NRA: Someone wrote this. And someone else published this.

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 194-197

Buck Williams and riverboat captain Michael were headed up the Jordan for a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour. Then Michael shut off the engine, pulled a gun, and informed Buck that he had murdered his previous two passengers and dumped their bodies in the river.

This led, of course, to a tense round of Twenty Questions, after which the two men are relieved to realize they’re on the same side. Buck was sent up the river by Moses and Elijah to look for Tsion Ben-Judah. Michael had been sent to the river by Moses and Elijah to kill anyone looking for Tsion Ben-Judah. You may notice a potential problem there in the biblical patriarchs’ plan, but it all works out OK because Michael had also been instructed to await the arrival of an unnamed “deliverer” — the one person he should help rather than kill. That turns out to be Buck, so it’s all good and our hero doesn’t get shot and dumped in the river.

Buck and Michael hug it out and share a laugh over the wacky misunderstanding, and then they have the following conversation, which is … well, it’s indescribable.

The complete exchange is too astonishing to engage in its original form without working up to it slowly, so lets break it down into its slightly more manageable constituent parts. Here are all of Buck Williams’ lines:

“Moishe and Eli.”

“And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?”

“Are you, then, an evangelist?”

“Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?” Buck said.

It might be a fun exercise to attempt to write the other side of that conversation in such a way as to make Buck’s lines there seem less deliriously absurd.

I’m not sure how that would go, exactly, but I’m guessing it would include some sort of rational segue between “have you murdered others?” and “are you an evangelist?” And then some kind of explanation as to how or why it is that Buck would say that a non-murderous evangelist was just what he’d been praying for.

But the actual conversation here on these pages is not such an exercise. If anything, Michael’s side of this dialogue only serves to make Buck’s weird non sequiturs seem even stranger. Here are all of Michael’s lines in this exchange:

“Who told you where you might find Tsion?”

“They are my mentors,” Michael said. “I am one who became a believer under their preaching and that of Tsion.”

“I do not consider it murder. Their bodies will be buoyed up and burned by the salt when they reach the Dead Sea. Better their bodies than his.”

“In the manner of Paul the apostle, according to Dr. Ben-Judah. He says there are 144,000 of us around the world, all with the same assignment that Moishe and Eli have: to preach Christ as the only everlasting Son of the Father.”

“That would not surprise me in the least,” Michael said. “You must realize that you are the same.”

Again, it might be fun to try to supply the other side of that conversation by somehow interspersing Michael’s lines with responses and prompts that produced something coherent, meaningful or human-seeming. But, as you’ve already seen, Buck’s lines don’t do any of that.

Put together, the whole exchange looks like this:

“Who told you where you might find Tsion?”

“Moishe and Eli.”

“They are my mentors,” Michael said. “I am one who became a believer under their preaching and that of Tsion.”

That bit isn’t completely bonkers. I mean, if you set aside the fact that “Moishe and Eli” are actually the biblical figures Moses and Elijah — and you disregard the whole dizzying array of howling biblical contradictions it introduces, such as Moses talking about an heir to David’s throne — then this could pass for a mostly rational bit of conversation. Who sent you? These two guys. Oh, them — I know them. That bit makes a bit of sense.

But then the non-sequiturs start flowing and the rest of the conversation reads like some failed improv experiment involving two actors pulling lines out of a hat:

“They are my mentors,” Michael said. “I am one who became a believer under their preaching and that of Tsion.”

“Michael reached to embrace Buck. He squeezed him with a huge bear hug and was laughing and weeping.”

“And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?”

“I do not consider it murder. Their bodies will be buoyed up and burned by the salt when they reach the Dead Sea. Better their bodies than his.”

“Are you, then, an evangelist?”

“In the manner of Paul the apostle, according to Dr. Ben-Judah. He says there are 144,000 of us around the world, all with the same assignment that Moishe and Eli have: to preach Christ as the only everlasting Son of the Father.”

“Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?” Buck said.

“That would not surprise me in the least,” Michael said. “You must realize that you are the same.”

I wanted to get into some of the underlying issues here in this conversation — like the violent ethic that seems to suggest the life of a preacher like Tsion (or Tim LaHaye) is worth more than other, disposable, lives. Or the way the authors abandon their alleged literalism to transform the “144,000″ martyrs from a host of singing virgins laying down their lives to an army of gun-wielding killers. Or the way that the portrayal of Michael here plays on a right-wing American stereotype of Israelis as remorseless killers — a stereotype that is both anti-Semitic and as hilariously revealing as any Wolverines!-type fantasy always is.

But I’m unable to focus on any of that because I’m just too flummoxed by the exhaustive, pervasive, shrieking awfulness of that conversation above. It’s just too much. I can’t even get past it enough to form a coherent joke about disposing of bodies in the Dead Sea in the manner of Paul the apostle.

Someone wrote this. Someone wrote this and sent it to a publisher of books. Someone who works at a publisher of books read this and said to themself, “Yes, this. This is something I, a publisher of books, would like to publish in a book for others to read.”

That happened. How did that happen?

  • GDwarf

    FIELD TRIP!

    To the bus! (*beep beep*)

  • Albanaeon

    Gods, the WND guy…

    Forget luck, I wish you copious strong drink and/or patience of the Buddha.

  • BillClintonsShorts17

    What exactly does this fundamentalist dreck have to do with the NRA?

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    And, of course, killing people with tent pegs is indeed Biblically sanctioned.

    TRiG.

  • Sue White

    Oh yes, and I’m reminded of the Bible verse that says so… which one was that again…

  • Susan Paxton

    It occurs to me that the love of death is what propels these books. They have nothing to do with Jesus.

  • J_Enigma32

    “That happened. How did that happen?”

    Because I, unlike you, am an educated person who regularly reads and agrees with it?

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

    NRA is Fred’s shorthand for “Nicolae: Rise of the Antichrist”, in the context of his Left Behind deconstructions.

  • Sue White

    How did your comment happen?

  • Lori

    I suspect it was a small seizure while Verna’s hands were over her keyboard.

  • Amaryllis

    Is it dribble or drivel?

  • Amaryllis

    This is correct, but there is a certain suitable association of ideas. Michael here, for instance, would probably be admired by the other NRA as a “good guy with a gun,” in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

  • Jamoche
  • Jim McCaskill

    This got published, that means the rest of us have a shot too :)

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I don’t think that Paul would snap and kill someone However, I am less sanguine about the guy who claimed to be Paul and who wrote I and II Timothy and so on.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    As long as they don’t do it Anne McCaffrey style.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’m getting tired of this. From now on, I will use the appropriate level of response to the intelelctual sophistication shown by the commentor.

    No, no! Not nice! Say sorry! Do I have to come over there?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    But it’s still a ‘salt’ in the chemical sense (an ionic bond between a metallic atom and a non-metallic atom)?

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

    Yes. “Salts” are an entire class of ionic compounds typically composed of a metal and nonmetal.

  • BillClintonsShorts17

    Oh. Thanks for the data. Thought there was some connection being made between the ‘Left Behind’ dreck and the N.R.A.

  • Wednesday

    Already discussed upthread (or, possibly, downthread, because Disqis is silly), but if Michael’s Israeli, he reads and speaks Hebrew, so he knows the relevant Commandment is more correctly “Thou shalt not murder” anyway. I’m not sure where he’s getting “it’s not murder if the bodies aren’t found”, thought.

    Not that L&J would know that, mind you. But maybe they think Michael is, like LeHaye, also a biblical literalist reading English translations of the bible, and that he noticed the definition of murder given in Numbers 35 doesn’t include “shooting someone with a gun.”

  • SirThinkALot

    I’m guessing that by the time this was written, the publisher could see the success of the first two LB books, and figured people would buy them no matter what. Thats the only explanation I can come up with…

  • Sue White

    And when at last the police came by, his little pranks he did not deny. To do so he would have had to lie – and lying he knew was a sin!

  • Lori

    IIUC, yes it’s a salt. It’s just not a normal salt. The thing that it does to birds is not caused by high salinity as such, it’s caused by the particular type of salinity and resulting high pH. The Great Salt Lake & the Dead Sea have very high salinity, but don’t do the same thing to creatures unfortunate enough to fall into them. Lake Natron is just a really odd place.

  • tricksterson

    I’m guessing there’s some obscure line somewhere in the Bible that led him to believe this because whoi needs science when you have the inerrant word of God?

  • Persia

    I have this conversation from time to time about fiction, especially fanfiction. You need to meet the reader’s emotional needs, whatever those are.

  • Lori

    It’s possible that he got it from one of LaHaye’s “literal” scripture readings, but I think it’s more likely that Cactus_Wren is correct and he got it from an anti-choice screed.

  • arcseconds

    What you say is correct, but in context a little misleading, I think. It’s absolutely true that the presence of salt speeds up rusting, and I suppose a faster oxidiser could be called a ‘better’ oxidiser.

    But the salt doesn’t make water a stronger oxidiser, in the sense of changing the oxidation potential of the oxidation agent (oxygen). Of course, this is a bit of a moot point: just because a reaction is thermodynamically favourable doesn’t mean it will proceed at an appreciable rate. But also, salt water won’t necessarily speed up every oxidation process.

    Rusting is an electrochemical process; the water and the iron (plus oxygen) form an electrolytic cell. The process is sped up by the presence of salt because salt makes water a better conductor, allowing the circuit to be completed better in the water.

    I don’t really know anything about the mechanism of oxidation of flesh, but I imagine it usually takes the form of the partial oxidation of hydrocarbons etc. by direct chemical action of the oxidiser (*) I wouldn’t expect salt to speed this up.


    (*) well, actually, normally of course oxidation would happen through biological processes. But we normally call that ‘decay’, not ‘burning’, and we’d expect salt to retard that route…

  • arcseconds

    I wonder whether Michael’s view of murder is that it’s a criminal charge, and therefore it isn’t murder until he’s convicted by a court.

    That makes sense of his ‘burned up by the Dead Sea’ remark: he’s not currently guilty of murder in a technical legal sense, and he believes he never will be, because the evidence will be damaged (or so he thinks) beyond the point of ever connecting him with the crime.

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

    In general acidic environments promote rusting and basic environments inhibit rusting. Depending on the pH of the water due to salt(s) present within it, plus CO2 dissolved from the air – you get the idea.

    the water and the iron (plus oxygen) form an electrolytic cell.

    Redox language nitpick: “electrolytic” cells commonly refer to processes driven with a battery or power source. Rusting (as a class of oxygen additions) is spontaneous, though.

  • aim2misbehave

    There’s a Tumblr blog called “Life in Religious Publishing” that answers questions like that…

  • aim2misbehave

    It’s better edited than Twilight, and way better edited than a certain twilight-fanfiction-turned-erotic-novel that I’d prefer to pretend doesn’t exist at all…

  • aim2misbehave

    You know, I’m actually wondering if this isn’t a case where the anti-abortion movement’s claim that saline abortions “burn” a fetus’ skin has been repeated so much that one of the authors or the other has come to just assume it’s an established scientific fact…

  • Daniel

    “You stand accused of two counts of murder. How do you plead?”
    Barrister stands up “M’lud, my client wishes it to be known that he does not consider it murder.”
    “I see. May I ask why?”
    “Because of salt, m’lud.”
    There is silence in the court room, the judge’s face goes pale. Murmurs are heard from the public gallery. The families of the victims look on confused.
    “I’m afraid then I have no choice but to dismiss the case.”

    Bloody technicalities.

  • arcseconds

    Dammit, didn’t see this until a few hours after making essentially the same point…

    Are you thinking that this is kin to the ‘atheists must be immoral (= act immorally) because they don’t think anyone’s watching them’ schtick?

  • arcseconds

    By ‘salt’ I mean NaCl, which is pH neutral. The subject under discussion being the Dead Sea, where sodium and chloride ions are the main ions. I don’t know what the pH is, but I don’t see any reason to expect it’s anything unusual.

    Rusting involves an anode and a cathode and a potential difference. In what sense is this not a cell?

  • Catherine Archer

    Almost instant answer to prayer? What? How? Whom? I hate this, because God Himself is cheapened, and made into Just One Of Us. God has our own prejudices and politics. Isn’t life just ducky?

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

    To a chemist “salts” can mean a broader category than just table salt. :) Yes, NaCl is a neutral salt, but for example NaHCO3 is somewhat basic.

    In redox chemistry we differentiate between spontaneous and nonspontaneous processes. An electrochemical, or galvanic, cell is a spontaneous redox reaction. As I indicated before, a nonspontaneous one is generally termed “electrolytic”, which is common to the use of “electrolysis” to mean splitting up a molecule by means of an electric current.

  • Vermic

    I never quite understood the “thou shalt not murder” distinction. Isn’t “murder” simply the subset of life-taking that is recognized to be wrong? Then the commandment is reduced to a tautology: “That type of killing which is wrong is wrong.”

    Plus, while death is a more or less universally-agreed-upon phenomenon, the meaning of “murder” varies from culture to culture and is defined by earthly legal systems. Abortion is not murder in 2013 United States, so God’s okay with it, right? But if we make it illegal, he suddenly won’t be?

    I guess my problem with “Thou shalt not murder” is that it qualifies the commandment into meaninglessness. It sounds to me like God’s simply affirming whatever the earthly law code has to say, without adding any new information.

  • sidhe

    I’ll take a crack at this…

    “I was told you can take me to Tsion.”

    “Who told you where you might find Tsion?”

    “You know who already…I never knew their names, but they went by Babylon and Kemet – I want to know how you’re involved in their disappearance and in Tsion’s cult.”

    “They are my mentors,” Michael said. “I am one who became a believer under their preaching and that of Tsion.”

    “Your mentors? A believer? A believer in what? Blood sacrifice and murder?”

    “I do not consider it murder. Their bodies will be buoyed up and burned by the salt when they reach the Dead Sea. Better their bodies than his.”

    “Kemet said Tsion had gone too far; that he had become no better than what they had set out to oppose. In fact, that he had become what he had held up as evil.”

    “In the manner of Paul the apostle, according to Dr. Ben-Judah. He says there are 144,000 of us around the world, all with the same assignment that Moishe and Eli have: to preach Christ as the only everlasting Son of the Father.

    “You realize how insane you sound right now, right? That if you told anyone this, they’d lock you up and throw away the key?”

    “That would not surprise me in the least,” Michael said. “You must realize that you are the same.”

  • phantomreader42

    There ARE rather a lot of bible verses about killing large numbers of people…

  • phantomreader42

    Did said prayer involve two cops in a rowboat?

  • Jim Roberts

    Well, yeah, but that’s the problem. They’re like DeNiro’s speech in “The Untouchables.” No room to say, “except this one guy.”

  • sidhe

    And on the other side…

    “Moishe and Eli.”

    “Dead,” said Michael. It was a simple statement of fact, no emotional attachment to it.

    “And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?”

    Michael chuckled, “More than just them, and for more reasons than you can count. Call me a – a servant of the lord.”

    “Are you, then, an evangelist?” Buck swore there was a shadow of wings behind Michael, but wrote it off as an illusion played by shadows on the water.

    “Depends on the news,” Michael shrugged.

    “Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?” Buck said.

    Like a flash, Michael had a gun to Buck’s head. He cocked the hammer, “Depends on the prayer,” then pulled the trigger. The hammer fell on an empty chamber as Buck’s urine flowed along the bottom of the boat. Michael roared with joyous laughter. In all his adventures, Buck never dreamed he’d find himself on an impossible river with an insane, violent, murderous angel.

  • The Old Maid

    If we’re all still here a few decades from now, Fred will be posting on the 16th book as “LB: KC” and the internet will link it alongside “…and the Sunshine Band.”

  • Alex Harman

    When the nonmetal ion is hydroxide, though, we usually call the chemical a base, not a salt. There’s a narrower sense of “salt” that specifically refers to ionic compounds that don’t alter the pH of water in which they’re dissolved, and can be produced by the combination of an acid (Hydrogen + anion) and a base (cation + hydroxide). (Incidentally, I once asked a salinologist with a Ph.D. in soil chemistry what the definition of a salt was; the answer provided a great deal less clarity than I would have hoped.) The hydrogen and hydroxide ions don’t bond ionically, they lose their charges and bond covalently into water molecules, leaving the anion and cation to form a salt.

    We have a set of chemical receptors for detecting the presence of acids, bases, and salts. The receptors are commonly known as taste buds, and the signals for the three classes of ionic compounds are called sourness, bitterness, and saltiness, respectively. (There’s a fourth type of tastebud that responds to the presence of mono- and disaccharide molecules with the signal we call sweetness.)

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

    Re: Metal hydroxides. I did slide over that point for ease of writing, but it was not my intention to purposely mislead.

    Also, chemists can and do classify salts into their effect on pH: acidic salts, neutral salts, and basic salts.


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