Friday, March 6, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: The Conversion

Last time, Brianna started talking about her past using language that makes zero sense considering who she is and where she's from, reminding us that while the author wants to SAY Brianna spent several years prostituting herself on the streets while homeless, he doesn't want her to act or speak like she did that. Sigh.

Anyway, Brianna has been talking about how she made up that Ethan abused her. Apparently, she didn't even know what happened to him until "a couple years ago," when she looked it up online. Since she's telling this story four years into her superstardom, which is more than "a couple" years ago, I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she figured it out like... the day before Sonya found her, because she clearly knew what had happened to him (at least somewhat) by the time Sonya showed up.

Sonya admits she knew this.
"I never told anyone except Conrad. I didn’t think it was my place to tell anyone else."
"But for some reason it TOTALLY was my place to tell Conrad."

Cathy yells at Brianna for a little bit about how awful it was of her to do that. Conrad wants to wipe away Brianna's tears.

Sonya updates Brianna on Ethan's divorce, his father's death, his poverty, and that he wasn't allowed to go near his kids again. Brianna is even more upset and doesn't know how to live with herself, so Sonya suggests Jesus, though Brianna's response is not so encouraging:
“Oh no! Not that Jesus thing again!” Brianna looked doubtful. . . “Does that make everything good again? Does Ethan get his life back? Do I sell another million CDs? No! Not even Jesus can fix this mess.”
Wait, what? What does selling a million more CDs have to do with this? Are her CD sales flagging because of her secret about Ethan?

Anyway, Brianna freaks out (understandably) after revealing her secret to her friends and, in this very emotional moment, hearing them chew her out and tell her she needs to ask Jesus for forgiveness. She runs away. Literally, she just sprints away and her bodyguards can't catch up to her.

They decide to split up to find her, but no luck, until Conrad gets a light bulb idea and they head to a music store, where Brianna is playing to an adoring crowd, except that adoring crowd is apparently Beatles-level crazy, because they are about to start rioting and there are sirens so apparently the police are already on their way despite everything having been calm until just this second.

They scoot Brianna out of there, but she is, at first, remarkably calm and casual for having run off in a fit of guilt. Then she breaks down in tears, they remind her about Jesus again, and they decide to cancel their concert.

The chapter ends there, but, uh, nothing's happened, so let's continue on to chapter eleven.
Through the years, Conrad and Sonya spoke to Brianna openly and honestly about her need for God. They knew what she had to do.
See, here's the problem. Yes, I'm a Christian, and, yes, I believe that God is the answer for everyone. But Conrad and Sonya are so smug about it. Sonya especially is a terrible friend to Brianna, and when she talks about her needing Jesus it always comes across as not so much about wanting to help her as wanting her to convert so they can say, "I told you so." She has made it clear many, many times that she does not want to talk about God, and they push it on her. (That's not only a terrible friendship, but a really terrible working relationship!) Maybe if they hadn't pushed her to discuss it when she clearly had a lot of baggage to deal with and wasn't ready, she wouldn't have run when she was ready. Maybe she would have wanted to actually listen.

Conrad is a bit more compassionate than Sonya, though that's not saying much. He seems to at least genuinely care about Brianna's well-being, while Sonya seems more interested in being The One to Fix Her. Either way, I wish they wouldn't say things like "They knew what she had to do." It doesn't matter what they know, she has to come to that place on her own, and their pushing and prodding does nothing except exasperate her.

Anyway, Brianna is sobbing in the car as they decide not to go to the concert, when she jumps out of the vehicle and runs across the road to see a blinking sign that says "Jesus Saves." It's the sign for a church (though I'm not sure I've ever seen a church with a blinking sign) and she runs down into the basement, where there's some sort of pre-church thing going on. The worship band is practicing and people are praying.
Brianna finally came to a startling realization— she must give full control to the only One who could truly help her.  
Still unaware of anyone else in the room, Brianna closed her eyes and began to spin around, crying out to God Almighty. “God, why? Why?”
...Why what? She's realized she needs to give control to God, and now she's asking why she has to? I don't think that's what Rothdiener's trying to say here, but that's what it seems like. Brianna's actions are a little strange to the onlookers, but they're not any less strange to those of us who get to follow he train of thought.

Brianna stops crying and is introduced to Jeremiah, the worship pastor. After this little break she cries again, and Jeremiah actually seems like a really good guy, taking this all in stride and kneeling with her as she prays.
The look on his face and the light in Jeremiah’s eyes were an outward expression of his warm, caring heart.
Which is much nicer than whatever the heck Sonya's been acting like for the last four years.

Jeremiah shares a bit of his testimony. He was a drug addict who was raised in a Christian home but left, and he came back to God after his parents' death. Brianna asks some questions about forgiveness, he answers them encouragingly, though Brianna is still uncertain:
“I have hurt, no, destroyed, so many people.”
Wait, what is this "so many"? Ethan... Ethan's kids, perhaps, though she has no idea what happened do them... is she thinking of Susan? Probably not, because Brianna was well aware that Susan had some issues to begin with and was probably not "destroyed" by all this. Who else is she thinking of? It's pretty much just Ethan and maybe one or two others by extension.

There's like another page of preaching about forgiveness and while none of it's awful and most of it's true, it's very dry to read and boring to mock. Then everybody prays, and it's dramatically written but it feels weird to mock it too because sometimes conversions are dramatic, and if this was surrounded by a much better book, this page or so could be OK.

When Brianna looks up, she feels free and instantly knows everything she needs to do to fix her life, because when you become a Christian, you get instant answers to everything. She talks in Christianese for a few minutes, and then she plays a song that was one of her first hits.
Brianna commented. “Wow! I never realized the power in the words of that song. The message sure fits today.”
I giggled out loud here. It's one thing if someone else says that, but for Brianna to be like, "Wow! My song is so good!" it is more than a little goofy-sounding.

Sonya reminds Brianna that they have to leave and cancel her concert, to which Brianna responds:
“How long before my press conference?” 
“Um... twenty minutes,” he said, glancing at his watch.

Nobody said anything about a press conference. I even did a search throughout the book, there's no mention of a press conference since the last one Sonya held before Brianna was even famous. She's got a concert this evening. Does she just do a routine press conference before every concert? Just to be like, "Hey, just so the media knows, I'm doing a concert tonight, even though I'm sure that information is already available online and since I'm the most famous person ever, my show is for sure sold out"?

But I guess they're speeding off to a press conference now, so... that's nice. Brianna preaches to Jeremiah for a little bit for some reason, and they all leave praying.

We made it through almost two whole chapters, and we are now 61% of the way through the book, with 123 pages to go.


  1. The best thing about this is that Sonya and Conrad have been badgering her for four years, and the thing that finally converts her is apparently a blinking sign saying "Jesus Saves"? Congratulations, guys, you've been literally less effective than a two-word blinking sign.

    1. You'd hope that'd be the message they take from it, but I suspect it's more along the lines of "I loosened the lid for you."