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?

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