The Stand Chapter 6

Updates will now be sporadic. School has started.

We are back to Fran’s perspective, now. Fran, if you recall from a few weeks ago, had a fight with her boyfriend Jesse when she told him she was pregnant. She is now about to break the news to her father.

Interestingly, the miniseries doesn’t bring the pregnancy up at this time. The miniseries also doesn’t show her breakup with Jesse. My friend D says that Fran is pregnant in the miniseries, and I am interested to see how it comes up later. Will she not know for sure who the baby’s father is? That would definitely ramp up the tension a bit.

The other thing the mini series changes is that Fran’s mother is gone. I’m not entirely sure if she left or if she’s dead, but either way, the confrontation with Fran’s mother (that I am told is coming) is left out of both the mini series and the edited edition.

In any case, Fran’s dad is in the garden, weeding the peas. We get some background about Fran’s dad, who is about 64. Well, at least that’s a nice, long life. Peter Goldsmith talks while Fran nods.

I had to pull out the edited edition to double check, but a lot of the conversation between Fran and her father has been cut. Also a lot of background information about her father didn’t make it into the original. I think this is because, as Fran’s dad ultimately doesn’t survive, it’s not really necessary to give him so much backstory.

She loved it when her dad talked this way. It wasn’t a way he talked often, because the woman that was his wife and her mother would all but cut the tongue out of his head with the acid which could flow so quickly and freely from her own.

This paragraph is also not present in the edited edition.

There’s some talk about how hard work is necessary, and that Fran’s mother is a bit upset that

Changes had come for women, whether the women always liked them or not, and it was hard for Carla to get it through her head that Fran wasn’t down there at UNH husband-hunting.

All of which is left out of the edited edition.

In the edited edition, Fran and Mr. Goldsmith don’t really talk much until Fran reveals she’s pregnant.

Oh my god, they cut out a lot. Especially about Fran’s mother, who sounds like a real wet blanket.

Peter Goldsmith’s voice switched from topic to topic, mellow and soothing…she was lulled by it, as she always had been. She had come here to tell him something, but since earliest childhood she had often come to tell and stayed to listen.

Finally, Mr. Goldsmith asks his daughter what’s up. She tells him she’s pregnant.

Peter asks if this is a joke or a game, and if she’s really sure she’s pregnant. Fran begins to cry, and asks her father if he still likes her. He is puzzled by the question because of course he still likes his own daughter.

In the miniseries, the conversation they have in the garden is about her breakup with Jesse, and there’s no tears involved. If Fran is at all pregnant in the TV series, she does not mention it at this time.

Peter admits he’s not sure how to react, and asks if the baby is “that Jess’s.” Upon being informed that it is, and that Jess said he would either marry her or pay for an abortion, Fran’s father doesn’t seem too pleased.

“Marriage or abortion….he’s a regular 2 gun Sam.”

At least Fran’s father seems to believe that there are more than 2 options here.

Fran looked down at her hands…there was dirt in the small creases of her knuckles and dirt under the nails. A lady’s hands proclaim her habits, the mental mother spoke up. A pregnant daughter. I’ll have to resign my membership in the church. A lady’s hands–

Fuck the church, then, if they’re not going to be supportive.

In the introduction to this extended edition, King mentioned something about a confrontation with Fran’s mother. I think all this is setting up for that scene. Some of the stuff in this section about Fran’s mother is kept in, but some of it is not. I think it would’ve made sense to take out more of the bits about her mother if he also took out a confrontation.

Fran tells her father she was on birth control when it happened. Fran’s dad tells her he won’t blame her, then. Or either one of them.

“64 has a way of forgetting what 21 was like. So we won’t talk about blame.”

I like this.

“Your mother will have plenty to say about blame,” he said, “and I won’t stop her, but I won’t be with her. Do you understand that?”

Fran understands this better than I do. I happen to think someone has to protect their kid from the unreasonable parent.

Her father never tried to oppose her mother anymore. Not out loud. There was that acid tongue of hers. When she was opposed, it sometimes got out of control. And when it was out of control, she just might take up a notion to cut anyone with it and think of sorry too late to do the wounded much good.

This is also in both editions.

Peter asks Fran if shes’ going to marry Jesse. Fran says no, that they broke up, but not because of the baby. She’s struggling to figure out why they broke up. She keeps thinking of the saying, “marry in haste, repent at leisure.” And I agree. I think that if Fran is having hesitations or doubts, getting married would be a terrible idea.The fact that she can’t figure out why she’s having these hesitations or doubts is entirely beside the point. Sometimes our subconscious figures this shit out before our conscious mind does.

Fortunately, Fran’s father is able to help her verbalize a little better. He asks if Fran really trusts Jesse, and Fran realizes that no, she doesn’t trust him.

Fran then tells her father a story that was absolutely left out of the original edition. She and Jesse went to a poetry reading and she got the giggles and had to leave. Jesse, we are told, was mad.

I’m with Jesse on this one. I’d probably be pissed as well. In any case, Fran realizes that she and Jesse just aren’t compatible with each other and wouldn’t be happy together.

“What do you think of me getting an abortion?” Fran asked after a while.”

Peter Goldsmith tells Fran about how he felt watching his son, Freddie, dying in the hospital after a drunk driver caused an accident. He says that all he can think of when he thinks of abortion is poor little 7 day old 13 year old Freddie.

Then Peter Goldsmith says what he actually thinks about abortion:

Here is the way the line appears in the original edition:

“I think abortion’s too clean a name for it,” Peter Goldsmith said. “I told you I was an old man.”

Here’s the way this appears in the unedited version.

“I think abortion’s too clean a name for it,” Peter Goldsmith said….”I think it’s infanticide, pure and simple.”

We can speculate about why this was left out of the 1970s edition. I have been told that, back then, Christians were less pro-forced birth than they are now. This book may not be “Christian,” nevertheless, I have a very hard time believing that Christians aren’t the target audience of this book. I’m going to hazard a guess that King didn’t want to piss them off, so in the edited edition, which came out in 1978, he smoothed over the abortion discussion. By the time he was able to put a lot of the edited stuff back in in the early 1990s, the majority of Christians were very anti-abortion, so it made sense to have Fran’s father tell her that abortion is totally the same as killing an actual infant.

Which, by the way, it’s totally not. There’s a world of difference between aborting a potential baby and killing an actual baby.

But Freddie wasn’t a baby when he died, so I’m a tad confused as to how they’re linked together in Mr. Goldsmith’s mind.

It was almost understandable when I thought Freddie was a small infant, but a teenager? Abortion is infanticide because you can’t separate the death of your 13 year old teenager from that of a clump of cells? I’m really not seeing the comparison here.

In the edited edition, Fran’s father comes off as almost too perfect. In this unabridged edition, he comes off as….well, a well rounded character who is a flawed human being and in my opinion quite a bit less likeable.

Fran’s dad then says, “Life is cheap. Abortion makes it cheaper.” This is included in both editions, and if King was going to include this then I’m not really sure why he edited the above sentence.

I think I’ve given up trying to figure this out. Someone else can start speculating.

In order to talk about abortion, I kind of skipped over some stuff about Fran’s mother. Apparently she used to be just like Fran, going to baseball games, drinking beer….and then Freddie died. After that, we are told, her views on things became set in stone. As Peter Goldsmith put it, “she stopped growing.” She became rigid in her mindset and stopped evaluating her world view whenever she got new information.

“Your mother has been using the old yardstick all her life, and she can’t change now….Fran, she’s too old to change, but you are getting old enough to understand that.”

That’s what we’re told, but I’m not 100% sure that that’s what we’re shown. In this chapter, sure, it fits, but in a few chapters Fran will have a confrontation with her mother, before which we will be shown flashbacks of Mrs. Fran’s mom, and in my opinion what we are shown of her kind of goes beyond “too old to change.” But we’ll get there when we get there.

Fran tells her father that she has her own reasons for not wanting an abortion. The baby is part of her.

Ok. There it is. Frannie doesn’t want an abortion, she shouldn’t get one. Problem solved.

Peter Goldsmith asks Fran what she does want to do, and Fran responds that she wants to keep the child.

Peter Goldsmith doesn’t respond to this, and Fran asks if he is thinking about her education. Peter tells her he wasn’t, but this comes across as not quite the truth. Of course he is thinking about her education. Of course he is thinking about how best to support his daughter.

Mr. Goldsmith tells Fran she doesn’t need to make a decision about the baby just yet, and then Fran’s mom pulls up.

“I have to tell her,” Frannie said.

“Yes. But give it a day or 2, Frannie.”

Sure. Let’s wait 2 whole days to tell your mother and see if she doesn’t get mad that you waited so long to tell her. Be sure to inform your mother that you told your father first and then waited a few days, that’ll totally not piss her right the fuck off.

The chapter ends there, and I think this chapter was actually stronger in the edited edition. Part of this is because Peter Goldsmith did a lot less talking before Frannie broke the news that she was pregnant. In this edition, Peter goes on and on about a lot of stuff before Fran springs the news. That was a good thing to have cut, because it contributed nothing to the overall plot, and only developed the character of a man who dies pretty early on. It was completely and utterly pointless, the novel was stronger without it.

And, in my opinion, it was stronger without the ridiculously strong “abortion is infanticide” comparison.

The Shack Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Breakfast of Champions

These chapter titles have very little to do with the actual content of the chapters.

I would also like to note that we are at the halfway point. Thank God. I have to say, I’m not enjoying this book as much as I thought I would. At least the last book we did (A Mountain to Climb) was readable and had a good sense of pacing. This book just has a lot of filler.

When he reached his room, Mack discovered that his clothes, which he had left back in the car, were either folded on top of the dresser or hung in the open closet.

So, God put Mack’s clothes away, but couldn’t be bothered to put the clothes in the actual drawers?

To his amusement, he also found a Gideon Bible in the nightstand.

That is actually kind of amusing.

He opened the window wide to let the outside night flow freely in, something that Nan never tolerated at home because of her fear of spiders and anything else crawly and creepy.

Has nobody told Nan about window screens?

Mack made it through only a couple of verses before the Bible somehow left his hand, the light somehow turned off, someone kissed him on the cheek, and he was lifting gently off the ground into a flying dream.

At no point has Mack shown that he is ok with touchy-feely. God should not be kissing him right now. Other than that, I like this. I like that Mack falls asleep while he tries to read his Bible, and God just tucks him in. God’s not offended that Mack’s too tired to read. It’s nice characterization.

and he was lifting gently off the ground into a flying dream. Those who have never flown this way might think those who believe they do rather daft,

Um, what? No. No I have literally never thought that, and I don’t know anyone who has. Dreams about flying are a thing, and if you get those, well, honestly the only reaction I’d have is jealousy. Which is actually the end of that sentence:

Those who have never flown this way might think those who believe they do rather daft, but secretly they are probably at least a little envious.

It’s like, for some reason, the author feels the need to defend “flying dreams” to his audience.

He hadn’t had a flying dream in years, not since The Great Sadness had descended, but tonight Mack flew high into the starlit night, the air clear and cool but not uncomfortable. He soared above lakes and rivers, crossing an ocean coast and a number of reef rimmed islets.

As odd as it sounds, Mack had learned inside his dreams to fly lie this: to lift off the ground supported by nothing–no wings, no aircraft of any sort, just himself. beginning flights were usually limited to a few inches, due mostly to fear or, more accurately, a dread of falling. Stretching his flights to a foot or two and eventually higher increased his confidence, as did his discovery that crashing wasn’t painful at all but only a slow motion bounce. In time, he learned to ascend into the clouds, cover vast distances, and land gently.

Is this kind of thing even possible? Well I mean, of course it’s possible, but is it possible without any sort of training? What Mack describes here sounds less like a “flying dream” and more like “lucid dreaming.” Which is ridiculously hard to accomplish.

Either way, this all could have been cut. All that was necessary was to tell us that, “Mack dreamed he was flying.” We don’t need the dream described and we don’t need another paragraph after that about how Mack is a lucid dreamer.

Especially since the dream is about to turn into a nightmare, wherein Missy calls out for Mack to come save her, but he can’t. So that makes 3 paragraphs about this dream and it’s not really all that important. Mack wakes up with his heart racing, and an overwhelming feeling of despair and sadness.

Then he also spends 5 seconds wondering where he is. He’s not in his house, so where is he?

Then he remembered. He was still at the shack with those 3 interesting characters, all of whom thought they were God.

I’m not sure if the author is showing Mack having a normal human reaction, or if he is going for the “atheists know that God is god, they just won’t admit it” approach. Mack isn’t an atheist, but in this moment he is having doubts. Which would be a very normal reaction –if this was happening when he first met them. If, when he first met them, he asked them something that only God would know, to prove to himself that yes, this was really God, I would buy that. But this delayed reaction doesn’t really make sense.

Also, a few chapters ago these God people literally turned winter into spring. Or transported Mack to a parallel universe, or took him back in time. Or something. At the very least, something is going on here. If I am to buy that Mack is having doubts, his doubts would also have to take into account this information. If Mack doesn’t believe these 3 are God, I have to see him forming theories about what else they could possibly be. Mack could believe that these “Gods” are actually aliens. He could believe they’re time traveling humans from the future where technology has advanced. But you can’t just spring “these people who thought they were God” on the reader without Mack wondering how they on earth one pretends to be God while actually doing shit that at least looks like it could have a supernatural explanation.

Because in real life, people aren’t actually that daft.

“This can’t really be happening,” mack grunted…he thought back to the previous day and again entertained the fear that he was going crazy. As he had never been much of a touchy-feely person, Papa–whoever she was–made him nervous, and he had no idea what to make of Sarayu.

Then we get this. Papa is clearly making Mack uncomfortable with her physical affection. She needs to stop hugging/kissing Mack until and unless he shows he consents to it. And no, she’s not doing it because it’s what Mack needs. Some people don’t need physical affection, and it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with them. Some people may want physical affection but not be ready to accept it from you personally. In either case, you should hold off on giving out hugs until the person consents to it. But here God is just walking all over Mack’s boundaries, and Mack’s right to be wary of that.

This, of course, will never be acknowledged in any way by the text.

Mack wonders why he’s having nightmares if God is in the Shack. It’s a good question, and it brings to mind another: did God give him the nightmare, under the guise of bringing his pain to the surface so he could work it out? Because that’s kinda creepy.

Mack showers, shaves, and dresses, and we are told that he took his sweet time about doing it.

He took his time in the warmth of the water [in the shower], took his time shaving, and, back in the bedroom, took his time dressing.

Jesus looked at his watch. “Good God,” he said, turning to God. “How long does this man take in the shower? He’s going to use up all the hot water. Our water bill is going to be through the roof.”

Sarayu looked at the clock on the wall. “He takes longer to dress than a girl. It’s like he’s a princess or something. I mean, he’s in there deciding which tie to put on.”

Just kidding, those last 2 paragraphs didn’t actually happen. The one above them, though, did.

What was going on here? Who were they really and what did they want from him? Whatever it was, he was sure he didn’t have it to give.

Again, if Mack is going to wonder who these 3 really are, I need to hear some theories and I need Mack to go trying to prove or disprove these theories.

Notice, also, that when Mack begins to suspect the Godhead wants something, he doesn’t feel afraid of what they might want. He’s just worried he won’t have what they want, as if it’s just a given that he’ll give it to them without complaint.

Pretty sure that’s not how humans work.

In any case, this morning the Godhead are listening to Bruce Cockburn, who we are told is one of Mack’s favorite singers. It turns out that this is a real singer, and he sings “folk” and “jazz influenced rock,” whatever that means. God tells Mack that she is especially fond of Bruce.

I love that God listens to a wide range of music styles, Especially music that most Christians think God would outright send them to hell over. Whether or not the author succeeds is up for debate, but I do like that he is at least trying to break some stereotypes people have about God.

“So, honey,” Papa said, continuing busily with whatever she was doing, “how were your dreams last night? Dreams are sometimes important, you know. They can be a way of openin’ up the window and lettin’ the bad air out.”

Busily with whatever she was doing? You can’t like, describe what she’s doing? It wouldn’t need to be complicated, just something like: “As she cracked eggs into a pan.”

Set that aside, because what I really highlighted this paragraph for was that last sentence. Yes, sometimes dreams are important. It is true that sometimes dreams can be a way for our unconscious mind to tell our conscious mind something. A way of telling ourselves what we already know.

But I’ve never heard of dreams being a way of “letting the bad out.” Usually nightmares leave people feeling more anxious,  not less. I’m even going to go out on a limb here and assume that having nightmares about your child being brutally murdered is a completely normal and human reaction to your child being brutally murdered.

Mack tells God that he slept just fine, thanks. Then, to change the subject, Mack asks God if Bruce is her favorite. God says she has no favorites, just that she is especially fond of him.

“You seem to be especially fond of a lot of people,” Mack observed with a suspicious look. “Are there any you are not especially fond of?”

I like this. I like that our main character voices at least some of his concerns and questions.

God thinks for a moment, then decides that nope, she can’t come up with any people she’s not especially fond of.

Also, I have noticed that God’s accent seems to be really strong at times, and completely absent at others.

Consistency, it is a thing.

Mack asks God if she ever gets mad at anyone, and God says of course she does. All parents do, don’t they?

Then we come to something I wish would get explained more thoroughly.

“But–What about your wrath? It seems to me that if you’re going to pretend to be God Almighty, you need to be a lot angrier.”

“Do I now?”

“That’s what I think. Weren’t you always running around killing people in the Bible? You just don’t seem to fit the bill.”

Yes, she was. In case anyone has forgotten, God killed a lot of people. I mean, we’re talking mass genocide here. If the author is going to bring this up, the author needs to have his main character explain why a God of love is also a genocidal maniac.

Instead of responding to the mass genocides she’s committed, God chooses to respond, instead, to Mack’s accusation of pretending to be God.

Which, hang on. If you thought that this person was pretending to be God, maybe you should also think about the fact that this person has powers that you don’t understand (turning winter into summer, for example) and that maybe it’s not a good idea to piss off the being with the superpowers?

“I understand how disorienting this must be for you, Mack. But the only one pretending here is you. I am what I am. I’m not trying to fit anyone’s bill….I’m not asking you to believe anything, but I will tell you that you’re going to find this day a lot easier if you simply accept what is, instead of trying to fit it into your preconceived notions.”

Did God seriously just to tell Mack to stop using his critical thinking skills? Yes, she did. And also, “fitting things into preconceived notions” is kind of how humans explore our reality. Yes we have to adjust sometimes when we find reality different from our preconceived notions, but we have these “preconceived notions” for a reason.

In any case, Mack next asks God about hell. Note that he does not ask how God can justify sentencing people to eternal torment, he just asks if God enjoys it. Which indicates that he has never read his Bible.

Ezekiel 33:11

Say unto them: ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked….

Although to be fair, Ezekiel is talking about death rather than eternal torment. We will not get into an argument, here, about whether the concept of hell is actually Biblical. In this book, within this universe, hell is real, and so we will be working with that assumption until we are told otherwise.

Instead of telling Mack this, God looks Mack dead in the eye and says:

“I’m not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

THEN WHY DOES HELL EXIST! Seriously, hell isn’t going to cure anybody of anything.

Setting that aside, this still doesn’t make sense. On the surface, it seems to. When I do something wrong, I actually feel horrible inside. I have done stuff that causes me horrible guilt and shame, to the point of being physically painful. So on one hand, I could agree with God: sin is it’s own punishment.

On the other hand, no, I don’t agree with God. Because people exist who feel absolutely no shame or guilt for anything they’ve done, either because they’ve managed to convince themselves that what they did wasn’t so bad, they’ve managed to delude themselves into thinking they didn’t do it, or because they are sociopaths who just don’t care.

Instead of saying all this, Mack just says he doesn’t understand. What is there not to understand, Mack?

Just then, Jesus and Sarayu come to breakfast. I guess I was wrong about them being in the room the entire time. My bad.

Jesus was dressed much as he had the day before, just jeans and a light blue button down shirt that made his dark brown eyes stand out.

Now see, if the author wanted to really break some stereotypes, Jesus would be wearing skinny jeans or leggings with high heels and some serious bling.

Sarayu, on the other hand, was clothed in something so fine and lacy that it fairly flowed at the slightest breeze or spoken word. Rainbow patterns shimmered and reshaped with her every gesture. Mack wondered if she ever completely stopped moving. He rather doubted it.

I rather like this characterization of the Holy Spirit.

God promises to answer Mack’s questions, but says that they should eat now.

“Thank you for breakfast,” he told Papa while Jesus and Sarayu were taking their seats.

“What?” She said in mock horror. “You aren’t even going to bow your head and close your eyes?” She began walking toward the kitchen, grumbling as she went. “Tsk Tsk, what is the world coming to? You’re welcome, honey,” she said as she waved over her shoulder.”

I’m divided. On the one hand, God is clearly playing. On the other hand, earlier you looked at him funny when he tried to bow his head and close his eyes when you thanked him for the food. It sounds like poor Mack is getting mixed messages.

Mack tells God he loves the greens, and she warns him not to eat too much. Apparently eating too many greens can give you diarrhea. A quick google search confirms this to be accurate.

Mack then tells Jesus that he loves to watch the members of the godhead interact, because it’s very different from how he expected. He was expecting Papa to be the boss, and Jesus being obedient. Which isn’t totally off base, I mean, doesn’t the Bible say something about Jesus being obedient to his father?

“I have always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders, you know, being obedient. I’m not sure how Holy Spirit fits in exactly….sort of a free spirit, but still under the direction of the father. Does that make sense?”

Yes, yes it does. It may not be an accurate description, but it does make sense.

Jesus looked over at Papa. “Does that make sense to you, Abba? Frankly, I haven’t a clue what this man is on about.”


“Nope,” [said Papa], “I have been trying to make head or tail out of it, but sorry, he’s got me lost.”

Understandably, Mack gets frustrated. He asks if someone is in charge, if there’s a chain of command. After some more laughing about there being no chains involved, Sarayu tells Mack that there is no authority in the godhead, only unity.

We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command….what you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us. Actually, this is your problem, not ours.”

Before we get too far into this, I want to interject and say that I like this. Far too often, fundy Christians will insist that someone has to be in charge of a relationship. Just like Jesus submits to the authority of his heavenly father, so women are to submit themselves to the authority of their husbands.

I like that the author doesn’t subscribe to this idea and I like even more that the God of this book doesn’t, either. It definitely breaks some expectations for sure.

It’s the rest of the conversation I’m not sure what to think of.

God tells Mack that, because of our sinful condition, it boggles our tiny little minds that there could ever be harmony without authority.

“But every human institution that I can think of, from political to business, even down to marriage, is governed by this kind of thinking. It is the web of our social fabric,” Mack asserted.

Yes, and that’s a problem. Fortunately, the idea of there needing to be an authority figure in a marriage is going the way of the dodo bird, but not completely.

Apart from marriage, however, I don’t see a problem with there being an authority figure. Maybe it’s my sinful human nature, but I think that a country without a leader would just descend into chaos. Please, spare me the comments about how our current leader is actually causing more chaos. That is completely and entirely beside the point.

Jesus tells Mack that this is one of the reasons it’s hard for humans to have true relationships.

“Once you have a hierarchy, you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of…system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you.”

If this was just talking about the context of friendships and marriage, I would agree. However, Jesus is including business relationships and government in this. Also, consider who this is coming from. Do you know how many rules are in the Bible? Doesn’t God demand perfect obedience from his children? Who is God to be talking about how authority figures ruin relationships when he presents himself as the ultimate authority?

Mack asks for more greens. Papa seems reluctant to give them to him, but doesn’t say anything.

Sarayu continued. “When you chose independence over relationship, you became a danger to one another. Others became objects to be manipulated or managed for your own happiness.”

when did Mack choose independence over relationship? Is this referring to the human race in general? Adam and Eve?

In any case, I still don’t see how it’s a choice between independence and a relationship? Why can’t I be independent and have a relationship? How is someone who chooses not to be in a relationship a danger to others? I’m currently single, and I don’t see other people as objects to be manipulated.

Sarayu then says that authority is an excuse to make other, weaker people conform to what the stronger people want.

Make points out that, without authority, there would be mass chaos and planetwide panic.

Sarayu says that authority can be used to inflict great harm.

Which, yes, it can. But that is only a valid argument where there is no authority needed in the first place, like in a marriage. In a business relationship, someone has to be in charge, or nothing would ever get done. Someone has to tell us all to stop playing candy crush on our cell phones and do some actual work.

If my boss does try to abuse his current position, there are channels I can go through to resolve the issue.

“But don’t you use [authority] to restrain evil?”

Ideally, that is generally what authority is supposed to do. Sarayu gives this long winded answer that doesn’t really explain anything.

“In your world the value of the individual is constantly weighed against the survival of the system, whether political, economic, social, or religious–any system, actually. First one person, and then a few, and finally even many are easily sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another this lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The “will to power and independence” has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal.”

I’m honestly not sure what to think about this. Yes, the main goal in any society is balancing out the needs and freedoms of the individual against the needs and freedoms of society as a whole.

And some systems are worse than others.

It is the matrix, a diabolical scheme in which you are hopelessly trapped even while completely unaware of its existence.

Is…..this author/god seriously advocating for there not being any authority or system of government at all? And this coming out of the mouth of a character who is more or less a dictator. Because “obey me or go to hell” isn’t all that much different from “obey me or die.” In fact, one could argue that it’s much worse.

Sarayu says that the reason Mack and I don’t feel like this makes any sense whatsoever is because we are damaged by sin.

We need to move on, so I’ll let this go. For now.

God tells Mack that he was created in order to be loved by God, and that everything that has happened so far has happened for this purpose.

“How can you say that with all the pain in this world, all the wars and disasters that destroy thousands?…and what is the value in a little girl being murdered by some twisted deviant? You may not cause those things, but you certainly don’t stop them.”

No, no Mack’s got a point. Even when I still believed in God, I hated him, and this was one of the reasons. I mean, reading the Bible, God just sounds like a real asshole.

God replies thusly:

“There are millions of reasons to allow pain and hurt and suffering rather than to eradicate them, but most of those reasons can only be understood within each person’s story. I am not evil.”

Ok, so elucidate on the reasons that wouldn’t be an invasion of someone else’s privacy.

There’s some stuff about free will, and God says that their ultimate purpose will be accomplished “without the violation of one human will.”

What about Missy’s will not to be murdered? I mean, it seems like God only picks certain people who’s freewill he cares about, and screw the rest of us.

“But the cost!” [Mack said], “Look at the cost, all the pain, all the suffering, everything that is so terrible and evil…and look what it has cost you. Is  it worth it?”

“Yes!” came the unanimous, joyful response.

If this was just in response to “look what this has cost you,” that would be one thing. But this is in response to “look what it has cost you and everyone else.” To have the godhead happily respond that, yes, it has been worth the lives of trillions of people throughout the ages, is to make the godhead seem horrifying.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think much of God’s concept of freewill. If someone decides to murder me, you better darn bet I want to violate their free will.

Understandably, Mack is more than a little horrified. He asks God if the billions of lives lost matter to her, and says that the end doesn’t always justify the means.

It’s a pity Mack doesn’t manage to hold on to this logical line of thinking.

God tells Mack that his views of reality are limited, and that he doesn’t think she is good. Well uh, no shit….

If you knew I was good and that everything…is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not always understand what I am doing, you would trust me, but you don’t.”

Instead of responding the way I expect Mack to–by saying that of course he doesn’t trust God because she hasn’t earned it–Mack just sounds baffled at the idea that he, gasp, might not trust God.

Then Sarayu says that Mack can’t produce trust in God on his own. It has to develop naturally as their relationship progresses.

Why would he want to have a relationship with the being who allowed his daughter to get killed, even though said being could have prevented it?

Instead of defending herself, God just says, “I’m not a bully.”

Because I totally believe everyone who’s ever said that to me.

Sarayu asks Mack to meet her in the garden after breakfast, and before Mack excuses himself, he tells God that he can’t think of anything that would justify the brutal murder of his own daughter.

“We are not justifying it. We are redeeming it.”

I don’t even know what that means, but it doesn’t sound any less horrifying. When even *I* have better morality than your omnibenevolent being, you need to rethink your theologies.



The Stand-Dark Tower Interlude


I learned that, in one of Stephen King’s books in The Dark Tower series, the main characters visit the world of The Stand. The protagonists–Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake–have just taken a train that took them out of their world and into the world of The Stand. (I can’t remember if it is outright stated, or simply implied, that this is a parallel universe) They are surprised to find themselves in our world, and even more surprised at the lack of people.

I wish this newspaper article had been included in The Stand, but I can understand why it was not. It was not needed there because we knew what was happening. The newspaper article is absolutely needed here in order to set the context. Personally, I read The Dark Tower series before I read The Stand, so all of this totally went over my head at the time. In fact, I was kind of skimming over this part because it did not seem important at all. I did not understand why it was included. Now I know.

When Jake and Roland see some corpses in the train station, Jake finds a news stand and reads a newspaper article. I am going to post it here.

The date on the article, mentioned at the end, is June 24, 1986.

So, the Newspaper article is presumably from the original edited edition. I’m not honestly sure if this book came out before the revised unedited edition of The Stand, or if King just wanted to stick with the original date because plot reasons. It’s not really relevant to our discussion here, so we will set the matter aside.

The following is quoted from The Dark Tower Book 4: Wizard and Glass. Chapter 4:

“Captain Trips”

Superflu Rages Unchecked

Govt Leaders May Have Fled Country Topeka Hospitals Jammed with sick, Dying

Millions Pray for a Cure


There’s a picture on the cover showing

A lakeside city with its skyline in flames. CLEVELAND FIRES BURN UNCHECKED the caption read.

Didn’t Trashcan Man set fires in Cleveland? I’m too lazy to look this up, but I’m pretty sure this is the case.

America’s greatest crisis–and the world’s, perhaps–deepened overnight as the so-called superflu, known as Tube-Neck in the Midwest and Captain Trips in California continues to spread.

Although the death toll can only be estimated, medical experts say the total at this point is horrible beyond comprehension: twenty to thirty million dead in the continental US alone is the estimate given by Dr. Morris Hackford of Topeka’s St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Bodies are being burned from Los Angeles, California, to Boston, Massachusetts, in crematoria, factory furnaces, and at landfill sites.

Here in Topeka, the bereaved who are still well enough and strong enough to do so are urged to take their dead to one of 3 sites: the disposal plant north of Oakland Billard Park; the pit area at Heartland Park Race Track, the landfill on Southeast 61st street, east of Forbes Field. Landfill users should approach by Berryton Road; California has been blocked by car wrecks and at least one downed Air Force transport plane, sources tell us.

Dr. April Montoya of the Stormont Vail Regional Medical Center points out that the death-toll, horrifying as it is, constitutes only part of this terrible story. “For every person who has died so far as a result of this new flu strain,” Montoys said, “There are another 6 who are lying ill in their homes, perhaps as many as a dozen. And, so far as we have been able to determine, the recovery rate is zero.”

Coughing, she then told this reporter: “Speaking personally, I’m not making any plans for the weekend.”

In other local developments:

All commercial flights out of Forbes and Phillip Billard have been cancelled. All Amtrak rail travel has been suspended, not just in Topeka but across all of Kansas. The Gage Boulevard Amtrak station has been closed until further notice.

All Topeka schools have also been closed until further notice. This includes Districts 437, 345, 450, (Shawnee Heights), 372, and 501 (Metro Topeka.) Topeka Lutheran and Topeka Technical College are also closed, as is KU at Lawrence.

Topekans must expect brownouts and perhaps blackouts in the days and weeks ahead. Kansas Power and Light has announced a “slow shutdown” of the Kaw River Nuclear Plant in Wamego. Although no one in KawNuke’s Office of Public Relations answered this newspaper’s calls, a recorded announcement cautions that there is no plant emergency, that this is a safety measure only. KawNuke will return to on-line status, the announcement concludes, “when the current crisis is past.” Any comfort afforded by this statement is in large part negated by the recorded statement’s final words, which are not “goodbye,” or even, “Thank you for calling,” but “God will help us through our time of trial.”

There were more pictures: a burned out panel truck overturned on the steps of the Kansas Museum of Natural History; traffic on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge  stalled bumper to bumper; piles of corpses in Times Square. One body has been hung on a lamp post.

In National Developments, conviction continues to grow that, after denying the superflu’s existence during its early days when quarantine measures might still have had some effect,

I wonder how true that is.  By the time they caught up with Campion, it already seemed too late. But yes, they should have at least told people it was contagious. They might have had some hope of saving at least a good portion of the human race if they had.

national leaders have fled to underground retreats which were created as brain trust shelters in case of nuclear war. Vice-president Bush and key members of the Reagan cabinet have not been seen during the last 48 hours. Reagan himself has not been seen since Sunday morning, when he attended prayer services at Green Valley Methodist Church in San Simeon.

“They have gone to the bunkers like Hitler and the rest of the Nazi sewer rats at the end of World War 2,” said Rep Steve Sloan.

Well, no shit. I mean, yeah it’s cowardly (and I have no love for Reagan or Bush (Senior? Dubya?) but I kinda can’t blame them for doing what they have to to survive.

When asked if he had any objection to being quoted by name, Kansas’ first term representative, a Republican, laughed and said, “Why should I? I’ve got a real fine case myself. I’ll be so much dust in the wind come this time next week.”

Fires, mostly likely set, continue to ravage Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Terre Haute.

Hello there, Trashcan man.

A gigantic explosion centered near Cincinnati’s river front stadium was apparently not nuclear in nature, as was first feared, but occurred as the result of a natural gas buildup caused by unsupervised…

And with that, Jake decides to drop the newspaper and stop reading. It blows away in the wind.




The Shack Chapter 7: God On the Dock

God On The Dock

The chapter opens with Mack in the bathroom. Don’t get excited, he’s just staring at his reflection.

He was searching for some sign of insanity in those eyes staring back at him. Was this real? Of course not, it was impossible. But then…He reached out his hand and slowly touched the mirror. Maybe this was a hallucination being brought on by all his grief and despair. Maybe it was a dream, and he was asleep somewhere, maybe in the shack freezing to death?

I like this. This is good. This is a normal human reaction, and that last bit is a good question. What if he is actually in the shack slowly freezing to death? That seems like something you’d really want to check up on. But I guess he was contemplating suicide a little earlier, so maybe he doesn’t care too much.

In any case, Jesus drops some kind of dish–we don’t know what, we are just told that it made a “gooey mess” on the floor. Instead of the Godhead getting mad, everyone just laughs, and they all find it hilarious. Mack marvels at how different this scene is from the way things happen at home. I guess he gets mad at his kids for dropping dinner?

The author is not big on food descriptions. Not only is the stuff Jesus dropped described as a “gooey mess,” the meal itself is described as being “roast bird of some kind.” Would it really have been hard to come up with something more specific?

The only awkward part was at the very beginning when Mack, out of habit, bowed his head before he remembered where he was. He looked up to find all 3 of them grinning at him. So, as nonchalantly as he could, he said, “Um, thank you all….Could I have a bit of that rice there?”

I like this. I like this a lot, actually. It’s a very realistic detail and ok, it is kinda funny.

So dinner starts and there’s conversation…or at least, Mack is talking. There’s no indication the Godhead is talking back, except for Sarayu, who seems very interested in Nan for some reason.

Finally, Mack blurted out something that had been bothering him throughout the discussion.

“Now here I am telling you about my kids and my friends and about Nan, but you already know everything I am telling you, don’t you? You’re acting like it’s the first time you’ve heard it.

I like this, too. For all I’ve criticized Mack for being a murderous sociopath, (he murdered his father and he doesn’t seem to have very many human reactions to anything) I like that our main character is irreverent enough to just blurt this out in casual conversation. Though he’s a bit slow to do so, frankly, I would have said that first before telling the Godhead jack shit. The movie will probably smooth this over, I’m guessing, partly because movies have to edit a lot of stuff out of books for the sake of time.*

And I actually like the Godhead’s response. It’s something Christian!Abby had kinda worked out on her own.** Sarayu is speaking:

“We have limited ourselves out of respect for you. We are not bringing to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes.”

Mack says that he likes this explanation, and I have to give the author credit, this isn’t bad. Of course I cut out all the parts where the characters explained it rather poorly, this is just the end of a 3 paragraph explanation, but hey, at least the author is trying.

After the meal, God decides that they are all having devotions.

Mack had to suppress a snicker at the thought of God having devotions. Images of family devotions from his childhood came spilling into his mind…often, it was a tedious and boring exercise in coming up with the right answers, or, rather, the same old answers to the same old Bible story questions, and then trying to stay awake during his father’s excruciatingly long prayers…..he half expected Jesus to pull out a huge old King James Bible.

Because the original word of God was written in 1611 King James English.

That aside, this is spot on. This is what family worship was like, especially since my family had children who were so far apart from each other in age. We had a 3 year old and a 16 year old in the same family, and my parents usually bounced back and forth as to what age group they catered to. I sat through some seriously boring devotional stories that were really not appropriate for my age level.

Oh, and I skipped over this earlier, but it’s been stated that if Mack has a conversation with member of the Godhead, the other 2 members all know about it, because they are the same person.

Instead, Jesus reached across the table and took Papa’s hands in his…”Papa, I loved watching you today as you made yourself fully available to take Mack’s pain into yourself and then gave him space to choose his own timing. You honored him, and you honored me. To listen to you whisper love and calm into his heart was truly incredible. What a joy to watch! I love being your Son.”

So, for God, devotions are basically just….ego stroking?

Actually, that kinda fits.

Mack feels like he’s intruding, but at the same time he enjoys this. He feels that this is not only love, but holiness. For God, ego stroking is holiness? That seems like exactly the opposite of what religion teaches.

So, is God going to now stroke Jesus’ ego? What about the Holy Spirit’s? Nope, now Jesus and Sarayu are going to do the dishes. I guess devotions just consists of Jesus ego stroking Papa?

After doing the dishes, Jesus invites Mack to go stargazing.

“Incredible!” Whispered Jesus, his head near Mack’s in the darkness. “I never get tired of this.”

“Even though you created it?” Mack asked.

“I created it as the Word, before the Word became flesh. So even though I created this, I see it now as a human. And I must say, it is impressive.”

This here is a reference to the gospel of John chapter 1, wherein John goes on for a good few verses about the Word, who he then reveals is Jesus Christ.

And I actually don’t mind this. I like the idea that Jesus saw things differently when he was God than he does now. That’s actually a decent bit of characterization. It also kinda gives you a sense of what Jesus lost when he became human as well.

There’s more talk about the stars, and I’m kind of surprised Mack doesn’t ask about the distant starlight problem. Every creationist would be shitting themselves over the opportunity to ask the creator himself about this, but Mack just lets it slide. The author didn’t want to tackle it, I guess. Can’t say I’d blame him. We’ll just move on.

Eventually, Mack tells Jesus that he feels more comfortable around him than Papa or Sarayu.

“You seem different than the other 2…more real, or tangible. I Don’t know….it’s like I’ve always known you. But Papa isn’t at all what I expected from God, and Sarayu, she’s way out there.”

This is probably meant to be commentary on how we usually feel closer to Jesus than we do to God or the Holy Spirit. It is speculated why this is so, and I have a few ideas myself. But it is a thing that mainstream Christianity recognizes, and a frequent topic in Sabbath School classes is how to love God the father and God the Holy Spirit as well as Jesus.***

Nobody that I know ever prays to the Holy Spirit. When was the last time you heard someone start a prayer with, “Dear Holy Spirit?” Try it sometime and tell me what happens.

Jesus points out to Mack that, since he’s human, of course it’s easier for humans to relate to him. Mack is still confused, for reasons I don’t understand.

Jesus elucidates. Sort of.

“I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu. To see me is to see them. The love you sense from me is no different from how they love you. And believe me, Papa and Sarayu are just as real as I am, though, as you’ve seen, in far different ways.”

Mack asks if Sarayu is the Holy Spirit. To his credit, Jesus doesn’t say, “no shit Sherlock.”

Seriously, in the prologue Willie went on and on about how smart Mack was. Yet it takes Mack all fucking day to realize that maybe this 3rd being who is also part of the Godhead, who kinda flickers in and out of visual existence, is the Holy Spirit?”

Willie is absolutely the unreliable narrator.

Jesus then tells Mack what I told you guys a few posts ago: that the word “Sarayu,” means “wind.” Apparently the Holy Spirit loves that name! Because she’s like wind, get it? No? Sigh. Ok.

So, I can’t remember if this is a Biblical thing of an Ellen White thing, but there’s this idea that the Holy Spirit is like wind. You can’t see where the wind is coming from, or where it’s going, but you know that it is there, you can feel it. Just like the Holy Spirit!****

Mack then asks about the name Papa mentioned, Elousia. I had wondered about that myself. When I googled it, I only got results for this book. Here’s Jesus’ explanation:

“Elousia….that is a wonderful name. El is my name as Creator God, but ousia is  “being” or “that which is truly real. So the name means “the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being. Now that is also a beautiful name!”

As opposed to all those other gods out there, who are fake.

All that aside, I actually don’t mind this.

They sit in silence for a while, and then Mack tentatively brings up the topic of Jesus’ looks. Apparently, Jesus isn’t very handsome.

I don’t mind that our protagonist was bold enough to ask. In fact, I rather like it. What I do take issue with, and this is probably nitpicky, is the idea that Jesus isn’t handsome. Beauty, you see, is in the eye of the beholder. Our concept of beauty is influenced by our culture, but even within that, it’s individualistic. I can look at the someone and think they’re butt ugly, but another person can look at the same person I just declared “butt ugly” and think he’s the most handsomest guy on the face of the planet.

Beauty is incredibly subjective.

“Somehow I thought you’d be the ideal man, you know, athletic and overwhelmingly good looking.” [Said Mack.]

“It’s my nose, isn’t it?”


Jesus laughed. “I a Jewish, you know. My grandfather on my mother’s side had a big nose, In fact, most of the men on my mom’s side had big noses.”

Notice, here, that the author is careful to say that this is on Jesus’ mom’s side. He avoids talking about Joseph’s relatives because Jesus shares no DNA with them.

Setting that aside….. I’m not Jewish, so I want to tread carefully here….but I feel like this is a stereotype. Are we seriously going to for “most Jews have big noses” trope? Really?

“I just thought you’d be better looking,” [said Mack.]

“By who’s standards?”

Sassy Jesus! I like it!

“Anyway, once you really get to know me, it won’t matter to you.”

I do tend to find that people I consider “ugly” tend to look beautiful after I get to know them and see that they are truly wonderful people. I’m not sure if that’s what Jesus is talking about here, but it is a thing.

In any case, Mack realizes that he doesn’t know Jesus that well at all. Jesus goes on for a bit about beauty not mattering, but it’s nothing I haven’t already said.

Mack tells Jesus that getting to know him would be a lot easier if they could always talk like this. With Jesus physically present, I mean. And I agree, it would be far easier to talk to Jesus if he wasn’t silent and invisible all the time.

“Admittedly, Mack, this is special. You were really stuck and we wanted to help you crawl out of your pain.”

Yes, I have been wondering: Why did you pick Mack, of all people? Lots of people are “stuck,” why not help one of them? Screw the rest of those people, I guess?

And then Jesus gives the pat christian answer of “just because we can’t always talk physically like this doesn’t mean we can’t have a relationship.”

Because talking with a silent invisible person is just the same as actually being able to have a conversation with someone.

They talk for a bit about boring stuff, then Jesus says they should silently look at the stars. When Mack says he has a lot of questions, Jesus tells him that they have the rest of Mack’s lifetime to get through them.

So, what, about 40-60 years, then? That’s not really very long, especially since Jesus is going to be silent and invisible for a good portion of that.

Mack eventually feels The Great Sadness begin to descend upon him.

“Jesus?” He whispered as his voice choked. “I feel so lost.”

Number of human reactions the main character has had: 4.

Jesus basically tells Mack, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but it’s not true.”

Which, sure. I personally think “I’m sorry you feel that way” is very dismissive, but it’s meant to come across as comforting, so we’ll take it.

Then Jesus tells Mack he should go to bed.

Mack was suddenly exhausted.

I don’t think the author meant for this to mean anything. But when you have a character who is all-powerful, and you say something like, “as soon as all powerful character told Mack he should sleep, Mack felt exhausted,” I’m going to wonder if your all powerful character is the one putting our main character to sleep. This book is certainly putting me to sleep, so I guess that’s fair.





*Yes, I will eventually be seeing the movie, but not till it’s out of theaters, because there is no way to take notes in there.

**Christian!Abby thought a lot about this because, before this book came out, she kept trying to write a story wherein her protagonist met God, but every single time she tried, she ended up with characters who were either codependent or downright abusive, so she gave up. She is jealous that someone did it and got famous before she did.

***I even had trouble loving Jesus like I was supposed to.

****When I was a really little kid, I thought trees created the wind as they moved back and forth. 4 year old me didn’t understand the point of this particular Sabbath school lesson, because to her it was obvious that the wind came from trees. Duh.

The Great Controversy Ended Part 1


The “Part 1” is actually part of the movie title. I did not add it.

Joining me virtually today is my co-snarker, Summer. We’re going to grab a virtual bottle of wine, a virtual bag of popcorn, and enjoy ourselves.

The Great Controversy ended, Part 1 is put out by Seventh Day Adventists,  though they have made attempts to make it more like mainstream Christianity. Normally when I see that I think they’re trying to hide their Adventism, but in this case I can see why they’d want to do this. On the one hand, it will help them appeal to a wider audience. On the other hand, it takes away the special brand of crazy that SDA end times belief have. Conservative Adventists will criticize it for being too mainstream, while more mainstream and liberal Adventists will criticize it for….well, everything else. In fact, Adventists on the liberal end of the scale are used to seeing quality movies, so they probably won’t get far enough into it to criticize the theology.

The last Adventist movie I reviewed was Tell The World. I had many things to say about that movie. The main thing I had to criticize about it was that it tried to do too much, and instead wound up doing too little. But you know what? At least the creators of that movie were trying. It sucked, but you get the feeling that whoever made the movie is putting forth a lot of effort, and is willing to learn from their mistakes and do better next time.

This movie, on the other hand, does not try to do too much. In fact, it looks like the creators are not trying at all. It’s like they think that if they slap a “Christian” label on it (and also an Adventist one), Christians (and Adventists) will lap it up and open their wallets and throw more money their way for the sequel.

I shall await eagerly to see if this is the case. I rather suspect not.

For a while, this movie was on Youtube, but that was never intended to be permanent. By the time this review goes up, the movie will have been taken down. Sometimes these reviews take a long time to edit, so they don’t always go up on the day I write them.

I include this disclaimer because when I watch movies, I need to see subtitles. As we all know, however, YouTube subtitles are a joke. As such, I may get some of the dialogue wrong, and for that I apologize.

The movie starts with a woman talking. She has an Australian accent and introduces herself as the director of the film, tells us she hopes we enjoy the show, and God bless. The lights fade to black.

This isn’t how movies begin, this is how documentaries start.

We then open with some establishing shots of a mountain range. Which mountain range is anyone’s guess. Even the characters in this movie don’t know. (One of the women in the cave will later tell us, “I don’t even know where “here” is.” Honestly, it would have been better if your characters didn’t point that out.)

Next we are shown an establishing shot of a cave entrance before cutting to an interior shot of a huge, extremely well lit cave. A lot of people, most of them women are sitting around on rocks. Why they haven’t cleared out the rocks and come up with some more comfortable seating is beyond me, but set it aside.

We cut to an extremely close close-up (no seriously, it’s too close) of Nose Ring.  I asked my co-snarker, Summer, if the nose ring was meant to scream “evil heathen.”

Summer: I think it’s because it’s made in Australia. They seem to be far more liberal about jewelry.

Me: Then why do all the actors sound American?

In any case, Nose Ring’s face is dirty and streaked with tears.

Nose Ring: Why do they all hate us? They think we can control what happens? Who do they think we are? *sniff* God?

Snowflake Hat: They don’t care who they blame. As long as they don’t blame themselves.

One thing this movie does have going for it: the cast has racial diversity. Snowflake Hat is not the only black woman. I like that. That’s one thing the makers of this film did well.

NoseRing: *cries harder* *angry look on face* I mean it’s like they think we can control things!

Nose Ring goes on to list the things the Christians are getting blamed for. After each, stock footage is displayed. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes…for some reason she cries especially hard when she mentions tsunamis, at which point stock footage is shown of what looks to me like a regular wave.

Nose Ring (voice rising shrilly): LIKE WE HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THAT! *points dramatically*. *sobs louder*

Ouch. That shrill voice was extremely high. Excuse me. I have to go calm down my cat.

In a better movie, this emphasis on the reaction about the tsunamis would have done for a purpose. In a better movie, this would have been done because Nose Ring was personally affected  by them somehow. In a better movie, this would possibly be a big reveal later. Instead, this comes across as the character over acting. Her dramatic boo hoos and tears are over the top. I’m not sure if this is because she herself is a terrible actress, or if the director told her to do that.

In any case, this is all clunky exposition. Instead of shots of pretty clouds during the opening credits, why not show some establishing shots of said earthquakes, tsunamis, etc? Then Nose Ring could just say, “as if all the calamities/natural disasters are our fault.”

As to Snowflake Hat’s comment about people not wanting to blame themselves… well yeah. Unless they invented some kind of weather control device, they can’t blame themselves. Newsflash people: Non Christians have just as little control over the weather as Christians.

Snowflake Hat then informs us that 17 million people died in these natural disasters. I made Summer calculate how many people that is. The world’s population currently stands at roughly 7.5 billion people, give or take. 17 million is only .22-.23%. Basically, that’s really REALLY not a large percent of the population.

We cut away to a closeup of a white woman having a panic attack.

“What if it’s too late? Too Late!”

Her breathing speeds and she rocks back and forth. I’m not sure if the director intended this or not, this is a very accurate description of a panic attack. If it is deliberate, this is well done.

Snowflake Hat: Get a grip on it would you Alex? You’re not the only one here you know?

You know what, shut up Snowflake. This is not the way you deal with someone having a panic attack. No one, in the history of the world, has ever calmed down after being told “get a grip on it” in a voice that indicates complete and utter frustration.

That being said, I absolutely understand Snowflake Hat’s complete and utter frustration. All we’ve seen these women do so far is cry and whine and panic. Actually, spoiler alert, that’s all they do during the entire movie. I’m not kidding. I shall hereafter refer to these people as “the whining women.” Or, since this is an Australian film, “the whingeing women.” I like the word “whinge” better. You Australians have all the good words.

As Alex says she has done “terrible things,” we get a flashback of Alex going into a house with bare shoulders (I can’t tell if she’s wearing anything at all, actually) and then this really dark photo of a creepy looking guy.

Hello, my name Creepy McCreeperson

So, what “terrible things” has Alex done? Unless she murdered this guy, (who honestly looks like he would’ve tried to murder her first) what does she have to feel so awful about? Oh wait, Christians react like this every time they have sex. I bet that’s what Alex did with this guy. Sex is a terrible TERRIBLE thing ladies.

Alex: This one time–

Snowflake Hat: look, I don’t need to know.

Yes, yes we do. If you’re going to tell us we don’t need to know what Alex has done, don’t give us clues about what she did. Don’t give us flashbacks of creepy guys in suits. If you’re going to go there, don’t go half way. Show (or tell) your audience the rest.

Summer: I wanna know too!

Me: I know, right?

Snowflake Hat: The past is gone. In fact, the whole world is almost gone.

I like this line.

There’s more talk from Snowflake about how God is good and forgives, and then 1 John 1:9 gets quoted:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Then we cut to….wait, what?

No, seriously. In case you didn’t understand what was going on from the clunky exposition the women just gave, here is a man to explain it to us.

Any points you earned by having a racially diverse cast and mostly female characters just got erased.

The man does give us his real name, but I’m going to call him Mr. Clunky-Exposition-Guy (hereafter referred to as Mr. CEG.)

Mr. CEG tells us about Satan being allowed to cause God’s people a lot of suffering. You know what would work better? Showing us this. Show us Satan talking to God. Show God giving him free reign. Or show Satan somehow causing the tsunamis that killed Nose Ring’s family. How exactly you show Satan working is up to you, but you do need to show him.

Mr. CEG then tells us that Christians looking back over their lives will find little to like. That’s literally what we just saw. And we already know they’re in the Time of Trouble(tm) because we read the YouTube description. There is no need to tell us either of these things.

Rule #1 in film making: Your audience is not stupid. Do not treat them as such.

Rule #2 Don’t do anything to jerk your readers out of the story.

Mr. CEG violates both these rules. As such, every single one of his scenes needs to be cut.

We go back to the whingeing women in the cave. Brown Jacket stands up and announces she’s leaving. A girl in braces grabs her arm and begs her to stay. Brown Jacket sits back down.

Why was this convincing? Is Braces her daughter? Niece? Adopted daughter after her parents died in an earthquake? Why does Brown Jacket stay when Braces begs? We get no explanation for why this happens, and the acting is so bad it doesn’t make sense.

Brown Jacket: What’s good enough? Are you good enough? Am I good enough?

Snowflake Hat: When did you become your own God, Lisa?

Lisa(angrily): I’m not claiming to be God. What are you talking about?

Finally, a character who makes sense! Seriously, Lisa is asking some good questions and Snowflake hat is asking stupid off topic questions. Good job shooting her down, Lisa.

Lisa: All I want to know is how sorry is sorry enough.

Look everyone, my new favorite character!

I didn’t put a ? at the end of that sentence because that’s not how it’s spoken. It’s spoken in an angry tone of voice, as if Lisa herself doesn’t expect an answer. Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she’s given up on feeling “sorry enough.”

Lisa then angrily rants about how she can’t even remember every single sin she’s ever committed, then panics over whether or not she forgot something.

Mr. Clunky Exposition Guy then steps in to explain that this is a common thing that people will go through during the Time of Trouble. Like we hadn’t already figured that out from watching Lisa. Like we hadn’t already thought of that during Bible class. Like every single child in our cloistered cult hasn’t been kept awake at night with nightmares about this very thing.

Seriously, cut Mr. Clunky Exposition Guy.

Speaking of which, who is the audience for this movie? If it is Christians, especially Adventist Christians, they’re going to feel talked down to. If it is non Christians, they’re not going to get past the bad acting in the first 5 minutes to even bother being turned off by Mr. CEG.

I get that the film makers want to appeal to all groups, but in movie making this is not always a good idea. You’d have a much stronger message if you picked an audience and catered to them.

Mr. CEG tells us that the way Lisa is feeling –like she’s not good enough–is Satan attacking her.

Yanno what would be more effective? Have a guy play Satan and show him whispering these things into her ear. Have it established that Satan is invisible to these women. That would work. That would be creepily effectiv


Back to the women in the cave. One of the white women starts talking to a woman with dark brown skin and dreadlocks. She’s wearing a white hoodie that is either covered in blood or some kind of red dirt. I’ll call her “White Hoodie” for now.

In any case, the white woman (I apologize if I’m supposed to know who this is. I have trouble differentiating faces), talks about how she grew up in a good Christian home with parents who were constantly talking to her about the end times. Flashbacks of a baby sitting between parents.

White Woman: Somehow it always came back to haunt me

A very accurate description of the brainwashing that goes on in the SDA church and church schools. Even though I know logically that it is all bullshit, there’s still that terrifying feeling of what if I’m wrong.

White Hoodie says she also grew up in a Christian home. She says she always wanted to be a good little Christian, but she never felt like she was good enough. For some reason, we get a flashback of her dropping a Bible on a couch.

White Woman then talks about how hard she tried to be a good Christian and follow all the rules. There’s a flashback (with no sound) of her parents yelling at her. White Woman walks out the door. She tells us that she left her parents, but no matter how far away she got, she couldn’t get her parents’ sayings out of her head. Flashback of her tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep.

This also strikes me as a most realistic description of the brainwashing. Er, excuse me, I mean “god working on her heart.”

Also, it sounds like her parents were part of the problem. Even though, in this universe, they were right, they could have not yelled at their daughter, and focused more on God’s love instead of guilt tripping her over stupid shit. Seriously, parents like these actually wonder why their kids are turned off from religion when they themselves are part of the problem.

White Hoodie then says something that I find interesting. So interesting I am in fact surprised to find it in a Christian film.

I can’t tell you how much I wish that there was no God. No Law. No commandments. So that I could just live my life….free. To be in peace.

My heart goes out to this woman. Because I’ve been there. I went through a period in my teens when I believed in God, I just didn’t want to follow him. I knew I was going to hell, I just didn’t care. I tried not to think about it.

And this is exactly what I said in my journal, nearly word for word.

I don’t think we’re supposed to nod along in agreement with White Hoodie. But I know that my Christian self from 10 years ago would have.

How many other Christians are also nodding along in agreement? How many of them are sitting there wishing the very same thing?

In any case, it is time for Mr. Clunky Exposition Guy to start talking. Mr. CEG talks about the basics of the Great Controversy: the war in heaven, etc.

There’s a really blurry shot of a soldier shooting a woman in a prison cell. Like, super blurry, for no good reason. And it lasts too long. Hurts my eyes to look at it.

Mr. CEG: Should they prove unworthy, and lose their lives because of their own defects of character, then God’s holy name will be reproached.

Wow, fear mongering much?

Back to the women in the cave. One of them is reading out loud from the Bible.

Summer: I still have a question….. if they are theoretically hiding in the mountains, how have they stayed hidden when there are helicopters and when there is heat signature technology?

Me: Ummmm God? He couldn’t relieve their suffering but he could do something about the evil technology? Maybe that nuclear bomb that went off has something to do with it? Actually, if they’d included that, that would be a semi plausible explanation and you could at least say that the writers were trying. We’ll be generous and assume that that’s the case, and that they felt they didn’t need to talk down to their audience by explaining this.

The women sit there and listen to the lady read a chapter from Psalms. They are wearing coats, rubbing their arms, as if they’re cold. (And actually, if they are filming in a real cave, this might not actually be acting.)

Finally, showing instead of telling! It’s still bad acting and super obvious, but points for trying.


Yes folks, this movie does have a guy in it. There is one guy, in a cave with like, 10 women. I giggled at that because I am 12.

As the woman reads from the Bible, we hear other women sniffing loudly.

Mr. CEG cuts in to talk some more.

Wait, seriously, we cut away from Mr. CEG the first time just so we could watch the women reading Bible verses? Literally that is all that has happened in this scene. It could be cut. No one cares.

Mr. CEG talks about people thinking God will overlook their “minor sins.”

Look Summer, it’s a picture of you and your girlfriend!

Summer: Lesbians. They had to put the lesbians in there while talking about people who excuse their sins……

Me: I know, right? These people aren’t sinning, jeez. Also, they look like they are over acting. They are clearly straight women who are very uncomfortable with the idea of pretending to be lesbians. Also, I didn’t screenshot a scene of them as they were doing something. They are sitting there posed like this. This is just a picture. Nobody poses like this.

Mr. CEG: All who endeavor to conceal their sins, and allow them to remain….unconfessed will be overcome by Satan.

Well Summer, looks like you’re going to hell in a hand basket.

Mr. CEG tells us that, at the second coming, many will confess their sins, but at that point it will be too late, and their confessions will be worthless.


After Mr. CEG is done talking, we cut to a scene of a man in a prison guard uniform, who is in a cell with a dirt floor. He is talking to a woman who I’m going to call PrisonerLady. The guard tells the woman that she would be free if only she would renounce her beliefs.

I’m not sure if the directors meant for this to be the case, but the way the woman is reacting to this man…it indicates a certain tension that I’m not sure was meant to be indicated.  Going off the woman’s body language, and also the guard’s….well, it brings to mind a question that weighed heavily on my mind as a teenager: would Christian persecution in the end times possibly include rape? Because the way the actors are behaving would indicate that such has taken place.

Summer: Oh my god…. that is the only thing I could think of through that whole story line and it was seriously creeping me out. I feel like it’s a more realistic take as well 😬😬

It is never stated that the guard raped the woman, mind you. But that is the way it comes across. If this was done purposely, well played. Great acting.

If this was not done purposely, that is horrifying and you need to rethink your movie.

I’m debating whether or not to include a couple of  screenshots of it, to see if anyone else agrees. I’m leaning toward “no.” I don’t want to trigger anyone anymore than I likely already have.

In any case, as the woman cringes away from him and has a panic attack, the guard tells her that she can be free if only she says “a few simple words.” When the woman asks what those words are, he says

Guard: why do you keep asking me that? You know the words.

Um, guys? The audience doesn’t know the words.  If you’re going to have a scene where the woman asks “what words,” then your guard needs to give an answer. If you’re going to set up the clunky exposition, at least follow through.

This is one of those rare situations where it’s ok to tell some stuff.

And then, in case the sexual tension wasn’t clear enough, the guard says, on his way out the door:

Guard: Fine. Have it your way. The Hard way.

After he’s gone, the woman feels a pile of rocks with her hands. At first I think she’s saying, “stew,” but then I hear more clearly, “240.”

Wait, hang on. Rocks? In a jail cell? And dirt floors? Where is this prison located? Because prisons in developed countries (like Australia and America) do not have rocks OR dirt floors. Rocks, even small ones, could potentially  be used as weapons, and dirt floors are a no no because then prisoners could dig their way out.

I used to write to a friend who was incarcerated. He wrote me pages and pages about what prison life was like.

In any case, the woman screams at God that she has been here for months. She’s not sure how much longer she can hold on, and will she be in here for years?

It’s terrible acting, but this is a heartfelt prayer. They get half a point for trying.

Mr. Clunky Exposition Guy butts in to tell us all about the horrible persecution that awaits God’s people, who need to be willing to deny self. He does a lot of fear mongering.

We cut from Mr. CEG to another pointless story arc that goes nowhere. A man and his daughter are fleeing the city.

They sit down to rest by an abandoned building. I’m going to guess the child is roughly 3 or 4 years old. She’s freakin’ adorable, and her dad isn’t so bad looking himself.

Child: Daddy why do we have to keep on walking? Why do we have to keep on walking?

Man: We have to leave the city. The city’s not safe.

Child: I trust you daddy

Whoever wrote this script has zero idea of what small children are like. A real child not being fed her lines would say, “but why is the city not safe?!” or… anything. I get that the filmmakers want to emphasize that we must have the same childlike trust in God as the little girl in this movie has for her father, but it’s just so badly done that the message gets lost.

The man and his daughter walk 5 feet and then sit down again.

The daughter says she wants to go home, and how will Jesus find them if they leave? The dad tells the child Jesus knows where everybody is and is watching them right now.

Child: In the sky?”

No, sorry. No child would say,”in the sky” after being told such. Most children I know would say, “even in the bathroom?!” with horrified looks on their faces.

Or was I the only 5 year old who was completely weirded out by the idea of Jesus and all the angels of heaven watching me poop?

The father tells the kid that Jesus loves her even more than Daddy loves her. And daddy loves her very much. They then have a “I love you more, no I love you more” argument. It’s cute, the kid is adorable.

They get up and walk away. I think we see the father and daughter one other time in the entire movie, neither times are they doing anything particularly relevant to the plot. The kid’s cute and all, but their sub plot could have been cut and we would have lost nothing.

Mr. CEG comes in to talk to us more about the time of trouble. He tells us that many are too lazy to form the relationship with God that will be necessary in the time of trouble.

Mr. CEG: It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality.

Stock footage of plains taking off, bombs dropping, soldiers shooting, etc.

Mr. CEG then tells us that this will not be true in the time of trouble. In fact, the time of trouble will be the worst possible thing we can imagine, except worse. Seriously, he just gave every single person watching this more fodder for the horrible nightmares they’re already having.

Back to the whinging women in the cave. Snowflake Hat covers Nose Ring, who is shivering violently, with a blanket. Nose Ring then thanks her for all she’s done. She also tells the audience that Snowflake Hat brought them all to the cave and has watched out for them quite a bit.

This won’t be revealed till the next movie, but I’m going to put $10 down that Snowflake Hat is a guardian angel. Because nothing in this movie is subtle.

Nose Ring: “I’m scared, Jamie.”

We’re at 21:33, and this is the first time we get a name for Snowflake Hat. I’m gonna keep on calling her Snowflake Hat because I am too lazy to go back and edit.

Nose Ring cries more about how scared she is. These women cry and whine a lot. Which is probably realistic, but doesn’t really make for good storytelling.

Mr. CEG talks about how we need to trust in God.

We cut back to the prison guard and PrisonerLady in a cell by herself. Unlike last time, the prison guard doesn’t turn on the lights when he comes in. He approaches the woman, who is curled up on the ground in the fetal position. It’s incredibly creepy. You almost get the feeling that he’s planning to do something besides talk to her .

The guard tells her he has had her scheduled to be released this very afternoon, and that her family will be there.

Guard: It wasn’t easy, but I did it. You’ll be free by tonight.

Closeup of the woman’s reaction:

This is not the face of someone who is about to be released from prison. This is the face of someone who is afraid.


Wait, seriously? Why has the prison guard gone to all this trouble to help this woman, who has shown no signs of giving in?

I’m going to assume that the guard is lying. Either he is lying about having gone to a lot of trouble to secure her release, or he is lying about it being difficult to secure her release.

If one of these things is not true, then the guard’s actions here make no sense.

Seriously, this guy is terrible at his job.

As the guard tells her that she has to sign “a retraction” before she can leave, his face is very close to hers, she’s lying down and she’s acting like she is terrified.

This is creepy, but not for the reasons the movie makers planned.

PrisonerWoman: Retract what?

Guard: Why do you always ask me this? You know what.

This is probably realistic, but at the same time, you need to stop this.  The audience doesn’t know what. This is one of the rare cases where you are telling too little. I mean, what exactly do they want her to retract? Her faith in God? Her commitment to keeping the Sabbath?

A mainstream Christian would assume the former, but an Adventist is going to be wondering what exactly the woman is supposed to retract. Because Adventists don’t believe that, in the last days, Christians are going to be persecuted for worshiping Jesus. They believe Adventist Christians are going to be persecuted specifically for keeping the Sabbath. And so, while a mainstream Christian would probably know what is being referred to, an Adventist is going to wonder how distinctly Adventist this movie is supposed to be. An Adventist audience is going to feel that they are missing something.

In some cases, you can tell us less and we won’t feel talked down to. This is not one of those cases.

The woman refuses to retract anything (she still doesn’t say what it is she is not retracting) because she can’t go against her conscience.

The guard yells, the woman cries.

Guard: We’ll play it your way. Tomorrow, I’ll send him in here

At this the woman, who previously has been shaking with anxiety, throws an all out panic attack fit. I….don’t know what that’s about.

Mr. CEG: With sympathizing tenderness, angels witness the suffering of god’s people int he time of trouble…but they are waiting the word of their commander to snatch them from their peril. Yet they must wait a little longer.

I never thought about this before, but that would really suck. I mean, think about it: you’re an angel and could help your human charges at any time. And yet God makes you stand there and do nothing but watch as your charges are brutally tortured.

Someone has to make a fanfiction of this. Perhaps a story where a guardian angel can’t take it any more, steps in, and saves the human, thereby incurring the wrath of God?

I’m way too lazy for that sort of thing, so someone else needs to.

Back to PrisonerLady, the prison guard walks over to her sleeping form. The Lady is curled up in the fetal position. The guard steps over her and the woman shrieks.

The guard tells her that she would be better dead than alive, and I can’t help but agree. If the woman is dead, she won’t be alive to suffer anymore. If the woman is dead, she is also saved for all eternity, there’s no chance she’ll fuck up and sin and therefore damn herself to hell.

I’m sure the director’s didn’t intend this, but this scene, too, is rife with sexual tension. The way the guard speaks, the way he moves, the way he pants, the way he sweats….. oh yeah, he totally wants to bone her. And he doesn’t much care if he gets “no” for an answer.

If PrisonerLady is dead, she won’t care much if the prison guard rapes her.

If the film directors did intend for this to be there, this is well done. If they did not intend for this to be here, they need to re-shoot these scenes.

Nevertheless, whether or not this was intended, here it is.

Mr. CEG then tells not to worry, that God will avenge the good Christians at the second coming.

Is he also going to cure their PTSD? Because these people are going to have it by the shitload.

There’s more footage of PrisonerLady, with blood streaming down her face (and no doubt other body parts as well, shudder) praying. For a solid minute or two she just repeats, “do you see me? Do you hear me?” This goes on for like a solid 3 minutes. Which again, probably realistic, but not good story telling.

Seriously, all the women do in this movie is whine and cry. Meanwhile, the Christian man is out and about doing things with his daughter. I’m sure the directors didn’t mean for this stark contrast to portray all women as whiny little do nothings while the man actually does something…

Mr. CEG comes on to talk. I’m done caring about him. He talks more about the time of trouble. Yawn.

Aaaaaand we’re back to the Whingeing Women in the cave!

Snowflake Hat comes over to a woman, who asks her what makes her so strong. Snowflake Hat denies being strong, because Jeebus.

Ok seriously, why are these women just sitting around in a cave? You could argue that God will magically provide them with food and water, but even so, there should be plenty of work for the women to do. They could dig a latrine, they could clear out some of those rocks. They could find work to do and stay busy. Staying busy is important in such situations because if all you do is sit around and whine and cry and panic, that is ridiculously unhealthy. Staying busy would also keep you from doing irrational things.

In fact, a God with half a brain wouldn’t magically provide the Whingeing Women with food and water because he’d know that they’d need to go out and get it themselves in order to stay busy.

Keeping themselves busy would also put these women in a better mood. They keep snapping at each other. One of the women wonders why they survived when so many others are….

Asian Girl1: Dead? Just say it? What’s wrong with you people!

I’ve been wondering the same thing all the damn movie.

Asian Girl 1: Get real would you?!

Another woman, Asian Girl2, points out that Asian Girl 1 has no idea who’s dead vs who’s alive.

I will say AsianGirl2 has a point. They don’t know, and in a way that’s worse.

AsianGirl1: We all saw it with our own eyes! The bomb fell, and everything was wiped out…..even if anyone survived, the radiation would have got them anyway.

The women start crying again as they talk about how, on top of everything else, a nuclear bomb was set off.

Wait. These women saw the bomb explode. They were close enough not only to watch it explode but to know that “it wiped out everything.” And they’re not suffering even minor side affects like, I dunno, radiation poisoning?

I’m calling bullshit.

Asian Girl 2: I’m going back at daybreak!

This. This right here is why you need to give these women something to do besides sit around and wish they had some cheese to go with their wine.

AsianGirl 2 whines about how she told her husband she’d wait for him, but when the bombs dropped, she just ran away. We then cut to some footage of AsianGirl2 jumping up and down (she is not running) in front of a greenscreen displaying fire.

And I’m sorry, but if that fire is supposed to somehow represent a nuclear bomb, then that girl should have already been dead.

In any case, no one can fault her for being upset about this, and even though it makes no frickin’ sense whatsoever for her to want to go back to look for her husband, I think this is realistic. Humans are not always rational beings, and sometimes we do stupid things like go back to radioactive wastelands to look for people we love.

I’ve already mentioned reasons I think these women should do something besides sit around and whinge. I’m going to add another: If you make a person feel like they are an essential part of the team, that they are vital to the wellbeing of the group, they’re less likely to run off and do something foolish.

Token White Guy ™ walks up and listens to this conversation. He is tossing a small ball (rock?) back and forth. He does not look happy.

AsianGirl1: You’re all unbelievable!

Oh my god, preach it girl!

There’s more whining from the women about all the people who they left behind. They’re whining and whining and whining and I can’t take it anymore and neither can Token White Guy.

Token White Guy: Just shut up would you! Everyone just shut up!

Oh my god THANK YOU!

you’re all a bunch of religious fanatics! How did I end up here with you? I never said I was Christian

Flashback to Token White Guy playing pool. A bottle of beer is clearly visible in the background. I’m not sure about the pool game, but a beer bottle DEFINITELY is meant to scream LOST HEATHEN to the audience. I doubt the Australian conference is liberal enough to allow beer.

Token White Guy(continuing): What’ good’s it done any of you? I only came here because there was nowhere else to go. But what’s the point….listening to all you worrying about God? I’m outta here.

So Token White Guy leaves. No one tries to stop him. Every other time someone’s tried to leave, someone begs them to stay. Not so with Token White Guy.

Summer: He is one of the few who actually made sense lol. I was SO TIRED of these women by the time the movie was done

Right! We’re probably not supposed to sit here and nod along in agreement with TWG, but…. I’m sitting here nodding along in agreement with TWG. Because he has a point. All these women have done is sit around crying and whining. And contrary to what TWG says, they haven’t just been whining about God. They’ve been sitting around whingeing about all they’ve been through. Now granted, some of this is normal. Some of this is healthy. But these women are taking it to an unhealthy extreme.

Token White Guy is fed up with all the whining, and he’s not taking it anymore. He doesn’t know where else he’ll go, but he’s going. These Whingeing Women are bringing down group morale, which is all TWG has left.

Yanno, when you’re Designated Lost Person makes more sense than all of your Christian characters put together and multiplied, you need to rethink your movie.

Mr. CEG cuts in to tell us about all the people who will be lost.

We then get a pointless scene of the guard holding out a bible to PrisonerLady, who reaches for it like a dehydrated person reaches for a glass of water. Then the guard snatches it away from her. This causes PrisonerLady to scream really loudly, as if she were being attacked. Bit of an overreaction, don’t you think? Disappointment would be ok to show, but this? This just makes it look like the woman has some sort of mental problems that cause her to overreact to anything.

Summer: Why didn’t the woman in the prison cell know that the “mean guard” (this whole storyline was just so terrible that I really can’t, but I digress) was going to hit her hand if she tried to take that Bible? Just because someone doesn’t hit you doesn’t make them the “nice guy who is going to bring you a Bible.”

Me: I’m pretty sure he has brutalized her at some point, but you’re right. She should have seen this coming.

I’m guessing this means that movie is made to appeal more to mainstream Christians? Because Adventists don’t believe that the Bible itself will be banned, just their interpretation of it. So why the thing with the guard tantalizing the woman with the Bible? It makes no sense.

After this we cut to another scene with the greenscreen, this time people wearing white robes are surrounded by clouds. I’m Faceblind, so if I’m supposed to recognize these characters from elsewhere in the movie, it’s not something I’m picking up on.

The angels talk about how they are always walking among the humans, etc. Basic stuff Christians believe about angels. Then the people each take turns saying: “Remember, I was there.”

The blonde one has the smuggest look ever on her face the entire time.

We cut back to PrisonerLady. She finds a Bible under her pillow. She bursts into tears and moans. It seems more sexual than it’s meant to, and this time I’m definitely sure it wasn’t intended.

Back to the Whingeing Women in the cave.

AsianGirl1: You guys are a bunch of idiots! We can’t stay here! There’s no food, there’s no water, no nothing!

AsianGirl1 has a point. How long have they been in that cave? Months? How have they survived? Humans can go no more than 3 days without water. They’re in a cool dark cave, so I’ll be generous and give them a 4th day. After that? You’re dead.

I’m also going to point out that the women don’t know there’s no water source nearby, because no one has bothered to try and look for it. In fact, you can add that to the list of things these women should be doing instead of sitting around and whingeing.

Seriously, if these women took any initiative at all, there would at least be something. If sitting around reading the Bible is that important, you can read your precious Bible out loud while your partner digs to find groundwater, and then switch off when she gets tired of digging.

But then we’d have a story of women actually doing stuff. Can’t have that. Only the men in this story do stuff.

More whingeing. More of Snowflake Hat talking about God. More Whingeing. Isn’t there some Bible verse about not whining too much? If there isn’t, there should be.

AsianGirl1: I’ve had enough. I’m leaving.

Another woman, Brown Braid, tries to stop AsianGirl1 from leaving. She says that if she leaves, the Rebels will get her and if they don’t, the radiation will.

Ok, but, if the rebels don’t know she’s a Christian, they won’t get her. Also, she didn’t say she was going back to the city this time, just that she was leaving. And why did you stop her instead of TWG? Poor Token White Guy, no one cares about him.

AsianGirl1 shouts that these women are a bunch of crazy people.

Woman: God is real! Ok! You may be feeling lost or guilty, but that doesn’t make him any less real!

This particular woman sounds like a kid who is blatantly asserting something she does not know to be true. After she says AsianGirl1 may be feeling guilty, AsianGirl1 has a very confused look on her face. Like, no, I don’t feel guilty you cunt, fuck off.

Asiangirl1 begs her sister to “leave these fools and survive.”

And it’s not a good sign that I’m nodding along in agreement. These women are not foolish for believing in God.* What they are foolish for is sitting around for months on end not doing ANYTHING to help themselves!

God may be reaching out the hand to help, but you have to reach out and grab God’s helping hand. Sometimes the Lord helps those who help themselves. You want your God to help you find water? Go out there and look for it!

AsianGirl1 leaves. White Hoodie gets up to follow her.

“I left the chickens at the farm a long time ago and I refuse to die with a bunch of chickens today!”

White Hoodie has a point. These women have been cowering in a cave for apparently months, while not doing anything. White Hoodie doesn’t want to sit around waiting to die, and I can respect that.

People beg her not to leave. One woman, crying, tells White Hoodie that there is a heaven, but there’s also a hell.

White Hoodie says it’s all just a story. I can’t help but wonder if she really doesn’t believe, or if she’s just tired of the way these Christians just sit around and whine all day. Because I’ll be honest, these women have not made Christianity sound appealing.

Mr. CEG talks, but he’s not saying anything particularly important. He hasn’t been in a while.

Mr. CEG: The Lord allows conflicts because they will help prepare for peace.

So, is PTSD not a thing in this universe? Because that’s what conflicts like these cause. It is the exact opposite of peace.

Set that aside. These women are not using the conflicts around them to help them grow and become better people. They’re using it as an excuse to sit around and whine.

Oh great, now this movie’s a musical. PrisonerLady is singing “Abide With Me.” It seriously looks like she’s singing out of a hymnal. She’s a decent singer, I think. But it’s kinda long and kinda pointless and could be cut.

Actually, I take it back. This is one of like, 2 incidences where this movie shows rather than tells. It’s showing a woman taking comfort from singing instead of having Mr. CEG tell us about it. It’s a low bar to clear, but sure, I’ll give it to them. Leave the scene in.

As if on cue, Mr. CEG comes on to talk about it. It’s boring and pointless and we are skipping it.

We cut back to the man and his daughter. Remember them? They were fleeing the city because it was dangerous. In any case, they’re walking along a nice well groomed trail on a hill when the daughter asks where her mother is. The dad tells her “Mommy is sleeping.”

Seriously? I get the desire to protect your child, and I get that SDAs view death as a sleep. But this is still absolutely not the right way to handle it. Small children don’t understand. Small children (and even adults, actually) need to hear the words, “Mommy is dead.” Shoot, this father even has an advantage! He doesn’t have to tell his daughter “we’ll see her sometime in the future when we all get to heaven.” He knows that the world is ending right now! All he has to do is tell his daughter that Jesus is coming within the week, and he’ll be right.

Child: Can you just wake her up?

Because from her point of view, this is a logical question.

Summer: That was the most realistic this child has said.

Me: Completely agree.

The father does say he can’t wake mommy up till Jesus comes. I get that SDAs view death as a sleep, but this is still a little less than honest. Mainstream Christians, who don’t see death as a sleep at all, are going to think this is very dishonest.

After Mr. CEG talks about the end times some more, PrisonerLady is being taunted by the guard. He calls her a pathetic little….and then pauses, like the actor suddenly realized he’s in a Christian film that doesn’t allow for profanity.

“Pathetic little…. Christian!

He then tells her she will die tonight. Honestly, PrisonerLady should be grateful. All she has to do is confess and repent of all she can think of and go safely to sleep secure in the knowledge that her suffering is over and she’s saved for all eternity.

At least, according to her beliefs.

Mr. CEG then tells us that sometimes people will try and kill Christians before the death decree officially goes out, but God’s going to stop the bad guys from killing any Christians.

So, God is going to prevent these people from ending PrisonerLadys’ suffering. Does God not know there are worse things than death? What a dick.

We next cut to the Whingeing Women in the cave. Soldiers with guns are entering the cave. Finally. I’ve been rooting for this to happen all movie. Put these damn whiny ass babies out of their stupid misery.

One of the soldiers shouts, “there they are!” and points his gun.

The soldier standing next to him shouts, “put that down!” and knocks the gun out of his buddy’s hands. “I am not shooting unarmed Christians!” He shouts. He tries to warn the Whining Women to run, but then his soldier friends start shooting. They shoot him, too. He dies.

Wait a second…..  Go back to him. Is he saved, then, or has probation already closed? Is God saving Good Soldier Dude anyway, knowing that he’s a decent human being who tries to save everyone, in the end? Are they trying to show that atheists are good people too but God doesn’t care? Are they trying to show us that this man may not have known it, but he was absolutely a Christian?

And why did Soldier Dude do it? Did he have a crisis of conscience as he was persecuting Christians, like Saul did, or has he been sympathetic to Christians all along?

These are the questions I need answers to dammit, you can’t just bring this stuff up and then not go there.

Summer: Agreed

I mean, to be fair, perhaps they intend to bring this up in the sequel, but I’ll put $10 on the fact that it’s forgotten.

In any case, the whining women flee as bullets go off. The bullets don’t seem to hit any of them, though.

So, since no Christians are allowed to die, but Brave Soldier Dude died, does that mean that Brave Soldier Dude totally missed the boat on being saved even though he is clearly a better person than the Whining Women? I mean, at least Brave Soldier Dude did something to try and help someone. (The fact that it was too little too late is entirely beside the point.) The only woman so far who’s done that has been Snowflake Hat, but that happened offscreen, so it barely counts.

We are then showed CGI footage of a bomb exploding and fire spreading throughout a Generic CGI City. Dramatic music plays in the background. We see a white Light.

Jesus has come, movie’s over, the end. The words “To be continued” flash across the screen.

Wait, what? They ended the movie there? Why? There’s nothing left to show. At least during this movie you had the potential for an interesting story. What kind of story are you going to have when your characters are in a perfect heaven with a perfect God? Not a very interesting one, which is why most end times novels end with the second coming.

In any case, the director of the film then talks about how they want the sequel to take place after the second coming. In fact, part 2 is the movie they actually wanted to make, but they felt that they needed to make this one first, so that we could contrast the brilliance of heaven with the awfulness of the Tribulation.

You know what? I bet that’s why this movie suffers. Because it wasn’t the movie they wanted to make. Their hearts weren’t in it.

In order to make this 2nd film, they need $10,000. They apparently need it in ten days. Director Lady then asks for donations.

Why do they only have to do it in ten days? This is not explained.

As an afterthought, I decided to see if they’d reached their goal. Here’s their GoFundMe:

So, they didn’t make it. They didn’t even get close.

In case anyone from the film company is reading and wondering if there’s anything you can do to make your film better,** the answer is yes. You do not need a ridiculously large budget to make a good film. What you do need are a decent script, good characterization, and halfway decent actors.

The script needs a complete re-write. You can keep some of the scenes from the Whingeing Women in the cave, but most of it definitely needs to be cut, as does every single scene with Mr. CEG. He is not needed, and his presence in the film jerks people out of the story.

This next bit of advice isn’t going to seem like it makes sense coming out of my mouth, but here it is: make it more distinctly Adventist. Like it or not, you are a low budget film company who’s not very well known. If you try to appeal to mainstream Christians, you’re not going to succeed because most Christians these days are expecting quality films. And right now, you don’t have that.

The End Times according to Seventh Day Adventists is rife with good material for a story. You’ve got a lot to work with here, but you cut most of it out in order to appeal to mainstream Christians. This not only turned your SDA audience completely off, it weakened your story. Make your story more distinctly Adventist, and then you will at least have more Adventists backing you. Your Adventist audience wants you to succeed. Heck, I want you to succeed, and I don’t even like you.

I would also advise you to see what you can do to hire real actors. They don’t need to be big name stars like Nicholas Cage, but do what Tell The World did and hire D-list actors nobody has heard of. Granted the actors on Tell The World are not great actors, but they’re decent. They’re better than what you have now.

I would also advise you to put half the characters on the chopping block. Cut the number of Cave Women down to MAYBE 4, but preferably just 2 or 3. You have too many characters to develop and not enough time to develop all them, so cutting them out of the film entirely is a good choice. This would give you more room to develop some of the existing characters who frankly seemed more interesting and got virtually no attention from the plot. Focus less on the Whingeing Women and more on the man and his daughter. Or at least even out the balance between the man and his daughter and the Whingeing Women.

Good character development will cover a world of sins. I can forgive a movie for bad acting if the script and characterization are otherwise solid.

Then you need to give the Whingeing Women something to do besides sit around and whine. Even if all you can think of for them to do is run around in circles all day, have them do that. But preferably have them doing something to make their surroundings more comfortable, at the very least. Maybe show them being compassionate to refugees fleeing the war torn cities.  Presumably that’s what happened with Token White Guy, but if so, that happened offscreen. Why did Token White Guy choose to join the women in the cave? Show us. Don’t tell.

You should also hire a Designated Heathen to watch your movie. This needs to be done because you clearly have all kinds of sexual tension that I don’t think you intend to be there at all. A Designated Heathen(tm) will pick up on that and have no problem with telling you how it is.

Honestly, I think you have a lot of potential to make a good movie. I would see this as a first draft, a rough draft. Learn from your mistakes, and begin again.





*Well, maybe they are, but set that aside. Their religion itself is not, in this case, the main problem.

**Just kidding, you think I’m an evil heathen who wants to tear down Christianity and you’re gonna pray for me. No doubt you are resenting me for seeing your movie as anything less than the work of God Himself. You probably feel quite attacked. You probably feel like I’m somehow an agent of Satan attacking you. I assure you, I do not work for the devil.


The Stand Chapter 5

Last week we got to see some of the people who worked on Project Blue. This week we meet my least favorite character, Larry Underwood.

In any case, one of the themes I’ve noticed in Stephen King novels is that there is a protagonist who is either a writer, an alcoholic, a drug user, or all of the above. (I think King himself struggled with alcohol, so you could debate whether or not these characters are author inserts.) In The Stand, that’s Larry Underwood.

As we meet Larry Underwood, he is parking his car in the parking lot of his mother’s apartment complex. He watches a rat eating a poor dead cat, and there’s a few paragraphs about New York’s rat population, New York in general as compared to Southern California, and New York rain.

One thing about Stephen King’s books: there are a lot of things that could be cut without losing anything. I’m actually cutting out a lot of stuff because it’s just not relevant.

Larry Underwood thinks about going to his mother’s apartment.

No, he would just sit here and nod off, trusting to the last residue of reds in his system to wake him up around 7. Then he would go see if his mother still lived here. Maybe it would best if she was gone….maybe then he would just check into the Biltmore, sleep for 3 days, and then head back into the golden west.

According to google, reds are some kind of barbiturate. I’m not a pharmacist, but I’m pretty sure barbiturates aren’t exactly known for keeping people awake.

Larry sits in his car, thinking about his life for the past 10 months. I’ll summarize the paragraphs for you. Basically, Larry Underwood is a singer (songwriter?) trying to make it in LA. I don’t really understand all the details. What does it mean to “cut a demo?” In any case, Larry gets suddenly famous for a song, “Baby can you dig your man?” This is apparently “N—- music,” even though Larry himself is white.

Larry doesn’t handle the sudden wealth well. He rents a beach house and starts a party that lasts for at least two weeks. He does lots of coke, tequila, and “reds.” 6 days ago, however, Wayne Stukey, someone who works at the recording studio, took Larry for a walk.

It had only been 9am, but the stereo was on, both TVs, and it sounded like there was an orgy going on in the basement playroom. Larry had been sitting in an overstuffed living room chair, wearing only underpants, and trying to get the sense from a Superboy comic book. He felt very alert, but none of the words seemed to connect to anything. Wayne had to shout 3 or 4 times to make himself heard.

When Larry goes outside, he feels an immediate headache from the bright sunlight. Wayne takes Larry’s arm and steers him out of the house and down the beach. Yes, with Larry only in his underwear. They walk for a long time, and it’s made clear that Wayne is trying to get Larry to the point where he is sober enough to talk.

We are told that soon Larry begins to get an amphetamine hangover. We are also told that amphetamine hangovers are not as bad as booze hangovers, in which case, bring me some amphetamine because alcohol hangovers are the reason I quit drinking.

Larry thinks that if he had some “uppers,” he’d be able to walk more miles. He tells Wayne he wants to go back, but Wayne isn’t having it. He wants to talk to Larry and he wants to do it while Larry is sober. Larry beings to whine about how Wayne hates him just because he’s famous. Then he gets cramps in his thighs. I’ve never had a leg cramp, so I don’t get why this is a big deal. Larry whines like a baby, and Wayne massages Larry’s legs till the muscles loosen. I wonder if sudden cramping is a symptom of withdrawal from whatever drugs Larry’s been on.

Finally, Wayne begins to say what he’s been wanting to say.

“I wanted to talk to you. I had to get you out here and I wanted you straight enough so you could understand what I was laying on you…. the party’s got to end, Larry.”

Larry’s pretty sure Wayne is speaking English, but he still doesn’t completely grok what Wayne is saying. He wonders why on earth the party needs to stop when it’s practically just started.

Wayne points out that the record company only paid Larry 7K up front. Then he points out that this party Larry is throwing is extremely expensive. And remember, this was 1980. Adjusting for inflation on everything would be too difficult to bother with, so I’ll only do it for the grand total.

Beach house: $1,200 + $500 deposit

$1,000 for drugs

Even more for drugs, because apparently Larry told some guy to keep the cocaine and marijuana coming and to put it on Larry’s tab. This was weeks ago.

Finally, Larry begins to realize the trouble he is in. He asks how much he owes this guy.

“Not much on the pot. Pot’s cheap. $1200. 8 grand on the coke.”

Total cost of drugs: $9200+$1000. Do not ask me to do more math than that.

“Do you want the rest?” [Wayne asked]

Larry did not want the rest, but he nodded.

“There was a color TV upstairs. Someone ran a chair through it. I’d guess $300 for repairs. The wood paneling downstairs has been gouged to hell. $400. With luck. The picture window facing the beach got broken the day before yesterday. $300. The shag rug in the living room is totally kaput–cigarette burns, beer, whiskey. $400. I called the liquor store and they’re just as happy with your tab as [drug guy]. You owe the liquor store $600…you’ve also got a $400 tab down at the market, mostly for pizza, chips, tacos, etc. But the worst is the noise. Soon the cops are going to land…and you’ve got 4 or 5 heavies up there doing heroin. There’s 3 or 4 ounces of Mexican brown in the place.”

Larry asks if he owes money for the heroin* too, but Wayne shakes his head. However, if the cops find the heroin in the house Larry rented, Larry will still be in major trouble for it. Because drug laws in America suck.

“Your total for this little shindy so far comes to over $12,000.”

I did look up an inflation calculator for this one. This book was originally published in 1980, but the story takes place in the near future of 1985. In June of 1985, $12,000 translates in today’s money to roughly $27,000.

That’s one year of college tuition for me, and he spent it all on partying and drugs. I can’t even imagine.

Larry is about to cry. He doesn’t have $12,000 and he realizes he is in trouble. He agrees with Wayne: the party has to end. He spends a paragraph whining about his reputation. All those people are going to hate him no!

Wayne tells Larry that those people aren’t his real friends anyway, and why should he care? His real friends saw all this happening and they split days ago.

Larry then gets angry at Wayne for telling him all this. And I get it. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s a normal human reaction, and normal human reactions don’t always make sense.

Larry asks Wayne why he’s telling him this.

“I never got the feeling you liked me very much.”

“No…. but I really don’t dislike you, either. Beyond that, man, I couldn’t say.”

Fair enough. I mean, even if Wayne doesn’t particularly like Larry, that doesn’t mean he wants to see Larry stoned out of his mind 24/7.

“Go back and pull the plug,” Wayne said softly. “Then you get in that car and go. Just go, man. Stay away until you know that next royalty check is waiting for you.”

Larry thanks Wayne, who tells him to go away and get his shit together.

We cut away from the flashback to Larry’s mother tapping on his car window. She’s seen him pull in, and she’s already called in sick to work.

I love Mrs. Underwood.

Larry gives his mother a hug, and she invites him in. She asks if Larry has been driving all night, and he tells her he has.

Alice Underwood fixed him 3 eggs, bacon, toast, juice, coffee. When he had finished all but the coffee, he lit a cigarette and pushed back from the table. She flashed the cigarette a disapproving look but said nothing. That restored some of his confidence–some, but not much. She had always been good at biding her time.

Larry informs the audience that his mother would be around 51 now, and that her boobs seem to be bigger than they used to be. He thinks about asking her, but wisely does not. Who looks that closely at their mother’s boobs? Ew.

Finally Alice speaks.

“So, you came back. What brought you?”

I can understand why Larry might not want to tell his mother all the details, but he chose to come here, so he should probably at least try for some honesty.

“I guess I got to missing you, mom.”

She snorted. “That’s why you wrote me often?”

I like Alice. She’s the only person besides Wayne so far who’s calling Larry out on his bullshit.

Larry asks how she’s been doing, but it’s kinda clear he only asks because he thinks he should. Alice tells him she’s doing alright, but that she has back problems she sees a chiropractor for. Larry has to bite his tongue in order not to retort that chiropractors are frauds.

I’m not sure what the prevailing wisdom was back when this was written, but nowadays my nursing textbook said that actually, Chiropractors are very helpful for back problems. There is some science behind that. Now if you treat your chiropractor like a primary care doctor, that’s a bad idea, but I’m not seeing that that’s the case here.

There’s some back and forth about whether or not Larry has a girlfriend or his mom has a boyfriend.

I’m troubling her, he thought. That’s what it is. She doesn’t know what I want here. She hasn’t been waiting for 3 years for me to show up after all. She only wanted me to stay away.

Throughout this chapter, Larry has a troubling tendency to think that everyone who doesn’t immediately love him must secretly hate him. When Wayne told him the party had to end, Larry accused Wayne of just being jealous. Now he is accusing his mom of not really wanting him.

I mean, Larry is away for 3 years, during which time he never really writes to her, and then he shows up on her doorstep….how is she supposed to react? Of course you’re troubling her. Of course she’s wondering why you’re really here.

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want you back.

“I hear that song you got on the radio. I tell people, that’s my son. That’s Larry. Most of them don’t believe it.”

See, she even listens to your music and goes around telling people you’re her son. Of course she loves you.

Maybe we are supposed to see Larry as the unreliable narrator.

Larry is surprised his mother has heard his song, and wonders why she hasn’t mentioned it earlier, instead of talking about “piddling shit.”

This is why Larry drives me crazy for about the first half of the book. He is so full of himself. All that matters is that he’s this famous guy who sings a song people like. Because asking your mother how she’s doing and telling her why you’re here when you haven’t spoken to her in 3 years is “piddling shit.”

When Larry asks his mom if she likes the song, she responds….about the way I’d respond if I didn’t like the music but was trying to be polite. At least at first. Then she goes on to say some other stuff that makes me roll my eyes.

“As well as I like any of that music.” She looked at him firmly. “I think some of it sounds suggestive. Lewd…..the place for passion’s the bedroom,” she said curtly, closing off any aesthetic discussion of his hit record. “Also, you did something to your voice. You sound like a N—-……… when I was a girl, we thought Frank Sinatra was dreamy. Now they have this rap. Rap, they call it. Screaming, I call it. At least there’s no screaming on your record.”

Ok, so she’s a little old fashioned and doesn’t understand that one can respect the genre without liking the music. That’s kind of obnoxious, but it doesn’t make her a terrible person.

Finally, the topic of money comes up. Larry tells Alice that the record company hasn’t paid him much. This gives Alice a chance to talk about how bad it is to be in too much debt. This causes Larry to think about how his father died, leaving Alice to raise him on her own. No easy feat even by today’s terms, and no doubt doubly hard back then.

Her last remark to him as he and Rudy drove off in Rudy’s old ford was that they had poorhouses in California, too.

So, Larry left his mother after an argument, on poor terms, stayed away for 3 years, never wrote or called, then suddenly shows up on her doorstep, and then doesn’t understand why she’s a little wary. Yet she still invites him into her home, she still takes him in, and she still loves him.

Alice Underwood is a flawed character who has made some mistakes and is a bit judgmental. But she’s not a terrible person.

“You’re welcome to stay as long as you like, Larry. I’m not so good at expressing myself, maybe, but I’m glad to see you. We didn’t say goodbye very well. There were harsh words….for my part, I regret them. I only said them because I love you. I never knew how to say that just right, so I said it in other ways.”

I can understand that. I don’t necessarily agree with what she’s done, but she’s at least sort of apologizing.

Alice then tells Larry he can contribute monetarily if he wants to….or not.

“I’m working. Thousands aren’t. You’re still my son.”

Larry bursts into tears, and why is my kindle wet all of a sudden? Ahem. Anyway, Larry realizes that he hasn’t come here because he has nowhere else to go. He’s here because he’s gotten himself into trouble, and he’s afraid, and he wants his mother.

Alice thinks for a while about how tough Larry is, and how he uses that toughness in bad ways rather than good.  She’d always thought Larry would change, but now that he’s a man, the time for that is mostly past.

She also thought there was good in Larry, great good. It was there, but this late on it would take nothing short of a catastrophe to bring it out. There was no catastrophe here; only her weeping son.

Foreshadow, CLUNK.

Alice gets Larry’s bed ready for him, and he sleeps for 18 hours.

So, that’s Larry Underwood. He spends most of the book annoying me, and it will be interesting to watch his character growth.




*A co worker has informed me that Heroin is incredibly cheap, and that they could get me whole bunch for only $15. They then refused to actually do so. (Not that I wanted it anyway, for the record.)

The Shack Chapter 6 Part 3


We last left off with God and Mack sort of talking about free will, except not really. God mentions offhand that there’s a lot of factors that play into our decision making, and there’s a long paragraph listing them. Then she asks, “what is freedom really?” Which is a question philosophers have been asking for years and still haven’t come up with an answer to.

I want Mack to interject, here, that all of this is irrelevant, and to ask God, “why the fuck was my daughter’s free will not to be murdered less important to you than the free will of her murderer?” But that won’t happen.

God tells Mack that only “the truth” can set a person free. And “The Truth” has a name–Jesus. Jesus, conveniently, is out back in the wood shop.

“Everything is about him. And freedom is a process that happens inside a relationship with him. Then all that stuff you feel churnin’ around inside will start to work its way out.”

Freedom is indeed a process, but for me personally, I could not find freedom in Jesus. If you can, that’s great. I’m happy for you. But I’m happy for me, too. I just wish these books would stop presenting Jesus as the only way to freedom and happiness. Many people find happiness elsewhere, and it would be nice to see that acknowledged.

Mack says that God can’t possibly know how he feels, and then he notices the scars on her wrists. They’re just like Jesus’ scars from dying on the cross.

God reminds Mack gently that she has lost a son too. No, I’m sorry, that’s not even remotely the same thing. Yes God’s son died, and that surely was painful, but God also knew –and so did Jesus–that Jesus was going to come back to life in 3 days. Missy isn’t like Jesus: she’s not coming back. Neither are all the other dead children ripped too soon from their parents’ arms.

No one else Christian!Abby talked to seemed to think this was a problem. Christian!Abby felt very alone.

Mack tells God that she abandoned Jesus when he died. He knows this because Jesus’ words on the cross were, “my god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” It’s interesting to note, however, that those words only appear in one gospel. I’ve been reading about New Testament history, and it is speculated that the reason that those words were written is because some people believed that the spirit of God had entered Jesus at his baptism, and then left him when Jesus was dying on the cross. In all likelihood, those words were written because people hadn’t yet gotten their theology straight, and were still trying to write history.

(Contrary to popular belief, early Christians were more divided in their beliefs than today’s Christians are. We’ll get into that when we start our next book, Jesus Before The Gospels.)

So when Mack says, “You abandoned Jesus just like you abandoned me!” I expect an answer that somehow reconciles the idea of God never having left Jesus with the fact that Jesus felt that God had forsaken him. I mean, if you’re going to go there, at least go there, yanno? If you’re not going to tell us “they just hadn’t gotten their theologies sorted out yet,” at least try to reconcile a seeming contradiction.

But God just says,

“I never abandoned him, and I haven’t abandoned you.”

Then why did Jesus think you had? Instead of asking that, Mack just says that what God is saying makes no sense.

“I know it doesn’t, at least, not yet. Will you at least consider this: when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?”

This sentence was included so there could be a version of this book with questions for small group bible study at the end of the chapter. Just kidding, I don’t really know that such an edition of this book exists, though I would bet $30 that if it doesn’t already, someone will write it in the next 6 months.

Just then, a blue jay lands on the windowsill, and God gives it some food. Then it walks into her hand.

“consider our little friend here,” she began. “Most birds were created to fly. being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around….You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around.”

I am not even going to pretend I remotely understand what the fuck any of that means.  We are told that Mack does, which….um, what? The things that do actually make sense Mack doesn’t understand, but he does understand the things that actually don’t?

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think this makes sense. Birds evolved were created to walk as well as fly, soooo humans were created both to be loved and unloved?

God then tells Mack that pain is like clipping a bird’s wings. When you have pain, you can’t reach your full potential, just like a bird with clipped wings can’t fly.

“I’m not like you, Mack.”

It wasn’t a put down; it was a simple statement of fact. But to Mack it felt like a splash of cold water.

“I am God. I am who I am. And unlike you, my wings can’t be clipped.”

When Mack asks where that leaves him, God says, “straight in the center of my love!” and then cuddles the blue jay. Wild blue jays don’t like to be cuddled. Actually, I’m not sure birds in general are huge fans of snuggles.

God then says this, and I think it has the potential to be quite insightful:

“The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the Nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then calling that god.”

This is true. We all make God in our own image. Instead of leaving it at that or expanding, God goes on to say that this is the wrong approach, because God isn’t just what men can imagine, she’s “so much more.”

And if one is a Christian and does believe that, fair enough, I suppose. I personally think it’s far more likely that God is exactly who we decide he/she is, since God herself does not actually exist. We all have our own different version of “God,” and I would be ok with that if people didn’t keep trying to get other people to accept their particular version of God.

Then we get onto the topic of the Trinity. Which is something I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about for some time. Basically, Christians–mainstream Christians as well–believe that God the Father, God the son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit are, at the same time, three different people and the same person. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. We won’t get too much into it right now, and actually, the book doesn’t go too much into it either.

Instead, the book goes on to talk about Jesus incarnate. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before in Sabbath school, so we’re skipping over most of it. I do want to highlight this, though. Mack and God are talking about Jesus as fully human. Mack thinks Jesus was a divine being, because he did all those miracles. God says that no, Jesus did that as a human who was really devoted to God.

“So when Jesus healed the blind?”

“He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”

I am uncomfortable with this. It suggests that anyone could heal someone if they just trusted in God enough to work through them. This is how people wind up dead of completely preventable causes.

To be fair, though, most mainstream Christians won’t take it this far, so let it pass. What I also want to highlight is that, at least for Adventists, this is wrong. It is wrong because they believe that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine.

I would be very interested in getting a current Adventist to read this book (hey Callie……) and tell me what they think of the theology. Because I could be wrong, and it’s been a while since I’ve read any SDA theology books.

Mack felt the onset of information overload

You and me both. Welcome to the next 5 chapters.

Mack and God talk about the trinity some more, and I find myself skimming. The trinity is actually something I always understood, even as a child. It’s like how our planet has 3 parts: the ground, the sky, and the water. And these 3 separate parts are still one planet (At least, that was how 8 year old me explained it to herself. I was 8, ok? Gimme a break.)

An Adventist friend has explained that she views the trinity like water. Water can be a liquid, a gas (mist), or a solid (ice.) It’s got 3 states, but it’s all still water. That’s a fair way to look at it, and is the explanation that makes the most sense.

In my opinion, there is not much mystery in this. But Mack proceeds to be confused, and God tells him that it would be boring if humans could fully grasp God, because don’t you want God to be all mysterious and shit? Huh. I guess that explains why humans go to such great lengths to make God a mystery sometimes. Because yeah, humans do like puzzles and mysteries and trying to figure shit out. But we also like it when we can’t figure things out, because that means there’s more to figure out.

I had never thought of it like that. Good job, book.

God goes on for a while about how she loves, how she is loves, and that she has a loving relationship within herself, which is the source of that love.

All pretty standard Adventism 101 stuff.

And that’s the end of the chapter. Tune in next time for more talking with God, this time over dinner instead of while preparing dinner. Will it be interesting? Will I be able to make myself read this in time to make regular blog posts? Will my work schedule get in the way? Who knows, I sure don’t.


The Stand Chapter 4

Last week, King showed us how the plague was spreading. We watched people getting sick, and we saw Joe Bob warn Hap and Vic about the CDC’s interest in the situation. Now we’re getting to a chapter that I find incredibly interesting. I tend to like stories about new diseases and how they spread like wildfire and kill a bunch of people, especially when the author shows us a lot of what the CDC does to contain it and try to find a cure.

I also really would have liked more information on exactly how this virus got developed and why. Unfortunately, King isn’t as interested in that as I am, so that will never get fully answered. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s plunge in.

We begin as Starkey looks through a bunch of papers. We are told that he’s been in the military for 36 years; he’s won awards, he’s advised presidents, and he’s seen a crisis or 5 in his lifetime. But right now, he is scared.

On impulse, he got up and went to the wall where the 5 blank tv monitors looked into the room. As he got up, his knee bumped the table, causing one of the sheets of flimsy to fall off the edge…someone standing over it and looking down would have seen this:













I really want to see the complete version of this memo. The most frustrating thing is that we don’t get to know much, even after everyone in the military dies and the facilities are abandoned. You’re telling me nobody got curious enough to start snooping?

Starkey turns on the TV screens, and we can see some of the damage.

It’s out there, straight ahead, Starkey thought. Project Blue.

I hope like hell that in this extended edition we get to find out what the fuck that is. Because in the edited version, we don’t.

The fright tried to wash over him again. He reached into his pocket and brought out a blue pill. What his daughter would call a “downer.”

I mean, shoot, if I were in this world, I’d probably use drugs too. Though I’m not sure why he’s using “downers” and I want to know which downers these are exactly and oh never mind.

Project Blue.

He looked at the other blank monitors, and then punched up pictures on all of them.

One of the monitors shows the physics lab, where a centrifuge is still turning. Starkey thinks this is creepy and has been trying to turn it off, but “they” (whoever “they” are exactly) tell him they can’t, because it’s connected to the same circuit as the lights.

Starkey understood. Some more brass might come down from Washington and want to look at the dead Nobel Prize winner who was lying 400 feet under the desert less than a mile away. If we turn off the centrifuge, we turn off the professor.

Oh for God’s sake, just shut the fucking lights out already. It’s not like you couldn’t turn them on again if you had to, since apparently the fusebox is safely away from the deadly labs themselves.

Starkey pops another downer, and turns his attention to the other monitor, showing the cafeteria. A man is dead with his face in a bowl of soup.

Ok, so, Campion contracted the disease and didn’t die for several hours, but these people pretty much died immediately?

The rate at which this disease kills people is extremely flexible at the plot’s convenience. When King needs a creepy scene, it kills almost immediately. When King wants to show how the disease is spreading and get to know some minor characters, it kills slowly. I’m not sure if any viruses work that way in real life. Maybe they do, I don’t know.

Monitor 2 showed the Project Blue cafeteria. The accident had occurred almost perfectly between shifts, and the cafeteria had been only lightly populated.

He supposed it hadn’t mattered much to them, whether they had died in the cafeteria or in their bedrooms or their labs.

I mean, I guess? If it’s that quick it probably doesn’t matter, but in general I think I’d like to die in my bed where I’d be more comfortable.

At the same time, I like this line. Dead is dead, and it ultimately doesn’t matter to them where they died. They’re still dead.

Starkey then goes on describing more dead people, and it’s chilling.

A man and a woman in blue coveralls were crumpled at the foot of the candy machine. A man in a white coverall lay beside the jukebox. At the tables themselves were 9 men and 14 women, some of them slumped beside Hostess Twinkies, some with spilled cups of Coke and Sprite still clutched in their stiff hands. And at the second table, near the end, there was a man who had been identified as Frank D Bruce. His face was in a bowl of what appeared to be Campbell’s Chunky Sirloin Soup.

This is much more creepy than Left Behind managed to be. In fact, one of Fred Clark’s complaints about the book was that it was not creepy enough. I mean, I get that there’s no dead bodies to look at in Left Behind, but the raptured people left behind their clothes, jewelry, and other belongings. There should have still been plenty of material for haunting scenes like this one. At the very least, the authors of Left Behind could have described the clothes that the raptured people had vacated. In The Stand, Stephen King not only shows us what people were doing when they died, he even tells us what kind of soup the dead man was in the process of eating.

It seems like such a little thing, but these details lend an extra layer of detail to the story. It makes it seem so much more real. And incredibly creepy.

The first monitor showed only a digital clock. Until June 13, all the numbers on that clock had been green. Now they had turned bright red. They had stopped. June 13, 1990. 2:37am. 16 Seconds.

I like this part, too. Hauntingly creepy.

Just then, Starkey hears a noise behind him. I guess he’s not the only person left alive in this facility, because Creighton comes in. Creighton tells Starkey that all the men who were exposed to Campion at the gas station are all dead.

“Five for sure. There’s one–his name is Stuart Redman–who’s negative so far. But as far as we can tell, Campion himself was negative for over 50 hours.”

Wait, what? No.

Campion was showing signs of infection the minute he left the containment building. This paragraph was believable in the original edited version of the story that didn’t have the prologue. It is not believable here.

Of course, there was no way to tell if Campion was negative for 50 hours after exposure because you didn’t have him in custody. So how would you even know that? Did you get this information from talking to people who might have seen him at gas stations? Because Campion was showing symptoms the minute he got exposed.

If we didn’t have the prologue, we wouldn’t know that Campion showed symptoms pretty much immediately. Without the prologue, this fits. With it, it’s kind of confusing.

Starkey tells Creighton that letting Campion run off was “sloppy security.” Well NO SHIT.

“Arnette has been quarantined. We’ve isolated at least 16 cases of constantly shifting A-prime flu there so far. And those are just the overt ones.”

I am trying to find out more about “A prime” flus, but there doesn’t seem to be much. Most of the results I get are from sites discussing this book. But there does seem to be a flu called “Type A.”

Starkey asks if the media has found out. Apparently the media has been told it’s Anthrax.

Looking briefly at the symptoms for anthrax, that is a plausible cover story. The description of anthrax poisoning is very similar to the description of Campion’s body. It makes way more sense than trying to pass it off as frickin’ cholera.

And then we see that poor Joe Bob did not manage to keep his visit to Hap a secret. Which, um, yeah, no shit.

We picked him [Joseph Robert] 3 hours ago and he’s en route to Atlanta now. In the meantime he’s been patrolling half of East Texas. God knows how many people he’s been in contact with.”

Yeah, what the heck? Mr. I’m-gonna-go-warn-Hap-While-exposing-myself-in-the-process Joe Bob, did you never think that you might be a way of spreading the disease to others?

Starkey says, “oh shit,” and thinks about how 99.4% communicability also means 99.4% mortality, as the disease is 100% fatal to all who get it.

The human body couldn’t produce the antibodies necessary to stop a constantly shifting antigen virus. Every time the body did produce the right antibody, the virus simply shifted to a slightly new form. For the same reason, a vaccine was going to be almost impossible to create.

I just googled for “constantly shifting antigen virus” and got literally zero results. Odd. I thought I would at least get hits for this book, if nothing else.

So, for those of you wondering what the hell a “constantly shifting antigen virus” is, Google has no idea either.

(I know I  misspelled it, but clearly Google knew what I meant, so I don’t think that counts.)


I don’t have a problem with this. Stephen King is free to come up with his own disease that doesn’t work the way any actual disease would. I just wish he’d explain it more.

I know, I know, I’m not supposed to be looking into it….the disease is a plot device. It’s just a way to get lots of people dead. It is not the main point of the book. This is a little disappointing, but it doesn’t completely ruin the novel.

Creighton then tells Starkey that his son in law committed suicide.

“The Project Blue specs were on his desk. I guess he thought leaving them was all the suicide note anybody would need.”

Honestly, I kinda don’t blame him. At this point, one of 3 things is going to happen to him:

  1. He’s going to die of his own virus
  2. A bunch of angry people who have nothing to lose are going to realize he’s responsible and come kill him slowly and painfully
  3. He’s going to be one of the survivors and have to live with the guilt.

I’m not saying he should kill himself, mind you. Just that it is understandable.

Starkey thinks about how he’s going to explain all this to his daughter.

You see, somebody made a mistake with a box. somebody else forgot to pull a switch that would have sealed off the base. The lag was only 40 some seconds, but it was enough. The box is known in the trade as a “sniffer.”….. the boxes are put together in separate circuits by female technicians, and they do it that way so none of them really know what they’re doing.

Why female technicians? Is it because of the stereotype that females supposedly don’t know as much about things as men do? Are they designed separately so that the technicians don’t really know what they’re building, or are we supposed to read that the boxes are built by females so they don’t know what they’re really doing? Either way, I’m uncomfortable with the phrasing.

It seems like a lot of balls were dropped here, and the military is looking to blame someone else when really they should be blaming themselves for developing the virus in the first place. Why create something that you yourself aren’t immune to? It makes no sense to try and create something like this unless the goal is to try and take out the human race.

At any rate, Starkey clearly blames the women who put together the boxes. Not the people who designed the boxes and definitely not the man who designed the damn flu.

Anyway, Cindy, the last coincidence was that a man at the #4 security post, Campion, saw the numbers go red just in time to get out of the room before the doors mag-locked. Then he got his family and ran. He drove through the main gate just 4 minutes before the sirens started going off and we sealed the whole base.

And no one started looking for him until nearly an hour later because there are no monitors in the security posts.

Which seems like a serious oversight, though Starkey does point out that at some point you have to stop policing the police, or it just never ends. This doesn’t seem realistic to me, and indeed, in the miniseries it’s shown that there’s a security camera on Campion’s guard post that shows him running off.

Starkey thinks for a moment about how Campion was smart enough to use back roads.

Then someone had to make a command decision on whether or not to bring in the State Police, the FBI, or both of them and that fabled buck got passed hither, thither, and yon, and by the time someone decided the Shop ought to handle it, this happy asshole–this happy diseased asshole–had gotten to Texas…..

So basically, this could have been contained a lot quicker if you’d all had your shit together. Yes Campion still should not have left the base. He had to have at least suspected that he had been exposed.* But really, your desire for secrecy didn’t help, either.

Starkey thinks about the “chain of coincidences,” as he calls them. He thinks that none of this was his son in law’s fault, but his son in law was the head of the project, so son-in-law felt like it was.

And I’m going to argue that it was his fault. It is the fault of him and the idiot military who decided to develop a virus that they haven’t even been able to find a vaccine for. It’s their fault for experimenting with diseases as weapons in the first place. And it’s their fault for handling things so poorly that there was even an accident in the first place.





*Campion was, after all, in the same building as the disease.

In the miniseries, in my opinion, this is handled much better. In the miniseries, all Campion does is guard a gate. He was never in the same building as the disease, and so he honestly has no reason to suspect he has been exposed. I would guess that this was done to make us a bit more sympathetic to Campion.

The Shack Chapter 6 Part 2

As Mackenzie goes back into the cabin, he notes that it doesn’t look like the same place.  Not only is it not falling apart, there’s “tasteful decorations,” a roaring fire, and, most importantly, no bloodstain on the floor by where Missy’s dress was found. Mack finds God in the kitchen, where she is listening to some music. She takes out her headphones when Mack comes in. Mack is curious as to what God listens to, and so am I.

“West Coast Juice. Group called Diatribe and an album that isn’t even out yet called Heart Trips. Actually, these kids haven’t even been born yet…Oh trust me, it’s not [religious]. More like Eurasian funk and blues with a message, and a great beat.

I love this. I love that God listens to music that a lot of Christians would condemn as evil and wicked. I didn’t mention it, but God even does a little dance move to it.

I think the thing I love most about this book is that it really does break some stereotypes. Notice that not a single member of the Godhead trinity is presenting as white? That alone is enough to blow people’s minds. Including mine.

When Mack says he thought God would be listening to something more religious, God tells him that she listens not just to the music, but to the hearts behind it, whatever that means. I…kinda like this concept.

Then the author goes and ruins a good thing. Sigh. It was nice while it lasted:

These kids ain’t saying anything I haven’t heard before

I love this. I love love love love the idea of God listening to music that some would describe as vulgar and sexual and saying, “it’s not like I haven’t heard this before.” Then we get this:

They’re just full of vinegar and fizz. Lots of anger and, I must say, with some good reason too. They’re just some of my kids, showin’ and spoutin’ off. I am especially fond of these boys, you know. Yup, I’ll be keeping my eye on ’em.”

Because of course God can’t be listening to them simply because they are musicians who have actual talent and she happens to like their style of music. No, these “kids” make the music they do because they are angry inside and God is listening because God loves them. And here I thought the writer was trying to break down stereotypes.

“You must know,” said Mack, “Calling you ‘Papa’ is a bit of a stretch.

God asks if that’s because she’s presenting as a woman, or because he is simply not used to calling her “Papa?” Mack indicates that neither one of these is an issue.

“Or maybe it’s because of the failures of your own papa?”

Mack gasped involuntarily. He wasn’t use to having deep secrets surface so quickly and openly.

Um, Mack? You remember those people you met on the camping trip, who you knew for like, a day? You may not have given all the details, but you told them your dad was pretty awful. You seem to be rather open about this sort of thing, so why are you surprised here?

And God, at this point, is being super vague. I could walk up to anyone, right now, and say, “your father had failures,” and that would be true. Every single person’s father has made mistakes because every single father is human.

Now, some failures are worse than others. But still, just mentioning that someone’s father made mistakes and had failures is not something that would cause me to have a particularly strong reaction. I would probably say something like, “well no shit.”

Mack says he never felt he had a real father, and when God promises to be the father he never had, Mack gets angry.

“If you couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I trust you to take care of me?”

That’s…. a damn good question.

I wish God would give an answer, but she doesn’t. She just says she loves Missy and Mack, and that she has brought Mack here to heal the gap that came between him and her when she allowed Missy to be killed.

So, basically, she gives Mack a non answer that doesn’t even pretend to answer the question, and Mack is just ok with this because he somehow knows God means it.

He wanted to believe her, and slowly some of his rage began to subside.

So, God has magical powers to clam down angry people who ask her pesky questions. Fantastic.

God tells Mack that there are no easy answers for what happened to Missy. If there were, she’d give them to him.

“Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship.”

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the question at hand, but set that aside. God is basically saying the same thing that any pastor anywhere would say to Mack. And I’m sorry, but in a novel where God is right fucking there, that’s not acceptable.

Then there’s this, and I want to throat punch Mackenzie:

“I think it’d be easier to have this conversation if you weren’t wearing a dress,” he suggested and attempted a smile, as weak as it was.

I think this is a reference to God presenting himself/herself as female instead of male, but this still rubs me the wrong way. Most men wouldn’t actually say it out loud, but a lot of sexist pricks really do have a hard time accepting a woman as his equal. Especially if she is presenting as more feminine, such as wearing a dress. Anecdotally, I notice I get taken a lot more seriously when I wear pants.

Instead of setting Mack straight on this, God just tells Mack that if it really would make things easier, she would present herself to Mack as a man.

“Mackenzie, I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are derived from my nature.

I love this. This is what Christian!Abby had been saying for years. It says, in the Bible, that God made male and female in God’s own image. Therefore, God was both male and female, but also probably identified as more than just bi-gender. He was probably some other gender that no one at the time knew about.

Christian!Abby’s Christian friends thought she was weird as fuck.

“If I choose to appear to you as a woman, it’s because I love you. For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me “Papa” is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning.”

So, if you had appeared as a man, would you insist Mack call you, “Mama?”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will God actually be shown as having a feminine side or will it just look like the author stuffed a male God into a female body?

As for not wanting Mack to fall back into “his religious conditioning” (aka brainwashing), I agree, but then, why has God done pretty much nothing except spout off stuff that any youth pastor could’ve told him? I mean, really, if you’re going to go through the trouble of meeting Mack in person, why not give him some real answers?

I get that the author probably wouldn’t want to put words in God’s mouth, but if so, he should not have tackled the topic in the first place.

“To reveal myself to you as a very large, white grandfather figure with a flowing beard, like Gandalf, would simply reinforce your religious stereotypes, and this weekend is not about reinforcing your religious stereotypes.”

I love this line. This line is great. But is the author going to show God breaking religious stereotypes, or is he just going to have the characters talk about it? Because that doesn’t show anything, that’s just telling.

And Mack. He seems to have forgotten all about the very human reaction he had in the last chapter about his daughter dying, because he doesn’t start screaming at God the minute she starts saying crap like, “there are no easy answers, or I’d give them to you.” I could accept something like that from a youth pastor, because a youth pastor is also a flawed human being just trying to do his job.

This character is God. God, according to Christians, is all powerful, all knowing, and always benevolent. From a God like character, I need something better than empty platitudes like this.

As a side note, this is why there aren’t more books written about people actually meeting God. Part of it is probably that God is to be shrouded in mystery. But another part, and I suspect this is a huge part, is that it isn’t easy to write about a character who is all knowing, all powerful, and always benevolent because when you try, you realize that these 3 things are completely contradictory. If you think the mental gymnastics of trying to find God both all good and all powerful at the same time are hard, try writing it all down. It just makes it even harder.

Mack believed, in his head, at least, that God was Spirit, neither male nor female, but in spite of that, he was embarrassed to admit to himself that all his visuals of God were very white and very male.

I like this part, too. I think it’s something a lot of white people go through, at some point. We believe we’re all inclusive and not at all racist, and then we confront something about ourselves and realize that jee, maybe we are a little bit more racist/sexist than we’d like to think. These kinds of confrontations are necessary for us to grow as a person, and it’s nice to see it happening to Mack.

Because this chapter feels more like a series of disjointed conversations smashed all together into one, it’s not going to be difficult to divide these up. I think we’ll tackle one more “Section” this week before we move on.

God looked at Mack intently. “Hasn’t it always been a problem for you to embrace me as your father? And after what you’ve been through, you couldn’t very well handle a father right now, could you?”

For those that don’t remember, Mack’s father was an abusive fuckwad whom Mack later murdered.

Mack knew she was right, and he realized the kindness and compassion in what she was doing. Somehow, the way she had approached him had skirted his resistance to her love. It was strange and painful and maybe even a little bit wonderful.

This is one of those bits that is unintentionally creepy. Mack, justifiably, has been angry with God. And now his resistance to her is just gone. Just like that. God has some serious mojo, because most humans don’t work that way.

Mack asks God why there is such an emphasis on God being a father rather than a mother, if God is both genders and none. It’s a fair question, and I suspect the answer is actually closer to “God was originally created by a patriarchal society thousands of years ago, and that our concept of God has evolved as we as a species have.”

But that answer wouldn’t do for fundy Christians, and so here is the author’s answer:

“Well…there are many reasons for that, and some of them go very deep. Let me say for now that we knew once the creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. Don’t misunderstand me, both are needed–but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence.”

“the creation was broken?” Da fuq does that even mean? Set that aside, it’s irrelevant. Let’s talk about the rest of it. So, there is a belief in conservative Christianity that absent or asshole fathers are more common than absent or asshole mothers. I’m not sure how true this is. Even if there are statistics out there, how would you even measure something like this?

But I can say, from experience, that this belief really does alienate people. There’s a lot of talk about God being a father to the fatherless, but what if your father is a great guy but your mother is emotionally absent, abusive, or maybe even dead? That’s treated like a rarity, but I don’t honestly think it’s that rare. There is nothing in the Bible about God being a mother to the motherless, and pastors don’t really talk about it either. And I know people who felt very very alone.

I wish that, instead of trying to justify the “God as father” thing by saying this, the author had gone for. “People understand me as they are capable. Back when the Bible was written, that’s what they saw me as. But their perspective was different than yours.” Or…something a little less like something I’ve already heard a zillion times.

Mack changes the subject again. He does this so many times, I’ve gotten whiplash. But God doesn’t seem to mind.

“You knew I would come, didn’t you?” Mack said.

“Of course I did.”

“Then was I free not to come? Did I not have a choice in the matter?”

I can see what the author is trying to do, but he’s failing. He’s trying to have a discussion about free will, but he’s doing it in the most softball way possible. If I invite my best friend S to go see Moana again, she still has freewill to reject my invitation even though I know she’d probably say yes. (Speaking of better movies you could be watching, is Moana out on DVD yet?)

Just because God knew Mack would accept her invitation doesn’t mean she’s forcing him to come. Now, other freewill questions, like, “what about Missy’s free will not to be murdered? Why was that less important than the free will of her murderer?” Yeah, that won’t be answered. Fuck, it won’t even be asked.

Because despite what this book says, it is totally about reinforcing religious stereotypes.