TPD pp115-119: Serenity

I found my book squished between the couch and the wall šŸ˜€ It was trying to escape, it seems.

From their small table on the red brick plaza below, Sandy and Shawn could look up and see the glowing leaves, backlit by the sun, and watch the birds flit about in the branches between their regularĀ scavengingsĀ for bread crumbs and french fries. This spot on campus was Sandy’s favorite. It was so peaceful here, almost a world away from the strife, questions, and disputes at home.

There was a tree down the road from my house, at the very edge of the school property; a gnarled old tree, with roots protruding from the ground to make a place I could nestle in and cry. There was a similar tree on the edge of the playground where my crush would spend his recesses reading alone because he, too, didn’t quite fit in with the other boys. There were hills behind the school and my house and interwoven through half the town where you could hike and explore and take in the sunlight and forget about all the horrible things happening at home. I think it’s beautiful that Sandy has a place like that to go and just get away from all the trouble she’s been having — and it’s downright cruel of Peretti to use that against her šŸ˜¦

“What happens when the universe doesn’t fit together?” Shawn smiled. “The universe always fits together. The problem is only when people don’t realize it.”

Shawn’s dogma is a simple one: everything in the universe is interconnected and fits together to form reality, and therefore, all sources of strife and disharmony are caused by people not “being in tune” with the harmony of the universe. While it’s true everything “fits together” in the sense that every motion of every atom affects some other motion of some other atom and so on and so forth to the ends of the universe, that it forms aĀ harmoniousĀ image in that anything not part of this giant system is not part of the observable universe, he’s deliberately confusing the idea that the universe is a closed system with the idea that people ought to be happy. There’s no reason that being one with nature means your life is going to go well. There’s no reason to think that a divine, overarching plan in which everything fits together means that every piece is going to be happy and healthy. For a wolf to survive, it has to kill sheep. That’s nature’s plan. The bread they’re feeding to the birds came from living plant life like that tree they’re admiring, killed and mixed with living fungi who were then also killed in the process of making bread, many loaves of which will be thrown away uneaten.

“Once you stop listening to the lies your mind’s been telling you, you’ll see very clearly that God is big enough for everybody, andĀ in everybody. Nobody can put Him in a jar and keep Him all to themselves.”

Why are there noĀ atheistsĀ or pantheists in this book? Seriously, why? Even the pagans worship a Christian god.

“I’m from the old Judeo-Christian school of thought, you know.” “So all you’ve ever learned is religion, right?” She thought for a moment, then conceded. “Right.” “Well, you see, the problem with religion — any religion — is that it’s basically a limited perspective, only a partial view of the whole truth.”

Also seriously, what’s up with this whole “my religion isn’t religion” line of thinking? I’ve only heard that from Christians trying to set themselves apart from everyone else so they can continue to justify giving themselves preferential treatment over Jews and Muslims and Pagans and Satanic Devil-worshipersĀ who only exist in their own minds. I suppose it’s possible that there’re Pagan communities out there that embrace a similar doctrine, but I’ve not heard of any.

“Oh, but it’s great once you really get into it. It answers a lot of questions, solves a lot of problems.” “Yeah, if you can ever get into it.” Shawn leaned forward. “You don’t get intoĀ it, Sandy,Ā It’s already inĀ you.”

Wow, you self-absorbed prick. You just said ten seconds ago “you […] get into it”. She echoes your own words, and you tell her she’s got it wrong. Way to be a manipulative punk, Shawn. Get away from Sandy, she doesn’t deserve you šŸ˜¦

Then she notice that, for the first time in many months, she flet peace inside. Her heart was at rest. It wasn’t an all-pervading peace and she didn’t know if it would last, but she could feel it and she knew she wanted more. […] Meanwhile, with very gentle,very subtle combing motions of his talons, Deception stood behind Sandy, stroking her red hair and speaking sweet words of comfort to her mind.

Screw you, Peretti. She can’t just be content to be sitting in the sunshine enjoying the afternoon without even that being the work of evil demons?! Also, emotion aside, our protagonists are feeling strange feelings that come from nowhere, praying to a god they have no proof exists, hearing his instructions in their minds, and have worked themselves into a story where they’re the heroes fighting unseen forces of darkness to drive back Satan’s influence (Hank) or crusaders uncovering a deep twisted cult of secrets and lies (Marshall). And yet Sandy, who just wants to be happy and loved, is the one being deceived when she thinks she has a moment of peace. How screwed up is that?

And why Sandy? What did she do to deserve this? Chaos pointed out, “She turned away from God.” But as evidenced in this section, she’s still seeking God; what she’s defying is her father, and that shouldn’t matter because her father has the wrong God anyway, he’s going to the wrong church. She ought to be guarded by angels because she’s seeking the true God. If everyone who seeks is met with demons, how can anyone ever find? Annoyed with my logic, he replied, “Because she has ovaries”. But Hank’s wife is female as well, and so is Marshall’s, and they’re not being seduced the way Sandy is; they benefit from the protection set over their menfolk. The main difference I see is that Sandy is disobeying Marshall and fighting against him whereas her mother is tolerating Marshall’s abuse. Isn’t that the way the Christian Patriarchy movement says to handle domestic abuse? By continuing to obey and praying that God fixes your man’s flaws? So maybe Sandy’s being punished for being “disobedient”.

Kae adds that Shawn tempting Sandy here is a nice reversal of the Garden of Eden: the man tempting the woman, under a tree in a garden. But then, it couldn’t really go the other way, could it? This story is about men: Marshall, Hank, Tal, Ba’al. The women who act in this story so far (rather than advise or comfort) are Sandy, who is suffering for her independence, and Langstrat, who is the villain. Oh, and Beatrice, but it’s too early to tell what her story is like. Even Edith only informs Hank what to do and sends him off to do it.

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3 Responses to TPD pp115-119: Serenity

  1. Skyknight says:

    When Bruce Bawer alluded to this scene in “Stealing Jesus”, he said that the “correct” interpretation of this would be that, ultimately, it’s all Marshall’s fault–his fault for failing to hearken to the totality of God/Jesus’s decrees, so failing to be a proper guiding father, so failing to prepare Sandy to resist demonic corruption.

    As to why everyone seems to be either God-guided or demon-guided, I guess it stems from conceits like “It is not given to man to even direct how he walks”. Mortals and the physical world are INNATELY wholly subject to the spiritual. If they’re not submitting themselves to divine/angelic guidance, then the demonic instantly flocks in to fill the void. Spirit-nature apparently abhors a vacuum in the physical.

    As to the bit about the divine/natural plan not necessarily resulted in joy and happiness for all…Let’s just say there’s a reason I think of it as the “madness of Ouroboros”. It might look good, until you realize the eternal, inescapable pain the tail must be subject to, and thus Ouroboros as a whole, unless the head is somehow insensate. Only I don’t see just living creatures as caught in the quandary, but even the stones and sulfur that the first archaebacteria fed upon. Where is it written that even the stones and the waters ought not remain unmarred? Sometimes I wonder if the stars would regard organic life not as wondrous, but merely a plague infecting and warping Earth’s rock and water. Not to mention if life is “just” matter that developed a sense of fear of outside alteration. I can really understand how the Gnostics arrived at the view of the material universe’s inherent deleteriousness. Not their fatalism, though, not their belief that it can’t be reshaped (in our terms, perhaps at the gluonic level) for the better. Just have to find a way to do it, to ensure that life doesn’t have to consume and subsume anything–not food, not water, not even air–to survive and think.

  2. “Seeking Truth” – which I believe Peretti stands behind as a concept – is all okay, but I guess it’s only okay if you’re seeking it within the confines of evangelical forms of thought. Okay then.

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