The Vision, pp. 119-131
Malachi and Hope come home to find the warehouse open and their inventory of graphic novel Bibles burned, but somehow the warehouse itself didn’t burn. They conclude it’s a miracle. Also, Allah Akbar is spray painted on the front of the warehouse. Which is convenient. If this were a different book, this would be an attack by the white supremacists, who framed the local immigrant community for it, but alas, this is not a different book.
Now we get to something … interesting.
Was Asher Joel a child trafficking victim?
Let’s find out!
Louise is back! Yay! She has traveled all the way from Seattle.
The city had adopted Sharia law. She was glad to be out of the place.
Um. Okay. Could we at least have some discussion of what that means? This seems oddly unspecific. Does this mean that all animals must be butchered in a certain way? Or that women are required to wear burkas? I have no idea what Debi thinks instituting Sharia law actually means, and that feels relevant to understanding what’s going on here.
Hope had put Louise to work in the kitchen within hours.
Wait. Is Louise getting paid?
This place is sounding more and more like a cult compound.
It was almost as good as having Asher back from his mission trip. [Cheyenne] was learning far more about him from Louise than she had learned from Asher himself.
Remember how I commented earlier that we know essentially nothing about Asher’s background? The much-older and very Christian Dan served as a sort of mentor to him, before dying in a gas explosion. That’s about all we know.
But now we get to learn more:
“For years theys’ ate breakfast evahry mornin’ at my place, and evahry mornin’ Dan left napkins full of writing and drawings on the table. He and Asher were always either discussing the Bible or inventing something. They would draw everything out. Us gals would always rush ovah ta look at the napkins ta try ta figyah out what the scribblin’ meant.”
Yikes. I just can’t with this accent.
So, skimming along, we … oh. OH.
The first year Asher started coming he looked like he wahr only sixteen years old. I was sho-wah theys’ were spies fo-wah the FBI or CIA tracking down terrorists, becawse of the weird stuff he wrote on the napkins.
I have serious questions about how a Jewish boy ended up hanging out at a diner with a middle aged Christian obsessed with Bible prophesy at age 16. Maybe we’re not supposed to think Asher was actually sixteen? But. Yikes. Questions.
“Let’s see … the next yee-ah, theys’ spent three months in Alaska fishin’ on a boat fo-wah a living.”
Asher isn’t an orphan or without family. In fact, later we meet his brother, who is both a government vulcanologist and very much Jewish. Asher appears to have come from an intact, loving Jewish family. So … how did he end up working on an Alaskan fishing boat with a middle aged Christian obsessed with Bible prophesy for three months when he was 17?
“That was the yeah Dan taught Asher to fly plains so he could work as spottahs for the fishing boats. See … we kept up with evahthin’. We even kept a notebook of ‘Dan and Asher’s Adventyahz’ based on da’ little napkin notes. It was Dan that helped Asher be the man he is today.”
This does not help answer my questions!
And that’s it. That’s literally it.
Except for the bit about Asher being sixteen when he started spending all his time with Dan, we didn’t learn a darned thing new about him.
And I’m now halfway convinced Asher was kidnapped by Dan, who was a wanna-be cult leader snatching and creating his own juvenile groupies. Debi did not think this one through. At all.
Next section: Scary government scary!
Y’all, I’m sparing you, because basically this is just Malachi preaching at their little church, and explaining to everyone that someone tried to burn down their warehouse. Many many words. Here’s where it finally gets interesting:
“We are at that point where Bible-believing Christians are hated by the nations—the Untied Nations—for nearly every nation has signed on to the Universal Child Protection bill which makes it a crime to teach children the precepts of the Bible. They can teach the Koran or Buddhist and Hindu literature to their children. They can even teach their children to hate Christians and Jews, but it is a crime for us to teach children the Bible. Thankfully, at this time our government is too preoccupied with the financial crises and with terrorism to have the resources to enforce their social agenda.”
Hold it right there.
Whatever this means, it appears to mean, at the very least, that it was against the law for Dan to be handing out Christian literature to the immigrant kids in his Seattle neighborhood. Remember, we’re given to believe that someone angry at Dan for his outreach orchestrated a gas explosion in his apartment. But if what Dan was doing was illegal, why not just report him to law enforcement? I don’t believe the claim that the government of Seattle was too preoccupied to do enforce this law—remember, this is the government that just enacted Sharia Law.
If you can use the law to get your outcome—because it’s on your side—there is no need for vigilante justice.
Debi, Debi, Debi.
I mean, Debi could have had Dan get arrested for proselytizing to children, and then she could have had Asher flee to Tennessee, narrowly avoiding the authorities, and the story would have worked fine. Better, actually…
Skimming, skimming, skimming…
“The Emergent Church movement has produced cold hearts with its reinterpretation of The Christ Spirit.”
Woah. Wait. Interesting callout there.
Look, I’m pretty sure even the most progressive Christians would have an issue with a law forbidding people from teaching Christianity to children, but allowing every other religion to go on teaching its youth.
Ok, back to skimming…
Gosh, there’s a lot of “woe is” in here.
Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea!
This is basically a completely random sermon.
Even as the old minister poured out his heart, eight Muslim men huddled in the small storage room in the back of the tobacco shop, reading the latest email from an imam in New York City. “He is due to arrive in two days. He is bringing the explosives with him. Allah Akbar!”
Fair warning, this bombing won’t make any sense. Rather than bombing Malachi’s compound, which would make sense if that’s who they’re really after, they’ll bomb a Walmart. And they won’t even use the explosives this guy brings them, they’ll use random chemicals they literally buy right there. Nothing in this book will ever make sense.
And then back to the sermon?!
“Paul, the greatest missionary who ever took a beating for the gospel, said,
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.
This book is so weird.
The Dangerous Dangerous Mission!
Finally, Malachi tells those gathered that if they continue to be a part of his ministry, they will probably be killed.
“This is what God has called me to do, not necessarily what he has called you to do.
“I have had had a dream, a vision, if you will. I believe God has given me the privilege of publishing the gospel to the Muslim people—a vast multitude of Muslim people.”
Malachi was overcome with inexpressible emotion. He leaned over the podium and began to weep in earnest.
Both Julie and Cheyenne, sitting three rows back, broke into sobs, although neither of them could have explained why.
For a full minute sobs echoed in the church.
Weird. Weird. Weird.
Finally, Omar steps up onto the podium. He starts talking about the dream Malachi had. A literal dream, as it happens. In the dream, Omar says, Malachi saw a crowd of Muslim people reaching out for his graphic novel Bible.
“Even as the people reached for this book of truth, other Muslims came with swords and began to slay men, women and children until they all lay dead. Hundreds of thousands of precious Muslims fell beneath the sword of their own leaders. Until that time, Malachi—none of us really—had any idea just how big Islam and grown and just how terribly violent it was in its growth.”
Actually, one thing that would make this book fascinating is if it turned out all this fear of Muslims and jihadi violence was in their heads—almost like they were living in an alternate reality based on a dream. Actually, that would be a super interesting book, because everything they saw they would then interpret through this completely false lens. A Muslim immigrant family in town would be a sign of impending doom. An explosion in an industrial factory (this does happen from time to time) would be a covered up Islamic attack. And so on.
But alas, this is not that book. But it’s still a book where dreams tell truth. And yet, even that—Debi wants you to know that they’re not crazy. No, really! They’re quite respectable! And reasonable! Have a look, from earlier:
“As you know, Malachi is not a dreamer. He says dreams are the products of too much spicy super, but he had a dream a few months ago that left him shaken.”
See! We’re not talking about superstitious people! Michael—sorry, Malachi—knows dreams aren’t real! Usually.
This book offers so much fascinating insight into how Debi sees her position relative to other groups of people. I mean, have a look at this, from earlier in this section:
The sound of popping gum beside her forced Cheyenne to suppress laughter. She could still see the scene last night as Louise first spit her gum into a napkin then spit on the same napkin to swab her smeared mascara under her yees as she looked at her reflection in the TLP kitchen window.
Debi is constantly laughing at characters like this—see Zulla Mae as another example—but because their overall portrayal is somehow positive, it’s hard to categorize this. Is it mockery? What is it?
I’m still not sure.
Anyway, back to Malachi. Or rather, Omar:
“Just think, Saudi Arabia is closed up airtight agains the gospel. Anyone caught with a Bible or Christian literature would be subject to death. No missionary can go there and share his message, but we can go there, directly into the private rooms of everyone who has access to the web. The rulers of Saudi Arabia will be able to secretly read God’s Story and understand fully the message of salvation. Our little digital missionaries cannot be arrested. If they block one website we will open ten more. As long as a Muslim has access to the web, he will have the gospel at his fingertips. Terrorists hiding in the caves of Afghanistan who have satellite web access will be able to see the gospel in a beautiful presentation. Many will be saved and the mullahs will not like it. We will be targeted. Apparently we are already in their sites, and our book is not even posted yet.
What. No. I promise you, the mullahs would not care.
The Bible has already been translated into Arabic. I promise you there is a ton of literature out there designed to convert Muslims to Christianity, and it is already on the internet! Muslim people don’t stay Muslim because they don’t have access to the Bible. They stay Muslim because their families are Muslim, and because Islam is their religion, and the religion of their parents and grandparents—in other words, for the same reason most Christians stay Christian.
When people convert to another religion, they generally do so because of relationships they’ve formed, not because they came upon a website. People who change religions are frequently at a sort of in-between point in their lives—leaving home for the first time, leaving a marriage, a break with a church community over personal disagreements.
Believing that their special graphic novel Bible in Arabic will suddenly convert masses of people is like a mother thinking she can hide the fact that she’s feeding her kid okra by cooking it differently.
Me. I was that kid. And the answer is no. She couldn’t.
There’s just such grandiose self-importance in this book.
“The reason Malachi invited you here tonight is to help you understand that this coming ministry is both glorious and dreadful. He has received several phone calls and emails warning him against making this book available in Arabic.
“One-fourth of the world is now Muslim. If you add all the Christian religious together, we are not even close to their number. We are overwhelmingly outnumbered by a people residing in every nation, taught to conquer or destroy non-Muslims. There is no place for us to flee.”
Uh huh okay.
Currently, 25% of the world is Muslim, so somehow Debi got that right! But … 31% of the world’s population is Christian. So no, the idea that all Christians together don’t even add up to “close” to the number of Muslims is false.
That’s the end of this section, but I’ll leave you with this, from the beginning of this section, just before Malachi and Hope discovered the burned graphic novel Bibles in their warehouse:
It was late Sunday night as a weary Malachi and Hope drove up the lonely lane to their home. It had been a long weekend for the aging couple. They had flown out to California where they ministered to a growing home church that had adopted the Swahili-speaking people as their first missionary project.
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