Monday, January 16, 2012

Us, Them, Here & Not Here - A Language Lesson

If the apocalyptic topic of the previous post was something you are interested in at all, then you really should do yourself a giant favour and check out The Slacktivist's weekly dissection of the Left Behind series.  Its a lot of fun and you will learn a lot about Evangelical End Time beliefs and Evangelical beliefs in general.  One post in particular has always stuck with me.  Without being hyperbolic it's hands down one of the best blog posts I have ever read on any topic.  In it he talks about the weird idea some Christians seem to have that all non-Christian people are basically exactly the same.  While he only discusses a very specific topic here I think this is actually applicable to many instances of groupthink, whether it be religious, cultural or racial.  I strongly recommend you click on the link below and go read the entire post:

TF: Not Xianity

Tribulation Force, pp. 274-277

"Well here I am and there you are. Since you're not here, you must be elsewhere.

This kind of basic binary distinction is a necessary and useful tool for making sense of the world. We need words to mean things, meaning we need them not to mean everything else too. So if you're not here, you must be elsewhere because this is what "elsewhere" means. (It's also, in a way, what "here" means, i.e., not elsewhere.)

But while such necessary distinctions can be useful, they can also produce confusion if we forget the rather important ways in which the categories they create are different. "Here" is singular and particular while "elsewhere" is vast and diverse. (You're all, plural, reading this elsewhere, but I shouldn't assume that means you're all crowding around a single monitor somewhere.) "X" marks the spot, a single spot, but "Not X" marks everything else. "Not X" is the rest of the universe.

Of course. No duh. Why, you may be wondering, am I wasting our time with such an elementary and obvious discussion? Who could possibly be confused about something so simple?

Who else? Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. And any of their readers and fans who manage to get through this next section of Tribulation Force without laughing hysterically at the crazed absurdity of it.

This weirdly laughable confusion is the premise of this section and of much that follows it. LaHaye seems to believe that "elsewhere" is a single location. He believes that "Not X" marks the spot. He believes, specifically, that all of those left behind — every believer and non-believer who subscribes to anything other than his very specific variety of real, true Christianity — believes one thing and the same thing. All of them. All of us. Christopher Hitchens and Muqtada al-Sadr and you and me and the Dalai Lama — we all believe Not X and so, to LaHaye, we are all the same and must agree wholly on every other point.

This singular uniformity of Not X is essential to the plot of LaHaye's story because it is essential to the fulfillment of his supposed prophecy. If his prophecy is true, then we must all be identical and uniform.

That also means, of course, that if we are not all identical, then LaHaye's prophecies as described in these books cannot be true. That makes this a rather important section of these books, a passage that provides the opportunity to disprove LaHaye's claims without having to wade into the deep weeds of the Bible's apocalyptic imagery. We don't need to become experts on Daniel and Revelation to demonstrate that Tim LaHaye's reading of them is bogus. All we need to do is to show that, for example, Tom Cruise and Richard Dawkins don't share a uniform belief system."

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