Now that my final exam in psychology is over, I still have some schoolwork to be doing, but I can at least take some time to write a short post.
Provided the cat stops walking on the keyboard, that is.
Last installment I briefly mentioned that our protagonists are passing Kalamazoo. I’m going to back up and go over that again, because I left out quite a bit.
As we drove down the freeway, past….Kalamazoo…. I felt strangely empty. There it goes, I thought. My home town, my family, my minister, my church. There goes everything. Then I looked over at Pat…. no, not everything was gone. I had Pat, my precious brother.
I like this. “My precious brother” is a bit heavy handed, but other than that, this paragraph works. It builds Merikay’s character and it gives us a sense that she has lost things due to her religion, and that those things can’t be replaced.
Many of us, upon entering or leaving a religion, feel the same way.
Merikay realizes she still has Pat, at least. She whispers that all she and Pat have left is each other. (What about the Coopers?)
“Not quite,” [Pat] smiled. “We’ve got God.”
Cringe. Wince. Cringe.
Aside from being a little clunky, this wouldn’t be too bad if we actually saw God as a character in this story. But frankly, he hasn’t really appeared much. For people who are very excited to meet God, these characters sure don’t seem to talk to him much. In fact, they don’t seem to talk about him much either.
And I get that Merikay probably didn’t want to seem too heavy handed. I have no issue with most of the stuff taking place offscreen. However, what I do wonder is what is motivating these characters. Why doesn’t Merikay go back to Kalamazoo to live with her parents? Why doesn’t Pat give in and go to church on Sunday like the rest of the world?
Well, because that would be going against God.
Ok, but, why would they care? God, in this book, seems like a character who isn’t too horribly involved in Pat and Merikay’s lives. You don’t have to be heavy handed to show a relationship with Jesus.
If I were to go back and read my story (no, I still haven’t), this would probably be an issue there, too. I can’t speak for Teenage!Merikay, but Teenage!Me wouldn’t have thought God needed to be included. Teenage!Me was more scared of hell than she was excited for heaven.
Mrs. Cooper turns on the car radio, and they keep it turned on because they are hoping to hear a news report.
In between the passion-arousing, lust filled love songs were advertisements for alcohol, cigarettes, mind-expanding and party lifting drugs.
I get that this was the 1960s. But what radio stations in the 1960s were advertising “mind expanding and party lifting drugs?” No seriously, what are their frequencies, and did they keep recordings?
As to the, um, “passion-arousing lust filled love songs….”
I said that I would be nice.
So all I am going to say here is that if America is religious enough to have Sunday Laws, they’re probably also religious enough to have a Christian radio station. Maybe the Coopers should tune in.
I don’t even know why they want to listen for news, because when they do hear news bulletins, they’re all the same. I don’t know why you’d want to hear the same news broadcast over and over, but let that pass.
They were all the same: wars, catastrophes, city-wide riots, fires, happenings, sleep ins, psychedelic dances and parties, and now the death decree.
This might be one of those things I don’t understand because I wasn’t alive in the 1960s. What are happenings, sleep ins, and psychedelic dances?
I mean, sleeping in is what I do on Saturday mornings. Clearly I am going to hell in a hand basket.
The travelers soon learn that in one week, people will be executed for not obeying the Sunday laws. So, the death decree hasn’t gone out, then? They’ve still got a week left?
Mrs. Cooper finally turns off the radio, and they begin to sing. Here are the hymns that they sing:
- I shall See The King
- We’re Marching To Zion
- In A little While We’re Going Home
- Over Yonder
- Jesus is coming again!
- I’m on My way Home
- We are Nearing Home
Yes, we do get a list. I only know like, 2 of these. CAMPUS sings #3 a lot, and #4 was sung by us Academy students every week before home leave.
Although we never stopped for gas, the meter stayed between “Half” and “Full” all the time.
This is something Adventists believe happens, and will happen especially in the last days. (Some Adventists believe God fills your gas tank on Sabbath so you can go to church in the morning, if you were lazy enough to have not filled it Friday afternoon.)
Book!Merikay tells us that strange thoughts pass through one’s head at times such as these. Sure, when I’m running from the Sunday Police, I always start thinking strange thoughts. Like my childhood, my 5th grade teacher, my other teachers, and oh yeah, my family.
I kept wondering if, maybe at the very last minute Mom and Dad and Beth had left the city.
We do get the answer to this, before Jesus comes. 10 points to Gryffindor for Merikay, this is a decent bit of foreshadowing.
Pat wonders about his best friend, Jim, and what he’s doing. He talks about all the other people he knows, and wonders where they are, and whether they are saved.
It strikes me as completely realistic, and it’s a moment that makes Pat and Merikay seem more human.
Ok, I’ve been nice. Now, here’s what I also think. I think this part was also included as a warning. When Merikay shared this story, she knew other people would be thinking something along the lines of, “gosh, if I don’t get out and share the message with people, I’m gonna be sitting there thinking about them when the death decree goes out! I’d better do something to start witnessing to people right now.”
I will be nice and say that this book was never meant to be published when it was written, so maybe this wasn’t Teenage!Merikay’s intention at all. It’s a nice human moment, and at the same time, I have to wonder if it’s there partly to warn people that they’d better get out and warn people.
We must be the saints, I thought. Elder Jackson said that the saints would be the ones to flee.
Elder Jackson? Did I miss something? I thought your bible teacher was Elder Brown and your pastor’s name was Jenkins?
But I wondered. Maybe we weren’t. Maybe we were just doing all this running to try to convince ourselves that we were good. Maybe we hadn’t been saved, but by running we were trying to convince Heaven that we deserved the seal of God.
This is the stuff of nightmares. Most of my nightmares about the End Times as a child didn’t have anything to do with being brutally tortured. They had to do with pretending to be saved. They had to do with having to choose between being brutally tortured now, or brutally tortured in hell. They also had to do with doing everything right, and still being sent to hell.
In fact, that’s kind of how this latter part of the book reads. Like someone’s nightmare that they had, then wrote about and maybe expanded a little bit on. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with taking your inspiration from a dream.
Instead of reassuring herself that she’s not going through the motions, that she really loves God and is eager for him to show up, Book!Merikay thinks about Bible verses she’s learned in Bible Class.
- Revelation 2:7
- Revelation 2:11
- Revelation 3:26
Even as she’s thinking of all these verses, she wonders how she can be sure she is actually saved.
This is something that I think a lot of Christians struggle with. I don’t think it’s unique to end times events. Ellen White herself struggled with this, at least in her childhood. Christians think the answer to this is trusting in Jesus and his word. I think the answer is to admit that there is no God or Satan or Heaven or Hell. We each have our different answers to the problem, and I’m not sure one way is necessarily better than the other. (Though I have to confess to finding atheism superior because Christians kind of invented this problem in the first place.)
We get more of Merikay’s anxiety, and I actually think that here, she brings up a good point.
I knew how many would be deceived at the end.
If they’re deceived, do they still go to hell for believing the wrong thing? Adventists are divided on this issue.
Maybe I had deceived myself into thinking I was saved when I really wasn’t. Maybe I was acting the way I knew the saints would act to convince myself that I was a saint. I’d heard of people lying so much that they, themselves, believed their lies. Maybe that was what I’d done.
The thing is, I think a lot of people maybe are deceiving themselves in this manner. This is especially true with teenagers raised in a Christian household who may not want to rock the boat. They can pretend to the rest of the world that they love Jesus, and they can do it so much that eventually they start to believe themselves.
But Book!Merikay doesn’t live in ordinary times. Book!Merikay lives in a parallel universe where there is a death decree. It’s easy to lie and pretend to yourself that you are an Adventist Christian when doing so is easy. It is a lot harder to accomplish when you know you are going to be brutally tortured and killed for it. Especially when being brutally tortured here on earth still won’t get you out of being brutally tortured because God knows your heart, and when he comes, you’re gonna be brutally tortured anyway.
In times like these, there would be no “resisting Sunday Laws just to look good.” Or at least, there wouldn’t be for long. Most people tend to stop pretending when you put a gun to their head. Only the true believers, at some point, would be left.
Which some would argue is the entire point of the time of trouble.
If you think that’s disturbing, it’s because it is.
We’ll stop there, because I still have a paper to write.