Parable of the Sower Critique: Chapter 4

This was written when I was a teenager at an SDA boarding Academy. I was 15-16ish and needed a Christmas present for my friends.

Yeah, pretty much.

This is where the story shifts. Before, it was a conversion story, and it was terrible. Now it’s an end times story, and it’s about to get worse. 99.9% of End Times stories are terrible in and of themselves, so already this was going to be bad.

The chapter begins, of course, with the family reading the newspaper. Because good Seventh Day Adventists don’t watch TV? I guess?

Mom picks up the paper, looking at it with dull eyes.

“Wars and rumors of wars…..” Her voice trails off. “Uh-oh.”

“Mom…. please, I don’t like the sound of, ‘uh-oh’, I’m in a good mood!” Jaimie says as she plops down on a couch and opens a bag of chips.

“Oh come on Jaimie, its probably just another suicide bomber in –”

“Even if it was it would still be terrible, Holly.” Jaimie shoots back at me. “mom?”

I’m not sure if I stuck that in there because at the time I wrote this suicide bombers were the trendy thing to worry about, or because I was trying to allude to the fact that the Bible says that in the last days there will be “wars and rumors wars, people running to and fro, killing each other.”

But Holly’s mother has gone pale.

“What? Whats wrong with you two! Its just 50 dead people we don’t even–”

In case you were wondering, yes, that was kind of how I felt about 9/11. Which, if you recall, set the Seventh Day Adventists off on another round of “end times panic.” This story was only written a few years after the event, and everyone was absolutely sure it was the end of the world.

Teenage!me understood that 9/11 changed a lot of things, but she didn’t necessarily understand that the loss of life was catastrophic. Teenage!me thought that 9/11 was kind of small potatoes compared to things that happened to other people, and she did not grasp why this should be any different.

The year I wrote this story was also the first time in my life I heard about any 9/11 conspiracy theories. I’m pretty sure I learned of their existence the summer after I wrote this story.

So that is why teenage!me is so callous about suicide bombers. It didn’t affect her, so she didn’t really care.

Jaimie shoves the paper under my nose.

Pope and President unite for new World wide religion Declaring Sunday as National Day of Worship.

This might take some explaining. Seventh Day Adventists believe that Christians only started worshiping on Sunday because emperor… Constantine? Wanted to combine pagan and Christian traditions in the hope of converting more people to his brand of Christianity. Thus Catholicism was born. I may be missing a few things because it has just been so long since I have studied it, but most Adventists I knew, at the time, were sure that the Pope was the antichrist.

Holly is confused as to why this Sunday Law is a big deal, which surprises her mother and sister. Jaimie pulls out a Bible and starts reading about Bible prophecy.

Here, if you recall, is the entire reason I wrote this story. I needed to find out how end time prophecy went, exactly. Alas, by the time I needed this story completed (Christmas), I still hadn’t figured it out. I also did not want to write a book that got so bogged down in theology that the story was practically unreadable. And so I left it vague.

Though it is vague, this part describes… pretty much exactly how I felt when I began to study for myself what Adventists believe about the time of the end.

“Don’t you get it Holly?” Jaimie asks excitedly, “its the mark of the beast! The end is finally coming!”

“Huh?”

Teenage!me did not understand.

……..

We study long into the hours of the night, and I still don’t understand much of it.

I kind of want to repeat this. This is how I spent the entirety of my time at Academy. I studied so hard….only to wind up more and more confused.

“So…basically the sabbath is God’s day of rest. Ok, fine. And its his so called ‘seal’ because it has all the parts of a seal, so in the end times, there gonna make a law that says all must worship on Sunday or die, and that’s the mark of the beast?”

“Yup.”

“So…. how does this work again??”

What is Holly talking about when she says, “it has all the parts of a seal?”

Taken from Google:

Let’s define a seal. The seal of a king contains three things, first the name, second his title or claim to authority, and thirdly, the region of his rule.

Now, let’s look at the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20:8-11

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not this Sabbath commandment contains all 3 components of a seal. I personally think it’s a bit of a stretch.

Nevertheless, that is what Holly is talking about.

Teenage!me believed in the importance of Sabbath observance. Teenage!me could even believe it was the seal of God. Teenage!me had a very hard time stretching this to believe that the Sabbath was the seal of God in the last days. Holly’s reaction is teenage!me’s reaction: confusion. To my secular friend who read that and went, “what the fuck was she talking about?” Teenage!Me didn’t know, either.

Instead of answering Holly’s question as to how the hell all of this Biblical numerology works, Jaimie moves on to scare tactics.

Jaimie sighs, “Holly, think about credit cards. Most stores actually require to use them nowadays, they could easily refuse to let you buy stuff just because you worship on Saturday if they can figure out who you are.”

I am honestly not sure if teenage!me was trying to do some world building, or if she honestly thought that that’s the way the world worked. I doubt it was the latter. Teenage!me had gone shopping enough to know that cash was still usable. I think teenage!me was trying to imagine a world in the near future where the use of credit cards would become more prominent, with cash being used less and less frequently. Teenage!me read a lot of books set in the near future, and some of those books may have given her the idea that that was where the world was heading.

Or she stuck this in for narrative convenience, I don’t know.

Holly’s mom makes some kind of comment about them being in jail, and Holly has a nice panic attack.

Suddenly, I’m scared. Whenever I looked to the future, the last days, I either was afraid Jesus would come and I would die,

Many many nights being terrified of the exact moments of Jesus’ coming. Why nights? Because when Jesus comes, it will be dark out. So, nights.

or I was afraid that it would happen too soon, before I got to really do anything.

I wanted Jesus to come, of course. But I also wanted to grow up first. I wasn’t the only one: Adventist children spend a lot of time wondering if they will ever grow up, get a career, have sex (sex was a big one. Everyone was scared they’d never get to have sex, because no one was sure if you could in heaven), and just generally be a grown up.

When I tell people I never expected to live to see my 30th birthday, they think I’m like, a childhood cancer survivor.

I always thought I could handle the trials and tribulations I would go through, I just never thought I would be able to handle the precise moment Jesus arrived.

I was never as scared of the tribulation as some were. I was more scared of Jesus.

But now, I am scared. Scared of what I know I will have to go through.

Holly is scared, because teenage!me realizes she would probably be a little scared as it’s actually happening.

And what about my baby??? If it dies before its born, will God be merciful enough to restore it to me?? questions race through my brain.

The Bible doesn’t actually say that babies go to heaven, so Adventists aren’t really sure what happens to unborn babies. (Or born ones, actually, come to that.) I have heard it said that if the baby’s mother is saved, the baby will be given to her when she gets to heaven. If, however, the baby’s mother is not saved, then it will be as if that baby never existed.

In case that sounds horrifying to you, try imagining what would happen if, on resurrection morning, all the unborn babies were to show up. Given how many pregnancies end in miscarriage before the woman even knows she is pregnant, I imagine it wouldn’t take long for that number to be in the thousands, if not hundred thousands. Those babies could very easily outnumber the adults, and then what?

“Yes, according to Me, your God, every single woman over the age of 18 must take 30 babies to raise. Because Heaven is swamped.”

So, yes, it is kind of horrifying, but at the same time, it kind of makes more logical sense than “all dead fetuses and babies go to heaven.”

That is why Holly is scared that she may lose her baby and never see it again. Just because something is said does not make it true. Holly is worried God will perform a divine abortion.

Holly and her mom and sister decide to flee the country. They decide they are going to go to the Dominican Republic as missionaries.

Adventists believe that Sunday laws will be a world wide thing, however, it will start with America.

“Sounds nice mom,” Jaimie said, “but where? And are they even gonna let us out of the country without killing us first?”

Slow down there Jaimie. Even as a teenager, I was pretty sure they weren’t going to start with the death penalty.

The family prays, and mom suggests they all go to bed. Seriously? You’re about to be killed for your faith, and your best idea is to….sleep on it.

Teenage!me YOU’RE A FUCKING IDIOT.

Then we get this paragraph and I’d like to go back in time and beat teenage!Me’s head against the wall. How many calories do you burn banging someone else’s head against a wall?

“Hello?……yes, hi…..yeah, were going on a mission trip to Dominican Republic…..tonight?? how are we going to??……..ok. Thank you so much.” mom hangs up the phone. “Guess what? A friend of mine who owns his own private air plane is going to take us to Dominican Republic!”

How did she manage that? No seriously. Holly’s mom acts like she knows things the others don’t, and at the end…we still don’t get to find out.

Mom tells Holly that her friend knows that they’re not going to confiscate Sabbath keepers’ passports till tomorrow morning–hang on, the law just got announced. It hasn’t had time to go into effect yet.

The government in this book moves swiftly, efficiently, and without any paperwork.

Clearly this story does not take place in America.

“Mom,” Jaimie says urgently, “we don’t even have passports!

“Don’t worry about it.” mom says.

“Are we going to get them?” I ask

Mom glares at me, “Leave it Holly!” she snaps.

Jaimie and I go upstairs to pack.

Because if you take a private airplane you get to avoid customs? I guess?

I think teenage!me had it in her head that the mother knew something Holly didn’t….but I never said what it was, and I have long forgotten it now.

Also, why are they wasting their time packing? I get that they probably have some time before their flight leaves, but seriously, they should take ten minutes or less to gather up essentials. This isn’t like it was in teenage!Merikay’s story where the characters had plenty of time to pack, where packing made sense. This family is in a hurry.

We have all our stuff packed and ready to go when there is a knock at the door. I run to the window and peak through the curtains. I gasp, “Police! Mom, Jaimie! Police! Were gonna die were gonna die were gonna die I’m gonna die I’m gonna die! My baby! Mom! My baby!”

I collapse onto the couch in a heap of sobs. I’m so scared, God, I’m so scared!!!

“Holly, shut up!

Yes, teenage!me knew this was over the top. This was her definition of comedy.

Mom tells Jaimie to take her sister, go to their room, and lock the door. Holly has what adult!me realizes is a panic attack. Teenage!me had them a lot.

Fortunately, the characters aren’t in any danger, at least, not yet. This is the part where teenage!me remembered she was trying to check off items on a check list of end times events. Teenage!me suddenly realized she’d forgotten about all the diseases.

Luke 21:11

There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Teenage!me also forgot about the earthquakes and famines. Teenage!me may not have had a complete checklist.

So that is why this virus is randomly included and never referred to again. Because End Times Checklist.

And because she wanted to include a scene where the family got all paranoid and shit for nothing. Which could have worked…. if  Holly wasn’t so over the top.

As mom drives them to the airport, a cop car pulls her over.

Well. That was fast.

Anyway, this was the part where I decided these characters had to have a last name. So I picked a random word out of a Spanish dictionary and that is why family’s last name is “Jacaranda.” Near as I can figure, it means “flowering tree.”

The officer asks mom where they are going at this time of night. Mom says that this just so happens to be the only time her pilot is available… in the middle of the night, apparently.

I know teenage!me didn’t exactly say so, but less than an hour ago, it was midafternoon. Midafternoon, the middle of the night…. not much difference, so we’ll just move on.

Anyway, the police officer asks if they are Seventh Day Adventists, shows them a warrant he has for their arrest, and proceeds to arrest them.

The officer grunts, hands her a piece of paper and explains, “we have warrants to arrest all SDA church members. We pulled up the lists, your name was on them, and your license plate number is on the records. Now I want you all out of the car right now with your hands up!”

Teenage!me never said this, but teenage!me was thinking that the police officers pulled up the local Seventh Day Adventist church records and got their names off of that.

Ok, fine. I can roll with that. But why, oh why would that list have their license plate number? I mean, I get that it’s possible to find the license plate number, but the law just got announced yesterday. It takes time to go through the list, figure out who has a car, run the names, get the license plate numbers, then track them down.

I’ve already talked about what a nightmare it would be to enforce Sunday Laws. One of these days I ought to get around to posting how hard it would be to actually get around to persecuting Seventh Day Adventists. It would be a major headache. Church records are, at best, grossly overinflated.

Holly doesn’t get arrested with her mom and sister, because her name has been removed from the church records because of her pregnancy.

Holly starts to protest, to say that of course she is a Seventh Day Adventist, but a small voice inside tells her she should shut the fuck up.

“Look, kid,” the female officer says, “I’m sorry about your mom and your sister, but they broke the law, and you know that there are consequences.”

Well, this is kinda true….

Then we have this weird part where Holly’s mom shouts at her to “KTF,” whatever the fuck that means. Seriously this was never a thing my friends and I said to each other.

Holly asks what’s going to happen to her, and teenage!me had more compassionate ideas than teenage!Merikay had about what happens to the children of Sabbath keepers.

“We’ve arranged for you to stay with a family somewhere who has offered to take in kids like you who belong to Adventist families but aren’t Adventist themselves. Get your stuff, put it in my car, and lets go.”

The law only just got announced yesterday. How have they had time to set all this up? They’ve clearly been planning this for a long time, and they’ve managed to keep such plans a complete and total secret, all while setting up an infrastructure to deal with the logistics of Sunday Laws and persecuting Adventists.

There’s no way in hell this story takes place in America. Our government would have this secret leaked in a week.

KTF??? what does that mean?

When I reread this as an adult last month, this was my question too. KTF? Kill Tommy Farris? Keep Taking Fluoxetine?

Holly tells us that the police drive for what feels like 5 hours, but is really only 30 minutes. I can’t tell if she means that she feels like it took a long time, or if it actually took them 5 hours to make a 30 minute trip.

Holly is taken to Mrs. Gladstone’s house. Mrs. Gladstone, in teenage!me’s head, is a foster mother who has specifically offered to take in children of SDA parents who are being persecuted. Teenage!me apparently thought something like this could be setup overnight.

The woman picks up 2 of my bags and I grab 4. she leads me upstairs to a room with another girl already sleeping in one of the beds.

Wait…. how many bags did Holly pack? God, no wonder they got caught by the police! She tried to take the whole house with her!

“Here.” she whispers, “get some sleep, you can unpack in the morning. I’ll bring up the rest of your stuff.” and she tiptoed back and closed the door.

Oh my god, you mean there’s more? Teenage!me had a tendency to overpack, but seriously?

KTF, what does that mean?? my mind flashes back to a year ago when Tori is moving away. I have just told her about my dabbling with the Satanist church. We are sitting in my bedroom on the bed. Tori is speaking;

“I guess, what I’m offering you is, keep the faith.”

something clicked. Keep the faith. A tear slides down my cheeks. I love you mom.

Keep the Faith.

I will.

Mercifully, the chapter ends here.

No seriously, why couldn’t Jaimie and Mom say that in front of the police officers? It’s not like it’s a secret that the mom would want the daughter to keep the faith she was raised in, and it’s not like the mom is trying to get across a secret message.

Speaking of which, the police are also unconcerned about the meaning of “KTF.” This is the type of government that regularly hands out the death penalty to Sabbath keepers (even in states that do not have the death penalty….). Aren’t they a little concerned about what secret messages the Adventists might be passing along?

Oh never mind.

 

 

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