They Haven’t Figured Out They Got Left Behind Yet: Left Behind Chapter 2

What’s everyone thinking of Left Behind so far? Is everyone enjoying the complete absence of vampires and dystopian governments thus far? Can anyone guess how many times I mistyped “Rayford” as “Raymond” in this post? It was many.

Left Behind: Chapter 2

Now that we’re suddenly at the part of Left Behind where they get left behind, people start to deal with the immediate aftermath of their loved ones… seemingly having all wandered off naked.

“It’s my Harold,” [the old woman] said. […] “He’s disappeared!”
“Well, I’m sure he slipped off to the washroom while you were sleeping.”
“Would you mind checking for me? And take a blanket.”
“Ma’am?”
“I’m afraid he’s gone off naked. He’s a religious person, and he’ll be terribly embarrassed.”

I feel like embarrassment from being naked in public isn’t a strictly religious thing. But nonetheless, Buck Williams the journalist goes off in search of a naked old man on a plane with very little curiosity about the whole “naked” part.

Indeed, Harold’s clothes were in a neat pile on his seat, his glasses and hearing aid on top. The pant legs still hung over the edge and led to his shoes and socks. Bizarre, Buck thought. Why so fastidious?

As does basically everyone. I get that people are worried that their loved ones have vanished, obviously. But strangely no one on this plane is concerned that the most logical explanation so far is that their loved ones are all off having a huge orgy on an airplane.

"Hey, Matthew. What was the first gif you worked into a blog post about a religious novel?" "Oh, a joke from Airplane, obviously."
“Hey, Matthew. What was the first gif you worked into a blog post about a religious novel?” “Oh, a joke from Airplane, obviously.”

Buck is immediately stopped by a flight attendant, who asks him to return to his seat, dismissing his protests with, “Everyone is looking for someone.” I actually rather like how the book balances dread with humor right here:

[Buck] felt the same terror he had endured awaiting his death in Israel. What was he going to tell Harold’s wife? You’re not the only one? Lots of people left their clothes in their seats?

I also like how the book has a certain humor about the absurdity of the scenario, although it’s possible that this wasn’t intended to be funny, per se:

“We got us more than a hundred people gone with nothing but their clothes left behind.”
“That many?”
“Yeah, like it’d be better if it was only fifty?”

Meanwhile in the cockpit, Rayford the pilot finally gets in touch with the outside world by radioing a Concorde flying the opposite direction. The pilot on the Concorde explains that they have to fly back to Chicago, because whatever’s going on is happening all over the world, and Chicago is one of the only airports where planes can still land.

“People everywhere have disappeared. Orly lost air traffic controllers […] Some planes have lost flight crews. Where it’s daylight there are car pileups, chaos everywhere. Planes down all over”

Rayford has no emotional response to news of death and destruction all over the world, but does very importantly take some time to heavy-handedly work in the story’s themes:

“But what’s the truth? What do we know?”
“Not a blessed thing.”
“Good choice of words, Pan Heavy.”

"High fiving gif"

Rayford manages to connect to the news with the satellite phone next to learn more.

Every conceivable explanation was proffered, but overshadowing all such discussion and even coverage of the carnage were the practical aspects. What people wanted from the news was simple information on how to get where they were going and how to contact their loved ones to determine if they were still around.

Is… is that a bad thing? Is the book being critical that people are more concerned about helping learning the fate of loved ones than baseless speculation?

I realize I certainly have some blasé attitudes on stories where tons and tons of people die tragically, but when it comes to the writing in the book itself… Left Behind seems a liiiiiiittle sardonic for a story about widespread death and destruction?

Cars driven by people who spontaneously disappeared had careened out of control, of course.

Meanwhile, back in the passenger cabin, Buck is tired of not having answers, and also realizes he’s missing a great opportunity to get some hot takes out into the 24-hour news cycle, as every journalist in any fictional story ever would do. Buck decides to attack the problem with his convenient mastery of ~~90s technology~~

Buck guessed that inside the phone the connection was standard and that if he could somehow get in there without damaging the phone, he could connect his computer’s modem directly to the line.

It only gets better.

He stored the note and set up his modem to send it to New York in the background, while he was working on his own writing. At the top of the screen a status bar flashed every twenty seconds, informing him that the connection to his ramp on the information superhighway was busy.

I know it was the 90s and “information superhighway” was not quite as stupid-sounding back then, but I love how they’re already seriously struggling to find different ways to say “connect to the internet”.

With an acumen he didn’t realize he possessed, Buck speed-tapped the keys that retrieved and filed all his messages, downloaded them, and backed him out of the linkup in seconds.

Oh, Left Behind. Bless your heart for trying to make someone using Outlook sound suspenseful.

But I guess it could have been sillier.
But I guess it could have been sillier.

You might not be surprised to learn that Buck tampering with the hardware on the airplane catches the crew’s attention.

The senior flight attendant startled him […] “What in the world are you doing?” she said, leaning in to stare at the mess of wires leading from his laptop to the in-flight phone. “I can’t let you do that.”
He glanced at her name tag.
“Listen, beautiful Hattie”

You might be a bit more surprised, but regrettably not all that surprised, to learn that even in a controversial book about specific religious endtimes, the first thing I’m calling out is casual misogyny.

star wars into the garbage chute flyboy
Because it fucking always is.

Hattie ever so briefly gets to have a spine but it quickly becomes obvious this is a book written by two men.

“Listen, beautiful Hattie, are we or are we not looking at the end of the world as we know it?”
“Don’t patronize me, sir. I can’t let you sit here and vandalize airline property.”
“I’m not vandalizing it. I’m adapting it in an emergency. […] Hattie, can I tell you something?” […] Buck reached for her hand. She stiffened but didn’t pull away. “Can we talk for just a second?”

Buck explains what he’s trying to do, promises that he’ll get his media contacts to find out if any of her family is alive if it works, and she decides to let it go. This might not sound like the worst institutional sexism we’ve read in a book for this blog, but do keep in mind that we’re two chapters into a book about millions of people going missing, and only one female character so far has so much as been given a name, and it was primarily to indicate that she’s the one Rayford wants to bang.

When Hattie reports back to Rayford (she is “sobbing”, of course, because see the whole last paragraph), she also points out the mysterious detail that “every child and baby on this plane” has gone missing. I can’t wait for a very long, hand-holding discussion later in the book about how this fits into the one specific religious theology applicable to the scenario.

Rayford announces over the intercom that they’re preparing to land in Chicago and wishing everyone luck with the world they encounter upon landing. Rayford is finally allowed to have some thoughts about his family since learning about people disappearing around the world a whole chapter ago.

He was desperate to call Irene, Chloe, and Ray Jr. On the other hand, he feared he might never talk to them again.

Wait, how is this an “on the other hand” deal? Isn’t the second thing why he’s desperate about the first thing? I can’t wait to see how this guy describes landing a plane in the next chapter.

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25 comments

  1. kaferro Reply

    Long time lurker here! There have been many posts I’ve thought about breaking my lurking on, but these last two for this book I can’t stop giggling for one reason: Rapture-Palooza. I don’t know if you all have seen it, but I just caught it for the first time on SyFy a few weeks ago (apparently it was realeased in 2013) and it’s all I can think about right now. Unlike this book, it’s meant to not take itself seriously. Unless that was an accident, in which case maybe it was based off this book.

    All I know is I’m hoping Rayford’s wife is like Anna Kendrick’s mom, who gets sent back from Heaven for being too judgmental. And even if that doesn’t happen, I fear I will still read these reviews more as if this book were a comedy than a serious religious book.

    Random note, thank you for slogging through Twideath! I never had the pleasure of reading the original, and your reviews of the reboot made laugh. And also made me question humanity. Which are feelings I have for all of the books you all review (found you all during the FSOG reviews). Keep up the awesomely hilarious work both of you!

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      Hey there! Always a pleasure to hear from a longtime lurker! Glad you’re liking it! I’ll have to look up that show!
      I too am glad that you’ll never have to read twilight. It was not a fun read. On top of everything else, it’s also just really long.

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  2. kaferro Reply

    Long time lurker here! There have been many posts I’ve thought about breaking my lurking on, but these last two for this book I can’t stop giggling for one reason: Rapture-Palooza. I don’t know if you all have seen it, but I just caught it for the first time on SyFy a few weeks ago (apparently it was realeased in 2013) and it’s all I can think about right now. Unlike this book, it’s meant to not take itself seriously. Unless that was an accident, in which case maybe it was based off this book.

    All I know is I’m hoping Rayford’s wife is like Anna Kendrick’s mom, who gets sent back from Heaven for being too judgmental. And even if that doesn’t happen, I fear I will still read these reviews more as if this book were a comedy than a serious religious book.

    Random note, thank you for slogging through Twideath! I never had the pleasure of reading the original, and your reviews of the reboot made laugh. And also made me question humanity. Which are feelings I have for all of the books you all review (found you all during the FSOG reviews). Keep up the awesomely hilarious work both of you!

    Also, if this posts twice I apologize. Apparently I have an account, so it made me log in and said it would post afterward. But I saw no post… Also, sorry for the length of this comment.

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  3. Honey Reply

    Wait….what? What is this book, I’m so confused.

    goes to Wikipedia

    WHAT?? THIS IS PART OF A 16-BOOK SERIES!??!!

    ….and there are movies of this? I’m….I’m really confused.

    keeps reading Wikipedia article

    These aren’t satire? I…..hmm….best-sellers….. I just. I don’t know what to say. I THINK I want to see where this goes? My mind is blown.

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  4. Jennifer Layton Reply

    About the children and babies missing: I was raised Catholic and told that age 12 is when we are considered adults, which is why we were confirmed at that age. Anyone under 12 would automatically be raptured because they were too young to know right from wrong. I’ll have to do some Googling on this because I’m curious to know if the born-again version of Christianity also has a specific age cutoff date. That always struck me as strange.

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      Wait, this is interesting. I was raised catholic but we were confirmed at 18. We had first communion around 12, though.
      See, this is why in this end of world situation, it’d be too confusing to figure out what’s going on, because we’re already confused lol

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      • Jennifer Layton Reply

        You weren’t confirmed until 18? I had first communion in second grade, confession the year after that, and then confirmation at 12. They grabbed us early.

        So wait. Your Catholic church says that you were automatically raptured through age 17, but I got gypped for those five years?

        We’re only a couple of chapters into this book, and already the authors owe me a serious explanation.

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    • Ashley Reply

      As someone how once upon a time actually read these books (I was young and naive) I can confirm that in this rapture everyone 12 and under was taken. There’s in fact a spin off series about a group of teens during the rapture.

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      • 22aer22 Reply

        OMG THAT WAS THE SERIES I READ WHEN I WAS YOUNGER!!!! The kids ones!!!! I had no recollection of reading this book even though I was almost positive I’d read the Left Behind series when I was younger.

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    • malcolmthecynic Reply

      Your information is incorrect. First off, Confirmation has nothing to do with becoming adults. In the Eastern Catholic Church Confirmation is given to infants at the same time as Baptism, as well as in the western Church during the middle ages and earlier. Confirmation is the giving of the Holy Spirit to those who are already baptized in order to strengthen them as Christians. It can be given to anybody who has been baptized. Nowadays the (western) Church recommends baptism after the age of reason.

      Catholics reject the rapture completely and utterly. It is accepted in no sense of the term and will not occur – according to Catholic teaching. The end times in Catholic theology are far, far more messed up.

      (“The age of reason” is defined as the age when one can know right from wrong. It’s not exact but from my understanding is considered around seven.)

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  5. wordswithhannah Reply

    The lack of attention that every child ON THE PLANET vaporizing in an instant gets in these books is appalling. You’d think this story should end very shortly and in a fiery inferno as grief-crazed parents storm the cabin trying to find their babies. I really hope, for their sakes, that the authors don’t actually have children.

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  6. Bellomy Reply

    To continue the above discussion – Pfffffft, “Left Behind”. This shit is cake compared to what the Catholics are going to have in store for you. Catholic end times theology is quite vague but is something along the lines of “We’re all fucked, even the good guys, until the very, very, very end. And then probably most of us are fucked anyway, though opinions vary on that”.

    You do NOT want to be alive when the world ends if the Catholics are right. I’m thinking horsemen of the apocalypse type shit. Famines, wars, giant monsters…Think “The Last Battle” from “The Chronicles of Narnia”, except more insane and probably with diseases.

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    • Ashley Reply

      Uh… You do know that’s the plot of this series? They first get left behind, and then they endure the seven years of horror with the horsemen, disasters, famine, plague, etc.

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  7. Andreas Reply

    Started reading this blog 3 months ago and finally managed to catch up to now. And right then such an …. “enjoyable” book comes along /facepalm.

    I actually found the first volume almost two decades ago in the library and must have had thoughts along the lines of “Awesome, purple lightning storm on the cover! Maybe it’s some great urban fantasy story about the end of the world. With all the awesome special effects from the book of revelation!”. (Please excuse youth!Andys behaviour.)
    I read around half of the book before I threw it away and these two/three hours became more and more uncomfortable. Not because of the plot and the end of the world but because of how shallow, misogynistic and assholeish the protagonists/author-insert #1 and author-insert #2 are and act and how obviously the book is not even a “repent, sinner, before it’s too late”-book but much more a “haha, you’re fucked and are going to hell and there is nothing you can do about it!”-tract of the authors, in which they high-five the members of their specific brand of evangelicalism and laugh over all these stupid heathens/gays/women/catholics/foreigners.

    Heavens, the book series is SO horrible. It’s like the Return of Kings website but instead of being for ahem “real men”, it’s for “real christians”. Which is btw the only funny thing I remember from the book. Spoiler: catholics didn’t get raptured because they are no real christians …. except for the pope, who apparently secretly wasn’t catholic.

    In any way: thanks for being brave enough to read this book.

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      You read… our ENTIRE BLOG in three months???? My goodness. “Thank you” doesn’t seem like enough.
      You get into a lot in your comment about the “specific brand” issue that I’m hoping to cover as we read more of the book. Obviously it’s hard/impossible to cover all of it in one post, especially when I know the book is only going to get so much worse. Your Return of Kings comparison made me laugh a lot – that’s a pretty concise burn!

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  8. AJ Reply

    Ohhhh. Oh oh oh, I have to come out of lurking for this. I actually read three or four of these books, and a whole bunch of the teen ones, when I was somewhere around 10 years old. It was my grandmother’s attempt to get me believing in the rapture lest horrible awful things happen to me when I’m… left behind… !!!

    Needless to say, the books only confirmed my suspicions that this rapture stuff was ridiculous, much to the chagrin of my grandmother. They are a very special breed of bad, almost like they’re trying to be an action-packed, long form variation on the classic Jack Chick tracts. >_<

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      This is a huge part of why I was really interested in writing about it! Because I can’t imagine that this could possibly do anything it was intended to.

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    • Jennifer Layton Reply

      I’m glad you brought up the Chick tracts, because as this series goes on, that’s exactly what this brand of Christianity reminds me of. As someone who has read all the books in this series, I can tell you it only gets worse.

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  9. bookbaron Reply

    It’s interesting about all the children being auto raptured. As I seem to remember while reading old historical accounts of how children’s deaths were handled in the past- most kids weren’t named until two years old. And I seem to remember the reglious perspective being that they were considered sinful creatures until baptism. And if they died before baptism, they didn’t get named or even mourned like other Christians would. Granted I think this was around the 1700-1800s and I don’t know what branch of Christanity believed this. I just remember reading it going, damn! That’s harsh! Poor babies.

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