A Mountain To Climb Intro and Chapter 1

Generously donated by a Redditor, our new book is called A Mountain To Climb.

This book was written by Eva Maxson. A thorough google search shows that she was a missionary in South America at some point. Maxson wrote a letter to the editor stating that even though the Review often came late, it was still relevant. She is listed as being from Honduras. Maxson also wrote a little devotional story in These Times, October 1952. It’s not particularly relevant, but those 2 things are the only things I’ve been able to find out about her.

This book is supposed to be a true story. I could believe that it is based on one, at the very least.

There’s a little disclaimer in the front that I’d like to point out:

This book is part of the Pacific Press Heritage Project, a plan to republish classic books from our historical archives and to make valuable books available once more. The content of this book is presented as it was originally published and should be read with its original publication date in mind.

A little below that are the words:

Originally published in 1976.

You know what, fair enough.

I spent a lot of time complaining about OBAM and OBAW being republished with a new publication date slapped on it without any disclaimer that this might be outdated information. You will not see me complain about that here, because the disclaimer exists.

However, despite the fact that this was originally published in 1976, the story itself actually takes place in the 1930s. The year 1937 is mentioned, but we don’t get to find that out until 3/4 of the way through the book, and so I will take the disclaimer at its word and judge it from the perspective of the 1970s.

That being said, the 1970s had their problems, and we will be pointing them out. The book does not get a free pass just because it’s “historical.” Frankly, I’m not even sure why this book got republished. Was this one particularly popular? If it was, why have I only just now heard of it? Can’t they write new books?

 

Chapter 1

Not A Drop More

Right off the bat we come to some weird ass shit:

The sun was just streaming over the Maracai-boan hills when Pearl Lindsay’s mother entered the bedroom, carrying a glass of warm blood.

“Pearl,” she called a bit sharply, “here’s your morning cocktail.”

Whoa whoa whoa whoa wait. Slow down. Blood? The author of this book is aware that it’s the Bloody Mary that is a morning cocktail, right? Not actual blood?

Pearl drinks the blood (bloody Mary?), and afterwards her mother says she thinks she and Pearl should leave. Pearl asks her mother if she’s gone mad, but her mother is serious. Pearl’s mother refers to her as “child.”

It irked Pearl to be called a child when she was all of 21.

I like this. It tells us Pearl’s age in a way that doesn’t feel clunky and forced. If the author of this book had not grown up Adventist, she probably would have made at least a half decent writer.

“Now look, Pearl, you know you aren’t getting much better. After all this horrible blood you’ve been drinking every morning, your anemia has barely improved. I think we should go back to Barbados.”

So, it is confirmed that it is actual blood Pearl is drinking, not just a Bloody Mary.

Here’s the thing. I googled this shit. I can not find anything about anyone prescribing a glass of blood every day for anemia. Not in the 1930s and not even in the 1930s in South America. Certainly it would not have been a think in 1976 when this was published.

Now, that might not mean much. There might be something I’m just not finding… but I think whoever Pearl and her mother saw was a quack, even by 1930s standards.

Pearl’s mother tells her that her health is the most important thing, and being here, wherever here is, isn’t helping. She leaves the room, and Pearl thinks about it.

Leave Maracaibo! Leave her job as a bilingual secretary? Leave the boss who was so kind to her?….

Is there a reason Pearl has to leave Maracaibo? I mean, yes, she needs to stop drinking blood, but is there a particular reason that in order to do so she has to leave Maracaibo? She has a decent job, a good boss, and lots of friends.

She thought of the good times she and the other girls had had, especially the dances in this very house where they would roll up the carpet, turn on the gramophone, and dance until they were all danced out.

Ouch. Poor Pearl. She is going to have to give that up if she converts.

The lovely clothes she had been able to buy with her ample salary…

If Pearl has such an ample salary, can’t she just like, stop drinking blood and go to a real doctor, all without leaving Maracaibo?

I mean, these are all very good reasons not to leave.

She hated that medicine. She didn’t want to swallow another drop ever. She remembered how horrified she had been when the doctor ordered her to drink a glass of warm blood from a freshly killed animal every morning.

Well, that answered my other burning question about the, er, morning cocktail.

Pearl decides that her mother is right, but isn’t sure they should go to Barbados. It’s where she and her mother used to live, and she reminisces a bit about her old home. I like this. It tells us where Pearl is from and it’s not too horribly clunky. If the rest of this book wasn’t so shitty, I’d think of filing this in the “not so bad” category.

Pearl puts on clothes and goes down to breakfast. She sees her mother cooking, ponders for a bit about how good her mother is, and then asks her mother when they leave.

“Just as soon as we can make proper arrangements,” her mother said.

And with Alwilda Lindsay’s efficiency, arrangements were soon made. 2 weeks later, as the boat pulled out of the harbor, Pearl and her mother stood side by side on the deck.

“It’s been a happy 8 years, hasn’t it?”

This….isn’t too bad. It tells us that they have been in Maracaibo for 8 years… but holy heck, Pearl’s been drinking blood every day for the last 8 years??? It took them that long to notice she wasn’t getting better?

We still do not get an explanation of why it was necessary for Pearl and her mother to move to Barbados in order to stop drinking blood.

I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

Pearl’s mother says she’ll miss her friends, “especially those of the church.” This is clunky, and I’m not sure what it means exactly. Which church? I thought at first it must be an Adventist church, but Pearl and her mom don’t meet up with the Adventists until much much later.

Pearl and her mother talk a little bit about how God has always taken care of them, and only he knows what lies ahead.

“One thing I’m sure of,” says Pearl’s mother.  “You’ll get over this anemia.”

Which isn’t a terrible place to end a chapter. I mean, this is sort of a cliffhanger. Will Pearl find a competent doctor who can prescribe some kind of iron for her? Will Pearl and her mother fit back in in their Barbados home?

We’ll find out next time.

 

Parable of the Sower: Explanation and Chapter 1

January 14, 2016

Alright. I have decided to critique my own story. Without alcohol. Deity help me, let’s see how this goes. Please forgive me for any mistakes I may have made. It is hard enough to do this sober, so I really don’t want to do a whole lot of editing.

With all the other authors I talk about on here, I have the slight disadvantage of not being able to read their minds. I don’t necessarily know what was going through their head when they wrote their books, and can only guess.

The advantage of critiquing my own story is that, to an extent, I do know what was going through my head when I wrote it. However, this was written many years ago, and I may not remember things perfectly.

I’m pretty sure this is going to come up, so I’d like to address it now. Some may ask, “what’s up with the Satanism? Was that what teenage!You thought non Christians did? Did you just think all non Christians were Satanists?”

The short answer: No…. but yes.

Allow me a longer explanation.

You see, Adventist children are told that everyone not actively worshiping God is worshiping Satan. Not overtly, but unknowingly. Because everyone has to worship someone, and if you do not choose Christ, you automatically choose Satan, even if you don’t think you do. That is what Adventist children, and possibly mainstream Christian children, are told.

I reasoned that I was not going to be like the majority of people, who worshiped Satan unknowingly, thinking they worshiped no one. I was not going to deceive myself. If I ever decided to not worship God, I was going to go worship Satan. Because Satan was my only other choice, and if I was going to do it, I was going to do it overtly and honestly.

And so I researched Satanism. I wanted to know what the alternative to God was. When people asked, I told them it was for a story I was writing. That was my excuse for practically everything I read, if anybody asked me any questions. I thought it was very clever of me.

That is what was going through my head at the time I made the main character a Satanist.

My Academy years (High School) are hard to forget, not that that’s stopped me from trying. One of the ways Academy was a defining period in my life is that this was the time I was learning what it really meant to be an Adventist.

Because, despite the fact that I’d gone to Adventist schools all my life, I managed to remain blissfully unaware that there were huge differences between Adventism and the rest of Christianity. I had some idea that we were different, of course, because the Sabbath is kinda hard to miss. But things like State of the Dead, the exact nature of end time events, and exactly what is the meaning of the number 666 were still sources of confusion to me.

All that came to a screeching halt my freshman year of Academy. Learning that going to church on Sunday was the mark of the beast was something so traumatic that I can remember exactly where I was, who I was talking to, and what I was wearing.

Immediately, I set about researching the mark of the beast. This couldn’t possibly be right. Could it?

And thus, Parable of the Sower was born. It was my excuse to myself for needing to ask these questions. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand, I told people. I just needed to know for a story I was writing.

Teenage!Merikay wrote Now! to demonstrate what she’d learned. I wrote Parable of the Sower in a vain attempt to convince myself that all of this was true.

In the end, I did not succeed. In the end, I needed a present for people, and here the book was. I included the bits about Satanism because I always kind of figured that that was just what I would do if I ever turned away from Christianity.

Academy was a real struggle as far as my faith was concerned.

I shared this story with my friends, most of whom loved it. One friend even shared it with her father, to my horror. Her father said it was well done and that I was a good writer.

That’s right folks: A grown ass man looked at this story and decided it was good writing. Out of respect for my ex best friend, in case she is still reading this, I will not speculate as to why.

With that out of the way (for now), let us begin our analysis.

The story begins with the main character, Holly, sneaking out of church to go to the mall, a scenario I used to imagine quite frequently despite the fact that, of all the SDA churches I’ve ever been to, only one is actually close to a mall.

It isn’t easy to run in 3 inches of snow, not to mention the thick coat, boots, backpack, but I have to run. I have to get there. I reach the ally behind the church and duck behind a statue of Jesus on the cross. I open my backpack, yank out a long black velvet skirt and shove it on over my baggy black cargo pants. I drag out a pair of heels from the backpack, zip it up, and, running barefoot through the icy snow, shove the backpack in the trunk of the car, run up the steps to the church, stopping briefly at the door to put on the heels, open the door and head for the bathroom. I take a few minutes to catch my breath, then I open the stall door –only to bump into Jaimie, my sister.

I thought this was so cool when I wrote it. Bad girl changing to Good girl in 5 seconds flat. This was what I aspired to be… except Holly isn’t slick. She gets caught by her sister, Jaimie.

Jaimie is a real person. Of course that is not her real name. Nobody in this story has a real name. Half the fun of writing this was that people got to try and figure out who the fuck they were.

Jaimie confronts Holly about skipping church, and tells her she won’t tell her what the sermon was about. I forgot to work this in, but it is important for Holly to know what the sermon was about because this is what her mom will ask her about later in order to find out if Holly has been a good little Adventist and paid attention.

This was never my real life experience. I was quite open with my parents, and told them exactly how I felt having to sit through long, boring sermons. Sabbath School was ok, but most children aren’t too fond of just sitting there listening to one person monologue for 45 minutes. Or longer….

Holly quickly finds her trusty friend Renee, who informs Holly that the sermon was about the Parable of the Sower. Here’s the relevant chapter from the Bible.

“The parable of the sower, darling. The soil in the story represents the soil in our hearts, and the seeds represent the gospel. The seeds land in our hearts, and no matter how hard and crusty the soil is, if we let him, Jesus can make him grow.” Renee looks at me piercingly.

I don’t particularly recall, this might have been something that someone actually preached at some point. Or maybe something I read about in a book, or a student talked about in a devotional….

I did not come up with this by myself.

Spanish music CDs, French and German learning CDs, books on new age, and, of course, a satanic bible!!!! I continue pulling out junk until I see my sister come out. I quickly shove my backpack under the seat and yank down my skirt.

I never did actually have the courage to shoplift….any of that, actually. But I do have a copy of the Satanic Bible. It’s… actually not that bad. Maybe we’ll analyze it on the blog someday.

“Holly.” I still won’t look at her. “I still love you.” I sigh. Unbidden, a tear falls down my cheek. I wipe my eye and force the rest of them down. I will not let these Adventists win me back. I will never forgive them for what they’ve done to me. And I will never forgive my sister for abandoning me.

What am I referring to? I have no idea. I have the feeling that I was trying to create some backstory for Holly…and then I never did. I may have had some clue what this was about when I was 16, but I don’t anymore.

I think I was referring to a (very brief) point Sophomore year when, upon learning that I was questioning Adventism, I suddenly found out I had a lot less friends than I used to.

I have since gone back and talked to the person referred to in this story as “Renee.” She shared with me that the reason she didn’t speak much to me at that time had nothing to do with me personally, but with some personal stuff she was going through at the time.

Obviously that is only one person out of like 5. However, it does indicate that it may not have been that my friends suddenly stopped speaking to me because I was questioning Adventism. It may have just been really sucky timing. But teenage!Me didn’t know that. I think Teenage!Me was still a little hurt when she wrote that.

Anyway, Holly and “Jaimie” have a cringe inducing conversation about how Jesus still loves her and so does Jaimie. Holly refuses to believe either one of these statements, and clams up.

“Holly, how about this; I’ll listen to you about…. whatever you believe, and I won’t interrupt and contradict with what I believe or argue with you.”

“Whats the catch?”

Yeah, I wouldn’t believe that either.

Jaimie silently prays as she speaks, “if you’ll do the same for me.”

One of the things I needed to learn as a writer was that, when writing in first person, you don’t get to be able to say things like this. The narrator can be omniscient, you can not.

Teenage!Me enjoyed first person, because she felt it was necessary to get to know her characters. Teenage!Me did this even though she clearly wanted the narrator to know stuff Holly has no way of knowing.

In any case, I don’t see why Holly would need to hear from Jaimie. They’re sisters. They’ve both been raised in the same religion. Holly would have grown up already knowing the things Jaimie is going to say.

Well, maybe not. Because somehow I managed to miss this stuff, despite having had Bible studies before I was baptized, sooooo maybe it’s not so unrealistic.

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. She doesn’t really love you. She just wants you to be a Seventh day Adventist!

My teenage self was a shitty writer, but teenage!me was kind of intelligent. Because this is spot on. Not because the real “Jaimie” was like this. I think the real life “Jaimie” did love me, in her own way. But a lot of SDAs do think like this.

In any case, Holly agrees to this clearly rigged deal, and the mom comes up, and conversation ceases.

In case anyone was wondering, no. The mother in this story is not based on my real mom. In my tiny little teenage mind, I thought my mother did not love me, and so I did not put her in this story. I now realize that this is complete and utter bullshit. My mom has different ways of showing her love than teenage!me would have liked, but she did and does love me.

But I love my sister! And she wouldn’t do this for me if she didn’t really love me, right?

Love, in my tiny little teenage mind, meant forcing Christianity down my throat.

Yes, Holly, someone would do that for you even if they didn’t love you. Because when they stand before God in the day of judgement, they have to at least tell him that they tried. It’s not just your soul that’s in danger, it’s theirs. If God doesn’t feel you tried hard enough to convert people, he will hold you personally responsible for their damnation.

I’m not kidding. That is how some Adventists see things.

After a section break, Holly empties her backpack, full of stolen crap. How does she steal all this and not get caught? No idea. Teenage!me had, at this point, never shoplifted and had only read about it in books.

Teenage!me pretty much believed nearly everything she read.

I spend the rest of the afternoon listening to the CDs I’ve stolen, answering email, and, of course, looking at any other websites I can think of that mom would kill me for even knowing about. Today I make it a point to learn about how to tell different Pine trees apart.

This is where teenage!me could have used some writing advice. She did not mean to say that her mother would be upset at her for learning how to differentiate between different types of pine trees.

What was going through teenage!me’s head is that Holly was looking at websites like http://www.churchofsatan.com, a favorite website of rebellious teenagers everywhere.

Then Holly blathers on and on about how she likes to educate herself on various topics, because she likes to feel smart. She tells us she likes the attention she gets from knowing things, however, we never actually see this happening, and, unless I’m remembering wrong, Holly doesn’t exactly try to be the center of attention very much.

At sundown, Holly struggles to stay awake for worship, after which she and Jaimie go to town to rent a movie.

There’s another cringe inducing conversation that makes me want to beat teenage!me’s head against the wall.

“ I hate God!”

“Holly, please, give him a chance…. what happened?”

What did happen? I’d also like to know, because I sure as shit can’t remember.

Silence.

“You used to love God, Holly, you were one of the most spiritual people I knew. Now, you hate God and don’t want anything to do with him, why?”

I shrug.

Teenage!Me will never bring this up again. We’re set up to think something big bad and terrible happened…. and then nothing. Nothing is ever explained.

I’m not sure if this is just bad writing, or if teenage!me simply knew that her friends were reading this and she needed to keep certain things out.

Here’s what happened with teenage!me: Teenage!me read Ellen White and realized she’d been taught a bunch of bullshit her whole life. Teenage!me also began to realize just how badly her parents had fucked her over, and she was mad at God because he was all powerful, and he didn’t prevent her from being raised Adventist, and he didn’t prevent her from being emotionally and verbally abused by her father.

Teenage!me was angry, and it only makes sense for the anger to be directed at the one who had the power to make it all go away but didn’t.

But Holly couldn’t have been given a reason in text without pissing off a lot of my friends. Holly also had to convert later, so if Teeange!me had given Holly a legitimate reason to be angry, teenage!me would have had to resolve that in a few chapters. And teenage!me probably didn’t know how to deal with that. Teenage!me asked the hard questions, but never got them answered. Teenage!me had seen other authors handle such situations badly, and was afraid of making the same mistake. So teenage!me probably decided she didn’t want to deal with it.

At least, I think that was what teenage!me was thinking. I honestly don’t remember.

The movie Jaimie and Holly watch is Saved.

This book is in no way shape or form plagiarizing the movie. That was sarcasm, in case you missed it. This book is absolutely plagiarizing that movie.  And this book.

Points to teenage!Merikay, at least her story was original.

It is at times like this when I can relax. It Is at times like this when I can almost imagine that I can go back to being a Seventh Day Adventist. Almost. But I know I can never go back, I’ve gone too far. I am rejecting God, and He won’t care about me anymore.

I hope you weren’t curious exactly why it is Holly feels she can’t go back…. we don’t get to know. I’m not sure I remember, either. I think Holly feels that, since she’s worshiped Satan, neither God nor anyone else will ever love her.

That is my best guess as to what was running through my tiny teenage brain.

That’s the end of the chapter. Tune in next time where teenage!me attempts to write about romance and sex. Teenage!me has never experienced romance and sex, so this outta be awful.

Now! P. 110-130

Last week, if you recall, the Prison Guard is still monologing at Book!Merikay about her religious choices. In addition to talk about the Immortality of the Soul and The Sabbath, he has also told her that her family could suffer for her decisions.

I know I said this a lot in the last post: the guard is still monologing.

He stared at me with a cold, empty look. “Of course, if you were to change to God’s way and ask forgiveness for your sins, he would save you.”

Merikay knows she is right, but the guard’s words confuse her. She is particularly upset at the realization that harm could come to her family because of her actions. She wonders if the guard was telling the truth. The guard tells Book!Merikay to think about what he has said.

“But I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. If you want to, we’ll send you back to Kalamazoo; and then, after you’ve seen some of your friends and family, you can make your decisions.”

I’ve already talked about how this makes no sense, so let’s move on.

Book!Merikay is excited at this idea, and the guard takes her to a new cell, where she is alone.

But my home leave didn’t come. The days passed. Every few minutes a guard would look through the window and wake me if I was sleeping. Every day there were long hours of persuasion talks. I began to wonder if I was going to lose my mind. They seemed so positive that they were right, and yet I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was right.

I could understand wasting their time with this before the death decree became legal. Now that it is legal to kill her, why…. nevermind. I said I’d be nice, so we will try not to think about it too much.

Book!Merikay tells us that she is so confused by what is going on that she no longer is sure why she is right. She’s been starved, dehydrated, and deprived of sleep. Of course she is out of her mind. Of course she doesn’t know what’s true anymore and why.

They had so many good arguments, and always they kept bringing up my past.

If they have so many good arguments, how can you be sure you are right?

Are these arguments actually good, or does sleep deprived book!Merikay just thinks they are because sleep deprivation isn’t good for brain function?

And what past are they bringing up, exactly? Book!Merikay is 16 or 17. What exactly has she done that’s so bad that grown ass men and women would keep bringing it up? Did she do a lot of drugs? Have an active sex life? Kill someone? In some ways, I don’t necessarily need Teenage!Merikay to go into detail. But I need something to suggest why this is a problem for Book!Merikay. Teenage!Merikay could invent some shit that her book self did, and we’d never need to know if it was true or not.

Book!Merikay tells us that if Jesus kept the Sabbath, that should be enough for her. She worries more about whether or not she’s saved.

And I can’t help but wonder if Book!Merikay’s anxiety here about being saved is also Teenage!Merikay’s anxiety. Remember, Adventists believe that Jesus is coming next week. Any next week, not this particular next week. Teenage!Merikay absolutely believed the events in her story would come to pass. (If there is evidence to the contrary I would hear it.) Teenage!Merikay believes that Book!Merikay’s nightmare will soon be hers.

My heart goes out to Teenage!Merikay in sympathy. Her anxiety was my anxiety was everyone’s anxiety. Every single Adventist teenager, at some point, has gone through something like this. A lot of us can relate.

All day I would plead, knowing that there was no intercessor now. I was on my own. I had to stand firm. I couldn’t fail now.

Adventists believe that, in the last days, toward the bitter end, Jesus will no longer be interceding for his people. Whether or not this is biblical is up for debate. I am inclined to believe it’s bullshit, simply because any God who would expect me to stand for myself in the day of judgement without the blood of Christ to hide behind is a real asshole.

Any God who would throw me to the fires of hell for giving in to temptation while I was hungry, dehydrated, and so sleep deprived I couldn’t function is also an asshole. If you can’t think clearly, I don’t think you can be held accountable for the decisions you make.

Unfortunately, this is the part where Tom comes back. I get that he is supposed to be her guardian angel, and that it can be difficult to depict guardian angels in fiction….

I would rather Tom not exist. It is better to not attempt this at all than to attempt it and fail. I give Teenage!Merikay a bit of a pass because she is only 17…

Suddenly I woke up….I couldn’t hear the guard, but I knew he was in the cell. Rolling over, I sat up and looked at the man. It was Tom!

“Tom, how did you get in here?”

Good question. Maybe you should think about it for longer than 5 seconds. However, if she is clearly out of her mind from being tortured, she might not be capable of thinking about it for longer than 5 seconds.

“Never mind that, Little One.” He smiled.

Book!Merikay has been tortured. I think I can forgive her for clearly not being able to think very long about anything.

When he was around, there was no pain, no empty stomach, no heartache, no wondering. He seemed to carry an atmosphere of peace and love, of trust and joy, right with him; and to me the cell shone when he was there.

I…..can’t. I am trying to be nice, but scenes with Tom are just unreadable.

Tom gives her food. How did he get in her cell? How did he get food? How did he get the food to her in the cell? Book!Merikay does ask, but is told not to think about it. I can see her, with a sleep deprived hungry brain not thinking too much about anything.

Yet the guards still think she is capable of converting, even though she’s out of her mind from insomnia….

You know what, this will probably be a lot more painless if I don’t try to look into this too closely. Let us move on.

Tom tells Book!Merikay that they are going to be super hard on her from now on, that she is going home, but it won’t be a happy event.

How could he know my thoughts? I again felt scared. What kind of a man was this who could know what I was thinking? Then he smiled reassuringly, and I felt safe once more.

I’ve already mentioned how this wouldn’t be out of place in a horror novel, so we can move on.

I am also going to mention that one wouldn’t need to read Book!Merikay’s mind to know that the guards are going to send her home. And it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that it wouldn’t be as happy an event as Book!Merikay anticipates.

It’s called “finding out as much as you can about a situation and applying logic.”

I cut Teenage!Merikay some slack because she is, in fact, a teenager. She’s also a sheltered Adventist teenager who maybe doesn’t understand how specific sounding adults can be when they actually sound very vague.

Shoot, I was the same way as a teenager.

Tom reminds Book!Merikay to stay close to Jesus, and if you try and forget every single scene Tom has ever been in, this actually works. Tom reminds Book!Merikay that Book!Jesus has saved her from dying recently, and that he loves her.

His eyes were soft, and he spoke with love and authority of someone who has been very close to the Savior. I knew he was the most wonderful Christian man I had ever met. Better even than Elder Brown and Elder Jenkins.

I’m being nice. However, I will say that teenage!Me thought passages such as this were absolutely unreadable. Teenage!Me thought that surely Parable of the Sower was so much better. At least the main character in mine wasn’t so dense.

That is what 17-year old Snowperson thought.

17 year old Snowperson soon intends to read Parable of the Sower, provided the liquor stores are still open and she can get some help.  Madame Snowman will soon see exactly how awful her teenage writing was.

In any case, we get some more paragraphs of Tom encouraging her. And I have nothing negative to say about it.

“Tom, tell me about your past,” I pleaded. “I want to be just like you, to have the strong faith you have. Please tell me about yourself so I can be just like you.”

Right question, wrong reason. But sure, if I was sleep deprived, I could see possibly using this sort of logic.

Tom tells her she should want to be like Christ, not like him.

“But tell me about yourself anyway. Please?”

Good on you Book!Merikay, keep asking.

Tom refuses, making her promise him she won’t get discouraged. Book!Merikay begs Tom not to go, but of course he does.

Then it dawned on me that the guard hadn’t been by for a long time. The whole time Tom had been here.

That’s not suspicious at all.

I didn’t want the guards to wake me up all the time or to make those sly remarks that were so characteristic of them.

I don’t know what “sly remarks” she’s talking about… This could be Teenage!Merikay’s way of glossing over the fact that the guards were behaving extremely creepily toward her.

How could Tom come and go so quietly? how could he be here just when I needed cheering, just when I was hungry? Everything was so strange.

There’s being subtle about something, and then there’s beating us over the head. My advice to Teenage!Merikay would have been to trust her audience. We get it. Tom is mysterious and has superpowers. Move on.

Merikay gets sent back to Kalamazoo.

Since earthquakes and floods had put the railroads out of business, and the increasing number of air crashes made air travel very undesirable, I traveled by car.

If the earthquakes and floods have done a number on the railroads, shouldn’t they have also done a number on the actual roads? Why has there been an increase in air crashes?

I could hardly recognize Kalamazoo. Buildings had been destroyed from the many earthquakes ore gutted from numerous fires. Streets had cracks running through them. Sewers had backed up. There were very few people on the streets.

Ten points to Gryffindor (or whatever Hogwarts house Merikay is in) this works. Her descriptions of how the city has changed are good.

Book!Merikay doesn’t get to go home, though. She’s put into the local jail, where she sees a girl she recognizes. We are told that Merikay and Abby attended GLA, and that she lives near Merikay’s home.

Abby tells Book!Merikay that it has been hard for her, but “just pray and things work out.”

Right. How’s that working out for you? You’re in jail. If things had worked out, shouldn’t you be in the mountains by now?

Book!Merikay asks Abby about the faculty at GLA. She is disappointed to learn that Elder Brown and his family not only didn’t get away from the Sunday Police, they apparently joined them. Points to Teenage!Merikay, the dialogue in this section works.

2 days later, the guard takes Book!Merikay to meet her book!mother. Elders Brown and Jenkins are there, and this is a twist I wasn’t expecting. Good job, Teenage!Merikay. I genuinely was not expecting this.

I don’t remember this section being read out loud in Bible class. It probably was and I just don’t remember, so I really was not expecting this.

Book!Merikay then tells us that teams of questioners pepper her with questions. We do not get to know what these questions are.

They gave me no chance to answer their questions, but answered themselves. The answers they gave were contrary to what I knew to be truth, but they backed them all up with texts from the bible.

If they actually wanted book!Merikay to convert, it would make far more sense to sit down with her, listen to her answers, and then refute said answers point by point. Adventists would argue that if they did that, the questioners themselves would convert. The thing is, even if Book!Merikay is right about the Bible, it is still possible to persuade her to believe otherwise by answering her questions point by point.

This is especially true because most SDA doctrines don’t actually hold a helluva lot of water.

Instead of actually listening to them and questioning what she knows, Book!Merikay stubbornly holds onto “I know I’m right.” She prays about this a lot. Even if I allow that she is right, she is also guilty of doing the very thing she is accused of: stubbornly refusing to consider the evidence that she may be wrong.

Not that I think that is worthy of the death penalty, mind you. As long as they are hurting no one, people are allowed their religious beliefs, even if they are rather nonsensical.

I think that’s where I’ll stop for now. Next time I’ll get to the really interesting parts. I never expected book!Merikay to have a chance to confront the people who, from her perspective, have turned their backs on her. I expected all of what we learn from them to be revealed in an infodump that would happen after the 2nd coming if I expected Teenage!Merikay to reveal it at all.

Points to Teenage!Merikay for taking the story in a direction I totally wasn’t expecting.

 

Wacky White Wensday #2: Theaters

Ellen White died in 1915, which is before movie theaters as we know them were a thing. Does that stop Adventists from prohibiting them? Well…. no. At least, not for a long time. I think mainstream Adventists no longer avoid movie theaters, but I was told by some older Adventists that for a while, theater going was “verboten,” and something only the “rebellious kids” did.

I was told that one of the reasons Adventists no longer speak out against theater going is because we developed the technology to see movies outside the theater. When you can watch movies on TV at home and avoid going out to the theater, well, the lines of demarcation just got blurred.

I have no idea why this would have been needed, since theaters as Ellen White knew them would have been vastly different from the way theaters have been for the last 60 years, but set that aside. Adventists still use these EGW quotes as reasons we shouldn’t go see movies.

I feel a need to add a disclaimer: This is no longer a mainstream Adventist thing. It used to be, but no longer is. (For the record, by the time I came along, only fringe Adventists abstained from theater going.)

Taken from the book Adventist Home, page 515-516

Few Popular Amusements Are Safe—Many of the amusements popular in the world today, even with those who claim to be Christians, tend to the same end as did those of the heathen. There are indeed few among them that Satan does not turn to account in destroying souls. Through the drama he has worked for ages to excite passion and glorify vice. The opera, with its fascinating display and bewildering music, the masquerade, the dance, the card table, Satan employs to break down the barriers of principle and open the door to sensual indulgence. In every gathering for pleasure where pride is fostered or appetite indulged, where one is led to forget God and lose sight of eternal interests, there Satan is binding his chains about the soul.

The true Christian will not desire to enter any place of amusement or engage in any diversion upon which he cannot ask the blessing of God. He will not be found at the theater, the billiard hall, or the bowling saloon. He will not unite with the gay waltzers or indulge in any other bewitching pleasure that will banish Christ from the mind.

To those who plead for these diversions we answer, We cannot indulge in them in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The blessing of God would not be invoked upon the hour spent at the theater or in the dance. No Christian would wish to meet death in such a place. No one would wish to be found there when Christ shall come.

The Theater the Hotbed of Immorality—Among the most dangerous resorts for pleasure is the theater. Instead of being a school for morality and virtue, as is so often claimed, it is the very hotbed of immorality. Vicious habits and sinful propensities are strengthened and confirmed by these entertainments. Low songs, lewd gestures, expressions, and attitudes deprave the imagination and debase the morals. Every youth who habitually attends such exhibitions will be corrupted in principle. There is no influence in our land more powerful to poison the imagination, to destroy religious impressions, and to blunt the relish for the tranquil pleasures and sober realities of life than theatrical amusements. The love for these scenes increases with every indulgence as the desire for intoxicating drink strengthens with its use. The only safe course is to shun the theater, the circus, and every other questionable place of amusement.

I had heard that Ellen White also said that your guardian angels can’t go into the theater with you, and have to wait outside. However, I can not find this quote. What I do find, however, is this:

Angels of God will preserve His people while they walk in the path of duty, but there is no assurance of such protection for those who deliberately venture upon Satan’s ground.

Testimonies for the Church volume 5 page 198

You are seeking your own pleasure. Listen to the vain, frivolous conversation; hear the laugh, the jesting, the joking. Is this imitating the pattern? Still listen—is Jesus mentioned? Is the truth the theme of conversation? Are the speakers glorying in the cross of Christ? It is this fashion, that bonnet, that dress, what that young man said, or that young lady said, or the amusements they are planning. What glee! Are angels attracted and pressing close around them to ward off the darkness which Satan is pressing upon and around them? Oh, no. See, they turn away in sorrow. I see tears upon the faces of these angels. Can it be that angels of God are made to weep? It is even so.

Testimonies for the church Volume 1 p. 505-506

So, it appears that there were a few statements Ellen White made that were possibly taken a little bit out of context and then mashed together.

Ellen White does speak out against theater going (she wasn’t the only person in her day and age who did, btw) and she does suggest angels can’t go with us to certain places, but she never actually said, “If you go into a theater, your guardian angel has to wait outside.”

So, I believe we can tentatively file that particular thing under “things Ellen White never said.”

There’s enough batshit crazy to focus on as it is.

Adventist Girl: Heather Book 3 Chapter 4

 

Chapter 4

The Announcement

We last left off with Heather, Aunt Rachel, and her father having dinner at Mrs. Reid’s house. Now it is 2 months later, and Heather and Laura are walking to school. I’d say something about the abrupt time skip, but frankly I’m not sure it’s much different from American Girl, and it also makes it more plausible that Aunt Rachel and Pastor John have had time to develop an actual romance. It makes the news seem less abrupt, so, ok.

Laura and Heather complain about having to go to school, and then Laura wishes it would be Sabbath.

Said no SDA child ever. Because Sabbath is still getting up early in the morning to go spend time with people you hate. I mean, this community is small. Laura and Heather do see Ethel and May at church, right?

“Is your Father part of the big church meetings that are going on?” [Laura] asked Heather.

These would be interesting to hear about. What is discussed at them? I get that kids wouldn’t be too involved, but adults talk. Adults especially talk about really important upcoming votes, like whether or not Australia should unite and be their own country. When are we going to hear about that and how it affects Adventist church structure? Are changes coming to the Australian church? It is possible to explain these things so a child could understand. But we don’t get to hear about it. That’s disappointing.

As [Heather and Laura] passed the boy’s dormitory, a flood of adults poured down the steps. They were all staying at the college for the business session of the Australasian Union Conference.

Australasian Union conference? Is that still a thing? These books are supposed to teach me about Adventist history…. teach dammit.

Pastor Reid, part of the crowd, waves to Heather.

“How nice to see you again,” he said…. His eyes smiled along with his mouth.

I understand what the author was trying to say…. but I am just picturing a pair of eyes with smiley faces on them. Kinda creepy, but so are 99.9% of all Adventist pastors I’ve ever met.

Ethel comes over just as Pastor John is explaining that he’ll be coming over to Heather’s house for Sabbath lunch the next day.

“Uncle John!” Ethel protested. “I thought you would be spending Sabbath with us.”

“Don’t worry,” Pastor Reid assured her, “we’ll have plenty of time together. The meetings last for 3 weeks.”

Ethel shuffled her feet and stuck out her lower lip.

Poor Ethel. She’s probably afraid of losing one of her only friends. As a know-it-all, she’s probably not as popular as Heather and Laura perceive. Uncle John is probably one of the only people she feels she can talk to, because she’s socially awkward. There’s no real in text evidence for this, but it’s probably a fair guess considering what we’ve been shown.

I can sympathize with Ethel a little bit. Only a little bit. For the most part Ethel brings her isolation upon herself. And in text she has May as a friend, soooo? There’s no real in text reason given for her being so mean. She doesn’t want to share her uncle John…. why? We don’t get told. In fact, I was halfway expecting a confrontation of some sort between Heather and Ethel, where Ethel admits she doesn’t want to share Uncle John because insert reasons here. The fact that we don’t get that is probably a bit more realistic, but also less satisfying.

Heather hums happily as she goes into the schoolroom, and Ethel snarls at her to stop.

I agree with Ethel. Hummers and singers are annoying. Shut the fuck up and save it for the goddamn choir. Nobody wants to hear your wailing  caterwauling   impromptu singing.

Mrs. Hughes announces that the General Conference President, an “Elder Irwin,” has come to visit their class. Credit where credit is due: this part is both informative and entertaining. Elder Irwin passes around a small pebble, and asks who can tell him what it is.

Nathan, Heather’s older brother, correctly identifies it as gold. Elder Irwin tells us that the gold pebble is from Nome, Alaska, found during the beginning of the Klondike gold rush.

“This morning I want to tell you a little about what has been happening in the United States, which is my home. If you listen carefully you might even hear some more about the gold rush.”

Only if you listen carefully, though. He’s not gonna like, make it obvious or anything by bringing in a piece of gold and mentioning the gold rush.

Adults like this think they’re good with children, but when they say things like that, child!me always felt more annoyed than anything.

And then there’s a section break. So we don’t actually get to learn what is going on in the United States at this time. Which, ok, fair enough. The point is to learn about Adventist history and Australia, so we should probably stick to that.

I don’t know why Elder Irwin said he was going to talk about what was going on in the United States, because he brought up Alaska, which didn’t join the Union until 1959. Actually, I read a bit more, and the US had purchased the land by 1867, so I guess I am confused. Why did it take nearly 100 years after being purchased for the State to join the union?

This is never explained. Why even bring it up if you’re not going to explain this?

We cut to Sabbath morning in church, which sounds boring. Ellen White is preaching, so extra boring with a side of crazy.

Nathan is sitting on Heather’s dress, and refuses to move. Apparently the church is packed, probably because the prophet is preaching.

Heather tried to listen to the sermon, but she felt so uncomfortable.

Every generation of SDA children everywhere just gave a little nod of sympathy for Heather.

We are told that Mr. O’Leary, the man staying with the Gibson family, is extremely interested in the sermon and has no problems paying attention.

Heather rushes outside after the closing hymn and starts “twirling happily in the sunlight.” Ethel scowls at her, which makes Heather twirl even more. Aunt Rachel finally stops her, telling her she’s going to knock someone over and make herself dizzy.

Then Aunt Rachel spots Pastor Reid, and there goes her attention.

Heather and Nathan run home. Heather says they should hurry up and get the dinner ready before the others arrive. Nathan tells Heather he’d rather change his clothes, but that she can go ahead. Heather whines a bit about how Nathan doesn’t want to help her, which, well yeah, can you blame him? Poor thing probably wants to get out of that suit and tie ASAP.

Heather’s parents, Pastor Reid, and Aunt Rachel arrive. After pastor Reid says the prayer, he immediately announces that he has asked Rachel Nash to marry him. It is rather odd to ask immediately after the blessing, but meh.

“She has accepted,” Pastor Reid said, “but we would like your blessing.”

I know, I know, it was the 1800s…. but was it usual to ask the person’s uncle? Usually it was the girl’s father. Should he not have sent him a letter? I’m so glad it’s not the 1800s anymore.

Mr. Gibson says that if Rachel has accepted, he won’t stand in the way. He is excited about having Pastor Reid in the family, and everyone hugs. Lots of happiness, bla bla.

And then Heather realizes something that took Ethel only 10 seconds to put together.

[Heather] was scooping out a big spoon of potatoes when all at once she stopped with the spoon in mid air. A terrible thought had just raced through her mind. Oh no, she thought. I’ll be related to Ethel!

Heather has known they have been dating (or courting or whatever you called it back then) for quite some time now. How has it taken her months to put this together?

You know, this could have actually worked. Heather and Ethel, realizing they have a common goal, try and sabotage the relationship because they don’t want to be cousins. In the process Heather and Ethel realize they have come to like each other, and eventually fess up and repair John and Rachel’s relationship.

I would still find this cliche and overdone, but it would be something. It would be interested to read. We’re kinda sorta set up for a Heather-Ethel confrontation, and it never happens. Which may be more realistic, but realistic doesn’t always make for great reading.

 

 

 

Adventist Girl: Book 3 Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The Train To Melbourne

The chapter starts with Heather, Nathan, and Aunt Rachel cleaning the kitchen.

Aunt Rachel…swept up the crumbs around the wash basin.

“Smells delicious!” Mr. Gibson called.

The crumbs Aunt Rachel is sweeping up smell delicious? At first this confused me, because nowhere in the first 2 paragraphs of this chapter is food mentioned. Just after dinner cleanup.

Heather is excited that her father is home, and I can’t figure out why. Has he been away?

Nathan asks if he can go play with James, because they have some things they want to get done before sundown. I hope you weren’t curious exactly Nathan and James want to do, because we don’t get to know.

Mrs. Gibson tells her husband that she saved him some soup.

“Thank you, Dear,” Mr. Gibson said…. “It sure is nice to be home. I had a long trip up to Brisbane and back this week.”

This is clunky. There are some things that you can get away with telling people in the text. This is one of them. His family would already know he went “to Brisbane and back.” A better place to drop this statement would have been a page ago when Heather was acting excited about him being home. It would have explained why she was excited to have him home, and it would have avoided this clunky dialog.

Mr. Gibson gives Aunt Rachel a letter he picked up for her at the post office. It’s from Pastor John Reid, and he’s invited her to come visit him in Melbourne.

“Oh, I want to come too,” heather said, jumping up so quickly that her chair nearly went flying. “Please, Father!”

Um, no. I do not think Rachel and Pastor Reid want you around. Particularly if The Good Pastor is looking to court.

Mr. Gibson tells Aunt Rachel that he’s going to Melbourne on Monday to pick up some books, and that he’ll take her then. Heather begs Father to take her along, because he took Nathan to tour the publishing house last time, and she’d really like to go see it.

Mr. Gibson says it’s up to Aunt Rachel, who of course agrees because you’ve kind of put her on the spot there, Gibson.

Before the section break, Heather wonders what Ethel will think of this.

Now, if I were Heather, I’d be a bit more worried about exactly how Ethel plans to deal with this. I mean, Ethel does actually do stuff besides be generally mean and annoying, right?  I mean, we’re not really shown anything besides Ethel being generally unpleasant to Heather, being an annoying know-it-all, and being jealous of the time her uncle is spending with Heather’s family. We’re supposed to see Ethel as a mean girl, and yet all we’ve seen is a very socially awkward child who is worried about losing the person who is very possibly the only grownup who shows her affection.

I have a lot of sympathy for Ethel. She’s generally unpleasant to Heather, but doesn’t ever do anything to her. We’ve all seen mean girls, right? Ethel would be better characterized as someone who was full on Regina George.

After the section break, the train is stopping at Melbourne. So, it’s been a week. As they disembark, Pastor Reid meets them.

“Miss Nash,” he said. “You are even lovelier than I had remembered.”

CLUNK!

Aunt Rachel blushes, and Pastor Reid tells Heather that he’s got a lot to show her.

The horses galloped along Best Street and stopped in front of the Echo Publishing House.

Unfortunately, this book lacks pictures. This seems like a serious omission. These books were written in order to connect SDA youth with their roots. You’d think the author would want to include pictures of some of the older buildings.

Mr. Gibson threw his bag over his shoulder. “This is a state-of-the-art printing press,” he explained proudly. “More than 80 people work here.”

Again, pictures would be nice. Most children today do not know what a printing press looks like. *I* do not know what a printing press looks like.

Interestingly, there is still an Echo Publishing House in Melbourne, Australia. I just deleted 3 paragraphs about it, because it is not the same publishing house as the one being discussed here. What used to be Echo Publishing House (as the book knows it) is now Signs Publishing Company. Here’s a quote from the about section on their website:

Established in 1885, Signs Publishing Company is 100 per cent Australian owned…

Doesn’t tell us much. Here’s a link from Wikipedia with more information on the history of the publishing house.

Interestingly, this wiki page is the only place I’ve seen “Amalgamated” used in a sentence outside of an Ellen White book.

I shouldn’t be having to look this up on my own. It was important enough to include in the book, it should be discussed in an afterward section. These book should have afterward sections. American Girl had them, and even if the author didn’t have American Girl’s budget, it wouldn’t have been hard to include some of your research in the back of the book.

Mr. Gibson tells the group that most of the books he sells are printed here.

“The Press also prints the Signs of the Times magazine and many other things,” Mr. Gibson continued, his voice sounding muddled by the noisy machinery.

I like this. I like that this was included. It’s educational and interesting. Well, some children may find it interesting, at any rate. I did not read this particular series of books as a child, so I have no idea what child!me would have thought of it. Adult!me is very interested.

Mr. Gibson tells Aunt Rachel, Pastor John, and Heather that he has to go see about a book order, leaving the 3 of them alone. Pastor John offers to continue the tour, which doesn’t work out so well for Heather because he spends most of the time flirting with Aunt Rachel.

We are told that the two adults didn’t notice what Heather was doing. What was Heather doing that they should have noticed? Why bring this up if you’re not going to tell me?

Pastor Reid invites the little group to join him and his mother for tea, saying that his mother “hates to be kept waiting.”

Pastor Reid lives on a farm, and I remember last chapter Ethel said it was a sheep farm. Are we getting some education stuff about sheep farming? Pastor Reid’s mother greets the group as they enter the house.

“Welcome to our home,” Mrs. Reid finally replied in a cool voice. “If you will come inside, I have a meal waiting.”

……

Aunt Rachel whispered in Heather’s ear. “Perhaps she’ll be friendlier once we get to know her a little better.”

Mrs. Reid’s home is very elegant, and Heather suddenly realizes her dress is wrinkled from having slept on the train. It’s a good comparison between elegance and feeling…well, not very elegant yourself.

Pastor Reid shows Heather the view of his farm, saying that his father started it.

“It’s home to me. I certainly understand why Jesus talks about being a shepherd.” He smiled at Aunt Rachel.

Anyone who has ever read about sheep knows why Jesus is constantly comparing us to them. For it is a universal truth that a lot of humans are incurably stupid. And so are sheep.

During dinner, Aunt Rachel tries to make conversation. She compliments Mrs. Reid on her lovely home.

“Yes,” she answered and sipped her water. “I am not surprised that you think so.”

Heather wonders whether or not this is rude. Yes, Heather, it is. Mrs. Reid indicates that Rachel is from a lower class. Of course Rachel would think the home lovely, Mrs. Reid thinks smugly to herself. But Mrs. Reid knows better. Mrs. Reid knows that this house is…. acceptable.

We are not told this, but it seems the most likely explanation. But then we get this.

Mrs. Reid’s eyes narrowed into little slits. She leaned over and said to Aunt Rachel in a voice that was almost a whisper, “I love my home, and I don’t ever plan to leave. Not ever!”

And that is where the chapter ends. Not a terrible place to end a chapter, but not exactly the most exciting cliffhanger ever.

Even as a child, this part would have made the entire plot of  the book painfully obvious. Children are not stupid. Even a ten year old is going to realize that the only objection Mrs. Reid has to Aunt Rachel marrying her son is that she is afraid that them getting married will somehow mean that she has to leave her home.

Which strikes me as something that is overly simplistic and doesn’t really happen much in real life because in real life, Mrs. Reid would talk to her son. It also doesn’t really fit in with what Mrs. Reid said earlier about Rachel being of a lower class.

Also, ten year olds of today would not understand why Pastor Reid marrying Aunt Rachel would necessitate Mrs. Reid having to leave her home. I do not fully comprehend it myself, and I am a grown ass woman who understands a bit about 1800s sexism.

I get that this is a kid’s book, but Mrs. Reid’s objections to Rachel could have been much more complex. Here she seems to object to…well, any girl her son brings home. Maybe Rachel could have had a “wild” past. This wouldn’t have to be anything particularly salacious. She could have just “Strayed from the Lord” for a bit and “lived her life the way she wanted to rather than the way God wanted her to.” Of course you’d have to include a line or two about Rachel coming back to Jesus, but this wouldn’t have to be more than 2-3 lines tops.

That could work. It’s not too horribly specific, and leaves the details open to imagination. It’s also not too horribly complex for a children’s book, and would teach children that even adults make mistakes. In the American Girl books, we see adults making mistakes all the time, and sometimes those mistakes have disastrous consequences. Not every character in children’s books has to be black and white.

But no, Aunt Rachel has to be this perfect character who has nothing wrong with her whatsoever. Any objections Mrs. Reid has to Rachel are painted as something wrong with Mrs. Reid, not with Rachel.

This not only makes a character seem annoying, this makes for some seriously boring reading.

 

Now! p. 106-110

Last week, our teenage protagonist had just told the guard why she was an Adventist (sort of) and is now being questioned about certain SDA beliefs. Now, which one do you think would be brought up first, in a society that has Sunday Laws:

  1. The Sabbath
  2. Immortality of the soul
  3. You mean you don’t eat meat?

If you guessed #1, you’re completely wrong. The guard decides to start with…the immortality of the soul.

Huh? People in this society are persecuted for not going to church on Sunday, and this prison guard is worried about Book!Merikay not believing that souls are immortal?

Just….roll with it, ok?

“Now, you say that all your doctrines are based on the BIble, but you don’t believe the immortality of the soul…in my Bible I read where…Lazarus was in heaven and the rich man was in hell after they died. Now, you have to agree that this is in the Bible. Jesus told the story himself…”

Teenage!Merikay doesn’t list Bible verses, so I had to google this. Here’s the Bible story.

Luke 16:19-27

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell[d] from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

Adventists hold that this is a parable Jesus is telling. Jesus told this parable because the pharisees were pissed off about something Jesus said. He’s telling this parable to illustrate the fact that “ye cannot serve both God and money.” The pharisees are pissed about this because they love money.

That is the context in which Jesus tells this story. Whether or not it’s a parable isn’t actually all that clear from the text, but it could be.

The guard is still speaking, and this next one I could practically recite from memory.

“And when the thief was on the cross, Jesus said to him, ‘I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with Me in paradise.’ Now right there Jesus, Himself, said the thief would be with Him that day, the day he died.”

Here’s the verses being referred to.

Luke chapter 23. We will pick up in verse…. 36. The context of this passage is that Jesus has just been nailed to the cross and put up to die alongside 2 other people who are also being crucified. The “criminals” being referred to in the text are the other 2 people being executed.

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.d

43Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Emphasis mine.

Adventists have a ready answer for this one. In the original Greek, they say, there were no punctuation marks. Those were added later to make the text more readable. Here’s what happens if you move the comma a little to the right:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.”

When you move the comma, you realize that Jesus isn’t saying that the thief will be in paradise today, but that he is telling the thief today that he will be in paradise eventually.

I don’t have enough knowledge of Biblical Greek to comment on this much. If anyone does, please feel free to chime in. For now, I’m just going to move on.

The prison guard is continuing his monologue.

“And in the old testament there is the story of Saul. He went to a Spirit medium, and she brought up the spirit of the prophet Samuel. And the spirit told Saul what was going to happen to him.”

Ah yes, the story of the Witch of Endor. So, the story goes that Saul, for some reason, wanted to find a witch. So he found one, went to one, and asked her to conjure up the prophet Samuel. This made the witch realize who Saul was, so he had to swear to her that he wouldn’t kill her, as was the custom in that time.

We pick up in 1 Samuel chapter 28:13

13. The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”

The woman said, “I see a ghostly figurea coming up out of the earth.”

14“What does he look like?” he asked.

“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.

Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

Adventists will argue that, when reading this, it is Saul who decides that the figure the witch sees is Samuel. The text itself doesn’t say that.

And they’re right. It doesn’t.

15Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

It’s not clear whether or not Saul actually saw this, or the witch is just speaking for the ghost.

If the witch is pretending that the ghost of Samuel is speaking through her, this could be a woman who is very clever at fooling people, Adventists will say. Or Adventists will say that it was one of Satan’s evil angels disguising himself as Samuel. Opinions within the church are divided on this. What they all do agree on is that it wasn’t actually Samuel that Saul was seeing.

The text itself isn’t horribly clear.

The guard is still speaking. Still making arguments against a doctrine SDAs have that isn’t really all that important while using arguments an Adventist could knock down with a flyswatter.

Here’s the thing. No one in Adventism thinks that you will burn in hell for believing that, at the moment of one’s death, one goes to heaven right away. They don’t agree with it, but most will agree that it’s not really a key point necessary for salvation.

That is not the case with the Sabbath. The Sabbath, Adventists believe, absolutely is a key point necessary for salvation.

The Sabbath is also the reason for the death penalty, so why would a prison guard be hammering away at something Adventists consider important, but not 100% essential?

And there is the instance where Jesus was glorified on the Mount of Olives. Both Elijah and Moses were there. Moses, you will remember, died. Way back in the old testament it tells us that. But then here in the New Testament he was alive. Therefore, it is only logical to believe in the immortality of the soul, right? Right.

He knows better than to assume that Elijah was dead, because the Bible says Elijah never died, but was taken up to heaven without having to go through that messy business of actually expiring.

Hang on, Moses was resurrected and taken to heaven right after he died. It says so in the Bible. Hang on, I’ll look it up.

Wait. That verse isn’t in there? What? Moses… wasn’t… THOSE BASTARDS! THEY LIED TO ME! They. Lied. To. Me.

Excuse me. I have to go break a commandment.

Ok, I’m back. I went and googled for other bible verses wherein maybe it was explained that Moses was resurrected. It all sounded reasonable, until I actually looked the verses up myself. In Jude 9, Satan and the archangel Michael fight over Moses’ body. That doesn’t say that Moses was resurrected.

The resurrection of Moses isn’t in the Bible. Oh god. What else have they been lying to me about?

I don’t know how many of my readers identify as atheist, but would any of you be interested in doing a read through of the Bible? We don’t have to believe in it in order to read and critique it.

Critiquing. Um, right. I’m supposed to be critiquing Merikay’s story…

The Prison Guard is still monolging.

I really don’t see how you people can claim to follow the Bible when you don’t.

I kind of agree. I think the Adventists follow an interpretation of the Bible. Whether or not that interpretation is true is up for debate. According to the guard, their interpretation is not true. Even as an Adventist, there were things I thought were super unbiblical. Like the entire premise of this story.

“Another thing is this Sabbath keeping.”

I am trying to be nice to Teenage!Merikay, but you just spent the whole book talking about how persecuted the characters are because they keep the Sabbath. The prison guard should not be mentioning this as a sort of after thought.

Now, the Sabbath was kept by God’s people through the Old Testament and on till Jesus’ death. Then when he was raised on Easter morning, the day of holiness was changed from Saturday to Sunday. We read where the Bible talks of the Lord’s Day.

Yes, but those Bible verses don’t say what day exactly is The Lord’s Day. I know, because I’ve read them.

Adventists have another thing right: there is no verse wherein the Sabbath is officially changed from Saturday to Sunday. It’s just not in there. Does that mean it’s wrong to go to church on Sunday? No. Does that mean I don’t think there’s room for argument that the Bible supports worshiping on Sunday? No. There is absolutely room for argument, however, if you go looking for the verse where the day was changed, it’s simply not there. What you do with that information is your business, not mine.

And further, in the New Testament it tells of the disciples assembling for a religious meeting on the first day of the week.

I remember this. I remember reading this in the Bible. Unfortunately I don’t remember where I read it, and Merikay doesn’t give texts. I can understand why she wouldn’t want the story to get bogged down in large quotes of Bible verses, but it would be nice if she’d included a footnote or something. I am unable, after a 5 minute google search, to find the passage Teenage!Merikay is referring to, so we will move on.

I can say, however, that the guard is correct on this one. Paul did hold a religious gathering on the first day of the week.

And it also says that the law was done away with at the cross. We know that this law was the old law given at Mount Sinai. The new law is the law of grace.

The guard should be citing verses at this point, but he isn’t. This is because Adventists believe that this is complete and utter nonsense. And it’s only possible to believe in complete and utter nonsense if you don’t actually read the Bible.

Teenage!Merikay isn’t having the prison guard character refer to specific texts about the law and grace because the adults around her all taught her that there is only one way to interpret the Bible, and that most non SDA Christians only believe certain things because they have not read the Bible.

This is not entirely wrong. The majority of Christians haven’t read most of the Bible. However, Christians do exist who read the Bible and study it but still don’t agree with the ways SDAs interpret it.

The adults around teenage!Merikay would not have acknowledged this, so teenage!Merikay likely would not have even known about it. Teenage!Merikay did not have access to Christian forums via the internet, after all.

Back in the 1960s, it was actually possible to keep teenagers in a bubble. By the time teenage!me came along, not so much.

The prison guard is winding up his speech.

“Now, you say you follow the Bible, and yet here are just two instances out of many that I could name where you go contrary to its teachings. Think about it, Merikay.”

I’m not entirely sure State of the Dead as SDAs believe it is against the Bible. At the very least, after having read both sides, the Bible is unclear about exactly what happens when you die.

I’m also not sure why he’s attacking State of the Dead? That particular SDA belief, while weird, doesn’t really affect Merikay’s daily life. It certainly doesn’t affect how she treats others, soooo who cares?

At least with the Sabbath, you can argue that it affects Merikay’s life, and the lives of those around her. They’re piss poor arguments, but set that aside. The guard is still speaking.

“You are an intelligent girl, and I know that you are seeking for truth. You feel you are doing the will of God, but think about what I’ve just said.”

This is something I can see as being realistic. The guard realizes that book!Merikay may not have actually ever sat down and thought through what she believes. Many Adventist teenagers haven’t. The prison guard is trying to get her to see things from another perspective, except he’s using piss poor arguments to do it.

I can sympathize with Prison Guard until he says this. All this, mind you, has been uninterrupted monologing.

“You wouldn’t want to kill anyone, would you? But some of your friends or even members of your family may be killed because you are so stubborn. Don’t you think God is going to hold you responsible?”

No. A decent God wouldn’t hold someone responsible for that sort of thing.

And yet…

It’s not just Book!Merikay’s life on the line here. Now, the lives of her book!Family are in danger.

This is a moral and ethical dilemma, but none of the adults around teenage!Merikay would have seen it as such. Book!Merikay expresses sorrow that her parents might be persecuted, but she never seems to really wrestle with the question: is it moral to lie to the Sunday Police if someone else’s life is on the line?

Any God who would rather have your family get shot than have you tell a lie is an asshole, and I wouldn’t want to worship him.

I can kind of give Teenage!Merikay a pass on this. It’s natural, as a teenager, to see things in black and white. When I was a teenager, I was just learning to think in shades of gray. Adventism doesn’t encourage that particular way of thinking, so any Adventist teenager is going to have an especially hard time learning not to think in black and white.

In fact, if one is to remain in the SDA community, thinking in shades of gray is not an asset, but a liability. Someone who doesn’t see things in black and white is less likely to be trusted, and acceptance could be cautious.

We’ll pick up here next week, wherein we see Book!Merikay reunited with her mother. I have to admit, I was not expecting that.

Stay tuned, it gets interesting.