A Mountain To Climb Chapter 10: She Did

Last week, we left off with the medic being unable to find Pearl’s pulse. What happened? Did she lose consciousness and die? Can you be alive without a pulse? For how long?

These questions will not be answered in this book. Also, I lied, because this isn’t the chapter where we find out if Pearl’s alive. I keep forgetting that the author keeps switching perspective.

Which, to her credit, is done well. The author has a good sense of timing and pacing, and knows where to end her chapters and where to place the cliffhanger. I can not say the same for a lot of other Christian books, and I want to note that this is done well.

Back at Caribbean Training College the prayers continued. Never had the teachers seen anything like it. Students were making wrongs right, becoming reconciled to each other and the faculty. There was no loud, boisterous talking, no foolish jesting, just the constant pleading, “Please save Pearl’s leg and make her well, if it is Thy will.”

We are meant to see this as a time of spiritual revival…. this doesn’t work for me. Students are not making wrongs right because they are being convicted that they have done wrong. They are making wrongs right because they are scared that if they don’t, they will be the ones responsible for, at best, Pearl losing a leg. Whenever they see Pearl afterward, they would see her lost leg, a constant reminder of the sin they forgot to confess.

So no, I don’t find this inspiring, I find it horrifying. What kind of a monster are they praying to?

Anyway, we are told that at this point, Pearl has been in the hospital for 3 months. Seems like an important detail to have left out.

Arthur is meeting up with some of the other men under a tree in the hills to pray for Pear.

“I can’t feel that it’s God’s will for Pearl to become a cripple,”Aaron said. “This experience is probably for us as much as for Pearl.”

Yes. God gave Pearl this experience to teach the students a lesson. That is not at all horrifying. And yet, it is common for an Adventist, and possibly even a non SDA Christian, to think this way.

“I’m sure there’s a lesson in it for us,” Arthur agreed. “It seems as if the students are closer to God now than they ever were during the Week of Prayer.”

No, no they are not. The students are praying under duress. They feel like, if they do not get closer to God, their friend will not be healed.

If I put a gun to your best friend’s head, (let’s call your best friend Jane), and tell you that if you become my best friend, if you make me your closest confidant, I won’t shoot Jane, what am I doing? Are you going to become my best friend? Are you going to make me your closest confidant? Well, sure….until I take the gun away from Jane’s head. Then what?

But in that scenario, you weren’t really my best friend. You were only pretending to be so I wouldn’t shoot Jane in the face.

And so not only does this tactic not work, it only pretends to work temporarily.

And any God who would require this sort of thing out of his followers is not a deity I could worship. Because this kind of God is an asshole. Actually, asshole is too nice a word for that, but set it aside.

Arthur says that maybe the students didn’t bare their souls enough toward God during the week of prayer that happened like 6-9 months ago, and he stops short of saying that that’s why this is happening….

Not even the author wants to finish that thought. Instead we get this.

The men read several promises from the Bible; then they knelt for prayer. When they had finished, each looked at the others with awed expressions.

I highlighted this because it made me snicker. Because I am 12.

I get that it can be hard to portray a religious experience in writing. So for the record, I’m glad the author doesn’t try. That being said… this doesn’t work for me. Why were they looking at each other with awed expressions? What were they feeling? What did they experience?

I have always said that it would be better to not attempt to do this than to try to do this and fail, so I will not knock the author too much. I’d rather be a little bit confused than sit here cringing at every sentence, which is what usually ends up happening because usually authors who try to describe a religious experience end up doing it badly. Usually I give points for trying, but in this case, I give points for not trying.

Then we get….this.

Arthur was the first to speak. “Pearl will not have the operation, I’m sure. I know the Lord has heard us, for just now He told me so.”

Ah yes. “God” told me many things, too. Not all of them turned out to actually be true.

Reuel cut in eagerly, “I feel the same way. I’m sure God spoke to me just now. Pearl will get better.”

“And I have had the same experience,” Victor added.

“I have too.” Harvey nodded his head as if to assure himself that he really had heard an answer from the Lord.

Reuben didn’t speak for several seconds. The others waited. When at last he spoke, it was a whisper. “Our prayers have been answered.”

Do you see what’s happening here? Let me spell it out for you: nobody wants to admit that the Lord didn’t speak to them, so they’re all just agreeing with each other.  This is called “Group think.” As I no longer have my psychology textbook with me, here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

Now, it is possible that each of the men wanted so badly for Pearl to be healed that they believed God told them she would be. But I think it far more likely that Arthur wanted very badly for Pearl to be healed, and he convinced himself that God told him she would be.

Nobody wanted to disagree with Arthur. Not only that, nobody wanted to be the odd man out. Nobody wanted to admit that God hadn’t spoken to him, because that could make for some awkward conversation. It could result in him being ostracized from the group. It could lead to rumors starting that the person in question hadn’t confessed all his sins, which would then start rumors about what exactly those sins could be.

And so no one says anything.

All this, of course, is assuming that this event actually happened as described. In reality it may have played out differently. But I am not concerned at this moment with what actually happened. I am only concerned with reviewing this book. I’m not going to try and speculate too much on what really happened. Not yet, anyway.

The boys decide to go tell the others, but then Aaron says that hey, maybe we should stop and thank Jesus for saving Pearl’s leg and life. Makes sense.

They all dropped to their knees again, this time to offer quite a different prayer.

When they get up, someone asks what time it is. It’s 11:30.

“Just about 20 minutes ago we all had the conviction that God had heard and answered our prayers. That was the very hour scheduled for the operation.”

11:00, 11:10….. pretty much the same time, right? Sure. I’ll allow it.

“Let’s tell the rest of the students, then meet in the chapel at 12 for a praise service.”

They’re….gonna hold a praise service…without first figuring out if they’re right. What….what…. that is not the way it happened at my academy.

The students all eat dinner, and then thank the cook for the excellent food. This makes the cook’s day, and is a very nice gesture.

Arthur, Aaron, and Victor decide to try and visit Pearl in the hospital. The principal gives the ok, and they all go. On the way, the principal tells them that he is as positive as Arthur is that Pearl won’t have had the operation. Oh boy. It’s one thing for the students to delude themselves, but the teachers should be a little more reserved.

They reach the hospital and ask at the front desk if they can see Pearl.

“I’m sorry, but Pearl had an operation this morning, and I’m sure she isn’t awake yet. No, you won’t be able to see her.”

What?! What is… is… is this a plot twist? Is this not actually going to be the predictable outcome I thought it would?

Tune in next week to hopefully find out.



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