Soon: Chapter 3: Daddy

First, thank you to Skyknight.  Turns out I had been misspelling “Decenti” all this time.  I think I’ve corrected all of the mistakes.  *blushes*

Sooner or later, almost every LaJenkins character has Daddy Issues.

As the Slacktivist has explored, Buck and his daddy play the good old working class father vs. college-educated son game.  Rayford Steele loses Raymie in the Rapture, but not before concluding that his 12-year-old son is a mama’s boy.  In the prequels, it is revealed that Rayford himself had Daddy Issues: his blue collar father wanted Rayford to join the family business, but Rayford wanted to be a pilot.

Over at Apocalypse Review, Pius has pointed out the toxic relationship between Josh Jordan and his artsy son, Cal.

In Babylon Rising, the only “shown” father-son relationship was also toxic, between media mogul Shane Barrington and…his artsy son, Arthur.  The “told” relationship, between Paul and his (now dead) father, is about Paul…not wanting to join the family business.

Hmm, themes.

Michael Murphy seems to be the only major LaHaye or Jenkins character unaffected.  In a later book in the series, he remembers a boyhood vacation with his dad, who was “loving and supportive,” but Murphy Sr. must be dead now, because he plays no part in the events of Babylon Rising, including the funeral of his daughter-in-law.

Now, that’s not to say that Daddy Issues can’t be done well, can’t be done very well, in the hands of good writers. 

But I think we all know where this is going.

Back in Chicago, Paul is almost halfway decent to Jae as he goes to clear out his dead mother’s house, and Jae and the kids go ice skating.  I’m sure they’re delighted to see the back of him.

Paul arrives at his mom’s house, and we get another glimpse of the awesomeness of this atheistic post-apocalyptic world that Jenkins thinks is so terrible.  You see, Paul’s mother died of brain cancer…

Though most cancer was now curable, certain strains defied the best efforts of modern science.  A century of study had yet to unravel the intricate mechanisms of the brain. (Emphasis mine)

They’ve cured cancer.  The evil godless hordes cured cancer.

This World Rocks.

Okay, does Jenkins have any idea how awesome he is making this world?  Yanno, I admit that I may be taking this personally, but it takes a lot of moxie to create a world in which atheists cure cancer, and then to say that those atheists are evil and deserve eternal torture.

Paul is busily rooting around in his mother’s papers, when he finds…

…a heavy, cream-colored vellum envelope with the remains of a flattened blob of a dark red wax on its flap–a broken seal, Paul supposed.

Oh gee, genius, ya think?

On the front was the inscription, in strong black letters: “For My Son on His Twelfth Birthday.”  Paul remembered that one of his schoolmates had gotten such a letter, written by his parents on the day of his birth and expressing their hopes for his future.  He had asked his mother about it, but she professed ignorance of the tradition.

I also profess ignorance of this tradition.  However, given what we will now discover and what Paul’s mother was (evil atheist) and what I am (evil atheist), maybe it’s not too surprising.  😛

Here is the first part of Paul’s father’s letter to Paul:

My beloved son,

Your birth today was a miracle, filling me with a joy greater than I have ever known or thought possible.

Can I just say, it’s really nice of Paul Sr. to take time out from being with his wife, who just gave birth, to write this letter?

Holding you for the first time, I felt blessed with the ultimate earthly gift.  One day you will hold your own child and understand the profound depth and breadth of a father’s love.

Yeah, I can’t imagine many twelve-year-old boys who would react to talk of their own future babies with anything other than, “Ewwwww!!!”

Interesting, too, that Paul Sr. wrote this letter without his wife.  Paul Jr. mentions the letter to his schoolmate, and that was from both parents.  Nice little dig on Mrs. Paul Sr., but hey, if he co-wrote the letter, he wouldn’t have the chance to proselytize, what with being unequally yoked and all:

The day you read this letter you will turn twelve.  On the threshold of manhood, you will be old enough to understand another kind of love–the love of God.  It is a much maligned love at the time I write.  There have been persecutions and terrorist acts around the globe–supposedly undertaken in the name of God, as different groups construe Him–which have drawn us into world war.

Note to Myself: Things Not to Mention in Birth Letters to My Future Son:

1.  Terrorist acts

2.  The No True Scotsman Fallacy

Many, your mother among them, have turned away from a God they see as the root of the world’s misery.  But you must not turn away, Son.

Always nice to turn your son against his mother in a Birth Letter.

First, God’s love transcends all earthly gifts, even the gift of your birth for me.

Nice.  Bet that would make a 12-year-old child feel just great.

God so loved the world that He sacrificed His perfect, only Son, who died on the cross to save us.  Accepting that love has been the most important and fulfilling decision of my own life.

More Things Not to Mention in Birth Letters to My Future Son:

3.  Boilerplate evangelism 

The second reason is that God’s Son has promised to return in glory to gather up those who believe in Him.  The Bible tells us “He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water.  And God will wipe away all their tears.”

But those who have rejected God will face a very different fate: punishment and suffering beyond anything we can imagine or have ever managed to inflict upon each other. 

“Guess what, son?  Mommy’s gonna fry in Hell!  Happy Birthday!”

The end of the Bible, the book of Revelation, describes in vivid and terrifying detail what will befall those who incur God’s wrath.

“So, Junior, if you ever decide to get a Ph.D. in religion when you grow up, be sure to read Revelation.  Just in case.”

I can’t even begin to reproduce the final two paragraphs.  Just imagine the lamest boilerplate Rapture fear-mongering you can, and you’ll be right there.

This was the most important thing, the one thing Paul Sr. wanted to leave his son.  Boilerplate evangelism. 

I frankly don’t blame Paul Jr. a bit for being aghast at the discovery of such a letter.

But more on Paul’s reaction next time.

Posted on January 30, 2011, in Babylon Rising, Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Redwood Rhiadra

    While I’ve never heard of this tradition either (as an atheist with a Jewish mother and a Ba’hai father), preaching hellfire and damnation to your 12-year-old kid in a letter seems to me the sort of thing a fundie would do – but then, I have a really cynical outlook on Christianity. Especially after my born-again uncle decided to preach hellfire and damnation at his *Jewish* father’s funeral.

  2. Gaaah… Don’t know what’s worse… that this was written by a dead mom, or the fact that my ex-wife sent me a letter VERY similar to this one along with her refusal to pay child support for my 2 kids…

    Ok, that may have been a little harsh. But seriously, this is… are people supposed to be impressed by the exact same crap we’ve heard a zillion times? Does the fact that it’s written by a corpsified American somehow make shitty theology and writing better?

    Say what you will about C.S. Lewis, at least the man put his arguments into his OWN words. Must be one of the reasons the fundies hate him. Not only did he claim that being a faithful worshipper of SATAN was ok, and could get you into heaven provided you were doing good while worshipping him, but he also had the unmitigated gall to deviate from the Fundie playbook when making his arguments…

  3. Are the Decentis perhaps meant to be “decent”?

    This daddy-issue thing is slightly odd, because the RTC hierarchical approach to existence seems to be pretty clear that children should always obey their parents. Perhaps one should add to that “except when their parents are Unsaved, in which case they’re all mother-raping father-stabbing atheists anyway”.

    Ah, well, see, cancer is God’s Will. Actually I think my comment of yesterday over at the Mousehole is relevant to this whole idea of God being in everything:

    I think the idea that God or the Devil (I’ll just call them Them hereafter) must be responsible for the computer foulup is a combination of blame-dodging and self-importance. The first: if They wanted your work to be lost, They would have found some way to do it even if you had been really careful – so there’s no point in being careful, since whatever you try to do what will happen is what They want. (I don’t want RTCs working with heavy machinery of any sort, now.)

    On the other side, They are taking a personal interest in you! You’re significant in the world, not just a Normal Person! The psychology there is obvious…

    (end quote, in case the blockquote tags don’t work)

    I note that Paul Sr didn’t feel that his wife had anything to do with his son’s birth.

    We know that one’s twelfth birthday is Significant in L&J-land. I was half expecting the text to say “I’d hoped the world would have ended by now, but since it hasn’t, your free ticket to heaven has expired. Here’s how to get a new ticket…”

    If (as I think we’re meant to assume) his mother found the letter, opened the seal and read it… why didn’t she burn it? Or say “son, this is all the evidence I needed to keep you with me when I divorced Daddy for being a religious nutcase”? Or something!

    • We know that one’s twelfth birthday is Significant in L&J-land. I was half expecting the text to say “I’d hoped the world would have ended by now, but since it hasn’t, your free ticket to heaven has expired. Here’s how to get a new ticket…”

      Oooo, well-observed! You’re right, the twelfth birthday is The Big One for being automatically saved.

      I doubt Decenti is meant to mean “decent.” Jae…um…Decenti-Stepola-Apostle eventually becomes a good little RTC wife, but the other Decentis are either losers or pure Evil.

      • GOT IT! “Decenti” is an anagram of “enticed”! As in, by the world, the principality of Satanel…

      • Twelfth birthday? I thought Fred established that it was all based on whether you’ve grown hair on your private parts! (“When the sixth pube hath sprouted, or when two grow close enough to touch…”)
        Of course, if they went by that kind of a system, it might encourage an unhealthy level of self-examination amongst fundie children….

  4. Desenti is a nicer name, as a name. Now we have to find a new anagram for Bad Redolent Cin–er, I mean Ranold–though.

    I would guess that either the name was chosen for “Paul’s eventually Godly wife” and the rest of her family was added later, or the name was meant to be ironic.

    • Well, if anyone is interested in playing Jerry’s favorite game, the full name is now Ranold B. Decenti.

      Interestingly, leaving out the middle initial, I got…
      Entranced Idol
      Canine Toddler
      Datelined Corn

      With the middle initial, I got:
      Rented Bacon Lid

      • Blancoed tinder – they had him doing some seriously useless things in the Army.
        Nordic bandelet – an obscure architectural feature from Sweden.
        Blinded enactor – he’s doing important things in the story, but can’t tell what effects they may have.
        Old nerd cabinet – full of techie treasures.
        Nerd bonce lid, ta – a propeller beanie.
        Need cobalt rind – to finish the Cheese Bomb.

      • Benedict Arnold. Which is crazy, cosidering that Ranold is pretty much the only major character in this series to NOT betray / change sides.

  5. Pulling back to the whole problem of how Jenkins can have such a low view of a world that’s largely dispelled cancer, I think it has to do with the idea of where to lay up one’s treasures. Either here, with all the attendant problems of moth, flame, theft, and other decay and disappearance, or in Heaven, utterly proof against entropy with no further input on your part. All the vaunted accomplishments of the newly atheistic Earth are as nothing to God, simply because they haven’t put first priority on heavenly treasure accumulation. (Never mind that Jesus’s point in the original was probably more to the tune of “Riches eventually disappear. A psyche that loves kindness and justice isn’t so prone to that.”) Especially since divine transfiguration cures cancer, mortality, etc. anyway.

  6. To be fair, I have heard of a lot of parents saving things from the time that their children were born (newspapers and such) and then revisiting them when they’re older. For the most part I think it could be a healthy way to give a growing child a sense of perspective as to how times change and how they too will change. Of course, in the hands of the fundies, all things incline towards the Lord…
    I can remember the weird shock I got when I saw the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” and recognized a bunch of the stock footage they had from Afghanistan. The first time I saw stuff like that, I was an eight year old kid sitting on the living room carpet watching the TV. I remember asking my parents who were those men in funny clothes, what language were they speaking, and who were they shooting at?
    A sense of perspective can be healthy at any age. No wonder Jenkins wants to fill it up with the blandest form of evangelism….

  7. I’m starting to see now why there’s a constant theme of “God’s love is so much more love than I can ever give you.” Of course it is. They have absolutely no idea how real love, real acceptance, real empathy for another being actually works. All that matters is that they are special, and convince other people that they are special, and maybe score a few more recruits for Jesus to feel good about themselves (but only people they like, people they dislike deserve to burn in hell).

    How disgusting.

    • It does seem like to them, “love” just means “to prize beyond others” (come to think of it, isn’t that what “worship” means instead?). I don’t think I want to be around for when Megatron starts playing THIS particular game.

      The question becomes, WHY does God love one, in their eyes? LaHaye’s work doesn’t seem to posit much for a reason for divine love beyond “willing source of adoration”.

      • Er, did you mean Metatron? Although now my brain’s conjuring up images of RTC Decepticons and that’s just hilariously bizarre.

        God does not seem to have a reason to love. He simply does, and they find themselves hideously undeserving of that love (and as the protagonists go they probably are…). But even God, mightiest of mightiest, creator of the universe and the very concept of love, does not seem to have the capability to love and forgive those who do not love him back in the properly appointed manner.

        That’s right. Their god is incapable of what many humans do easily. It seems the more fundie you get the smaller your god becomes.

        • Well, I was thinking of the whole “claiming to love you when it’s just regarding you as the most useful of the lot”; probably a standard tool of sociopaths everywhere. From what I’ve heard, maybe Beast Machines Megatron…(Besides, I recognize your alias from the Padded Cell and Insecticomics.)

          But heading back to the organic domain, looking at the RTC culture tells me that to them, the very concept of unconditional love is self-contradictory. Even the love encased in the Crucifixion is a transaction here–love for swearing eternal fealty. Granted that love cannot be earned, but it can’t be bought and sold, either…They think that because God is just, he could never love something that had done nothing for that love, I guess. We need to talk to them about the difference in magnitude between unearned boons and unearned banes.

          Making it worse, I get the feeling that for them, God actually showing truly unconditional love…THAT would be the diminishment, robbing him of wrath and resolve. One preacher said that he had no use for the liberal God whose main trait is love, on account of how he couldn’t worship a God he could beat up! Okay, let’s see if he can punch out a coral reef…Just because it’s not raging at you, doesn’t mean it’s defeatable.

  8. Wandering by VERY late, but I do want to say that my mother did leave these letters for her children… sort of. She wrote the first when I was about three, and she and my father had to leave for a trip together (I forget why); it was more of a “open in case of our death” type letters. She wrote of her love for us, her hopes, what she saw as our strengths and weaknesses, and her best advice on capitalizing on the one and overcoming the other.

    She updated those letters every few years until we went off to college, I think. I didn’t know about them until she died, and I found them in her filing cabinet. I cannot tell you how much I (and my siblings) treasure those notes — but we all immediately started writing them for our children.

    • Those sound lovely, as does the letter to Paul’s schoolmate. Much better than Paul’s father’s trite evangelism and Hell-threats.

      I never thought I’d say this but…poor Paul.

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