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:

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.


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