Originally posted December 18, 2009.
You can read this entire series, for free, via the convenient Left Behind Index. The ebook collection The Anti-Christ Handbook: Volume 1, is available on Amazon for just $2.99. Right now, somewhere, David Barton is lying. Volume 2 of The Anti-Christ Handbook, completing all the posts on the first Left Behind book, is also now available. Volume 3 is coming soon(ish).
Tribulation Force, pp. 126-128
Nicolae Carpathia abruptly remembers that the Event was just three weeks ago and may have some lingering effects, what with a third of the world’s population getting disintegrated, hundreds of thousands of people dying in the aftermath, and that whole no children anywhere anymore thing:
“Millions have vanished. People are scared. They are tired of war, tired of bloodshed, tired of chaos. They need to know that peace is within our grasp. The response to my plan to disarm the world has been met with almost unanimous favor.”
Again with the “millions.” LaHaye and Jenkins really never have thought through the implications of their decision to include prepubescent children in their Rapture. They think of this event as affecting only the righteous remnant of real, true Christians and like to make a point of the distinction between RTCs and those other, fake Christians by stressing that only “millions” will disappear in the Rapture — not all or even most of the world’s 2.1 billion people who call themselves Christians.
But by estimating the number of the disappeared as merely in the “millions,” L&J fail to account for the sheer size of the under-12 demographic, which kicks the number of Raptured way past the 1 billion mark even before a single adult RTC is counted. I realize Jenkins didn’t have Google to make this easy for him back in 1996 when this book was written, but this still would’ve been relatively easy to look up if he’d had the slightest bit of curiosity or imagination about what a world without children might entail.
But Nicolae’s underestimation of the scope of the disappearances may be the least befuddled part of his description above. Mass death, chaos, instantaneous childlessness and the staggering fear that this inexplicable horror might, at any moment, be repeated wouldn’t seem likely to produce the global Kumbaya singalong he describes. Rather than being met with “almost unanimous favor,” his plan for global disarmament would likely go unheard over the din of looting and pillaging — on both the personal and national levels — as the terrified and traumatized masses began stockpiling and randomly firing off ammunition.
Buck Williams reminds Nicolae that he has forgotten about one group — a group that apparently Buck finds particularly formidable and heroic:
“The response to my plan to disarm the world has been met with almost unanimous favor.”
“Not by the American militia movement.”
This is an odd and back-handed tribute. L&J seem to be cheering the militia movement for courageously opposing the Antichrist. On the other hand, the authors also seem to be suggesting that the militias will be undiminished post-Rapture, meaning the self-proclaimed Christian faith espoused by their members is not genuine — that the militias are not real, true Christians.
This shout-out to the militias also occurs in the context of Buck challenging Nicolae over the Antichrist’s plan to seize control of “the great newspapers of the world, the television networks, the wire services.” Buck seems to be suggesting that the militias, already angry over Nicolae’s disarmament scheme, will surely rise up in response to his threat to the independence and integrity of The New York Times. (“Lock and load, men, The Gray Lady is under attack!”)
But more bizarre than this invocation of a heroic militia movement is the assumption — shared by Buck, Nicolae and the authors — that only the American militia movement would fail to enthusiastically embrace Nicolae’s global agenda of One World Government, One World Religion, One World Media (Medium?) and One World Language.
As we noted last week, Tribulation Force presents a post-Rapture world in which there also don’t seem to be any Muslims or Hindus. This world reflects the authors’ binary view: Christ or Antichrist. Everybody who isn’t an RTC is lumped together in the second category and we’re all presumed to agree with one another.
We’ve touched on several of the ways that Tim LaHaye’s premillennial dispensationalism has a disastrous and lethal influence to the extent that it helps to shape American foreign policy: the unqualified support for the most radically belligerent and expansionist fringe of Israeli politics, the fearful distrust of anyone who utters the word “peace,” the belief that an Armageddon scenario must be a good thing, etc. But over the past decade, this aspect of PMD belief — the binary division between RTCs and Everyone Else, and the stubborn refusal to acknowledge any possible significance to the differences those Others claim — has probably been the most influential and the most damaging. (Like, say, invading Iraq without knowing any more about the country’s religious factions other than that they all worship NotJesus.)
Nicolae explains that he has “the purest of motives” and isn’t trying to monopolize the newspaper market for the money. “I do not need money,” he says, “I have a sea of money.”
That’s lucky for him, because getting into the newspaper business, well …
Buck’s response to that “sea of money” comment is to ask, “The U.N. is that flush?” Because Buck, like the authors, has no idea how much money the U.N. has, or what its expenses are or what they’re actually for.
This is one of the stranger aspects of Tim LaHaye’s brand of conspiracy theory. The man is obsessed with the United Nations. He’s convinced it is the framework onto which will be built the eventual One World Government he has feared ever since his days with the John Birch Society 60 years ago.
But despite his obsession with the U.N. — despite all the hours he spends talking about it, warning against it and denouncing it — LaHaye has almost no idea what it actually is or how it works. He doesn’t ever seem to have read so much as an encyclopedia entry or a Sunday-paper feature about the actual thing itself. His attitude toward it is a very odd combination of obsessed with and uninterested in.
Anyway, Nicolae’s “sea of money” turns out to be an inheritance:
“Buck, let me tell you something that few others know, and because I trust you, I know that you will keep my confidence. Jonathan Stonagal named me the sole beneficiary of his estate.”
Buck could not hide his surprise. That Carpathia might be named in the multibillionaire’s will would have shocked no one, but sole beneficiary? That meant Carpathia now owned the major banks and financial institutions of the world.
OK, everything we just said about LaHaye the John Bircher with regard to the U.N. can be applied even more to his ideas about banking. It’s that same odd combination of obsessed and complacently ignorant. He believes, adamantly, in a conspiracy uniting all of the international bankers, but he doesn’t seem to have given any thought to wondering what it is they might all be up to.
“But, but, his family … ,” Buck managed.
“I have already settled out of court with them. They pledge to keep silence and never again contest the will, and they get $100 million dollars each.”
“That would silence me,” Buck said.
What wouldn’t silence Buck? Nicolae has just now given him yet another huge scoop on a massive story about the sudden convergence of political, media and financial power and he knows that Buck will never report it. “I know you will keep my confidence,” he said, and Buck didn’t disagree. His main gift as a journalist seems to be preserving the secrets of the powerful.
The would-be heirs of a multibillionaire, on the other hand, likely wouldn’t sell their silence at quite such a discount. Assuming they’re not aware the world is going to end in 83 months, Stonagal’s heirs would be settling in for a decades-long legal battle. The very fact that Nicolae felt he needed to pay them off suggests his claim isn’t legitimate, but even if it seemed wholly true, they’d likely turn down his $100 million offer for the same reason that the heirs of a multi-millionaire would be unlikely to relinquish their claims for a $100,000 payoff.
That Stonagal’s children accepted such an offer suggests something about the size of his fortune, hinting that he was a “multibillionaire” as in being worth $2 or $3 billion and not as in being worth $200 or $300 billion. Which means Stoney isn’t leaving Nicolae nearly enough money to serve the function the authors need it to — as the magical explanation for how the Antichrist is supposed to afford all the strange things he’s trying to do through the U.N., an organization with an overall budget only slightly larger than the New York City school system’s.
Compare Nicolae’s newly inherited fortune with that of Silvio Berlusconi, our most prominent real-world example of the billionaire-politician trying to monopolize the media. Berlusconi is worth about $6 billion and he still doesn’t yet own a significant minority of Italy’s media institutions. We’re supposed to believe that a similarly sized fortune will be sufficient to let the Nicolae purchase every newspaper, TV network and magazine in the world and still have enough money left over to, say, turn an archaeological site into a thriving capital city? He expects to do all this with a fortune roughly equivalent to that of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?
Nicolae explains his ambitious plans for spending his inheritance. Keep in mind that this is being presented as a nefarious evil scheme, even though it’s not so much the sort of speech one expects from a super-villain as it is the sort one would expect from the runner-up in the Miss Darlington County Pageant:
“What this tremendous resource gives me is the opportunity to achieve my lifelong dream. I want peace. I want global disarmament. I want the peoples of the world to live as one. The world should have seen itself as one village as soon as air travel and satellite communications brought us all together decades ago. But it took the vanishings — which may have been the best thing that ever happened to this planet — to finally bring us together. When I speak, I am heard and seen nearly all over the world.
“I am not interested in personal wealth,” Nicolae continued. “My history proves that. I know the value of money. I do not mind using it as a form of persuasion, if it is what motivates a person. But all I care about is mankind.” Buck was sick to his stomach, and his mind was flooded with images. Carpathia staged Stonagal’s “suicide” and manufactured more witnesses than any court would ever need. Now was the man trying to impress him with his altruism, his largesse?
Nicolae’s vapid, cheesy speech is apparently meant to be an expression of “altruism,” which the authors say may sound nice, but is really — like peacemaking — evil. And anyway, Nicolae is being duplicitous and doesn’t really mean it. The reader suspects — I’ve been over this several times and I keep getting lost, so I can’t be sure — that there’s at least one logical double-negative at work there.
For anyone who has ever read any book not bearing the Tyndale House imprint, it’s hard not to encounter this passage without once again being frustrated by what might have been with this character. What if he really meant all of that bomfoggery? What if Nicolae really was just what he claimed to be in this speech — a supremely naive idealist so confident in his own virtue that he believes he will be able to wield absolute power without being corrupted by it?
What we would have then would be the stuff of tragedy — supreme hubris followed by a spectacular fall. This would have made Nicolae Carpathia into an actual character instead of a cardboard, capricious, Michael Myers-like figure inscrutably devoted to the pursuit of suffering, misery and evil for its own sake. And that in turn would have gone some way toward correcting one of this series’ gaping flaws — that it attempts to portray a cosmic clash between Good and Evil without being interested, even slightly, in what Good and Evil are, in what makes Good good or in what makes Evil evil.
Anyway, perhaps you’ve already spotted the larger problem with Nicolae’s “sole owner of the great newspapers of the world, the television networks …” plan. It seems in direct conflict another of his grand schemes — his plan to establish One World Language. (The details of that plan haven’t been mentioned, but I assume the authors are assuming that language will be English, with a midwestern American accent.)
So Nicolae’s global media empire is going to have to publish and broadcast exclusively in the official OWL of the OWG. Any propagandist or campaign manager, salesman or competent missionary can tell you that won’t work. People won’t be receptive to a message they can’t understand. If you want to reach people, to persuade, convince or convert them — or even to command them — then you’re going to want to speak to them in their native language.
Nicolae is going to have to choose one or the other. He can either establish a media empire through which he can control the world, or he can spend the next seven years trying to teach everyone to speak English. He won’t be able to do both.