Time Changer, Part I

I guess I’ll start this critique with a positive note, which is that I like the theme music.  It’s kinda fun and time-travel-y.  So, kudos there.

As we continue with the opening credits…wait a second…

GAVIN MACLEOD???  CAPTAIN STUBING IS IN THIS???

Huh.  Turns out Gavin MacLeod went RTC when no one was looking.  Go figure.

Unusually for a Christian film, we don’t open with a Bible verse plastered on the screen.  Instead, the scene is set as 1890.  A very pristine 1890, when everyone seems perfectly coiffed and has access to excellent dentistry.  And where everyone talks in an “old-timey way”:

“Young man, it is wrong to steal items from other people.”

Two little boys are playing marbles on a blanket spread out on a lawn, which seems a very inefficient way to play marbles.  Young scalawag Roger snatches the marbles, but is stopped in his tracks by Our Hero, justice-minded Bible professor Russell Carlisle, who orders Roger to apologize.  Roger, however, dashes off.

The 1890 Marbles World Championship wasn’t as exciting as you might hope.

Carlisle teaches at Generic Bible Seminary, and is in the process of getting the Unanimous Seal of Approval for his latest book.  Which means that a bunch of rich, old white guys sit around chuckling at each other, including Dean Barney Miller and Professor I Recognize Him From Star Trek.

And they’re having a fine time until Professor Captain Stubing shows up to SPOIL EVERYTHING.

You see, the thrust of Carlisle’s book is that people should be won to the Church based on the teachings of Jesus.  But the Captain objects to some of Carlisle’s ideas:

“And I am quoting from page 67: ‘Even if it is apart from his name, if people are rejecting the authority of Jesus Christ in their lives, we must still teach the ways of Christ for the better interests of society.  The Lord’s teachings are best for all.’”

“What Dr. Carlisle is implying is that we can put forth the standards of Christ apart from his name.  And I think this is deadly.”

I see that the Captain’s own specialty at the Seminary is hyperbole.  Because it’s definitely not in knowing that Jesus was hardly the first or only person to come up with the RADICAL IDEA that stealing is wrong.

“Without the authority of Christ, mankind is merely left to compare ideas, and morality becomes a matter of opinion.  One person says it is wrong to steal, the next person says it is not.”

Ah, sweet, delicious authoritarianism.

BECAUSE HUMANS COULD NEVER BE TRUSTED TO COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT STEALING IS WRONG BY THEMSELVES.

Carlisle defends his premise:

“But we cannot always mention the name of Jesus—it may not be received.  Especially by those already offended by the Church or brought up in another religion.”

Wow.  I…kinda like this guy.  He seems pretty progressive, especially for his time.

Damn shame that he will be forced to learn the error of his ways via time travel.

Team Seventies confers on Carlisle’s book, The Changing Time.  (GET IT???)

“Satan is not against good morals.  He is against Jesus Christ.”

Why is it that whenever I watch Christian movies, I end up liking Satan more and more?

Things go downhill from there, and many, MANY minutes are eaten up as we dance  around the stupid approval issue while I am waiting for the FRAKKING TIME TRAVEL to start.

Blah blah blah office politics which might be interesting if we were going to spend the whole movie with these people, but we AREN’T.  Stubing invites Carlisle to his place (“You must!”), Carlisle refuses, Stubing asks again, and FINALLY Carlisle goes to Professor Stubing’s secret shed, where Stubing keeps his GORRAM TIME MACHINE ALREADY.  Weird thing is, it isn’t even Stubing’s own time machine—it’s Stubing’s father’s machine.

The writers have obviously seen Back to the Future, because Stubing wants to send Carlisle to October 21, 20…something, but Stubing definitely isn’t pulling a Doc Brown here.  He has no mad scientist routine—he and Carlisle just have a snappish back-and-forth.

“Time travel is not possible!”

“IS SO!”

“Russell, you must see where the teaching of good morals alone will lead.  You must see for yourself what happens when we remove the authority of Christ.”

The trip has been set so that Carlisle will be in the future for four days, but only be gone from 1890 for a few minutes.  (This four-day time period seems random until you remember that Marty McFly was in 1955 for four days in Back to the Future.)

But sigh.

Carlisle just BOWS OUT and exits the time travel shed and next we see, he is delivering a supremely stupid lecture about how the Bible is the ultimate authority on science.

THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER

But Captain Stubing is not one to be dissuaded.  He talks Carlisle back to his time travel shed AGAIN, and Carlisle reluctantly steps onto the little platform.

Much like Doc Brown, Stubing gives Carlisle some advice about the future: don’t tell anyone you’re a time-traveler, and don’t look up your own fate.  (Although, as we know, Doc Brown changed his mind on the latter.)

His final piece of advice is to speak with a university librarian named Michelle Baines, whom Stubing met when he was time-traveling.

Who wouldn’t trust this time machine?  It has rotating icing racks and the map from my dad’s study!

Carlisle seems afraid that the time machine is an anal probe in disguise.

Can’t say I blame him.

And so the beams of solar-powered (!) light blast out from the time travel machine and transport Carlisle to the 21st century!

Thus begins the Fish Out of Water portion of our movie, and … I can’t help but feel that the ball was dropped here.  Carlisle is astounded by things which really shouldn’t be that astounding to him, blasé about things that he should be astounded by, and manages to navigate a 21st century city with little to no trouble.

The very first place Carlisle finds is a pawnshop, where he cashes in the 19th-century coins Stubing gave him for walking-around money.  Carlisle has no problem finding this shop or understanding what he should do there, and is utterly unflummoxed by a female patron of the shop who is WEARING PANTS.

Carlisle then uses some of the money to get himself a hotel room.  It looks like he’s staying at the local Fairfield Inn, but despite the fact that he has NO LUGGAGE WHATSOEVER, a porter takes him to his room, shows him the television and the remote, then expects a tip.  Dude, that guy would not get a tip from me under those circumstances, though Carlisle seems completely ignorant of the concept of tipping AT ALL.

Then he wanders around the city, being confused by things that shouldn’t confuse him (decorative fountains, toys) and casually oblivious to things that should astound him (women wearing pants or short skirts, people of different races intermingling like equals).  Oh yeah, also CARS EVERYWHERE.  The only shots that make sense are Carlisle sitting in confusion in a park, surrounded by people carrying on animated conversations on their cell phones, and Carlisle hanging out in a lighting store, turning a simple table lamp on and off again, startled every time.

Let’s see…buildings that are dozens of stories tall, CARS, and that lady there is wearing an extremely immodest skirt.  But what draws Carlisle’s attention?  A toy truck.

I get that Wandering Around would be the first thing many people would do when arriving one hundred years in the future.  But surely the next stop would be a library, to catch up on the last century.  And wouldn’t Carlisle, an academic, want to do this?  Hell, after being released from his lamp, the first impulse of the genie in the Ducktales movie was to start READING THE ENTIRE ENCYCLOPEDIA.

Let’s face it, Carlisle has a lot of catching up to do.  Votes for women, world wars, civil rights, television, airplanes, penicillin…that’s just off the top of my head.

But who cares about all that when there’s shopping to do!  Carlisle buys some new clothes, which don’t look all that different from his old clothes.  (I’m serious—take a look at that suit up there.  Lose the hat, and it looks perfectly normal.)  He then tracks down a laundromat, and this is something that actually does make sense to me, as a laundry service would be something Carlisle probably would understand, though I imagine it would give him pause to learn that in modern laundromats, many people wash their clothes themselves, instead of handing them off to others.

It is here that he meets his first unsaved soon-to-be convert, Eddie, the owner of the laundromat.  Eddie is played by comedian Paul Rodriguez, and is an avid baseball fan.  Carlisle is confused by Eddie’s headset, and equally confused by BASEBALL TERMINOLOGY.

Okay, I get that Carlisle is supposed to be a bit of a fuddy-duddy, but baseball has been KIND OF A BIG DEAL in this country for a long time.  Hell, you’d think that hearing baseball language would make him less confused.

Baltimore Orioles, 1896.  Picture from Wikipedia.

Eddie’s a nice guy, but he “ain’t got no time for no church,” which knocks Carlisle for a much bigger loop than the fact that he is standing in a building lit by electric lights, where large machines wash your clothes for you without aid of washboard or woman.

This whole laundromat thing brings up an interesting point—sure, Carlisle is noticing some of the strange new things in the 21st century, but shouldn’t the prominent issue for everyone be smell?

I’m being serious here.  Carlisle comes from a time when toilets and showers were exciting new technology, and not everyone had them.  Where people had to be instructed to bathe daily, and this usually meant a standing-up sponge bath.  Deodorant had only come on the market in 1888, and this was well before the appearance of body spray, flushable premoistened wipes, and electric toothbrushes.

Honestly, you’d think the typical reaction to Carlisle’s mere presence in our Febreezed world would be for people to take a step or two away from the guy.

(Speaking of Back to the Future, I’m reminded of Part III, where the townsfolk of 1885 are (understandably) astounded by Marty McFly’s perfectly white teeth.)

Anyway, Carlisle asks where he can find a “Bible-believing church” where he can attend services tomorrow (Sunday).  Okay, I know that these days, “Bible-believing” is a fundy dogwhistle, but was it so in 1890?  I find myself doubting that.  Wouldn’t Carlisle be more likely simply to ask for a church in his own denomination?

Well, I guess Carlisle catches on to the yellow pages that Eddie tosses his way, because next thing we know, Carlisle is in a pew, chatting with a guy about all the activities the church offers.  Carlisle seems surprised by the mere fact that there are many groups within the church, and not just that these groups ride in “vans” to see “movies.”  But haven’t church activities been a big deal for quite some time?

THEN THIS FREAKY SCENE HAPPENS

“How do you do?” (Says Carlisle)

“I’m fine.” (Answers the Creepy Guy)

“My name is Russell Carlisle.”

“Nice looking Bible you have there.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Yes, that’s a nice one.”

“Yes.  Yes, it is.  [long uncomfortable pause]  So, how has the Lord been speaking to you through his word this week?”

“Well, have you ever noticed the strength in the pages of these Bibles?  They are so thin, but they’re very difficult to tear.  They really hold up.”

“Yes.  They certainly do.”

image

I…just…

THIS IS A SCENE THAT JUST ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

I can hardly wrap my head around it.  These lines were written into a script, spoken by actors, and the director yelled, “Cut!  Perfect!”

Does Creepy Guy come to church solely to steal Bibles to roll his joints?  Because that’s honestly all I can think of that even comes close to making a remote amount of sense.

Loyal readers, did I miss something?  I never went to Sunday school—is this something I would understand had I been raised Christian?

I guess Carlisle is ultimately okay with the Creepy Guy, because he doesn’t move six pews away after this conversation.  Instead, he sings the opening hymn with gusto, and hears a standard sermon about trusting in the Bible and using it for teaching and stuff.  (Carlisle looks around guiltily at this part, like these 21st-century Christians will realize that he wrote a book about teaching morality without Jesus, and they’ll stone him.)

But he escapes the church unsmited, and retreats to the park for lunch.  He spies a young woman, and despite the fact that she is wearing sunglasses, jeans, sneakers, a trench coat, and a backwards newsies cap, what he is really interested in is…her hot dog.

So he buys one from the nearby vendor, and is flummoxed AGAIN when the guy asks Carlisle if he wants a “soda” to go with it.  I have no idea why he should be confused, since carbonated beverages had been around for quite some time by 1890, but Carlisle asks for tea instead.

When he sits down to enjoy his hot dog and tea, an unchristian little girl takes advantage of Carlisle’s pre-wiener prayer to abscond with his food!

When Carlisle finally catches up with her, they have the following moral colloquy:

“Young lady, you’ve just stolen my hot dog!  Why would you do such a thing?”

“I was just playing around, mister.”

“I would be happy to purchase one for your very own if you are hungry and in need of food.”

“Here, take your dog.”  *gives him the hot dog*

“This is not a proper thing you have done.  It is important that you respect your elders and that we be kind to one another.”

“I said I was just playing around—it was no big deal.”

“But it is a very important matter.  You do understand that stealing is a sin?”

“Says who?”  *runs off*

[long, dramatic pause as it all comes together]  “The Lord says.”

And so we enter Phase Two of the movie, in which Carlisle realizes that Captain Stubing was Right All Along, and that 1890 is waaay better than twenty-whatever, and begins to make this revelation known to all.

Next time.

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Posted on August 25, 2012, in Movies, Time Changer. Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. My first guess was that he was using the Bible pages as toilet paper. Either way, if we got it right, it’s probably meant to see it as perfect evidence of the fallen world that someone would attend church to steal Bibles and use the pages for toilet/joint papers. Which… I sincerely doubt is a large scale problem.

    Wasn’t Carlisle the one who brought up the point that teaching just morality would help reach people who aren’t believers? Why is he so shocked that someone doesn’t plan to go to church?

    So the lord says that it’s a sin, huh? A kid takes something trivial from someone who admits that he could just give it to her as a joke. And it’s a sin. Something the kind and loving god has no choice but to damn someone to hell for. Not that I wouldn’t reprimand a kid for stealing something as a prank, but this isn’t quite fire and brimstone material here. And Satan isn’t opposed to good morals, so… why do we need god again? Apparently a society run by satan won’t have to be the terrible moral apocalypse the fundies promise us every time they lose a battle in the culture war.

    And, well, I’ve gone over the stupid fundie fantasy that the times before Rock & Roll were a paradise where everyone knew their place, but… didn’t we see this exact kid-stealing-things in Carlisle’s own time? In fact, that kid seemed more rotten, not giving in or claiming it was a joke or returning them. So again, what exactly are we losing here? And why is this encounter with a girl who plays a prank on him and doesn’t immediately know that ‘the lord’ said this was a sin (y’know, just like someone who was “brought up in another religion” like you said) then the great revelation that the stealing kid in his time was so much better?

    Either way, the time line here is already muddled. Captain Stubbing wouldn’t support the book Carlisle wrote, and yet the future is already supposed to be in the terrible christless ghetto mode. So it can’t be because of Carlisle’s book that this will happen. So it seems like Carlisle can only go home and say the Captain is right and he won’t publish the book, but he knows it will not matter in the end. Society will turn away Or was this all caused by Carlisle’s book even without the seal of approval? So will we, at the end of the story, learn that in the movie’s universe the terrible secular distopia that is our present has been bravely prevented by the wonderful and morally just rich white professor from a racist and mysogynistic culture? I’m at the edge of my seat… Though that’s because Guild Wars 2 just came out.

  2. Grammar Police

    Let’s see how many squares we can fill on the Bad Chistian Tropes bingo card:

    1) bashing of the Jews for thinking they’re all moral w/out Christ (albeit subtle bashing)
    2) see what the world is like when we live our lives as non-Really Truly Christians
    3) heathen as future convert
    4) douchy/creepy Christian we’re (apparently?) supposed to like

    Ruby, I think you caught practically all the things that Russell should have been shocked/surprised by. I’ll add one more: now granted I have been to only one fundy church service in my life (wasn’t there voluntarily, long story) but I had the impression that most fundy services do use at minimum microphones. The service I was at used PowerPoint to project verses and outlines for the sermon. Wouldn’t these fascinate Our Hero also, to show how technology can be used to further spread the Good News ™?

    Speaking of wibbly wobbly timey wimey . . . not only the are the 1890s kids playing marbles on a blanket (which makes no sense), they’re playing with what are clearly mid to late 20th century marbles.

  3. The important part of the “Satan is more worried about Jesus than morality” element, I think, is that RTC precepts don’t regard morality as its own purpose. This section from the beginning of Jack Hyles’s 1984 book “Jack Hyles Speaks on Biblical Separation” brings the point home. (And yes, I know even most RTCs don’t want much to do with Hyles; nonetheless, I think he’s good as a distilled sigil.)

    It is obvious from these passages {Titus 2:14, Luke 1:17, Ephesians 1:5} as to why God created man. Man was created for the glory of God. He was created for the praise of God. He was created in order that the great heart of God, Who is love, would have a special object of His care and recipient of His love. God does not want us basically to save us from Hell, though that is one reason. He does not want us mainly to give us Heaven, though that is another reason. He does not want us mainly to give us joy and peace, but that is certainly another reason. God mainly wants us for Himself, that we may praise Him, adore Him, magnify Him, fellowship with Him and become the object of His great love. This is why we are commanded to do everything we do to the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

    One might then ask, “Isn’t it wrong to want to receive glory for yourself?” Yes, it IS wrong for man to desire glory, for man does not deserve glory. It is not the desire for glory that is wrong; it is the desire for undeserved glory that is wrong. Hence, it is not wrong for God to want glory for Himself, for He is deserving of glory.

    Then why isn’t that the reason that God appeals to us to be saved? Why doesn’t He come to man and say, “I want to be glorified. Would you trust Me as your Saviour and receive Me as your God because I will get more glory if you do?” The simple answer is that few would be saved through those incentives. So God comes to us, offers us peace, joy, Heaven and salvation from Hell if we will receive Him. When we do receive Him, He then gives us the Holy Spirit Who leads us to desire to praise God, glorify God, to fellowship with Him and to be the object and recipient of His great heart of love.

    Now if God does not have us, He is jealous of whatever takes us from Him. This is the basis of separation. God wants the Christian to be separate from everything that would take away the purpose of God’s creation and redemption of man. If God doesn’t have all of us, He is jealous of what takes us from Himself.

    I think the second paragraph is especially telling; it certainly explains the divine/mortal double standards that plague RTC sects! Crimes aren’t so much malum in se, as they are divine privileges. Privileges with the express purpose of further guaranteeing as many sycophants as possible (with joy and peace as, first and foremost, the carrot). Indeed, I wonder if RTC (or any other fundamentalism) thinks the very CONCEPT of malum in se is possible when applied to the divine. In short, God’s main concern isn’t actually good/evil, but holy/profane, with good merely a subset of holy. Throw in the RTC all-or-nothing view of acceptable holiness…Another Hyles bit, from 1992’s “Jack Hyles on Justice”, comes to mind: “Evil is not the same as sin in the Bible. Evil is always sin, but sin is not always evil. The two words are never the same and are not interchangeable. “Sin” means “to miss the mark.” “Evil” is “to use sin to injure.” Sin is an individual act of doing wrong. Evil is an alliance to bring harm upon another individual.”

    (If you’re willing to look deeper, you want jackhyles.net.)

    • {grumble} Is there no way to edit that, so the bold flags actually work properly?

    • Wow. One more reason to despise Jack Hyle: according to him, God needs to bribe us to give him the glory he desires, and he (God) turns into a jealous bitch when he doesn’t get that glory. Just . . . wow.

    • Now if God does not have us, He is jealous of whatever takes us from Him. This is the basis of separation. God wants the Christian to be separate from everything that would take away the purpose of God’s creation and redemption of man. If God doesn’t have all of us, He is jealous of what takes us from Himself.

      That’s a pretty good explanation of a certain kind of evil. How terrified the people who believe in this God must be.

  4. Ugh. This one was especially painful, for some reason. I know a lot of this RTC stuff really is like imbibing low-grade poison (it hurts you badly, and deeply, but one develops a tolerance, over time, and if you’re not entirely consumed you come out the stronger for it, or at least better able to handle RTC stuff), but just… this specific issue, the ‘you can be morally good without actually saying Jesus’ specific name’ ‘NO FUCK YOU’ is so completely ass-backwards, and literally anybody can see that.

    The correct position to take is of the ‘you don’t need his name’ and even a majority of Christians would probably agree with that if you got right down to it, but we’re just expected to line up behind ‘NO FUCK YOU SUCK ON SOME JESUS HEATHEN’. It’s the antithesis of common sense; RTC thinking in this vein is to logic what antimatter is to matter. I can barely wrap my head around how wrong and yet how very convinced they are. If I wasn’t politically involved and thus already familiar with that Dunning–Krugerian mentality I might have no mental frame or ability to process this at all. It’s so… unbelievable.

    Is it even possible to communicate this sort of concept effectively? Communication relies upon shared meaning and symbols and at least the possibility of understanding, and yet a brain that would analyze the situation and go with the ‘fuck actually being a good person. you gotta be batting for da right team, baby, or it’s eternal hellfire’ is in a literal sense alien. I can’t understand that, and very frankly, I don’t want to understand that, because it’s Evil capital fucking E. It will lead to, and has led to, unspeakably more Evil than all the mishy-mushy relativistic socialistic ‘uh just do what feels good maaaan’ strawmen in the universe.

    (Not to mention, as I’ve said before, it turns the idea of God into something that Commander Shepard should be assembling a team to fight when it attacks the galaxy in the third act of a trilogy.)

    This is where some despair starts to kick in just a little.

    • (Not to mention, as I’ve said before, it turns the idea of God into something that Commander Shepard should be assembling a team to fight when it attacks the galaxy in the third act of a trilogy.)

      Is there any story out there where people learn just how awful the RTC god is, and set out to oppose it?

      The closest I’ve gotten was a science fantasy story blended with magic where a seed AI does a hard takeoff vis a vis singularity, and becomes the god of a small star cluster on the fringes of the galaxy.

      • Well, there’s the Salvation War (informal web publication) – after the war on Hell in volume 1, volume 2 gets into a war on Heaven. See http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheSalvationWar for more information.

        • Ah, yes, I remember Salvation War! Some fascinating reading, and I was pleasantly startled by the way the author made most of the politicos into sympathetic characters. And there were a number of other very remarkable and memorable characters. But a lot of Salvation War read as little more than the mortals going forth and almost effortlessly beating up everything that wanted to do them wrong — they called the war in V1 the “Curb-Stomp War” as I recall. I don’t think YHVH fared much better at the end of V2.

          Still, it made pretty good reading. =)

  5. Grabbing food from strangers and running off with it seems like unusual behavior for a kid that age. I’d be inclined to think that either she really is hungry but too proud to take charity, or she’s been raised by crappy parents.

    Also, I’m trying to figure out a plausible explanation for Creepy Guy that doesn’t involve using Bible pages for unintended purposes. His first couple of lines praising Carlisle’s Bible made me think Carlisle had brought an obviously expensive high-quality Bible to the future with him, and that Creepy Guy was coveting it. But it’s probably supposed to be some metaphor about how the truth of the Bible holds up under strain. (Specifically, the strain of being used to roll a joint. What the marijuana represents I’m not sure – reference to Rastafarianism, which includes heavy Christian influence as well as marijuana use, perhaps?)

    • Grabbing food from strangers and running off with it seems like unusual behavior for a kid that age. I’d be inclined to think that either she really is hungry but too proud to take charity, or she’s been raised by crappy parents.

      Or she has ADHD. I once knew a five-year old kid with that who really did snatch food from peoples’ plates once they’d turned their backs. His parents weren’t crappy parents either; they were good people and he was extremely hyperactive, with genuine problems around impulse control. I only knew the family for a few weeks, thirty years ago, and I still wonder what became of him.

      Also – an adult man running after a small girl in public and grabbing her? Wouldn’t that attract some attention?

  6. I haven’t seen this yet, so I’m just going by the description, but my guess about the morality is that children will steal unless they’re told not to – but that telling has to be backed up by Authoritah, or they’ll just find someone else who’ll say something different. It’s like a cosmic game of Simon Says – “Don’t steal. Don’t steal. Jesus says don’t steal.”

    The idea that people might have the moral capacity to work out for themselves that stealing is often a bad idea – because you get caught, and even if there’s no formal punishment you’re less likely to get favours from people later – seems to be entirely alien to RTCism.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Russell, you must see where the teaching of good morals alone will lead. You must see for yourself what happens when we remove the authority of Christ.”

    Like you couldn’t be more obvious? Let’s just state the Important Message (TM) from Captain Planet right at the beginning.

    • I’d guess what’s going on has a lot to do with the idea that good isn’t its own purpose; it’s only there to be a foundation for holiness. No acknowledgement of the Christ=no reason to keep to the good. It doesn’t help that Eden seems to be a case of God ALREADY trying to rule by fear (the death threat attached to the demand not to eat of the Tree of Moral Knowledge). Attach to this the idea that God never does anything less than perfectly, and you get the ugly sense that God NEVER INTENDED for humans–or ANYTHING–to be moral for the sake of being moral (himself included; the bit from Hyles I copied earlier suggests that God performs good only to win over more potential glorifiers…even if there’s a good chance that only a few RTCs wittingly agree with this). Only appeals to basal fear (perdition) and basal gratification (salvation) can ever bear fruit in the end.

      To put this another way, Carlisle is arguing that morality can bear fruit on its own–that the proper primary appeal is appeal to the desire to be good. Stubing is arguing that morality CAN’T exist on its own. Morality without holiness=illusory/ephemeral morality. Because holiness is a network of things, he probably thinks it’s better to appeal to the fear of perdition, with the calm of morality as “just” a side perk. (…RubyTea? Is this accurate to the later elements of the film?)

      Even shorter: Carlisle says that holiness is a means, morality the end. Stubing: morality is a means, holiness the end.

  8. Also, is that realisation at the end like the cheap romantic stories where lead A has claimed the whole time hir does not love lead B untill lead B starts to shack up with extra C, at which point hir realizes that hir does love him? But here it’s stupider, since Carlisle has written an entire book about the teaching of morality apart from Jesus, and yet the second he meets someone who in fact does not know what Jesus’ moral teachings are, it suddenly horrifies him to the core. At least the cliche’d lover has some cultural justification for not wanting to admit that the person hir has been arguing with the entire movie is the one they love. What excuse does Carlisle have that he wrote a whole book without imagining the solution he recommends in it at all?

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Then he wanders around the city, being confused by things that shouldn’t confuse him (decorative fountains, toys) and casually oblivious to things that should astound him (women wearing pants or short skirts, people of different races intermingling like equals).

    No Future Shock from motor vehicles, minimalist skyscrapers (and other major changes in architecture), and the sound of aircraft overhead (including police choppers)? No Future Shock from the completely-different standards of dress, behavior, grammar, speech patterns? (Even the fact of these future people going bareheaded — in 1890, a man just did not go outdoors without his hat, and the type and style of hat indicated his social class.)

    Now the “people of different races intermingling” would be a REAL mind-blower. White Supremacy was considered as fundamental a Law of Nature as gravity until well into the 20th Century, and even the most “enlightened” men of the period (women didn’t count) would be racist by today’s standards.

    Okay, I know that these days, “Bible-believing” is a fundy dogwhistle, but was it so in 1890? I find myself doubting that.

    I doubt it, too. I think that term did not come into general use (even in Christianese) until much later.

    And even if Carlisle was teaching The Rapture (called “Secret Rapture” at the time), that would have pegged him as Plymouth Brethern, Dispensationalist, or whatever church Scofield was preaching than “Bible-Believing(TM)”. Though The Rapture was first theorized in 1835 by Darby, it remained a fringe doctrine of isolationist pre-Fundy and Fundy churches until Hal Lindsay took it mainstream in the 1970s.

    Wouldn’t Carlisle be more likely simply to ask for a church in his own denomination?

    Yes, he would. Unfortunately, Carlisle’s denomination is never defined other than “Bible-Believing” (which in 1890 would probably have been claimed by most denoms) or Generic American Protestant, though denominations were the normal form of American Protestant tribal identity in his day. Even the term Fundamentalist wasn’t coined until the 1920s, when the Fundies first split off (primarily from the Presbyterians) and coalesced into their own tribal identity.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      P.S. Carlisle is going to be even more out-of-it on how to behave and/or understand because he’s travelled FORWARD in time. Now an Uptimer travelling back in time might have some (inaccurate) undertstanding of the Downtime he finds himself in. This leads to comic relief as the Uptimer tries to blend in using his (inaccurate) knowledge of the Downtime. But a Downtimer in an Uptime has NO knowledge of the time to draw on, because his Uptime hasn’t happened yet.

      P.P.S. Example of language change between Carlisle’s downtime and our uptime:

      Carlisle’s decade was known as “The Gay Nineties”.

  10. …A 17th Century time machine? I don’t…

    Right, well, whatever. I can roll with that.

    Creepy Bible guy? Nosso much. Though he has got me thinking: They totally need to get two Bibles, interleave the pages, and then try to tear ’em apart! Do it in competition with phone books, see which lasts longer!

  11. OK, having now had a glance through the film… that does indeed seem to be the approach they’re taking. In RTCland, the only reason people ever act other than selfishly is the threat of Jesus’ ultimate big stick hanging over them. And they say atheists have an unhappy worldview!

    I think that “Bible-believing” is a deliberately exclusionary term: after all, no Christian church would characterise itself as not believing in the Bible, so it’s a term for RTCs to use of themselves and thus denigrate all other churches by implying that they aren’t. Anyway, I tried the Google Books ngram viewer at http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/, and got a small usage around 1850-1870, a bit of a pickup in the 1950s, and a really massive rise from the mid-1990s.

    (Tried it with the hyphen too, and with various combinations of cases, but that’s the most interesting plot.)

    Try Rapture, too…

    • Well, one could argue whether an eternity of pain is preferable to an eternity of oblivion. Pain, at least, can be escaped, however difficult the escape mechanism might be, meaning the “eternity of” part can yet be abolished. (Fate? What’s that?)

      More important, though, is that the RTC is conditioned to think ONLY in terms of the substance of the absolute future. Everything is with an eye towards ensuring eternal bliss, even if only because the only possible alternative is eternal agony. The destination-for-eternity is the default prime philosophical consideration. So, they may see atheists as necessarily looking primarily at the non-existence of an afterlife (although how the non-existence of a god necessarily means the non-existence of an afterlife doesn’t make much logical sense to me. A natural afterlife, akin to insects undergoing metamorphosis with the physical body being the sloughed exoskeleton, isn’t going to require a god…); it’s judged impossible for a human to ever avoid thinking about their eternity. They’re raised that eternal bliss is certain so long as they keep to their faith, they regard anything short of that as terrible in some fashion, so when they see ones who don’t believe in the possibility of eternal bliss, they don’t see any way for them to be genuinely happy, since they only acknowledge exactly one evoker of that–with that evoker supposed to never fail in summoning happiness. All-or-nothing applied to happiness?

  12. Creepy Guy looks like Malcolm McDowell. Who really should just have ‘Creepy Guy’ as his permanent IMDB credit….

  13. Ok, that explains Gavin Macleod, but why is Hal Linden in this? He’s Jewish!

  14. In that shot where Carlisle watches the toy truck, I can’t get over how much he looks like Torgo.

  15. He then tracks down a laundromat, and this is something that actually does make sense to me, as a laundry service would be something Carlisle probably would understand, though I imagine it would give him pause to learn that in modern laundromats, many people wash their clothes themselves, instead of handing them off to others.

    Actually, at the laundromat closest to my apartment, he could go up to the person behind the counter and say, “Can you clean these?” and be told, “Sure, fifteen dollars, you can pick them up at 8 tomorrow morning.”

    The machines would still puzzle him, but unless he asked some questions it likely wouldn’t occur to him to, he’d never realize that the clothes were being dry-cleaned, not subjected to the standard twenty-first century laundering practice.

  16. The thing with the Bible is one of those things that could have been right, but kinda isn’t. I have seen Christians admiring someone’s (new) Bible before*, because in an age of mass produced paperbacks, they tend to be one of the few books that are still produced, and bought, in attractive editions with leather covers, gilt edges and the like. The thing about the paper just doesn’t sound right, tho.

    *Come to think of it, in this particular movie, if they’d gone down the “that’s a nice Bible, is it new?” track, it could have made a nice comedy moment.

    • “That’s a real nice Bible you have there. Be a shame if something HAPPENED to it….”

    • I know they were just going for an easy metaphor about how resilient (and therefore correct!) Christianity is, but they chose the dumbest and clunkiest possible method to do it. It reads like a paper towel commercial, for cripes’ sake. “Our Bible pages are one-ply, but they absorb twice as much orange juice without tearing as the leading brand!” I bet that church has a big statue of the Brawny guy nailed to a cross.

  17. Satan is not against good morals. He is against Jesus Christ.

    Wait… what? How does that even — what are these people — huh?

    How can anyone possible think they’re a good person if the only reason they do good things and avoid bad things is because they’re afraid of being punished?

    I am so confused.

    • Because they think that that’s ALL THERE IS to righteousness–obedience. It doesn’t really help that God is very much considered to be above good and evil. He doesn’t judge by the good/evil divide (benevolence/malevolence), but by the holy/profane divide (consonant/dissonant with God’s desires, moral and otherwise). It’s like that last sentence I quoted from Hyles said–while all evil is sinful (profane), not every sin is evil. That is, one who is dedicated to good can still be profane, and thus deserving only of perdition. Good, basically, isn’t good enough to this lot.

      • To clarify {grumbles something about the lack of an Edit button}, evil is condemned not primarily because it’s malevolent, but because it’s profane. Good, if not accompanied with the rest of the holiness suite, is condemned likewise. That’s probably why the writers of the medieval grimoires could get away with calling Orobas–a specialist in revealing truth, reconciling with foes, and protecting his conjurors from evil spirits’ temptations–could still be deemed as corrupt as such bloodthirsty characters as Andras, Leraje, and Glasya-Labolas. Despite his kindness, he somehow wasn’t properly honoring God elsewhere–the Lesser Key of Solomon even outright says that Solomon bound them all solely because of their pride. Thus, demonhood.

  18. You know, that Creepy Guy and the way he was talking about the Bible? It sounded like he was complimenting something else. O.o

  19. There’s a very good reason why signifiers of racial and gender equality aren’t wondered at. Those are widely regarded as good things. We can’t go admitting that this less bible dominated society is actually an improvement. Otherwise, what’s the point?

  1. Pingback: Time Changer, Part I « Heathen Critique | Christian Dailys

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