NRA: Escape from the land of persecution

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 218-221

Buck and Tsion are on a mission from God. It’s 106 miles to Sinai, they’ve got a full tank of gas, it’s dark and they’re wearing sunglasses. Time to hit it. (They’re not really wearing sunglasses, but who can resist the Blues Brothers?)

Despite agreeing not to have a plan for how to get past the Israeli guards at the border, they’ve decided to get rid of anything that would be obviously incriminating if they were searched. They toss Tsion’s ID and credit cards into the Jordan River — another indication that, in the fictional geography of this book, it’s a lot bigger and deeper than it is in real life. Since Buck will be using his fake identity of “businessman Herb Katz,” he gives his real ID to Michael to keep safe and mail to him after their escape.

The tyrannical Antichrist’s one-world government will “causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” But the Antichrist, apparently, would never snoop in anyone’s mail. That would just be rude.

That, again, is the weirdest thing about this whole Escape from Israel subplot: It makes the Antichrist’s OWG seem like a refuge — a safe place to flee in order to escape the Christian-killing Christ-killers. And this is after what happened in the first book — when Nicolae saved Buck’s life by protecting him from the international conspiracy of international financiers and moneylenders.

Buck hesitates as he hands his ID over to Michael:

“You must not be found with that either,” he said.

Michael took it. “My life is destined to be short anyway, brother,” he said. “I feel most honored and blessed to be one of the witnesses predicted in the Scriptures. But my assignment is to preach in Israel, where the real Messiah is hated. My days are limited whether I am caught with your papers or not.”

The conceit of these books, remember, is that they portray events “prophesied” by Tim LaHaye’s “literal” reading of the book of Revelation. That’s where this idea of “the witnesses predicted in the Scriptures” comes from. Those witnesses — the “144,000” martyrs spoken of in Revelation — are all supposed to be virgins: “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.” That would seem to exclude Michael, who is married and has “defiled” himself with his wife often enough to have several children.

And now, for the second time in the series, Buck runs to the Antichrist, seeking protection from the killer Jews.

But the bigger problem here is Michael’s contention that “the witnesses predicted in the Scriptures” will be martyred by Israel, “where the real Messiah is hated.” That’s a big change from what Revelation actually says, which is that these witnesses are themselves Israelites who will be martyred by the Beast/Babylon/empire.

I’m sure there’s an explanation for why Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins decided on this radical departure from what Revelation says. I’m not sure that any such explanation can shield them from accusations of anti-Semitism — particularly not given the whole reverse-Exodus framing of this subplot.

Portraying the Jordan River as a deep and navigable river might be taken as a goofily dumb, but innocent, mistake. Portraying history upside-down, as a long record of Christian persecution at the hands of Jews, is in a whole other category. It’s not an original lie, but it sure as hell isn’t innocently goofy either.

In all seriousness, what we have here is a scenario in which we’re told that the Antichrist is the epitome of superlative evil — the culmination of all the wickedness of all of history. And yet, we’re being told, Israel is even worse because Israel is “where the real Messiah is hated.” If that is not some form of anti-Semitism, then how else can we describe it?

Oh, and along with Buck’s IDs, Michael also takes Tsion’s only remaining photographs of his beloved wife and children. They were recently murdered, you’ll recall, by the evil Israelis. Michael will send those photos to Tsion once he is sure the rabbi is safe inside the Antichrist’s realm where the evil Israelis can’t reach him.

Again, how else can we describe this?

Buck thanked him and shook his head. “I still don’t see how we’re going to get Tsion across any border without papers, real or phony.”

“We already prayed,” Tsion said. “I do not know how God is going to do this either. I just know that he is.”

Buck’s practicality and resourcefulness were at war with his faith. “But don’t we at least have to do our part?”

“And what is our part, Cameron?” the rabbi said. “It is when we are out of ideas and options and actions that we can only depend on God.”

Tsion’s statement there reminds me of a fun old English class exercise involving a similar sentence: “She told him that she loved him.” Now take the word “only” and insert it anywhere in that sentence and notice the way its placement in each different location changes the meaning of what is being said. Only she told him that she loved him. She only told him that she loved him. She told only him that she loved him. Etc.

That word — only — plays a similarly meddlesome role in Tsion’s statement, which boils down to: “When we are out of options, we can only depend on God.” That sentence needs an only in it, I think, and it’s probably best where Tsion has it (or near there). As written, it invites an unfortunate God-of-the-gaps notion of providence, but it’s not terribly objectionable.

The problem is that Tsion really seems to be saying something else. Tsion isn’t telling Buck that he’s wrong to imagine that his faith is “at war with” his practicality and resourcefulness. He’s only urging Buck to allow his faith to win that “war.” What Tsion really means to say, in other words, is something more like “It is only when we are out of options that we can depend on God.”

And that’s some terrible advice. Cue the old joke about the man in the flood (“I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What more did you want?”)

It suddenly occurs to Jerry Jenkins that he hasn’t checked in with the rest of the Tribulation Force in a dozen or so pages, so we abruptly cut to a scene with Chloe and Rayford. They’re talking on the telephone. They’re talking on the telephone about telephones.

Chloe called her dad, worried because she hasn’t been able to get in touch with Buck:

“I just don’t understand why he wouldn’t have his cell phone with him all the time. You keep yours in your pocket, don’t you?”

“Usually, but maybe it’s in his bag.”

“So if his bag is in the hotel, and he’s out gallivanting, I’m out of luck?”

“I guess so, hon.”

“I wish he’d take his phone with him, even if he doesn’t take his bag.”

And that ends out brief interlude with Chloe and Rayford. We cut quickly back to Buck Williams … and he’s on the phone.

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