants to mock everything Jesus Christ did. To mock our Lord, Carpathia duplicates His work. That was why it was so important for Carpathia to be dead for 39 hours, Tsion and Annie’s doubts notwithstanding (pp. xiii, 204).

Unfortunately, Carpathia appears to exceed his rival (in the novels). Carpathia gets embalmed. Our Lord was not embalmed. Carpathia returns from the dead on international television. Our Lord declined to make a show in the skies. There was a show in the skies when Christ was born: two shows, in fact (Matt. 2:1-2, 9-12; Luke 2:8-15). After His Resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ chose not to reveal Himself to the world. That always has been a stumbling-block for nonbelievers. It takes a leap of faith.

So, did Carpathia exceed Christ? In your host’s opinion, No, of course not. Jesus died and rose again for us and for our salvation. There is no parallel in Carpathia’s motives.

In this optional exercise, research whether Jesus might have died on Good Wednesday. Explore whether it makes a difference to the Left Behind scenario and teachings. (Tsion is called a rabbi; he really should have caught this one.) Also, explore whether it makes a difference to you. Sooner or later your church may be asked by a nonbeliever—or by a small child—how or why we equate 72 hours with 39 hours. Compose an answer in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, Col 4:6 of what you believe.

Red alert!

Danger, Will Robinson!

Here be dragons!

Discussion topic (in 11 sub-topics): We have delayed the inevitable. Now it arrives.

We noted that this post (the Volume 7 discussion/study) would contain advanced material. Your Bible study group may need more than one session to address this topic. Be willing to do research, homework. Your host may pause to say, “Cite your sources.” For example, Bible verses make excellent sources. Sometimes a reader just has to ask, “Where is that in the Bible?” We intend the citing of sources as an invitation, not as a challenge. (This is important stuff!)

As mentioned, the material may upset the faith of some. Romans 14 is kindly; 1 Cor. 3:2; Hebr. 3:12-15, 5:11-6:2 more harsh. Both should read Isa. 8:12-13. Your host would urge the group toward charity i.e., do not assume that sin is stopping the reader from proceeding. Respect the No. Also, do not assume that desensitization, insensitivity of conscience, is indulging the reader who proceeds. Respect the Meat Teeth. But do consider whether the No and the Meat Teeth need to separate into different classes.

(Note: this topic contains spoilers for Volumes 8-12).

Every writer has something, some quirk that trips the reader whilst the writer remains cheerfully oblivious. For some, it is being married to words like “merry” and “grim.” (Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien, the professor of 39 languages, had no word in any language for “thesaurus.”) For your host it is run-on sentences … we have done it for decades and keep getting called on it—it’s a problem; we’re aware of it; we’re working on it.

For the Left Behind series, it is repetition, the frequent-flyer-miles competition, the occasional malapropism, and hyperbole (among others). Of course the series draws on Revelation, so it’s going to be big. It illustrates Tim LaHaye’s interpretation of Revelation, so it’s going to be really, really big.

In Left Behind, everything is big. The tech and toys are big. Tsion’s website of “over a billion hits daily” is compared to 10,000 stadiums that each hold 100,000 people (Volume 10, p. 123). A GC squadron interrupts a manhunt to admire Buck’s car (Volume 7, pp. 201-202). Rayford’s Saber is a variant on Agent Jay’s Noisy-Cricket. Even Chaim apparently made Curare’s unique scimitar as practice for his shiv. (See Volume 6, pp. 256-257.)

The characters have been accused of being Mary Sue big. Almost everyone is the superstar of almost every possible occupation. “Informed attributes” and hero worship are commonplace. (Whenever a character is an average Joe, they’re probably Undecideds. Whenever a character is stupid, they’re probably bad guys.)

Finally, the plot points are big. That last item is why we are here. The proposal that Satan could resurrect the dead is a plot point so big that we need to test whether it fits into the Bible.


Before we begin, a quick course on terminology: resuscitation, revivification, resurrection.

Resuscitation is a technique performed by first-responders, preferably within four minutes or brain damage begins. Before people knew what resuscitation was and how to do it, it must have looked miraculous. It really is a medical procedure.

Revivification is a miracle. It means that a human is raised from the dead, healed of whatever killed them, and healed of decomposition since death. The people who are raised in the Bible are dead. Really dead. “Lord, he stinketh” dead. Thus a person could be dead for four hours, four days, or for four thousand years and still be revivified. This miracle appears over nine times in the Bible. See 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-37; 2 Kings 13:20-21; Luke 7:12-16; Acts 9:36-42; Acts 20:9-12. Mention of more miracles appears in Hebr. 11:35. The revivification of the daughter of Jairus is mentioned in three passages (Matt. 9:18-19, 23-25 and Mark 5:22-24, 35-43 and Luke 8:41-42, 49-56). Then of course Jesus revivified a dear friend, Lazarus of Bethany (John 11:1-44, 12:1-2, 9-11).

(Note #1: a literal reading of Ezek. 37:1-14 describes the revivification of a multitude. Some readers argue that this was only a vision and prophecy—that is, they argue it did not happen in a physical sense to physical people. Others say it was both revivification and a prophecy.)

(Note #2: Jesus empowered His disciples to raise the dead. See Matt. 10:8. Note that even Judas Iscariot was empowered to raise the dead! The Scriptures do not tell us which disciples revivified any dead, or how many dead they revivified. Scripture also leaves open the question of whether the dead who were revivified in Matt. 11:5 were revivified by Christ or by the disciples. It only specifies that there were more.)

(Note #3: Matt. 27:52-53 includes a fascinating raising of a multitude. After Jesus was Resurrected, many saints came out of their graves in bodily form and entered the holy city. Scripture does not clarify whether Christ revivified them or resurrected them. If the Lord revivified them, they would have lived out their lives and died in a different century than the one in which they were born. But if the Lord resurrected them, He probably took them to glory at the time of His Ascension. See Eph. 4:8-10; Psa. 68:18; 1 Peter 3:19.)

As we see, the majority of Biblical miracles of raising the dead are revivifications. Someday, every soul will experience something very different: resurrection.

Resurrection is a miracle. It happened first with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He rose from the dead in a resurrection body and resurrection nature: a forever-body and a forever-nature. This is why Col. 1:18, Rev. 1:5, Psa. 89:27 calls Christ the first-born of the dead: He was the first resurrected human. Death no longer has dominion over Him (Rom. 6:9). Any individuals who are resuscitated or revivified remain mortals in mortal bodies. They will live out their lives and die. In the resurrection, we will never die again.

Now you know enough to go on with.

The lowest common denominator

We mentioned in the Series General post that Leon Fortunado claims that Carpathia raised him from the dead. Read the discussion. Pause and discuss. Decide whether the off-screen Fortunado incident (whatever it was) has any bearing upon the on-screen, eyewitnessed events we are about to review now.

What we were taught as a child

Very simply, your host was taught as follows:

• Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6).
• God the Father has given all judgment to the Son (John 5:22, 27).
• Christ holds the keys of Hell and of Death (Rev. 1:18).
• God the Father raises the dead and gives them life (Gen. 2:7; Job 19:26; Psa. 23:6; Isa. 26:19; Ezek. 37:13; Mark 12:26-27; Luke 20:35-38; Acts 26:8; Rom. 4:17).
• God the Son raises the dead and gives them life (John 5:21, 24).
• The Holy Ghost is the Lord, the giver of life. After Jesus became Christ glorified (John 7:39), Christ sent the Holy Spirit. Christ still gives the Spirit to all who abide in Him (John 16:14, 20:22; 1 John 3.24).
• The Father and Son are One (John 14:7-11, 17:1-5; 1 Cor 8.6; Phill. 2:6-11).
• The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are One (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; Luke 3:22; John 14:26, 15.26; Acts 2:33, 10:38; Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 3:14, 13:14; Eph. 1.17, 2.18, 2.22, 4:4-6; Titus. 3:6; Hebr. 9:14; 1 John 5:6-9). Compare also these three verses: Exod. 17:2 (the Father), 1 Cor. 10:4, 9 (the Son), Hebr. 3:7-9 (the Holy Ghost). Whom did the people tempt in the wilderness? They tempted the Triune God.
• The Trinity is a little like water. Go to a body of water during spring melt: ice, water lapping over the ice, steam rising. Three forms, one substance (water). Christians believe in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—but we believe in One God.
• (But not modalism … never modalism. God is always one substance. God is always all three Persons at once. Always, simultaneously.)
• Anyone who can revivify the dead must have been given that power by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Only our Triune God can do it.

One other item we were taught is longer than a bullet point. Specifically, your host was taught there are only two destinations in the afterlife: Heaven, and Hell. The saved go the Intermediate Heaven. Someday it will be replaced by the New Heaven. The lost go to Hell. Someday Hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire. We were taught that there was no Purgatory; it could not work. Since our God is infinite, then any sin against God is an infinite offense. Therefore a soul could spend eternity in Purgatory without ever becoming ready for their resurrection-nature, their forever-nature. We only will receive our resurrection-nature by the same way we will receive our resurrection-body: God simply bestows it upon us. Let the Gentle Browser keep this bullet point in mind—that there are only two afterlife destinations. When Carpathia dies, where does he go?

If you were taught anything differently, pause and discuss. Cite your sources.

Tsion’s interpretation

Tsion Ben-Judah reflects:

Many sincere believers had questioned his teaching that the Antichrist would actually die from a wound to the head. Some said the Scriptures indicated that it would be merely a wound that made him appear dead. He tried to assure them that his best interpretation of the original Greek led him to believe that the man would actually die and then be indwelt by Satan himself upon coming back to life (p. 119).

We have called Tsion Ben-Judah the real “pope” of the series. By this we mean that when he interprets prophecy, his (fictional) voice is cathedra mea, regula meae (“my chair, my rules”). The character exists to teach what his creators teach. Also, since Tsion is using “his best interpretation of the original Greek,” the narrative implies that any other opinion is, by definition, reliant upon an inferior interpretation of said original Greek.

Naturally, one might inquire: what is that best interpretation? The nonfiction books of Tim LaHaye document Tsion’s probable argument.

We compared three versions of the best-known work:

Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain. LaVerne, CA: El Camino Press, c1973 “revised ed.” 449 pp. (Abbreviation: Rev. Illus./ECP).
Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain. Grand Rapids, MI: Lamplighter Books/Zondervan, 1975, c1973 “revised ed.” 322 pp. (Abbreviation: Rev. Illus./LLZ)
Revelation Unveiled. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, c1999. 378 pp. (Abbreviation: Rev. Unv.)

Consider this early quote:

Christianity is unique in that we worship a resurrected, living Lord. The power of this testimony is beyond description to men who are real seekers after truth. This power will be all but nullified by the nefarious work of Satan through the resurrection of the anti-Christ. As far as I know, this is the first time that Satan has ever been able to raise the dead. His power and control of man is limited by God, but according to His wise providence He permits Satan on this one occasion to have the power to raise the dead. When studied in the light of 2 Thessalonians 2, it may well be the tool he [sic] uses to deceive men. –(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 245; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 180)

Compare this paragraph (c1973) to the updated (c1999) version:

Christianity is unique in that we worship a resurrected, living Lord. The power of this testimony is beyond refutation for those who are real seekers after truth. When studied in the light of 2 Thessalonians 2, it may well be the tool he [sic] will use to deceive humankind. –(Rev. Unv., p. 217)

Clearly there has been some rewording. The 1973 version is more specific that Satan does not actually have creative power similar to God and they are not in competition. Rather, Satan is not “autonomous” when he raises Carpathia, whatever that means. (Does it mean that God did it and let Satan take credit for it; or that Satan was given power to do it; or that Satan had just enough power that is native to his being to do it once; or other?)

As regarding the 1999 version, your host was unable to find a quote or reference to “this one occasion” or “just this once.” (We were very much hoping to find “just this once” just once more.) If the Gentle Browser finds the reference to “just this once,” do give the specific page number to the next Bible study class. It will prove relevant to the rest of this discussion topic.

Relevant quotes that are essentially identical include:

Revelation 17:8 indicates that [Antichrist]’s spirit will go down into the pit of the Abyss where it belongs, but he is/will be resurrected. One must keep in mind that this Beast is the anti-Christ. In other words, he tries/will try to duplicate everything Jesus Christ has done. This is significant in view of the fact that the sign of our Lord’s deity appears in His resurrection. He said that no sign would be given unto men except “the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39-40). –(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 245; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 180; Rev. Unv., p.217)

Since we already have seen that Satan will be cast out of Heaven, aware that his time is short, he will indwell the Antichrist and duplicate the resurrection. Thus he will come up out of perdition and again contrast the supernatural work of Christ. –(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 238; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 174; Rev. Unv., p. 212)

Some Bible scholars suggest that when Chapter 13 is considered in comparison with Chapter 12, where Satan is cast out of Heaven in the middle of the Tribulation period, he actually indwells the body of the anti-Christ. This would account for his resurrection. –(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 246; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 181)

Finally, quotes which appear in the 1999 version:

In the middle of the Tribulation, when Antichrist has been fatally wounded, Satan has just been kicked out of heaven and is free to take on the dead body of Antichrist and simulate the resurrection. –(Rev. Unv., p.218)

Satan will actually enter the body of Antichrist and bring him back to life” –(Rev. Unv., p. 219).

From this point onward, we will refer to the 1999 version, while testing the 1973 proposal of “just this once” against it and against the fiction series.

LaHaye continues, “The Abyss (“bottomless pit,” KJV) is not hell or Hades. It has been suggested that it may be at the bottom of the “great gulf,” fixed in Hades, that separates the place of torment and place of comfort” in Luke 16:26. In other words, the “great gulf” is the top of the “abyss” or “bottomless pit” of Rev. 17:8, 20:1-3 (Rev. Unv., p. 169).

Next, LaHaye seems to propose that (until Judgment Day, anyway) Satan has either authority or permission to come and go from this Abyss. It is true that an angel holds that key (Rev. 9:1, 20:1), and he (?) never loses that key. (The Left Behind novels choose to name Michael the Archangel as the one who holds both the key and the chain: Volume 12, pp. 316-317, 327-329. This would make Michael the one who lets Satan and the demons into and out of the Abyss—as well as the one who released the scorpion-locusts upon the earth in Rev. 9:2-3 [Rev. Unv., p. 171]).

Additionally, LaHaye cites Rev. 13:3-4, 13-14; 17:8 (Rev. Unv., pp. 211-212, 216-219). He states that the Antichrist (Nicolae Carpathia in the novels) will indeed die and become dead. The spirit and soul will depart into the afterlife—and will go into “the Abyss.” In other words, the spirit and soul of Carpathia went into an afterlife destination that was neither Hell nor Heaven. He went to a third location. The only explanation given is that he “belongs” there (Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 245; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 180; Rev. Unv., p. 217).

Finally, the Left Behind series proposes that Carpathia’s spirit and soul will return from the Abyss through resurrection. This is a crucial point, and one that required our inclusion of spoilers from throughout the series. After all, if the real Carpathia stays dead, and Satan merely wears his corpse like a glove, that would be a different sign and wonder.

But, as we mentioned in the Spoilers post, Carpathia’s spirit and soul and body do get resurrected from the dead. Satan indwells him. They live in the body together (Volume 12, pp. 81-91, 307-311). Hereinafter we will refer to this two-person entity in one body as CIBYS (Carpathia Indwelt By Satan).

Pre-LaHaye sources

The ubiquitous Strong’s Concordance is tied to the KJV translation. We used the twenty-first printing (June 1953), c1890 edition (1340 pp. + 262 pp. + 126 pp. + 79 pp.; Madison, NJ). Your host apologizes for lack of diacritics.

Luke 16:26: “And beside all this, there is a great (3173, megas) gulf (5490, chasma) fixed (4741, sterizo), so that they which would pass (1224, diabaino) from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass (*1276, diaperao) to us, that would come from hence.”

Rev. 13:3 “And I saw one of his heads (2776, kephale) as it were wounded (*4969-sphazo) to death (2288-thanatos), and his deadly (*2288-thanatos) wound (*4969-sphazo) was healed (2323-therapeuo).”

Rev. 17:8 “The beast (2342-therion; dimin. from 2399-thera) that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend (305-anabaino) out of the bottomless (12, abussos) pit (5421, phrear), and go into perdition (684-apoleia).”

A glance at 2348 (thnesko) and its derivative 2288 (thanatos) will reveal that both words offer the option to interpret “death” as “(lit. or fig.)”—either literal or figurative. When Tsion selects the literal interpretation, that is a chair ruling. He probably did it because Christ was slain (*4969-sphazo) and alive (ezesen, derived from 2198*- zao) in Rev. 2:8. We know the Lamb of Rev. 5:6, 13:8 literally was slain and literally rose.

In fiction, Tsion can do that; he can make a chair ruling. In this he is largely supported by rapturist Charles Ryrie and the Ryrie Bible. But Tsion should be aware that this is not entirely consistent with Scofield/Darby.

Your host used the Scofield Reference Bible, 1917, c1909 (Oxford University Press, American Branch; 1362 pp.; atlas; 12 plates), hereinafter cited as the SRB-1917. Your host then diligently searched the verses listed up to this point. Points of interest included:

• The denial of a literal New Babylon rebuilt in the literal location such as Left Behind has created. (See Isa. 13:19:22). Rather, SRB-1917 (p. 1347) would have required Carpathia to build New Rome.
• “Two ‘Babylons’ are to be distinguished in the Revelation: ecclesiastical Babylon, which is apostate Christendom, headed up under the Papacy; and political Babylon, which is the Beast’s confederated empire, the last form of Gentile world-dominion” (SRB-1917, p. 1346). Again, both regimes are predicted to make their literal capitol in literal Rome.
• “The active interposition of Satan, “having great wrath” (Rev. 12:12), who gives his power to the Beast (Rev. 13:4-5)” (SRB-1917, p. 1337). And again, “To him Satan gives the power which he offered to Christ (Matt. 4:8-9; Rev. 13:4)” (SRB-1917, p. 1349).
• “The unprecedented activity of demons (Rev. 9:2-11)” (ibid.). (Note that this passage is regarded by the characters to have been fulfilled by the demonic locusts years ago, in Volume 5.)
• The emergence of an empire with ten “heads” or rulers. “Fragments of the ancient Roman empire have never ceased to exist as separate kingdoms. It was the imperial form of government which ceased: the one head wounded to death. What we have prophetically in Rev. 13.3 is the restoration of the imperial form as such, though over a federated empire of ten kingdoms; the “head” is “healed” i.e., restored: there is an emperor again—the Beast” (SRB-1917, p. 1342).
• An individual Antichrist, who “is to be distinguished from the “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18) and “the spirit of antichrist” which characterizes all …. The ‘many antichrists’ precede and prepare the way for the Antichrist, who is ‘the Beast out of the earth’ of Rev. 13:11-17 and the ‘false prophet’ of Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10. He is the last ecclesiastical head, as the Beast of Rev. 13:1-8 is the last civil head” (SRB-1917, pp. 1342-1343). (In the novels, this is the character Nicolae Carpathia.)
• “For purposes of persecution, [the false prophet] is permitted to exercise the autocratic power of the emperor-Beast (Rev. 19:20, see note)” (SRB-1917, p. 1343). (In the novels, this is the character Leon Fortunado.)

However, your host was unable to find any Scofield/Darby reference to the death, descent, and resurrection of a personal, individual Antichrist such as Carpathia. (If the Gentle Browser can find such a citation, do bring it to the next Bible study.) Rather, the SRB-1917 predicts an empire with ten heads or rulers in the manner of a revived Roman empire. It predicts that the empire will be made of formerly Roman entities. (Carpathia’s empire includes previously unknown lands such as Australia and the Americas.)

The SRB-1917 then predicts a personal, individual Antichrist to rule that empire. It predicts that the “death” of a “head” afflicts the empire, rather than afflicting a personal Antichrist. In the novels, this already happened twice. Two of the empire’s figurative “heads” (Peter Matthews, Leon Fortunado) already died (literally in Peter’s case, indeterminate in Leon’s case.) Both “heads” revived in the sense that their work continues—their work being to persecute Christian and Jewish characters and to claim souls for Hell.

To be very specific, in the Scofield/Darby SRB-1917, no personal and human Antichrist is described as suffering any death-wound (or any harm whatsoever) to his one-and-only personal, human, biological, anatomical head. Carpathia does not have seven personal, human, biological, anatomical heads (with ten horns) on his one-and-only body. Carpathia has one head with no horns. This may be why “many sincere believers had questioned Tsion’s teaching.”

It is worth noting that John the Revelator would not know Jack Jeebs (Men in Black) or King Ghidorah (the Godzilla franchise). However, he would have heard of the Greek hydra. All three fictional creatures have many personal, biological, and anatomical heads. All three fictional creatures can survive the loss of a single head. But Carpathia has one head on his body, and Chaim Rosenzweig kills that head and that body. The Carpathian empire continues uninterrupted under Leon Fortunado. Then—according to the novels—Satan heals Carpathia’s skewered head, puts life and blood in the embalmed, bloodless corpse, and brings back Carpathia’s spirit and soul from the dead. Now they rule the fictional world as CIBYS, with Fortunado as false prophet.

At this point, pause to discuss Carpathia’s return from the dead. If you cannot agree, decide whether your group can agree to disagree. Decide whether to continue.

Just this once, but someone else

The apostle Jude declares that Satan already tried to get a body. He wanted Moses (Jude 1:9). Left Behind #12 includes that passage, and adds to it:

“Oh, no!” the being rasped. “The last time you contended with me, Michael, it was over the body of Moses, and you dared not even bring against me a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ I do not answer to you!” –(Volume 12, p. 318)

In the novels, if Satan had a power to raise the dead, but could only do it once, would he still want Nicolae Carpathia? Discuss evil’s goals in the Left Behind series, and in the real world. If he could only have one, would he try to abduct Moses instead?

Just this once, plus three

The Left Behind series suggests that it is more than just this once. In Armageddon, CIBYS and Fortunado calmly vomit forth three froglike demons named Ashtaroth, Baal, and Cankerworm. CIBYS tells the demons, “I confer upon you the power to perform signs and heal the sick and raise the dead, if need be” (Volume 11, p. 303). The demons depart and spend the rest of the series off-screen, recruiting armies for the confrontation in Volume 12. Your host cannot recall any eyewitness account of their signs and deeds. If the Gentle Browser can find such a citation, do mention it to one’s fellow Bible study participants.

Pause and discuss. Do you believe that demons have the power to raise humans from the dead? If not, do you believe that Satan, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, or any combination thereof, can bestow upon demons the power to raise humans from the dead? Cite your sources.

Just this once, plus three, plus one

In The Remnant, a ghastly performance unfolds in the presence of eyewitnesses Mac, Albie, and Smitty. A demonic apparition manifests as a “wonder-worker” in a “motivational-speaker” white suit (Volume 10, pp. 332-339). The speaker, who looks like a younger Leon Fortunado, declares, “I am not even from this world.” The apparition causes clouds to appear and disappear [changes of temperature and light], causes springs of water to arise in the desert, and feeds a multitude with five pieces of bread.

If the Gentle Browser has seen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe starring Tilda Swinton, then said Gentle Browser would not be surprised to learn that (like Jadis’ hot chocolate) the bread vanishes when the demonic apparition vanishes. Both Jadis and the wonder-worker could change matter. However, the wonder-worker can do other things that are permanent, and lethal. It applies the Mark of the Beast to four people without touching them. Even as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the saints on the day of Pentecost and bestowed upon them tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4), so also this demonic apparition inexplicably can impose the Mark of the Beast upon every unsaved person in its presence. The demonic apparition then taunts the remaining Unsaveds:

“Why have you waited so long? What was the holdup? The one I serve wants me to slay you, and so, you’re dead.”

More than a hundred dropped to the desert floor, causing the rest to shriek and cry out.

“Silence! You do not think I could slay the lot of you? If I can slay them, can I not also raise them? These six, right up here, arise!”

The six stood as if they had just awakened. They looked embarrassed, as if they didn’t know why they had been on the ground.

“Think they were merely sleeping? in a trance? All right, they’re dead again.” They dropped again. “Now if you know them, check their vital signs.”

He waited. “No breath, no pulse, correct? Let that be a lesson to those who remain …. More of you should die before the vipers get here.” About three dozen keeled over. [snip] “Fools!” he said. “You’re all fools. Do you think a god like Nicolae Carpathia wants you as his subjects? No! He wants you dead and away from the clutches of his enemies [i.e. God, angels, believers].” –(Volume 10, pp. 335-337)

So now we have a demonic apparition who has the following powers:

• It applies the Mark of the Beast by speaking a word or thinking a thought.
• It slays more than 100 people by speaking a word or thinking a thought.
• It revivifies 6 people by ibid.
• It slays those 6 people (again) by ibid.
• It slays another three dozen people by ibid.
• It applies the Mark of the Beast to all remaining Unsaveds by ibid.
• It conjures poisonous vipers by ibid.
• It may have forced the Mark of the Beast upon the Unsaveds: none of them made any word or gesture asking for said Beast-Mark.
• If it did not force the Beast-Mark upon them against their will, then it is telepathic—it can read human minds. This is the only way it could have “heard” their thoughts of consent.
• If it could force the Mark of the Beast upon people, it would not need to be telepathic, since it would not be bound by their consent anyway.
• The text could be interpreted as if the demonic apparition is both telepathic AND can force the Mark of the Beast upon people who are fleeing (resisting).
• When the demonic apparition departs, the vipers evaporate—but the poison remains real (Volume 10, pp. 336-338). Everybody except the three Saveds (Mac, Albie, and Smitty) dies horribly.
• The demonic apparition threatens Mac McCullum. “I know who you are. I know you by name. Your god [sic] is weak and your faith a sham, and your time is limited. You shall surely die.” The apparition does not speak. Mac hears the threat as if communicated by telepathy (Volume 10, p. 337).

Pause and discuss. Lots of material here. Do you believe that a demonic apparition can do any of these things, let alone all of them? Cite your sources.

Related: the six people who died do not speak of any near-death experience (“NDE”). If they truly died, wouldn’t their spirits and souls go somewhere? Since they all are unsaved, wouldn’t they come back preaching, Hell is real; don’t go there. We know that Carpathia (Volume 7, p. 204), Fortunado (pp. 190-195), and presumably CIBYS (the source of their power) can hypnotize the unsaved living. What’s worse, their powers are increasing with time. In Volumes 1-5, Carpathia brainwashes Buck Williams, Chaim Rosenzweig, Hattie Durham, and President Fitzhugh. However, when they are separated from him, it wears off. He must repeat the process, in person. In Volume 6 (p. 339), Carpathia can hypnotize an unsaved character over the telephone. In Volume 7 (p. 358), Fortunado attempts to hypnotize four million people by asking them to look into his eyes on their television screens. CIBYS interrupts him, makes the same attempt, and succeeds.

Therefore, do you the demonic apparition hypnotized the people it revivified, so that they could not remember the afterlife and warn/preach about it? Do you think that a demonic apparition would have that power? Cite your sources. If you disagree, do you think this novel might be teaching “soul sleep”? If neither, why do you think the six people behaved as they did?

Just this once, plus three, plus one, plus thousands

As it happens, four empowered demons are not enough to satisfy CIBYS. He decrees:

“Leon, I want to fight fire with fire. I want Jesuses, Messiahs, Saviors in my name. Find them—thousands of them. Train them, raise them up, imbue them with the power with which I have blessed you …. I confer upon you all the power vested in me from above and below the earth.” –(Volume 10, pp. 82-83)

Fortunado promptly finds, trains, and empowered these “thousands.” He uses his powers of breathing upon them and laying on of hands to confer both power and authority.

“Magicians, sorcerers, wizards, demonic apparitions, and deputies of Leon Fortunado preached a false gospel. They set themselves up as Christ figures, messiahs, soothsayers. They lauded the deity of Carpathia. They performed wonders and miracles and deceived countless thousands. [The Undecideds] were lured away from considering the claims of Christ … but once they had made their decisions for the evil ruler, either [CIBYS] snuffed them out … or God slew them. –(Volume 10, p. 369).…

From everywhere came reports of miracles by thousands of deities who seemed loving, kind, inspiring, and dynamic. It was easy to watch them live on the Internet, reattaching severed limbs, raising the dead …. “False!” Ben-Judah preached every day. “Charlatans. Fakers. Deceivers. Yes, it is real power, but it is not the power of God. It is the power of the enemy, of the evil one. Do not be misled!” But many were, it was plain. –(Volume 10, p. 270)

We are left with the last-chance interpretation that these evil entities are all demons, demonic apparitions, and humans who are in communion with the spirit world, possibly even demonically possessed. Unfortunately we are denied even this forlorn hope:

CIBYS: “If your wizards can do all these tricks, Leon, why can they not turn a whole sea back into salt water?”

Chang sat listening through headphones.

“Excellency, that is a lot to ask. You must admit they have done wonders for the Global Community.”

“They have not done as much good as the Judah-ites have done bad, and that is the only scorecard that counts!”

“Your Worship, not to be contrary, but you are aware that Carpathian disciples all over the world have raised the dead, are you not?”

“I raised MYSELF from the dead, Leon. These little tricks, bringing smelly corpses from graves just to amaze people and thrill the relatives, do not really compete with the Judah-ites, do they?”

“Turning wooden sticks into snakes? Impressive. Turning water to blood and then back again, then the water to wine? I thought you would particularly enjoy that one.”

“I want converts, man! I want changed minds! When is your next television debate with Ben-Judah?”

–(Volume 10, pp. 307-308).

(An aside for some much-needed comic relief. Here is yet another nod to the invincible celebrity of Tsion Ben-Judah. CIBYS declares that defeating Tsion in a televised debate would be a more effective tactic and a more impressive feat than is raising the dead. We observed elsewhere that the believers are called Judah-ites, followers of Ben-Judah, not Christians, followers of Christ. CIBYS confidently believes he can defeat God the Father and God the Son [Volume 11, pp. 298-299], but he is exasperated by Ben-Judah.)

“Disciples.” All over the world, Carpathia has “disciples.” Unlike the human characters who have chosen to be in communion with the spirit world—the aforementioned wizards, sorcerers, magicians, deputies of Fortunado, false Christs/messiahs, and soothsayers—these are “disciples.” They are ordinary people. They are a fictional counterpart to the real-world Peter, James, John, Matthias, etc. (Chaim Rosenzweig has proclaimed himself Carpathia’s personal Judas Iscariot [Volume 7, pp. 226-227]).

Moreover, there are “disciples” “raising the dead” “all over the world.” Almost certainly these are a fictional counterpart to the 3,000 converts of Pentecost who came from “all over the world”, “with more being added every day” (Acts 2:41).

Think about this. These disciples think they have found the right man. They think they are doing the right thing. They have no idea of the wild ride they are about to take. All they know is that they have been given the power to raise the dead, and they are doing it. And who else but the real God could do that? (As far as they know, that is.) Perhaps their innocence, their sincerity, might be the most dangerous witness of all.

Therefore, when LaHaye’s nonfiction titles proposed that God would let Satan raise a single dead Antichrist, does that legitimize the “thousands” of demons, humans, and mixtures thereof—all of whom also are raising the dead in the Left Behind series?

Pause and discuss. Cite your sources. Because, believe it or not, we’re not yet done.

Science fiction theater

In the latter volumes of the series, apparently any devil-worshipper now can revivify the dead. There are so many humans being brought back from the dead “all over the world” that CIBYS is calling them “little tricks.”

How does CIBYS define little tricks? It certainly would ease our minds (well, your host’s mind) if these revivifications are unreal. In the novels, the evildoers are (at minimum) re-animating flesh. Let us propose and test that that is all they are doing. How might that be done? For example, are the corpses possessed by demons to trick the families?

Here we find sci-fi tales that might help us. In the film Men in Black, Bug kills and flays Farmer Edgar. Bug then runs around Manhattan Island dressed in an Edgar suit. In “The Magnificent Ferengi” (Star Trek: DS9), a Vorta is shot and killed. A Starfleet cadet then runs an electrical current through the corpse to make it twitch (and walk) as if alive. In both cases, the real Vorta and the real Edgar become dead and stay dead. We even see hints of decomposition around the edges. Bug and the Electric Vorta—(band name alert)—fail to fool Edgar’s wife or the Ferengi’s Moogie, but they can fool strangers for a moment, which is all the time they need.

So, are the “little tricks” of CIBYS, Fortunado, and their adherents naught but the tricks of the Electric Vorta, of Bug in an Edgar suit? Even if it is artificial, imposture, it is very dangerous. CIBYS could build an army of demons by empowering said demons to steal and inhabit dead bodies.

It gets worse. Nothing in the novels restricts these “little tricks” to the corpses of evildoers. In other words, Grandma could die as a Tribulation martyr—only to “return” as a demon wearing a Grandma suit. Tsion should have proclaimed that that is not Grandma! It’s a demon in a Grandma suit! or perhaps, It’s not Grandma! It’s a wind-up animatronic trick on her corpse; that is no more Grandma than is the Country Bear Jamboree. Does Tsion warn people that that is not Grandma? No. He warns Undecideds not to be deceived, but he does not define or explain the deception.

Imagine what it would do to the Tribulation Force if they encountered a demon wearing an Amanda White Steele suit. Imagine what it would do to believers and Undecideds all over the world if they encountered a demon in a Bruce Barnes suit. (Bruce Barnes was Tsion’s predecessor, though more short, balding, pudgy, workaday, and damaged.) Bruce must have converted people with his message, rather than with his decidedly non-existent charisma. Imagine Tsion appearing on television against demon-in-a-Bruce-suit. What would that debate be like?

This actually is the least-awful scenario. There are worse. We repeat: the proposal that CIBYS, etc. “merely” empower demons to wear human corpses is the least-awful scenario. Have the authors thought through the deeper implications?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn’t want to come back either

We noted that the fictional Antichrist imitates what Christ did in order to mock what Christ did. Hence Carpathia’s JFK-styled assassination, the eternal flame [furnace], and his public viewing. This is followed by Carpathia’s notorious resurrection at the hands of the Devil. But there is one more aspect of Christ that Antichrist Carpathia seeks to duplicate. That is power over other people who are dead.

Rayford and Carpathia already discussed this notion 21 months ago:

[Carpathia said,] “I know how difficult it is for loved ones to let go unless they see the body …. Next you will be asking me to resurrect [your wife, Amanda White Steele, who is dead].”

Rayford spoke through clenched teeth. “If you are who you think you are, you ought to be able to pull that off for one of your most trusted employees.” –(Volume 4, p. 89)

Since Rayford brought it up, let us test this proposal. What if CIBYS and his followers really are raising the dead, revivifying the dead? By definition, revivification includes restoring the spirit and soul to the restored body. Wouldn’t that mean that Satan can liberate souls from Hell? Wouldn’t it mean that Satan can abduct souls from the Intermediate Heaven?

Let us repeat: If Satan could bring back Carpathia from the Abyss—if Satan could—does it necessarily follow that he could abduct souls from Heaven or that he could empty Hell? Yet that is what he is doing. Again, this may be a reason that “many sincere believers had questioned [Tsion’s] teaching.” The narrative insists that Satan is raising the dead—other dead humans, besides Carpathia. Thousands of them.

Therefore, as a hypothetical notion, consider what would happen if Carpathia, Satan, Carpathia-indwelt-by-Satan (“CIBYS”), or one of their lackeys—Fortunado, Ashtaroth & company, a sorcerer, a wizard, a disciple, take your pick—raised some dead characters that we actually know. We could test whether they were the real people.

Specifically, let us propose that CIBYS wants to reward David Hassid: the “capable and loyal” David (Volume 7, pp. 252-253), the “beloved David” (Volume 8, p. 78). Therefore CIBYS decides to raise from the dead David’s two closest companions: Annie Christopher [Saved] and Guy Blod [Unsaved]. (We don’t know if Guy Blod died. We never see him again. Let us use him as an example as if he died.) Alternately, CIBYS decides to punish Rayford Steele for trying to kill him, and brings back from the dead Amanda White Steele [Saved] and Bo Hanson [Unsaved]. (He could have aimed for the murder-suicide pair of Chloe and Baby Kenny, but they’re not dead yet.)

Can CIBYS actually do it? Milton was wrong: Satan will not rule in Hell, and neither he nor his demons want to go there (Matt. 25:41, Mark 5:6-7; James 2:19; Rev. 20:1-3, 10). The cartoons are wrong: Satan will not be rewarded for his rebellion against God by tormenting God’s human children in Hell. Wouldn’t these facts suggest that the Devil cannot rescue his followers from Hell? Since no man can curse what God has blessed (Num. 23:20; Isa. 43:13), wouldn’t that suggest that no one can snatch the blessed out of Intermediate Heaven? But if the spirits and souls remain in the afterlife, then CIBYS and his followers are not raising the dead. They’re mutilating the corpses in some way, but they’re not raising the dead.

We stress this point because the series repeatedly insists that evildoers with evil powers are raising the dead. Can we imagine Annie’s spirit and soul, clawing at the portals of Heaven like a pet-at-the-vet in a desperate attempt not to be taken? Because that’s what it would take for anyone other than our Triune God to remove someone from His presence. Or is the Christ Who holds the keys of Hell and Death (Rev. 1:18) evicting them back to earth—and letting Antichrist take credit for it? When Annie looks to her Lord Jesus for deliverance, would He stop it? And what does the word “Heaven” even mean if believers still aren’t safe there? But that’s what it would take for CIBYS and the narrative’s declaration to work. If the dead that are raised are not imposters, not demon-in-a-Grandma-suit, then they are the real souls. Aren’t they?

Also, the “disciples” of CIBYS should have been challenged in public by the very people they revivified. If “thousands” of dead are being raised, there should be thousands of people shrieking, Hell is real; don’t go there. Revivified believers should be preaching Christ to the lost, proclaiming the truth about the afterlife. None of that happens. Why are the revivified characters silent? There must be some reason that these revivified “thousands” never speak, never preach, never cause CIBYS any trouble. What do you think might be happening?

Or, again, is the series teaching “soul sleep” for the dead? If the spirits and souls of the dead never reached the Intermediate Heaven or never reached Hell, then CIBYS and company would not have to break into those places to steal the spirits and souls out of them. The keys held by Christ (of Hell and Death) would not be needed or used. Would they?

Finally, since nothing else has been denied to them, do you think the series should have included an exchange in which a character begged CIBYS or his followers for the return of a raptured child? This would require seizing the spirit and soul and body of a Heavenly citizen. Could CIBYS do it? Would he dare? Would God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost at long last put a stop to it? Or would our Triune God do it and let CIBYS take credit for it? Unless we have misunderstood all of the above, the authors have come a long way from “just this once” in 1973. Where does the series set its limits?

The authors’ reason

Why would God allow such things? Rev. Unv. (p. 224-225) cites Matt. 24:24, 2 Thess. 2:9, Rev 13:13-14 as proof that evil also can produce signs and wonders. Granted. What the authors need to explain is why evil could also raise the dead (in the novels). If your host understands correctly, this may be the reason:

This predicted demonstration of supernatural, miraculous power should warn us of the significant truth that the mere display of supernatural power does not suffice as evidence that a matter or practice originates with God. All supernatural power is for the purpose of giving credentials to a person or a teaching. We have something far more important to stand as a test of all teaching, regardless of its accompanied signs—the Word of God. If a teaching is not in accord with that Word, it is false!

We may well ask ourselves, Why will God permit such power to be in Satan’s hands? It is because even during the Tribulation period men/people will be forced to worship God by faith. If all the supernatural power were on one side, it would not take faith but merely common sense to recognize the source of power. But the principle of salvation as a gift of God will still rest on the basis of faith: “And without faith, it is impossible to please him/God” (Hebr. 11:6).

–(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 255; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 187; Rev. Unv., p. 225)


We have included spoilers for additional volumes in this series because Volume 7 has introduced a slippery-slope of plot points. Tsion Ben-Judah has told the audience that Satan will resurrect the Antichrist. This then happens (in the novel). It acclimates the reader for the revivifications of the dead that follow in Volumes 8-12, just as Volume 1-6 acclimated the reader to accept the premises of Volume 7 (this volume).

Scripture teaches that “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Titus 1:2). Put simply, if Satan could raise the dead, we should be able to find proof in the Bible. The authors (LaHaye and Jenkins) have Tsion teach that Rev. 13:3-4, 13-14; 17:8 are those verses.

Tsion declares that Jesus fulfilled 109 Old Testament prophecies (Volume 2, p. 393; Volume 10, p.320). Yet for all these verses, our Triune God still gave us four Gospels with verses that were more specific than metaphors about lambs and bruised reeds.

The Bible is extremely specific about our Lord’s life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension. If an Antichrist is to die and be resurrected, wouldn’t the Bible include verses more specific than metaphors about beasts and dragons?

(Aside: your host has heard it expressed that John the Revelator could not be too specific, because the Romans read his mail. This is true. The Romans also read the mail when the rest of the New Testament was being written. We ask so that we will know.)

Scripture teaches that “in the mouths of two or three witnesses let each word be established” (Numb. 35:30; Deut. 17:6, 19:15; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Cor. 13:1). The death and resurrection of Nicolae Carpathia is modeled upon: 1) the metaphors of John the Revelator, and 2) the interpretation of the Left Behind authors. Is this enough? Why or why not? If there are additional witnesses, verses, or references, do bring them to the next Bible study session.

Regardless of any reader’s opinion, it is a fact that Carpathia died and was resurrected (in the novels). Some readers accept the explanation that Satan did it. (Certainly in the series he is never challenged when he takes credit for it.) For other readers, the only way Carpathia is coming back from the dead (even revivified, let alone resurrected) is if God did it. So, regardless of what the series claims, did God do it?

In conclusion, in the real world, do you believe that Satan can revivify the dead? Do you believe that Satan can resurrect the dead? Or do you believe that only God can revivify and resurrect the dead? Cite your sources.

Discussion topic: If you had known in advance that this was where the Left Behind series was leading, would you have read it?


Return to Part 1 of 2. Return to Spoilers.

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.”


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.

34. Bonus: Volume 7 (L.B. Indwelling) spoilers

Reader’s discretion is advised.

(Added May 2016)

Spoiler: Why are we covering Left Behind #7: The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession out of order?

Answer: During Lent of 2016 and particularly during Easter week of 2016, your host frequently found oneself thinking about this book. Repeatedly, persistently, often, and a lot. We do not know if someone needs to read these spoilers and discussion, only that someone needed to write it.

Spoiler: What would your host like readers to know about this novel?

Answer: Volume 7 was released on March 30, 2000, before a day that changed the world. As always, words or phrases in quotation marks are quotes from the novel.

Spoiler: What else would your host like readers to know about this novel?

Answer: The enemy performs a particular sign and wonder in imitation and mockery of Christ. This could upset the faith of some. Before reading, the Gentle Browser should prayerfully consider whether one is ready or not yet ready for this advanced material.

Spoiler: What else would your host like readers to know about this novel?

Answer: Certain characters in the novel exhibit irrational behavior. If you or someone you know is having such intrusive 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.

For the reasons listed above, Reader discretion is advised.

This concludes our introductory comments.


Spoiler: As the novel opens in Jerusalem, what is in the prologue from Volume 6, Assassins?

Answer: It is Friday, the moment of Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia’s assassination (pp. xi-xiii). Buck Williams ducks at the sound of a gunshot. A few faces show “glee.” Buck surmises they are “converts from the Wailing Wall who had seen Carpathia murder their heroes [Moishe and Eli].” The other two million spectators flee. Buck hides under a scaffold to avoid being trampled. On the stage, Chaim Rosenzweig sits catatonic in his wheelchair. Leon Fortunado cradles the bloody Carpathia, bawling, “Don’t die, Excellency. We need you! The world needs you! I need you!”

Blood runs from the Antichrist’s eyes, nose, mouth, and from the top and back of his skull. To Buck, it is obvious what caused this fatal wound.

Nicolae Jetty Carpathia, aged 36, dies in Leon’s arms. As heard by Buck, the Antichrist’s last words are “a liquid, guttural murmur, “But I thought … I thought … I did everything you asked.”

Leon Fortunado schedules Carpathia’s funeral for the following Sunday. For some reason all of the primary security cameras that should have recorded the assassination have been “blocked.” Two hours before the funeral, Fortunado summons David Hassid—computer technician, hacker, and a mole for the Tribulation Force—to view the recovered footage. It clearly identifies the assassin.

Tsion Ben-Judah, Chloe Steele Williams, and Baby Kenny Williams remain hidden in the safe house in Mount Prospect, Illinois. They watch the news. “You have to assume the resurrection [of the Antichrist] will be caught on television.” Nothing happens.

“The Scripture had not foretold of death by projectile.” Friday becomes Saturday. Carpathia remains dead, laid out in state in New Babylon. “By dawn Sunday, as Tsion gloomily watched mourners pass the glass bier in the sun-drenched courtyard of the GC palace, [Tsion] had begun to doubt himself.” Has Tsion misunderstood the prophecies? Or did the assassin murder the wrong man?

Volume 7 is the story of what the living did during that three-day weekend.

Spoiler: As the novel opens, what are the major characters doing?

Answer: It is still Friday, the moment of Nicolae Jetty Carpathia’s assassination. Leah Rose (alias “Donna Clenendon”) is in Belgium, trying to collect her “niece” Hattie Durham (alias “Mae Willie”) from the BUFFER women’s prison (pp. 1-14). Leah is ejected empty-handed. She calls Rayford and the safe house. There is no answer.

David Hassid knows why the phones are not working. Leon Fortunado orders him to “scramble the satellites to make it impossible for those who did this to communicate with each other by phone” (p. 25-26). It isn’t the correct terminology, but David understands him: everything connected to a satellite is to be cut off. The problem is that the entire planet is served by the same system. “It’s the reason we’ve never been able to shut down the Judah-ites’ internet transmissions.” Even the long-distance landline coverage is sporadic since Carpathia redirected telecom utilities into the Cell-Sol satellite network. (See Volume 4.) Fortunado wants it done anyway. David states that the GC would still have local landlines and television transmission (p. 26). Good enough, Fortunado says.

Later, David talks with his fiancée Annie Christopher about the logistics of transporting dead evil potentates (pp. 29-31). Annie quips, “I’d like to drop the box and run over it with a forklift. Let’s see that come back to life.”

As for Rayford Steele and Cameron “Buck” Williams—who are present at the scene of the assassination—the authors wait until the characters have had a running head start before the narrative pursues them. Rayford in disguise is trying to run in turban and robes, like a woman running in a long skirt (p. 20-21). “If he had killed the potentate, there was certainly no satisfaction in it, no relief or sense of accomplishment … Rayford felt he was running from a prison of his own making” (p. 20).

Rayford, passing himself as Marvin Berry of Kalamazoo, Michigan, talks his way past Tel Aviv airport security and helps himself to a Gulfstream. When security receives orders to initiate code red screening, Rayford takes off anyway. At that moment, airport communications turn to static. Rayford is relieved. Now there will be no organized pursuit. “If he was flying blind, so would the GC” (pp. 31-37). He flies by night to Greece (p. 47).

Back at the assassination, Buck races toward the stage. Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig is on the stage, and the scaffolding is collapsing (pp. 14-19). Neither Buck nor Chaim’s aide Jacov can help. “Chaim sat motionless … if he had not been shot, Buck wondered if he’d had another stroke, or worse, a heart attack” (p. 17).

In the pandemonium, Buck loses sight of Chaim. He finds only the broken wheelchair. Rayford is not answering his phone (p. 37). “Buck had been angry with his father-in-law before, but never like this …. What was [Buck] supposed to do, collect Leah from Brussels, and it was every man for himself?”

Mac McCullum gets the best view of the gore. As the pilot of Carpathia’s plane—the Condor 216—he watches the man’s death throes, which leave the EMTs “kneeling in more blood than it seemed a body could hold.” One declares, “No vitals. He’s flat lined.” Fortunado buries his face in the corpse’s chest and sobs. On the plane, a doctor pronounces the death.

Security Chief Walter Moon instructs all to say nothing to outsiders. Mac and his co-pilot Abdullah “Smith” will fly them home (pp. 21-25).

Spoiler: Who killed Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia?

Answer: The Global Community blames Rayford. They show his photo on TV as early as Friday afternoon. He should be considered armed and dangerous (p. 76). Buck thinks the GC are grasping at straws (p. 74). Hattie has no doubts. “I know [Rayford] better than that.” She says Rayford would not kill someone in a million years (p. 190).

Mac McCullum says “something stinks” here. “Neon Leon has a bee in his bonnet” about three regional sub-potentates being “disloyal” just because they ran when they heard a gunshot. “The suspected weapon is found with a disgruntled former employee’s [i.e., Rayford’s] prints all over it, and all Leon can talk about is a conspiracy” (p. 92).

Spoiler: How does Chaim’s household staff die?

Answer: Jacov tries to climb onstage to rescue Chaim. A GC Peacekeeper punches Jacov in the head with the butt end of an Uzi. Jacov falls twelve feet down into the panicking crowds and is trampled. Security bags the body. Buck must leave him (pp. 17-19). Buck later tells Chaim that the Uzi broke Jacov’s neck (p. 159).

“The people in Chaim’s house—Stefan the valet, Jacov’s wife Hannelore, and Hannelore’s mother—had to have been watching on TV and were likely calling anyone they knew for news of their loved ones.” Over the phone, Buck can hear Hannelore’s mother screaming. The phone goes dead (pp. 23-24).

Buck arrives at Chaim’s home and finds it deserted and dark (p. 38). The power has been cut. Buck locates Chaim’s rechargeable flashlight in its outlet. When Buck hears drip, drip, he flashes the room briefly. Blood drains from the lifeless bodies of Hannelore and her mother, each bound to a chair and gagged, each shot in the head. Hannelore’s mother was squat and heavy, and her arms had been contorted to allow her wrists to be tied. He gets their blood on him as he verifies that there is no pulse (pp. 38-41). “Who could have done this? And wouldn’t Stefan, his Middle Eastern maleness coming to the fore, have fought to the death to prevent it?” (p. 41).

“What might Rayford have done in this same situation?” Buck thinks he understands Rayford a little better, after “what he had lost. Buck stubbornly left him on the pedestal of his mind as the leader of the Tribulation Force and as one who would act honorably in this situation” (pp. 51-52).

“Feeling ashamed, as if his wife and son could see him feeling his way in the dark, fighting a whimper like a little boy rather than tramping shoulders-wide through the place, Buck stepped on flesh.” He again shines the flashlight. Stefan lies still, his face a mask of tranquility, eyes and mouth closed as if in sleep. “His arms and legs were in place, hands at his sides, but all four limbs had been severed, the legs at the hips, the arms at the shoulders. Clearly this had been done after he was dead, for there was no sign of struggle.” Buck hits his knees. His palms touch down in more thick, sticky blood. Sobbing and gasping, Buck wonders what kind of weapon it would have taken to dismember a dead man. How long did it take? Why did they do it? What was the message in that? he wonders (pp. 52-53). (The text never does say how Stefan died.)

David asks Buck if the news about Chaim is true: that he and his staff died in a house fire (pp. 169-170). No, the believers are dead but none of them died in a fire. The GC must have set the fire after Buck left the house, to cover the murders (p. 184).

Spoiler: Who is Ming Toy? What is Leah Rose’s connection to her?

Answer: Ming Toy, aged 22, is a believer born in China and employed as a supervisor-guard at BUFFER. Leah mistakes her voice for that of a “matronly, older” woman (pp. 6-7). Ming was widowed when the Rapture took the brakeman and controllers on her husband’s commuter train, and it crashed. She then joined the Global Community. When she became a believer, she sought work in GC Security in the hope that she could meet and aid believers (p. 14). She has not been detected yet because BUFFER is understaffed. Also, “a stratospheric IQ doesn’t hurt. That, and wrestling. Two out of three falls … They know Greco-Roman. I know martial arts” (p. 14).

Ming pretends to arrest Leah so that they have a private place to talk (pp. 9-10). To prove herself, she lets Leah lick her thumb and try to scrub off the believer’s Seal on her forehead (p. 11). They pray. Ming tells Leah that Hattie Durham was released “with a tidy settlement for her trouble. Roughly a hundred thousand Nicks in cash” (pp. 11-12). The GC hopes Hattie will be “dumb enough” to lead them to a Judah-ite contact or safe house (pp. 12-13). Ming considers Leah an answer to prayer, because Ming knew of no way to warn the believers. Leah replies, “Thank God for you, Ming.” They exchange phone numbers with an offer for Ming to join a safe house, if and when.

Spoiler: What are Tsion’s prayers and visions?

Answer: When Tsion hears the accusations against Rayford, Tsion feels a great need to pray for him. “It struck him that he spent more time in concerted prayer for Rayford than for any other individual” (p. 76). This feels different. “It seemed he was not in the proper posture to pray, and all he could make of that was that Rayford needed real intercession …. a person thus praying must not enter into [intercession] unless willing to literally trade places with the needy person” (p. 77). Obviously he cannot take Rayford’s place as a murder suspect. But Tsion can affect that posture in his mind; he can express his willingness to God to take that burden, literally possible or not. Soon he is prostrate and startled by a loss of equilibrium. He feels his focus shift from Rayford and his troubles to the majesty of God. Tsion comes to himself when the anxious Chloe finds his face mashed into the carpet (p. 78).

Nothing happens. Tsion frets if he was praying or sleeping (p. 119). He feels led to read Joel 2:28-32 (p. 88). Chloe’s husband and father are in Jerusalem—and in this passage, whomever in Jerusalem who call upon the name of the LORD will be delivered. Tsion says, “I am claiming the promise in this passage,” because God prompted him to find it: their loved ones will return to them safely. In spite of everything? asks Chloe. In spite of everything, says Tsion. Chloe just looks at him: “is there anything in there that says when the phones will start working again?” (p. 101).

After praying for his cyber-congregation (now more than one billion), Tsion is fighting sleep (pp. 231-232). It is 12:57 p.m. on Saturday. Tsion feels a tingle like the one he felt when interceding for Rayford. Suddenly Tsion is looking down upon himself and Baby Kenny, both sleeping. He feels weightless but feels the sensation of his body: the breeze upon the hairs on his arms, the smell of autumn leaves that nobody burned anymore, the sounds of appliances in the safe house and of a baby breathing. He ascends from Earth. He races through the vast universe. “He had never believed heaven was on the same physical plane as the universe, somewhere rocket men could go if they had the resources” (p. 234). Is he going there?

(Trivia alert: In his nonfiction writings, Tim LaHaye writes,

Somewhere, high in the heavens, out in the universe, a throne is set, which is the throne of God. This throne, described in [Rev. 4:1-2], gives us a glimpse of the heaven of God.

he Bible teaches us that there are three heavens. The first, the atmospheric heaven, where “the prince of the power of the air” holds forth, will one day be destroyed. The second heaven is the stellar heaven, known to us as the universe. The third heaven, into which John was caught up in verse 1, is the heaven of God. This could be the “empty space” referred to by Job in Job 26:7.

[TOM’s note: See also Psa. 18:11, 97:2.]

Although the heavens are filled with stars wherever the telescope can reach, it seems that behind the North Star there is an empty space. For that reason it has been suggested that this could be the third heaven, the heaven of God, where His throne is.

–Revelation Unveiled, c1999 (p. 113).

(So Tsion may have gone north. He passes our local planets and then “numberless galaxies” with “solar systems” of their own. However the novel does not specify a direction. The authors may have decided not to include it. /end aside)

Tsion becomes aware of a destination. A great light, brighter than burning magnesium, blots out the darkness. The Shekinah? The glory of God? Could he see it and live? He goes toward the light (pp. 232-235).

Tsion mistakes the Archangel Michael for Jesus. Tsion describes him (“the face ringed with hair massive as prairie grass”) and even interrupts him (pp. 242-243). Michael shows him an argument between the LORD and Lucifer, although Tsion only can see Lucifer. The enemy transforms into a serpent, then a dragon. Rev. 12:1-5 is re-enacted. Michael departs with many angels to fight the dragon. Tsion wakes with a start (pp. 241-248). The time is 12:59 p.m.

At 10 p.m. Saturday night Tsion is returned to the vision. He mistakes the Archangel Gabriel for Michael, who is engaged in battle (pp. 301-304). Rev. 12:6-12, 17 is re-enacted. When Tsion wakes, it is still 10 p.m. (Aside: the re-enactments are 10 pages, which because of added material is 9 pages longer then the verses upon which they are based.)

Spoiler: What are Rayford’s adventures on his way home from Jerusalem to Illinois?

Answer: “Rayford suddenly felt the weight of life” (pp. 48-51). He recalls the snatches of joy in his life: his daughter, son-in-law, grandson, friends. This reminds him that he has abandoned his friends, Buck and Leah. He tried to assassinate someone. What would Tsion say if he knew what Rayford had done?

“[Rayford] had wondered more than once during the past few months whether he was insane.” The scientific, logical Rayford who was left behind would not have done this. The new believer Rayford would not have done this either. In the quiet of the night, the cooling of the sky, the sea below, Rayford can feel “the hound of heaven pursuing him.” It is time to stop running. “He was going to face this, to square his shoulders to God and take the heat” (pp. 50-51). He cycles through shame, humility, prayer, and reminders of his responsibilities as leader of the Tribulation Force (pp. 70-73).

Rayford hopes that someone in Greece will shelter him. Over a hundred congregations had arisen in secret. His friend Lukas (Laslos) Mikos reports that Carpathia had wooed Greece into submission. “You are a deeply religious people, with a rich place in the histories of many belief systems.” The Antichrist’s power to mesmerize large crowds was believed to be so effective that “Greece was all but ignored by GC counter-intelligence, security, and peacekeeping forces. The country was low maintenance” (pp. 67-69).

Laslos and a pastor named Demetrius Demeter take Rayford to a secluded cottage. Demetrius says that he does not know if Rayford shot Carpathia. “But I discern your brokenness, and it is because you have sinned” (p. 110). Rayford is convicted by conscience and healed by the words of the young pastor. Released from his “murderous rage” and from “the dread fear that came with life as an international fugitive, he rested in the knowledge that he was a child of the King, a saved, forgiven, precious, beloved son in the hollow of his Father’s hand” (pp. 112-113).

The next morning, a believer named Adon gives Rayford a severe haircut down to the stubble and dyes it gray. Does Rayford wear glasses? Contacts, he says. “‘Not anymore,’” Laslos said, and Adon produced a pair that completed the look.” This new look adds ten years to his appearance. Then Adon forges new photo identification papers (pp. 130-131).

They miss a detail. The tower official observes, “Wow! It looks like this picture was taken today … He got this [ID] eight, nine months ago, but his hair’s the same length and, if I’m not mistaken, he’s wearing the same shirt.” Rayford bluffs that the hair doesn’t grow much anymore, and he doesn’t own a lot of shirts. “Your own plane and not that many shirts? There’s priorities for you.” Rayford shrugs; it’s a company plane. The GC lets him go (pp. 138-139).

Rayford and Leah agree to meet in the airport in Kankakee. He leaves the engine running, runs into the building, wakes Leah, grabs her, and they take off, “certain that Kankakee had no GC pursuit craft and no interest in a small jet flyer who had boorishly violated their protocols.” They apologize to each other (pp. 173-175). At Palwaukee, they hot-wire one of T Delanty’s cars (p. 179). Then they visit the Zekes (senior and junior) to get a makeover and a new identity for Leah (a.k.a. “Gerri Seaver”) (p. 180). Rayford calls the safe house and learns from Tsion that Chloe went to Chicago (p. 181).

Spoiler: What do Tsion and Chloe debate?

Answer: It is four PM on Friday (pp. 53-60). Tsion and Chloe worry that Hattie has compromised them. Suddenly Chloe is fighting tears (p. 55). “Tsion was alarmed at how much it took for Chloe to articulate her thoughts. They had always been able to talk, but she had never been extremely self-revelatory.” He says that he will keep her confidences. “Consider it clergy-parishioner privilege.”

Chloe has been watching “those staged rallies” where people worship the Antichrist. Small children—all aged three-and-a-half years and younger—are prominently featured (p. 56). They parade before Carpathia’s body and salute over their hearts with every step. “Day care workers and parents dressed the kids alike [in GC uniforms], and cute little boys and girls brought flowers and were taught to bow and wave and salute and sing to Carpathia.” Worse, children barely old enough to speak are being taught to speak—to pray—“Our Father in New Babylon, Carpathia be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done …” Tsion says he is “afraid of lightning” strikes.

Chloe slowly says, “I have been studying death …. I will not allow myself or my baby to fall into the hands of the enemy.” Has she told her husband? asks Tsion. No, she has not, and Tsion just promised that he would keep her confidence (p. 57). Chloe continues with “chilling conviction” that “I would rather we were dead ….I would [kill myself]. And I would commit infanticide.”

Tsion prays silently for wisdom. He asks Chloe, “Is this a sign of faith, or lack of faith?” Chloe does not know. But she “cannot image that God would want me or my baby in that situation.” Tsion asks if she thinks God wants her in this situation. God is not willing that any should perish. God would rather that she had been ready [to have gone up in the Rapture]. She knows, interrupts Chloe, she knows.

Tsion believes her. But he believes that she is not being “honest” with herself. She keeps using the word “infanticide.” He says, “There you go again. Buffering your conviction 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).

Tsion urges her to admit “what you’re going to do to this little one, because obviously, you have to do it to him first if it’s going to get done. Because if you kill yourself, none of the rest of us will do this job for you.” What is she really planning to do? “Kill.” Kill whom? With what? “Him.” Who is him? With what? Tsion presses, “Put it in a sentence.” Chloe finally says, “I will. I will … kill … my own baby.”

“‘Baby!’ Kenny exulted, running to her. She reached for him, sobbing.”

Tsion repeats, how would she do it? Chloe says that this is what she is studying. And then Chloe would kill herself? Yes. Tsion asks, why? Chloe says, “Because I cannot live without him.”

Well then, Tsion says, then her husband would be “justified” in killing himself (p. 59). Chloe shakes her head; the world needs him. Tsion replies that the world needs Chloe. Think of the co-op, he begins. Chloe cries, “I can’t think anymore! I want done with this! I want it over! I don’t know what we were thinking, bringing a child into this world.”

Tsion: but the child has brought so much joy. Chloe: that is why she “could not do him the disservice of letting him fall into GC hands.”

Tsion: “So the GC comes, you kill the baby, kill yourself, Cameron and your father kill themselves. Where does it end?” Chloe: they wouldn’t; they couldn’t. Tsion: you can’t, and you won’t.

Chloe thought she could talk to Tsion, that at least he would be sympathetic. Tsion assures her that she can talk to him, and he is sympathetic, but he will not condone this. “Neither do I want to live without you and the little one. You know what comes next.”

Chloe says, “Oh, Tsion, you would not deprive your global church of yourself.” Tsion replies, “Yet you would deprive me of yourself. You must not care for me as much as I care for you, or as much as I thought you did.”

Chloe sighs and looks to the ceiling. “You’re not helping,” she says in mock exasperation (p. 60). He is trying, he says. She knows, she says, and she appreciates it.

“Tsion asked her to pray with him for their loved ones. She knelt on the floor next to the couch, holding his hand … Tsion peeked at a sound and saw Kenny kneeling next to his mother, hands folded, fingers entwined, eyes closed” (p. 60).

Spoiler: Does it work?

Answer: Tsion does not know. He misreads her sometimes. When Rayford is accused of murder, Chloe is silent. “Tsion might have predicted tears, disbelief, railing against someone other than her father. She just sat, shaking her head” (p. 87). They discuss Rayford’s rage. Tsion shares that rage, when he thinks of his own family (p. 89).

Coming so soon after their own discussion, Chloe wonders, “There’s no exception to God’s law if the [murder] victim is the Antichrist, is there? …. Mustn’t [Rayford] turn himself in?” Tsion replies, “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.” Furthermore, Tsion would harbor Rayford, though of course urging him to seek God about it (p. 90).

Next, Tsion is unprepared and “alarmed” when Chloe decides to go for a drive. Tsion cannot order her; he is not her superior. But “Chloe was proposing madness” (p. 170). It is broad daylight. It is reckless. She is taking their last vehicle, leaving Tsion with nothing. Chloe shrugs; he cannot outrun the GC anyway. Let him be the one to sit quietly and be invisible. And if the GC does locate them? “Promise me you will do anything but let Kenny fall into GC hands …. I want him to die first.”

Tsion replies strongly and immediately, “That I will not do.” He would die protecting Kenny. Chloe insists that that is not good enough. “You’ll be a martyr, but you still will have lost Kenny to the enemy.” Tsion replies, “You’re right. You’d better stay here.” Nice try, replies Chloe, and leaves (p. 171).

When the GC begins searching Mount Prospect for the safe house, Chloe in Chicago is nearly hysterical. She calls Tsion. Chloe says, “Under my mattress is a syringe with a [potion which TOM has excised from these spoilers]. It’ll work quick, but you have to [method, also excised]. Please! Don’t ever let them have my baby!” Tsion tells Chloe to get hold of herself. He will protect Kenny with his life. He is not going to harm Kenny. And he has work to do. After Chloe demands and pleads “please” three times and “promise me” twice more, Tsion replies, “God is with us,” and hangs up (p. 308).

Spoiler: What do others say about Chloe’s decision?

Answer: In its entirety from p. 312: “Rayford was heartsick that Chloe was determined to kill Kenny rather than see him fall into the hands of the enemy. And yet as a father, he could identify with her passion. It terrified him that she had thought it through to the point where she had an injection prepared.” Rayford hears about it only because he is standing next to Chloe when she makes her phone call. They never discuss it.

After they pick up Albie, Buck, and Chaim at the airport, Chloe suddenly puts her arms around Leah Rose, thanks her for her help, and says, “forgive me.” Leah accepts, then adds, “Just tell me you didn’t get the [potion] idea” and materials from Nurse Leah. Yes, says Chloe, she did. Suddenly Chloe says she is “glad” to know that Tsion would never hurt Kenny (pp. 333-334).

Spoiler: Who is Guy Blod? What is David’s connection to him?

Answer: Guy Blod (pronounced ghee blahd) begins as a persistent callback number on David Hassid’s beeper (p. 42). David’s voice mail quickly fills up “foul, nasty rantings, profanity and high-school gutter language.” The gist of the message is: “Where are you? Where could you be at a time like this? It’s the middle of the night! Do you even know about the murder? Call me! Don’t you know who I am?!”

Guy is a painter and sculptor appointed by Carpathia to the GC ministry of creative arts (pp. 42-46, 60-66, etc). He supervises the decorating of all GC buildings in New Babylon, which feature his creations. “He was considered a genius, though David—admittedly no expert—considered his work laughably gaudy and decidedly profane. ‘The more shocking and anti-God, the better’ had to have been Blod’s premise.”

Guy has approximately 29 hours to create a statue of the deceased Carpathia. He needs David to procure the necessary materials. If work proceeds on schedule, the inner shell will be forged and finished by midnight Saturday/Sunday. This gives Guy and his apprentices approximately six hours to sculpt the surface. Guy and David establish that the statue will be 24 feet tall, hollow, primarily bronze “with a sort of ebony finish with a texture of iron.” David helpfully suggests that it would be more stable if the sculptor “cheats on the shoes.” What shoes, asks Guy. The statue will be “au naturel.” David makes a face. Is that thing truly going to be installed in the palace courtyard for a televised funeral? Guy says dismissively, “You obviously have some hang-up about the human form and can’t appreciate the beauty” (p. 62-63).

(Aside: Volume 1, p. 232 describes Carpathia as “handsome as a young Robert Redford.” That is what Guy Blod intends to create and display: a 24-foot tall, anatomically correct statue of a 36-year-old evil Robert Redford. Naked.)

Guy and David needle each other relentlessly. Each calls the other man “Hayseed” and “Blood” no matter how many times the other corrects him. Grade-school math, the color of crayons, and “bronze and iron thingie suppliers” must be hammered out (p. 62). When David calls Guy “sir” six times in six minutes and Guy complains—“quit calling me that!”—David replies, “I’m sorry, I thought you were male” (pp. 44-46). David also calls the Minister of Arts “Minnie” (p. 217) and asks if Guy is going to tell David’s mom on him (p. 46).

Late at night, David recalls the story of Hattie’s friend Bo, whom Rayford tormented. Bo later committed suicide. David wonders why he gets so much joy out of tormenting Guy. The odds that Guy would ever convert seem low, but weren’t the odds low that David would have converted? Yet here he is. Was David even trying to be a positive influence in Guy’s life? (p. 266). When David’s conscience prods him to apologize, Guy is understandably suspicious (p. 273). But when the statue is finished by Sunday sunrise, Guy thanks David for his help (p. 217).

Guy has designed an eternal furnace inside the statue. The fire is lit under the knees, and the face—the eyes, nostrils, and mouth just like the deceased—is the only exhaust. “This sort of art is a duet between sculptor and viewer, and my goal is that they participate in the illusion that the statue is alive.” The fuel is a form of shale. The kindling is confiscated Bibles (p. 288)—anything on “onionskin paper … from every tribe and nation … holy books from all around the world, the last contribution of the late Pontifex Maximus” (pp. 283-284).

Before the idol is welded shut, a plain paper box is placed inside. David peeks. The furnace is the perfect place to entomb and melt the real murder weapon (p. 217).

Guy exhibits certain “outrageous,” “flamboyant” (p. 60) and “sassy artiste” (p. 43) mannerisms. Guy calls David “sweetie,” “dear boy,” and “soldier” (pp. 45, 64, and 273). Guy has a five-man “entourage of similarly huffy and put-out men in their late thirties” who share his traits and fashion sense (p. 43). (One of these sports two-inch green fingernails.) Guy spins in his swivel chair, giggles in mirth (pp. 62-63), has a “muse” (p. 64), and speaks in singsong (pp. 273, 283). When David references the “naked boy” statue, Guy exclaims, “ooh! How rude and tacky!” (p. 263), but does not “squeal” on David to Fortunado (p. 273). And when David comments that they will need protective gear and a hard hat to visit the forge, Guy turns to his “mates” and says, “I love new clothes” (p. 66).

The last known sighting of Guy is when the smoking statue demands to be worshipped. “Guy Blod and his assistants shrieked and fell prostrate, peeking at the image” (p. 349). The narrative does not record his reaction when the real Carpathia returns, or whatever happened to him. It also never uses the term that the character’s portrayal seems intended to suggest.

Spoiler: Why is Guy surprised? He built the thing, didn’t he?

Answer: He claims it was not designed to talk. David inspects it from a motorized scaffold and hears it talking as the lift approaches the face. “Muffled and sonorous, it was clearly Carpathia’s timbre. What was it saying, and how had they gotten it to do that? A chip? A disc player? A tape? He felt the vibration again, heard the hum, cocked his head to listen. ‘I shall shed the blood of saints and prophets’” (p. 285).

But when David asks, how did Guy get a recording in there—“won’t it melt?”—Guy says David is crazy, mistaken, hearing things. David insists that the statue spoke to him twice. Guy retorts, “This thing hasn’t been out of my sight since the shell was delivered. This isn’t a theme park. I don’t want giant talking action figures” (p. 286). So when the idol emits enough smoke to blot out the sun and starts quoting stolen Bible verses, he is as taken by surprise as is anyone.

Spoiler: What else is David doing in this volume?

Answer: He is settling in to New Babylon. Aside from Guy’s creations, David admires the rest of the city. “Carpathia had employed the best architects and landscapers and designers and decorators. And except for the absence of any God-honoring art, the place looked magnificent. Great colored spotlights accentuated the massive, crystalline buildings.” The disasters cause staffing shortages, irregular garbage disposal and delays in street-light replacement, but overall the city remains “stunning, a man-made marvel” (pp. 165-166).

After a tip from Guy about “that regional numbering thing” (p. 62), David sneaks into Viv Ivins’ office (pp. 79-83). He finds only a cryptic map. The new administration is changing the name of “The United Holy Land States” to “The United Carpathian States” and assigning it the number “216.” (The “United North American States” is numbered minus-6). For seven regional states, the cryptic numbers are multiples of six. For three others—the United South American States: “0” … The United Great Britain States: “2” … The United African States: “7”—they are not. (Aside, with spoilers for Volume 8: the numbers are regional prefixes for the Mark of the Beast.)

David learns from the news that Leon Fortunado has restored satellite communications. “David wondered why he had been asked to interfere with telephone capability and someone else had been asked to reverse it” (p. 104).

Next, David looks for a new safe house for the Tribulation Force. The originals have been living in Donny and Sandy Moore’s duplex for 21 months, since the Wrath of the Lamb Earthquake. They have no known neighbors within three miles and sit on the edge of open country. The Trib Force has expanded the cellar, hiding the shelter door with a defunct freezer of rotting food (p. 121). They have a makeshift well and solar power plant (p. 338). David wants to find something that good or better.

Chicago is “a ghost town, nothing living within 40 miles” (p. 102). The GC declared the city radioactive, and dozens died of what looked and acted like radiation poisoning. Not everyone agrees. “Some radical journalists, Buck Williams wanna-bes, averred on the Internet that the abandoning of Chicago was the biggest foul-up in history … and that the place was inhabitable” (p. 103). When remote probes do not give the expected readings, the results are attributed to equipment failure. David hacks in to see for himself. When he is satisfied that it is safe, he changes the readings of the probes to read danger.

David selects the Strong Building, only five years old. The 80-story skyscraper—now 26 stories shorter—looks like “a stubborn tree trunk that refused to cave in to the storms that leveled most of the rest of the city” (p. 104). From New Babylon, David hacks into the skyscraper’s software (pp. 131-135). “The best video game in history would not have been more addicting.” David finds the first 39 floors functional. He plays with the system for almost three hours, trying the HVAC, lights, phones, sanitation, elevators, security cameras. The building is “a technical marvel, wholly solar-powered.” David also finds over sixty abandoned cars in the underground garage. The valet station is still stocked with keys. This building could hide hundreds of exiles. Over the phone and via cameras, David walks Rayford, Chloe, and Leah through the office building (pp. 295-297). Rayford considers it the best gift God had given to the Tribulation Force since the arrival of Tsion. The only thing that would make it better is if it had beds (p. 306).

(It is only at this point that Chloe declares that she went for a drive to find a new safe house—p. 195—and that she thought of Chicago independently.)

Next, David watches Fortunado do some housekeeping (pp. 251-252). Fortunado asks, as if David would not remember, about Pontifex Maximus Peter Matthews who died earlier in the week (in Volume 6). Fortunado has made his memory “fade” from most people’s minds until Peter’s funeral is cancelled due to lack of interest. Fortunado also proposes that the Enigma Babylon “amalgam” be replaced with worship of “Saint” Carpathia. David gives the desired answers: “I think you will prevail.” Pleased, Fortunado offers his “capable and loyal” David a healthy raise and a chance to name his own role in the new regime. David lets Fortunado make that decision. To only one thing does David say no: a chance to speak at Carpathia’s funeral. Fortunado would be pleased to give him the time slot assigned to one of those “self-serving sons of the devil” who actually want it. David thinks, it takes one to know one.

Finally, David has to deal with the funeral. New Babylon is overwhelmed, with multiple families in every hotel room. The head of GC-CNN complains that “the viewing is not meeting their felt needs” (p. 290). Fortunado instructs David to bring enough television monitors to serve the predicted four million pilgrim-spectators. David also must lend his staff toward crowd control. Annie is stationed at marker 53, about a mile from the bier.

Ming Toy attends the funeral, as does her family (p. 305). Mr. Wong is insulted that they too can get no closer than marker 53. “I VIP because of business. Give lots money to Global Community. Very big patriot. Global patriot.” He orders David to introduce him to Fortunado and get them special seats in the palace courtyard. Fortunately for the newcomers, David confiscates the five VIP seats Guy Blod had reserved for his assistants. He and they will be “honored” by standing next to the statue in 100-degree heat all day. The Wong family can have their seats (pp. 317-320).

Spoiler: How does Tyrola Mark “T” Delanty die?

Answer: T flies to Israel to retrieve Buck and Chaim. If they go to an airport, Chaim will be recognized. Buck advises T to land on a deserted road at night. The Super J lands hard, spins to a stop (p. 213), and blows a tire (p. 220).

The fugitives board, with Chaim “whining” that they are all going to die. T uses the propulsion and the brakes to feather up the craft onto its one good tire. They barely miss a barrier of twisted pavement and a grove of trees as they return to the air (pp. 221-223). Chaim isn’t wrong about the danger. T has heard of one-wheel landings, but a belly landing may be unavoidable. He estimates that they have 50-50 odds of surviving the latter. “I’ll see you heaven, regardless,” he tells Buck (p. 223).

As they arrive in Greece, they hear good news and bad news. The good news is that Albie is waiting for them with another plane. The bad news is that the Super J runs out of fuel. They have to land on battery backup (pp. 260-261). T is unable to retract the one good wheel. The plane breaks in half upon impact (pp. 261, 265).

Buck and Chaim survive with injuries. T is found in the cockpit, strapped into his seat, at rest. “Buck saw no blood, no bones, no twisted limbs.” He takes T’s lifeless head into his arms and whispers, “I’ll see you at the Eastern Gate” (pp. 270-271).

Spoiler: Where, when, and how do the characters get saved?

Answer: Ming Toy credits her little brother Chang Wong, now seventeen, for her conversion (p. 13). Chang was led to faith by his friends. Ming and Chang have not told their parents, who are “very old-fashioned and very pro-Carpathia, especially my father. I worry about Chang” (p. 13).

Ming hears news that Buck’s family will be targeted if they do not reveal his location. They have no idea where he is, but that may not protect them. Ming predicts, “torture, dismemberment, then the fire to cover it up” (p. 200) because this is what the GC did to Chaim’s household.

Chloe breaks the news to her husband. The GC did come for Buck’s family (offscreen). The enemy couldn’t find them at first, because they were at church (p. 279). Their pastor states that Buck’s brother [Jeff] was the instigator. “He confronted your father about his stubborn insistence that he was a believer and always had been.” Jeff visited the home church alone several times. Their father “finally came just to avoid being alone …. One of the biggest obstacles was that he knew one day he would have to admit that you were right and he was wrong” (pp. 309-310). Their father wanted to tell Buck, but he was worried that their phone was bugged. The pastor concludes, “I just want you to know, sir, that your dad and your brother became true believers, and I’m sure they’re with God right now. They were so proud of you.” (The pastor adds, “And 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.)

Albie gets saved off-screen (p. 277). He meets Buck and Chaim in Greece. Buck is surprised to see his Saved Seal. Albie replies that it happened recently, within the week. He wanted to tell Rayford, but the phones were not working.

Buck asks how Albie came to faith. Albie replies, “Nothing dramatic, I’m afraid. I have always been religious, but Rayford and Mac and Abdullah all urged me to at least consider the writings of Dr. Ben-Judah. Finally I did. You know what reached me? His assessment of the difference between religion and Christianity.” Buck asks if this is the contention that religion is man’s attempt to reach God, while Jesus is God’s attempt to reach man. “The very argument,” Albie says. “I spent a couple of days surfing the archives of Dr. Ben-Judah’s Web site, saw all his explanations of the prophesied plagues and judgments, then studied the prophecies about the coming Christ. How anyone with a functioning mind—” Laslos interrupts Albie. They need to keep moving.

Chaim Rosenzweig gets saved at last. Buck locates and retrieves Chaim. Buck tells him that Chaim’s entire staff has been murdered. Chaim wails in horror. He cries that their murders must be avenged (p. 159). He threatens to jump from a window and tells Buck, “If I lose my nerve, you must push me!” Buck retorts that he will do no such thing. Chaim responds that he will not surrender to the GC. Moreover, Chaim claims he deserves to go to hell for what happened to his staff (page 160).

Chaim admits that Buck’s persistence has led him from atheism to agnosticism to belief in God’s existence (page 185). Yet part of him still believes that death is the end (p. 187). Between his belief that if there is a hell, he belongs there, and Buck’s insistence that Carpathia will rise from the dead (thus proving an afterlife), Chaim is truly miserable. He finally says, “I know I am lost” and bursts into tears (p. 197).

As T, Buck, and Chaim face the very real odds of dying in a plane crash, Chaim asks, “What is your best guess about how God feels about motives?” He wonders if conversion counts—if God will accept him—if his motives are selfish (pp. 225- 228). Buck replies, “we all come to faith selfish in some ways, Chaim. How could it be otherwise? We want to be forgiven. We want to be accepted, received, included. We want to go to heaven instead of hell. We want to be able to face death knowing what comes next” (p. 227).

As T’s plane makes its final desperate approach to earth, Chaim kneels and prays. Chaim cries, “I prayed, but I’m still scared!” So are T and Buck. But the Seal of the saved is on Chaim’s forehead (pp. 248-250, 254-255).

Hattie is not saved in this novel.

Spoiler: Describe the preparations for Antichrist Carpathia’s funeral.

Answer: Fortunado wants a public funeral (pp. 27-28). The ceremony is to be noon on Sunday, with burial at 2 p.m. on Sunday (p. 292). “Fortunately the face was not affected …. He must look perfect, dignified.” Fortunado hires a “local mortician” named Madeline Eikenberry, who very much “needs the work” after recently laying off staff and “reorganizing her business” (p. 27). Eikenberry identifies herself as an M.D. and forensic pathologist (p. 149): morgue, rather than mortuary. Even so, she performs both the autopsy (pp. 149-156) and the embalming (p. 147) and restoration (pp. 147, 215).

Carpathia’s casket is a pine box with a Plexiglas cover for viewing. Honor guards polish the surface after every touch. As David watches, a worker pumps out air for a more perfect vacuum. David almost wishes the man were worthy of the display (p. 216).

“The work of Dr. Eikenberry had been astounding, as there was no evidence of trauma. Yet … Carpathia appeared more lifeless than any corpse David had ever seen.” He wonders if it is a wax figure (p. 216). By the time of the funeral, it is 106 degrees; if the body is a fake, it will melt (p. 326). From the beginning David and Annie speculate that the GC will display a dummy. That would imply that Carpathia would come back to life in the morgue refrigerator, and nobody would see it. “They don’t believe the prophecies, do they?” (p. 30).

Tsion is having his own issues with prophecy authorities. “Many sincere believers had questioned his teaching that the Antichrist would actually die from a wound to the head. Some said the Scriptures indicated that it would be merely a wound that made him appear dead. He tried to assure them that his best interpretation of the original Greek led him to believe that the man would actually die and then be indwelt by Satan himself upon coming back to life” (p. 119).

The media is split about recent events. Many interviewees praise Carpathia. Others praise Jesus. A reporter attributes the latter to the desperation of the spiritual vacuum caused by the death of the potentate and of the head of the One World Religion within a few days of each other (pp. 293-294).

Spoiler: Did Rayford Steele kill Nicolae Carpathia?

Answer: Rayford does not know. He admits to everything else. He aimed. The gun fired. But Rayford doesn’t know if he killed the Antichrist. “He had tried to, intended to, but couldn’t pull the trigger.” Rayford was bumped, and the gun went off (p. 20).

In New Babylon, David plants eavesdropping devices in the autopsy room and the evidence room. He also visits the evidence room. The purported bullet damage to the lectern, curtain, hook eyeholes, and brass casings of the curtain hooks leaves David astounded. Intelligence Chief Jim Hickman says, “The bullet coming from a weapon like that creates a mini-tornado. If a real Kansas twister had the same relative strength, it would mix Florida and Maine with California and Washington” (p. 141).

Hickman adds, “We’ve got eyewitnesses who say a guy in a raghead getup took the shot” (p. 142). Hickman whispers conspiratorially to David that Rayford is part of a conspiracy, and that his part was to make a diversionary shot. It would embarrass the administration if the kill wound came from the platform i.e., an inside job. Fortunado wants to promote the “disgruntled former employee” story in public (pp. 142, 151) while they deal with the conspiracy in private.

During the autopsy, David and Mac hear Eikenberry yelling at Carpathia’s physician. Eikenberry finds a 15- to 18-inch “big knife or small sword” still embedded from the nape of the neck to and through the crown of the skull (p. 152). Why was she not told that there was an exposed sharp in the victim? The other replies, “We didn’t want to prejudice you.” Eikenberry declares that unless they find a bullet wound, the sharp alone killed him (p. 153). Mac and David exchange glances. Rayford did not do it.

Next, David listens to a meeting of Fortunado, Hickman, and Moon. They examine video footage of the assassination. Because they have Rayford’s fingerprints, they look for him. They find him very close, three to four rows deep in the crowd. Hickman says, “good get-up. The gray hair sticking up out of the turban. Nice touch. Robes. I woulda thought he was an Arab.” Either Moon or Fortunado replies, “Some kinda raghead anyway” (p. 166). Then, “they all chuckled.”

Leon says softly, “Rayford Steele. Who’d have believed that? Wouldn’t murder be against his religion?” Hickman considers, “Maybe he convinces himself it’s a holy war. Then I guess everything goes” (p. 166). Moon confirms that Rayford missed.

So David is stunned when the severe Eikenberry—prettied up with makeup and a softer hairstyle—announces Carpathia died from a bullet from a Saber handgun. His last words were of forgiveness for the shooter. “I can tell you that there is no human explanation for the potentate’s ability to speak at all, given the physical damage. Truly this was a righteous man. Truly this was the son of god” (pp. 177-178). David’s recording from the morgue states otherwise. Yesterday Eikenberry had declared, “unless he could speak supernaturally, this man could not have said a word. Maybe they want to invent something for posterity, but no one had better ask me if it was possible” (p. 173).

David overhears Fortunado hypnotizing a cameraman and his supervisor (pp. 190-195). Fortunado now has the same mind-control powers as did Carpathia. Annie Christopher reports that Carpathia brainwashed Buck Williams before he was saved. She asks if Fortunado is the real Antichrist. After all, the purported one is still dead (p. 204).

David is petrified when Fortunado shows him a videodisc that clearly shows Carpathia’s assassination (pp. 206-210). Fortunado moves to hypnotize him. Suddenly David sees something different on the video playback. It shows Rayford as the shooter. Did someone switch videodiscs? Was David weaker than Buck Williams? (p. 209). David decides to say, “Steele must pay” (p. 210). But David knows he is in his right mind when he sees the GC dispose of the plain paper box with the real murder weapon (p. 217).

Regardless of the secrets behind the scene, the public situation is that the entire world is looking for Rayford Steele. He can hide from the GC but not from every person on earth—not unless he goes to ground and stays there, which Rayford is unlikely to do.

Spoiler: Did Hattie Durham kill Nicolae Antichrist Carpathia?

Answer: No. Ming Toy states that Hattie did not go to Jerusalem. Instead, she went directly from Europe to North America (pp. 12-13). Fortunado, Hickman, and Moon confirm it. They think she is going to Colorado to attend her sister’s funeral. They chortle that she doesn’t know it happened a month ago (p. 167).

Hattie does want to see if any of her family are still alive. However, she knows that she is being followed. She intends to lead the GC on a wild-goose chase (pp. 188-190). They told her to her face that “as it was clear that she had lost [Carpathia’s] baby, she was no longer a threat and was free to go,” even though “all she talked about was killing Carpathia” (p. 12). The GC believed that she would neither kill Carpathia nor go home to Colorado, but would instead lead them to the Tribulation Force. Now that they know better, they are angry enough to snip this loose end.

Buck tells Hattie that if she can elude her pursuers and they can accommodate her, they might offer her shelter again. Hattie replies, “You were all better than I deserved …. Just tell everybody I’m safe and so are they, and thanks for everything I didn’t deserve.” Buck replies that they all love her and are praying for her (p. 190).

As for the assassination, there may have been a woman in that Jerusalem crowd of two million people who looked like Hattie, but Hattie Durham was never there.

Spoiler: Well, then, whodunnit?

Answer: Professor Plum in the conservatory with a knife. Dr. Rosenzweig on the stage with a sword.

Buck finds Chaim Rosenzweig’s house in disarray, but Chaim’s workshop is neat and spare, as if cleaned before a move (p. 75). It gives him hope that Chaim escaped. In his mind, Buck lists the places he and Chaim have been. Buck tries The Harem, the bar where Buck and Chaim had retrieved Jacov (p. 96; Volume 5, 120). An earthquake has since put it out of business, and the streets are dark. Buck finds Chaim hiding up in a tree (p. 98). “Cameron, Cameron! This is almost enough to make a believer out of me. I knew you’d come.”

Chaim boasts the details. He only pretended to have a stroke. When he was alone, he exercised vigorously every day. Now in his late sixties, he is as strong and fit as he has ever been in his life. Buck is offended. Why would Chaim do this to his friends? Chaim shrugs: so that nobody would know his scheme (pp. 113-114). (Trivia alert: Although the text never mentions it, Chaim also gambled that Carpathia would not think to brainwash a stroke victim.)

Buck has a crisis of conscience. Chaim has committed first-degree murder—but Buck believes the victim will come back to life. What is Chaim’s culpability if there is no evidence of the wound? But the premeditation! “You planned …. for months, virtually told me you were going to do it by showing me your blade making—I don’t know where my head was” (pp. 183-184).

Chaim wanted it to be dramatic and satisfying. He hid his homemade short sword in the tubing of his wheelchair. He would leap from on high, drive the blade into the taller man’s crown, and ride it all the way down (p. 160). (“I was practicing my jumping.”) When everyone heard a gunshot, Carpathia stumbled and fell into Chaim’s lap. Chaim stabbed upward as Carpathia fell down (p. 161). It looked like a bayonet in a watermelon, but it worked (p. 207).

Chaim did it “to murder the greatest enemy my country has ever had” (p. 197). “I hated the man. I hated his lies and his broken promises to my homeland” (pp. 227-228).

Spoiler: How does Baby Kenny Bruce Williams die or escape?

Answer: The GC finds Leah hiding in the Land Rover outside of Chicago. She explains that the car belongs to her friend Russell Staub—an alias of Buck Williams—of Mount Prospect. She lies that she pulled over because she was sleepy (p. 203). The Peacekeepers notice her companions and suspect Rayford of being Ken Ritz or an acquaintance of his (p. 219-220). Rayford, Leah, and Chloe beat a hasty retreat, abandoning Chloe’s Suburban in the process. But instead of going home, they continue forward into Chicago. It is after midnight Saturday/Sunday when they start the long drive home (p. 307).

Unfortunately the GC remembers that Rayford Steele’s last known address was in Mount Prospect. Word travels quickly (pp. 306-307). Ming hears it at work. She tells Annie (who tells Tsion) and David (who tells Rayford). Chloe calls Tsion insisting that he be ready to “do it.” Tsion again refuses to put Baby Kenny to death. But he calculates that Rayford and the Land Rover are an hour away (p. 309). He cannot flee; Chloe took their last car.

Chloe calls Buck. Albie, who is with Buck and Chaim, comprehends the situation immediately (pp. 310-312). It happens that Albie a.k.a. Deputy Commander Marcus Elbaz has a GC uniform, GC identification, a weapon, and a plan. He orders Rayford to bring the Rover and orders David to give him a valid GC security code (p. 316). Buck and Chloe meet in Palwaukee (p. 332). Albie shows Rayford his Saved Seal and assumes command of the mission (p. 334).

Tsion reports that he can hear vehicle traffic. In the darkness, Albie moves to intercept, bringing Rayford and Chloe with him. “Rayford saw Chloe’s look in the low light, one of fierce determination that was more than just that of a protective mother. If they were going to engage the enemy, she plainly wanted in on it” (p. 346).

Albie confronts three GC vehicles with twelve operatives (pp. 354-357, 359-363). Albie reminds the enemy “Squadron Leader Datillo” that the time is 1330 Sunday afternoon in New Babylon. “It’s the funeral, isn’t it, sir?” There is a moratorium on combat-related activity anywhere in the world during the solemnities. “No untoward publicity [shall] crowd out the funeral as the top news story” (pp. 362-363). If the squadron leaves immediately and tells no one, the Deputy Commander will tell no one about the squadron leader’s mistake.

After Datillo already has agreed and is trying to leave, Albie adds that he found a house full of targets and apprehended them; he just hasn’t had time to collect the evidence and no, he does not need any help. The nervous squadron leader who is looking for Rayford profusely thanks Albie and his associates Chloe and Rayford and “races off into the darkness” (p. 363). The Tribulation Force enters the safe house, and Chloe races to pull Kenny from his crib and smother him with kisses (p. 369).

It is at this point that Hattie Durham, “near hysterics,” calls Rayford to warn him to evacuate the safe house (p. 373). “Don’t ask me how I know,” she says. She insists she did not give them away. Hattie has been accused of compromising the safe house no less than sixteen times—(pp. 13, 37, 45, 54, 55, 101, 102, 120, 146, 168, 181, 189, 195, 206, 310, 331)—but she didn’t do it.

Tsion continues to watch the funeral on television until Rayford prods him to record it and get packing. They take only what they can carry. Rayford leaves his laptop in Mount Prospect; he believes he can get online again in Chicago (p. 386). Rayford and Buck are in favor of burning the safe house, but Albie says not to spend the time. “Let the GC waste time digging through it, and then they can cook it” (p. 383). He suggests that they drive to Palwaukee and move the majority of their members by chopper to the Chicago safe house.

Buck holds the sleeping Baby Kenny while Chloe packs. They trade baby for bundle and Chloe carries their son to the Land Rover. The coolness of the predawn refreshes their spirits. They leave the home of Donny and Sandy Moore for the last time.

Tsion keeps Chloe’s secret. Nobody ever tells Buck Williams what his wife had planned to do to herself and their baby behind his back.

Spoiler: Why are Albie and Rayford arguing?

Answer: Rayford “wondered why had he not assured himself of the integrity of Albie’s mark [Seal]” with the spit-shine test instead of just looking at it (p. 352). As soon as they reach the safe house, Rayford demands Albie’s real name. You know my name, Albie says. Rayford wants to check Albie’s mark [Seal]. Albie replies, “In my culture, that is a terrible insult.” What insult, asks Rayford. Albie’s culture never had the [Seal] before. Albie replies that the insult is to not be trusted (pp. 373-375).

Rayford says, “Take it as a compliment. If you’re for real, you were so convincing as a GC commander that you made me wonder” (p. 376). Albie just seems to know too well what he is doing. Albie replies that he reads; he does his homework. Sometimes he even bluffs, just as Buck and Rayford do.

Albie himself had said to trust no one (pp. 356-357). When Rayford parrots it back to him (pp. 375-376), Albie is incensed. He throws down his cap, draws a gun, throws it onto Chloe’s bed, and dares Rayford to shoot him. He dares Rayford to check his Seal. “Touch it, rub it, wash it, put petrol on it. Do whatever you have to do to convince yourself” (p. 378). Albie uses the words “offended” and “insulted” six times until Rayford asks Albie to forgive him. Albie retorts, “That will require more of an apology than you have the time or energy or, I may say, the insight to give” (p. 379).

As he walks out, Albie holsters the gun and adds, “The only thing more offensive than not being trusted by an old friend is your simpering style of leadership. Rayford, you and those you are responsible for are entering the most dangerous phase of your existence. Don’t blow it with indecision and poor judgment” (p. 380).

Spoiler: Describe Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia’s funeral.

Answer: Bands, choirs, interpretive dance, fighter jets in formation, and endless lines. David sits 30 feet from the coffin. A video montage of Carpathia’s life ends with a hologram of Carpathia in space, his arms outstretched to embrace the world (pp. 327-330, 335-337). Fortunado also is dressed in a power suit, though not as convincingly (p. 331). He reads a repetitive eulogy, except that his speech includes the missing children (p. 337). David sneaks a glance at his fiancée Annie, making their hand signal 1-4-3 for the number of letters in “I love you” (p. 340).

Fortunado reiterates that the Judah-ites (Christians) and Orthodox Jews are foes of the GC. The statue belches forth smoke. Fortunado quips, “Even Nicolae the Great has to agree with that” (p. 345). Fortunado invites the ten sub-potentates to speak. Three are insufficiently lavish in their praise. Fortunado prays that if he is Carpathia’s successor, may the three be burnt up by fire from the sky. This then happens (p. 350).

When Fortunado asks the pilgrims to look into his eyes—or into the monitors—David guesses what Fortunado is trying to do. The 24-foot image speaks. It glows with intense heat. Fortunado decrees that all who will not worship the image and Carpathia shall die. The image roars, “Fear not! Flee not!” When some flee anyway, lightning strikes the far edges of the crowds, killing many (p. 358). Suddenly the idol cools, looking lifeless again. Its last words are an order to “gaze upon your lord god” Carpathia. The smoke remains, darkening the sky like storm clouds (p. 358). Even the temperature drops (p. 359). David realizes that he cannot locate Annie (pp. 364, 367, 384).).

(Trivia alert: LB: The Kids #26, pp. 130-132 specifies that “in only a few minutes, the temperature had fallen from 109 [degrees Fahrenheit] to low sixties [degrees Fahrenheit].” It also confirms that Annie Christopher is dead. Annie was running to catch the panicked crowds to tell them not to run. She was struck by lightning. She died instantly.)

In the darkness, the automated lights turn themselves on. It gives the effect of spotlights on the coffin. David sees Carpathia’s left index finger rise. A sub-potentate panics and tries to flee. A lightning strike in front of him makes him return to his place. The guards go into assault position, as if prepared to shoot a dead body (p. 364). In the vacuum, Nicolae starts breathing. His eyes open (p. 365). He kicks open the coffin and sends the Plexiglas lid flying, all 80 pounds of it. Then he leaps to his feet. David notices makeup, putty, surgical staples, and stitches left behind in the coffin where Nicolae’s head had lain. Carpathia is crisply dressed, perfectly coiffed, clean-shaven, and smugly triumphant. He quotes Mark 4:39: “Peace. Be still.” The stormclouds vanish, revealing the blazing sun (p. 366). (Trivia alert: this may be a follow-up to an earlier comment by Tsion: “Eons ago, God conceded control of earth’s weather to Satan himself, the prince and power of the air” –Volume 4, page 323. Tsion may have based his belief upon reading Job 1:12, 18-19, Eph. 2:2.)

Carpathia then quotes and takes for his own John 14:27, 14:1; Luke 9b-10; Matt. 8:26; Mark 4:40; Matt. 28:18. He concludes “Anyone who speaks a word against me [i.e. Carpathia indwelt by Satan], it will not be forgiven him. But as for you, the faithful, be of good cheer. It is I; do not be afraid” (p. 367). Carpathia, Fortunado, and Viv Ivins then form a receiving line so that pilgrims may shake hands with him. They “need not fear a recently dead man who wanted to touch and be touched” (p. 374). David sees the lure. “Besides the rugged, European handsomeness, he really sold the care and compassion. David knew he was insidious, but his smarminess didn’t show” (p. 387). But Carpathia won’t have time to shake hands with all of them. He has an announcement to make.

Spoiler: Does Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia really die and become dead, or merely seem to die and become dead? Does he really rise from the dead or merely seem to rise from the dead?

Answer: Yes to both. As mentioned upthread, he was stabbed in the neck and head and bled out and flatlined and was embalmed. He was dead.

As to whether Carpathia’s body has become a resurrection body, a forever-body, it now has abilities consistent with a forever-body. Carpathia no longer needs nourishment, including water (Volume 10, p. 374). During the Fourth Bowl Judgment (Rev. 16:8-9), the sun scorches the earth with heat, causing unsaved people, buildings, and a hapless dog to spontaneously combust (Volume 10, pp. 384-385). Carpathia sunbathes in the courtyard away from the wailing “mortals” and their problems (Volume 10, pp. 394-395). Next, during the Fifth Bowl Judgment (Rev. 16:10-11) darkness blots out all sources of light. Nothing works: not sun, moon, stars, matches, light bulbs, car headlamps, etc. (Volume 10, p. 400). Even the saved characters can see no source of light. They see all things in a sepia tone, but the sun, moon, stars, matches, light bulbs, car headlamps, etc. do not shine in their sight. Yet Carpathia glows in the dark, probably in mockery of the Transfiguration. Rayford thinks that the sickly glow is the light of distant hellfire (Volume 11, pp. 32, 52-57).

The reader may well observe that Carpathia always has had supernatural powers because he could hypnotize people. However, brainwashing has never been associated with Christian resurrection. That is a separate belief, plot point, and problem.

As to whether Carpathia’s spirit and soul returned from the afterlife—as opposed to, say, Satan wearing the empty body like a glove—the series shows Carpathia and Satan interacting with each other. Volume 12 alone includes multiple examples. Twice Mac McCullum observes Satan withdrawing from Carpathia (Volume 12, pp. 81-91; 307-311). Whenever they are separated, Carpathia shrivels. “Mac had the feeling that this was what the body of Carpathia would have looked like, had it been moldering in the grave since his assassination three and a half years ago” (Volume 12, pp. 308, also 82). Only here do the authors purport that Satan has reached his limit: he can bestow a resurrection body, but it isn’t an ideal, blessed body. Nevertheless, the ghoulish body lives—despite having been embalmed as noted above. The person inside it lives. Carpathia exhibits intelligence, self-awareness, consciousness, sentience. He flatters; he begs for mercy; he offers ideas. When Satan re-inhabits the body, it plumps up again and looks handsome and healthy (Volume 12, p. 91). Its personality also changes.

There is one more proof. Jesus Christ treats them as separate people. His sorrows over their loss are different sorrows. Their punishments are different punishments. When the indwelt Carpathia is brought before Christ, he (they) “turned his back on Jesus … defiant and bored” (Volume 12, p. 304). He (they) “smirk” at Christ. Jesus says, “Lucifer, leave this man!” and Carpathia shrivels (Volume 12, pp. 307-308). After Jesus reads the charges, Carpathia confesses not only that Jesus is Lord, but that he knows Jesus loved him and that he wasted his life (Volume 12, p. 309). Jesus orders him cast alive into the lake of fire for eternity. Carpathia goes without a struggle, only hiding his face (Volume 12, pp. 310-311). Satan, however, rages all the way to the bottomless pit, to be “bound for a thousand years” (p. 316). He also refuses to acknowledge Jesus as Lord (Volume 12, p. 326). Carpathia and Satan were in the presence of Jesus Christ at the same time, alive, as separate people.

Therefore, yes, in the novels, Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia did indeed die and become dead. His spirit and soul did indeed depart into the afterlife. His spirit and soul did indeed return from the afterlife. His flesh did indeed become alive again, inhabited again, unable to die ever again. Carpathia did indeed return as a resurrected being rather than a resuscitated one or a revivified one. (“Resuscitation” is what first-responders do. “Revivification” is what Jesus did with four-days-dead Lazarus.) Satan did indeed enter into Carpathia and dwell in him. These events were in fulfillment of the character Tsion Ben-Judah’s interpretation of Rev. 13:10 regarding the manner of death, and of Rev. 13:2-3, 12; 17:8 to return from death. That which Tsion teaches as truth has come true—in the novels.

Having come back from the dead, the indwelt Carpathia tells those who still resist him (Volume 7, p. 388): “If the last three and a half years are your idea of tribulation, wait until you endure the Great Tribulation.”


Discussion topics will appear in a separate post: Part 1 of 2, Part 2 of 2.