NRA: Your young men shall receive phone calls

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 183-189

Pay no attention to the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, Buck Williams is trying to find his friend.

Buck has returned to the Western Wall in Jerusalem to convince the Two Witnesses — invulnerable, fire-breathing street preachers who are actually Moses and Elijah, returned to the living as dispensationalist evangelical Christians — to tell him specifically where he can find former-Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah. This is tricky, since the duo only speaks in biblical fragments — snippets of verses from a collection of texts composed and compiled long after they lived and died.

What we have here, in other words, is another four pages or so in which it seems like Buck Williams is using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance like a Magic Eight Ball. First, though, Jerry Jenkins sets the scene:

Buck did not at first see the two witnesses. A small group of sailors strolled past the wrought-iron fence at the end of the Wall where the witnesses usually stood and preached. The sailors chatted in English and one pointed. “I think that’s them, right over there,” he said.

Buck knows they’re sailors, I guess, because they’re probably wearing World War II-era white service uniforms from the U.S. Navy, just like the extras strolling past in sailor-suits in old movies from the 1940s.

“Jeru – Salem, it’s a heckuva town. The Temple’s up and the Kidron is down …”

These couldn’t be U.S. Navy sailors, of course, because in this book the U.S. Navy has been abolished, along with the U.S. itself, which was absorbed into the Antichrist’s one-world government Global Community. The Global Community Navy probably adopted those classic white service uniforms, though, just as the Global Community has apparently adopted American English as its official one-world language.

Jerusalem is an odd place for sailors to be strolling about. This far inland, acting like tourists, they’re apparently on shore leave. Or, given the geography of this book that we’ll look at next week, perhaps they’re from a Global Community air craft carrier stationed on the Wadi Qelt.

Enlisting in the GC Navy was a good move, since it seems that World War III (which, ohbytheway, is still currently raging, not that one would notice from any scene not directly about that war) is being fought exclusively by the GC Air Force. I suppose, though, that the Navy will seem less attractive if we ever get to the trumpets of divine wrath, and the bit where “something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”

Gabey, Chip and Ozzie linger for a bit to gawk at the Two Witnesses, but it’s late and Moses and Elijah are taking a breather from declaring, “Thus saith the Lord, harken unto the words that the Lord sayeth and heed them, verily, for they are the Lord’s words spoken unto you by the Lord.” So the sailors wander off, alas, before Ann Miller and Betty Garrett show up and they start singing some old Green/Comden tunes.

As soon as the young men were out of the area, Eli and Moishe raised their heads and looked directly at Buck. He walked directly to the fence. The witnesses rose and stood about 20 feet from Buck. “I need clarification,” Buck whispered. “Can I know more about my friend’s location?”

“He who has ears –”

“I know that,” Buck said, “but I –”

“You would dare interrupt the servants of the Most High God?” Eli said.

“Forgive me,” Buck said. He wanted to explain himself but decided to remain silent.

And here the whole cryptic, Bible-code-speak business falls apart. Buck doesn’t realized he’s just stumbled onto something important: If you interrupt the Two Witnesses, they’ll speak like humans, addressing you directly instead of just repeating random fragments of scripture like malfunctioning animatronics in Disney’s Hall of Prophets.

Moishe spoke. “You must first communicate with one who loves you.”

See? That’s not a Bible verse either. Interrupt these guys and they’ll almost start sounding like they’d pass the Turing Test. Almost.

Buck waited for more. The witnesses stood there, silent. He held out both hands in puzzlement.

That’s a bit of a stretch. Here is Buck Williams in one of the rare moments when he’s not on the phone, “puzzled” at how to communicate with those who are far away.

He felt a vibration in his shoulder bag and realized his cell phone was buzzing. Now what was he supposed to do? If he wasn’t to interrupt the servants of the Most High God, did he dare take a call while conversing with them? He felt a fool. He moved away from the fence and grabbed the phone, clicked it open, and said, “This is Buck.”

“Buck! It’s Chloe!”

We’ll skip over the lines here where Buck tries to tell her he can’t talk just now, dimly failing to realize that this phone call is what Moishe was talking about. That bit is as belabored as all the other passages in these books where Jenkins attempts to make readers feel smart by making his characters act dumb. The important part is this bit:

“Buck, just tell me you’re not at the King David. … I just have this feeling that you should not be in that hotel tonight. In fact, I just have a premonition that you shouldn’t be in Jerusalem overnight. I don’t know about tomorrow, and I don’t know about premonitions and all that, but the feeling is so strong …”

This is why I’d have written that Buck was staying at the American Colony. Making a plot point out of a warning phone call about staying in the King David Hotel seems a bit insensitive.

Buck didn’t know what he thought about this new level of what Bruce had referred to as “walking in the spirit.” … How had they known he had to talk to Chloe first? He had been around the two witnesses enough to know that they were never too far from the miraculous. He just wished they didn’t have to be so cryptic.

That seems like a valid complaint. At the end of the last chapter, Buck had a dream in which he was Joseph having a dream (Mary’s husband, not the Joseph from Genesis, although both of them were far better at interpreting dreams than Buck is). That was cryptic warning No. 1 that Buck should flee his hotel. Cryptic warning No. 2 was “the strong urge” that Buck himself felt, and heeded, to get out of his hotel. And now the Two Witnesses, who speak directly for God, refuse to speak directly to Buck until after he checks in with Chloe for the now-redundant cryptic warning No. 3.

Chloe’s premonition urging Buck not to go back to his hotel is presented here as a message from God. You’d think that God ought to know that Buck already left the hotel and isn’t going back.

Why does all of this “have to be so cryptic”? Instead of saying, “He who has ears to hear, reply hazy try again,” why couldn’t Eli have just given Buck a straightforward message? “Tsion is in Galilee. Michael will take you to him. Don’t go back to your hotel.”

Yet instead of that we get a dream, two “premonitions,” a phone call, and a dozen pages of winking eisegesis. The only direct message in this whole business is when Moishe tells Buck to answer his phone, but that’s just so that Buck can hear a second-hand account of the third iteration of an indirect message. Again, two of the characters in this scene are Moses and Elijah — two guys who shouldn’t be reluctant about delivering clear direct messages from God.

But this is how God communicates with Buck in this chapter because this is how the authors imagine God communicates with all Christians. This is what they imagine it means to “walk in the spirit.” It requires us to break the code and to solve the puzzle based on nothing more than strong feelings and random snippets of Bible verses that can be taken to have applications they never had in context.

This idea of “walking in the spirit” is, I think, the consequence of imagining that God has an intensely specific plan for every detail of your life, your vocation, your marriage, your daily schedule. The Bible doesn’t address such specifics. If one is asking, “What does the Lord require of you?” then the Bible provides an answer: “To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” But if one is asking, “What should I major in?” or “Should I date this person?” then it’s not going to offer anything as concrete and specific as Micah 6:8, and one is left with nothing to go on but gut-feelings and the creative interpretation of dubiously selected passages.

This idea of God’s intensely specific individual plan for every detail of your life is a feature of American evangelical piety that we’d be better off without. It’s almost always a source of misery and almost never any help. It burdens Christians with anxiety over decisions that don’t need to be so fraught with moral implication. Choosing a major is hard enough without adding the notion that choosing “wrong” is tantamount to disobeying God.

Obsessing over God’s ISIPFEDOYL also tends to function as a way of distracting ourselves from “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” If you’re worried about following God’s will, remember that it boils down to this: Love God and love your neighbor. That’s “God’s will for your life.” Take care of that and don’t worry about God’s ISIPFEDOYL.

Back in our story, poor Buck still hasn’t gotten a straight answer about where he can find Tsion Ben-Judah. He tries again with the Two Witnesses and this time:

Eli and Moishe traded off quoting verses Buck recognized from Acts and Bruce’s teaching.

They shouted: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.”

They go on like this for another page, quoting the rest of the passage from Joel 2 that Peter recited at Pentecost in the book of Acts. Good stuff, Joel, but not terribly pertinent to Buck’s actual finding-Tsion problem.

“Why couldn’t the witnesses just tell him?” Buck wonders yet again, and by this point every reader is surely nodding in agreement.

This new burst of preaching draws a crowd, so Buck tiptoes closer to the Two Witnesses and whispers his question again:

“By ‘Galilee’ I can only assume you mean Lake Tiberius,” he said. How was one supposed to tell people who seemed to have come back from Bible times that their geography was out of date?

The lake is called Tiberias, actually, after the city on its shores which was, in turn, named after the Roman Emperor Tiberius. But the Witnesses’ geography isn’t really out of date. It’s the same lake, it just picked up a new name during Roman rule. And even though both Moses and Elijah lived and died a long time before anyone ever heard of Rome, we know they’re already up-to-date on who the Romans were because they keep quoting from the New Testament, in English. They seem to have been imparted total knowledge of everything that happened after their original deaths.

“Will I find my friend in Galilee, or on the Sea of Galilee, or where?”

“He who has ears to hear …”

Buck knew better than to interrupt and show his frustration. “How do I get there?” he asked.

Eli spoke softly. “It will go well with you if you return to the multitude,” he said.

Return to the multitude? Buck thought. He backed up and rejoined the crowd.

“Return to the multitude” isn’t a Bible verse either, even though “multitude” sounds kind of Bible-y. More to the point, though, it also isn’t an answer to Buck’s question.

The Two Witnesses go back to their recitation of the concordance entry for “Galilee,” this time repeating the story of the calling of Peter and Andrew.

Buck wasn’t sure what to make of all that, but he sensed he had gotten all he was going to get from the witnesses that night. Though they continued to preach, and more people gathered seemingly from nowhere to listen, Buck drifted away. He lugged his bag to a short taxi line and climbed into the back of a small cab.

And that’s it. Twenty-five pages ago, all Buck had to go on was that Tsion was in or near “Galilee.” And now, after all that preaching and warning — plus two premonitions, a dream and a phone call — Buck hasn’t learned any more than that.

If only “that great cell phone” he’s carrying had GPS.

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  • Lori

    Purely accidental. Won’t happen again.

  • atalex

    The first comment is —

    to invision him in the entire series…. wait for it… wait for it… I
    can TOTALLY see him yanking Carpathia out of the chopper, and yelling
    “What you’ve just witnesses is the Wrath of the Lamb!” Can’t wait for
    that scene!! Make it EPIC!

    — and I absolutely cannot tell whether this is meant to be sincere or sarcastic!

  • Daniel

    Thank you. Probably best to ignore what I write the rest of the week, I’m bloody dreadful then.

  • Daniel

    I vaguely remember hearing that it’s not in the UK- I’m probably wrong but I think Eyre and Spottiswoode were the only ones allowed to publish it and were quite protective over the copyright. The situation has probably changed now, as it was a few years ago that I heard this, and I can’t remember my source. I am entirely unreliable.

    They also published the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  • Daniel

    We’ll get by, I suppose… and the wrong words make you listen in this criminal world.
    Any opening, no matter how small, Bowie will find his way in.

  • Jeffrey_Kramer

    “You would dare interrupt the servants of the Most High God?” Eli said.

    I can’t be the only one who immediately thought of “You dare to challenge the Great and Powerful Oz?”

  • Lurker

    Wait, what? “My Lord, thou…” can lead to all sorts of valid sentences. Were they saying that using a familiar form is disrespectful? Because if they didn’t know the difference…

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Buck recognizing that they were sailors was perhaps the most realistic thing I’ve seen yet. If you’re on active duty, you wear the uniform, and if you’re on shore leave from a ship, you’re on active duty. Jerusalem is a major tourist attraction; I can imagine sailors on shore leave going to see the sights.

  • What with that fancy new temple and all, too. :P

  • Susan Paxton

    OMG. Seriously?

  • Susan Paxton

    The ones they ignore, in other words. “That’s the fake Jesus. Our Jesus kicks ass!”

  • Launcifer

    Yeah, personally I’m waiting for the moment after, where he parachutes out of the helicopter using the Queen of England as a parachute.

  • Carstonio

    “You would dare interrupt the servants of the Most High God?” Ellanjay must be cribbing from L. Frank Baum.

  • Daniel


  • Magic_Cracker

    There’s always the chance the Virgin Mothra will intercede on our behalf.

  • For some unaccountably bizarre reason I read that as Viagra Mother.

  • kcrothers

    I see what you did there.

  • kcrothers

    That’s my favorite Shatner Twilight Zone. It seems to get re-run often.

  • LMM22

    She lived with Edith Lewis for almost 40 years. Make of that what you will.

    Our labels may not have applied in those days, but I’m pretty sure the speaker wouldn’t have considered her straight.

  • The_L1985

    Nope. Howard. You know, like in, “Our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be thy name…”

  • Kenneth Raymond

    If I was writing this (God forbid), I’d probably go further with Chloe’s premonitions until she starts getting taken over by them. Basically get her turned into an oracle for God’s warnings to the Tribbles, but at the same time emphasize how scary this could be. Make it a real source of concern and drama, and even a little horror, as her mind keeps getting hijacked by something so immense and ineffable as God – but that would require L&J being willing to acknowledge that there could possibly be anything scary about their vision of God at all (or any vision of God as a great, inscrutable intelligence that only indirectly understands how we think through one of his incarnations and likes to poke into mortal lives at completely random moments).

    Actually, Buck might himself be a little more interesting and make more sense to do that to, given he’s supposed to be a reporter already and thus he’d just be “upgrading” in God’s plan as such. But the prophet character is an inherently supportive role and there’s no way L&J would let their self-inserts get relegated to that. So Chloe works best out of the core cast for this, at least currently.

    (Then again, I really want to write stories where the characters are consumed, absorbed, or drastically changed so as to be nearly unrecognizable by the end due to their plot – mentally and/or physically. Personal struggles focused around trying to reclaim their agency in the face of something they were never prepared to handle. The idea that you might be turned into a vessel for something else rather than your own person. I just wish I was better at plotting that kind of story out.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Somber Spriggan Nightmare Gentleman

    I don’t think that anime’s been translated into English yet.

  • Panda Rosa

    Of course, you could have just paid five bucks at a yard sale for the whole set, which is increasingly more common. That would still cover some child’s Happy Meal even so.

  • Evan

    People’s Liberation Army Navy

    Oh wow. Is there by any chance also a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force?

  • if not, I suspect there is a PLA Air Force, which would be a rather odd coincidence with the US Army Air Force name that existed back in WW2.

  • Lee B.

    I know Spanish and Russian use the familiar when addressing God. Was English different?

  • Hawker40

    Yes. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force. Along with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Naval Coast Guard. And he Chinese People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps.
    And more interesting, the Chinese Peole’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Corps Submarine Division, which commands thier sole nuclear missile submarine.

  • Yowza. O.o

  • I don’t even know what that means, but Somber Spriggan Nightmare Gentlemen should totally be a Thing.

  • Wait, if Mothra is a virgin, does that mean that the little grub baby Mothra is Kaiju Jesus?

  • Naomi

    My favorite comment is a casting suggestion: Rayford = Patrick Warburton. That’s genius, that is.

  • Lorehead

    On the other hand, if they cast an actual Latino as José, he won’t have to say Dios mio constantly to remind us he is.

  • Lorehead

    Seriously. According to the prophet Joseph Smith, the prophet Nephi said that the Messiah’s name would be Jesus Christ, and later, when Jesus returned, bearing a great deal of resemblance to TurboJesus but with a slightly different list of enemies, he reminded his followers that they must call themselves and their church after Christ, which is his name, like scripture says.

    In reality, chapter 11 of Acts, the first part of which Fred has often quoted, tells us that it was the people of Antioch who first called the brethren Christians. Not a coincidence—the story preceding the journey to Antioch is about welcoming Greek-speaking gentiles into the church, with more universal implications. The word Christ is Greek, and the New Testament tells us that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic.

  • Lorehead

    Some Mexican guy who doesn’t mind you pronouncing it wrong?

  • Loki1001

    These books remind me of a wonderful short story by Kurt Busiek entitled Clash of the Titans: A New York Romance. The basic premise of the story is that a super hero (Mr. Right) and a super villain (Demonica) are fighting a heavily destructive war in the middle of New York, as told from the perspective of a guy who works for the city’s marketing and tourism department. Every scene in the story is pedantically obsessed with either advertising campaigns or New York’s real estate market, while offhandedly mentioning that hundreds (possibly thousands) of people are dying in horrific ways. In fact, the protagonist’s single minded pursuit of an apartment spills over into derailing the whole super hero smack down more than once. Of course this is all played for laughs, and the protagonist is always pretty much a narcissistic asshole. It’s intentional comedic sociopathy, as opposed to Left Behind’s unintentional comedic sociopathy.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    No, not different – the ONLY time the familiar second person is used in current English is when addressing God.

  • Loki1001

    Pretty much. Mothra is as accurate a Christ allegory as almost anything else in Japanese pop culture.

  • Loki1001

    Charlie Hunnam’s at that weird career level where he isn’t a big enough star to really be picky with his projects (think James Franco), but isn’t obscure enough that he can just do anything for a paycheck. This sounds like the exact same type of crap that Chris Hemsworth did when he agreed to Snow White and the Huntsman and Red Dawn.

  • Susan Paxton

    Lord. I was hoping we’d be able to have the discussion about Mormonism when Mittens ran for President, but the evangelicals decided they luuuvvvved him, so we didn’t.

  • Lori

    Yeah. The problem for Hunnam is that Hemsworth has Thor & Avengers and so far Hunnam has Pacific Rim, which did not do Thor & Avengers business. Hunnam is in a tricky spot, for sure.

  • bekabot

    Gabey, Chip and Ozzie linger for a bit to gawk at the Two Witnesses, but it’s late and Moses and Elijah are taking a breather from declaring, ‘Thus saith the Lord, harken unto the words that the Lord sayeth and heed them, verily, for they are the Lord’s words spoken unto you by the Lord’. So the sailors wander off, alas, before Ann Miller and Betty Garrett show up and they start singing some old Green/Comden tunes.

    Eli and Moishe put in a few decades in vaudeville between the time of the death of the Dancing Tea and the birth of the Talking Flick. Initially they only did it to pass the time (which can weigh heavily on your hands when you’re waiting for the End Of Days and the Kingdom Come; it’s like anticipating a bus or a train that doesn’t show up and doesn’t show up and which, even though you know good and well it’ll be there eventually, you’re ready to do murder by the time it arrives) but both of them (already long inured to life on the road) got fonder and fonder of their act the longer they spent perfecting it. They took turns coming up with little bits of business and enjoyed playing their fellow-vaudevillians for fools (and as for the audience, don’t get me started). They were thought a little odd by other troupers, but in those days weirdness in the vaudeville line was considered to be a feature and not a bug and both audiences and performers were accustomed to theatrical eccentricities. Vaudevillians with no quirks would have been thought peculiar and Ely and Moishe (they called themselves “Eely & Moe”) sailed right under the radar.

    Eely & Moe, Boh-Boh-Dee-Oh-Dough” was a signature number of theirs. At one point it was arranged for the piano by some unnamed Tin Pan Alley soldier and had a modest sale in sheet music. OTOH, as a performance it had a great popularity around the time World War One got underway. At about the same time Vernon and Irene Castle were popularizing the Turkey Trot and the Grizzly Bear, Eely tried to promote something he called “The Transcendental Wriggle” but it failed to catch on. However, some people think that Moishe’s sore-foot shuffle (done to the tune of “Soft Shoe Moe”) was the origin of the term “schmoe”. And then Eely & Moe had some devastating acts. The report is that one evening in the early 20’s when they were doing their “Thus Saith The Lord” routine, Ingersoll the watchmaker, who had recently been bankrupted and who had a front-row seat, laughed so hard he sprayed boot-leg whiskey all over the front of the stage.

    Eli and Moishe had as few close friends as possible but they boasted many admirers. There’s a story current to the effect that they advised Minnie Marx as to the phrasing and timing of “Minnie the Moocher” and that toward the end of their career they mentored the Marx Brothers (her sons). Naturally, neither Nicky (singular) nor any of his minions (plural) know anything about this, as Eli and Moishe have called upon the Lord to darken their minds (those of Nicky & Co.) so that they (Eli and Moishe) won’t be beleaguered for their autographs.

    All of which may explain why it is that around one-third of the way through Book The Third of the Adventures of Those Left Behind, Moishe turns to Eli with an expression of profound suffering on his face. “Tell me, my oldest, oldest friend,” he intones, in whatever language you please, “have we ever, I mean ever, come across a stooge to equal this one?” At which Eli mutely shakes his head, deeply wrapped in thought, grateful for his temporary freedom from the spotlight’s eye. In the distance a buzzard croaks but no comment from any other critic is heard.

  • Cathy W

    …which means most people mistakenly believe it’s the formal, because how could you possibly be on familiar terms with the Lord?

  • Albanaeon

    Oh, so Uniform Wars are still going on?

    While in the AF we started with the standard Cold War Era Camo. Completely useless for Iraq, but hey, we were already required to starch and press them, so what the hell. Well, after Katrina when all the AF were called Army because they wore fatigues, it became imperative to be recognizable. So, after much expense and even more ignoring of all the input they asked for (like do flight suits for everyone (best uniform EVAH!!!!!)) We got some random blue and grey digital pattern that were hard to maintain and wore like crap. About a year latter, when it became obvious that the troops were not going to transition willingly, they restarted the whole process, and finally adopted the slightly greyish digital pattern which is only barely different from the Army’s.

    And let’s not forget the same process was being repeated with our exercise gear at the same time…

  • Hawker40

    IRT the “Uniform Wars”, I’m convinced that some congresscritter has a relative in the clothing business. It’s the only excuse…

  • Jamoche

    And a not particularly talented one at that, like the wannabe fashionista from Leverage.

  • aunursa

    Somebody beat you by one hour.

  • aunursa

    Speaking of Chloe…
    Whatever happened to the Chloe: The Rise of Antichrist updates?

  • Kenneth Raymond

    Are they not still being done? I halfway considered writing some little thing around my idea, but decided (for… whatever reason) that the, er, “Chloe niche” of odd little flash fiction snippets was capably filled by that and so I needn’t really bother.

  • reynard61