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Headscratchers: Left Behind
  • Out of all the things that bug me about these books, this is fairly low on the list. However, having gotten back from the gym a little earlier I want to talk about the fact that Buck becomes exhausted after walking less than two miles. Some of you might not know how tired you would get if you walked two miles. I didn't know myself before I began exercising regularly. Anyway, most treadmills measure the distance you would have traveled if you were actually moving from Point A to Point B at X rate of speed for X amount of time, and the ones I've been using are no different. In a typical workout, I do the equivalent of jogging and walking a little more than a mile before I have to stop, and after that I still have enough energy left over to lift weights, so traveling a mile would not exactly have me on the verge of passing out from fatigue. If I decided to just walk at a leisurely pace and not exert myself too hard, I'm pretty sure I could walk twice that distance...and I'm pretty sure you could, too. I don't consider myself to be in exceptional shape or anything. I'd say I'm in average shape at best. I'm saying that Buck is in terrible shape, at least cardiovascular shape. Terrible, terrible, terrible.
    • My old job was at a restaurant that's about 2 miles from my home. On a couple of nice summer days, I walked home after working an eight hour shift that had had me on my feet all day. Sure, I was a bit tired afterward, but it was never like the epic journey of death described in the book. I've also been on hikes in Banff that were longer than two miles, over terrain that is a lot less forgiving than a New York sidewalk, and even those didn't have me anywhere near as exhausted as Buck was after his little adventure. Like you, I'm not some kind of uber-fit athlete, I just happen to not have the cardiovascular system of a 90-year-old. The problem in the book seems to be that the authors believe Manhattan is much, much larger than it actually is, though, rather than Buck's inability to handle a couple miles of walking. I'd like to imagine that they confused the size of the entire NYC metropolis with that of the Manhattan borough. And it's also really sad that I, a Canadian, apparently know more about New York's geography than these two American authors.
    • I'm a gamer, don't get that much exercise (I use the stairs instead of the elevators when I can) and spend most of my time indoors, but I've walked from the Reichstag to Checkpoint Charlie and then all over Berlin on a pretty hot summer day just fine. Another summer, I walked about two miles to my school, then took part in a musical production rehearsal, then walked back to my house and then felt exhausted.
    • Hell, I used to walk about a mile-and-a-half to school and then back again every day, from the second grade through High School. This was in Western N.C., so much of it was uphill (both ways, as a matter of fact, since I took a different route home). I've never been very physically fit, but the only time I ever broke down from exhaustion like Buck was the first time I walked there in mid-summer, when I was 8 years old, and even then I was mostly just trying to convince my mother to take the car instead. Apparently Buck Williams is less physically capable than an 8-year-old - and a chubby 8-year-old at that.
    • Two miles is nothing. I'm a bookworm who doesn't get much exercise and I walk way more than two miles to get to and from my classes each day without much trouble. The only things that get me to Buck's level of exhaustion are the hills and stairs. My university is known for having a ridiculous number of hills and stairsnote .
      • Sounds like WVU.
    • When I Was Your Age, we walked twenty miles to school every day in the driving snow. And it was uphill, both ways!

  • What happened to Russia after their inexplicable first strike on Israel failed? Did Israel retaliate? Did they go nuclear in response? I don't recall the book ever mentioning what happened to the country itself after its military was destroyed, nor was it clear whether their entire military was annihilated or merely the forces attacking Israel (Which, logically, could not have included their entire land army). Did the government survive the inevitable popular backlash over such a spectacular defeat? Evidently the State still exists in some form, since it is later mentioned in passing during various UN functions, but seriously - what did they do after attacking a sovereign country unannounced and failing catastrophically? Shrug awkwardly, announce "nichevo!" and stroll away? Surrender? Rebuild and attack again?
    • The same goes for Ethiopia, although I have difficulty imagining how many planes and long-range missiles they could possibly contribute in the first place, so their defeat would be much less remarkable.
    • The maneuvering between China and Russia after an event like that could make a book series of its own.
    • Russia attacked Israel to steal the bio-restorative forumla, though I don't see how they were thought to steal something after they planned to nuke the entire country; the formula would have been destroyed along with Israel (and their invading airforce, I might add). All that aside, Nicolae established the Global Community after acquiring the bio restorative formula. He then offered it to every nation on Earth to buy their allegiance, this includes Russia. Russia now has the very thing that they went to war with Israel for. Probably in the interests of peace, both nations dropped the whole incident. It's not a very good explanation but it is the only one.

  • I don't see why Carpathia had to negotiate with Chaim Rosenzweig for the formula for crop growing in order to take control of the world through their bellies. Carpathia is in regular contact with Satan, who is a spiritual entity. If Chaim Rosenzweig's formula is just science, then Satan should be intelligent enough and knowledgeable enough to have figured it out. If not, then he could just send some invisible demons into Chaim Rosenzweig's laboratory and steal the secret for themselves.
    • It's all part of Carpathia fulfilling what the book of Daniel says about "the prince that shall come" in the "70 weeks" prophecy. In Daniel 9:27, it says that the prince "shall confirm a covenant with many for one week", which is a period of seven years. The book of Isaiah also speaks about Israel making "a covenant with hell" which they believe promises them protection, which as interpreted by the Left Behind books is Nicolae Carpathia promising Israel peace for a seven-year licensing agreement for the synthetic fertilizer formula. The book series seems to require that you are either well-studied in futuristic end-times theology or that you do your homework and seek out the answers for yourself.

  • If Israel is part of the One World Government, why did Carpathia sign a peace treaty with the Israeli government? They're explicitly referred to as being subject to the OWG when Carpathia visits in Tribulation Force, and have been demilitarized with the rest of the planet. So how can they possible treat with Babylon as a sovereign nation state?
    • In the same vein, why are the Jews apparently exempt from the Enigma Babylon One World Faith? (If they aren't exempt, why did they get to build their own temple?)
      • The Enigma Babylon One religion works way better if you imagined it like some church registration service or the UN. If you're a religion or a church, you are required to register with them and agree to some mission statement. After they join, I think gradually the other religions are supposed to lose their distinctness and fall into line with the nebulous doctrine of the Enigma religion, which is just "All of Humanity is inherently good," and "There is a higher power that created everything." If you don't, technically you're breaking the Global Community laws, but it's loosely enforced. That explains why Bruce Barnes is never persecuted, nor any one really cares about Rayford being a christian. There are still Christian churches under the umbrella of the Enigma banner, and Judaism as well.
    • Could it be in recognition of them handing over the miracle grow formula to Carpathia?

  • Why are the authors so obsessed with keeping the heroes sexually pure? Rayford is married, but kind of thinking about maybe starting something with Hattie before the Rapture - but doesn't go through with it and remains celibate until he remarries. Even worse offenders are Chloe and Buck. Chloe is a beautiful, smart college student and Buck is a handsome, outgoing, brilliant, jet-setting investigative reporter, and also a college graduate. Neither of them has any moral scruples about sex before they convert, but somehow they are still virgins when they meet. Chloe is only slightly unlikely at 20 years old, but Buck is 30! Do Jenkins and LaHaye think that giving Buck a sexual history would make him unsympathetic to the intended audience? If so, then why bring it up at all? You don't have to inform the reader that Buck's a virgin.

    Just to be clear - what bugs me isn't just that they're virgins per se... it's that the narrative treats sexual purity as an absolute must for its "good" characters. In Rayford's case, going through with the affair with Hattie is treated as a Moral Event Horizon that he narrowly avoided, and in Buck's case the story strains Willing Suspension of Disbelief to establish him as a virgin when it really doesn't need to. It's especially head-scratching within the theme of the series - everyone left behind is by definition an unrepentant sinner, and must seek redemption or be destroyed. So even if the authors believe premarital sex is wrong, why is that sin the one that must be avoided at all costs? It makes no sense. Even within PMD Christianity, sex outside of marriage is not supposed to be an unforgivable sin. And frankly, some of the other things Buck does in the books are a lot worse than getting a little nookie before he's married.
    • I think the point is that once one becomes a Christian, they would come to regret any sexual history that they once had outside of marriage, as there was a middle-aged hooker in Glorious Appearing who regretted being a hooker for drugs when she became a Christian. Hattie regretted her relationship with Nicolae when he proved that he was less interested in marrying the woman that would end up carrying his stillborn child, and that was before she became a Christian. If they entered into Christianity still being virgins, why shouldn't that be a reason to celebrate? It's just one less sin that they have to stain their conscience and memory with.
  • I'm not sure if this is explicitly addressed in the Left Behind books, but there is a certain Bible doctrine among Pretribulation Rapture believers about the "strong delusion". Basically, God will force people to believe in the Anti Christ to punish them. Typically, the Pretribulation believers will add that they will only believe it after they choose not to believe Christianity. There is some debate about when the strong delusion will come. Some think that after the Rapture, which is supernatural evidence that would convince Richard Dawkins, anyone who knew about Christianity but wasn't a believer will instantly be turned into a Luciferian since they are "without excuse" at that point. Others state that all nonbelievers at the point of the Indwelling will be converted to following the strong delusion. Either way, the not-true-Christians will believe the Antichrist is Jesus. The Muslims will think he is Allah. You get the idea. This leads to a number of headscratchers:

    1) For one thing, how exactly do you "choose" whether to believe Christianity or not? If you don't believe in the supernatural at all, you can't make yourself believe Christianity.

    2) Also, what then is the point of the angel telling people not to take the mark over the radios and television? The Real True Christians will already know not to, and everybody else will be a brainwashed beyond hope Satanist at this point anyway.

    3) What's the point of the second three and a half years then anyway if the nonbelievers are all doomed beyond hope? Why doesn't Jesus just gloriously appear then? Does he want to give the Tribulation saints a chance to damn themselves by giving in to Nicolae?
    • The Strong Delusion doctrine is not addressed, in point of fact, and the story seems to disagree with it. People continue to be converted throughout the entire tribulation.
  • Just how was the supposed immunity to death supposed to work in later books? Those scenes where the villains use swords or guns, and the bullets miss or go right through? What, do true christians just become intangible ghosts for a brief period?
    • If God created the laws of nature, physics, and science, and He is Lord over all creation, then He has authority to supersede those laws for His purposes whenever He wants to and leave us puzzled over how it's actually accomplished.
    • Before the series even begins, Russia fires its entire military arsenal at Isreal and manages not to hit a single person. Comparatively, making a bullet or sword miss is child's play for God.
    • God Did It is all the explanation required, if you accept the worldview of the novels.

Laura CaxtonHeadscratchers/LiteratureLes MisÚrables

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