The Vision, pp. 247-59
You all know this is going to go great, right?
So here we are up on blueberry hill on the TLP compound, having the sort of communal cookout that comes with grilled food and volleyball and kids playing on playground equipment. And, remember from last week, that at this cookout, Omar and Tess, Magdalene, Bobbie Jo, and Cheyenne have a rather charged conversation about why Magdalene should definitely call her abusive father, and then they pray about her in a way that feels incredibly manipulative.
Reminds me of a million church camps, which always involved emotionally charged prayer sessions like this in amongst the hamburgers and volleyball. The only thing missing is a lake. Church camps always have a lake.
A Time to Spy; or, Cars That Run on Water
Once this prayer is over, Bobbie Jo takes Cheyenne into the woods and says:
“While Tess was praying,” she murmured, “I heard Asher speaking to Malachi. I heard him say something about his brother, Levi. It sounded conspiratorial. Let’s sneak up on them and hear what it’s about.”
I mean. You could just ask? But fine.
Malachi’s quiet voice was muted by his full bird, but portions of his conversation came through. “Why does he want to move here in the middle of nowhere? There’s not a synagogue anywhere in this area. It can’t be his religion bringing him here. Is it to be close to you? Is he scared of Muslims and trying to find a safe place.”
I don’t even know what to say to all of that.
Asher’s answer was reassuring. “The Muslims still have him worried. There has been some strange chatter. Israeli Mossad are puzzled because it is so different from their standard business of killing infidels.”
I don’t feel like Asher should know this. This sounds confidential. Israeli Mossad must have terrible security. Anyway, Asher has more to say:
“With recent advances in fuel cell technology there may come a time soon when oil is no longer in high demand. Just look at what Ben’s been doing while we’ve been stuck here at TLP. Everyone’s vehicle now runs partly on water, and even TLP’s electrical power is operating independent of the utilities.”
I mean what is it operating on? And don’t say water. But TLP doesn’t have solar panels and it doesn’t have wind and there’s no stream or river on it. The idea that a teenager with half an education who has never been out of the Tennessee backwoods could make a car run on water beggars the imagination, but even beyond that, is the whole compound’s utilities running on water?
I’m not trying to be elitist here. There are lots of teens without a conventional education who are a whiz with mechanics. It’s just that if it were this easy to make cars run on water we’d already be doing it. That kid in Malawi electrified his whole village, yes, but he used wind power, something we know works, and something that’s within the realm of reasonable for someone to be able to set up.
Oh. Oh wait. Asher is not done talking.
“Without the money form oil, Muslim countries will quickly degenerate back to camel riding tribesmen, drinking mare’s milk and warring over water holes and date palms.”
Uh. Racism. I see racism.
Just … yikes.
Surviving the Volcano; or, Back to the Land
So, what exactly does all of this have to do with Asher’s brother Levi?
“Yellowstone is what’s bringing him out here. Levi is a volcanologist who works for the government. He really thinks that a Yellowstone eruption is imminent.”
This book has too many completely different bad guys.
“He thinks the large caves in this area would make a good survival spot if they were properly outfitted. Plus, eh knows form me that the folks in this area know how to grow food and maintain animals. He figures to establish a safe haven for a few select professionals as well as a few locals.”
I’m not sure this makes all that much sense, given that everything will change after the eruption, presumably. Knowing how to grow food normally doesn’t necessarily translate into knowing how to grow food in caves while the soil acidity changes due to a volcanic eruption. I think I’d rather get some scientists who spend their life working on this sort of thing on board.
Because that’s what this is, right? An undermining of expertise outside of the people on the land. A sort of deification of pastoralism and herbal knowledge.
Wow, I am probably coming across as an elitist again. But, let me put it like this. I was once involved in a missions project that involved setting up an agricultural high school for local teens and young adults. This was in an area of South America where there was subsistence farming. The goal of the school was to provide local young people with tools to improve their farming practices, with an eye towards both sustainability and improved access to resources and better living standards.
I realize that there were aspects of this project that may have been rooted in elitism and possibly even imperialism. There also are times when local peoples’ have knowledge that others don’t. Many times. But there are also many cases where local farming practices—perhaps combined with climate change or the loss of arable land—can result in a stripping of minerals or ecological collapse.
This is a much bigger and more complicated subject than I have time to hash out. My point is simply that I see Debi engaging in a sort of deification of local pastoral practices and a rejection of scientific knowledge that is unsurprising given her position and general anti-intellectualism.
My Brother, A Jew
At this moment, Yancey and Julie walk up, arm and arm, and Asher looks over and sees the whole group. He says he hadn’t wanted to scare anyone with this talk. He summarizes:
“Well, my brother Levi is thirty years old, and is, of course, a Jew. We haven’t seen each other but once since I left home. He has maintained a distance from me since he heard that I had become a Christian. But recently, due to the bombing we have been back in contact. He’s one of our nation’s finest vulcanologists.”
“He has been commissioned but he U.S. government for the last four years to study Yellowstone. This afternoon he phoned to inform me that he has sold everything he owns, even his stock portfolio, and has used the money to purchase the farms of James, Peterson, and Holly, as well as a huge tract behind them from a Japanese lumber company. This property would include that whole section of caves, and that entire ridge on the south side of the river, over 7,000 acres.”
Is there a reason Asher is spilling all of his brother’s personal business to Yancey?
This is just weird.
“He’s bringing in heavy duty fencing with electronic protective measures. There will be double fencing with a high speed road between them for security vehicles—military level security, if it is needed. Picture the fence around Jurassic Park. Something like that.”
Cheyenne asked how Asher’s brother got Peterson to sell to him, given that Malachi has wanted to buy some land for a fishing launch from Peterson’s property and Peterson had long refused.
“I don’t know, but I would not put it past Levi to do whatever it took. He’s a very persuasive guy, quite the command man. Besides, we have several members of the family that are lawyers. They have a lot of influence and the ability to uncover a word of mistakes in one’s business, taxes, and personal life—if you get my drift.”
I see anti-semitic tropes.
The Tennessee Herbalists and Israeli Mossad
Next we get this:
“He even mentioned you, Cheyenne. He asked how many thousands of pounds of herbs, berries, and seeds you keep on hand and where they’re stored, how you store them, how moisture affects them, how long they’re viable, how they’re used as seasonings or for added nutrition. He wanted to know how many non-genetically altered seeds you keep on hand and how long they’ll stay viable. Plus, he wanted to know how much practical knowledge you have, how extensive your library of practical help books is, how skilled you are at applying the knowledge available for natural healing and nutrition—should I go on?”
No, please don’t. That’s creepy.
Also, I’m sorry, but he’d be going to actual scientists with these questions, not a small-time herbal distributer in Tennessee. Actual scientists study things like ideal nutrition content, what foods are most nutrient rich, etc. And no herb is a replacement for things like antibiotics.
“Of course, he was more interested in Hope, as she appears to be quite well known among his colleagues,” and grinning his understanding, he added, “for some strange reason.”
This appears to be a reference to an earlier monologue in which Hope talked about her herbal work and how it involved plants from Israel. She hinted that “Israeli scientists” were probably aware of some of the miracle-working properties of these herbs, but were concealing these properties because they needed something up their sleeve in case things go bad. She never said anything about actual collaboration with Israeli scientists, however. It was very vague.
But here’s a wider point: Levi is a volcanologist employed by the U.S. government. His colleagues are, presumably, other volcanologists ore scientists in related fields—geology, seismology, etc. Not Israeli Mossad, and not Israeli scientists working in fields like chemistry, biology, or nutrition. The idea that Hope’s work with herbs should be “quite well known” among Levis’s “colleagues” makes absolutely no sense on multiple completely different levels.
I’m pretty sure that the idea that Asher’s brother would somehow just have a line to the Mossad because he’s, well, you know, Jewish, is also anti-semitic. Levi hasn’t even ever lived in Israel. He was born and raised in the U.S., he’s American. Completely American.
We learned earlier that Asher’s brother was in-the know due to his roommate, so I checked—and no, his roommate does not work for Mossad, he works for “the Feds.” There hasn’t been any explanation of how Levi knows the internal workings of the Israeli intelligence community.
The reason I think this is anti-semitic is twofold: first, there’s an assumption that Jews are some sort of monolith, so of course a given Jewish person would be in tune with the Israeli intelligence system. But second, there’s divided loyalties: Levi is an American scientist working for the U.S. government. There is absolutely no reason he should know what’s going on with Israeli intelligence. The assumption that he would suggests an assumption that all Jews maintain an allegiance to Israel.
The Muslim Problem
Nope. It’s not going to get any better.
“Asher,” Bobbie Jo asked, “Does your brother know about you being involved in reaching the Muslims with the gospel?”
This time Asher looked up and smiled. “Yeah, he’s really happy that we’ve managed to help with what the Jewish people call the Muslim Problem…”
I don’t know enough about how Israeli Jews talk about Muslims to say definitively that this isn’t it. It’s possible that some Israeli Jews use the term “the Muslim Problem” to discuss Israeli relations with Muslim-majority nations and with individual Muslims. But given the historical use of the term “the Jewish problem” by anti-semites, I wouldn’t take this as granted. This sounds more like Debi feeling like she heard this term somewhere and getting it rather confused.
“…although their perspective is quite different. Sadly, they rejoice that the inroads we have made in the Muslim populations have created internal discord, resulting in Muslims killing Muslims rather than killing Jews.”
Debi is very efficient at not making Israeli Jews look at all good. And it’s really unfortunate. To say the least. Which perhaps I should say more. Because this whole idea that Israeli Jews are just out for themselves (such as hiding special herbal healing formulas just for them), and that they rejoice in others’ misfortunate, is classic anti-semitism. Period and full stop.
“There has never been a time in the 1,300 years of Islam’s history when they were so shaken by large numbers converting to another religion. It totally freaks Levi out.”
Their graphic novel Bible has resulted in wide-scale conversions, already? How do they know this? Is it on the news? This book is so weird. It’s not like there have never been Chick Tracts in Arabic.
Someone asks Asher why his brother—an American volcanologist concerned about Yellowstone—doesn’t just move to Israel. He would definitely be safe from Yellowstone there, right?
“As to Israel, they believe there’s a fault under Jerusalem which will cause the mountain on which it sits to split. They think a great river will flow from it.”
“Your brother’s hit on something there,” Omar interjected. “The Scripture teaches that very thing. it says the river will flow down and cleanse the Dead Sea.”
None of this is real.
“The last major super volcano, which around A.D. 537, seems to have usher in the Dark Ages. Without the sun’s life-giving vitamin D, people’s immune systems would not have been able to fight against disease. So within a year the Black Plague hit.”
I’m actually going to give Debi some points here, because it appears she did not just make this up. According to Wikipedia, there was extreme weather in 535-536 that might have been caused by a volcanic eruption. Also according to Wikipedia, the first outbreak of Black Plague was in 541-549.
Well sure, you say. But that doesn’t prove anything. That’s true. However, Debi’s specific claims appear to come from a book published in 2000 by journalist David Keyes, titled Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, in which Keyes theorizes that “a natural disaster caused changes during the 6th and 7th centuries in the Christian world that included the end of ancient civilization and initiated what is now known as the medieval era.”
My very brief googling suggests that Keyes’ book isn’t widely accepted by historians, and is based largely on conjecture. Still, my guess is that someone gifted this book to Debi, due to her interest in this area, and that Debi took it as gospel truth. Which is at least different from making it up.
Strong, Young Breeding Stock
Anyway, Asher says Levi doesn’t want to live on the coasts, despite their relative safety from Yellowstone, because the West Coast will have massive earthquakes and the East Coast will become an anarchy zone of outright warfare. Better be on the edge of the destruction zone (i.e. Tennessee) and settle in for the long haul, living in caves and behind huge electric fences.
Also, he wants to be able to study the fallout of Yellowstone.
“Just because I’m his brother and you’re my friends would not guarantee that we would be part of his survival team.”
Seeing their stricken faces, he smiled. “He’s not an emotional planner. If he sees you have value to the greatest number surviving, then you will be included. If he doesn’t deem you valuable, you will not be included.”
This is not making Jews come across well at all.
“Great minds or strong, young breeding stock are part of his plans.”
Okay. The problem here is how very many times we’ve been told that Levi is Jewish. He’s a very Jewish Jew Jew who is Jewish. And he only wants great minds or breeding stock in his little experiment. Does anyone else see the problem here??
What’s horrifying is that someone like Debi could be convinced that she is so very pro-Israel and pro-Jewish people—remember earlier, when she told Cheyenne that the U.S. has only survived because it’s an ally to Israel?—and yet write this book.
Asher follows this with:
“He knows he has to invite a few of hte plain Amish people and their animals into his fold. He will need farmers, herbalists and more. If I know my brother, his setup will be very large. He told me that a limited number of my friends will be welcome, but no one is allowed to proselytize him. He is a devout Jew and feels a very special calling from God to save humanity. He feels strongly that for him to consider Jesus or even allow someone to talk to him about Jesus would be to disavow his commitment to Jehovah God.”
What the ever-loving heck is going on here.
My brother is Jewish, Asher says. He is also a scientist and wants to study the volcano. But also save people, a la Noah’s Ark (he actually said that earlier). But not all people. Just some people. Not even all of my friends. Only super smart people and good breeding stock. Also my brother is Jewish. Very very Jewish. Did I mention that? He’s very Jewish.
I See Why Folks Don’t Like Jews…
I am not reading any of this into this book. It’s all right here.
Omar looked at Asher with a hint of humor. “I can sure see why folks don’t like Jews.” Everyone’s face reflected their startled surprise at Omar’s statement.
“Well, it’s true, not funny. The Jews come in here and survive. Everyone else just stands around worrying and fretting, while some devout Jew sells all he has and starts planning for the future. Then boom, she blows … and there he and his chosen few sit behind their hot wire in their safe cave breathing clean air and eating food with big iron gates and bad guns keeping out all the worriers and fritters. Can you imagine how much all those outside folks would hate Jews at a time like that? See what I mean?”
And no one even responds to that. There’s a section break. After the section break, Malachi reminds them that this volcano doesn’t end the world—just America’s dominance in it.
Malachi tells everyone they need to keep their mouths shut about Levi’s plans, which it is too late Yancey is right there what is wrong with these people.
Cheyenne asks if Levi knows about the brew—remember, the one that can resurrect dogs—and Asher says that since Roy Cohen is from a “well known, wealthy Jewish family” that is “highly connected in Israel”—remember, Cohen miraculously recovered from cancer after taking the brew and he’s now helping them start a factory in China mass producing it—Levi probably suspects the brew is something out of the ordinary. This story makes absolutely zero sense.
A Normal Life
Everyone disperses, and Cheyenne sighs to Bobbie Jo about Julie being with Yancey and then says “Oh, well, we might as well go pretending life is just a bed of roses, and we are gonna have long normal lives, get married and have twenty kids each.” Yep. Totally a normal life, that.
Cheyenne then turns to Asher:
“One happy note. Magdalene is calling her dad tonight. Wanna join us as cheerleaders in about thirty minutes?’
“Yeah.” Asher put his leather hat on, pressing it down secure. “I’ll go get Ben and Dusty. They’ve prayed for that girl everyday since she came here. I figure one of them will marry her someday.” He stopped, looking stricken. “Well … it’s still possible we all might get married someday. The terrorists can’t keep this up with the new Federal police force pursuing them so aggressively. And my bother says he could be dead wrong about Yellowstone.”
Uh huh. Sure.
Also, damn. Poor Magdalene.
WTF, Y’all, WTF
I feel like I really need to return to that earlier bit, because Omar literally said “I can sure see why folks don’t like Jews” and no one says a word to the contrary. This book is such a perfect example of how American Christians can be anti-semitic as all get-out and still think they’re pro-Jewish people because they support the nation of Israel. It’s absolutely disgusting, but it is usually at least slightly more covert than it is here. Here, Debi is saying the quiet part out loud.
JFC, this book is so anti-semitic.
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