Monthly Archives: November 2009

Teenage Christmas

This is part of the Teenage Crusade series of short films from the late 1950’s/early 1960’s–other titles include Teenage Testament (Question: Is it okay to proselytize at work?  Answer: yes.), Teenage Conflict (Question: Is there a conflict between faith and science?  Answer: No, science just hasn’t discovered that faith has all the answers.), and Teenage Loyalty (Question: Is it okay to blow off youth group activities when you get a part in the school play? Answer: No, that makes baby Jesus cry.)

Family Films presents cutouts arranging themselves to illustrate the theme of the story.

Over at Trinity Church, the youth group sure is fired up, by golly!  They have so darned many things to do, like making a Nativity scene and planning a skating party.  But not everyone is in a good mood—Mitch is sniping at everyone, and poor Sue is “frantic” that she won’t make it through Christmas.  She’s so busy co-chairing the Nativity committee (and I’ll at least give the movie props for having a girl be a co-chair) that she doesn’t even have time to look at Aunt Margaret’s Christmas card!  Sue’s mother is worried about her daughter’s frantic-ness, and suggests she send a joyful Christmas card…to herself.  Oh, sure, mom, give the poor girl one more damn thing to do!

As the youth group is setting up the Nativity scene outside, a couple of little kids wander by with all sorts of questions.  A few of the Christian teens would be delighted to answer, but mean ole Mitch totally blows them off, aided and abetted by Sue.  But the kids will get their revenge, oh yes, they will!

Later that evening, Sue and Mitch are interrupted while decorating Sue’s Christmas tree.  (Wait, wasn’t Sue just whining that she didn’t have any time for anything but youth group stuff?  And why is Mitch helping her decorate her family’s tree, anyway?)  Before we can receive answers to these questions, the phone rings.  Someone’s been throwing snowballs at the Nativity scene!  Oh noes!

The crime

The Nativity scene doesn’t look all that bad, really.  Basically, one of the mannequins got knocked over.  But the kids…oops, I mean the unknown perpetrators…took Mary’s dress.  “It’s sacrilegious!” cries Sue.

Andy, president of the youth group, runs up with some news: the mailman spotted the kids running from the scene of the crime!  He even knows where they live.  Mitch is ready to go over there and lynch them immediately, but Andy counsels caution and that, “anything we do to them, we should do in the spirit of Christmas.”

Judge, jury, and executioners

The kids turn out to live in an impliedly-poor part of town.  Big sister Fay has to take care of them because Mom (gasp!) has to work.  Fay defends the kids, but under the youth group’s interrogation, the kids (now revealed to be named Freddy and Jane) crack and return the dress.

Counsel for the defense

Sue: The figure wearing the dress represents Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Now, you wouldn’t want to take anything like that, would you?

Defendant #1

Turns out Jane snatched the dress as a gift for their mom for Christmas (awww!).  This fact revealed, Sue and Mitch share a few pangs of Christian guilt.  Andy hopes to help the kids out.  Not, you understand, by helping the poor kids get a present for their mom, but by teaching them “what Christmas is really all about.”

Defendant #2

Sue invites all three siblings to Christmas at the church.  Fay declines, saying she is “too busy.”  Although the movie never touches on this, I think it’s worth pointing out that Fay probably really is too busy, and busy with real concerns like taking care of small children and keeping house for a single mom who has to “work until she’s ready to drop.”  Not, you understand, the “too busy” of Sue, whose busy activities include decorating trees, skating, and signing Christmas cards.

But that’s certainly not the point.  The point, explained by Andy, is that “God cares” about Christmas.  Despite Fay politely declining four separate times, Andy’s on an evangelizing roll, here, and he’s not letting up until he’s got these folks in the pews, dammit!  He knows how to pick his battles, though, and convinces Fay to allow Freddy and Jane to go back with the teens and clean up the Nativity scene.  Now that Andy has the kids away from their older sister, he has free reign to proselytize unhindered!  The cleaning lasts for all of five seconds before the teens kneel in the snow and give the kids the whole Christmas spiel.

But despite the opportunity to proselytize to impressionable children, Sue is still in a pissy mood later at home, when Mitch calls her to remind her about going carol-singing.  (First he helps her decorate her tree and now this, eh?  He totally wants her.)

Just before the teens leave the church, they spot Freddy and Jane by the Nativity scene again.  They must be back to throw more snowballs!  The teen gang sneak up to the scene to catch the kids in the act…but it turns out Freddy and Jane have brought Fay with them, and are teaching her the Christmas story (like all nonbelievers, Fay is completely ignorant of the basics of Christianity).  They’ve also managed to internalize some nice Christmas guilt: “Do you think God will forgive us?”

Delighted that the evangelizing has worked, Sue grins (Mainly in Mitch’s direction.  Yeah, she wants him, too.), and proclaims that, “Now I feel like singing!”  So does Mitch.  And I’m sure the knowledge that a couple of spoiled teenagers now feel a bit more cheerful will help Freddy and Jane cope with the fact that they still have no Christmas present for their hard-working Mommy.

Bah, humbug.

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Babylon Rising, Chapter 3

Time to be introduced to the people who will Stop at Nothing to get the archaeological artifact that will prove the book of Daniel and the faith of Michael Murphy.

The Seven.

Just so we know they are Truly Evil, they hang out in a Gothic castle in Switzerland and have a guy with no tongue drive their guests in.

Their guest today is Shane Barrington, who is your standard-issue ruthless businessman and media mogul.  (He grew up on the “dog-eat-dog streets of Detroit.”  How he got from there to being master of a multi-billion dollar communications empire might make an interesting story, but LnD aren’t interested in telling it.)  Shane has received a mysterious e-mail detailing some of his more illegal business practices, and an invitation to Ye Olde Gothick Castle.

After flying in on his private Gulfstream IV (there’s LaHaye’s airplane fetish again!) Shane is driven the rest of the way by Tongueless Guy, who is interrogated by Shane with “icy threats.”  He finally shows Shane his empty mouth.  Ouch.

So here’s my question: Did the bad guys cut out his tongue, or did they just find a conveniently already-tongueless guy?

Shane is taken to the sub-sub-basement, where The Seven sit in a line at a long table and shine lights into Shane’s face so he can’t see them.

They propose a deal: in exchange for Shane doing their every bidding for the rest of his life, they will not reveal his illegal doings to the world.

Also, they’ll give him five billion dollars.

LnD’s bad guys sure are generous: this marks the second instance in three chapters of the bad guys giving people really cool shit.

Shane makes a brief false show of bravado, but ultimately bows to the pressure (and money).  In making their case, the following comment is made by a female member of The Seven (Emphasis theirs):

Woman of Seven: Don’t you understand?  You belong to us now.  Lock, stock, and barrel.  And we would use the barrel to carry off your soul as well—if you had one.

Wait, what?

Um, I hate to be the one to have to break it to you, lady, but the kind of barrels you’re referencing…aren’t for carrying souls in.

Lock, stock, and barrel

Barrel for carrying souls. No lock or stock.

Here are the members of The Seven we know so far:

Middle Seat:  John Bartholomew.  Only one of The Seven granted the dignity of a name.  Cautious guy.

Third Seat from Right: Male.  British.  Man of the cloth.  Happy guy.

Last Seat on Left: Female.  Loves to own people and laugh.  Unaware that guns have barrels.

Unknown seat: Male.  Hispanic.  You can tell because he calls people “señor.”

Other Three of Seven: ummmm…

 

Having struck this deal with Shane, The Seven send him back off with Tongueless Driver Guy.  So they had him fly to Switzerland for a meeting that took ten minutes.  And now that Shane is gone, they can let their hair down and cackle in an Eeeevil Manner about their plans.  “Think of Daniel! … Surely with the plans of us Seven, the true power of Babylon—the dark power of Babylon—will rise again!”

Babylon Rising, Chapter 2

So now we switch gears and head on over to Babylon, 604 B.C.  King Nebuchadnezzar has had a crazy, terrifying dream that he totally can’t remember even a little, so calls in the soothsayers and fortune-tellers from the land of Stereotypia to figure it out for him.  Duh, they can’t.  Cause it’s, you know, a friggin’ dream.  But one of the soothsayers has the bright idea to pass the buck along to a Hebrew named Daniel.

That’s it.  That’s Chapter 2.  These Babylon chapters promise to be really boring.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 1, Part 2

So, Mike is falling because Methuselah told him to head to the roof, only to pull the floor out from under him or something.

Now, something seemed a bit…off…about all this, so I did what I always do when I have a question about physics (which happens a lot, as you may imagine) and called my brother.

He figures that it would take, at a generous estimate, two entire seconds to fall eight stories.

But I picture Mikey falling like a Warner Bros. character, falling for about 30 full seconds, taking a sip of tea, reading War and Peace, etc.  Because here are all the things he manages to do during the eight-story fall:

“In the fleeting seconds after he started his descent, his multitasking mind flashed on how beautiful Laura [his wife] had looked yesterday afternoon before she left for her plane, he offered up a quick prayer, and he forced himself to focus on his years of martial arts training…He settled on the combination he had come to call Cat’s Last Gasp…”

Now, I might, might, be able to give Mike credit for such “multitasking” if he had been in the military, or had some other kind of training that would allow him to bypass panic and react instinctively to an unexpected free-fall.  But the way this is written, makes it sound like Mike just immediately begins casually mulling over his options:

“Hmmm, I appear to be free-falling.  In such a situation, one must focus on the best position to place one’s body in so that the chance of injury will be reduced as much as possible.I could use Cat’s Last Gasp, or Dog’s First Whine, or Cockroach’s Mid-Point Scuttle…”

But, as it happens, he doesn’t have to worry about any of this.  Methuselah has put up a big net for Mikey.  Hidden away but able to be heard, Meth explains that “his people” set up the net (and apparently everything else to come).  The free-fall wasn’t the death trap, you see—

The death trap is for Mike to fight a lion so that he may retrieve the clue stored in a collar which has been placed around said lion’s neck.

So Meth’s people have 1) obtained a lion, 2) placed a collar with a clue around its neck, 3) transported it to a deserted warehouse in Raleigh, and 4) put up a net to catch the guy who’s going to fall through a hole in the roof to do battle with the lion.  All this while making sure their employer will stay hidden during the battle, but be able to be heard.

Methuselah’s people rock.

Having hopped down from the net, Mikey demands that Meth tease him about the archeological prize about to be won.  Meth’s only clue is that it has to do with the Book of Daniel.  Hence, Mike gets to play Daniel.  Daniel, lion, get it?  Ha!

Mike doesn’t so much battle the lion as he retreats back into the net.  Which is actually pretty smart.  He cuts down part of the net so it falls on the lion, then hops onto the floor and cuts down the other half, sorta-kinda trapping him.  He then knocks out the lion with a sandbag so he can grab the collar.

Oh, and remember those taunts about Mike’s faith?  Here are some insults to his religion, leveled by Meth during the lion fight.  As you can see, these will cut to the very core of anyone’s faith:

“For a usless Bible teacher, you got moxie…”

“…[the artifact] will make you the reigning king of your precious Bible circle…”

“…don’t get overconfident with your Bible-boy heroics…”

Prize in hand, Mike makes no effort to find Methuselah.  He half-heartedly interrogates him about the artifact, but, following Meth’s warning that some people will will Stop At Nothing To Get It, he simply heads off for home, none the worse for wear except for one lion swipe to the shoulder.

And thus ends Chapter One.  On to Babylon!

Babylon Rising, Chapter 1, Part 1

Michael Murphy is falling through “a terrible dark abyss…all six feet three inches of him.”

Tim LaHaye sure likes his heroes tall.  Rayford Steele was six foot four.  Perhaps making Mike an inch shorter is his way of not challenging the manly manliness of Rayford.

It really makes me wonder how tall Tim LaHaye is.

Just by comparison, I’m betting not six foot four…

Not 6'4"

Why is Mike falling, you may ask?

Because some crazy old coot called Methuselah has tempted Mike to a deserted warehouse in Raleigh to retrieve an unspecified archeological artifact.

For the past couple of years, Methuselah has invited Mike to crazy death traps, the prize for surviving them being priceless treasures “that any archeologist would drool for.”

But although Methuselah tries his “weird best” to kill Murphy, that isn’t the worst part.  You see, during these challeges, Methuselah has the audacity to taunt Murphy about his faith.

Bastard!

Look, trying to kill me so you can give me treasure is one thing, Methuselah.  But to make fun of religion?  You’ve crossed the line, dude.

Babylon Rising, Intro and A Message

Lest we worry that Babylon Rising will not live up to the expectations created by the Left Behind series, we begin with a short (a very short) intro in which Tim LaHaye informs us that “I am more excited about Babylon Rising than any of my previous books.”  (Emphasis his)

The book is dedicated to 1) General Lew Wallace, author of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.  Haven’t read it myself, but apparently it taught Tim that fiction can be “both thrilling and instructive,” and can simultaneously appeal to both a Christian and secular audience.  I am now prepared to be thrilled and instructed.

2) Jerry Jenkins—sorry I didn’t pick you to “co-write” with me this time, Jer!  Good luck recycling our ideas in Underground Zealot!

3) Greg Dinallo—Co-writer for this book.  But not for the others.  Sorry, Greg.

4) “the Hebrew Prophets” for, you know, prophesying some stuff.

By the way, poor Greg…take a look at the cover…

Creator of Left Behind…New York Times Bestselling author…TIM LAHAYE

Oh, and some guy named Greg.  He helped, too.

And then, to top it all off, “A Message from Tim LaHaye.”

Tim repeats that he is more excited about Babylon Rising than any previous book.  But not too excited to take a minute to plug the Left Behind series (54 million in print and growing!!) for those readers of this book who might not have heard of it (right).

In fact, Tim is so excited that he named the hero after his son-in-law.  I can only assume that the real Michael Murphy is a lot easier to be around than the fictional Michael Murphy, who, we will see, suffers from many of the same faults as our “heroes” in the LB series, including an ego the size of Montana, and an utter inability to listen to criticism or opposing points of views.

Lest we wonder, even for a moment, if our new hero is up to the task (of not being seen as a wuss when compared to Rayford Steele), Tim reassures us before we have even started the story: “Murphy is a scholar in both archeology and Biblical prophecy, but unlike other scholars, he is also a complete adventurer and risk-taker when he is on the trail of ancient artifacts that can help to further authenticate the truth of the Bible…”

This is the first, but far from the last time, that LaHaye will take the opportunity to bash scholars, “ivory-tower intellectuals,” and basically anyone affiliated with higher education in any way (except, of course, Our Hero).

Hmmm, an archeologist and a “complete adventurer”?  Why do I get the sense I’ve heard of this character before…

Dun da dun dunnnnnnn

“…Murphy is a man of action and a man of faith, a true hero for our times…”

He’s awesome, take my word for it!  C’mon, buy the book!  This guy is totally gonna rock at least as hard as Rayford Steele!

And after all that, finally, finally, we get to Chapter One.

Let’s see if Michael Murphy is As Advertised…

Let’s see how it goes…

So here we go.  This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, ever since accidentally viewing Pamela’s Prayer in college.

It seems odd that an atheist should have a nearly-complete collection of Left Behind books, as well as dozens of religious short films.

Can these works of entertainment and evangelism convince an atheist?  Can they lead to interesting discussions and an exchange of ideas?  Or are they merely fodder for my own twisted amusement?