TPD pp95-106: The Vote

There in the dark, Hank knelt down beside the bed in prayer. [Mary] knelt down beside him, took his hand, and together they placed themselves in the hands of the Lord. God’s will would be done this night, and they would accept it, whatever it was.

Alf Brummel had a key to the church and was already there, switching on the lights and turning up the thermostat.

Earlier today (as I write this in advance) I was mentioning to my partner how it takes real dedication to Jesus to look at a weekend, how there’s only 48 hours to get everything done before you have to go back to working two jobs to make ends meet and 16 of them (okay, maybe 10?) have to be spent on sleep, and still carve out four hours to go to church on Sunday. Poor people who are religious give up so much more in order to make room for Jesus than rich folk who wouldn’t be doing anything on Sunday mornings anyway. Maybe I’m just being oversensitive here, but doesn’t this passage come off a little like saying those who don’t have time to pray because they’re out there actually, you know, making things like this meeting function are inferior in the eyes of God to those who are forgoing actually making things happen in favor of leaving it all in God’s hands?

We meet a few of the parishioners as they begin to trickle in, then we cut to the supernatural visitors: Lucius Malfoy, who is nervously pacing on the roof and Signa and his two warriors, who are allowing demons inside but keeping an eye out for Rafar. Their presence appears to be scaring the demons straight.

We’re told Busche is somehow helping people get through their marital issues. I’m assuming the marital issues in question all relate to the man, because as we’ve seen, Hank can barely sit through a session with an attractive woman without breaking out into a nervous sweat.

Brummel begins to pray showily and ostentatiously; Triskal and Chimon snark:

“Getting any strength?”

Chimon answred, “Why? Is somebody else going to pray?”

I rather like this bit, if only because it’s actually grounded in honest-to-goodness biblical teaching rather than speculation and extrabiblical writings:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

(Matthew 6:5, New International Version).

Similarly, I don’t have much of a problem with Hank’s speech. His belief in the rightness of God’s word as written is accented by his deep and abiding love for his flock. If only we could see some of that love when he talks to them away from the pulpit, I’d have no issues with his motivations whatsoever. Loving people, really loving them and wanting to help them, is never a problem; it’s how you express that love that can occasionally be problematic.

The next two pages are so full of repetition I wish we’d left when Hank did. Yet again we hear about how unjust it was for Hank to judge Lou Stanely; yet again we hear about how they wanted a different pastor and Hank got voted in ‘by mistake’. The worst repetition has to be this bit, though:

In another car came John Coleman and his wife Patricia, a quiet couple who came to Ashton Community after leaving a large church elsewhere in town. They really liked Hank and made no effort to hide it.

Page  96

“I think Hank Busche is a real man of God, a good pastor, and I’d really hate to see him go.The church Pat and I came from, well, it just wasn’t meeting our needs, and we were getting hungry: hungry for the Word, for the presence of God.”

John Coleman, Page 101

Ten bucks says that now that they’ve said their piece, we never see these characters again. Why was the random infodump as they pulled into the church required if they were going to tell their story a few pages later?

A demon named Cheating tries to affect the vote, but Guilo stops him (against orders, most likely); the vote comes out to be a tie. They’re just about to take a smoke break when two old ladies show up, despite being frail and ill, to cast their vote. Sickness tries to give one of them a stroke, but the other blocks his way — it turns out to be Tal himself, in disguise. So much for not interfering, huh? To balance things, Lou Stanley enters.

Wait. He was excommunicated. Why does he even GET a vote? How does that work?!

Anyway, Hank wins by two, implying Stanley himself wanted him to stay for some mysterious reason. The demons pitch a fit, and Tal confirms that was the real Lou Stanley, no tricks this time.

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5 Responses to TPD pp95-106: The Vote

  1. Jarred H says:

    The next two pages are so full of repetition I wish we’d left when Hank did.

    Trust me, most of the people in the meeting probably wish they’d left when Hank did. In this case, I’d have to say that Peretti engaged in some pretty good writing, because what he described fits a lot of church business meetings I’ve attended to a T. (Now, whether or not the reader needed to be shown that or whether it really helped the plot all that much is probably arguable.)

    Ten bucks says that now that they’ve said their piece, we never see these characters again.

    It would be unethical of me to take that bet, as I’ve already read the book. Four times. (Yes, I do suffer from masochistic tendencies. Why do you ask?)

    So much for not interfering, huh?

    It’s good to be the captain of the hosts of heaven. You get to make the rules and then break them.

    In reality, the whole “not interfering” thing becomes a shell game in this book as much as “well, we’re TECHNICALLY not lying, because lying’s bad” because a shell game in the Left Behind series. I think the justification here is that the interference is not overt. In one way, this makes sense, as the whole point in not interfering is to not precipitate the Great Spiritual Battle before the angels have all their chess pieces in place and sufficient amounts of the Magical Prayer Shield are being liberally applied.

    Wait. He was excommunicated. Why does he even GET a vote? How does that work?!

    It’s an interesting question, and an interesting point. The big question of the night is whether Hank is the right pastor. Part of that question hinges on whether or not he’s been overstepping his bounds. The prime example his accusers are pointing to is the fact that Hank disfellowshipped Lou Stanley. So if your biggest beef with the pastor is that he had no right to disfellowhip a man, does that man have a right to still be heard and have his say? After all, it’s pretty clear that Brummel and company would have reinstated Lou if the vote had gone their way….So Lou is strongly affected by the outcome of this vote. So yeah, it makes sense to give the man his fair say in the matter.

    Of course, the real reason for giving Lou the vote is revealed in your follow-up comment:

    implying Stanley himself wanted him to stay for some mysterious reason.

    See?!?! Lou came around to seeing Hank’s point of view! Church discipline works!</triumpahism>

    • Jarred H says:

      Erm that should be “triumphalism.”

    • yamikuronue says:

      The thing about Lou, to me, is this: Hank was the legitimate pastor at the time, voted in by a legitimate, non-rigged vote (as far as anyone can tell). Therefore, his actions are binding until undone by himself or another legitimate pastor. Therefore, Lou is no longer a church member and thus ineligible to vote. Otherwise, a scenario could exist in which a pastor removed, say, members of a large street gang from the church and they subsequently voted him out by voting as a block.

      Regarding Lou’s change of heart, I almost wonder if the demons were involved in his little transgression and, having succeeded in their plan, subsequently abandoned him for more interesting prey, leading to his ability to regain morality….

      • Jarred H says:

        Otherwise, a scenario could exist in which a pastor removed, say, members of a large street gang from the church and they subsequently voted him out by voting as a block.

        On the flip-side, Hank could kick out everyone — even a majority — in the church who disagrees with him, ensuring they can never get rid of him. I’ll be honest, I’m more leery of handing church leaders a means to be abusive without recourse for the abused than of hypothetical street gang taking over a church. Mainly because I’ve seen plenty examples of the former.

        • yamikuronue says:

          True. My thinking was just that if he did that there’d be no church. What’s to stop the kicked-out members from making their own church and electing a less abusive pastor to lead them? But I’m not a churchgoer.

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