TPD pp71-72: Waiting on the world to change.

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. Baptismthe 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…

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5 Responses to TPD pp71-72: Waiting on the world to change.

  1. Jarred H says:

    I’ll get to the rest of this later, but I’ll comment on the UCC for now.

    I suspect that Peretti’s views on the UCC have little to do with their position on total depravity and more to do with the denomination’s often “liberal” stance. For example, the UCC was one of the first denominations to suggest that LGB people (I’m not sure what their stance on trans* people are) might be fine just as they are. (I don’t know if they began exploring that position before or after this book was originally published.) Granted, the UCC rejection of total depravity is probably a strong influence in their other liberal stances…..

    Of course, technically, total depravity is a Calvinist position. Non-Calvinists (and Pentecostals can be either non-Calvanisits and Calvinist) don’t necessarily subscribe to that theology. I’m not sure if the Armenians(sp?) — who are often viewed as at extreme odds with the Calvinists due to their difference of opinion over the question of eternal security — have a similar doctrine, for example.

  2. Mau de Katt says:

    I think you’re confusing the United Christian Church with the United Church of Christ. (And now that I consider it, I think Peretti did too.) UCC, the United Church of Christ, is the “liberal Christian” one, and is definitely a denomination that RTCs consider to be “fallen awway,” “watered-down,” and all the other OMGZ Libruhl! bugaboos they rail so strongly against.

  3. Jarred H says:

    For my next comment, I want to look beyond the book at a much more troubling fact (and one that I’ve brought up before): While this book is “ficiton,” it accurately portrays the way many “spiritual warfare” types (and even many Christians who are not and/or do not consider themselves part of the “spiritual warfare” camp) actually view the world we live in.

    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.

    The sentence I bolded is what separates your past from Peretti and company’s thinking here. Yes, your mother may have put on a “good face” for the rest of the world and have fooled them. But you saw that more sinister “face.” It wasn’t your vain imaginings, no matter how much others may not have seen what you have. It was real. It was observed, even if only by you.

    “Spiritual warfare” types don’t actually see the “other face” they claim the rest of the world is hiding. They just assume it’s there. They take it on faith it’s there, despite not having one shred of evidence to support it. All because their preconceived theology insists that’s the way things really must be.

    And for what it’s worth, you have my deepest sympathies with regards to your past.

  4. 2-D Man says:

    Hi. I’m catching up on this series; it’s quite good!

    I suspect it’s the “total depravity” part that Peretti is objecting to here

    There’s a bit more of a direct disagreement with Peretti when you remember this:

    [The founder of UCC] opposed…bearing of arms in war.

    And realize that this book (and its sequel) are all about angels cutting demons into small pieces.

    That’s also leading me to wonder how stupid these angels, and their nefarious counterparts, really are. They’ve been around since Babylon, at least, and not once have they had any upgrades to their war technology. People have even been advancing all the way along right in front of them and nope, they still think swords are the way to go. It takes a special kind of person to say “I’m willing to use a man’s abuse of his family to prevail over the demons, but if we develop gas-powered projectile weapons, someone could get hurt.”

    As I said, good job so far.

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