NRA: Anywhere I lay my head

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pg. 203

(I’m skipping ahead briefly here to deal with the first two sentences of the next chapter. Those sentences so perfectly encapsulate one aspect of these books that I have to talk about them first, just to clear my head of them before we deal with the rest of the story surrounding them here.)

Buck Williams went to Israel to find his friend, the former rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah, who recently converted to fundamentalist Christianity. Tsion is now in hiding because, in the minds of the authors, any Jew who converts to Christianity will be hunted down and killed by angry Israelis.

For help finding Tsion, Buck turned to this novel’s version of the “Two Witnesses” from the book of Revelation: Moses and Elijah. The two ancient patriarchs apparently helped Tsion go into hiding. “Moishe” and “Eli” want to help Buck find Tsion. Unfortunately, however, they are unable to give him clear directions, as the authors only allow them to speak in quotations from the Bible (apart from yelling at anyone who dares to interrupt them or instructing Buck to answer his phone).

This still shouldn’t have been that difficult. As it turns out, Tsion is hiding along a tributary a few miles east of the Jordan River. Elijah, being Elijah, could have just sent Buck there directly by reciting part of his own story from the Bible: “Go from here and turn eastwards, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.”

But no, that would be too easy. So instead the Two Witnesses just take turns quoting verses that mention Galilee, hoping that Buck will get the impression that he should head in that direction and thus fall into the hands of Michael — the guerrilla fighter they’ve sent to guard Tsion’s hiding place and to kill anyone other than Buck who comes looking for him.

The Bible-code conversation Buck has with the Two Witnesses goes on and on and on, but here’s the relevant bit from back on page 164:

“If I came back here later tonight, might I learn more?”

Moishe backed away from the fence and sat on the pavement, leaning against a wall. Eli gestured and spoke aloud, “Birds of the air have nests,” he said, “but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

“I don’t understand,” Buck said. “Tell me more.”

“He who has ears –”

Buck was frustrated. “I’ll come back at midnight. I’m pleading for your help.”

Eli was now backing away too. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

That “birds of the air” bit comes from the Gospel of Luke (and Matthew):

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

It’s hard to know what to make of Eli’s appropriation of that passage in his conversation with Buck. For the Gospel writers, “the Son of Man” was a reference to Jesus, but Eli seems to be referring to Tsion. But let’s not pick on him too much for that, since the whole “Son of Man” motif in scripture came along way after Elijah’s time and we should cut him and Moses some slack when dealing with post-exilic passages they’re bound to find confusing.

I assumed back there on page 164 that this cut-and-paste citation of “nowhere to lay his head” was just a reference to the fact that Tsion no longer had a home but was, as Jesus said of those who would follow him, now without a “hole” or a “nest” to call his own.

The mistake there is obvious, but even after all this time immersed in these books, it’s one I keep making. I see these biblical quotations and allusions in Nicolae, and I recall the passages being invoked and what those passages mean. That’s just habit and reflex, but it’s a habit that doesn’t serve one well when reading this series.

Here are the first two sentences of Chapter 11, reporting Buck’s very first impression as he and Michael arrive inside the “underground shelter” serving as Tsion Ben-Judah’s wilderness hideout:

Buck was struck that there were no real bed and no pillows in the hideout. So this is what the witnesses meant when they quoted that verse about having nowhere to lay his head, Buck thought.

This is what Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins regard as a “literal interpretation of the Bible.” It distills their method down to its essence: Disregard context. Disregard the meaning of any figurative language or the meaning of any striking imagery. Focus instead on the words — the actual English words as written there in English. Now imagine some way of applying those English words to some near-future setting so that their “true” meaning applies only as a “prophecy” foretelling future events.

For Tim LaHaye “nowhere to lay his head” would not be true of Tsion just because he’s in hiding, forced to flee his home and to huddle in an underground cave. It can only be true if Tsion is literally deprived of a literal pillow.

Here again are those verse from Luke’s Gospel:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

And here, again, is what Tim LaHaye believes those verses must mean: “no real bed and no pillows.”

Jesus’ admonition about the cost of discipleship becomes a literal, historic statement about his lack of pillows. And also a prophecy foretelling the lack of pillows for his followers — which doesn’t mean his first-century disciples or the centuries of Christians who came after them, but must mean the only followers of Jesus who matter, the 144,000 “Tribulation Saints” cryptically mentioned in the book of Revelation.

OK, then.

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A quick follow-up on last week’s post, in which we discussed the odd geography of Tsion’s hideout. The shelter, we are told, is inside Israel, even though it is: “… on the east side of the [Jordan] River … about five kilometers inland.”

In our world, that puts the hideout three miles inside of the nation of Jordan. But in the world of Left Behind, the nation of Jordan does not exist.

In our world, three miles to the west of the Jordan River would put you inside the West Bank. But in the world of Left Behind, the West Bank does not exist.

Last week we mainly discussed this in terms of these books’ hilariously strange geography. But what about the people? That’s not so funny. That’s actually kind of frightening.

In the world of Left Behind, Jordanians and Palestinians do not exist. They’re just … gone.

Where did they go? We’re not told. It doesn’t matter. But they’re not there anymore.

Bryce Renninger discusses Spike Jonze’s new movie Her — another story set in the near future. Jonze’s movie takes place in Los Angeles, but this not-so-distant future LA is very different from the city we know in one important aspect: “There don’t seem to be any Latino people in the whole damn film. … Los Angeles’s nearly 50-percent Latino/Hispanic population has disappeared.”

Renninger says this makes Jonze’s movie a kind of “dystopia of gentrification.”

Left Behind isn’t intended to be a dystopia. It’s intended to be prophecy — a depiction of the world as it will be, very soon, because this is how the Bible says it will be.

And the future it prophesies does not include any Jordanians or Palestinians.

Tim LaHaye’s prophecy does not say what happens to those people. Tim LaHaye’s prophecy does not care what happens to those people. All that matters, as far as the prophecy is concerned, is that they are gone — that they have ceased to exist.

And until they cease to exist, Jesus cannot come back. And Tim LaHaye wants Jesus to come back.

That’s not so much a dystopia of gentrification as it is a dystopia of ethnic cleansing.

 

  • Lorehead

    “I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds.”

  • http://mordicaifeed.tumblr.com/ Mordicai

    Or for that matter, Madeleine L’Engle’s Mrs Who, to a lesser extent, come to think of it.

  • arcseconds

    Well, clearly what has transpired here is someone has gone around, and changed all the existing copies of the book to read differently to the way I remember them…

  • arcseconds

    Did Mrs. Which sssspeakkk lllliiiiike thhhhhhiiis or something?

  • Emily Horner

    People whose surname is Wang frequently romanize as Wong to more accurately reflect the pronunciation (and to not have the surname Wang, perhaps.)

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

    Yeah. She did. :)

  • aunursa

    Some Christians have told me that the Christian Bible is trustworthy because it says so in the Christian Bible. It’s not much of a leap to extend the circular reasoning to the KJV.

  • Lorehead

    One of the earlier parts of the New Testament, no less, written before the Gospels, Acts or Revelations existed, much less before they had been canonized or collated into a single volume. But surely it must mean this very book they’re reading, which they think of as “the Bible.”

  • Panda Rosa

    A new movie called “Her”? When I read the title I thought it was a remake or a sequel to “She”, as in She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, from H. Rider Haggard.

  • Lorehead

    I hope you’re not thinking of the 1631 edition. That’s the one with the famous misprint.

  • Lorehead

    I personally had one classmate who believed that, and who when I mentioned the existence of Hebrew, said that, okay, maybe the Old Testament was translated, but Jesus at least spoke English, right? He was a special-ed student. And a child at the time.

    And most importantly, (although in retrospect I was really immature myself at that age and kind of a jerk to him about it) he was curious enough to ask and willing to learn.

  • FearlessSon

    Someone ought to make a film and name it Been Her.

  • Daniel

    “Birds of the air have nests,” he said, “but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
    “I don’t understand,” Buck said. “Tell me more.”

    I mocked him earlier, but to be fair, knowing what I know now, this “clue” actually means “look for somewhere where there are no pillows.” That is what Buck is being told. In conjunction with the other clue then, it is “look for somewhere near lake Galilee where there aren’t any pillows.” And I mocked him for not understanding. Sorry Buck.

  • aunursa

    Finally Moses returned to the camp. After waiting for so long, the Israelites had almost given up hope. Now eager, and yet nervous, they gathered around him to hear his report.
    Moses began: “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is I got Him down to Ten.”
    A collective sigh of relief swept through the crowd. Then one of the elders asked, “What’s the bad news?”
    “Adultery is still in.”

  • FearlessSon

    In the Warhammer 40,000 novel 13th Penal Legion (the first of the “Last Chancers” trilogy) one of the characters gets buried under a pile of Tyranid corpses in an Imperial chapel. He gets a very strange kind of PTSD from it that manifests as an inability for him to speak in anything except quotes from the Imperial Creed and related scriptures.

    He can still understand things other people say to him, and is still a good soldier all other things considered. This impediment is shown to be as frustrating to him as it is to others because he finds that he often has trouble getting his point across.

  • Lorehead

    You know, I wonder how this King-James myth ties in with the myth that the real Israelites migrated to Britain and brought the Divinely-revealed law that became English Common Law and the U.S. Constitution with them, making Anglos the true Chosen People?

  • Deacon Blues

    Okay, seriously, you should collect all your writings and put them somewhere… Fanfiction.net or something. I want an easy way to read all of these (especially since I might have missed a few of them), and these are one of my favorite parts of Left Behind Fridays. “Mike warnked him”… Priceless!

  • Matri

    That’s nothing. Haven’t you heard? Jesus is American.

  • http://mordicaifeed.tumblr.com/ Mordicai

    Oh, or, duh, the Ascians from Gene Wolfe’s marvelous “Book of the New Sun.” I mean, like your example, it is meta-fiction– quoting a canon that doesn’t actually exist*– but that is a fun fair parallel.

    * or wait, I shouldn’t underestimate 40K; does the entire Imperial Creed exist as a canon?

  • Daniel

    Thank you very much. The first one is here:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2013/05/31/nra-bored-with-plank/#comment-917318245

    and I think there’s one every Left Behind Friday since… Sorry for the self advertising.

  • GDwarf

    I’m now picturing Tsion stuck in a Jolly-Jumper (a…toy? For very young children. It’s essentially a harness with elastic straps at the top that you attach to the top of a door or ceiling. The end result is the kid can jump a bit higher than normal without risk of falling or otherwise hurting themselves), or maybe imprisoned in a divine gyroscope.

    Ooh, ooh! Perhaps he’s been turned into one of those inflatable punching-bag-people-things that fall over and then stand back up!

  • histrogeek

    All the Palestinians were raptured surely. I mean what could be a more convenient way to remove a huge inconvenient population from the story? OK there’s that pesky, not-Christian, hateful-scary-Arab thing.

  • histrogeek

    I know that there are Christian Palestians, but not too many are RTCs. Even if every Christian in Palestian, Jordan, and Lebanon got raptured, it still wouldn’t explain the demographics in LB.

  • Solmead

    It’s their reasoning for why Job was ok at the end of his titular book, he had new kids to replace the old. Even though that makes no sense in real life.

  • auroramere

    Yes, this. If there was anything Jewish about the Two Witnesses beside their declared identity, “Moishe” and “Eli” might convey something more about them.

    I see you use ‘Moshe’. My exposure to Israeli Hebrew is limited, but I would think of ‘Moishe’ as Ashkenazic, that oh -> oi shift.

  • auroramere

    I might not go that far. My Hebrew school teachers were aware that young kids would enjoy the acronyms that sounded like nursery rhymes, like Rambam.

  • dpolicar

    Hm.
    Yeah, I suppose that was true of mine as well, when I was that age.
    Fair enough.

  • VMink

    So you’re saying that Rayford Steele is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a good human being?

  • VMink

    Is it bad of me that I saw Apocalypse Dawn and thought of a storyline where Leon Fortunato has to go down the Euphrates to New Babylon (with The Doors playing in the background) in order to find out what happened to the Potentate after all contact was lost with New Babylon?

    I shall subtitle it Liver of Darkness.

    “Mister Carpathia… he dead.”

  • VMink

    Speaking of bizarre “Brazil” endings….

  • arcseconds

    They have beards, don’t they? and robes? What more do you need to establish Jewish identity? ;-)

    I’m afraid my ideas about Hebrew pronunciation are very limited. ‘Moshe’ is just how I’ve normally seen the name rendered in Roman letters.

  • Lunch Meat

    I’ve heard two lines from Song of Solomon quoted more than once. One is a kids’ song called “His banner over me is love” which sounds creepy when you know what it means in the actual verse, but was completely innocent when I was a kid. The other is one that says something about how love is really strong and “Do not awaken love until it so desires” which was used to justify teachings about how teenagers shouldn’t date.

  • Vermic

    Of course, as Fred has pointed out, the boy does in fact die in every meaningful sense of the word. He just doesn’t splat, is all. Which I will grant is an improvement in itself.

  • Vermic

    Which, as Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal asserts, proves that God is an economist.

  • dpolicar

    Were I chanting liturgical Hebrew, I would pronounce it “MOW-sheh,” more or less, though with a less rounded “O” than its English equivalent.

    That’s also how I’d pronounce it when talking to an Israeli.

    I would understand “Moishe” (MOY-sheh) to be an informal, affectionate Ashkenazi nickname, akin to “Bobby” rather than “Robert”.

  • Vermic

    “Then where do you put the little mint?” Buck wailed in incomprehension.

  • Rowen

    I’m a little late to the game, but do you mind telling me which deconstruction this is?

  • Rachel McG

    I see what you did thar. And you did it very well.

  • ohiolibrarian

    I’m assuming that one doesn’t sleep on the side. Actually that device seems a little high … look how far that guy’s shoulders are off the ground. Maybe he should be sleeping on his side.

  • ohiolibrarian

    That’s one thing that always bothered me about Star Wars. Luke’s uncle and aunt are incinerated by Darth Vader and he never mentions them again. They also clearly knew who his father was, even if they were guardians rather than actual relatives (maybe). Wouldn’t you think that finding out that Vader was your father would make you reflect, just a little, about him crisping the relatives who had taken care of you your entire life!

    That and Yoda’s warning that caring about people will turn you to the ‘dark side of the Force’. What’s that all about?

  • ohiolibrarian

    Not literally “literal” though. Their imagination immediately goes to the banal.

  • arghous

    Vader almost certainly delegated the plan’s recovery effort to some captain, who delegated it to some lieutenant, who delegated it to some sergeant, who probably left it to some trigger-happy storm trooper, so Vader probably never knew anything about it.

    And caring leads to worry which leads to anguish which leads to suffering which leads to the Dark Side, don’tcha know.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Aside from being feared and hated throughout the galaxy, abandoning Luke as an infant, and being ultimately responsible for the grisly murder of the only family Luke has known, Vader is obviously the ideal father–who is trying to kill him. What’s not to love?

  • aunursa

    “Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son!”

    C’mon. What’s not to love?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Sem-seriously, what is he supposed to be talking about here?
    Ezekiel is one WEIRD book.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Oh, so that’s what good writing feels like. I’d almost forgotten.

    “Passion Fruits” is just something you made up, right?
    Right?

  • Daniel

    Thank you very much, it’s always nice to be appreciated!
    And yeah, Passion Fruits was something I made up having never watched Veggie Tales.

  • Zippy

    “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weeble

  • http://niesse.livejournal.com/ Niesse

    Ana Mardoll’s Narnia deconstructions, at anamardoll.com

  • Raj1point618

    Truly I say unto you, the Son of Man hath no mint upon his pillow. Let those who would share in the sufferings of the Son of Man take up the cross of a pillow with no mint upon it.