Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Divided Loyalties

Divided Loyalties, by L.K. Malone (published in 2001), is a novel of suspence, espionage, and romance. It concerns a terrorist organization that appears to be Muslim but in reality is made up of radical Jews (mostly Israelis) who are posing as Muslims.

The two main characters in the book are Giselle Hardy and Raz Chayil; Giselle is a nominal Catholic and Raz is a Jew born in America to Israeli parents. Is Raz a spy, a double agent, or something even more sinister? I won't give that away. But I will tell you that by the end of the novel, Giselle becomes a born again Christian. Raz appears open to Christianity but it is unclear if he has made any decision in this regard.

Early in the book, the Navy chaplain (and evangelical Christian) Samuel Gilchrist tries to explain Jews to Giselle: "Jewish people aren't so very different from anyone else." Giselle responds: "But Jewish people believe differently than Christians do, don't they? I mean they don't believe in Jesus -- not as the Son of God, anyway.... Does that mean they go to hell when they die? Or that they think that we go to hell?"

Wandering Jude notes: It's kind of strange that Giselle, a Roman Catholic, would go to Chaplain Gilchrist, a Protestant clergyman, for spiritual advice. After all, there are generally plenty of Catholic military chaplains around. But it does serve a useful plot device; it sets the scene for Gilchrist to become the hero of the book. He seems like a moderate at first ("Jews are basically the same as everyone else"), but later his fundamentalist tendencies come through. As the reader will discover.

Giselle continues to learn about the Jews from Gilchrist, who appears to be something of an expert on these things (he says with tongue firmly planted in cheek):""But doesn't God love the Jews too?" Giselle asked. "Didn't he give them their religion too?" Samuel's heart ached; he wanted so much to see the light dawn in her eyes. "Yes, Giselle, of course he loves them too. In fact, Jesus came to the Jewish people first, and he perfectly fulfilled the law that God gave them through his sinless life, his sacrificial death, and his victory over the grave through resurrection. The first people who believed in Jesus were all Jewish, did you know that? Did you know that Peter, the man the Catholic church names as the first pope, was Jewish? Most of the New Testament was written by Jewish followers of Jesus. These men did not reject their Jewishness. In fact, the book of Acts shows that they continued to worship in the synagogues and in the temple, that they were zealous for their Torah, viewing Jesus as the completion of their faith." She stared at him. "Then why don't the Jewish people believe in him today?" "There are a lot of things that come into it, Giselle. For many centuries, Gentiles who called themselves Christians attacked and persecuted the Jewish people. A lot of Jewish people died horrible deaths with a cross being the last thing they saw. Jewish people look at that history and believe that the New Testament must teach hatred for the Jew, and that the Christian Lord Jesus could not have been their Messiah." "I don't blame them," she remarked."

So far, so good. Gilchrist seems like a fair-minded guy, with respect for all people and religions. He seems to know his Jewish history too. But wait! Gilchrist also knows that Giselle is the daughter of a high ranking admiral, and he must be discreet and move slowly if he is to win her over to his way of thinking.

Giselle asks: "Would God send a righteous Jew to hell just because he was taught all his life not to believe in Jesus?"

Gilchrist never directly answers this question, curiously enough.

"You're saying that I should try to convert him?" Samuel shook his head. "God is the one who changes people, Giselle. It's not your responsibility. I'm just saying that you might find this friendship gives you an opportunity to share Jesus with your Jewish friend."

Wandering Jude wants to point out that this is an essential doctrine of the Calvinist strain of Christianity: People don't convert people; God converts people. So just wait for the "opportunity" to share Christ with your friends, and God will do the rest.

Giselle asks Raz: "Do you really thank God every morning that you weren't born a woman?"

Now why would Giselle think that Raz, not an observant Jew in the least, would say this daily prayer that only hard core Orthodox Jews pray? Or perhaps it's just a subtle way for the author to diss Judaism? Nah! Couldn't be....

Admiral Hardy says to Raz: ""You're Jewish yourself, aren't you?" "I am." Offcially, anyway. In truth, he wasn't particularly religious. It was hard to believe in a God who could allow his people to suffer so much."

We hear you, man.

""You're Jewish, then," Mrs. Hardy deduced, frowning. "Our family is Catholic, you know." ... [Raz answers]: "I'm aware of that, Mrs. Hardy. Giselle and I have discussed the issue, and frankly, we don't think it's a problem." ... "What about your family?" Dolores asked. "how will they feel about your involvement with a Christian girl?" "I'm sure some of them will be unhappy," Raz admitted. "But my mother and brother won't object, and they're the ones who matter." "you won't expect our daughter to convert if things get serious?" He shook his head. "Nor would I be willing to convert, in case you were wondering. I can tell you what my ancestors were doing four thousand years ago, Mrs. Hardy. I've always been proud of my heritage. I won't turn my back on it.""

Way to go, Raz! You the man!

Near the end of the book, Giselle and Raz get married in a "non-denominational Christian ceremony."

Um, Raz! What happened to your Jewish backbone? Doesn't a Christian ceremony imply.....?? Oh, never mind!

Their first argument as a married couple is over Giselle putting up a crucifix in their apartment. ""If you can put up your mezuzah, why can't I put up my crucifix?" ... "the mezuzah isn't incompatible with your faith," he retorted, his voice tight with anger. "It isn't the last thing your ancestors saw before their throats were cut by Crusaders." She stared at him. What was wrong with him? He was usually very open-minded about her religion. He'd even attended Mass with her last Sunday."

Another character (Mared) says to Giselle: "Jerusalem is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. They both lay claim to the same block of land. The religious Jews dream of a day when they can rebuild their temple. The Muslims riot every time they try. How are they going to coexist peacefully?" "But why should it be so hard? Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, don't they?" she protested. "Do they?" he asked. "Take a look in the Qur'an sometime. You'll find that Allah bears little resemblance to the biblical God." "Isn't it possible that God manifests himself in different ways to different people? Isn't it possible that he wants us all to live in peace, despite our differences?"

Wandering Jude answers this question with a resounding "Yes!", but unfortunately that's not the author's intent nor the point of the book. But WJ is glad that someone asked the question, anyway. [It does sound a bit like Rodney King, doesn't it? Can't we all just get along? I like that guy, despite his many brushes with the law. There's something ... sympathetic about him. Or maybe just pathetic. But I digress....]

Raz comes close to the gates of Christianity by reading the messianic prophecies that Chaplain Gilchrist had given to Giselle. After reading through these for only a relatively short time, he prays: "Jesus, I don't know if you're who Giselle thinks you are. But if you are, I'll pray to you, too."

And thus ends our little tale of Jew meets nominal Christian and both become evangelical believers, or at least one does and the other comes close.

Wandering Jude ends with these thoughts:
(1) An evangelist who seems moderate, thoughtful, and open minded is still an evangelist. S/he is still trying to change your religion. For better or for worse, that's what an evangelist does.
(2) For their families, is it worse for a nominal Catholic to become a committed Protestant or for a secular Jew to become a Christian? One might argue that at least they are living "spiritual" lives now. So there is a positive side to it, yes. But the negative part is, at least from a Jewish perspective, that their kids may or may not identify as Jews, and their grandkids most certainly will not identify as Jews. Say goodbye to Jewish continuity.
(3) There has been a lot of news lately about evangelical Christians evangelizing too much in the military. Free speech versus the rights of the minority not to be harassed or proselytized. This book sort of deals with those issues, in a roundabout kind of way. But in the end, free speech wins out. And Jews get proselytized. And so it goes.

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