A Mountain To Climb Chapter 15: A Mutual Arrangement

We last left off with Arthur having proposed to Pearl. Instead of saying “yes” or “no,” Pearl has said, “whoa Arthur, slow down.” She then mentions offhand that her mother will never approve. Instead of respecting Pearl’s wishes to slow down, he decides that this means he must win the approval of Mrs. Lindsey. That is what this chapter is about. It’s a rather old idea that you should try and get the parents’ blessing when you marry their daughter. Nevertheless, it is still in existence in Adventist communities today.

And so the author does not mean for us to take this chapter as “how things were in the 1930s.” We are meant to see this as the ideal model for today. (“Today” being the 1970s rather than the 2010s, but still.)

At school, Arthur was doing some mountain climbing of his own. He organized a one man campaign to win the approval of Pearl’s mother.

Everything in life is a mountain. EVERYTHING. So why the hell did Pearl have to pray for one?

Arthur goes over to Mrs. Lindsey’s house and asks if she has anything that needs fixing. Remember, he built a lot of the buildings on campus, so he probably has quite a bit of experience. Mrs. Lindsey has Arthur fix the broken shutters, and when she asks how much she owes him, Arthur refuses to take any money.

After he leaves, Mrs. Lindsey picks up one of her cats and starts talking to it.

“I wonder if he thinks I was born yesterday? He’s out to win Pearl and I know it full well. Hmph! He might just as well save his efforts. She has her schooling to finish, and I’ll see that she does.”

Putting the cat back down on the step, she went inside the house. “And that’s that!” The cat stretched out full length and was soon asleep.”

For those of you who may have spent the entirety of this chapter wondering why Pearl has to choose between Arthur and school it is because the school will not allow her to continue to be a student while she is married. We do not get told this until after Pearl makes her decision, which is probably done because the author doesn’t want us to notice that Arthur is literally asking Pearl to choose between him and her education.

I have been trying, despite what it looks like, to respect that things were different in that time and in that place… but surely there had to be men in existence who weren’t giant walking dicks? I mean, what about all those talents Pearl had that God wanted her to go to school to develop? We never did learn what these talents are, but they exist, what about them?

There had to be men in existence who wouldn’t force Pearl to choose between them and an education. There had to be men in existence who would wait as long as it took for Pearl to finish her schooling. If Arthur is not willing to wait for her, he is not worthy of her.

In any case, Arthur continues to visit Pearl every Sabbath, then on Sunday he does work for Pearl’s mother. We can see that he’s slowly winning her over.

“Just where is all this going to end?” [Mrs. Lindsey] said to the cat. “He’s a nice young man.” She stopped short. “I will not be persuaded. School for Pearl, and that’s that!”

I understand where Mrs. Lindsey is coming from. How on earth she can see Arthur as anything but a dick is a credit to her character… At some point, though, she needs to let Pearl make her own decisions.

Next, Arthur takes Mrs. Lindsay on a walk. He arranged ahead of time for Alice to cover Mrs. Lindsay at the telephone exchange, and he did it covertly because he knew Mrs. Lindsay never would have agreed if he’d talked to her about it beforehand.

If he honestly wanted to surprise Mrs. Lindsey that would be one thing…. but like, that’s not the reason he states. And I’m not sure what to make of that.

Arthur tells Mrs. Lindsey a story about a room mate he had.

“He wanted to see if he could build up a credit in the office, so he began skipping meals. One day he was so weak he couldn’t get out of bed. Some of us brought him food, but by this time his stomach rebelled, and they had to take him to the hospital….he told me he was going to quit the nonsense and eat right when he got back to the school.”

“Well, did he?” [Mrs. Lindsey] asked.

“No,” Arthur said softly. “When he came back, we buried him in the school cemetery.”

It’s unclear if he died because of this first incident, or if there were multiple incidents where he stopped eating.

I wanted to highlight this story because it is similar to a story my grandmother told me about her time at Academy, which isn’t college, but on Planet Adventist the two are very nearly the same thing.

“One day,” grandma told me, “the students at Adelphian Academy were refusing to eat. I don’t remember what exactly they were protesting, but they were protesting something. And so the principal called all the students into his office, one by one, and asked, ‘why didn’t you go to supper?’

And I told him, ‘I never eat supper. I can’t afford it. I eat two meals a day, and I take a piece of fruit from lunch, and my room mate takes a piece of fruit from lunch, and we put them together to make fruit salad. And that is our dinner.’

Well,” she said. “The principal was surprised at exactly how many people were telling him exactly that. And so that is why, Young Abby, it is a rule at your boarding academy that you pay for all meals regardless of whether or not you eat them. Because we don’t want you starving yourself.”

Adventist schools are expensive. Adventist college is especially expensive. In some institutions, tithe is a requirement, which would deplete funds further.

If I were Mrs. Lindsey, I would be seriously questioning the integrity of the school at this point. I get that college is different from Academy, but still, if this college is so expensive that this man didn’t feel he could afford to eat, there’s something wrong with the college. Especially a Christian college. What did Jesus have to say about feeding the poor, again?

We are told that it was the student’s fault for “trying to save up a credit in the office,” but I wonder why he would have been doing that? I don’t know, maybe he felt he couldn’t afford school clothes? Poverty is a bitch.

Mrs. Lindsey, instead, tells Arthur that that should be a lesson to him to eat all his meals. Arthur reassures her on that point, and I can’t help but think that he is coming from a place of privilege if he thinks that eating meals is a choice. The fact that I also come from this same place of privilege is entirely beside the point.

One day, Mrs. Lindsey tells Arthur that the doctor is going to allow Pearl to come home for Christmas.

“Of course she’ll be in a wheel chair,” Mrs. Lindsey said. “She still can’t put weight on that troublesome leg. But at least it’s looking more nearly like a leg should.”

It’s about time we got a look at Pearl’s progress. It’s nice to see that she is progressing, and I have serious doubts that a divinely ordained miracle would take so long to happen. Maybe the students didn’t pray hard enough?

Arthur smiled at the news. Even though Pearl reminded him that her mother wouldn’t approve, whenever he brought up the subject of marriage, he hoped his campaign of the past few weeks would pay off.

We are supposed to see all this scheming to win Mrs. Lindsay as sweet and persistent. I think Arthur needs to back off until Pearl finishes her education. It sounds like Mrs. Lindsey isn’t against Arthur, she just wants him to wait a while. As well she should. Any man not willing to wait for Pearl to finish school is not worthy of Pearl.

Arthur tells Mrs. Lindsey he wants to get a group of students together and plan a surprise for Pearl. They get together, and present a plan to Mrs. Lindsey, who approves. We are not, at this time, told what the plan is exactly, and this is good. That’s good writing. If it’s all going to go off without a hitch, we shouldn’t know of the plan yet. We should be finding it out right along with Pearl, and we do. Props to the author, this is done well.

I’ve already said that Ms. Maxson has a good sense of pacing. Pity she was never in an environment that would have allowed her to develop this talent to write real books.

Later, back in his room, Arthur grinned his approval of Mrs. Lindsay’s changed attitude. “I’ll win them both yet,” he promised himself.

The chapter ends here. I almost feel like Arthur should be laughing maniacally at this point while twirling his mustache. I also have to wonder if Arthur has truly won over Pearl yet, if he is feeling like he has to win them “both.”

It is stated later that Arthur and Pearl don’t need Pearl’s mom’s approval to get married, but that they want it anyway. Part of this may be because they truly don’t want to upset Mrs. Lindsay, but part of it is that Ellen White thinks that if your parents don’t approve of your potential mate, you shouldn’t marry them.

“Should parents,” you ask, “select a companion without regard to the mind or feelings of son or daughter?” I put the question  to  you  as  it  should  be:  Should  a  son  or  daughter  select  a  companion   without  first  consulting  the  parents,  when  such  a  step  must  materially  affect  the  happiness  of  parents  if  they  have  any  affection  for  their  children?  And  should  that  child,  notwithstanding  the  counsel  and  entreaties  of  his  parents,  persist  in  following  his  own  course?  I  answer decidedly: No; not if he never marries. “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”[Exodus 20:12] Here is a commandment with a
promise which the Lord will surely fulfil to those who obey. Wise parents will never select companions for their children without respect to their wishes.

Counsels on Courtship and Marriage, p. 23

 

And so, even though technically speaking, Arthur doesn’t need Mrs. Lindsay’s blessing to marry Pearl, he and Pearl still feel they need to have it. What I think Mrs. Lindsay ought to do is sit down with Pearl and Arthur, discuss the consequences of forgoing an education, and pleading with Arthur to wait for Pearl. Or at least talk to her daughter about it without Arthur there.

It matters a little less for Pearl, since she is able to get a job without a college degree. But what about other women who may get trapped in bad marriages because they had to sacrifice the education for the marriage? It is not always apparent whether or not a marriage will be good or bad at the start, and without an education, a woman could very easily find herself trapped.

And so I very much hope that there have been a lot of changes at this school since 1939.

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The Shack Chapter 3: The Tipping Point

 

We last left off with Mack having a conversation with his 2 daughters, Missy and Kate. Mack discussed the Multnomah Princess story, comparing the sacrifice of the Princess to the sacrifice of Jesus. He has just reassured his daughters that the god figure in these stories is totally benevolent, despite the fact that he asks people to die. Why he couldn’t just save the people, especially in the princess story, is never explained.

We begin this chapter with 2 long paragraphs about just how large the woods in the area is. I’d consider it all repetitive and boring, except that it is important to the story because it emphasizes just how much woods there are to get lost in.

We are told that the next 3 days are filled with fun and activities. Hikes, go kart races, fishing, etc. The Phillipses meet two other families while camping and strike up a friendship. We get a few paragraphs of background information on these two families, which could have been cut from the novel. In fact, it is debatable if these people even need to be in the novel, since their sole purpose is to be around to answer questions after Missy disappears.

We get yet another montage of the group doing fun activities together, this time with the other 2 families joining in. It reads like filler, and isn’t terribly interesting or relevant. Much of this could have been cut and the novel wouldn’t suffer.

After the kids go to bed, the adults sit around the campfire and talk. This being a Christian novel, they of course eventually wind up talking about God. The topic comes up when Mack is talking about his wife, Nan. We get a long paragraph about Nan and how great she is.  Mack mentions that Nan speaks at conferences, and when asked what she speaks about, Mack replies,

“She helps people think through their relationship with God in the face of their own death.”

What does that even mean? I think I know what this is referring to because I speak fluent Christianese.  Would a non Christian who picked up this novel know what this means? I’d be interested in knowing the answer to that.

One of the people, Jesse, asks Mack to elucidate.

“I guess she thinks about God differently than most folks,” [said Mackenzie] “She even calls him Papa because of the closeness of their relationship, if that makes sense.”

This is not an explanation. This tells us nothing about how Nan helps people dying think about their relationship to God. This instead tells us about Nan’s character. We do not need more telling about Nan’s character. But let that pass.

Mack, in this context is the unreliable narrator. He tells us that Nan thinks about God “differently than most people,” but then goes on to say that Nan thinks of God as her father–something that is not at all unique for Christians.

Unless the people Mack is talking to are from Planet Hide-Under-A-Rock, they know the basics of Christianity. At least here in the States it’s just one of those things you pick up on. And one of those basics is that God is referred to as a father. Whether or not this makes sense in a philosophical sense is open to discussion. However, these two families would absolutely understand the “god our father” reference. It would both make sense to them and not make Nan seem any different than most other Christians out there.

In any case, Mack goes on to say that he’s not comfortable calling God “Papa” because it feels too personal. We’re supposed to see this as a bad thing, because fundy Christians believe that God is supposed to be personal.

But honestly, religion is such a personal thing for people that I can’t agree with that viewpoint. Some people feel that their relationship to God is more formal. Some want the relationship to feel less formal. There’s nothing wrong with either approach.

Then Mack lets slip that it’s easier for Nan to see God as a father because she had a good one, unlike him.

Yanno, I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that the only people who see God as someone more distant and formal are the people who are part of the jerky fathers club. In fact, many are quite enamored with the idea of God being a father because their earthly fathers were jerks. Many people who feel that their earthly fathers are just fine don’t feel they need a sky-daddy. And that’s fine.

That being said, comparing God the father to our earthly father isn’t an abnormal comparison, so maybe I’m being a bit nitpicky.

Sarah, one of the people he’s been talking to, probes gently at Mack’s statement. She asks him to explain, if he feels like it.

“I guess you could say he was not too wonderful. He died when I was just a kid, of natural causes.” Mack laughed, but the sound was empty. He looked at the two. “He drank himself to death.”

In the prologue, we were told that Mack, as a teenager, put “varmint poison” in all of his father’s booze bottles. Are we supposed to read this contradictory statement as Mack’s discomfort about the exact details of his father’s death? Or do doctors just refer to death by alcohol poisoning as “natural causes?” Is this bad writing, or is this really subtle back shadowing?

In any case, Sarah and Jesse express sympathy, and we are told Mack senses their sincerity.

There’s an interlude where the children burst in on them–apparently Josh (Mack’s teenage son) and Amber (Sarah’s teenage daughter) were, gasp, CAUGHT HOLDING HANDS! It’s silly and it’s cute and it breaks the tension.

After the kids go to bed, Mack starts packing what he can until he runs out of daylight. Then he sits around the campfire and thinks about how blessed he is as he drinks coffee. Do people actually drink coffee right before they go to bed? How do they sleep? Oh nevermind.

After a section break, Mack and the kids wake up. They eat a breakfast of “cold cereal and half and half” because Mack burned the pancakes. Sarah shows up with a burn kit, and Kate and Josh ask to go for one last canoe ride. Mack agrees, and Kate and Josh take off. They’re wearing life jackets when Mack comes to find them moments later. Kate stands up in the boat to wave to her father, which tips the canoe over.

Kate bobs to the surface quickly, but Josh doesn’t. Mack jumps into the water and finds that one of the straps on Josh’s life vest has been caught in the webbing of the canoe. Josh is panicking, so he’s not really helping himself. Mack can’t get the vest out of the webbing, so he flips the canoe over, which somehow allows Josh to bob to the surface.

Mack administers rescue breaths and chest compressions. Josh soon starts to vomit “water and breakfast.”

The chapter ends with this ominous statement.

A potential crisis had been averted. Or so Mack thought.

Which is some seriously clunky foreshadowing.

This chapter was rather short because most of it was filler. I feel like I cut out a lot of unnecessary text. I really do think this book could be strengthened if it had been in the hands of a decent editor. This book was published by a Christian publishing company, which probably explains it. Christian media does tend to have a lower quality standard. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it does seem to be. If this book had been published by a secular publishing company, we’d not only see more rigorous editing, we’d see more nuance. And yeah, I do think a secular publishing company might have given this book a fighting chance if it thought the writing was good enough.

Because even people who might not consider themselves to be Christians would find it very interesting if a man met God in a shack in the woods. They might not be up for the preaching, and they’d have serious problems with the way Missy’s death is handled, but it could still be a book that would speak to them.

Even as an atheist, I think this could be an interesting storyline. As a Christian, I thought this book was “a good concept poorly executed.” As an atheist, so far, I think I agree.  This book is just not done well, and it could have been.

Next week we read chapter 4, in which we finally get to the main point or this story: Missy’s disappearance.

 

 

 

Wacky White Wednesday #16 Eating Meat Causes Cancer

Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene P. 74-

Many mothers who deplore the intemperance that exists everywhere, do not look deep enough to see the cause. Too often it may be traced to the home table. Many a mother, even among those who profess to be Christians, is daily setting before her household rich and highly seasoned food, which tempts the appetite and encourages overeating.

In some families, flesh-meats constitute the principal article of diet, and in consequence, the blood is filled with cancerous and scrofulous humors. Then when suffering and disease follow, Providence is charged with that which is the result of a wrong course. I repeat: intemperance begins at the table, and, with the majority, appetite is indulged until indulgence becomes second nature.

Whoever eats too much, or of food which is not healthful, is weakening his power to resist the clamors of other appetites and passions. Many parents, to avoid the task of patiently educating their children to habits of self-denial, indulge them in eating and drinking whenever they please. The desire to satisfy the taste and to gratify inclination does not lessen with the increase of years; and these indulged youth, as they grow up, are governed by impulse, slaves to appetite. When they take their place in society, and begin life for themselves, they are powerless to resist temptation. In the glutton, the tobacco-devotee, the wine-bibber, and the inebriate, we see the evil results of erroneous education and of self-indulgence.

A Mountain To Climb Chapter 14: Not All In A Minute

After Pearl’s miraculous recovery, the author turns her attention to the other main plot–Arthur and Pearl’s budding romance. Not one to let a little deathly illness interfere with his love for Pearl, Arthur comes to visit often.

Pearl wondered how Arthur got around the principal’s “puppy-love” rule, but she didn’t ask.

Allow me to posit a few theories:

  1. Pearl’s recent brush with death has made the principal a little lax where rule enforcement is concerned. This is understandable.
  2. As everyone knows, rules like this only apply to certain people. The faculty’s enforcement of rules about romance are absolutely enforced selectively. The rules are unlikely to be enforced as strictly when the student in question is popular, well liked, active in student organizations, and known for being particularly devout. Pearl, even before her accident, was all of the above. It’s plain to see that Arthur and Pearl had a bit of a romance going on even before Pearl’s horrid working conditions caught up with her, so even before this incident it is likely that this rule was already being selectively enforced where they were concerned. The principal was already turning a blind eye to Pearl and Arthur, and he sees every reason at this point to close his eyes completely.
  3. A little of both.

 

Or maybe the author thinks we’re supposed to think the hand of God is in it or something. I don’t know and I kind of don’t care.

Rosalind, Pearl’s dorm room mate, gives Pearl a book. We are told that Pearl is reading a lot, as there’s nothing else to do in the hospital.

Pearl’s friends kept her aware of what happened on the campus. The boys told of pillow fights they had had when the dean wasn’t around… “One night, we were in the middle of a good pillow fight. Several of the fellows were in our room and we were really pelting each other. Victor had just thrown a fast one, when the door opened. Vic’s pillow hit the dean on the side of the head. He [the dean] was a good sport, though, and gave Victor a hard one in return. We all stood with our mouths open.”

“Yeah,” Victor said, “I caught the pillow and just stood there. Then the dean started to laugh. He told us he’d had quite a bit of practice at that game too. Then he said it was study period, and we’d better get back to work.”

“That’s what I like about him,” Arthur said. “He never comes in and bawls us out. But we always want to do what he says.”

“He’s a good dean,” Charles agreed.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this: I agree too. That does sound like a good dean. It was well known, in academy, that a good dean knew the difference between “something people are doing that is horribly wrong and I must stop it at once,” and “something people are doing that is technically against the rules and I have to stop it, but this thing is really quite harmless.”

It sounds like this particular dean might have that, so, yay for him.

Victor turned toward the girls. “All the exciting things seem to happen in the boys’ dorm. Don’t you girls ever do anything interesting?”

I feel like this is something the author asked Pearl as Pearl was telling her this story, and Pearl was like, “ummm” and had to really think of something.

“We have plenty of excitement all right,” Florence said. “The first time we had canned juice for Sabbath breakfast we saved the cans, and that night about a half an hour after lights-out, a group of us tiptoed down the end of the passageway, and at a signal, all of us rolled our cans down the hall. They really made a terrible clatter.”

I would like to take a moment to remind everybody that these are college students. This sounds more like something you’d hear about Academy students doing. (Except that Academy students don’t do this. We do strip poker instead.)

Also, I really don’t understand this prank. They rolled their cans down the hall and it was loud? Exciting? Fun?

For the record, nobody in our Academy dorm ever rolled cans down the hallway. I’m sure pillow fights were a thing, but I was never invited. I was also never invited to those strip poker parties either, but we’re getting off the subject.

One Sabbath afternoon before the regular visiting hour, Pearl was surprised to hear a knock at her door, and more surprised when Arthur entered…..After a few moments of small talk, Arthur took a deep breath and blurted out, “Pearl, I love you!”

He’s….never said this before? They’ve never talked about it? This is a big deal? Okay whatever.

Arthur explained that he had prayed for a long time for God to direct him to the right girl, the one he should marry.

All Adventist children are taught to pray like this from the minute they express interest in the opposite sex. I know people who prayed this prayer every day.  I never particularly prayed like this…instead I prayed things like “please let this horrid lecture on boys be over so I can go ride horses, Amen.”

“Thank you, Arthur, for your interest in me. But you know you can’t marry me. You’re going to be a worker for God, and you certainly can’t have an invalid wife on your hands.”

I get that this was probably the way they thought back then….but it doesn’t make it right. Who says one can’t work for God with “an invalid wife?”

“Pearl,” Arthur said earnestly, “I know you’ll get better. I’m sure you won’t be an invalid for life. You’ll walk again.”

I wonder if the author is aware of how this makes Arthur sound. He doesn’t say something like, “I don’t care if you’re disabled or not. I want you.” Instead he says, “I’m sure you’re not going to be chronically disabled your whole life.”

Ok, but, what if she is? Are you going to divorce her and say, “Sorry Pearl, I only married you because I thought God was going to heal you?”

“Bur Arthur, the doctor told me just this week that I’d never walk again without crutches. Can you imagine me walking down the aisle to the marriage altar on crutches?” Pearl said, giggling.

Your doctor also said your heart stopped beating despite the fact that you were still breathing. At this point, I would be extremely suspicious of anything those idiot “doctors” have to say to you.

“It makes no difference to me how you walk down the aisle. I want you to be my wife.”

YES. Thank you. THIS is the appropriate response. If the author had edited out Arthur’s earlier statement, this would come across as sweet. Instead it just comes across as damage control.

“I’ve been praying about this for a long time,” he said seriously. “I’m convinced that we are meant for each other.”

A pastor once preached, in a sermon, that sometimes God tells the man who he is supposed to marry before he tells the woman. He said that sometimes the man has to do a lot of convincing before the woman prays about it and realizes that yes, she and this guy who’s been stalking her are meant for each other. Praise the lord.

“Please, not so fast.” Pearl put up her hand. “I’ll have to do some praying about this too. Let’s not rush things. Besides, I have college to finish first.” She felt almost suffocated from the pressure of his words. She wanted some time to think, to pray about the situation.

You know what? Good for her. One of my readers noticed that Pearl has been pressured a lot in this book: her mother pressured her to leave a good job at Maracaibo, the Adventists who converted her pressured her to give up dancing, her pastor pressured her to leave another good job and go to College where she worked a shitty job in dangerous conditions, and now Arthur is pressuring her to get married. It’s about damn time Pearl dug in her heals and, while she hasn’t said no, she at least has said, “slow down.”

Good for you, honey.

“Well, I have one more year myself, but it certainly won’t hurt to plan.”

Dick. What about her college? Pearl is probably way behind in her schoolwork from being sick for so long.  Arthur here is also already assuming that Pearl has said yes. And she hasn’t. She hasn’t said “no,” but she has said, “slow down.” And Arthur takes this to mean, “ok, we’ll get married in a year.”

Pearl protests.

“I can’t make my mind up all in a minute. Besides, mother would never approve.”

Just then there’s a knock at the door, and Pearl is relieved to see Arthur go.

All through the afternoon Pearl only half listened to the students’ chatter, her thoughts being on Arthur’s declaration of love. Her heart wished it could be possible, but her mind knew it wasn’t…. she thought of her mother. “Poor dear,  she’s so afraid she’ll lose me to some young man. I know she’s lonely and needs me. But all these months I’ve been in the hospital she’s gotten along all right.”

Are we seriously hearing that the only reason Pearl is still single is because her mother is afraid she’ll lose her? Is this supposed to make us like Pearl’s mother?

Pearl argued back and forth in her mind, trying to deal with this new mountain Arthur had brought.

See? No need to pray for mountains. They will come naturally. Especially if you’re going to just randomly decide “this thing is a mountain.”

Will Pearl choose Arthur, or school? We’ll find out in the next 3 chapters. After this post, there are only 3 more chapters and an epilogue to go. The interesting part is over, but there’s still plenty of awful to get through.

 

 

The Shack Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The Gathering Dark

Sometime during the night an unexpected chinook blew through the valley, freeing the landscape fro the storm’s icy grip, except for those things that lay hidden in the deepest shadows.

Dear potential authors. When using slang, please be sensitive to the fact that some terms have more than one meaning. I was caught very off guard. According to the dictionary this term is correctly used, but still.

Nan and the kids come home, and Nan fusses over Mack’s injury, which pleases Mack greatly. Mack doesn’t tell Nan about the note.  On the one hand, if he still feels it’s a sick joke played by the neighbor kid, this makes sense. But we are supposed to get the impression that the note is from God (the mailman didn’t put it there, after all, and who else would have?). With that context, it makes no sense not to tell Nan about it.

Furthermore, this Great Sadness is Nan’s as well as Mack’s. So why is God only reaching out to Mack? Shoot, it sounds like he should reach out to Kate. Or smack Mack and Nan upside the head and tell them to see a therapist.

After some paragraphs about The Great Sadness, we are finally told exactly what The Great Sadness is. This reads like it is supposed to be a flashback, and props to the author for trying…. but it’s too long to just be a flashback. This is an infodump. It makes me wonder if there was a draft of this book where the explanation was 3 chapters and 5 paragraphs shorter.

The story of Missy’s disappearance is, unfortunately, not unlike others often told. It all happened during labor day weekend….Mack boldly decided to take the 3 younger children on a camping trip to Wallowa Lake in northeastern Oregon.

This reads like the start of a short explanation. It does not read like the start of a flashback wherein we are going to see things happening. So it’s jolting as a reader when the narrative switches courses a paragraph or two later.

At one point in the confusion, Mack decided he needed a break and settled himself in his daddy chair after shooing off Judas, the family cat. He was about to turn on the tube when Missy came running in, holding her little Plexiglas box.

“Can I take my insect collection camping with us?” Asked Missy.

“You want to take your bugs along?” Grunted Mack, not paying her much mind.

Nan comes in and tells Missy that her insect collection will be much safer if left at home. Mack intends to free the bugs, you see.

“Grrrrr” growled Missy, but knowing the battle was lost, she picked up her box and left.

Finally, after everything is packed and ready, we are told about Nan giving the kids a lecture on not getting lost, not petting skunks, and remembering to brush their teeth. This would be a good bit of character development for Nan–if she were shown saying it. We are merely told she said it.

After some travel exposition (never my favorite part of the story), we are told that Mack and the children stop off at Multnomah falls. Mack buys Missy a coloring book and crayons, and disposable cameras for the two older children. Ha. Ha. Disposable cameras. Are they still around?

While there, Missy begs her daddy to tell her the story of the Multnomah princess. I looked it up, and this appears to be a real legend.

Here’s a summary: lots of Indians get sick. An old medicine man tells them that, in order to stop the sickness, a pure and innocent daughter of the chief had to sacrifice herself. The elders eventually decide they can’t bring themselves to ask someone to do it, especially as they are not 100% sure that this will please the Great Spirit.

When the chief’s daughter’s fiance falls ill, the daughter goes to the cliff and throws herself off. This pleases the Great Spirit, who heals all the people.

Her grief stricken father cried out to the Great Spirit, asking that her sacrifice would always be remembered. At that moment, water began to fall from the place where she had leaped, turning into a fine mist that fell at their feet, slowly forming a beautiful pool.

This sounds like the type of story one would tell in answer to the question “why is there a waterfall here?”

We are told that Missy really likes this story, and Mack loves it as well, because there are obvious parallels to Jesus.

But on this occasion Missy didn’t say a word when the story was finished. Instead, she immediately turned and headed for the van as if to say, “Okay, I am done here. Let’s get going.”

Foreshadow, CLUNK!

Mack drives the kids to Wallowa Lake, and they camp, and eat dinner, and watch the sunset. When Mack tucks the kids into bed, Missy asks her father why the princess had to die. It takes Mack a moment to realize what she’s talking about, then says,

“Honey, she didn’t have to die. She chose to die to save her people. They were very sick and she wanted them to be healed.”

I disagree with this. The Multnomah Princess did have to die. If she hadn’t chosen to sacrifice herself, she would have gotten the disease and died anyway.

But set that aside. This sort of thing is known as a Hobson’s Choice.

From Miriam-Wbester online:

Definition of Hobson’s choice

  1. 1 :  an apparently free choice when there is no real alternative

  2. 2 :  the necessity of accepting one of two or more equally objectionable alternatives

In other words, a Hobson’s Choice is a situation where you do not have a choice. If I put a gun to someone’s head and tell them to do something, that person is said not to have a choice. Replace “gun” with “sickness” and you begin to see what I mean.

Kate, Missy’s big sister, overhears the conversation and asks the next obvious question: Is this a true story?

Mack says he doesn’t know, but he thinks that the story was created to teach a lesson. He says that sometimes legends spring from real stories.

Kate then asks, if the story of the Multnomah Princess might not be true, does that mean the Jesus story is also a myth? Actually I can’t tell if it’s Kate or Missy who asks this. It doesn’t matter.

Mack says that of course the Jesus story isn’t a myth. In fact, as he speaks, he decides that the “Indian Princess” story is also true. Which makes no sense. Just because the Jesus myth isn’t a myth (according to your beliefs) doesn’t mean the Indian Princess story also isn’t a myth. In fact, it does read like myth to me, in part because it is so similar to a lot of stories about self sacrifice.

Missy asks if “Great Spirit” is the same as God. When I was a Christian, I wondered about this myself. I thought that perhaps the Indians did know of God, but they called him “Great Spirit.”  I personally had no issue with the fact that God perhaps revealed himself to the Native Americans just as he revealed himself to the ancient Israelites. I thought white missionaries to the Native Americans were, quite frankly, wasting their time.

Mack agrees with Christian!Abby, that “Great Spirit” is just another name for God. Atheist Abby is pretty sure she disagrees with this. Atheist Abby is quite sure that the Indians, like the ancient Israelites and modern Americans, created their own gods in their own ways.

Then Missy asks the question that everyone asks themselves at one point: Why is God so mean?

“The Great Spirit makes the princess jump off the cliff and makes Jesus die on a cross. That seems pretty mean to me.”

I don’t actually disagree with this, with one glaring exception: Jesus died knowing he would be resurrected. The princess did not get resurrected. Huge difference, and I might not expect a 6 year old to notice this, but I would expect Mack to notice.

Mack was struck. He wasn’t sure how to answer. At 6 1/2 years old, Missy was asking questions that wise people had wrestled with for centuries.

Yes, and some of these wise men even started asking them when they were 6. I was not one of them, but I know of people who were. Some people start questioning these things quite young. Some don’t.

Mack tells his daughter that God didn’t make Jesus die, Jesus chose to, just like the princess did. I will admit that there was less of a gun to Jesus’ head, because of that whole resurrection thing. The 6 year old in our story doesn’t pick up on this difference, and I don’t know enough 6 year olds in real life to know if this is something they would pick up on.

Then we get yet another clunky bit of foreshadowing.

“Daddy?”

“Yes Honey?”

“Will I ever have to jump off a cliff?”

Clunky foreshadowing aside, this is actually pretty realistic.

To his credit, Mack is horrified at the thought that this has been on his daughter’s mind. He quickly reassures her that neither he nor God would ever ask her to jump off a cliff. Which makes the events of the next chapter all the more horrifying: did God ask her to, um, die? Because that’s fucked up.

Mack kisses Missy and Kate and goes to bed. Kate talks about what good questions Missy asks, and Mack goes to brew some coffee. At night, before he goes to bed. Am I the only one who thinks that’s weird?

Next week, we will still be in “info dump mode,” even though it’s chapter 3.

Despite the quality of the writing, so far this hasn’t been altogether that bad. Yes there’s some cultural appropriation going on, no real sense of pacing, the plot is moving slowly, and the main character tries to justify some of God’s more horrific actions. But other than that, this book isn’t actually too bad.

I mean, I’ve definitely read worse.

Wacky White Wednesday #15: Moderate Drinking The School of Satan

We’ll talk in a later post about the Adventist stance on drinking and how I have personally found it harmful. For now, here is a quote from Ellen White about how even moderate drinking makes you a drunk.

Please note that Ellen White considers alcohol a stimulant for some reason. I have no idea why, because everyone knows that alcohol is the opposite thereof. Maybe it was an 1800s thing?

Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene p. 33 Paragraph 1

Moderate drinking is the school in which men are receiving an education for the drunkard’s career. So gradually does Satan lead away from the strongholds of temperance, so insidiously do wine and cider exert their influence upon the taste, that the highway to drunkenness is entered upon all unsuspectingly.

The taste for stimulants is cultivated; the nervous system is disordered; Satan keeps the mind in a fever of unrest; and the poor victim, imagining himself perfectly secure, goes on and on, until every barrier is broken down, every principle sacrificed. The strongest resolutions are undermined, and eternal interests are too weak to keep the debased appetite under the control of reason.

Some are never really drunk, but are always under the influence of mild intoxicants. They are feverish, unstable in mind, not really delirious, but as truly unbalanced; for the nobler powers of the mind are perverted.

Easter–Adventist Style

April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday

 

Easter wasn’t really a big deal in my family growing up. Part of this was because I grew up Adventist. Easter is always on a Sunday, and Adventists go to church only on Saturday.  So there was no big “Easter Service”  at church (though occasionally pastors would preach a sermon about the resurrection on the Saturday immediately before Easter Sunday.)

However, some years my mom would take me to a family gathering at my grandma’s house, where my cousins and I would have an Easter egg hunt and a big meal afterward. I got lots of candy, and even some money. (Sometimes the eggs we found had coins in them instead of candy.) The majority of my mom’s family isn’t Adventist, so this big family event was secular in nature, save for the prayer Grandma always had before meals.

It may sound strange to my readers, but I actually managed to make it to my early teens before I found out Easter had to do with anything religious. When I was a little child, Easter had more to do with bunnies and eggs than Jesus and the resurrection. In fact, I think I discovered the Christian meaning of Easter when I read some feel good story on the internet!

Why didn’t I know that Easter had to do with the resurrection? I’m not sure. Maybe I just never gave it much thought. Maybe I never made the connection that hey, we study the story of Jesus’ resurrection in Sabbath School right about the time we do that big family Easter egg hunt.

 

Like a lot of Adventists, my parents taught me that the Easter Bunny, like Santa Claus, wasn’t real. They told me that this was because they didn’t want to get in the habit of lying to me, but also, they realized that if they told me that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were real, I would find out the truth eventually anyway, and then what? Would I put Jesus in the same category as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, deciding that if my parents had lied to me about the existence of one then they had also lied to me about the existence of the other? They shuddered in horror at the thought.

So they told that it was actually Daddy that went outside and hid the eggs, but that he was pretending to be the Easter Bunny. Playing pretend was fun, wasn’t it? (My dad never actually wore a rabbit suit, for the record.)

My family was ok with me playing pretend, as long as I knew it was pretend.

So yeah, I don’t really have a whole lot to say about Easter as an Adventist.

How about the rest of you?