Left Behind Fridays Writing Seminar: Suspension of Disbelief Doesn’t Apply to Human Nature

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In last week’s post, I mentioned the distorted view of human nature held by Lahaye and Jenkins, the authors of the Left Behind series.   In that specific case, I was talking about their belief that everyone knows in their hearts that their brand of Christianity – Real True Christianity (RTC-anity) – is The Truth, but that they cling to their clearly-nonsensical belief systems out of stubbornness, rebellion against God, and love for their sins.

This is, of course, wrong on every possible level of wrongness, and it leads to some serious absurdities in the Left Behind books.  For example, when the Antichrist institutes a One World Religion as part of his One World Government – the Enigma Babylon One World Faith – everyone from fundamentalist Muslims to militant atheists joins in wholeheartedly.  After all, one absurd, anti-God “belief system” is as good as another, right?

No.  No, no, and hell no.

As terrible as that is, it’s not the only – or even the worst – distortion of human nature that these books serve up.  No, that would be the fact that, as Fred points out in post after post, all the children are gone and no one seems to care.  No one even seems to remember after a chapter or two – a week or so in-story.

Can you imagine what would happen to the world if all the children disappeared?  I can’t.  I don’t want to.

Though they kind of pale in comparison, L & J have many other problems with their understanding of human nature: humans don’t follow a leader who recites factoids and calls it a speech, then builds a new capitol city in a desert for no good reason.  Humans don’t surrender their national sovereignty for the use of a chemical fertilizer, however effective.  And humans don’t get into a mood to make peace when their children have been taken.  That’s not something that humans can do.  What humans do, once the shock wears off, is rage.  And if God is the one who took them?  Then they find a way to tear down His fucking throne.

As Fred points out.

Ahem.

And this is a very big problem, because as Fred points out in NRA: Bible Prophecy and Phlebotinium, suspension of disbelief does not apply to human nature.

People will accept a lot in the name of enjoying a good story.  We will accept magic.  We will accept mutant powers that are, for all practical purposes, magic.  We will accept superhuman aliens with a deathly allergy to the remains of their own homeworld.  But we will not accept people who are not people.  People are something that people instinctively understand, and we notice when something is wrong.  It’s one thing for characters to be wiser, braver, more pathetic or more wicked than you could ever be.  But people that don’t react as people do?  No amount of phlebotinium can excuse that.  

Within the context of Left Behind, it’s possible to explain all of these things: Nicolae Carpathia has demonstrated mind control powers.  If he was exercising those powers so constantly and completely that the human race were essentially his puppets (and he didn’t have a very good understanding of human nature), that could explain it.  But Lahaye and Jenkins don’t want to explain them that way.  If everyone is under mind control, free will, sin and salvation are all meaningless.  So instead, they try to use their plant-growth formula, and it doesn’t work.  It can’t.

Which is this week’s warning to you.  Last week, the warning was to not have nonsensical, impossible things just happen because your story can’t go on without them.  This week: don’t have people just do nonsensical, impossible things because your story can’t go on if they don’t.

Incidentally, there are two other things humans just don’t do: make money on “agricultural exports” when nations don’t exist anymore, and swear their ultimate planetary allegiance to the United Nations.  Once again, L&J’s incuriosity and lack of research have led them to make foolish mistakes.  Go thou and do otherwise.

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