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?

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

    Having experienced firsthand the power of a pushy person utterly convinced of their own importance, I can say this doesn’t actually surprise me. I’ve seen worse. Yes, worse than this, easily — and still published.

    It kind of goes something like this:

    Editor: “This is terrible.”

    Author: “How dare you say that don’t you know what kind of work I put into it I barely ate or slept for three weeks really I am extremely offended that you have the nerve to dismiss my work so readily have you ever written something yourself if you had then you would know that it is a trial of mind body and soul to create a life and give it so much meaning and depth clearly you have never felt that kind of responsibility or you would not be so quick to judge others so what if this needs a little work I believe the full meaning gets through to any reader willing to set aside their preconceptions and read it as it is surely you must at least have felt moved by it I am certain if you go back and read it again it will make a better impact on you this time if not then I will know you are not really doing your job properly and I assure you I have connections and can and will make certain you are removed from your position as a person unwilling to give someone who has done as much work as I have done a simple chance is undeserving of this level of responsibility I want to know your superior’s contact information and rest assured I will be sending them an e-mail of this conversation as soon as it concludes on general principles because if he or she is doing their job unlike other people I could mention then they will understand where I am coming from and will almost certainly approve this work for publication as it has had so much love and attention poured into it that it most certainly is worthy of second consideration as you should already know–” (This continues for some time.)

    Editor: “Whatever.”

    (Two weeks later.)

    Editor: “Um, I just saw this nutjob’s piece on the publishing list. Why the fuck did you approve this? It was fucking awful.”

    Manager: “*Sighs* To shut him up. It won’t hurt anything really. We’ll do a limited publishing run and he’ll just have to deal with the low profits.”

    (One week later.)

    Author: “Did you get a chance to read the sequel to the book I sent you yet?”

    Editor: *Begs coworkers to shoot him*

  • WingedBeast

    If there was any context, that would seem to suggest that the speaker doesn’t think it’s murder if he doesn’t get caught… Which seems to be par-for-the-course morality for the series.

  • banancat

    Interesting that he prayed for a wife almost like it’s some object to attain. I don’t know, maybe it’s actually a common thing, but it seems like a weird phrasing instead of praying to meet his love or to fall in love.

  • Matri

    The weirdness with that lake is due to really high pH.

    The thought the high pH was because of the high salinity?

  • Lori

    I don’t think so, or at least not entirely. IIRC there’s something else/something way odder going on there.

    ETA: I looked it up—the issue is that the stuff in the water isn’t normal salt. It comes from magmatic limestone from the only volcano in the world that spews natrocarbonatites instead of the normal silicates. Normal high salinity wouldn’t create the effect that the lake has.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    You’ve reminded me of this Perry Bible Fellowship: http://pbfcomics.com/210/

  • KarenH

    Which, counting in the subtext, would make “Missed it, by >< that much" the Best. Line. Ever.

  • J_Enigma32

    Only 15? Clearly there’s not a statute of limitations on prayer.

  • Ben English

    I feel like I’ve been setting on an atomic bomb and it’s about to blow.

    Just like the ones that hit London, Chicago, New York, LA, San Francisco, and Cairo.

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    I think they quoted John the Baptist at him. It’s a wonder Michael didn’t end up untying the lace’s of Buck’s… sandals.

  • Jamoche

    Is that the one where one of the big tells was that they explicitly said they intended to start human testing without doing any safety studies first?

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    “How did that happen?”

    Because apparently the next thing someone said was, “If I publish it, people will buy it. In great, yacht-funding quantities.”

    And that someone was right.

  • Dave

    “Who sent you?” Michael demanded.
    “Moishe and Eli.”
    “Ah, a fine pair. They have taught me all I know about Christianity. Now my knife works for the prophet Tsion.”
    “And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?”
    “Yes, but I ensured they converted to Christianity first. They dwell in heaven now, praise Jesus.” Michael answered, looking reverently to the sky.
    “Are you, then, an evangelist?”
    “I prefer to think of myself as an inquisitor. I may yet have some questions for you, Buck.”
    “Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?” Buck said.

    “Some prayers I have answered, yes. My previous passengers prayed very fervently at the end, as you may yet.”

  • Taneli Huuskonen

    -Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?
    -No.
    -Would you believe you are recognizably similar to a somewhat delayed answer to prayer?
    -No.
    -Would you believe that if you had two heads, four arms and green skin, you could be mistaken for an action figure I asked for in a letter to Santa when I was eight?

  • Anton_Mates

    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

    It sounds like a perfectly coherent plan to me. They’re probably going to be disappointed that Buck survived, though.

  • Taneli Huuskonen

    “The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically,

    discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical,

    and the purely hypothetical. They were all, one might say, nonexistent,

    but each nonexisted in an entirely different way.”

    Stanisław Lem, “Cyberiad”

    That book, by the way, makes no sense either, but does it in an entirely different way.

  • flat

    albus dumbledore once said that people who are innocent think killing is easy.
    For all their flaws the only thing I can say about ellenjay ist that in some way they are innocent.

    the same way Draco malfoy was before he realised how screwed he and and his family were.

  • flat

    calm down Fred sometimes you just have to accept that there is nothing you can do than just being silent and and let fail speak for itself.

  • http://alphabete-noir.com/ Constella Espj

    Go on…

  • christopher_y

    Exactly. What this series and Fred’s exegesis makes clear is that Jenkins may be a terrible writer, but he understands his public perfectly.

  • PurpleAardvaark

    Precisely. I, a publisher of [Christian-themed] books, would l be very happy to take money from people who are happy to read things like this. We are all planning to participate in an eternal schadenfreude while we watch the unrepentant multitudes playing the part of the bush that burns but is not consumed so this teaser gets us excited.

  • Laurent Weppe

    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.

    There are two stereotypes actually:

    The racist stereotype depicting every Israelis as über badasses who protect the civilized world against the bararian hordes of brown skinned baby-rapists who dream of raping all the babies born in the western hemisphere

    The antisemitic stereotype depicting every Israelis as remorseless killers who enjoy killing brown skinned babies and intend to establish a jewish draka in the middle east where they’ll rape every baby they did not already kill.

    People who espouse one stereotype are fond of accusing everyone who recoil at their claims of adhering to the other one, kinda like the old “If you’re not a fascist then you’re a stalinist/If you don’t worship Great Comrade Stalin then you’re a fascist

  • Cathy W

    I think so, yeah – the researcher mentioned that his fake paper had no mention of testing done on healthy cells.

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

    I’m reminded of the saying, “God always answers prayers and sometimes the answer is ‘no.’”

  • Vermic

    I read Michael’s lines in the voice of Kevin Spacey in Seven, and as soon as I did, it all clicked.

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

    I am SERIOUSLY impressed that you managed that entire wall of text and managed to convincingly portray someone who is utterly convinced of the fact that the sun shines out of their ass.

  • Vermic

    “I do not consider it murder.”

    As you read this quote, remember that Michael, Buck, Jerry, and Tim all consider themselves pro-life.

  • J_Enigma32

    I’ve seen stilted dialogue like this before, although it was interesting because the narration was first person (it was in friend’s book – another right-winger, actually). The dialogue itself was okay, but the narration never used colloquialisms or contractions – despite being first person (which I use all the time, despite writing third). Really, the narration read like a formal letter or a dissertation.

    It’s known Republicans and right-wingers usually don’t listen to you talk, since they’ve got their minds made up already. I wonder if weird dialogue and stilted narration are the end result of this by hack or authors writing pure ideological propaganda. Anyone else who’s read anything by Jenkins willing to confirm?

  • Caravelle

    I’ve seen people arguing that the “thou shalt not kill” commandment is actually “thou shalt not murder“, hence why things like war and capital punishment are a-OK.

    I wonder if Michael’s… idiosyncratic semantic distinction here is related to that argument.

    I still don’t see what having one’s body float and be burned by salt has to do with whether one was murdered or not.

  • GeniusLemur

    Yeah, this makes perfect sense. Remember that high-profile murder trial where the defendant admitted he did it, but they acquitted him because he dumped salt on the bodies?

  • christopher_y

    This one? (The pictures are posed, but the animals were found in that condition, as I understand it.)

  • GeniusLemur

    And presumably many of the people who bought and loved these books would recognize how bad they are if their tribe allowed them to consume more entertainment and become more experienced consumers.

  • Charby

    Jenkins’s writing is like this. I think it might be in part because he doesn’t like to reread or revise his writing. All of these clunky phrases and poor wording have a very rough draft feel to them; it’s the kind of thing that you would write in the early stages where you’re just trying to get your ideas down on a page. Except Jenkins gets his ideas down on the page and then immediately forwards the page to the printers for publication.

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

    You’re joking. They had a full confession and still acquitted? Source, please.

  • Hth

    Not John of Patmos? A bold call.

  • GeniusLemur

    There’s a good bit from Enter the Dragon along those lines: “Very few people can be totally ruthless. It isn’t easy. It takes more strength than you might believe.”

  • GeniusLemur

    That was a sarcastic reference to ““I do not consider it murder. Their bodies will be buoyed up and burned by the salt when they reach the Dead Sea.”

  • Mark Z.

    FIELD TRIP!

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

    AH, Fair enough. That sort of thing doesn’t travel well on the Interwebs. My bad.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    To be completely fair to your Republican friend, writing as people really speak can be difficult, particularly if you had a very zealous English teacher back in high school. It’s been 15 years, but I still remember diagraming sentences. Let’s just say, I wrote _very_ formal English for several years after that. I have begun emails with “Dear Sir or Madam.” I kid you not.

  • Lori

    Maybe your friend watched a lot of Robert De Niro movies. When I was a kid I swear I thought that man’s entire career was built on the refusal to use contractions.

  • P J Evans

    The Dead Sea has a lot of minerals in it, not just salt. I wouldn’t go in it, myself.

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

    I’ve heard people who do can actually float because the density of the water is different enough due to all the salts.

  • Verna

    Its a bunch of dribble to be sure but the same exclamations could be rightly said about this blog:

    Someone writes this. Someone writes this and posted it. Someone reads this and say , “Yes, this. This is something I, an educated person, would read regularly and agree with it.”

    That happened. How did that happen?

  • tsig

    “Did you know that you’re the almost instant answer to prayer”, he said in a low, sultry tone, his lips close to Bucks ear. “Yes, and you’re the answer to mine” Buck whispered as their limbs began to entwine in that ancient ritual of manly sharing.

  • Lori

    We’re talking about Lake Natron in Tanzania. Weird place.

    About the Dead Sea—it’s perfectly safe to swim, actually float, in it. People go there for the novelty of being able to sit upright in water, but they also go for the supposed healing properties of the mineral content. The #1 rule is “don’t splash” because you don’t want to get water in anyone’s eyes or mouth, and I’d check myself all over for cuts before I tried it, but in and of itself the water won’t harm you. I known a number of people who’ve been and liked it*.

    The major issue is that you can’t stay in long at all because you’ll get seriously dehydrated and that can lead to pulmonary problems. Aside from that, the biggest risk is drowning. Some people apparently assume that the floating thing means they can’t drown and that’s not actually the case.

    *The number of people I know who have traveled in, lived in or were born in Israel is oddly large for an American non-Jew who doesn’t have a particularly large circle of acquaintances.

  • Lori

    False equivalence is false.

  • Lori

    It’s my understanding that the word used is more properly translated “murder” than “kill”. It would make no sense for God to tell people not to kill and then repeatedly order them to do so. The Bible, at least the part in which the “thou shalt nots” are found, is clearly neither anti-war nor anti-capital punishment.

  • CoolHandLNC

    It is schadenfreude. The Ellenjay morality assumes the right to pass judgement on others and execute it. In this case, execute them. In this frame, it is right and proper to dance on the graves and relish the suffering of the “unjust”, by which is meant the not-us.
    Let’s see, who arrogates to himself authority that belongs to God, and rejoices in destruction? Maybe … SATAN?!

  • Jared James

    That’s a horrible explanation which defies both logic and decency, which I’d calculate increases its likelihood of being correct by at least 3 orders of magnitude.


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