Adventist Girl, Heather: 1898 Book 3 Chapter 6

 

Chapter 6

A Surprise Guest

We open the chapter with Heather making wedding decorations, worrying about the conversation she heard between Mrs. Reid and Ethel. The wedding is tomorrow, and she still hasn’t told anyone what she heard. Well good. Eavesdropping is bad, but I understand it can happen accidentally, and that when you’re a kid you don’t always know how to handle it. Reporting on what you heard, unless someone’s life is in danger, is another ballgame entirely. I’m not sure I’d be cool with that.

Heather sends up a quick prayer that Pastor Reid’s mother will love Aunt Rachel like she and God do. Props to the author, this prayer works. It feels real and honest, even if I don’t agree with the sentiment. Heather then goes to Rachel’s room to see her.

“Which dress should I wear after the wedding,” Aunt Rachel asked, holding up a dress in each hand.

Shouldn’t there be a ? after that statement?

“The green one is my favorite,” Heather answered not very enthusiastically.

“Thank you,” Aunt Rachel said. “It’s my favorite, too.”

Then why didn’t you just pick that one?

“Aunt Rachel,” Heather asked, “do you really love Pastor Reid?”

“With all my heart,” she answered.

This would have been enough. This would have been realistic. But aunt Rachel goes on.

“He’s a good Christian man. I believe God wants us to work for Him together, telling people about His love and that Jesus is coming again.”

I’m no expert in the romance department, but just from listening to people talk, that is not how people talk about the person they are about to marry. Taken out of context, this statement could be about anyone. At some point, I could’ve said this about Callie.

“I’ll miss you,” Heather said, tears brimming in her eyes.

This is realistic, and *I* don’t like Aunt Rachel, but Heather does, so ok, fair enough.

Aunt Rachel reassures Heather that she can visit often. Melbourne isn’t that far away, after all. And Heather’s father does seem to go there a lot, so frequent visits seem possible.

Aunt Rachel kissed her cheek. “There’s no time to be sad,” she said laughing. “We have a wedding to prepare.”

Your mileage may vary, this doesn’t work for me. This feels very dismissive of Heather’s feelings.

Aunt Rachel and Heather go downstairs. Mrs. Gibson and Nathan are wrapping flowers in wet cloth to keep them fresh. There’s a sweet moment between Aunt Rachel and Mrs. Gibson, where Rachel tells her sister she wouldn’t consider leaving the family if Mrs. Gibson was still sick. Mrs. Gibson, we are told, is feeling much better.

What was Mrs. Gibson sick with? How exactly did she get better? We don’t know. The only things we ever saw Ellen White mention to her were “fresh air and sunshine.” So, I guess Mrs. Gibson’s mystery illness was cured by fresh air and sunshine?

We are told a lot about Mrs. Gibson’s illness in the first book, and even a bit in the second. After that, it’s just dropped from the storyline. Even for a kid’s book, this is not acceptable. When a child has a chronically ill mother, said child is prone to worry about the parent. I feel like there was a setup for a plot line here, and then it got dropped, because….?

Mrs. Gibson reassures Rachel, gives her a hug, and it’s believable.

Pastor Reid comes in and wants to know why everyone is crying. Rachel says it’s just happy tears. Nathan asks if he can drive the buggy to church, and his father says he can even sit in the driver’s seat.

Heather giggled. “What can I do to help, Aunt Rachel?” She asked.

Aunt Rachel washed her hands in the wash basin. “Well,” she said thoughtfully. “There will be about 10 guests for dinner this evening and about 30 tomorrow for the wedding supper. Will you please help your mother with the food? There are still plenty of carrots to slice. I don’t want you overworking yourself, Aileen,” she said to her sister. “You need to stay well for all of us.”

Heather answered. “All right. I’ll be happy to help with the food.”

Said no 11 year old, ever.

Just then there is a knock at the door. It’s time for our surprise guest to arrive. Before I read this chapter, I’d put money on the fact that it was Ellen White.

But no, it’s just Laura Douglas and Addy Hart. Remember the Hart family? They converted to Adventism because Heather’s dad had bible studies with them. Addy is Heather’s age, and she stayed with Heather’s family at campmeeting, where her whole stupid family converted.

Mrs. Gibson asks Addie if her family is well.

“Oh yes,” Addie answered, her freckled checks glowing. “My father is now the foreman at the biscuit factory….we just built a church in Hamilton, too. Now we have our very own Seventh Day Adventist church building!

I know I’m supposed to be happy about this, as a reader…. but I just find this depressing.

Mrs. Gibson goes on for a bit about how great this news is, and then she and the children start scrubbing carrots.

So far this chapter has been kinda boring. But it’s about to get interesting because Ethel and Mrs. Reid are about to show up! The drama! The suspense! The excitement!

Heather dashes upstairs to wash her face and put on ” a yellow and white cotton dress.” Heather’s hands shake a little as she buttons up her dress. She’s worried that things won’t go well tonight.

And well they shouldn’t. This book has been setting up a confrontation with

  1. Rachel and Mrs. Reid
  2. Heather and Ethel

To deny us any of these confrontations is sort of like an unfired Chekhov’s gun. If there is a gun, we the audience expect it to go off. There has been a lot of setup for confrontations. If that particular “gun” goes unfired, I’m going to come away extremely unsatisfied as a reader.

Nathan whispered in Heather’s ear. “Is Mrs. Reid really as mean as you told me?” he asked, leaning on her chair.

“You’ll see,” Heather whispered back.

I like this. I like that Heather is going to let Nathan interact with Mrs. Reid and come to his own conclusions rather than putting the idea into his mind that Mrs. Reid is a bitch and letting that color his expectations of her.

Or maybe I’m reading way too much into it and she just doesn’t have much time to whisper back.

Heather looked down at the floor as Ethel walked past her.

“My parents will be along shortly,” Ethel said to Mrs. Gibson. “Something came up at the last minute.”

We never get told exactly what this thing is, and the fact that we don’t get told feels like there’s a glaring gap in the story. Either don’t mention Ethel’s parents at all, or plan to include more details in the next chapter or book or something.

Mrs. Reid sat down in the wing backed chair. “I suppose this wedding is actually going to happen,” she said dryly.

Ummmm yeah? The wedding is…today? Tomorrow? If there were any objections you felt you needed to raise, it should have been done a longass time ago. Does Mrs. Reid never talk to her son?

Pastor Reid expresses the same sentiments I do, but politer:

“Yes, mother. Did you expect otherwise?”

Mrs. Reid turned her nose up into the air. “I’m not sure,” she answered, looking coolly at Aunt Rachel.”

This is the part of the book where I thought they were going to introduce a surprise twist. It wouldn’t need to be anything too detailed, this is a kid’s book. Aunt Rachel, for example, could have had a divorce in the past. Mrs. Reid could have heard that, but not the details of the divorce. The details of the divorce could be simple: Rachel’s old husband just up and left her one day, for vague reasons. It would be a classic example of the type of misunderstanding that happens when rumors get passed along without any actual details of what happened.

Or Mrs. Reid could have found out that Rachel had broken an engagement in the past, and wondered about the circumstances of that. Is the girl flighty, or was there a good reason for it?

These are things that could still cause a misunderstanding while making Mrs. Reid seem somewhat like a sympathetic character. I would still find this overly simplistic, but it would be way better than the obvious hint we had 3 chapters ago.

Aunt Rachel looked down at her hands, her bottom lip quivering. Suddenly she stood up. “Excuse me,” she said, and ran from the room.

Yes, Mrs. Reid has been rather cool to Rachel. And tactless. And not very nice. But Mrs. Reid hasn’t really said that many mean things to Rachel? I mean, maybe it’s just me but the way it’s written, it makes it look like Rachel overreacted?

You know what, no. This is about the only scene that doesn’t make Rachel look like a cardboard cutout character, so I will stop ragging on it.

Heather gasped. Poor Aunt Rachel, she thought. Mrs. Reid is being very thoughtless.

Is this how eleven year olds talk? This was not how 11 year old me thought. 11 year old me would have thought, “what a bitch” or “how rude.”

A streak of boldness suddenly overtook Heather. She jumped to her feet and crossed her arms. “Mrs. Reid,” she heard herself saying. “I don’t care for how you have been treating my aunt. I think you owe her an apology.”

Props to Heather, this is well done. Assertive yet polite.

Unfortunately, in 1899 children like Heather could have been spanked for this sort of thing, which is probably why we get the next paragraph.

Heather couldn’t believe what she had just done. Instantly she was sorry. Heather knew she shouldn’t have said anything, even though Mrs. Reid was being unkind.

I disagree with this. Someone had to speak up about it. Especially since the adults weren’t. If no one ever speaks up about unkindness, who will?

Heather slumped back into her seat, her face burning red. Ethel grabbed her grandmother’s hand.

In the awkward silence, no one said a word.

This feels like a terrible place to end a chapter. If you wanted to end the chapter on a bit of a cliffhanger, end the chapter right after Heather’s outburst. That would have made me want to turn the page to see how people react. But here we are already showing how people react: awkward silence.

All that aside, this chapter was actually very boring. At least the last chapter had a point. This one was mostly filler material until Mrs. Reid arrived.

Next time we’ll see the conclusion of this particular book. After that we’re going to set this series aside for a while, because the Lord the movie theater has shown me that two new movies are coming out: The Shack and The Case For Christ.

I’ve been planning to blog about these books anyway, and the Lord has shown me that now would be a good time to do so. After watching the movie trailers I decided that the timing is right.

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A Mountain To Climb Chapter 6: Approaching the Heights

This is where the real plot begins. The entire reason this book was written.

One day in May, Pearl and the other young women who worked in the broom shop dyeing department were having a jolly time laughing and talking.

“You can’t sort and dye a bundle as fast as I can,” Florence said to the others.

“Oh yes I can,” exclaimed several of the girls, including Pearl, as they accepted the challenge.

“Ok. Let’s race-and see who wins.”

We are working with dangerous chemicals without proper footwear. Let us try and work as fast as we can and hope we don’t all die. Florence, what the fuck are you thinking?

I want to make a little note here that this incident took place in… I think 1938 by now. And I understand that things were different back then. I understand that back then, nobody thought it was a big deal to let college students work with dangerous chemicals without proper footwear.

But just because it was widely done and not seen as a big deal doesn’t mean it was right. While I do not think that those responsible are horrible people, I still don’t think what they were doing was right.

Pearl attacked her bundle. She wanted to be first. Surely these younger, inexperienced girls couldn’t beat her. Quickly she sorted the broomcorn–good, better, best. Then she dipped the straw into the green dye.

Your mileage may vary on this one– I wish these details would’ve been given to us in the chapter wherein we are first introduced to Pearl’s job in the broom factory. But I also understand that I’m probably the only one who cares about the exact details of broom making in the 1930s, so I will move on.

Quickly Pearl pulled her straw out of the dye and set it to dry. A few drops of the dye sprinkled onto her left foot, but she was so intent on winning that she didn’t even stop to wipe it off.

Is Pearl not wearing close toed shoes? Doesn’t dye get on her feet all the time? Shouldn’t she have shoes she specifically only uses for work, mainly for this reason? Is she actually barefoot?

I get that there were less rules about safety in the workplace back then, but I would think that “wear shoes when working with dangerous chemicals”  would be rather obvious.

Anyway, Pearl wins the race. She is gracious about it, and tells the other girls that once they’ve been there as long as she has, they’ll be able to win races too.

If I were Pearl’s boss, I would ban such races after this. Yes the boss is aware of it, because it becomes a big ass deal in the next chapter.

Later that evening when Pearl took her shower, she noticed the green dye on her toe. She tried to scrub it off but couldn’t. “Guess I’ll just have a green toe for a while,” she said.

The following morning when she woke up, Pearl’s left foot hurt. She slipped out of bed. As she stood up, the pain increased. Her green toe was swollen. When she dressed, she could hardly get her shoe on over the swollen toe.

So, what’s going on here? Well, after a lot of research, we’re not sure. The person who donated the book, who I’ll call “S,” said that there might have been a chemical in the dye that created a wound. But neither she nor I have been able to find out anything about it from googling.

This seems like a very important detail to have left out. We get a lot of detail about Pearl’s other symptoms, but not about exactly what causes them.

S said that it is possible the dye had nothing to do with the problem at all, and that Pearl had some other condition that happened to have coincided with the incident. I’m not sure I agree with this, though it does seem a lot more plausible than an infection setting in this quickly. In fact, the more I read about infection, the more likely this explanation seems. While infection can set in right away, what I’ve read so far suggests that symptoms like this would take a few days to show up.

It is possible that, in reality, it did take Pearl 2 or 3 days to get this bad, and that the author took some creative liberty with the details in order to move the story along.  And I can’t really find fault with that.

TL;DR: the infection may or may not have been caused by the dye. We don’t know.

In any case, Rosalind, Pearl’s room mate, notices that Pearl is hurting and asks what’s wrong. After being told that Pearl’s toe is “just a little swollen,” Rosalind tells Pearl that she should see the school nurse.

“Oh, no. It’ll be alright.” And Pearl tugged until her foot moved into her brown oxfords.

At first I thought Pearl was an idiot. Clearly she needed medical attention. Then I remembered that women often have the problem of not being believed when they tell a doctor about their pain. Then I realized it may be worse than that.

I do not know Pearl’s financial situation. But I can hazard a guess that, as she’s trying to pay for college at a job that pays pennies, it’s probably not good. I don’t know how much doctor bills ran back then, but I’d be willing to bet that Pearl and her mother might not have good insurance (if insurance as we know it even existed in that time and place, which is another thing I don’t know.)

But seeing the school nurse is free at most institutions, so, I don’t know?

But her foot hurt so badly that she limped noticeably on the way to breakfast.

“Girl, you really must see the nurse,” Rosalind said.

I like Rosalind. She is the smart sensible and caring one.

“I’ll just change in to my sandals,” Pearl said. “And then it won’t bother.”

We are told that Pearl felt much more comfortable in her sandals, and that she then wore them to work.

She wore her sandals to work. Her sandals.

Even in the 1930s, I would think that the whole “you must wear proper shoes when working with chemicals” was a no brainer.

We are told that Pearl grows steadily worse as the morning progresses, and that by the end of the workday she has difficulty standing. She gets permission to leave work early and go back to the dorm.

When Rosalind came in to the room just before the dinner hour, Pearl was crying….Rosalind lifted the covers, looked at the swollen toe and hurried out. She soon returned with the school nurse.

I just want to point this out because, in Christian books, sometimes the authors have trouble writing likeable characters. I like Rosalind. I am supposed to like Rosalind.

I am not sure that I can say the same for Arthur, the school principal, or the doctor.

Pearl tells the school nurse what happened, and that she thinks she has an infection. The nurse agrees, and gives Pearl “Some medicine.” I want to know exactly what the nurse gave her. Antibiotics weren’t widely available till after WW2, which this story pre-dates. So what are they using?

The next morning Pearl was worse, flushed and feverish. Rosalind ran for the nurse. The nurse called for a faculty member to take Pearl to Port of Spain immediately.

Silly me. I had to look it up on a map to find out that Port of Spain is not actually in Spain. It’s a city in Trinidad and Tobago, but it does look like it’s by the ocean, so it could be an actual port.

It is not stated which hospital they took her to. Was it an Adventist hospital? Does it still exist? I googled. There is currently an Adventist hospital in Port of Spain (it gets really shitty google reviews), but it looks like it wasn’t built until 1948. Because of this, I am inclined to believe that Pearl was taken to a real hospital, if only because the Adventist one didn’t exist yet.

We are told that it was a ten mile drive to Port of Spain over really bumpy roads, which made Pearl’s already high levels of pain utterly unbearable.

At the general hospital an old doctor examined the toe. “Just a little infection,” he said as he painted the green toe red with Mercurochrome.

Mercurochrome! Now that I can look up. Per the all-knowing Wikipedia:

Its antiseptic qualities were discovered by Hugh H. Young in 1918, while working at Johns Hopkins Hospital as a physician. The chemical soon became popular among parents and physicians for everyday antiseptic uses, and it was commonly used for minor injuries in the schoolyard.

The sale of Mercurochrome is banned in the United States, France and Germany in part because it contains mercury. Back in the 1930s, I do not think that we understood that mercury in general wasn’t safe. It sounds like Mercurochrome was widely used to treat infection, and is consistent with the time period.

And so, while I can not blame the doctor for this one, he was essentially putting poison on Pearl’s already poisoned foot.

The road back seemed longer and dustier than ever. Troubled thoughts chased through Pearl’s mind. She could hardly agree with the doctor’s diagnosis. What would happen to her? Would she lose her foot?

Foreshadow, clunk!

At this point, I am wondering why the doctor did not have Pearl remain at the hospital overnight.  Pearl already seems bad enough that you’d want to keep an eye on her, and she’s 10 miles away from the hospital and she has to travel over a bumpy road to get there. I wonder if what we’re not seeing is that this was a financial decision. Perhaps the doctor knew that Pearl could not afford a hospital stay unless it was absolutely necessary.

Or maybe the doctor was just an idiot, I don’t know.

The next day, we are told that Pearl’s foot is even more swollen, that she has a fever, and that she has no appetite. The school nurse gives Pearl a sponge bath to try and treat the fever, and uses “hot and cold water” for Pearl’s foot.

Tylenol was not invented until 1955. They may or may not have had painkillers/fever reducers that existed before Tylenol, I don’t know.

It’s possible the school nurse did try something like Tylenol and it didn’t work. Either way, Ellen White was a huge fan of water treatments, sometimes in lieu of modern medicine. So I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here. Did they not have access to anything like what I know of as modern medicine, or were they just ignoring it because Ellen White? Modern Adventists use mainstream medical science, so I am inclined to think the former rather than the latter.

The day after this, the nurse sends Pearl back to Port of Spain.

The ten miles of bumps and ruts sent pains up Pearl’s leg until she thought she would pass out. At the hospital the doctor took one look at the foot and ordered the nurse to prepare for lancing.

I’m not entirely sure what “lancing” is. We don’t get a clear explanation, and it would have been nice to be told. I also want to know why the doctor didn’t lance it straight away if it was this bad. This is not the most incompetent thing the doctor has done, so again, we will not dwell on it.

The nurse assisted Pearl into the chair in the doctor’s office. A cool breeze blew through an open window nearby. It felt good to her hot tired body. She sighed, refreshed.

But when the doctor started lancing her toe without giving her any anesthetic or pain killers, Pearl broke out in a cold sweat….it felt as if they were slicing her toe to pieces….as the pain tore through her body and perspiration dripped off her face and arms, the breeze chilled her. But the old doctor didn’t seem to notice.

If Ms. Maxson hadn’t grown up on Planet Adventist, she could have learned to be a good writer. She shows some potential throughout the book, and I really like the contrast here. That’s done well, but set it aside, because this is horrifying.

Why  THE FUCK is the doctor not giving Pearl anesthetic or painkiller? We aren’t told, and I feel like this is an extremely important detail to have left out. Is there a medical reason Pearl can’t have painkiller? I know that certain ones are a terrible idea before certain procedures, and that it is always a good idea to bug your doctor before you take any. Do we really need to be told that here? Yes. Because otherwise, I’m just going to assume that the doctor is a huge dick, and woefully incompetent.

I know he’s woefully incompetent because I’ve read ahead and I know what’s coming. But here he also looks like a dick. Again, is this a financial thing? Is it required that Pearl pay up front, and she can’t afford anesthetic? Is there a medical reason she can’t have any? Or is the doctor that much of an asshole that he just didn’t think about it?

Oh never mind. I’m going to spend enough time harping on this wretched excuse for a doctor in the next chapter, so we will move on for now.

At this point, if I were the doctor, I would insist on keeping Pearl overnight for observation. But no, this incompetent fuckwad just sends her back on to her dorm. We are told Pearl still feels like shit, and that Mrs. Lindsay stays the night in Pearl’s dorm room.

All the next day the nurse and Mrs. Lindsay worked to bring down Pearl’s fever. But nothing helped. By the next morning Pearl’s condition was so much worse that they decided to take her back to the hospital.

At the hospital the doctor said, “Pneumonia-bad case!” and so began the fight for her life.

Wait, what? Pearl has pneumonia? And the doctor didn’t notice? WHAT THE SHIT.

No wonder Pearl was reluctant to seek medical attention. This doctor is crap!

How did Pearl get pneumonia from the dye? Yes I do need to know the answer, dammit, and we don’t get any.

In any case, that’s the end of the chapter. One thing I will say for Ms. Maxson: she knows when to end a chapter, and seems to have a basic understanding of how to build tension in a story. It’s really quite a shame she didn’t live in an environment that would have nurtured these skills. Instead of writing real books, Ms. Maxson was stunted and reduced to writing shitty ass books about incompetent doctors and weird–

I am getting ahead of myself. It’s really hard, because I really want to sit here and rant about–but that’s coming. However, if you think I am being too hard on the doctor, you need to keep reading. Because it gets way way worse from here.

 

 

 

Parable of the Sower Critique: Chapter 6

I can’t believe there are 8 fucking chapters in this thing. Jeez, teenage!me, couldn’t you like, cut the fat? Or add in stuff that was more interesting?

I did go through a phase in my early 20s where I tried to edit this to make it more readable, because even at the age of 21 I realized this was bad. Unfortunately it never did end up getting revised because it was just too bad. I couldn’t read it for too long.

The usual disclaimer:

This was written by me in my sophomore year of Academy. I want to go back in time and shoot myself to keep me from writing this, but since that’s not how time travel works, we can move on.

The chapter opens with Mrs. Gladstone handing Holly an envelope with the results of the visit to the gynecologist. Because those totally get mailed to your house in envelopes…. Holly has no STDs, praise the Lord, yay.

Holly and Aralyn do some homework, and Mrs. Gladstone relents and brings Holly some vegan crap to eat, because she finally understands that you can’t just take a bunch of SDA children and expect them to start eating pork bacon right away.

Teenage!me thought that there was no way Mrs. Gladstone would know Holly was pregnant, but doesn’t that sort of thing get revealed to foster mothers? Maybe Mrs. Gladstone is realizing that Holly’s eating habits are going to damage the unborn baby and that if she doesn’t give in, Holly’s child will be severely malnourished.

Actually, I don’t know what was going through teenage!me’s head when she wrote this. Maybe she wanted to move the story along, maybe she didn’t want too horrible of an apocalypse, I don’t know.

As they do chores, Holly and Aralyn have time to talk. Holly gets Aralyn to open up about her experiences.

“My parents were captured on a raid the government did on our town.” she says, “they took me because for one thing, I haven’t been baptized so I’m not technically a member, and I guess because they thought I was young enough that I could be taught.”

I think the real!Aralyn would have actually been 13 at this point. I can’t remember if I decided she was actually 12 for narrative convenience, or if I decided to go with her real life age. I’m not sure if teenage!me ever intended to show real!Aralyn this story. Real!Aralyn hadn’t had the chance to be baptized yet, so if I were to have shown this story to her, that would’ve worked.

Actually, I think the story suffers a little from me trying to include too many characters, because I had a lot of friends I wanted to include in the story. We already see that Tori is mostly offscreen. I bet you didn’t even remember who Tori is, do you? See, exactly. The first thing 20!year old me wanted to do is take out half the characters.

Holly asks Aralyn what she does on Sabbath, and she says she hides up in her room reading the Bible if Mrs. Gladstone lets her, but on Sundays she has to go to Sunday School with the rest of the children.

She looks at me mournfully, “Holly, your not adventist are you?”

I think about just not answering that. I don’t want to spill my guts to a 12 year old, but on the other hand, I can’t lie.

“Actually, I am.”

So, Aralyn is 12. Why did I even have the bit about her being spared because she’s not baptized when she would’ve been spared anyway because she’s under 13?

Also, the line about spilling my guts to a 12 year old? No, there’s no way in heck I was ever planning for real!Aralyn to read this. That line is in there because, at 16, I was burned out on having friends who were more than a year younger than I was. They just seemed so full of stupid girly drama, and if there’s one thing I’ve never done well, it’s drama.

So Holly tells Aralyn her life story, “in a nutshell.” And this part is interesting, because it gives me insight into the way I thought I grew up.

 I was born into an adventist family, lived an adventist life without really knowing God, then, I went through a time where I was really spiritual and close to God, then for some reason I won’t mention now, I left the church for a few years, during which I got high, arrested, not to mention pregnant…..”

Ignore the high, arrested, and pregnant part. Other than that, when I was 16, this was my “testimony.” But the trouble is, I only thought I didn’t know God because people around me said that if I had, I’d have seen things differently. When I read the Old Testament, for example, I would not have seen a monster if I’d truly known God and who He was.

The problem was that I had read the Bible. And frankly, the God of the Old Testament? He seemed like an asshole. The God of the New Testament? Not much better. So I would read the Old Testament stories where he killed everyone, and the New Testament verses about wives submitting to their husbands, and then I would come to school and hear all about how loving God is. It just confused me.

When I was a freshman in Academy, I realized, to my horror, that I had never loved Jesus.

So I set out to love Jesus, and in doing so, realized he was even more of an asshole than I thought. Reading the Bible was supposed to help me love him, but it ended up having the opposite effect.

This is where the trouble with religion started. I still believed in Jesus and wanted to be a Christian, but I just couldn’t. I was supposed to love and worship that?

When you look at it this way, it is no wonder teenage!me seems to have had a fascination with Satanism. When you look at how awful the God of the Bible is, you really start to wonder if his worst enemy, Satan, is really all that horrible as is claimed.

In any case, that was what Teenge!me was really thinking when she wrote this. Teenage!me thought the problem in her life was a lack of God. Teenage!me didn’t realize that maybe God was the problem.

Holly chickens out and tells Aralyn she was totes kidding about that whole pregnancy thing, and I don’t know why. Is Holly hoping Jesus will come and the world will end before her pregnancy starts showing?

Actually, that is a possibility here, so nevermind.

Holly and Aralyn feed some of the smaller children, then let them out for exercise.

“So… where are we going this Sunday?” I ask her.

“Nowhere.”

“what?”

“Holly, I don’t wanna go to jail.”

“Do you wanna go to hell?”

“No, but–”

“Thats the thing,” I tell her, “Its either jail now and heaven later, or heaven now and hell later.” I sigh, “Its your choice Aralyn, but I have already chosen.”

Teenage!me thought this was so clever when she came up with it.

The next day, my stomach is bulging out a little more. I scream quietly, trying not to wake Aralyn. Oh no! I’m starting to show! Now what? I’m about 5 months along… I’m amazed I haven’t already started showing.

Hold up a sec. A few days ago, you were 5 weeks pregnant. How did 5 weeks become 5 months?

Time is fluid in this story. It does not exist in absolutes. I could make up some bullshit about how Adventists believe that the second coming will mess with the very fabric of space and time…. but no, this is just lazy writing. Bad teenage!me, bad!

Holly finds some maternity clothes in one of her eleventy billion suitcases, with a note from her mom saying she loves her. This makes Holly cry, and she wonders where her mom is now.

And then we get this godawful scene. Because everyone knows that non Christians always make 16 year olds abort their babies, no matter how far along they are in the pregnancy. Teenage!me had read a little about abortion, but not much. Teenage!me was unaware that, after the 5 month mark, it would be way too late for an abortion unless the life of the mother was in danger.

Teenage!me thought Godless heathens scheduled their abortions like her mom scheduled dentist appointments.

Aralyn doesn’t seem to notice I’m bigger, I don’t believe she’s very familiar with teenage pregnancy. But Mrs. Gladstone is. She pulls me aside.

“I’ll take you to the doctor later today for an abortion.”

“No!” I protest strongly. She coils back, “this is my baby that God has given to me, and I am going to have it.”

She glares at me, “It would be better for you.” she says slowly, “and your baby, if you would just abort now.” she stares me down for a while. I stare right back at her. The rest of the kids stare back at both of us. Luckyily, Aralyn is still upstairs in the bathroom brushing her hair. Slowly Mrs. Gladstone saunters away.

Well, now that the whole house knows I’m pregnant! I grab my backpack and walk out the door to wait for the bus. I’m not very hungry anyway.

This is just…. bad….. in like, every imaginable way….. Also, apparently teenage!me wasn’t worried about little things like misspelled words. Or it could be that this was an early draft that hadn’t had those corrected, I can’t recall.

In any case, I lost some sympathy for Mrs. Gladstone. She should’ve known better than to announce Holly’s pregnancy to the whole house like that.

Mrs. Gladstone, btw, is the only character in this story besides Matt without a real life counterpart. She is, therefore, my first real attempt at writing characters. So of course she’s a wildly inconsistent cardboard cutout who seems to have no personality.

Holly is scared of going to school, because she doesn’t want anyone to know she is pregnant. Even though the Lord reassures her that she saw a lot of pregnant teenagers at school yesterday, so Holly would actually fit right in.

What? Oh my GOD. Did Teenage!me think every other high schooler was pregnant? Teenage!me didn’t know shit.

I walk into the school, intending to just get through the day without talking to anyone or making any trouble. But Tall-girl-with-the-blonde-hair has other ideas.

TGWTBH is creepy. Incredibly over the top inexplicably creepy. Out of all the people who read this, including at least one grown up, no one thought to pull me aside and ask me if I thought this was normal.

But then, they were probably expecting TGWTBH to turn out to be my guardian angel. Spoiler alert, she’s not.

TGWTBH tells Holly she doesn’t care if she’s pregnant, she still wants to be friends. After that, Holly feels a lot better about things. No one else matters, right?

Then we get this scene, and I think teenage!me may have listened to way too many horror stories about public high school.

A group of kids with dyed hair beat Holly up, and Holly is worried about her baby, and why isn’t God helping her, and then TGWTBH is there. She tries to distract the bullies so Holly can get away, but Holly is either too injured or too stupid to do so, and then we get this godawful cringe worthy scene:

Suddenly, they all stop what there doing and start staring at something. Tall-girl and I look around at what their staring at, but we don’t see anything. The girls start trembling, then purple hair yells out, “Run!” the other girls don’t hesitate to obey her order. They run the other direction, through the hallway, down the stairs, and their gone.

Holly asks TGWTBH what the hell just happened, and TGWTBH shrugs and says “must be our guardian angels.” Who didn’t step in before Holly got kicked in the uterus because….?

After that, Tall girl walks with me to all my classes, making sure nothing happens to me. I’m scared. I hope the baby is ok. I should probably go to a doctor and get a sonogram.

How did your mother not make you do that immediately after you found out you were pregnant? That is more important than STD testing dammit.

And I get that TGWTBH is supposed to be looking out for Holly, and walking her to classes wouldn’t bother me if that’s the only thing TGWTBH was doing…. but combined with everything else, this just looks creepy.

Holly goes throughout the week, scared pretty much all the time, wondering how on earth she’s going to keep the Sabbath. Finally, on Friday afternoon, TGWTBH whispers to Holly that she’ll pick her up Saturday morning. There’s a meeting, apparently.

Holly and Tall-Girl talk about whether or not they’ll go to church on Sunday is well. Holly is worried because, unlike Tall-Girl, she doesn’t have much of a choice. Holly is 16, and 16 year olds get dragged to church against their will all the time. Tall-Girl is 18, and in Holly’s mind, that means Tall-Girl is free to do whatever the fuck she wants.

Teenage!me didn’t know that most 18 year olds still live with their parents and have to abide by their rules, and this is particularly true of 18 year olds who are still in high school.

TGWTBH points out that if she is caught going to church, she’ll be in just as much trouble as Holly. If they get caught, they are all going to jail. Holly agrees to try and sneak out, and Tall-Girl tells Holly she’ll pick her up.

That night, Holly slips upstairs while the others are watching a movie (movies are not Sabbath appropriate activities, unless you’re watching VeggieTales.) and pours out her heart to God as she reads her Bible.

Oh God! I’m not so worried about church on Saturday, as I am about sneaking out on Sunday! Its easy to sneak out of an Adventist church when no one will be watching, but in this church, there are probably going to be people taking attendance making sure no one will leave during the service! I’m so scared I’m crying. I brush the tears away.

 Aside from the entire plot point being silly, this is a real fear that someone might have. Holly would be terrified of the death penalty, but she’s also terrified of hell.

It’s no wonder she’s having panic attacks.

God doesn’t reply to Holly in words, but we do get this. This is cringe worthy. In teenage!me’s defense, this is something that is very difficult to describe.

A peace washes over me; a peace that I’ve felt but almost forgotten. A peace that I cannot describe. And even if I could, I wouldn’t, because almost before I can think about it, I am asleep.

The next morning, Holly dresses for church and sneaks out. On the way out, however, she hears one of the little kids crying. She comes in and tries to talk to the little girl.

“My mom! My dad! They took them! They killed them! I saw them! I saw them killed!” she chokes out. I gasp. This kid’s gone though more than I have! Poor kid! I gather her into my arms. “I want my mommy!” she gasps.

“Kid,” I say softly, “I can’t bring your mommy back from the dead.” she cries harder.

But.” I say, “there is someone who can. And he will, at the resurrection.” the kid sniffles.

“Will he take me?”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

She sobs, “I can’t go to church on Saturday, they make me go on Sunday, I don’t want to go, I try to run away, but….” she starts sobbing harder, “do you think he still loves me?”

Keep in mind that, being raised Adventist, this 8 year old little girl would have grown up hearing all about the end times. This little girl would have grown up hearing all about what happened to people who accepted the mark of the beast. This poor 8 year old child would’ve had nightmares all her short little life about exactly this thing. Now that she is living it, now that she is being forced to take the mark, she is terrified that this means she is doomed to hell.

The Adventist pastors I talked to all seemed to think that going to church on Sunday vs Saturday was a choice. They were ignoring the fact that, as children, often we did not have a choice. A 16 year old might be able to sneak out, but what about the little 8 year olds who knew the truth but were powerless to obey? Nobody ever addressed this, and teenage!me felt that this was a serious omission. So she brought it up and addressed it.

Holly’s reassurance is teenage!me’s reassurance. It’s clunky, but it’s genuine, and it portrays a much kinder picture of God than some Adventists would believe, so I am inclined to give it a bit of a pass:

“Of course he loves you!” I whisper fiercely, “God never stops loving anyone, even the most wickedest people in the whole world. Theres no question weather he loves you. As for heaven….” the girl looks up at me and trembles. “I’m sure God understands its not your fault. He loves you, and he wants to be in heaven. Ask him to give you reassurance that he loves you and wants you to be with him.” she nods. Silently, I pray with her, then ease her back down into bed and tuck her in. Then tiptoe out of the room, through the kitchen, the dining room, out the door, and into Tall-Girl’s waiting car.

As they ride to the “church,” Holly reads the book of Revelation, saying she has “memed” it. The verb “mem” is short for “memorized.”

We were not the sharpest crayons in the box.

Soon Tall-Girl pulls up to a small, brown house. She gets out of the car, dropping her wallet. Without thinking, I scoop it up and slip it into my coat pocket. I redden with shame.

Why did I do that?

Tall-Girl doesn’t even notice.

Let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on here. One of teenage!me’s pet peeves about conversion stories is that, once converted, people immediately seem to become perfect Christians. Teenage!me did not want that to happen to Holly. Teenage!me wanted to portray someone who still struggled with her past sins, who still screwed up sometimes.

Teenage!me didn’t really know if the idea that we will have to be sinless after the close of probation and stand before God without a mediator was Biblical. She didn’t think that fit with a loving God, so she didn’t feel a need to make Holly a perfect person just because end times.

Holly makes mistakes. Holly still sins. But Holly is still able to be saved, because she does belong to Jesus. She eventually repents, learns from her mistake, and moves on.

Holly is not saved because she is sinless after the close of probation. Holly is saved because she claims the blood of Christ covers her sins. And God saw that it was good.

We walk up to the door. [Tall-Girl] knocks out a certain rhythm. A woman answers the door, eyes darting around nervously, “what took you so long?” Tall-Girl and I walk into the house. “never mind, come in, wait, who’s this?”

The woman, naturally, is suspicious. Of course she is, her very life is on the line. For all she knows, Tall-Girl could be bringing in a traitor. What’s a little less inexplicable is how quickly she accepts Holly.

But of course she does. Mrs. Soucie is actually the pastor’s wife, whom I befriended my sophomore year. I can’t honestly remember if I ever gave her a copy of this story or not.

The meeting isn’t like a normal church service. there are more testimonies, more singing, bible readings, and no one preaches a sermon. And it lasts for hours. Pretty soon, I need to go to the bathroom, but I say nothing. From time to time I check my watch nervously, wondering when Mrs. Gladstone and her crew will wake up and discover my absence. Finally, after the last song ended, Mrs. Soucie says, “I think we’d better wrap it up, the less time we take here, the better.” I nod in agreement. We all join hands for a closing prayer, then ascend the stairs quietly. There is no visiting, as there would have been normally. Everyone exits as quickly as possible.

The less time we take here, the better, but we’re still going to make this last for hours. How many hours exactly? Um, time is fluid in the last days?

As Tall-Girl takes Holly home, Tall-Girl’s wallet falls out of Holly’s pocket. They have a fight about it, Tall-Girl slaps her, and Holly cries as she runs toward the house. She realizes eventually that this is not the smartest plan, as she had to sneak out that morning.

Note that Tall-Girl is also allowed to be upset. The characters in this book aren’t well written, but they’re allowed to be real people. Or at least, as real as teenage!me could manage.

Holly sneaks back into the bedroom without waking up Aralyn, reads her Bible, and cries over how guilty she feels.

God this is just so bad. How the hell are there 2 more chapters? This is just so depressing. I don’t even want to edit this, because that means rereading it. Gah.

 

The Logistics of Persecuting Seventh Day Adventists

One of my Parable posts got a little long, so I’m breaking this off. This will also give me something to refer back to when I do more end times novels. Which won’t be for quite some time now because we all need a break from them.

Here’s the thing. Persecuting Adventists wouldn’t really be as easy as all these End Times writers seem to think it will be.

First off, no one really knows who the Seventh Day Adventists are. Seventh Day Adventists claim to be one of if not the fastest growing Christian denominations, (where they get this statistic from is never cited) but that doesn’t change the fact that they are a minority.

According to Wikipedia, in 2014 the world wide church had 18,143,745 baptized members. That seems like a lot, until you realize that there are roughly 7 billion people on this planet. 18,143,745 is also an inflated number, for reasons we’ll get to shortly. The main thing you need to understand is that the first step the government would need to take would be to educate the public on who the hell they want you to shoot.

Then the government would need to find a way to identify all of the Adventists.

Sure, you could just burst into a church service and start arresting people, but how many of those there (especially teenagers, who are old enough to think but young enough to be under their parents thumb) are there by choice? How many are just visiting out of morbid curiosity? How many are there because they don’t want to disappoint family members? You could end up killing someone totally innocent. It could be argued that the government wouldn’t care, but the main thing is that this would not be the most effective way of going about it.

You could pull up the Adventist church directory, but this also presents a problem. I’ve discussed in a previous post how difficult it can be to actually get one’s name removed from said directory, and so a lot of us simply haven’t bothered. So if the police were to ever grab the church directory, they’d still find themselves with a long list of people, not all of whom are still Seventh Day Adventist. It would be a major headache to go through and figure out which names are the names of actual members.

If you checked the church directory, you’d also have to figure out which of the church members are shut ins who are unable to go to church, members who still believe SDA teachings but don’t go to church or live the Adventist lifestyle, and that’s before you even touch on the fact that a lot of ex-Adventists are still on the books. (I have also heard rumors that there are people listed in the church membership records  who have been dead for a long time. This is not substantiated.)

Then you have the opposite problem, with people who do attend on a regular basis but, for whatever reason, haven’t been able to be baptized. This is not likely to be as much of an issue. The church loves to add names. But these people do exist and they would need to be addressed.

The main point of the post is this: keeping track of its members is such a headache that the Seventh Day Adventist church itself doesn’t even bother.

Seventh Day Adventists are such a minority that if the church itself cannot bother, why would the government?

A secular friend of mine pointed out that, if Adventists really believe that they are going to be persecuted, they shouldn’t be keeping track of their members at all. And she’s got a point. If Adventists honestly believe that they will be persecuted in their lifetime, why are they even keeping these lists? Why not use fake names? Write them in secret code? Do Adventists actually believe what they preach? If they did, why aren’t they taking steps to prevent their lists from being seized by the government?

And what about all those other people who choose to worship on Saturday who aren’t Seventh Day Adventists?

What about the Jews?

What about the Seventh Day Baptists?

What about other religions?

What about atheists?

Muslims?

According to Adventist theology, every single one of these groups is going to either join the Adventists or give in and go to church on Sunday. This is not likely how it would play out in real life.

Then what about the children? Teenagers? How old do teens need to be before they’re considered to be acting of their own free will? The 16 year old who lives with their parents isn’t going to have much choice about going to church each week. This can even be the case with 18 year olds, who aren’t able to be on their own yet but are technically adults. Part of the arrangement with said adult could be something like, “you go to church or you move out.” Which may or may not be doable for the average 18 year old. Are you going to punish them for what their parents are doing?

Every time you see the Adventists brag about the number of members they have, you immediately have to cut that number at least in half(according to an Adventist pastor who spoke at campmeeting). Almost no churches, at least that I know of, bother to cull their membership lists on a regular basis. The church likes the high numbers, but the high numbers don’t tell the whole story. They faithfully report how many are joining, but won’t bother to tell you how many are slipping out the backdoor.

For the record, this is something many Adventists are aware of. It’s kind of an open secret. Many Adventists lament that churches don’t cull their membership lists, but what would happen if they did? Would their number drop by half? More? Less?

I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I do wonder if the reason this isn’t done is because people are afraid of what they will find.

So there you have it. Go and get your name removed from the church’s books, because if you don’t, and the end times happen, you might wind up getting killed.

Just kidding, that won’t happen.

Wacky White Wednsday #7: Masturbation, Part 1

The next few weeks are going to be a series of blog posts about the article titled:

Appeal to Mothers Relative to the Great Cause of the Physical, Mental and Moral Ruin of Many of the Children of Our Time

The 1860s favored long titles. Most of us just refer to this as, “appeal to mothers.” It was written in 1864. I debated posting the entire article, but it’s long. Really long. So we will be picking and choosing which parts to look at. Here is a link to where you can read the article in its entirety.

I encourage you to go and read the whole thing, that you may know by the context that the article is indeed referring to masturbation.

The terms Ellen White uses are to refer to masturbation are “solitary vice” and “self abuse.” These terms were common ones in Ellen White’s era, though they are bit dated now.

First, we’re going to start at the beginning of the article, wherein Ellen White encourages mothers to look at their children for signs that they are masturbating. She goes on for a while. Quite a while.

(For some reason I am having trouble with the formatting. If there is a section break without a comment from me after it, it doesn’t necessarily mean I left anything out. Until I note otherwise, the following paragraphs occur exactly as they are in the original article.)

My Sisters, my apology for addressing you on this
subject is, I am a mother, and feel alarmed for those children and youth who by solitary vice are ruining themselves for this world, and for that which is to come. Let us closely inquire into this subject from the physical, mental and moral points of view.
Mothers, let us first view the results of this vice upon
the physical strength.
Have you not marked the lack of healthful beauty, of strength, and power of endurance in your dear children?
Have you not felt saddened as you have watched the progress of disease upon them which has baffled your skill, and that of physicians?
You listen to numerous complaints of headache, catarrh, dizziness, nervousness, pain in the shoulders and side, loss of appetite, pain in the back and limbs, wakeful, feverish nights, of tired feelings in the morning, and great exhaustion after exercising?
As you have seen the beauty of health disappearing, and have marked the sallow countenance, or the unnaturally flushed face have you been aroused sufficiently to look beneath the surface, to inquire into the cause of this physical decay?
Have you observed the astonishing mortality among the youth?
Said mortality was probably a lot higher when Ellen White was writing this than it is now. At least in developed countries, child mortality is down.
And have you not noticed that there was a deficiency in the mental health of your children? That their course seemed to be marked with extremes? That they were absent-minded? That they started nervously when spoken to? And were easily irritated?
Have you not noticed when occupied upon a piece of work they would look dreamingly, as though the mind was elsewhere? When they came to their senses, they were unwilling to own the work as coming from their hands, it was so full of mistakes, and showed such marks of inattention?
Have you not been astonished at their wonderful forgetfulness? The most simple and oft-repeated directions would be soon forgotten. They might be quick to learn, but it would be of no special benefit to them. The mind would not retain it. What they might learn through hard study, when they would use their knowledge, is missing, lost through their sieve-like memory.
Have you not noticed their reluctance to engage in active labor? And their unwillingness to perseveringly accomplish that which they have undertaken, which taxes the mental as well as the physical strength? The tendency of many is to live in indolence.
Have you not witnessed the gloomy sadness upon the
countenance, and frequent exhibitions of a morose temper in those who used to be cheerful, kind and affectionate? They are easily excited to jealousy, disposed to look upon the dark side, and when you are laboring for their good, imagine that you are their enemy, that you needlessly reprove and restrain them?
And have you not enquired (sic) where will all this end, as you have looked upon your children from a moral point of view? Have you not noticed the increase of disobedience in children, and their manifestations of ingratitude, and impatience under restraint?
Have you not been alarmed at their disregard of parental authority, which has bowed down the hearts of their parents with grief and prematurely sprinkled their heads with grey hairs?
Have you not witnessed the lack of that noble frankness in your children which they once possessed, and which you admired in them? Some children even express in their countenances a hardened look of depravity. Have you not felt distressed and anxious as you have seen the strong desire in your children to be with the opposite sex, and the overpowering disposition they possessed to form attachments when quite young?
As you can see, Ellen White goes on for, um, quite a while. I mean, there’s enough stuff in here that, at some point, any one child is going to end up going through some of these things. Though I am uncertain that any one child would meet all (or even most) of this criteria.
With your daughters, the boys have been the
theme of conversation, and with your sons it has been the girls.
Ellen White is strangely silent on homosexuality. I don’t have an explanation or theory for that, so we will merely note it and move on.
They manifest preference for particular ones, and your advice and warnings produce but little change. Blind
passion destroys sensible considerations. And although you may check the outward manifestations, and you credit the promises of amendment yet to your sorrow you find there is no change, only to conceal the matter from you. There are still secret attachments, and stolen interviews.
Note, too, that Ellen seems to think masturbation is always sexual in nature. It is not. In fact, very young children sometimes do it without even associating it with sex. That part comes later, usually around the onset of puberty. That is why it appears that Ellen is getting off on a tangent when she talks about children having boyfriend/girlfriends. To her, these issues are one and the same.
They follow their willful course, and are controlled by their passions, until you are startled by perhaps
a premature marriage, or are brought to shame by those who should by their noble course of conduct, bring to you respect and honor.
The cases of premature marriage multiply. Boys and girls enter upon the marriage relation with unripe love, immature judgment, without noble, elevated feelings, and take upon themselves the marriage vows, wholly led by their boyish, girlish, passions. They choose for themselves often without the knowledge of the mother who has watched over them, and cared for them, from their earliest infancy.
Instead of blaming masturbation, maybe it would be a good idea to sit down and think about why your child didn’t talk to you about this? Maybe the problem isn’t them, it’s you?
I’m skipping a few paragraphs here, where Ellen White goes on about how awful it is to
a) Marry young (“in their teens” is too young)
b) Have a secret boyfriend/girlfriend. If one forms “attachments,” the parents should always know about them.
Honestly, that is a topic for another blog post, and these things don’t really have much to do with masturbation. Or do they? In the next paragraph, after ranting about A and B for a while, she says:

Mothers, the great cause of these physical, mental and moral evils is secret vice which inflames the passions, fevers the imagination, and leads to licentiousness. This vice is laying waste the constitution, and preparing the young for disease of almost every description. And shall we permit our children to pursue a course of self-destruction?

I mean, by that definition, practically everything is caused by masturbation.

We’ll stop there for now. Next week, we’ll look at some of the consequences of masturbation.

A Mountain To Climb Chapter 5: Pray For A Mountain

This is where things really start getting interesting. Either that or it sets the groundwork for the interesting part of the story, can’t remember. Either way, this is when the action really begins.

We open with Mrs. Lindsay petting “one of her cats.” How many cats does this woman have? We are also told it is June, so quite a few months have passed since chapter 4.

Pearl comes in, and after exchanging pleasantries, Pearl tells her mother that there’s to be a corn roast on Saturday night, and that it’s the kind of event boys invite girls to.

Later in the chapter, we will be told that the principle disapproves of crushes and dating. So, why on earth are events like this held?

Pearl tells her mother that she’ll have to wait and see who will ask her to the corn roast. She hasn’t spoken to Arthur in two days, but that particular day he plants himself directly in her path and refuses to let her walk by.

There Pearl, you see how annoying that is?

“And where have you been keeping yourself?” he asked. His at-last-I’ve-found-my-long-lost-friend attitude almost made Pearl laugh, and her anger melted.

That….would just piss me off even more.

“Busy with classes,” she told him.

“Well, how about next Saturday night? Will you go with me to the corn roast?”

Just then the bell rang. She nodded an embarrassed “Yes,” and hurried to her algebra class.

I have to admit, it is kind of immature for Pearl to avoid him for 2 whole days. What she really needs to do is talk to Arthur about what happened, tell him that it really upset her. Arthur could then tell her he’s sorry, and that she upset him too. They could both apologize and move on with their lives.

That doesn’t happen, ever. Instead Arthur and Pearl just… ignore the issue.

And I don’t think that’s ok. This is something that really bothered Pearl. I’m not saying she shouldn’t speak to him ever again, or let him take her to the corn roast. I am saying that this is a shitty foundation on which to build a relationship. Not that I know much about romantic relationships, but I’ve always read that they should be built upon a foundation of open and honest communication. Which sounds like good advice to me, at any rate.

When Pearl tells her mother, Mrs. Lindsay cautions Pearl against getting too involved, saying that her schoolwork is the most important thing right now.

As Pearl hurried back to the dorm for evening worship, she wondered what her mother would say if she knew about all the “incidental” meetings she and Arthur had had. No real dates of course. The school principle did not approve of “puppy love,” as he called any association between the young men and women.

Wait, hold on, slow down. What? Look. I kinda sorta get having this attitude as a high school principal. High schoolers are still children, after all, and many conservative religious people do not approve of children having romantic relationships. (I’m not saying this is right, mind you. Just normal in the Adventist community.)

But why, on Satan’s white earth, are you trying to prevent grown ass men and women from getting involved with each other? As every good Adventist knows, an SDA college is an ideal place to meet your future wife/husband. I know this because my dad sat down and had this talk with me after having flipped out when I told him I didn’t want to go to an Adventist college. In fact, I imagine that most Adventist parents would tell you they met in college. Usually an Adventist college. But we’ll talk about Adventist courtship in another post.

The corn roast was all Pearl had hoped it would be. She and Arthur talked and laughed as the bonfire flamed.

Yup. Totally ignored the issue.

There’s a few more paragraphs about how Pearl and Arthur like each other. It’s all very sweet, I’m sure.

As the school year passed, Pearl became more aware of how lucky she was. God had given her a goal to work toward, good Christian friends, and a happy life. She got along well with both teachers and students, and was often called upon to help in extracurricular activities.

Pearl is the perfect Mary Sue. From Wikipedia:

A Mary Sue is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities, sometimes with the intent to inspire young or marginalized people and show them that even they can have as great of a potential as leading characters. Often this character is recognized as an author insert or wish-fulfillment.

Except that Pearl was a person who actually existed. I wonder, though, exactly how much liberty Ms. Maxson took with the story. To some extent I wouldn’t blame her–sometimes a little bit of creative license is necessary to move the story along or make the story interesting. But I wonder how true it is that Pearl is just this perfect character who gets along with everybody and is very helpful. I’m willing to acknowledge that Pearl was very popular and did try to help out a lot, but I wonder if, in reality, she was a bit more…. well, if maybe she had her unlikable moments.

I can’t know the truth, so we will not dwell upon this for long. In fact, we’re ready to move on.

As part of the student assossiation, Pearl is asked to help out with a week of prayer. My Adventist/Ex Adventist audience already knows what that means. You guys can skip the next 3 paragraphs.

So, a week of prayer is actually better entitled, “week of sermons.” (or, in my case, “week of ‘sex ed.'” All Adventist schools have them. Apparently my elementary school had one, though all I remember from it is the jar of sand with the shells. I much better remember the ones from Academy. Our morning classes at Academy were shortened by ten minutes, to allow for a 30 minute sermon between the last class of the morning and lunch. Then at night we’d have an hour long sermon in the chapel with the pastor, instead of worship separately in our dorms. A visiting pastor was nearly always flown in, and received some kind of compensation, usually in the form of gift cards to the local restaurant. Which was taco bell…..

In any case, these sermons lasted a week, with the visiting pastor also being responsible for preaching the sermon for Friday night vespers and church the next day.

This whole thing was supposed to be a time of spiritual reflection and revival. Much soul searching and prayer was to be done… We will talk later about Weeks of Prayer and the effects various ones have had on me. For now, all you need to know is that they are more accurately titled, “week of sermon” and that, depending on the speaker’s pet topic, have the potential to be either very boring or very awkward. Like that one penis talk…

Ahem. I am getting side tracked.

We are told that the week of prayer  meetings went well,the students were enjoying the sermons, and Pearl is very happy.

And then we get to the paragraph that kicks off the main plot of the book. Yes in chapter 5.

During the Thursday evening service one sentence struck her. “If you find your life humdrum-no ups, no downs, no temptations, no victories–then pray for a mountain,” the pastor said. “The Christian life is not stagnant. It must progress upward and upward and upward.”

If you are content and enjoying life, as is Pearl, clearly it is because something is the matter with you spiritually.

The person who donated the book to be was horrified by all this. They said that they felt guilty that they didn’t want to pray for a mountain, but that they also didn’t want something horrible to happen to them.

Christianity, at least as presented in this book, is kind of a mindfuck.

During the weeks that followed, Pearl thought of the pastor’s challenge. Did she really want trials–which she finally decided were the mountains–in her life? Was she strong enough to meet them and come out victorious?

A lot of mental agonizing over basically nothing. Welcome to Adventism.

The days passed pleasantly. PEarl did fairly well in her lessons, she liked her work and her surroundings, her friends were sincere, her mother was happy. Waht more could she awnt?

Nothing, if that idiot pastor hadn’t planted the idea in her head that she needed trials.

We are told that, during the exams, Pearl forgot about this mountain business. Good. If only it had stayed that way. Actually, it wouldn’t have mattered because what happened next would have happened anyway. But I am getting ahead of myself.

From the middle of December until early March was vacation. During this break most of the college students worked in one of the college industries, which included broom shop, press, sawmill, laundry, furniture factory, and kitchen. ….

Pearl  enjoyed the relaxed astmosphere of vacation. Even though the principal was just as strict about boy-girl relationships, it didn’t bother her.

Surprise plot twist: it doesn’t bother her because she’s a lesbian.

Just kidding. That’s not going to happen.

One day [the principal] told the students that he would really put his foot down on any “puppy love” affair.

“That might really mean something,” Arthur said later, “considering that the principal wears size eleven shoes!”

Pearl laughed.

So, the mountain, er, trial, that Pearl will have to climb/overcome is the fact that she and Arthur are having a secret love affair that the principal can’t find out about or he will expel them?

I wish. That would make for a better book.

When school started in March of 1937

Seriously? You’re waiting this long to tell me in what year all this is occurring? The note at the front of the book said to judge this book by its publication date of 1976. It said nothing whatsoever about this story taking place 4 decades earlier.

The disclaimer at the front of the book was basically worthless.

Pearl’s classes start, and everything goes well, until something in history class has to do with mountains.

Pearl suddenly realized she had forgotten the week of prayer’s challenge–pray for a mountain. The more she thought of it, the more she realized that her life was flowing along too easily. Reaching for her Bible, she found Philippians 4:19. “My God shall supply all your need.”

Let’s look this up. In context. Philippians chapter 4:

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

It sounds like, in context, God is talking about supplying all of the needs of one who gives generously to others, specifically Paul. Is it a bit of a stretch to think it could apply to Pearl in her situation? Maybe, maybe not. It sounds like, right now, God is supplying all her needs. Maybe, if there is a god, this was his way of telling her: “you don’t need to pray for a mountain. I have already given you all that you need. Praise be unto me.”

Instead, Pearl takes this verse to mean that, since God’s already gonna give her anything she needs, what does she have to lose?

“What do I have to be afraid of?” She asked herself. She dropped to her knees

In the middle of history class?

and committed her life more completely than ever before. She told the Lord that if there was a mountain for her to please send it.

We are then told that Pearl prays this same prayer every day for about a month.

For more than a month that same prayer passed her lips every day, until it became almost an obsession. And then the answer came-

That’s the end of the chapter. Points to the author, this was a good note to end on.

Some things I want to touch on:

Pearl has been nearly obsessed with this for…about a month before something happens. It’s not like she prayed the prayer once and then something happened. She had to literally beg for it. That to me either suggests that Pearl was just going to keep praying this prayer until she hit a little bump in the road that she could call her mountain. (The fact that it happens to be a tragedy instead of a bump is unfortunate.)

There’s 2 more reasons I dislike this idea. One of which is that it doesn’t allow Pearl to be content with her life. And she has been. She likes her school, she likes the teachers, she likes the students, she’s involved in campus organizations. Pearl is happy, but she’s not allowed to just be happy. Life so rarely hands us situations in which we are truly happy that in my opinion we should take the time to enjoy these moments when they happen. Pearl isn’t allowed to do that. She must find a way to make herself unhappy, because it is somehow meant to help her have a closer relationship with Jesus.

This has the unfortunate side affect of making Jesus look like a complete asshole.

Mountains in life will come as a matter of course. You do not have to pray for them.

The second problem that I have with this “mountain” idea is that Pearl’s life is “hum drum.” Because of this, she is supposed to pray for a mountain so she can climb it. But what about after the mountain? I mean, this incident that happens does eventually end. What then? Did Pearl’s life return to normal? Does it go back to, “no ups, no downs, no temptations, no victories?” Does it go back to “hum-drum?” Does she have to pray for a mountain again? And again? And again? For the rest of her life?

I mean, the whole “pray for a mountain” thing just doesn’t make sense.

 

 

 

 

Parable of the Sower Critique: Chapter 5

I wrote this story during my Sophomore year at an SDA boarding Academy. In place of commentary, just insert “oh fuck, SERIOUSLY?!” at the end of each sentence.

But, since this still isn’t good enough for you….

We last left off with Holly’s mother and sister getting arrested and Holly being shipped off to a children’s home for orphans of persecuted Adventists.

Because those not only exist, they were able to be setup overnight. I’ve said it before, there’s no way the US government is that fast and efficient.

Holly’s room mate has the most annoying alarm clock radio ever, and she resists the urge to smash it. Her room mate wakes up and introduces herself as “Aralyn.” When Teenage!me needed names, she opened up a book of baby names, slapped her finger down, and behold, characters have names. Hence the name, “Aralyn.”

“I’m Aralyn… you look a little old to be in here, how old are you?”

“16, why?”

“Hmm… nothing, I just thought they were killing all the kids unless they were under 13….”

Whoa there teenage!me, slow down. The cutoff age is thirteen?

I sit up in bed, “wait, what?”

“Don’t you know?”

“Know what?”

Aralyn sighs, “Every time the government goes on a raid, they kill all the family members except those under the age of 13. these, they take back to special homes and raise them in the new World Wide Religion.”

So, let’s pause to talk about this. On the one hand, teenage!me was thinking that there was an age of accountability, and that it was somewhere around the 12-13 year mark. Teenage!me was also a 16 year old being forced to go to church against her will. So, why would she automatically assume that anyone over the age of 13 has a choice about going to church? If the government is compassionate enough to spare children, they’d probably at least make the cutoff age 18. This could still have worked. It’s never stated in the text, but Jaimie is an 18 year old senior in high school. Holly’s mom and sister could still be arrested and Holly shipped off to a children’s home without all this weirdness about the age of accountability.

Holly’s response to this whole “every time the government goes on a raid” thing is about the same as I imagine a normal person’s would be:

“Huh?”

That one word about sums up the entire plot of this book.

“There training us to be priests! They think were young enough to be manipulated!”

I’m stunned. “So, you mean they… take…. little children?!”

Teenage!me was mostly unaware, at this time, of all the scandals rocking the Catholic church. Teenage!me isn’t worried about priests molesting her baby, although that is the way it reads to me now as an adult.

[Aralyn] sniffs, “I am not a little child. But yes, they do mainly take those.”

I don’t know if teenage!me ever stated this: Aralyn is 12. Whether or not she’s actually a small child is up for debate. However, this response is something I could picture an actual 12 year old saying if you refer to them as “little children.”

I massage my abdomen, horrified at the thought of my little child being whisked away, knowing that it would grow up not knowing Jesus… I shudder. I would rather it be still-born than have that happen!

This…. is why they don’t like to let 16 year olds have babies. I’d rather it be still-born than not know Jesus? That’s horrifying. Did my parents ever say or think anything like that? Where am I getting this from? Did I come up with it by myself, or did some adult say something like that to me?

I wish I could remember. I’m sure I knew once, but I don’t anymore.

And here we have a conversation between Holly and God as she talks to Aralyn. It’s not particularly well written but points to teenage!me for trying:

“I left the church a long time ago.” I whisper, my cheeks going red.

What, its not a total lie!

Holly, my intention was not for you to lie about who you are!

“Oh,” said Aralyn, disappointed.

If God didn’t want her to lie, why’d he tell her to shut the fuck up when she tried to tell the police she wasn’t an Adventist?

Oh never mind.

Holly is about to tell Aralyn the truth, that she is a Seventh Day Adventist, when Aralyn says they’d better get downstairs for breakfast, because Mrs. Gladstone is very strict. Something about being grounded. Teenage!me did not know the meaning of the world “grounded” but she knew it happened to teenagers with strict parents, and she wanted Mrs. Gladstone to be a strict parent, so teenage!me stuck it in there.

I slide out of bed and reach for the nearest duffel bag. I pull out my gortex shoes, black velvet pants, and a lavender sweater with purple trim.

Oh god, the clothes I used to wear!

I follow her downstairs to the table, where approximately 20 children are eating scrambled eggs, ham, cereal and buttered toast at a large table.

This is probably the most realistic part of the whole chapter. Foster moms are often overworked, and if they were taking all the children from Adventist homes, foster parents would suddenly find themselves swamped with children. 20 children with only one adult in charge? Probably would be normal at this point.

Or would it? Seventh Day Adventists are a minority, and most Adventists I know believe in birth control, so you wouldn’t really be dealing with that many kids in the first place. This is particularly true if you’re only taking children under 13.

Unless one lives in a town with an unusually large population of SDAs, there probably wouldn’t be many displaced children. Perhaps, then, this part is extremely unrealistic.

Well, Adventists do believe that in the last days there will be a lot of converts….. So, I guess it’s a tossup.

Mrs. Gladstone walks up to me and says, “good morning, Holly! This is your seat.” she points to a chair between a girl with long blonde who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old, and another small girl around the age of eight, also blonde, only this one had glasses.

Oh look, it’s my chemistry teacher’s daughters. I used to play with them after school sometimes.

I sit down and Mrs. Gladstone offers up a small, repetitive prayer. Then all the children start to eat.

I mean, I personally have always thought that anything longer than, “Dear Jesus, thank you for the food, Amen” is way too fucking long of a prayer. So why am I criticizing the prayer for being small? If the prayer is small how is it possibly repetitive?

Teenage!Me you’re fucking contradictory!

Anyway, Holly has a conniption because she’s vegan, and she’s sticking to it, even though that means she has to subsist on dry toast and cheerios. She won’t even consent to eat eggs, because screw the unborn baby, I guess.

And too, Mrs. Gladstone should know that with ex Adventists, you have to work them up to pork bacon gradually. Shoot, even turkey bacon might be too much for some of the children. This is probably the first time in that poor little 8 year old’s life that she’s even had any meat at all. I’m not saying Mrs. Gladstone needs to go out and buy expensive specialty food, but she could probably meet the children halfway. Their religion does allow for clean meat, and she could start there and kind of gradually work her way up.

But there shouldn’t have even been time to set this up, because the law was just announced yesterday. The United States Government is never that efficient at setting up systems. Tearing them down is apparently another story, but let that pass.

Mrs. Gladstone shakes her head and clucks her tongue, “you poor dear!” she sighs and shakes her head, “you have no need to worry here, you can forget all the Adventist customs your family has.”

Adult!me thinks Mrs. Gladstone has good intentions…. but she should know that you don’t undo years of brainwashing in a day. “Forget all the customs your SDA family  has?” Being told something like this is only going to make the children cling even harder to those SDA customs. Far better to try and use logic to explain why those customs really aren’t necessary.

Anyway, Holly and Aralyn are taken to the nursery, where they are expected to help feed and dress a bunch of babies and toddlers. Holly thinks about her baby being like one of these, and shudders.

Holly asks Aralyn how she was caught, and Aralyn just says they took her parents and brother and she doesn’t know what happened to them. Then Holly and Aralyn go to school.

The high school is much bigger than the one I went too; the one I went too was small, and only had 2 floors; one for the 9th and 10th graders and one for the 11th and 12th. The top floor belonged to the older kids.

My brother went to public school in a small town. This is what his school was like.

Unfortunately, this high school was not like that. It had about 4 floors, and there were a ton of classrooms, and frankly, I don’t do so good in bigger schools.

This is what I thought high schools in big towns were like. In retrospect, I should’ve consulted my cousin, who actually went to public school in a large city.

Holly gets lost on her way to Spanish class and freaks out. A tall girl with shoulder length blond hair finds Holly and helps her out.

“Hey, no prob. Anytime you need help, come find me.” she turns to walk away, then stops. “Better go in now, your late. Sra. Sobre won’t like that.”

I find my voice, “aren’t you late too?”

“Yeah, its no big deal.”

“But why –”

“You needed help.” she smiles at me, “see ya.” She walks away. I shrug, open the door, and walk into class

Okay, this is weird.

Anyway, Holly gets to Spanish class, and it turns out that they stuck her in beginning Spanish. Which would be incredibly boring. It would be as if they had sent her back to Kindergarten.

Points to teenage!me, she tries to show that Holly is smarter than the teacher. Teenage!me loses points because, at this point in time, her knowledge of Spanish was incomplete. Holly demonstrates, at best, a low intermediate knowledge of Spanish. Which still makes her smarter than the Spanish teacher in this high school, so Holly gets sent to the principal’s office.

Tall-girl-with-the-blonde-hair walks by on the way to her locker and sees me. I look away and stare straight ahead. Sra. Sobre sits me down on a bench in the secretary’s office.

“Wait here.” she snaps. ……

an arm wraps around my shoulders, “what happened?”

I force tears down as I explain to her that I’m too smart for Spanish 1 and I just wanna die and get it over with. She pats me on the back. When I finish, she whispers, “I’m praying for ya!” then, she steps out of the office.

Tall-Girl-With-The-Blond-Hair certainly has a lot of freedom to roam the halls. I wonder, is she…. no, no that is not possible. I am damn sure I did not stick any guardian angels into my story.

More likely this is just another example of poor writing. Teenage!me probably thought High Schoolers in public schools just got to run around doing nothing all day and no one noticed.

Tall-Girl-With-The-Blond-Hair is there when Holly gets done talking to Principal Principle (no that’s not his name, god I wasn’t THAT stupid), and I think Teenage!me didn’t realize how creepy this all sounded. TGWTBH is always there. Always. Teenage!me meant to portray her as friendly, but I feel like this is a bit much.

(In case anyone was wondering, yes, TGWTBH has a real life counterpart, and yes, I had what I now recognize as the equivalent of an aromantic asexual crush on her.)

Holly goes to math class, which is thoroughly depressing and makes her want to jump off a cliff, and then goes to the cafeteria, where she is overwhelmed by both the noise and the crowd.

TGWTBH (Seriously, why didn’t I give this girl a name sooner? We don’t learn this girl’s name for like 4 chapters) finds Holly and says they should go eat someplace quieter. Again, making her sound way more creepy than teenage!me intended. She’s trying to get Holly alone so she can… I don’t know, talk some sense into her about religion? Religion does end up being what they talk about. TGWTBH says that she is a Christian, and Holly stupidly says,

“Me too, I’m Adventist.” that was probably a dumb thing to say, I realize seconds after I say it. How do I know I can trust her?

Should I trust that creepy girl with blonde hair who seems to always be where I am and wanted to get me alone in an empty classroom for some reason? Sure. Why not.

Oh well. Better to die now anyway than to go through much more of this.

Holly believes that abortion is murder. But getting yourself killed by recklessly endangering yourself for no good reason while pregnant? God’s totally fine with that.

But it’s ok, because TGWTBH is an Adventist too! Holly knows, because she knows the signs of an Adventist or ex Adventist.

 “your one too. I can tell. You don’t wear any Jewelry, I can’t see any cleavage, and you don’t look pregnant.”

There is some truth to this. Someone who doesn’t wear any jewelry, tends to dress conservatively, could be an Adventist or ex Adventist. Very little or no jewelry can be a tell sign. Dressing conservatively can be a tell sign. These things taken together could be tell signs. But this sentence alone, just these things, they wouldn’t tell you much of anything, really. You’d have to also observe the person for a long time to determine whether or not they’re like you. I would know. I keep trying to find them.

TGWTBH tells Holly she’s right, and asks Holly why she’s not in jail. Holly throws the question right back at her: how come you’re not in jail?

And it’s a fair question. At this point, I’d be wondering if TGWTBH is a spy sent from the government to figure out where my loyalties lie. She certainly does seem to be hovering close enough.

“I should ask the same thing of you.” I respond. Then I proceed to explain, “I left the church a long time ago, during which I got the piercings, and everything you see here. I only recently came back. The feds didn’t believe I was adventist so they took me away and put me here.” I burst into tears, “I wish they’d taken me with my mom and sister! Then I could at least be with them! And I could die with them too! I just… I just wanna die!”

I went through a few suicidal phases in high school. It’s kind of a wonder I survived, actually. And yeah, the religious conflict was a huge part of the reason why.

Tall-Girl puts her arms around me. “I’m not in jail, because for some reason, the cops don’t think I’m adventist either,” she pauses, “only, they have no reason to think that. It was God, Holly, who told them I wasn’t. It was God who protected me, and its God who’s protecting you. For a reason.”

Kind of creepy, and I really do need more of an explanation than this, but you know what, sure, fair enough. If God is going to be a character in your story, he may as well be involved. It’s not great storytelling, and it does kinda make God look like a dick for not saving everyone….

When you have an all powerful character in your novel, it can be very hard to make him a sympathetic character. This is why most writers avoid having such characters because you can either write them as being uninvolved dicks, or you can have the God character solve everybody’s problems. Neither one of those options are any good, but teenage!me was at least trying.

After school, Tall-girl offers to drive me home. I start to tell her where I live.

“Don’t bother.” she says, I know where you live.”

Creeeeeeeepyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!

TGWTBH tells Holly she used to be good friends with Mrs. Gladstone… ok, but the phrase there is “used to be,” so, how do you know Holly lives there?

I think teenage!me kinda thought that, like, Mrs. Gladstone was known in the community for the work she was doing with children of Adventist parents. Certainly the high school principal would likely be informed of who to go to if he had problems with Adventist students trying to hold prayer meetings.

But if they live in a big city, would that really be something that a lot of people know? Well, someone with connections to the Adventist community might….

I’m overthinking this. Let’s move on. As TGWTBH drives Holly home, they have this conversation. Looking back, this was a cry for help. I’m surprised that the grown up who read this didn’t catch it. Said grown up worked in a psych ward with loads of suicidal patients, so I’m not sure. Maybe he didn’t care?

“Holly, God kept you alive for a reason.”

“yeah, to torture me as punishment for –”

“Holly!” she sighs as she pulls up to my house, “Just promise me one thing.” she says as I get out, “don’t commit suicide.”

I start to say that I won’t make promises that I can’t keep when all of a sudden I feel something in my abdomen. The baby can kick already???

“No,” I promise, “no suicide.” not until the baby is born. Then, I will take my life.

Holly is 5 weeks pregnant. Wasn’t that established a few chapters ago? I remember researching pregnancy, and finding out that babies don’t usually start kicking until about the 3 or 4 month mark. There has been a little bit of time between the time Holly tells her mom she’s 5 weeks pregnant and now, but not that much time! Time doesn’t flow normally in this story. It randomly speeds up and then falls back.

Anyway, that’s the end of the chapter. Tune in next time for more teenage awfulness!