I now have a theory that each of the Left Behind books was written in a month, like a NaNoWriMo novel (Left Behind predates NaNoWriMo) and sent directly to the publisher, who skipped over the editing part. This theory explains why the series is so badly written.
Here’s a fellow, you say, who used to come before us as a moral and religious writer, and now, if you please, he’s written a whole chapter describing his old school as a very furnace of impure loves without one word on the heinousness of the sin. But there are two reasons. One you shall hear before this chapter ends. The other is that, as I have said, the sin in question is one of the two (gambling is the other) which I have never been tempted to commit. I will not indulge in futile philippics against enemies I never met in battle.
(“This means, then, that all the other vices you have so largely written about…” Well, yes, it does, and more’s the pity; but it’s nothing to our purpose at the moment.)
—C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
At tonight’s NaNo meeting, someone suggested (and forgive me for wildly quoting) that Catholics have everyone else beat on feeling guilty. “What do Catholics feel guilty about?” I asked. “Everything!” rang the chorus of two. No further details came forth, so I was left to consider the question on my own.
Guilt plays a large part in my novel, and I began to consider the large number of things about which I’ve ever felt guilty, and a number of others for which I could have felt guilty but never did. It’s a long, mixed list, which I preface by saying (at a serious risk of being misunderstood by the wrong people) that I have not felt guilty about every single one of these items, as I have not experienced every single one of them. I do not say that anyone should or should not feel guilty about any specific item. In fact, I am currently offering no opinion whatsoever about the suitability of feeling guilty about any of these items. This list, in fact, is not about me. Suffice it to say that I have read enough Ellen G. White, attended enough years of SDA schools, and had the misfortune (or good luck, depending on your perspective) of being raised in a household who thought that many of these items were guilt-worthy. I present this list to you in alphabetic order, not in stream-of-consciousness order.
- Attending the ballet
- Breaking the Sabbath
- Dancing with one’s spouse
- Drinking anything but water
- Drinking milk
- Eating any fat
- Eating cheese
- Eating eggs
- Eating fish
- Eating meat
- Eating out on the Sabbath
- Eating unclean meat
- Holding hands
- Listening to rock music
- Making jokes on the Sabbath
- Not going to church
- Not going to Sabbath School
- Not studying the Sabbath School lesson
- Not tithing
- Not witnessing
- Playing cards
- Reading fiction
- Reading non-fiction
- Riding a bicycle
- Same-sex sex
- Self abuse (also known as masturbation)
- Sex before marriage
- Shopping on the Sabbath
- Studying the Sabbath School lesson, but not every day
- Swimming in mixed company
- Swimming on the Sabbath
- Taking the biggest dessert
- Viewing porn
- Wading on the Sabbath
- Watching movies at home
- Watching movies on the Sabbath
- Water skiing on the Sabbath
- Wearing a bathing suit on the Sabbath
- Wearing jewelry
- Wearing makeup
- Wearing pants (if you’re a girl)
- Wearing shorts
- Working on the Sabbath
This list is not intended to be comprehensive, and I’m currently not offering any criticism of any items on this list. But I’d love to know what you’ve ever felt guilty about. You’re welcome to respond in comments, either anonymously or not.
If you are not careful, station KFKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one had made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything that one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on. You might as well have heavy-metal music piped in through headphones while you’re trying to get your work done. You have to get things quiet in your head so you can hear your characters and let them guide your story.
—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, page 116
I call the DJ of my personal KFKD Radio by her rightful name—Barb.
Barb and I go way back. She’s a one-note DJ—she only plays out of the left speaker, but oh!—how well she plays it! Songs of fear, songs of wretchedness, songs of selfishness, songs of stupidity. She uses a heavy touch when a whisper would do. She drowns out truth and beauty and love with the music of self-hatred. It’s herself she hates, but with distraction and smoke and mirrors she makes me think that it’s me instead.
I’d fire her, but she’s like an urban-legend Ouija board—I kick her out, and she comes back.
So I’ll settle for turning her off. Because my hand can still work the radio knob.