We jump forward 93 years and Rayford is kicking back bitching about getting old to his dead friend Tsion.
“Oh, go on!” Tsion said. “A man is still a child at one hundred here, so you’re just a young teen.”
“I’m telling you, I’m not the man I once was. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like for me hundreds of years from now.”
That’s a valid question. Think of spending centuries trapped in a body that is no longer functioning and you can’t die.
“Well, we had our chances at glorified bodies, didn’t we?”
“Don’t remind me.”
This is the perfect distillation of this series of books: You had your chance. We were right. Fuck you.
Rayford says he feels led to become a missionary. In a world in which Jesus Christ and angels are visible, and the dead have come back to ageless life. When they get a call from Chloe who asks her dad to come over and see them because one of their ‘kids’ died at age 100.
“Who died?” Rayford said, thinking he was being rhetorical.
“Cendrillon Jospin,” Cameron said.
“The French girl? She was a leader, with you since the beginning.”
Chloe sat shaking her head. “You could knock me over with a fig, Dad. If I’m not mistaken, she had actually led others to faith.”
Actions don’t matter that much in Real True Christianity. You have to believe. Clap harder, you know. Otherwise, you might think you’re a Christian and do charitable things, but maybe you don’t believe hard enough and then you die and Jesus tortures you for eternity…
Because he loves you.
Also, it’s your fault. It’s always your fault.
“I’m not sure about that anymore, Chloe,” Cameron said. “She taught, yes, and she counseled. And it seemed she was an enthusiastic saint. But as I think back, I can’t say I ever knew of someone coming to Christ specifically through her leading. Can you?”
One of the things I’ve experienced slightly since my intellectual shift into agnosticism is the speculation about why I’ve done so and a deconstruction of my life as a believer.
Christians really don’t want to think that someone could really believe the stories of the bible and really believe that Jesus Christ is God and our Lord and Savior, and then reexamine that belief as new information is introduced to us.
So Cameron begins the process of deconstructing the life of this girl that we’ve never even met.
“The Jospins want me to speak at her funeral, Rayford,” Cameron said. “They know the truth, and yet still that’s what they want. Whatever would I say? She seemed a wonderful girl, and had her death been the result of an accident back in previous years, I’d have been able to rhapsodize about her. She was a dear friend, a valued coworker.”
That it’s monstrous that a dear friend and a wonderful girl is now being tortured by God for all eternity? That God is a dick? That the blood of Christ and the love of the Father should be enough to cover and bring home everyone?
That’s what I’d say.
But no, we get further deconstruction that Cendrillon wasn’t really a nice girl. She had opinions, after all. And a woman having opinions is verboten. She also apparently had doubts, which is completely illogical, because again, you have the ageless dead living with you, Jesus Christ and angels visible in Jerusalem, God is here. There is definitive proof that “Real, True Christianity” is right in this world that the authors have constructed.
Faced with a world like that, doubt is literally impossible.
They arrange to have a party go over to her parent’s house and interrogate them to see if they suspected their daughter was an evil heathen and whether or not it’s okay for Cameron to tell everyone that their daughter is now writhing in torment in hell fire because of Jesus.
We shift perspective to Rayford’s son, Raymie. He was 12 when God killed him via Rapture. But he was given an adult, ageless body and an adult intellect. And he apparently works with his sister Chloe and tries to convert the kids they were watching over.
Let’s pause for a moment on this part though:
While Raymie wondered what a normal life might have been like, with dating and love and marriage and parenthood, he found it convenient to not be distracted by such things while immersed in a life of service to Christ.
Christians talk a lot about the importance of the family and loving others, but ultimately they see these things as a distraction from the purity of their calling to serve the Lord.
So… yeah… your marriage, your service to your spouse, your service to your children, your service to your parents and siblings… just a distraction from Jesus.
Which is, of course, ass backwards.
Assuming for the moment that God exists, my service to my spouse is service to God. The acts of kindness towards my children are acts of kindness towards God.
I serve God by serving others.
My family is not a distraction, it is an opportunity. It is a calling. It is a holy calling.
Raymie meets one of his living friends Bahira and they have an awkward opening conversation:
“I have discovered the reason for the Lord’s silence,” she said.
“You’ve experienced it too?”
“Usually it’s because we should know the answer to what we’re asking.”
“But that’s not it this time, Raymie. I was asking Him for nothing but comfort. He granted a measure, but His silence scared me. Then it came to me. He too is grieving. As He rejoices whenever a soul chooses Him, the time has come again when some will go the other way.”
“But He is all-knowing, Bahira. Cendrillon could not have been a surprise to Him.”
She shrugged. “But still it must grieve Him.
Then maybe he should stop sending people to hell.
Seriously, God is sending these people to hell and it makes him sad, but he can’t stop sending them there because WHY?
Nope, he’s GOD. He made the rules. He could change them. He could send them to a place where he could give them a stern talking to. He could meet with each of them on their 100th birthday and say, “Hey, Dude, I notice you haven’t pledged allegiance to my kid, what’s up with that?”
He could do literally anything he wants because he’s GOD.
If it makes Him sad, He could just stop doing it!
The topic shifts to the dead girl and Bahira says Cendrillon wanted to go partying with other heathen in France and Turkey. There are clubs full of people in their eighties and nineties who party and boast about not following Jesus.
Though Bahira mentions it, it’s not explained how seeing GOD AND ANGELS AND AGELESS DEAD PEOPLE doesn’t convince people that Christianity is real.
But these kids are unbelievers and they like Satan. Probably because Satan isn’t consigning them to an eternal torture pit.
“Dad says they seem for real. Yes, it may be for attention, and perhaps they know better and are planning to change their minds and their courses in time to avoid death at one hundred. I’m surprised the Lord doesn’t squash them like bugs.”
Or Jesus could show up and have a talk with them. Answer their questions.
“His mercy is everlasting,” Bahira said quietly.
Nope. Everlasting does not equal 100. Everlasting mercy would mean Jesus is standing at the gates of hell knocking until the last soul comes out wearily and collapses and cries into his shoulder saying, “Father, I am not worthy to be your son, consider me as one of your hired men” and Jesus shouts to heaven to throw a giant party because his son has come home.
We continue on and apparently cults of The Other Light or Satan worship have started to spread. Police have been reintroduced. Prisons exist once more. And Cendrillon was dabbling in joining a Satanic cult, so you know… obviously she deserves to suffer in torment and agony forever.
His mercy is everlasting.