TPD pp 149-154: Mission Improbable

Hank was accompanied by two angels on his trip to Hell Itself (by which I mean an arcade): Triskal and Krioni. Opposing them are “hundreds of narrowing yellow eyes” armed with “several [...] blades”. Triskal asks if he looks harmless, but Krioni pretty much tells him nope, cover blown. Seth, a third angel, is said to be on his way.

They’re asked their business by a demon bouncer, and they answer that they’re watching over “the man of God”. Things are about to get ugly, looking like an all-out brawl is on the bring of starting, when:

Suddenly all the mocking spirits grew tense and agitates. Their eyes darted about, and then like a flock of timid birds they backed away and huddled in the dark corners. At the same time Krioni and Triskal could feel a new strength coursing through them. They looked down at Hank.

He was praying.

I don’t have much to say about this other than a general eye roll. Okay, so one man praying sends hundreds of demons scattering for cover. So why are the angels desperate for more “prayer cover” then? Surely the three or four people praying together is enough for all but the strongest demons?

Hank’s not even praying against demons; he’s praying for the kids in the arcade. “Help us to reach these kids; help us to touch their lives”. First of all, ‘us’? Secondly, he’s not bothering to talk to any kids, just pray. If he’s really concerned about all the sex and drugs, standing in the doorway praying is unlikely to be effective. What, is God just going to smite them all on his behalf? Is every kid just supposed to suddenly look up and go “Oh my god, drugs are bad! Also, video games suck without Jesus!” and toss their needles away?

Seth brings in a yong teenager named Ron Forsythe, who is being plagued by demons.

[...] a very confused and disoriented victim of their destructive influence. They clung to him like leeches, causing him to stagger to and fro as they fought to avoid the goading tip of the big warrior’s sword.

So demons — metaphysical beings invisible to the eye and only able to be sensed by the very spiritually attuned — are here causing physical change to a person’s behavior. What’s the excuse? Why does Ron think he’s staggering?  Is he drunk because of demonic influence? High? If I were barely able to walk and staggering all over the place, I’d see a doctor.

Ron was a tall, spindly youth with long, unkempt hair, dirty tee shirt and jeans, and eyes that seemed to be looking into some other universe. He staggered towards Hank, looking over his shoulder as if a flock of birds was chasing him and then forward as if he were one step from a cliff. [...] Ron’s glassy eyes widened. He stared at Hank and said with slurred speech, “I’ve seen you around.”

Wow. That makes me a little uncomfortable. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, or maybe it’s my own internal bias or ableism, but when I read that description I think of a young man with a mental condition (possibly something along the lines of autism or paranoid-type schizophrenia?) who needs more care than he’s getting from a country that doesn’t look after the health of its citizens. There’s a long history of mental conditions being blamed on demonic influence, so it’s not an association that should be made, even casually.

Hank was sure enough now to guess. “Ron? Ron Forsythe?”

Ron looked around and fidgeted as if he’d been caught doing something illegal.

Obviously he’s had bad experiences with the church before if a pastor recognizing him makes him nervous as though expecting a stern lecture at least just for the crime of existing.

The three demons on Ron: Divination, Sorcery and Rebellion. Lolwut? Does Ron read horoscopes or something? Is he a Harry Potter fan?

“How are you feeling?” Hank finally asked.

[Sorcery] enclosed Ron’s head in his bulky, slimy arms.

The boy’s head drooped toward his chest and he almost nodded off, oblivious to Hank’s words.

[...] Ron started to chuckle, feeling drugged and silly.

What, was Sloth on vacation?

“Can I pray for you?”

[...] Ron’s eyes turned to look at Hank, and Ron actually pleaded, “Yeah. Pray for me, preacher.”

[...]

Ron suddenly stirred, his head rocked back and forth, and he mumbled, “No, no… don’t pray… I don’t like that.”

[...]
“I would like to pray for you, okay?” Hank asked, just to check.

“No, don’t,” Ron said, and then pleaded, “Please pray, c’mon…”

Reading that section without the demon bits just reinforces my earlier suspicions. Rocking, disorientation and confusion, flip-flopping like that, nodding off suddenly, slurred speech…

With the demons in it’s just bizarre to me. The demons are portrayed as toddlers, whining and “like spoiled brats” and hollering and spitting and making demands they can’t back up and giving up because this “wasn’t fun anymore”. Hank knows exactly which demons to cast out by name, even with absolutely no idea what Ron’s been doing or been into. And then this little gem:

“It was just today I was thinking I needed somebody to pray for me. [...] Nobody’s prayed for me before.”

Welcome to the weird little world in which everyone knows they need Jesus but nobody’s ever met any Christians. Lolwut. Hank calls him on that though:

“I know your folks do all the time.”

“Well, yeah, they do.”

So why didn’t that work? Oh right, they’re not protagonists.  Anyway, then comes the Jesus speech, mercifully condensed to narration.

Ron didn’t mind. This wasn’t like a phony sales pitch; Hank Busche really believed that Jesus was the answer to everything.

I find those types worse, though. Insurance salesmen have been bothering me this past week; but they generally go away if you ignore them long enough or hang up on them. Someone who is honestly concerned about you and honestly believes you’re going to hell wouldn’t ever stop pressuring you or care what you have to say about it because Hell is that much more important. It’s a built-in feature of evangelism.

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4 Responses to TPD pp 149-154: Mission Improbable

  1. Skyknight says:

    Now that I think about it, it’s kind of unsettling that Complacency, Divination, Rebellion, etc. are set as demon names, but not Charity, Resolve, Loyalty, etc. for angel names. Is non-virtuous behavior nothing more than demonic mind control, then? (I suppose that explains the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality; the sins are regarded as literally alien to the afflicted, but also alive in some fashion. And guess who gets to be the conduit for the rebukings of the parasites…)

    Especially when Rebellion is one of them. Meaning what, that if not for demonic influence, humans would be mere golemim following God’s will without question? I was under the impression that God, not Satan, developed free will. Not much point to free will if you’re expected only to follow the rules, though…

  2. Mau deKatt says:

    > > “I know your folks do all the time.”
    > So why didn’t that work? Oh right, they’re not protagonists.

    And they’re not Prayer Warriors [TM]. Or else they have some sin “hampering their effectiveness” or something. But the assumption underlying this bit is that it was the parents’ prayers that “led” Ron to encounter Prayin’ Hank. Or else gave Seth-the-Angel the mana needed to drive Ron-and-his-demons by swordpoint to Hank’s location.

    > Okay, so one man praying sends hundreds of demons scattering for cover. So why are the angels desperate for more “prayer cover” then?

    Because close-location and contact spells need less mana than long-distance or area-of-effect spells, not to mention the longer-duration power requirements.

  3. Pingback: TPD pp 240-244: The Exorcism | Raven Wings

  4. Blockman says:

    “Wow. That makes me a little uncomfortable. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, or maybe it’s my own internal bias or ableism, but when I read that description I think of a young man with a mental condition (possibly something along the lines of autism or paranoid-type schizophrenia?)”
    I thought autism when I read that description too. So autistics(such as myself) are possessed by demons. Thanks for letting me know Mr. Peretti.

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