L.B.: When the pawn …

L.B.: When the pawn … November 10, 2006

Left Behind, pp. 231-233

Buck Williams is traveling incognito, under a pseudonym, desperately trying to keep one step ahead of the seemingly all-powerful international conspiracy that he knows has already taken control of the British government. So we find him on page 231, sitting out in the open at a busy airport, next to a newsstand full of papers that feature his picture, waiting for his closest friend and coworker to arrive for a ride back to town. His friend walks up, apparently catching him by surprise.

"Nice cap," Steve Plank said as he hurried into JFK and slapped Buck on the shoulder. "And what's this? Two day's growth?"

"I was never much for disguises," Buck said.

"You're not famous enough to need to hide," Steve said. "You staying away from your apartment for a while?"

"Yeah, and probably yours. You sure you weren't followed?"

"You're being a little paranoid, aren't you, Buck?"

"I have a right," Buck said as they climbed into a cab.

I have to say again that I'm rather disappointed in our conspirators. So far they're only 2-for-3 in assassination attempts, and they aren't even able to keep those out of the paper despite the world's population having just been reduced by a third. And now we've got Buck lighting up the switchboards with phonecalls to family and friends and taking fewer precautions than your average celebrity does to avoid the paparazzi, and the conspiracy still can't manage to kill this guy. How are we supposed to believe this same cabal of incompetents is capable of arranging a single world government and currency?

Buck and Steve get out at Central Park and Buck tells "the entire story" of the little he's pieced together regarding the conspiracy. Both characters, like the authors, have little patience for or interest in this subplot. At this point we're all (authors, characters, readers) wondering why any of us bothered with even this cursory exploration of Dirk and his Anglo-Jewish overlords. Tim LaHaye is a longtime member of the John Birch Society, and he seems to want to graft some of that mythology into this one, but they don't mesh well. They share some fantastical, paranoid qualities, but the details don't fit. In any case, in a few chapters we'll read of Carpathia's magical powers of mind control and how he uses these to take over the United Nations and the national media. With cool tricks like that, he doesn't really need the help of the Rothschildren or the Trilateral Commission, so we don't end up hearing much more about this conspiracy.

"What makes you think Carpathia is going to help?" Plank asked later as they walked through the park. "If the Yard and the exchange are behind this, and you think Carpathia is linked to Todd-Cothran and Stonagal, you might be asking Carpathia to turn against his own angels."

They strolled under a bridge to elude the hot spring sun. "I have a hunch about this guy," Buck said, his voice echoing off the cobblestone walls. "It wouldn't surprise me to discover that he met with Stonagal and Todd-Cothran in London the other day. But I have to believe he's a pawn."

To Buck, I guess, it makes sense to turn to the conspiracy's pawn for protection from them.

Buck and Steve seem relieved to set aside the topic of the conspiracy — the details, motives and goals of which are never made clear — and to turn to the topic they and the authors are eager to discuss: Nicolae Carpathia.

Steve Plank, it turns out, met the new Romanian president just that morning at a press conference:

"Carpathia's impressive," Steve conceded. "He's handsome as a young Robert Redford, and this morning he spoke in nine languages, so fluently you'd have thought each was his native tongue. …

"Here's a guy with substance, with a brain, with something to say. I mean, I saw him only in a press conference setting, but he seems to have a plan."

Some 118 pages ago, when Rayford Steele read about Carpathia's rise to power in the Obscure Foreign Election News section of the paper, he described him as "a strikingly handsome blond who looked not unlike a young Robert Redford."

This might work if LaHaye and Jenkins continued it as an example of Carpathia's mind control, everybody who meets him later describing him as "a young Robert Redford," like something from The Manchurian Candidate: "Raymond Shaw Nicolae Carpathia is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life. And he looks like a young Robert Redford."

Steve and Buck's complacent, incurious acceptance that Carpathia "seems to have a plan" could have served as another suspense-building, creepy hint of the soon-to-be-Antichrist's powers of mind control. "A plan to do what?" Buck might think to ask. And then we could see Steve vaguely troubled to realize that he couldn't recall any details about the plan, only an overwhelming sense that it was good, wise and inspiring, and that Carpathia deserved whatever cooperation or compliance he might need to carry it out.

But, alas, Steve and Buck are only complacent and incurious about Carpathia's plan because, well, they're complacent and incurious. And the repetition of the young-Robert-Redford description only indicates that Jenkins was too lazy to bother actually describing the character, and too lazy even to bother remembering what he wrote just a few chapters earlier.

Steve tells us that Carpathia is 33 years old, which I guess is supposed to be Meaningful, since this was the age Jesus Christ is believed to have been at the time of his crucifixion.

Making this also Carpathia's age seems to be an attempt by the authors to show a parallel between Christ and Antichrist, but the arithmetic is a bit off. The crucifixion was the culmination of Christ's years of public ministry, which began when he was 30. Carpathia is only just now embarking on his own public ministry, so if the authors are reaching for such a parallel, shouldn't he also be 30 and not 33? Then again, since the culmination of the Antichrist's public work is not until the end of the seven-year Tribulation, maybe Carpathia ought to be 26 years old at this point (33 minus 7). They could have gone with 36 years old as well (six sixes), or with 18 (6 + 6 + 6), or …

Oh, nevermind. Trying to make sense of PMD arithmetic and numerology is a waste of time.

Buck asks Steve to tell him which nine languages it is that Carpathia speaks:

"You want 'em in alphabetical order?"


"Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Romanian, Russian and Spanish."

"One more time," Buck said, thinking.

Steve repeated them. "What's on your mind?"

"This guy's the consummate politician."

"He is not. Trust me, this was no trick. He knew these languages well and used them effectively."

"But don't you see which languages they are, Steve? Think about it."

"Spare me the effort."

"The six languages of the United Nations, plus the three languages of his own country."

"No kidding?"

Steve is deeply impressed to learn this. Fluency in nine languages is impressive — to me, anyway, although I'm not sure why it would be to someone like Steve Plank. After all, since Steve was able, at the press conference, to identify each of the languages Carpathia spoke and to judge the accuracy of his use of them, then apparently Steve is able to speak all of these languages as well.

Buck concludes that anyone who can speak all "six languages of the United Nations" must be "the consummate politician." And he says "politician," not "diplomat," because this is a premillennial dispensationalist novel, and the PMDs do not think of the U.N. as a place of diplomacy, but rather as a place of World Government. They seem to think, even outside the fictional setting of their novels, that because the U.N. is a global entity, it must also have unfettered global jurisdiction — that it functions as a kind of international federation. They think of the U.N. as relating to each member country in the same way that the U.S. government in Washington relates to the governments of each of the 50 states.

It never occurs to Buck that, rather than being the consummate politician/diplomat, Carpathia could merely be the consummate polyglot. We have no evidence, after all, that these nine languages are the only ones he speaks. The guy could just be some kind of savant with a preternatural knack for languages.

Speaking others' languages is a useful diplomatic skill, a way of showing respect for others. But it seems unlikely that a single press conference would afford the opportunity to use nine separate languages in a natural and appropriate way without seeming like you were showing off. After the fourth or fifth time he slipped into yet another different language, it would seem less like a display of diplomatic respect for others' culture and more like a parlor trick.

The trick would get old. Rather than "the media … eating him up," as Steve Plank puts it, it would more likely backfire. "Get a load of Nicky Berlitz," I'd imagine reporters saying. "And what's with those Sundance Kid sideburns of his?"

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