Since I have the kindle version of the book, my page numbers aren’t going to correspond exactly with everybody else’s page numbers.
In any case, this is a story written by the author for Bible class. She wrote it one weekend when she was a teenager living at a Seventh Day Adventist boarding academy. In fact, in a way, it was kind of the same Academy I went to, except not.
The version I have is the unedited original. When it was edited for publication, it looks like all they did was make it shorter. This is why Merikay has published the original for us to enjoy. We begin with a news report.
UN troops are moving into Iraq. The new government which the UN set up there collapsed today after a month of uprisings and riots. The troops are being sent in to bring peace to the small country, put down any further uprisings, and establish the democratic government.”
Our story starts with the protagonist, Merikay, watching the news. I kind of skimmed through this at first, because it sounded about as boring as most news reports about the middle east do in real life.
On the rereading this, I have a serious question, and I haven’t been able to figure this out: can the UN do that? Can the UN just waltz in and set up a government? If so, could they please do that right here, right now? Or does the UN actually approve of Trump?
I do not blame Merikay for not knowing the answer to this question. At 17, I had no idea what the UN did either. (Still don’t, for the record.) In fact, a lot of end times writers, most notably Jerry Jenkins and Tim Lahaye of the Left Behind franchise, think that the UN has something to do with end times prophecy, because it is an organization that is somehow set up to take over the world.
I have to wonder how much of this Merikay would have picked up on, not just from her teachers at the Academy, but from the books she was reading. And I know she read a lot not just because she says so in the post script, but because she can clearly write well, and that’s the sort of thing that comes from doing a lot of reading.
So moving on.
“The president, along with government leaders of England, France, and Russia signed a peace pact today at Moscow.”
This story was written in 1963-1964 ish, according to Merikay’s post script. So, what was going on in the 1960s, exactly, that England, France, and Russia would need to sign a peace pact over? I mean that as a serious question, by the way, not a criticism of the text. Damn Merikay, you’re making me do homework!
Let’s see, the cold war would have been going on… hang on, the cold war ended in 1991? I was alive during the cold war? What? I-what? Ok. you know what, I am getting just way too distracted. Let’s move on.
The news report goes on to say that it is hoped that China will soon sign the peace pact. Then the news moves on to something closer to home.
“The Supreme Court today finally approved the much debated National Sunday-Sabbath Bill. The bill declares Sunday the one and only day on which all Americans are to worship….Politicians, educators and religious leaders alike have been pushing the bill for some time, and the majority is quite pleased with its passage…. it is universally accepted that this bill will prove to be the answer to many of our national and international problems…..The president expressed his approval of the bill, and…encouraged other world leaders to pursue similar courses in their countries.”
The important thing here that I want to note is that Merikay and I, in writing out stories, were working off a checklist of end time events. We were not the only ones. Fred Clark, who does critiques of the popular Left Behind novels, has noted that Lahaye and Jenkins work mainly from a checklist of end time events. Fred notices that events B and C in the Left Behind novels do not stem from event A as a consequence of Event A, but that the events all just kind of…happen. For no well explained reason.
Why are there Sunday Laws? What problems are they going to solve? Why does everyone think Saturday Sabbath keepers are a problem? How did they go back and re-write the constitution?
These probably aren’t the sorts of things teenagers would think of, but these are the things I would expect an editor who published this story to think of. Yes, it was edited for publication, however, from the post script it sounds like all that was done to Now! was to make it shorter. And it’s pretty short as it is, so while I’m sure there are some parts you could cut, just making it shorter does not make it better. The short answer: I blame the publishing house/editors/adults.
We will not dwell upon this for long. Whatever the reason, there are Sunday Laws. I can see where the author wouldn’t want to focus too much on politics. The focus of her story is individuals, not governments. Indeed, this is really the only time we will see a news broadcast, and it’s already over. Merikay has turned off the television. Apparently she has one of those old fashioned kind that don’t have remotes, because she has to turn the dial to shut it off.
I walked over to the window and looked out. As I stared at the bright sky, I kept hearing the words Elder Brown had spoken in Bible Doctrines class only a few weeks before: “The National Sunday Law is the sign for Christians to move out of the cities.”
This paragraph is highlighted mainly because this is exactly what I could picture myself doing if Sunday Laws ever did show up in real life.*
In my mind I had figured out exactly where I would go and how I would get there.
I, too, had an end times plan. Well, sort of. For some reason it somehow involved going to Jacq’s house. Right. Because going to a house I was known to visit frequently was totally a good idea. No one would ever find me there.
But I must not have really believed it would come, for now I seemed to be in a collapsed balloon with everything pressing in around me.
About the same way I would react if Sunday Laws ever got enacted, yes.
I could see all those many, many charts Elder Brown had drawn, day after day, on the board, showing the events of the time of the end.
Seventh Day Adventists love charts. I can’t tell you exactly how many I had to memorize in my own Bible classes. I can tell you exactly how many of them I still remember, which is a big fat zero. But then, Merikay probably didn’t spend Bible class wondering if she was too stupid to understand it, or if what they were teaching just wasn’t Biblical.
Don’t get me wrong, I tried, really really tried, I just… never could see where in the Bible they were getting this from. I concluded I was just too stupid, so I went back to working on that ghost story I was secretly writing. No, you don’t get to read it.
In any case, Merikay remembers these charts more than I ever did, because she remembers that the National Sunday Law comes right before that thing we all dread–the close of probation. That moment when Jesus throws down his work and says, “He who is righteous, let him be righteous still. Let him who is unjust remain unjust…” That moment in time when you are either lost forever or saved.
Suddenly it hit me that I had only a very short time left in which to become perfect.
This requires some explanation. For the most part, Christians believe that we are not going to be perfect, and that we don’t have to. It is Christ that stands for us and is perfect for us. His blood covers our imperfections. Adventists also believe this, however, they also believe that, in the last days, there will come a time when, for a little while, we will have to be perfect on our own, without Jesus to intercede for us.
I never really understood where this doctrine came from either, but just being told about it in Bible class was enough to terrify me. You have no idea how many nightmares I had about being lost!
In this story, Merikay’s nightmares have come true. Merikay is going to have to stand before God without an intercessor. That means that she
a) Has to confess all her sins, all of them, any that she’s ever done in her entire life, so she can be forgiven.
b) Never sin again. Ever. Until Jesus comes.
There’s debate over whether or not this doctrine is biblical. Most Christians say that it is not. As an atheist, I really don’t care, so I’m gonna move on.**
Merikay goes on to tell us that she feels as if she is moving in a dream. How could there be a national Sunday law?
And this is very realistic. If a Sunday Law ever happened, that is how I’d feel. Shoot, that’s kind of how I felt last Tuesday. (Which won’t actually be last Tuesday by the time this post goes up, so nevermind.)
Even though I had read about it and knew in my heart that it was coming, I just couldn’t believe that it was here…. now.
Believe me, ever since I was a kid, I wished it had happened…. then. Cuz then I’d be born in heaven and not have to deal with…well, anything.
So, thoughts. This book… is not the worst SDA end times novel I’ve ever read, which is different from my reaction at 17. I remember when our Bible teacher read Now! out loud to the class, I thought it was some terrible writing. Surely my own story, Parable of the Sower, was far superior.
As an adult re reading both stories… no, that’s not true, I still haven’t had the courage to go re read mine. I know it’s awful. Really awful. I still haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to go back and insert commentary into Parable of the Sower or not, but I’m leaning toward not because, well, what would I say?
So, let me start that sentence over: re reading Now! as an adult, I can see that there is indeed talent here. Yes, the story isn’t the greatest writing ever, but it does have its good points. The dialogue, once we get to it, is very realistic. The characters all speak in ways I find believable. And, at least at this point in the story, I have a protagonist I can relate to. Sunday Laws have just been enacted, and she’s still reeling from the shock of that actually happening. And that’s something that I know a lot of current and former Adventists can both relate to.
Because some of us still haven’t stopped having nightmares.
*I know that there are some Sunday Laws in real life. Adventists don’t like them either, and this is the reason.
** That’s not to say I won’t listen if a Christian does want to educate me. I merely do not care enough to dwell upon it right now.