Friday, September 26, 2008

The Unlikely Allies

In 2005, Gilbert Morris wrote another "love story" with Jews and evangelical Christians as protagonists. The Unlikely Allies, published by Bethany House, includes events from 1938-1940 amidst the Nazi invasion of Norway.

Rachel Mindel is the primary character, a young Jewish woman from Czechoslovakia, and the plot has her falling in love with a German soldier who she meets in Paris. At one point says to him, "My parents will be surprised when I bring home a goy." The author must want his readers to know that prejudice is an equal opportunity employer, because the soldier, Derek Gruber, has a somewhat negative reaction from his father when he tells him about his new girlfriend (but we don't hear any pejorative language equivalent to goy).

Derek is heartbroken when Rachel is sent away (along with her parents) to a concentration camp. Meanwhile, the main character of the book, Mallory Winslow, is serving as a missionary to the Lapps of Norway (but also secretly working with the Resistance). She takes into her house Abraham and Leah Goldstein, along with their children Thora and Abigail, and tries to sneak them into Sweden, where they will be safe from the Nazis. At night Mallory reads Bible stories (from the Old Testament) to the girls. Abraham says to her one night, "I've been waiting for you to tell our girls stories about Jesus. I know you are a Christian missionary." "[Mallory answers] "I've wanted to, but it wouldn't be right. It would be taking advantage."

WJ: Yes, it would.

Abraham says that "I can't reconcile the love that I see in people like you and so many of the Norwegians and the hatred I see in some others. So many of you are risking your lives, but there are others who are killing our people by the thousands, and yet they call themselves Christians. Carefully, Mallory said, "Not everyone who calls himself a Christian is actually a follower of Jesus."

Wandering Jude comments: Again we have the standard response to what we might call "the Crusades argument." The argument is that Christianity must not be true because so many "Christians" have persecuted Jews. The response to this argument, which Mallory efficiently articulates in 13 words, is that a Christian is not always a Christian. Which is true, sort of. But it's also false. WJ would say that a Christian is always a Christian, but a Christian is not always a good Christian. Nevertheless, Christianity cannot disinherit its bad Christians, just as Judaism cannot disavow its bad Jews. There may be something deep in the bowels of the Christian religion that sometimes leads Christians to become bad Christians. Ya think? (Like, maybe, "blood on your hands," "crucify him!" "synagogue of Satan," "den of thieves," hypocritical Pharisees, and other parts of the New Testament that seem anti-Jewish today, regardless of what the original intent was).

"Goldstein stared at her. "Tell me how you feel about Jesus." She was uneasy about coming on too strong about her faith in Christ, for this man was a devout Jew, but she knew the time had come for her to share her faith with him." [She quotes Isaiah chapter fifty-three to him, a standard missionary practice.] Abraham responds that Judaism teaches that there will be two Messiahs, one a suffering servant and one a conquering hero.

Wandering Jude wearies of all these debates about how many Messiahs, who is the Messiah, where is the Messiah, why the Messiah, etc.. WJ refers the gentle reader to
Robert Levine's book on the topic. And let's leave it at that.

Our erstwhile German soldier, Derek, catches Mallory and others trying to help the Goldsteins escape to Sweden. In a very un-Nazi-like manner (he's one of the heroes of the book, after all!) he allows them to go free. Later, he meets a woman who knew Rachel Mindel in Dachau, and this woman shares how she led Rachel to Christ in the camp. She states, "God was with me throughout the years at Dachau. He set me free. But while I was there, I was able to share Christ with Rachel. She accepted Jesus as her Messiah and knew such joy!" The woman gives Derek a letter to him from Rachel, which states: "I have only loved one man, and that is you, my dear Derek. And now I go to meet God, and I treasure the time we had. God bless you, my dear. Serve Jesus and love Him."
Wandering Jude points out that not only is this sequence of events offensive to most Jews, but also that it's extremely unlikely. In this case, fiction is stranger than fact. There is only one thing worse to us Jews than the depiction of a deathbed conversion to Christianity, and that is a deathbed conversion in a Nazi concentration camp.
Later, Derek is given orders to arrest Mallory, because the Nazis have learned that her father was Jewish. All of these events converge to lead Derek to become a true believer in Jesus. Later, Mallory says to Derek (speaking of Rachel), "I'm glad she came to know Jesus, Derek. That should be a comfort to you. You can be sure she's in heaven now."

Wandering Jude wants to make a few final comments:

(1) Mallory Winslow in the daughter of American missionaries and ostensibly has an American passport. And the Nazis didn't generally arrest American Jews and do bad things to them, for a variety of reasons. So it really doesn't make any sense for the Nazis to arrest Mallory because her father was Jewish. But WJ supposes that it could happen....

(2) Derek becomes a "true believer." OK, nothing wrong with that, I guess. Anything that turns him away from the Third Reich is OK by me. (But it's unfortunate that Derek gives up his "racial" intolerance for a mild form of religious intolerance).

(3) Rachel is dead, but it is somehow a comfort to Derek and Mallory that she is "in heaven now." Again, evangelicalism promotes its attraction to "otherworldliness" and its distance from the importance of life here on earth; the sweet by and by versus the here and now. But how do they know for sure that there's a heaven up there, and that it is ruled by the God of the evangelicals? Doesn't seem likely to Wandering Jude.

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