TF: Operation Chaste Harmony

TF: Operation Chaste Harmony April 18, 2011

Tribulation Force, pp. 366-368

Rayford’s credentials gave him a seat near the front with the American dignitaries.

Here we are at the big treaty signing between Israel and the United Nations. If that makes sense to you — the idea that the U.N. would be the signatory to a treaty with a nation, rather than brokering a treaty between nations — then you’re just the sort of reader Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are looking for.

And in that case it might also make sense to you that the treaty signing would be conducted like a combination of a state dinner and a middle-school graduation, with prominent journalists and visiting heads of state from nonparty nations introduced individually with great pomp and ceremony for an audience of hundreds of cheering pilots and other dignitaries.

[Rayford] was one of the few people who knew that the witnesses at the Wailing Wall were right — that this was the celebration of an unholy alliance. He knew, but he felt helpless. No one could stem the tide of history.

Bruce Barnes had taught him that much.

Bruce’s sense of impotent fatalism in the face of relentless, inevitable prophecy helps to explain the strategy he had chosen for his no-resistance resistance squad: Dig a big hole and hide.

Rayford missed Bruce already. He had begun to enjoy the nightly meetings and all the insight he was gaining. And Bruce’s intuition was right. The Holy Land was the place to be right now.

I don’t understand why that would be true. I get the idea that the Holy Land is the center of the action, but what’s the point of being at the center of the action if you’re helpless to stem the tide of history? If you knew this stuff was going down and that there was absolutely nothing you could do about it, wouldn’t it make sense to get as far from the center of the action as you could possibly go?

That’s the sensible advice Jesus himself gives in the mini-apocalypse recorded in Matthew’s Gospel:

When you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place … then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat.

“Run for the hills,” he says. Literally. That seems like more a practical approach than, say, trying to get a job on the staff of the desolating sacrilege.

The Holy Land was the place to be right now. If this was where the first of 144,000 Jewish converts would come from, Bruce would want to be here.

According to what Bruce had taught Rayford and Chloe and Buck from the Scriptures, the converts would come from every part of the globe and would reap an incredible harvest — perhaps a billion souls. The 144,000 would be Jews, 12,000 from each of the original twelve tribes …

The image of “fields ripe unto harvest” is from the Bible, but somehow the Bible never makes it sound quite as creepy as it does here with this army of reapers. That collecting of souls sounds so acquisitive here — like they’re collecting scalps. Or like David’s dowry for Saul’s daughter.

This idea of 144,000 witnesses in the last days comes from the book of Revelation, but here again LaHaye disappoints by not sticking to the strictly literal portrayal he had promised us. He omits a couple of odd but significant details about that 144,000 — details that indicate, contradicting what we’ve been told here in Tribulation Force, that neither Moses nor Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah can be counted among that number.

Revelation tells us that these 144,000 will be virgins. Singing virgins:

Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins …

Here again the actual literal portrayal we were promised would be more interesting than what LaHaye and Jenkins actually provide. I have no idea what that passage from Revelation 14 is supposed to mean, and I have even less of an idea of how to go about telling a story that involves an army of singing virgins. (I’d probably be tempted to try something Dada — the largest flash mob in history performing a deafening rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” maybe.) But whatever it would look like, Operation Chaste Harmony ought to have been more interesting than the rather bland story of non-singing, non-virgin Jews for Jesus that we get in these books.

Rayford’s fatalistic reverie about his helplessness to stem the tide of history is interrupted by a strange flicker of optimism:

Despite all the mayhem and heartache to come, there would be many mighty victories, and Rayford looked forward to them.

“Mighty victories” I guess refers to the reapers’ harvest of “perhaps a billion souls.” That many new converts would make up about a fourth of the remaining population of the world. With those numbers it might actually become possible — even likely — to turn the tide of history. The whole “Mark of the Beast” economy can’t work if a fourth of the world opts out.

But then I suppose these new converts will be taught to believe like Buck and Rayford that nothing can or should be done to oppose God’s plans as carried out by his faithful servant Nicolae. A billion more fatalistic do-nothings wouldn’t actually make any difference to the reign of the Beast. (I mean, look around, we’ve got millions of Christians like that now …)

Rayford is also saddened by the thought of:

… the breaking up and dispersing of the Tribulation Force. Who knew where Buck would land if Carpathia really bought up all the media? If the relationship between Buck and Chloe blossomed, they might end up together somewhere far away.

It is sad to think that their great struggle had run its course. But after nearly a full month of occasional meetings the Tribulation Force’s great work of talking about considering plans for eventual resistance was coming to an end.

And suddenly it’s showtime. Music begins to play and the ceremony begins.

I should mention that we’re apparently in the Knesset — the assembly hall of Israel’s legislature in Jerusalem. About a dozen or so pages ago Jenkins said that this was where the treaty-signing ceremony would occur and he hasn’t said any different since then, but throughout the depiction of that ceremony he never actually says where it’s taking place or anything about Rayford’s surroundings.

I’ve added a picture of the Knesset here. That picture is worth a thousand words. Not that I expected Jenkins to provide a thousand-word description of the setting, but one or two words might have helped.

To polite applause, the dignitaries were announced — veteran members of the Knesset, ambassadors from around the world, American statesmen and former presidents, Israeli leaders.

I would guess that among those ambassadors would be the 10 whom Nicolae appointed in the last book to serve as his princes, each overseeing a tenth of his one world government. Rayford wouldn’t recognize them, of course, but Buck ought to and he doesn’t mention them either when Jenkins switches to his point of view. At this point the reader has to wonder if those 10 characters will ever appear again in our story.

Finally came the second tier, those who would stand behind the chairs. Buck was introduced as “Mr. Cameron ‘Buck’ Williams, former senior staff writer and current Midwest bureau writer for Global Weekly, of the United States of America.” Rayford smiled as Buck did at the lukewarm response. Obviously everybody wondered who he was and why he was considered a dignitary.

Buck is supposed to be a world-famous celebrity journalist who’s on a first-name basis with world leaders, so they shouldn’t be wondering who he is. More likely they’re just confused at the overblown pomp of this ceremony in which even journalists are announced by name as though they’d just won an Academy Award.

The loudest applause was reserved for the last five men: the chief rabbi of Israel, the Nobel Prize-winning botanist Chaim Rosenzweig of Israel, the prime minister of Israel, the president of the United States, and the secretary-general of the Global Community.

Israel actually has two chief rabbis. I didn’t know that until just now, but I looked it up. Granted, it’s much easier to research things like that now, in 2011, than it was back in pre-Google 1996 when Jenkins was typing this book. But still, after making gazillions on the first book was a tiny bit of research on the second too much to ask?

By the time Carpathia was announced and entered with his trademark shy confidence, the audience was standing. Rayford rose reluctantly and clapped without making a sound, his cap tucked under his arm. He found it difficult to reconcile the appearance of applauding the enemy of Christ.

To reconcile with what? That verb requires two objects. I’m not trying to be grammatically pedantic here, it’s just that the gospel of reconciliation is kind of an important, central concept in Christianity and the strangely partial grasp of that word here may point to something more fundamentally askew.

Anyway, here we are at what amounts to the inauguration of the Antichrist — the man the Tribulation Force was formed to oppose. Despite being a humble, four-person operation, they have managed to get two of their members into this ceremony. That’s excellent work.

Or it would be, if their presence here mattered. But Buck is present here as a participant — he’s actually taking part in the elevation of his supposed enemy. And Rayford’s opposition consists only of clapping quietly.

I’m reminded again of the surreal moment in G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday when the hero, an undercover policeman, has managed to infiltrate the secretive council of anarchists only to discover that every other member of that council is also an undercover policeman.

What if the 144,000 reapers did succeed in harvesting the entire world — converting every person on earth into a real, true Christian like Buck and Rayford? Would that change anything at all?

If anything, it would seem to make the Antichrist’s job that much easier. Every piece of his evil plan would be guaranteed to succeed as all opposition melted away into complacent acceptance. His desolating sacrilege would continue unimpeded, met at every step by enthusiastic, if strangely quiet, applause.

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