Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Retribution, the third installment in Randall Ingermanson's time travel trilogy, finds Messianic Jew Rivka, along with her husband, regular Jew Ari, still stuck in 1st century Israel. Ari continues to be resentful toward Christianity:
"Ari reached into his belt and drew out the small olive-wood cross and felt the old familiar rage well up in his heart. "This is precisely the difference between Christians and the Jew down the long centuries. Each believes HaShem has called him to his way of life. The Jew respects the right of the Christian to follow after HaShem as he has heard. But the Christian does not respect the right of the Jew to follow after HaShem as he has heard. The Jew allows for the possibility that the Christian may be a true follower of HaShem. The Christian insists that both cannot be right, and shoves his cross down the throat of the Jew." Ari slammed the little cross on the stone table in front of Rivka. "Yes, Rivka? This makes sense to you?" Rivka picked up the small cross and clutched it to her heart. "Ari, Yeshua sacrificed his life for you. Doesn't that mean anything to you?" "And what if I do not accept this sacrifice?" Ari glowered at her. "Moshe did not accept this sacrifice. King David did not. The prophet Eliyahu did not. Will they burn in hell for this failure? If not, then why would HaShem send me to hell for following him in the same way as these righteous men?"
In this interaction between Ari and Rivka, Ingermanson has aptly described the great divide between evangelical Christianity and Judaism. Jews long for pluralism and tolerance. Evangelicals seek salvation for all and only see one path. With apologies to Rodney King, can't we all just get along?
But later in the book, Ari finally sees the light:
"The cross. For all Ari's life, the cross had been a sign of rage. Christian rage against all Jews, Christ-killers, Jewish rage against all Christians, Jew-killers. The cross was the blood curse and the blood curse was the cross. The cross was retribution. But no more. Ari could never again see the cross as a curse. The cross was Baruch, giving himself freely for his friend, dying in despair because his sacrifice was refused, changing the hearts of all who saw, ascending in glory to the World to Come. The cross was life, not death. A blessing, not a curse. Victory, not defeat. Reconciliation, not retribution." "Deep shame welled up in [Ari's] heart. "Rivkaleh, I too have focused my rage on one man -- a good man who never caused the blood curse. I was wrong to blame him." Rivka's eyes sparkled. "You mean..." "I will think on the matter." Rivka threw her arms around him and wept."
To his credit, Ingermanson does not end the book (and the series) with an explicit conversion to Christianity. He leaves just enough ambiguity to allow readers of all faiths to be satisfied. Christians will be happy that Ari no longer denigrates faith in Christ and no longer hates Jesus. Jews will breathe a sigh of relief that Ari, though apparently now open to believing the Christian message, at least has not taken the plunge of full blown adherence to Christian doctrine. Of course, it's implied that he will believe in Christ someday, but that's left to the reader's imagination. And this is a Christian novel, so it would probably be unfair to require Ari to completely reject Jesus. Nevertheless, unlike many conversionary works of fiction, this one ends without an explicit conversion, which is satisfying on a literary level as well as a spiritual one.