NRA: Chaim is one of my Jewish characters

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 143-146

So far in this series we’ve encountered two named characters who are Jewish.

We know they’re Jewish because of the names the authors gave them: Chaim Rosenzweig and Tsion Ben-Judah. And because the authors have both men speak in what they say is a “charming Hebrew-accented dialect.” And because the authors keep mentioning their Jewishness so aggressively that I’m reminded of that old anti-prejudice PSA from the 1970s:

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For those who can’t watch video or who are too young to recite this from memory, here’s a transcript:

BOY: Yesterday Jimmy said I was prejudiced.

GRANDPA: Do you know what prejudice is?

BOY: No.

GRANDPA: Well, prejudice is when you react to someone because of their religion or their culture.

BOY: But I don’t do that.

GRANDPA: Who is Jimmy?

BOY: Jimmy’s one of my Jewish friends.

GRANDPA: Then you are prejudiced, because you think of Jimmy as your Jewish friend and not your friend.

I think of that every time our story comes back to Chaim or Tsion in these pages, picturing Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins saying with that same earnest innocence, “Chaim Rosenzweig is one of my Jewish characters.”

We’ve met other characters in these books without being told anything about their religious or ethnic background. In another book, that might mean it was possible that those characters could be Jewish too, but in these pages it means we know they’re not. If Verna Zee were Jewish, she wouldn’t be named Verna Zee, she’d be Rachel Mount Sinai. If Spiky Alice were Jewish, she’d have a thick Yiddish accent and she’d be constantly identified as a “spiky-haired Jewess.”

And more to the point, if any of those other characters were Jewish, readers would know because the function of Jewish characters in these books is to walk around being Jewish. As with Chaim and Tsion, their ethnicity would be their character — or what they had in lieu of character.

Plus the authors only need two Jewish characters because they only need to illustrate the two possible outcomes for Jews in their End Times mythology. So we get Tsion Ben-Judah, the rabbi who repents of his Judaism and converts to fundamentalist Christianity, and Chaim Rosenzweig, the “nonreligious, nonpracticing Jew” who rejects Jesus and embraces the Antichrist. (Spoiler alert: Several books later, Rosenzweig also converts to Christianity.*)

LaHaye and Jenkins are vaguely aware that this dichotomy is problematic. It sounds like they’re suggesting that every Jewish person who doesn’t reject Judaism and convert to Christianity is in league with the Antichrist. And that is what they’re suggesting, but they take great pains to explain that many Jews, like Chaim, pledge their allegiance to Satan’s servant for “innocent” reasons:

The irony of all this was that the sweet-spirited and innocent Chaim Rosenzweig, who always seemed to have everyone else’s interests at heart, became an unabashed devotee of Nicolae Carpathia. The man whom Buck and his loved ones in the Tribulation Force had come to believe was the Antichrist himself played the gentle botanist like a violin. Carpathia included Rosenzweig in many visible diplomatic situations and even pretended Chaim was part of his elite inner circle. It was clear to everyone else that Rosenzweig was merely tolerated and humored. Carpathia did what he wanted. Still, Rosenzweig worshiped the man, once intimating to Buck that if anyone embodied the qualities of the long-sought Jewish Messiah, it was Nicolae himself.

See? The authors aren’t saying that Jews serve the devil because they’re evil. They’re saying that Jews serve the devil because they are befuddled and deceived. And surely the use of adjectives like “sweet-spirited and innocent” ought to shield the authors from any charges of anti-Semitism here.

That had been before one of Rosenzweig’s younger protégés, Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah, had broadcast to the world the finds of his government-sanctioned quest for what Israel should look for in the Messiah.

Rabbi Ben-Judah, who had conducted a thorough study of ancient manuscripts, including the Old and New Testaments, had come to the conclusion that only Jesus Christ had fulfilled all the prophecies necessary to qualify for the role. …

Though Ben-Judah had been a student, protégé, and eventually a colleague of Dr. Rosenzweig, the latter still considered himself a nonreligious, nonpracticing Jew. In short, he did not agree with Ben-Judah’s conclusion about Jesus, but mostly it was simply something he didn’t want to talk about.

This is the other reason we know that Verna Zee can’t be Jewish: She isn’t friends with Chaim and Tsion. In these books, all the Jews know each other. Thus a rabbinical scholar was a “student, protégé, and … colleague” of a botanist. It doesn’t matter that these two scholars are in disparate disciplines, they’re both Jewish, and so of course they studied together.

That seems a bit absurd, but it actually helps to explain Ben-Judah’s idea of scholarship. Unable to find anything in his university library except for texts on botany, he was forced to conduct his “thorough study of ancient manuscripts” using only those texts available in the nightstand of every room at the local Holiday Inn.

This whole rehearsal of the history of Chaim and Tsion’s characters was prompted by Buck’s arrival in Jerusalem. According to Tim LaHaye’s End Times itinerary, Jerusalem ought to be the safest place on earth. It’s protected by divine intervention and by a treaty with the rest of the world that “prophecy” insists will be respected for three and a half years. But Buck didn’t flee to Jerusalem for a respite from the war zones he left in Chicago and New York, the authors sent him here with the idea that Jerusalem was an exotic locale for danger and derring-do.

Why is Jerusalem so dangerous? Well, the authors seem to think that Jews are Christ-killers who must now be out to kill the Christ-followers. The anti-Semitism here is nearly that explicit and palpable. This next bit gets pretty ugly.

Tsion Ben-Judah, Jenkins writes:

… had shocked the world, and especially his own nation, when he withheld the conclusion of his three-year study until a live international television broadcast. Once he had clearly stated his belief, he became a marked man.

… When Ben-Judah, with the cncouragement and support of the two strange, otherworldly preachers at the Wailing Wall, began sharing his message, first at Teddy Kollek Stadium and then in other similar venues around the world, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he would suffer for it.

Buck knew that one reason Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah was still alive was that any attempt on his life was treated by the two preachers, Moishe and Eli, as attempts on their own. Many had died mysterious and fiery deaths trying to attack those two. Most everyone knew that Ben-Judah was “their guy,” and thus he had so far eluded mortal harm.

Like I said, in these books, all the Jews know each other. So Tsion isn’t just best friends with Chaim Rosenzweig, he’s also best friends with Moses and Elijah.

Jenkins muffles the message a bit here with an evasive passive voice — “he became a marked man,” “he would suffer for it,” “he had so far eluded mortal harm.” He’s careful to avoid mentioning any explicit subject or actor. They are intent on killing Ben-Judah because he has become a Christian. But who are they?

Apparently, they are the Jews. This chapter doesn’t suggest that Jews all want to kill Christians. It simply assumes that to be the case — to be something so obvious it doesn’t need to be said. “Everyone knew.”

The authors here may not be explicitly promoting the ancient blood libel against Jews, but they’re certainly presuming it.

That safety seemed at an end now, and that was why Buck was in Israel. Buck was convinced that Carpathia himself was behind the horror and tragedy that had come to Ben-Judah’s family. News reports said black-hooded thugs pulled up to Ben-Judah’s home in the middle of a sunny afternoon when the teenagers had just returned from Hebrew school. Two armed guards were shot to death, and Mrs. Ben-Judah and her son and daughter were dragged out into the street, decapitated, and left in pools of their own blood.

We’ve already seen what Carpathia’s role in this was — ignoring Rosenzweig’s plea to protect Ben-Judah, but not actively targeting the converted rabbi himself. These “black-hooded thugs” were local — people from the former rabbi’s “own nation” who were enraged by his talk of Jesus and had declared him a “marked man” because of it.

The Rapture took away all the real, true Christians as well as every infant on the planet, making it impossible to produce a purer portrait of the blood libel here. The authors did not have any Christian infants available for their monstrous “thugs” to slaughter in this scene, so they had to make do with the closest available approximation — two teenagers who were recent converts to Christianity.

Explain to me again how Tim LaHaye is a “staunch friend of Israel”?

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* I got the sense that this was not the authors’ initial idea. I doubt the authors had worked out a detailed character arc for Rosenzweig, but it seemed to me that he was introduced in the early books as a representative intellectual/scientist type who was duped by the Antichrist and therefore was doomed to death and Hell. Over time, though, I think the authors grew too fond of him to abandon him to such a fate.

This is quite common among people like LaHaye and Jenkins who believe in a crowded Hell where they expect the majority of the human race to be tormented for eternity. Every little bit they balk at the idea — at least when it comes to specific people they know and like, even fictional ones.

I wish more of them would explore that emotional conflict and the underlying logical conflict. I wish they would examine why it is they think that God feels less love and mercy than they feel, or how it could be that God is less loving and less merciful than they feel themselves inclined to be.

Please don’t mistake this for a squishy or sentimental, “soft-hearted” objection to this idea of Hell. The problem isn’t that Team Hell isn’t sufficiently soft-hearted, but that they seem to be denying the divinity of Christ, which is usually regarded as kind of a big deal, heresy-wise, for us Christians.

The argument for Hell is that God demands blood, and thus, in this view, God’s only role at Calvary was to sit in judgment, awaiting the payment of the penalty God was due. From this view, the response to those Christians who balk at the idea of Hell for someone whom they’re fond of is to note that if God was willing to subject God’s only begotten son to such torment, then who are we to imagine that our friends or loved ones deserve anything else?

It seems to me that logic only works if we deny that God’s place at Calvary was on the cross. It only makes sense if we regard Jesus as a sinless sacrifice to God — the paschal lamb without blemish that God demands, but not God. If Jesus is God, though — if God commended God’s love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, God died for us — then it seems like blasphemous ingratitude to imagine that our own merciful inclinations could exceed those of God. If we are reluctant to see Chaim Rosenzweig damned to eternal torment, then we ought to understand that God’s mercy and love exceeds our own, and that the God of Calvary would go — and has gone — to any length to save Chaim and all the others we care about, even unto death, even death on a cross.

In any case, I find it somewhat endearing that the authors couldn’t seem to bring themselves to condemn Chaim to the horrific fate that their theology insists must be in store for people like him.

Alas, such flickers of compassion are the exception and not the rule. The authors also seemed fond of poor Earl Halliday, but they still killed him off a couple of chapters ago and he’s now roasting for eternity in the fires of their Hell. But at least we have the case of Chaim Rosenzweig to show that the authors aren’t always as awful as they think they’re supposed to be.

 

  • The Guest Who Posts

    I haven’t read any of your stories, but sounds to me like you’re a good writer.

  • Alix

    Nah, some of us they just decide are devil-worshippers and thus willfully corrupt.

  • flat

    Well I see harry potter not as an ideal hero, one of the most frustating things about him is how he isn’t using his intellect when he should have.

    For example while he didn’t really need to close his mind to defend himself against voldemort he still notes that leglimency and occlumency are incredible useful skills in itself, but he doesn’t learn them, he personally notes how useful and how much of an advantage he would have using them and his his six year would have been the perfect time to learn leglimency.

    So when Snape end up curbstomping him at the end of book six I was incredible frustated because I could feel if harry got his fucking act together he could have stopped snape.

    And don’t get me started about the horcruxes because he destroyed the first one in his second year, and didn’t learn anything about their creation, purpose, and the means of how to destroy one.

    Granted Rowling needed to tell the story, and Harry got the shit kicked out of him because he doesn’t pay attention, but sometimes I want to walk in the books and kick him in the groin for being such an immature incurious idiot.

  • Alix

    I think you may be underestimating the impact of apocalyptic thinking, a bit. I can’t think of an RTC who, when pushed for the reason Israel needs supporting, doesn’t point to Revelation and the PMD prophecy scheme, and pretty quickly at that.

    They are absolutely convinced the state of Israel must exist for the return of Christ to occur, and (usually) that all or most Jews need to return there. Couple this with a really overly simplistic notion of national sovereignty*, in which any compromise with any nebulous enemy is undermining your nation, and you get the “support Israel in everything” mentality.

    *It is not at all surprising, I’m sure, to learn that these same people think that any suggestion that the US not throw its weight around is tantamount to treason.

  • Alix

    The Jews willfully rejected Jesus and have made it their goal in the universe to persecute Christians by, apparently, making a world where Christians aren’t super-special in charge (projection, hey), but for some reason God still calls them his chosen people and PMD requires that Israel exist before Jesus returns, so Christians have to support Israel. God’s ways are inexplicable to man, dontcha know.

    This should go without saying, but I don’t honestly believe that crap.

  • Alix

    I don’t think it honestly occurs to Rayford/L&J that women can actually be intelligent.

  • Mrs Grimble

    A quick google for “tribbing” suggests you may be right. Don’t try this at work, folks.

  • Mrs Grimble

    Quite rightly so. I once had a German manager named Heinz Bopp – it was in a hotel that had just been taken over by a German company and he had been flown in. It took him a while to understand why his name made everybody smile.

  • Beroli

    I think…there is no way you can write a character who no one will argue for being in the right unless you make them a complete cardboard cutout. I would be very surprised if no one thinks the villains of Komarr, for example, are heroes.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Space Marine Becka
  • Daniel

    If they didn’t know each other how would they be able to run the world wide conspiracy to control everything? They can hardly rely on the UN- those losers rolled over for the antichrist like a dog for a biscuit. The masons are pretty noticeable by their absence in this series so far, and what’s going on with the twelve foot tall lizards in Geneva? If you ask me they’ve all got something big planned for the end. “Surprise! It wasn’t God at all, it was all a masonic/illuminate/Opus Dei plot to make it look like the rapture had happened and then….”

  • Carstonio

    I wouldn’t reject the possibility that at least some of those Facebook fans are fakes.

  • Carstonio

    At first I didn’t realize that the thugs going after the Rosenzweigs would be Christ-hating Jews. I didn’t think through the implications, and assumed that all societies in a Carpathia-ruled world were hostile to Christians. Like anyone wearing a cross pendant in public would be torn to shreds by angry mobs. Certainly that’s what many RTCs and opponents of same-sex marriage would have everyone believe about the world now,

  • Grogs

    That could be OK if it was a tight group and they all had racial epithets as their calls signs. In the hands of a competent writer, it could even be used to show that in the new order of things, racial identities didn’t matter much and what were once offensive slurs were just jokes now. But this is L&J, so we know that didn’t happen.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I rather doubt that’s possible no matter how competent the writer is.

  • Launcifer

    You know what? I can’t help but think we’d have ended up with more realistic characterisations in that scenario.

  • Launcifer

    Maybe it’s the boring first draft of this little ditty and the cows all go “moo!”.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Cinderella? Seriously?

    In a better-written series (damning with faint praise, I know) this could have been an amusing addition to her character history. Did she act as tomboyish as she could, just to spite her mother? Does she, like Tonks, insist on going by a nickname?

    That last would be quite a contrast with “Buck” Williams. There’s nothing embarrassing about the name “Cameron”, but CamCam thinks his nickname is flattering, so he insists on it. Somehow I don’t think the authors would have the same reaction about a female character choosing her own appellation.

  • Dash1

    Coming out of the RTC pre-millennial Rapture-awaiting tradition (keyword: OUT), I agree. There’s also the important verse, Genesis 12:3, where God says to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you, and through you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” I get this quoted at me a lot whenever a relative is going on about how supporting Palestinian rights to clean water and medical care constitutes “cursing” Israel, and how if too many Americans take that position, you mark their words, God will take away his blessing from America.

  • Dash1

    Actually, I haven’t seen any evidence that L&J regard feeding the hungry as good work or even a desirable thing to do.

  • tatortotcassie

    But calling them Tribbles is insulting to those adorable fictional animals that coo and purr, and identify Klingons with 100% accuracy!

    What else can we call them?

  • tatortotcassie

    Off topic somewhat, but I saw Harry’s failure with Occlumency stemming from a lack of guidance and technique. “Close your mind to me, Harry.” “Ok, but HOW do I do that?” In this instance, Snape is as much to blame as Harry if not more so because Snape is a teacher and should sure as sh!t know better! (I also think Snape deliberately did a piss-poor job with the lessons, which is just reprehensible . . . said the former college instructor.)

    (But I’ll admit a lot of Harry’s choices esp later on in the books frustrated me. Sirius wouldn’t have died if Harry had bothered to stop and think a little, for example.)

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    “Rand-Judah”?

  • Ben English

    Fellow Englishes :)

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding
  • Ben English

    Assigning everyone a race can comes across as really clumsy, though, especially if real-world racial and ethnic classes don’t apply. And even making it absolutely clear doesn’t guarantee anything–see Sokka and Katara the white Inuits in “The Last Airbender”.

  • http://twitter.com/count_01 Jared James

    And the fakes I’d divide about evenly between deliberate Poes actually perpetrating parody, and paid-for sock puppets.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Not the best constructed joke, I know. If I didn’t think the reference was clear without shoehorning the real person’s name into the character’s, then I should have skipped the joke altogether.

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

    Well, we’ll see where it winds up getting published.:p

    Since this all happens in the first quarter of the book, I feel comfortable with it being known. It’s Tania’s character foil and heavily affects the way she develops throughout the story.

  • Funkula

    Tribadism is a synonym for scissoring. As mentioned below, it derives from tribade, which I believe is French for lesbian.

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

    Incuriosity is one of the most annoying character traits. I’ve tried to make my characters as much like real people as I could by having them constantly ask questions and pry at the status quo of complacent ignorance, even when the answers are “No one knows.” At least then the question has been asked, rather than assuming that everyone is happy with not knowing.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    The joke doesn’t make sense at all. What has Ayn Rand to do with eschatology of any kind? She was also, as you well know, an atheist, and rejected all religion.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    The allusion was to Rand Paul’s trip to Howard University.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Oh.

  • Alix

    It depends on how you do it. Me, I like description, so I love it when authors give me a really clear picture of what a character looks like, and it’s actually pretty easy to work all sorts of physical features in. Especially if you do it even-handedly, and mention in the same way the features of white people. At that point, it becomes a stylistic quirk of the author.

    What comes across as clunky to me is when the race, or one or two stereotypical features, are mentioned every single time the character appears.

    As for awkwardness – I guess it comes down to whether an awkward attempt at inclusiveness is better than not including anyone not white at all.

  • Ben English

    Not only is the whole world frayed and on edge after the Rapture and the War, but think about what Tsion is telling them. He’s not just saying that Jesus is the Messiah–Jews already know Christians believe that. He’s not just announcing his own conversion, either, even though there’d be better venues for it even in good circumstances.

    He’s standing up and telling the nation of Israel that Jesus stole your children. That Jesus took your loved ones away, and that unless you convert, you’ll never see them again. That Jesus essentially stripped them of their free will and forcibly converted them because you, parents, don’t know what’s best for them, because you, parents, are deceived and foolish.

    So yeah, I think the anger of the Israelis here is actually quite reasonable–of course murdering his family is not, but for L&J to portray this as a reaction to a Jew merely becoming a Christian makes them and their characters look like insensitive jackasses.

    Which is par for the course in these books

  • Lori

    I wouldn’t either, but I think the chances that all the stupid fans are fakes is basically zero.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    “If we shadows have offended
    Think but this, and all is mended”?

    Mneh. I think I’m just gonna have to live with the fact that people misinterpret writers all the time, and I’m not going to be the one writer ever who’s exempt from it.

    Btw, this particular character never gets his comeuppance. Because that’s the way this world is.

  • Ben English

    I’m not saying not to be inclusive, I’m saying that identifying the race of every incidental character can be distracting. When a writer includes information, the reader begins looking for patterns, reasons the info is being given. If a character is so incidental that their race doesn’t affect the plot one way or another, then specifically tagging their race can lead to readers making false connections or even unfortunate implications. What enigma was talking about, on the other hand, identifying the race of people in power, is good because it’s setting and contextual detail.

  • Alix

    …I suspect at least part of this is a difference in how we read things, because one thing I hate is when authors underdescribe their characters. And I’ve never found incidental mentions of a character’s race any more distracting than incidental mentions of a character’s hair color. I don’t go looking for some deep meaning – I just assume the character’s that race because the character’s that race. It doesn’t need any more context than height, or eye color, or how one dresses. But I tend to assume most character descriptions are just descriptions, there to give me a solid picture of the character, not to be deep social commentary.

    Identifying the races of even incidental characters is important too, though, because it is really easy to end up creating a setting where everyone but a few token main/secondary characters are white by default.

  • SisterCoyote

    That always drove me up the WALL. Sirius specifically gave him the mirror, and told him “If you ever need to talk to me, use this.” So the ONE TIME Harry needs to use the mirror, he forgets about it and puts all of his friends at great risk to speak with an unreliable third party. ARGH.

  • Ben English

    Everyone being white by default is something readers read into things. Hell, sometimes a character can be explicitly black like Rue in Hunger Games and still have people think she’s white.

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

    Jerks.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Harry was just a kid, and a kid with both a horrible home life and literally the weight of the world on his shoulders. I’m not saying he was written perfectly, but actually the number of dumb choices he makes is extraordinarily low for any kid his age, let alone one in his circumstances who literally had no one who loved him from the ages of 2 to 11.

    For Snape, there is no excuse.

  • Apocalypse Review

    Yeah. Look at how L&J go out of their way to make sure to portray Hattie in the most unflattering terms possible. (>_<)

  • Apocalypse Review

    There’s a Left Behind wiki.

  • Apocalypse Review

    I don’t think so. It’s one thing to create characters of the same ethnicity/sexual orientation/etc and give them N-word privileges with one another. It’s another to have white people, in particular, calling their people of color co-workers such things.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I think it could work in a fantasy world. In “our-world-but-apocalypse”… I’m not saying it could never happen. But it would take a writer of the very highest caliber. I sure wouldn’t try it.

  • Worthless Beast

    *Shakes fist as Disqus*… I was pretty sure I posted a comment yesterday, but apparently it didn’t take.
    I remember linking to TV Tropes in regards to “Easy Evangelism” and how the idea of “making the target thereof / people you dissagree with STUPID rather than evil” is a tactic used to “humanize” them… but it always comes out wrong / more insulting.

  • Launcifer

    Sanctimonious wankers?


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