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Archive for May, 2009

TALK TO ME, PLEASE

May 29, 2009

Each time I boot up my computer, the first thing to greet my eyes is a view of the farm my husband, without discussing the matter with me, purchased just two years after we pledged our lives to each other. The photo was taken from the two-lane, back country road that led by our farm, and from across a grassy field. At the moment, I am wishing the camera lens had caught the back side of the house instead of the front. I can’t help but stare at the front door protected from the weather by a roof just large enough to have created a screened-in patio on which we could have enjoyed an occasional picnic-style meal while free of the swarming flies during the daylight hours and the mosquitoes at night. Although I ventured the suggestion often enough, I had no reason to think the message reached my intended target; I never received so much as a responding grunt. Ah, but my husband had a surprise waiting me when I came back from a ten-day stay in the hospital after giving birth to our second child, a son, on May the 11th, 1945.
With a sheepish grin, he proudly led me through the kitchen, through the living room, into the hallway, out the front door and … into a closed-in porch with a few small windows through which I could stare at the outside world! My screened-in patio was nothing more than a small room added to an already too large a house to my liking. We continued eating all meals at the only table in the house, the kitchen table.

With the above scenario in mind, I have come to the conclusion that there is but one way to put unpleasant experiences in the background: accept what happened and go on as though whatever it was, never happened. This past week I had to deal with a troublesome situation, but I’ve learned a lesson, one I should have paid attention to from the day my husband died back in 1993. Most of the time, I have. Too late for me but take my advice: if you need two large oak trees removed from your property, never deal with the guy who cuts your lawn and trims a hedge or two, a fellow who owns nothing much more than a riding mower and a hedge trimmer. You will be dealing with someone who deals with the guy who does owns the heavy-duty equipment. You will end up not only paying the guy who owns the equipment but also your “agent” for doing nothing much more than making telephone call or two. Guess in my case, I failed to heed the Yellow Page commercial …”let your fingers do the walking”. I kind of like comparing the matter to the cute little puppy who cautions the television viewer to “be kind to your behind”, only in a case such as mine, … be kind to your check book. Whatever the situation, talk it out

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A CRITIQUE OF THE NOVEL
LEFT BEHIND
by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Chapter One

Left Behind is a novel based on the acquired beliefs of its authors and to my way of thinking, completely minus anything and everything factual. After finishing the book, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Tim LaHaye and Mr. Jerry B. Jenkins are both woefully ignorant of the religious and political history of the Middle East leading up to the birth of Jesus, his crucifixion and everyhing to do with the onset of christianity.
The novel Left Behind deals with The Rapture, an event that is to take place sometime in the future when all “true” Christians, infants and children under the age of accountability, will be taken bodily into heaven. However, only those who believe in Mr. Lahaye’s and Mr. Jerry B. Jenkins’s interpretation of what a “true” Christian is, will find themselves winging heaven-ward come the hour of the rapture.
Having once been a member of a Christian fundamental church whose members accepted the Bible, especially the King James Version, as the one and only Bible inspired by God, I consider myself at least fairly knowledgeable as to what writers, such as Mr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins, consider to be “true Christians”. Catholics, Jews, Unitarians, Unitarian\Universalists, Quakers, Jehovah Witnesses, agnostics, atheists and all those who dare to think for themselves, will definitely find themselves “left behind” on that great and glorious day known as The Rapture.
My assessment of “Left Behind” in not intended to dwell on my personal beliefs concerning such an event. I read the book as I would read any book. I expect a book, even one based on an author’s religious faith, to be “readable”. Of most importance—conversation must sound natural to the reader’s inner senses at all times. In other words, any novel written for the adult reader in possession of a scintilla of intelligence, must not dissolve into fairytale nonsense, not if the author wishes to hold my interest.
If Mr. Lahaye and Mr. Jenkins wrote Left Behind with the intentions of convincing a skeptical reader—and I am a skeptical reader if there ever was one—to believe that such an event as a rapture is to take place sometime in the future, they should have researched their story’s subject matter a little deeper than they did. If they had done so, they might have written their story of a future holocaust event with a bit more realism than they did.
The book might not have been quite the hilarious farce I found it to be if the authors had chosen a sub-plot other than the one they did. It may be of little importance to some readers, but Mr. Lahaye and Mr. Jenkins should not have used a “just discovered, miracle-product”, a product for stimulating the growth of plants as an attention-grabber for their story. Such a product has been in use long before the story was written. Hydroplaning has been used for growing plants with little or no soil for a long time.
Page one through page three of Left Behind reads like the beginning of a paper-back romance novel—and that’s all right for those who enjoy romance novels. That is not a criticism, I simply expected a bit more substance leading into the book’s subject matter: Israel has made peace with its neighbors; it flourishes and all because of a “water-made-into-wine” miracle. Page eight, paragraph two, Dr. Rosenzweig, a botanist and chemical engineer, has discovered, or invented and is keeping secret, a formula for a fertilizer he is using in the state of Israel. The product causes Israelite’s deserts—with the help of a plentiful supply of water—to produce abundantly. Israel, however, refuses to share its closely-guarded secret with the rest of the world. How Israel manages to fertilize and yet keep the world from gaining enough of the fertilized desert sand to analyze the formula, is left to the imagination of the reader, but unless the world keeps on the good side of Israel, people around the world are free to starve to death. Sounds just like the Old Testament Yahweh of the early Israelites to me.
The authors should have done their homework.
Pages 9, 10: Russia, in spite of a devastated economy and a regressed technology, is determined to occupy and to dominate Israel. Even though technology for assessing a rival nation’s ability to launch an attack is available to today’s military leaders, such is not the case in the novel Left Behind. In Mr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins’ novel, Israel is caught completely off guard when an unexpected attack takes place in the middle of the night. Evidently Russia, by the time the story unfolds, has no fear of retaliation by the rest of the world. I wonder—just how devastated and regressed does the entire world have to be in the future in order to make Left Behind, plausible reading? According to the plot, it appears God has chosen to take “his own” out of the world and up into heaven to be with him at the exact moment Russia launches its attack on Israel. How any reader could take seriously the following, is beyond my understanding. I give you …
Pages 11, 12, 13 … Every military leader … expected to be put out of his misery in seconds… … Was this some sort of a cruel joke? … veteran military leaders buried their faces and screamed in terror. One man retains his manhood, our hero, Buck. Military leaders scream and cower while our courageous Buck merely crouches under a console for protection. What a calumnious statement against the military leaders of today, tomorrow, next week or anytime in the future.
Buck realized he would be no more dead outside than in… Bolder than the military leaders in the same room with him, Buck, a mere pilot, decides to go outside and do whatever it is a brave man has to do! What a man! What courage! What bravado! Come, now. Just how naive does Mr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins believe their readers to be? Or, are Christian readers really that gullible?
He forced open the door against a furnace blast and had to shield his eyes from the whiteness of the blaze. Heat? White hot heat? That’s hotter than necessary to fire clay in a kiln. Buck stood there in the heat, his face blistering … Blistering? In heat hot enough to fire clay? Buck would have been dead within moments from breathing in such heat … What in the world was happening? …. then came chunks of ice and hailstones as big as golf balls … forcing Buck to cover his head with his jacket. Hailstones as large as golf balls falling from the sky would likely kill a man, but chunks of ice and all Buck needs for protection is his jacket? That’s some jacket! … the earth shook, throwing him to the ground … the only sound was fire in the sky … ten minutes of thunderous roaring … Buck turned back to the building … the doorknob was still hot … . The doorknob is still hot and Buck hasn’t been roasted alive? The story, as the author of Alice In Wonderland wrote, gets “curiouser and curiouser.”
The authors clearly used the Bible, Exodus, Chapter 9, verses 22 through 26 to describe the chaos taking place. If the authors had studied the original Hebrew/Aramaic language in which Exodus was first written, they would have known before writing the story that the word “hail” mentioned in the Bible came from the word “barad”. Barad was the word for hot stones, not balls of ice commonly called hail, and certainly not chunks of ice.
Page 14, 15 Captain Rayford and Hattie Durham, the stewardess for whom Rayford has a yen, are on a plane several thousand feet in the air. Buck was stunned when he read Ezekiel 38 and 39 about a great enemy from the north invading Israel with the help of Persia, Libya, and Ethiopia. Ezekiel had good reason to write such a prophecy because he knew full well the strength of the Assyrians—now Iraqians—to the north of Israel. He, too, was among the unfortunate Jewish captives during their sojourn in Babylon. Israel has always had enemies to the north. What is so prophesyingly strange about Ezekiel warning his people to be alert in the future? Any intelligent leader living in Israel and Judah a few thousand years ago would have done the same. Ezekiel knew that in times of peace, the Israelite people, as are most humans when times are good, inclined to backslide into complacency. In such a case, invasion from their northern enemies was inevitable.
I believe it was a General Walker who “prophesied” Japan would rise up, go to war against the United States of America and that Pearl Harbor would likely be the first target struck. He received scorn and ridicule for his prognostication in the early twentieth century. On December 7, 1941, General Walker’s prophecy came true. He is all but totally forgotten by the American people. Ezekiel warned his people against a certainty and is remembered by millions of Christians as a great prophet. General Walker was, in my estimation, the greatest of the two.
Page 16 through 19 People are missing … she was sobbing now … I’ve been everywhere … all over the plane … their shoes, their socks, their clothes, everything left behind … Rayford wanted to comfort her … he wanted to believe the woman was crazy … page 17 Hattie grabbed his shoulder … Should I turn on the lights … no, he whispered … the less people know right now, the better . So, some people are aware of missing individuals, but not making a sound—not even parents who had cradled sleeping children on their laps and have disappeared! Buck backed into a secluded spot and slapped himself hard on the cheek. I wonder how many “real” men slap themselves on the cheek and Buck is, remember?, a supernatural “real” man … page 18 … What was he supposed to do?… First one, than another cried out when they realized their seat-mates were missing. Now, at long last, those parents who are wide awake and aware their children are missing, cry out . They scream, they leap from their seats … Leap? from airplane seats? Not from any airplane seat I’ve ever sat in. … I don’t know any more than you do, but we’ve got to calm these people down. Calm down screaming, terrifed, bewildered, panic-stricken mothers, fathers, wives and husbands? I’m going to make an announcement. your people keep everybody in their seats., Page 19 … As he raced up the stairs … Forget the panic of mothers, fathers, wives and husbands who are already on their feet and milling about in what little space there is in the aisle of any plane, Buck finds space in which to race up a flight of steps. Absolutely the most miraculous miracle ever put on paper … but get the lights on so we can make an accurate record of who’s here and who’s gone, and then get more of those foreign visitor declaration forms. Sounds like a principal of a high school when checking the study hall, finds some of the students have taken advantage of a missing teacher and skipped the study session. In my wildest imagination, I cannot picture all those crying, screaming, frantic-out-of- their-mind- passengers calmly sitting in their seats, ready to fill out questionnaires. What kind of la-la land do the authors of the book live in?
Page 28 When the captain had come back on the intercom with the information about returning to the United States, Buck Williams was surprised to hear applause throughout the cabin … people clapping? people sitting next to sobbing mothers and fathers, despondent husbands and wives and are able to clap for joy? Incredible. Impossible, but it sure raises a question or two in my mind, such as ..
What, besides every last stitch of clothing the people who were instantly taken to heaven were wearing, did they leave behind? I’m trying to be delicate, but finding it a bit difficult: I find it possible to understand how people can believe the body and the mind can be changed in a twinkling—can become santified—but what about the content in the digestive system and especially that in the lower bowel? Are human feces left behind along with clothing and jewelery, or does that, too, wend it way to heaven? If so, will the term “holy-shit” be an acceptable term in heaven as meaning “just that’ and nothing more?

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A letter to the editor on the subject of prayer appeared in the Opinion pages of our local newspaper a couple of weeks ago. It reminded me of a letter a devout Christain sent to me three or four years ago, and to whom I sent this reply. I decided to end a much too long absence from my blog with …

Dear M*******
Yes, for the most part I agree with everything in your list of what a non-Christian can, or should do, when prayers are said at public functions. Ever since I left the fundamental church of which I was a member for some eleven years, I’ve made no spoken objection to prayer except when called upon to do the praying. In spite of my lack of faith in prayer, I do as you suggest … up to a point. I sit back and think on anything other than the prayer prayed. Sometimes I think about how grateful I am to be free from belief in such things as an unseen God, gods, angels, demons, devils, spirits—both good and bad—and all things relating to the paranormal. I am thankful to be free from all myths and superstitions with which the religious zealot endeavors to shackle my mind.
In your letter you stated, ‘it wouldn’t bother me a bit if, while at a graduation service, I heard a Buddhist pray a Buddhist prayer.’ Buddhists, my dear friend, do not condemn the unbelievers to a mythical hell as does the fundamental Christian church to which you belong.
However, if the praying-believer you were listening to happened to be a Muslim praising Allah—just another name for “God”, and for keeping Muslim-believeing nations safe from their enemies, and thanking Allah for his goodness to the Muslim world, your words, It wouldn’t bother me at all, might change to something like, Why can’t they keep their faith in their mosques, or in their homes where it belongs? Somehow that thought does not occur to Christians who think it is both their right and their duty to spread their faith wherever and whenever the occasion presents itself—even in tax-free, public schools and other such institutions.
Having written that, I still can’t get my panties in a knot objecting to people praying wherever they want to pray. The question is: why, when Jesus himself said it is far better to go into one’s closet to pray than to do as the hypocrites and pray aloud in public, why pray in public at all?

Whether one prays or not, for me the answer lies in the final verse of a poem I wrote on the subject of prayer. . .

The world goes spinning on through space
while heaven’s graces fall
as randomly as springtime rain
and sunshine on us all.

In the meantime, let us agree to disagree.

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