Note about page numbers: I’m using an iBook copy of this book. With iBook (and I believe most electronic books work this way), the book repaginates based on your font settings. As such, I’m not sure how useful it will be to give page numbers. For anyone who wants to know, I’m reading my iPad in portrait mode using the smallest font size, with a font setting of Palatino. That’s how I come by the page numbers I list in the post titles.
Peretti starts “The Visitation” with a very short prologue. This prologue starts out describing what one might first think of as the crucifixion of Jesus himself. Peretti describes the ringing of hammer against nail and the crunching of bone beneath said nail. He then describes the young man as he hangs there beneath the scorching sun.
He cried out, but God did not listen. It could have been God who drove the nails, then put his hammer down and turned away, smiling in victory. It could have been God who left him to bake and bleed in the sun, unable to stand, unable to fall, as the sun marked the passing hours across the cloudless sky.
We can glean from this passage that the young man is likely from a religious background. Contrary to what the “non-Christians hate Jesus crowd” might thing, the nonreligious – especially those who were nonreligious from the day they were born – do not face adversity and think that God has abandoned them, let alone that God is the likely cause of their adversity.
No, a young man has to believe in God – or at least be brought up to believe in God – to believe that it was God Himself who crucified him.
This is confirmed as the young man reflects on the accusations of his tormentors:
“You’re a child of the devil,” they said. A child of the devil who needed to be contained.
So the people who crucified this young man are devoutly religious and believe they are authorized – presumably by God Himself – to determine who is God’s own chosen and who is a child of the devil. Not only that, they feel duly authorized to do what must be done to “contain” those who fall into the latter category, even if it means crucifying that person and leaving zir for dead in the scorching heat.
When I volunteered at a summer day camp for Child Evangelism Fellowship, the leaders always cautioned us to choose our words carefully when disciplining the children in our care. They warned us that we should refrain from telling a child that zie is “bad.” The leaders explained that this often created a self-reinforcing message to the child, which would just as likely result in more bad behavior than encouraging good behavior. We were encouraged to point out that the child was precious and valuable, and even good, but was engaging in bad behavior. Bad behavior by good children was correctable after all. What’s more, it made it worth correcting the good behavior.
If I had ever told a child that they were the spawn of Satan himself, I suspect that the CEF leadership would have asked me to leave and never come back. Had I ever told a child such a thing while driving nails into their wrist so they could hang their in agony while dying, I should hope they would have called the police on me.
What has happened to this young man is monstrous beyond measure. Not only has he been involved in a religious group that feels justified in declaring him irredeemably evil, but they have placed final judgment on him on God’s behalf, leaving him to die in misery. This young man, whoever he is deserves our sympathy. He deserves our compassion. He deserves mercy and relief from his torment.
I find that interesting that as the prologue continues, the young man finds relief from his torment, but without any mention of mercy:
He cried out once again, and this time, a voice, a mind, answered and a power coursed through him. Suddenly, he could bear the pain and make it fuel for his will. With burning will, he determined he would live.
Power. He does not find mercy, but power. Power to survive according to his own will. Power provided by some unknown source.
Of course, he has already had one brush with power. Those who hung him by nails that tore through his flesh and bone and left him to die had power to. They used their power to abuse and hurt him. To them, power was something to torment and “contain” those they deemed unfit for life.
So one might wonder, how one who has been abused by the powerful might react when he finds not saving mercy from others, but power to save himself. Power that he now can wield. One might wonder what he might do with that power, power that still knows nothing of mercy.
Whether this young man becomes a just protagonist or a monster modeled after his own tormentors and the brutal lessons they taught him, this moment makes him a rather sympathetic character in my eyes.
 Actually, there is an introduction before the prologue. However, given that the introduction is a brief discussion of his own thoughts, I chose to skip over them and move right into the fictional narrative.