Surprise! I managed two TPD posts. A little less ground today in exchange for a little deeper coverage. This passage actually managed to speak to me when I read it closely, and I’d like to share some of that with you. It’s going to be a bit heavy today; I wasn’t sure how to label any trigger warnings since I’m being a bit vague, but it deals with some dark topics.
Hank goes on a walk, his thoughts full of deep, weighty, troubling matters; the town is sunny, cheery, upbeat.
Where was the evil? How could it be so vivid last night and a distant, dubious memory today?
I had much the same thoughts during my trouble teenage years; without going into too much detail, the pain and misery and fear I felt at night made the fact that the world went on around me, utterly oblivious to my feelings, full of sunshine and laughter and bicycles and puppies almost unbearable. How could I go from nights so dark into days so banal and ordinary? Shouldn’t my torment be written on my face? How could nobody even notice how miserable I was? How could I find myself laughing at a joke, or enjoying music, when my life was in shambles?
This was the town he prayed for night and day with deep groanings of the heart because of a burden he couldn’t explain, and now it was taxing his patience, unsettling him.
“Well are you in trouble or aren’t you, or don’t you even care?”
My problems were within me,and I acknowledged as much; it wasn’t so much (I thought) that the world was cruel and cold as that I was defective, incapable of handling ordinary stresses. Hank, on the other hand, “knows” that the problem is external; he’s reacting to the twisted wrongness of the world around him, a world that now mocks him by seeming right and perfect.
I want to call out the author on this, insisting it’s a dangerous tactic; your town doesn’t even have to be sick for you to “take up the mantle” and fight against demons that only exist in your own mind. But at the same time, I can relate to that feeling, the knowledge that something is wrong despite it looking normal. My mother showed one face to the world and one face to me, and the one I saw wasn’t nearly as pretty or perfect.
In a passage that feels very real to me, Hank directly questions God himself rather than taking his vague orders to heart:
So when do we win, Hank answered the Lord. Do You know how long I’ve been sweating and praying over this place? Just once I’d like to hear my little pebble make a splash; I’d like to see this dead dog twitch when I poke it.
The Lord has no reply.
In my fanfiction world, I’d like to see Hank grow into the realization that it was never God talking outright in his own mind, that these direct orders in italics are nothing but the desire to make something special and good out of a bad situation, the desire for his problems to be bigger than himself. But I don’t think the book is going there. Instead,the Lord leads him to what I believe is Marshall, pulling into the lot of Ashton United Christian Church.
Incidentally, one thing confused me earlier: “United Christian Church” is a denomination, and this church is the Ashton branch; I had been under the impression that this was a carefully generic and bland name. Their beliefs, according to Wikipedia, are more or less as follows:
[The founder] opposed infant baptism, membership in secret societies, slavery, and the bearing of arms in war. […] They also the rejected the doctrine of total depravity […]This body is considered an orthodox Trinitarian denomination, with emphasis on the inspiration of the Scriptures, justification by faith, regeneration, and entire sanctification. Baptism, the Lord’s supper, and feet washing are considered ordinances, with the mode of baptism being optional.
I suspect it’s the “total depravity” part that Peretti is objecting to here, as that’s the bit that says everyone is 100% sinful and we’re only able to find God when God chooses to extend grace to us. In other words, it’s God’s own fault if we’re not able to become Christian… wait, overthinking this again. In other words, everyone deserves nothing less than Hellfire, as even our good words are secretly evil when done by Athiests.
The more you know…