NRA: God Bless You, Dr. Rosenzweig

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 139-141

Buck Williams and his charter pilot land safely inside of one of the contradictions in Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy.”

“Don’t worry about me, buddy boy,” Ken Ritz told Buck as he helped him off the Learjet. “I’ll hangar this baby and find a place to crash for a few days. I’ve always wanted to tour this country, and it’s nice to be in a place that hasn’t been blown to bits.”

LaHaye’s prophecy scheme tells us that after the Rapture of all real, true Christians, the Great Tribulation begins. During this final seven-year period, the Antichrist will rule over the world as the all-powerful dictator of an all-encompassing one-world government.

LaHaye’s prophecy also tells us that the first thing this Antichrist will do as head of the OWG is sign a peace treaty with the nation of Israel.

See the problem here? LaHaye doesn’t. He’s told us that the Antichrist will rule over every single nation on Earth, sweeping aside all former national boundaries and sovereignties to create a single, global empire.

Except somehow Israel isn’t included. So the Antichrist’s global empire is apparently like the old Los Angeles Country Club.

Nicolae Carpathia’s not-quite global one-world government (gray).

This is the sort of problem that comes from taking a bunch of verses from Daniel and a bunch of verses from Revelation and pretending they’re all about the same thing — a prediction of a future empire that has nothing to do with the Seleucid or Roman contexts that the authors of those books were writing about.

LaHaye’s strategy for dealing with this contradiction is to ignore it and hope no one notices. That means poor Jerry Jenkins has to ignore it too in his attempt to type up a fictional depiction of the fulfillment of these “prophecies.”

Jenkins slips up a bit here, shining a spotlight on this contradiction with Ken Ritz’s comment that “it’s nice to be in a place that hasn’t been blown to bits.” At this point in the story, the Antichrist has been wantonly bombing major cities throughout his OWG — destroying London, New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto, Mexico City, Cairo, etc., and raining death down on millions of his subjects. Israel thus becomes the only safe haven in the world. The place ought to be swarming with refugees.

But then, inexplicably, Nicolae Carpathia’s sudden war against his own empire hasn’t produced any refugees anywhere. Buck and Ken began their journey in Milwaukee — a city one would expect to have been flooded by refugees from the war zone in Chicago. Yet the nuclear destruction of Chicago doesn’t seem to have altered the daily routine of life in Milwaukee at all. The destruction of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago didn’t even disrupt flight schedules in or out of Milwaukee.

The destruction of Chicago doesn’t seem to have resulted in refugees even in Cicero or Evanston or Oak Lawn or any of the other adjoining cities and towns — all of which are miraculously unscathed and unperturbed.

Pause to think about things like that for too long and you’ll never be able to keep reading. It’s too huge. The whole story — and the whole alleged “prophecy” depicted by the story — collapses under the weight of such vast, weird impossibilities. So let’s not pause too long. Let’s just say again, quickly, “Just go with it” and race ahead to the next bit.

Unfortunately, Jerry Jenkins isn’t going to allow us to race ahead just yet. The rest of this chapter turns out to be a review of prophecy/plot points from the first two books.

Buck thanked him and grabbed his bag, slinging it over his shoulder. He headed toward the terminal. There, beyond the plate-glass window, he saw the enthusiastic wave of the wispy little old man with the flyaway hair, Chaim Rosenzweig. How he wanted this man to become a believer! Buck had come to love Chaim. That was not an expression he would have used about the other man back when he first met the scientist. It had been only a few years, but it seemed so long ago.

This is where, if this were a 1980s TV series, the screen would go all wavy and we’d hear Buck in voice-over saying, dreamily, “I remember it like it was yesterday …” The two-fold purpose of the next seven pages is the same as those old TV flashbacks: 1) To remind viewers/readers of what happened previously in the series, and 2) To cut expense/effort by recycling old clips instead of filming/writing new material.

Buck had been the youngest senior writer in the history of Global Weekly — in fact, in the history of international journalism. He had unabashedly campaigned for the job of profiling Dr. Rosenzweig as the Weekly’s “Man of the Year.”

I feel a little sorry for Buck here, congratulating himself on his “historic” designation as a senior writer. What this designation actually meant was that Stanton Bailey realized he could save some overtime expense by switching Buck from an hourly employee to an exempt, salaried staff-member. Bailey guessed, correctly, that this little ladder-climber would be so intoxicated by the new title that he wouldn’t even realize it meant longer hours for less pay. “Good news, Williams! We’re making you a senior writer — the youngest senior writer the magazine has ever had.” The kid bought it hook, line and sinker.

Buck had first met the man a little more than a year before that assignment, after Rosenzweig had won a huge international prize for his invention (Chaim himself always called it more of a discovery) of a botanic formula. Rosenzweig’s concoction, some said without much exaggeration, allowed flora to grow anywhere — even on concrete.

The latter had never been proven; however, the desert sands of Israel soon began to blossom like a greenhouse. Flowers, corn, beans, you name it, every spare inch of the tiny nation was quickly cleared for agriculture. Overnight, Israel had become the richest nation in the world.

We covered this back in the first chapter of the first book — the strangeness of imagining that agriculture was the path to becoming “the richest nation in the world” (see “Weird Science” — from October of omigod 2003). Among the many things Jenkins hasn’t considered here is the difference between growing, say, corn, and growing “flowers.” He seems to assume that everything can be harvested by machine — like in that retrofuturist robot-farm diorama in Disney’s World of Tomorrow. That overlooks the vast army of farmworkers this plan would require to harvest things like flowers, tomatoes, strawberries, etc.

Although Israel’s sudden, massive need for such labor might help to account for another puzzling, impossible-seeming assertion from this section back in the first book, the authors’ matter-of-fact, unexplained and unsupported statement that:

The prosperity brought about by the miracle formula changed the course of history for Israel. Flush with cash and resources, Israel made peace with her neighbors.

And by “made peace with,” the authors actually mean “annexed and absorbed,” since we’re told that — thanks entirely to Rosenzweig’s miracle formula — the nation of Israel has expanded to include what in the actual world is the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and parts of Iraq.

The unreality of this whole bit regarding Chaim Rosenzweig’s miracle formula comes from the backwards process of Jenkins’ project here. He’s not trying to tell a story, but to depict the fulfillment of a prophecy. Thus instead of asking the storyteller’s question — “What happens next?” — he starts with that answer and works backwards.

This miracle formula is a potentially interesting idea. A capable science fiction writer could start with that idea and extrapolate the kind of new world that would develop from such a premise — complete with the conflicts, and thus the stories, that this new world would bring. But that’s not how Jenkins approaches any of this. He’s starting with a bunch of texts describing prosperity in an ancient, agrarian society, and treats those texts as predictive prophecies about the future. He’s not at all curious about imagining the ramifications of Rosenzweig’s formula, or how such a thing would change and reshape the actual world. He just wants to check off another box on LaHaye’s prophecy check list.

“Desert blooms.” Check. “Magog” and Ethiopia invade without effect. Check.

That second one is pieced together from bits of Ezekiel. This is inserted into the “prophecy” from Revelation based on the dispensationalist hermeneutic principle of “Hey, what the heck, why not throw in something from Ezekiel?”

The book of Ezekiel’s reference to “Magog” is a bit obscure, but since it’s said to be north of Israel, and since it begins with an M, “Bible prophecy scholars” during the Cold War decided it meant Moscow — about which more in a moment.

Other nations had been jealous to get hold of the formula. Clearly, this was the answer to any economic woes. Israel had gone from vulnerable, geographically defenseless country to a world power — respected, feared, envied.

Respected, feared and envied seem to be presented there as synonyms. Or perhaps “feared” and “envied” are presented as the authors’ definition of what it means to be “respected.” This is helpful for understanding Tim LaHaye’s political ideology. And probably also for understanding his idea of pastoral leadership.

Other nations wanted Rosenzweig’s formula so badly that they assigned high-level diplomats and politicians to court him. He acceded to audiences from so many dignitaries that his life’s work had to be set aside. He was past retirement age anyway, but clearly here was a man more comfortable in a laboratory or a classroom than in a diplomatic setting. The darling of Israel had become the icon of world governments, and they all came calling.

Chaim had told Buck at one point that each suitor had his own not-so-hidden agenda. “I did my best to remain calm and diplomatic,” he told Buck, “but only because I was representing my mother country. I grew almost physically ill,” he added with his charming Hebrew-accented dialect, “when each began trying to persuade me that I would personally become the wealthiest man in the world if I would condescend to rent them my formula.”

That’s an odd use of “condescend” there, ignoring the usual negative connotations of hauteur associated with the word. We usually think of someone being “condescending” when they presume a kind of intrinsic superiority for themselves and thus an equivalent inferiority for others. Like, for example, when an American writer describes an Israeli character as speaking in a “charming Hebrew-accented dialect.”

The Israeli government was even more protective of the formula. They made it so clear that the formula was not for sale or rent that other countries threatened war over it, and Russia actually attacked. Buck had been in Haifa the night the warplanes came screaming in.

But if you remember the scene from back in the first book, it wasn’t only Russia that attacked. As per the arbitrarily chosen “prophecy” of Ezekiel 38, Gog and Magog are not acting alone: “Persia, Ethiopia and Put are with them.” So LaHaye’s prophecy, duly depicted by Jenkins, gives us a Russian-Ethiopian joint attack.

And here, in this flashback-summary, we’re told explicitly that this attack was sparked by Israel’s refusal to allow other nations to benefit from Rosenzweig’s formula — not for any price.

So, then, on the one hand we have Ethiopia, a nation chronically ravaged by famine. And on the other hand we have Rosenzweig’s Israel, a nation blessed with miraculous agricultural fertility that it refuses to share or even to sell to people dying of starvation. But we’re supposed to regard Ethiopia as the unambiguous villain in that scenario.

Buck’s current flashback recalls more details of his earlier flashback to the explicit divine intervention that spared Israel from any harm despite the exhaustion of Russia’s entire nuclear arsenal in its attack.

The miraculous delivery of that country from any damage, injury, or death — despite the incredible aerial assault — made Buck a believer in God, though not yet in Christ. There was no other explanation for bombs, missiles, and warships crashing and burning all over the nation, yet every citizen and building escaped unscathed.

It’s not obvious to me why the authors say there, “though not yet in Christ.” Buck’s newfound faith is the result of experiencing an epic, undeniable supernatural act by the God of Israel in defense of Israel. That shouldn’t have set him on a path toward Christianity, it should have made him a resolute convert to Judaism.

 

  • P J Evans

    For that matter, when they bombed Los Angeles, they would have missed both Budweiser (in Van Nuys) and Miller (in Irwindale).

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Yet more evidence that we do not live in a world with a benevolent god: Disqus and these strange, pretend pages of comments.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the same thing. Perhaps if he had gone further in imitating Jane Austen, we’d be reading a better book right now.

  • aunursa

    I’ll write Glorious Appearing in October and November, and I’ll go to the cave where there’s no phone, Internet, radio, or TV… But that’s all I’ll do—I can either write or procrastinate. I’ll do a good deal of both when I’m there, but once I’m in there I’ll probably write 20 pages a day until it’s done. If I get behind, then I’ll write more than that. I try not to get behind because I don’t like to write more than 20 any more. I used to write 40, sometimes 60 pages a day if I had to. I wouldn’t turn in anything that I wasn’t happy with. But now that I’m older, my standards are higher, and I like to pace my writing. I’m pretty religious about finishing the 20 pages. If it takes until noon, that’s fine. If it takes until midnight, I’ll still do it because I don’t want to fall behind.

    Regardless of how I feel, inspired or not, the second half of the advance is the inspiration. There’s a deadline. You have to do it. I realize that I just need to park myself in front of the keyboard and get to work. Once I get to work, I ask myself why I put this off or why I worried or felt that I didn’t have anything. I’ve learned that eventually, it will come.

    Jerry Jenkins on Writing the Left Behind Series

  • Lori

    I wouldn’t turn in anything that I wasn’t happy with. But now that I’m
    older, my standards are higher, and I like to pace my writing.

    This would seem to argue rather strongly that he drinks. A lot.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    @RubyTea: I am now devoutly wishing someone would invent a specialized Slackti-browser that can automatically re-parse all the comments into a flat format.

  • tatortotcassie

    His standards are higher? So, instead of his standards being one millimeter off the ground, they’re now two millimeters off the ground?
    By his own admission, Jenkins implies he goes for quantity over quality. 20 pages a day — the man’s a frickin’ word assembly line, not a writer.

  • Deni zen

    This gets worse in the prequel novels. Nicolae gets told by Satan to go get the formula, because it is incalculably valuable. My question is why Satan dosen’t already have the wonderous secret of the formula. Satan is a being as old as the universe and is of supernatural cunning. He could easily have figured out the secret if Rosenzweig’s formula was simply science. Or he could just send in some invisible demons to steal the formula from Rosenzweig’s laboratory.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Not quite right. Looks like it’s God blackmailing her, rather than Buck and/or Chloe. He works in mysterious ways, you know.

  • SisterCoyote

    …Or he’d argue that, being a lesbian, she had it coming.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Okay. For anyone who uses Windows, RSS Bandit will download not only the top-level articles, but also comments to those articles and store them in absolute chronological order.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    WRT Buck’s mom, it’s probably a lot easier to die unsaved when you haven’t seen blatantly supernatural phenomena like the not-nuking of Israel and the Rapture happening yet.

  • Lorehead
  • http://www.facebook.com/alden.utter Alden Utter

    Which just shows how effective it is!

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Ah, 1988. Leland Jensen predicted Halley’s Comet would destroy the world on April 29th (his second prediction; the first was a nuclear attack in 1980). Edgar Whisenant predicted the Rapture to occur September 13th, then October 3, and then revised it again to September 30th the following year. It was a busy year.

  • Lorehead

    The Magog-Russia connection is a lot older and more ironic than that, although I couldn’t tell you the intermediate steps on the journey. Back around the ninth century, there was a Turkic tribe called the Khazars, whose leaders at least converted to Judaism (how many of the common people did is still under debate). Their territory was in and around what’s now the Ukraine, but during the Cold War was part of the Soviet Union.

    Medieval Christian writers identified the Khazars with Biblical Gog and Magog. For example, Christian of Stavelot in 864 wrote, “At the present time we know of no nation under the heavens where Christians do not live. For [Christians are even found] in the lands of Gog and Magog — who are a Hunnic race and are called Gazari (Khazars)… circumcized and observing all [the laws of] Judaism.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/alden.utter Alden Utter

    “respected, feared, envied.”

    This was close to almost working. If it had been “respected, envied, feared”, there would have been a natural progression, of sorts, although “admired” might have done better than “respected” if that was the case, and “feared” seems odd since the reason they’re so feared is a giant pile of cauliflower, rather than their unofficial nuclear arsenal. But still, a simple swap and it’s *better*.

    Hacks.

  • The_L1985

    I’m so happy, ’cause today I’ve found my friends, they’re in my head…

    </obligatory bad joke>

  • esmerelda_ogg

    It reminds me of the first incarnation of Battlestar Galactica (back in the 80s, I think?) in which Our Heroes would shoot at an attacking spaceship while announcing that it was “microns” away.

    And miss.

  • Grimgrin

    Way back in the day on the old TypePad site I worked out what the entire Russian nuclear arsenal would have done to the state of Israel (present day borders). I believe it would have made a radioactive crater 20 feet deep.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    *flabbergasted*

  • kadh2000

    And I really wish I understood why temporal order meant absolutely nothing.

  • Catherine Archer

    Oh, my. Such a formula! Not one word about oil, but- the formula! Back where I come from that miracle formula that causes growth is called horse manure. As for poor old Chaim’s ‘charming Isreal accent’ probably consisted of a few choruses of ‘ Ave la gia’. Oy vey!

  • kadh2000

    and the mega computers…
    and you can bet the mega cell phones cost way more than retail…

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Yeah, but their lasers would always harmlessly explode on the wall of space behind the cylons.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Ugh, Disqus…What the balls are you doing? I click “load more comments,” get warped to the bottom of the page, and then there’s no comments!

    We used to sacrifice to Disqus to make it behave, but that apparently doesn’t work anymore…What’s after sacrificing?

  • ohiolibrarian

    Wouldn’t he have had to understand human behavior and motivations?

  • ohiolibrarian

    Apparently he’s never heard of Yiddish.

  • Ben English

    How do you blackmail someone for being a lesbian? Especially in the world of these books where all the RTCs are gone and nobody is left to tell people how evil gays are.

  • Lorehead

    Just in case it doesn’t go without saying, that’s really, really tasteless. Also, the character of Buck is a total jackass. Also, isn’t he supposed to be Verna’s superior, or does that change in the next 207 pages?

    But more than that, how, in a world set years in the future, where all the RTCs vanished, and ruled by a literally Antichristian liberal hyper-ecumenicist (who IIRC has other reasons to favor gay rights), outing someone to her supervisors in his OWG is a blackmail threat and not something that would get him hauled into HR for mandatory diversity lessons?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Just because you’re a QUILTBAG person doesn’t mean you necessarily feel in a comfort zone to come out.

    I’m in Canada, where we have anti-discrimination laws and legal same-sex marriage but I still don’t feel comfortable discussing my bisexuality at my work.

  • TheBrett

    I bet Bucky Boy counts it as a plus to spend way more than the regular retail price. It shows that he’s a big shot.

  • lofgren

    130 comments? No way am I going back to see if this joke was already taken.

    This is inserted into the “prophecy” from Revelation based on the dispensationalist hermeneutic principle of “Hey, what the heck, why not throw in something from Ezekiel?”

    Also the hermeneutic principle of how I make pasta sauce.

  • lofgren

    Actually, (though I am not a botanist nor a farmer nor a geologist) I believe what the Middle Eastern deserts need more than water is SOIL. Somehow, Rosenzweig’s formula must extract the nutrients that one would normally acquire from rotting plant matter and animal waste from the desert rock and convert it into a form that is bioavailable to plant roots. Or something. The mechanics of this are really unclear, but it seems like no matter how you decide that the formula works, you would need TONS of it. Eventually the process would become self-sustaining, but that would probably take a VERY long time. Also I hope the Israelis are using some of that formula to grow trees, or else eventually they’re going to be back in the same boat when massive windstorms uproot everything in their path and scatter the thin layer of topsoil like Robert Downey Jr. sneezing on his mirror.

    I’m not one of those people who gets all pissy when my sci-fi asks me to ignore a little science in order to accept its premises, but they could at least dress it up with some technobabble or something.

  • LoneWolf343

    I tend to prefer my pasta sauce without ancient Semetic prophets, thank you very much.

  • LoneWolf343

    Orgies.

  • lofgren

    Ezekiel is our neighbor who grows basil and tomatoes. Also we have him chained in our basement and we’ve been keeping him alive while we hack off his limbs and eat him piece by piece. He’s a decent guy. Kind of loud on weeknights, though, and also while having his arms sawed off.

  • Ben English

    True, but Buck’s comment carries the threat of telling her superiors, as if the GC Weekly has a ‘no gays’ policy or something. Also, as far as I know Verna’s only direct superiors are *Buck himself* and… well, The Antichrist… The Antichrist, whose fathers were gay. Somehow I doubt Nicky would care too much.

  • Jamoche

    Oddly enough, mine was Flashman.

    (Hey, what happened to OpenID login?)

  • http://twitter.com/AbelUndercity Abel Undercity
  • http://twitter.com/AbelUndercity Abel Undercity

    From what I’ve seen of LaHaye, I wouldn’t begrudge Jenkins the occasional belt to get through the chapter.

  • Mrs Grimble

    I assume – well, I hope – that Fred is referencing Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You Mr Rosewater.
    The hero, Elliot Rosewater, is something of a Christ figure (though not obviously so) – despite being the heir to a gigantic family fortune, he’s a drunk who lives amongst the poor and the sinners; there’s a plot in progress to have him declared insane and stripped of his inheritance.
    One of the things Elliot does that makes his relatives think he’s insane is to answer phone calls from the sad, mad and the desperate who need somebody to unload their troubles to. He sees it as his calling and is utterly sincere, listening for as long as they want, offering encouragement and gentle advice and never condemning. He treats all his callers as decent human beings and they go away a little bit uplifted.

    If EllenJay had written that, half the book would be taken up with lengthy, loving descriptions of the phone and most of the rest would involve Elliot getting his callers to recite the Sinner’s Prayer.

  • http://twitter.com/NelC NelC

    How many arms does he have?

  • The_L1985

    Microns? …. Thousandths of a millimeter. So it was basically touching them.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Oh, I’m not arguing that it makes sense. In fact, Jenkins runs into the same problem in his Underground Zealot series, where he creates a world ruled by atheists, yet he still can’t shake his own RTC-ianity and imagine how such a world would view things like prostitution, war, and marriage. He just can’t help but graft his own “morality” onto all his characters, even characters who would never, say, cause anyone problems for the “crime” of being a lesbian.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Exactly.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Actually no, Verna is nominally Buck’s boss. In practice he managed to escape much of her authority by going far up the chain to the President or Vice-President himself and having him tell Verna he’ll be working from home etc.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    No, see, people get this wrong all the time. The original ending of Battlestar Galactica was supposed to be that Galactica discovers Earth and is promptly eaten by a small dog, because the colonial fleet is actually only a few angstroms wide and the entire series has taken place inside a soap bubble.

  • Czanne

    *grin*. Of course, we’re taking as read that Dr. R’s formula is the product of something like Stark Industries — simple, functional, elegant in design. In other words, something that does not exist in their ‘verse.

    Given LaJenks’ self-deluded view of their world, the crop-dope is actually a Hammer Systems product — toxic to make, deploy and consume, liable to break easily and all about the appearance.

  • c2t2

    Only two, but they grow back.


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