Today is the day we finally meet the first member of the League. Chapter 4 describes Eric’s meeting with “the wiry little guy”.
So, Eric’s sitting at his favorite café waiting to meet the first member of the League (after getting an anonymous note with the date). He has no idea who he’s waiting for, but at some point, the waiter whom he seems to know well tells Eric that a man is waiting for him at another table – a ‘geeky dude':
I looked over toward the bookcase and saw a large, muscular man sitting snugly in a tall, wingback, leather chair only ten feet from where I sat. “You mean the big guy?” I asked Deuce [the waiter]. “No, the wiry little guy with big glasses and high water pants, sitting right there. And beware, my friend, he’s toting around a most awful smell.” (p. 33)
It turns out they are talking about the exact same man, and Eric walks over to find out what’s going on. The man tells Eric that he was the one who sent the note. Eric is puzzled – he has no clue who this guy could be. But:
The more I studied this man, the more familiar he seemed. His manner was reminiscent of something, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. He was hulking. His clothing covered it well, but as you looked at him more closely, it was obvious that this man was not just big; he seemed to be cut from marble with a Greek chisel. He was beyond Hollywood handsome, and his presence was truly statuesque and awesome. He smelled of Tide laundry detergent with a hint of peppermint. His jaw was square, his silvery-blue eyes were intense, and his grip, when he shook my hand, squashed my fingers. (p. 34)
Wow, talk about admiration! On a side note, am I the only one who is reminded of Christian Grey? Either way, this guy doesn’t sound like a wiry little guy. He sounds downright awesome, the kind of guy the other men want to be like, the kind of guy women want to date. Right?
Have you guessed who this guy is? I’ll tell you right now, it is (drumroll) Mr Purity.
Now, what we see here is a stark contrast between Eric’s perception of this guy and Deuce the waiter’s perception of that guy. Eric’s (supposed) authority in matters of faith functions here as an expression of the fact that worldly culture’s view is distorted. The reader is faced with an image of ‘purity’ that they have probably encountered before – after all, people might have pointed out their ‘nerdiness’ or at least ‘weirdness’ before. Eric’s authority allows him to say “It’s not you who’s wrong – it’s society failing to see the beauty and strength in you.” In this way, Eric tries to lift the doubts young people encounter if they try to follow purity teachings. While I agree that some people might see some things differently, I find that this stark contrast – especially in this context – is something very dangerous. After all, there aren’t just different ways to look at things, there are wrong ways and right ways, Eric’s way obviously being the right way because it is the (supposedly) biblical way. This right-wrong distinction makes it very difficult for any person to reevaluate personal convictions – the fact that Eric’s tale here mentions that Mr Purity is a messenger of the actual, real God of the Bible, and that Eric, as a believer, sees what he really looks like makes it almost impossible to reevaluate anything without being blamed of some sort of ‘sin’ causing a change of mind. That is, anyone who sees something that differs from Eric’s perception is by necessity mislead and suffers from a distorted view of ‘truth’.
Also, I want to add this one fragment of thought to this: Eric’s description here is very reminiscent of ‘secret knowledge’ type of groups and societies. Eric implies that certain things can only be seen if you follow XY or Z. That is, followers of his teachings can see things the average person cannot see, or only in a very distorted version. Apart from the fact that in this way, Eric excludes a large number of people from his group, it also creates a feeling of community and superiority. ‘Seeing truth’, in its most literal sense, becomes an ability that is exclusively given out to a chosen group of people, a sort of supernatural ability.
This also ties in with a statement that can be found at the very bottom of Leslie’s girl magazine homepage (Set Apart Girl): “In Every Generation There Are a Few” is what this little, sneaky line reads. Again, this is along the same lines of a selected group of people who share knowledge that is inaccessible to others. But back to Eric.
The two of them chat some more about Mr Purity’s appearance, but it’s just more of the same old, until we get to the point where Mr Purity gives the following remark:
“I know you contacted Great Sex. That was a bold and brash move on your part. I realize you and Leslie have a special relationship with him in regard to your marriage; however, Great Sex is very private, and God has very strict authority over his public presentation. He called me into his office last week and told me you are writing a book that aims to prove his existence. I don’t need to tell you how delicately this must be handled, Mr Ludy!” (p. 35, emphasis mine)
Note the bolded parts. Why would God be concerned over people knowing that Great Sex exists? Why does it need to be handled delicately? Again, is this some sort of secret knowledge? Secret society? Is knowing about the existence of Great Sex something that unbelievers must be barred from? If so, why? So they don’t… become believers? I mean, if you knew that you would have Great Sex if you were a conservative Christian… wouldn’t you convert or something? Become a Christian? Isn’t this completely illogical and weird? I honestly have no clue what to say about this other than the fact that I believe Eric is trying to imply that this is a very secret knowledge, and that even believers have to (secretly) work to get it. Of course, I realize the God of the Bible wouldn’t be too hyped if you presented great sex in public – the act, that is. But in Eric’s tale, it wouldn’t be an act that is being presented – hence there wouldn’t be a display of, say, naked bodies or defrauding images. It would be an actual, living person, waving at the crowd saying “Hi guys, I’m great sex, look at how awesome I am!” I really can’t see why this must remain so secret, and why Great Sex would be so concerned that his existence stays a secret.
Also, why would Eric want to prove the existence of Great Sex in the first place? Has anybody ever doubted that he exists? It’s not like unbelievers think sex sucks – in fact, most people would probably say that they’d had great sex at least once. The distinction between what unbelievers think of as great sex (that ugly, mean guy, the Imposter) and what believers think of as great sex (Great Sex) has already been made earlier in the book. I thought Eric wanted to expose the Imposter, who, by the way, was admired by all unbelievers in the café in the first chapter. So, obviously, it’s totally unnecessary to prove that it exists. But again, I can’t help but think of this as a tool to form a secret society/community type of feeling.
Continuing with the conversation Eric has with Mr Purity, Eric learns that Mr Purity is the bodyguard of the League:
You see, Mr Ludy, I am the official bodyguard of the inner life. My responsibility is to protect the ever-maturing Christ-life within the hearts of God’s children. (p.39)
Now here, purity is about more than just sex. It’s about the whole inner life of a believer. That, in turn, implies that sexual purity (which is not present in unbelievers) ties in with the entire inner life (of an unbeliever). So… a lack of sexual purity weakens your entire inner life to attacks from evil forces. Sounds a bit far out? Well, this is actually what I believed in. There is no real difference between sexual purity and a purity of the entire being. It’s pretty much the same mechanism. This is one of the reasons why sexual impurity is such a big deal: It opens you up to all kinds of attacks on your spiritual life.
Now, Mr Purity doesn’t want to let Eric meet the rest of the League until he taught him a lesson or two (what what, Eric needs lessons in purity? no way!). Next up: The Deal!