Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Skewed Slightly to the Left - Tsion's Conversion

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 2) and The Slacktiverse on June 9th 2011.]
[Part of a larger idea I haven't really explored in which Left Behind's story is largely unchanged, it's just that the characters aren't jerks.]

The broadcast was minutes away now and, though he tried to keep his mind focused on the task at hand, he couldn't help but be flooded with memories of how he had come to be here. He and his team were given the odd, and oddly open ended, task of looking at the holy books to study the Messiah. Years spent reaching many fascinating conclusions that would bore anyone outside of academia. Then a catastrophe that seemed strangely familiar, followed by the inexplicable publicity surrounding his conclusions when the world should be in mourning.

And then when things started making sense. Suggestions. Hints, ominous phone calls. Sinister winks and nudges and the sickening realization that every member of his team had been threatened. At the same time the shock finally receded enough for him to recognize the disaster for what it was, someone unmistakable walked into his life and his bizarre project began to make sense.

It had never been about study. It had never been about religion. It had been about Nicolae. Somehow Nicolae had arranged for the project in the first place and now Nicolae would do anything to get the result he wanted. It wasn't just Tsion who would be in danger if he didn't name Nicolae the Messiah. It was his family and the family of everyone on his team.

What should have been a paper quietly published in an journal most would never read was now the most publicized speech on earth. What should have been in Hebrew was now in English, a language Tsion had never cared for. What should have been a presentation of a few beautiful new theories about relatively minor points of religious trivia was now an attempt to change the views of the world on the flimsiest of arguments.

He had no illusions. What he was about to say would destroy any credibility he had ever had. It violated everything he believed in as a scholar and meant the end of his integrity. But he had no choice. Anyone credibly threatening his family would cause him to reevaluate his ethics, but Nicolae wasn't just anyone. Tsion was a religious scholar and he wasn't in the habit of wearing blinders. He was familiar with many beliefs other than his own which meant that he knew what had happened and so he knew what Nicolae had to be. That put things into a perspective all their own:

The Antichrist had threatened his family. There was only one thing he could do.


Rayford found Tsion engaging. He didn't recognize most of the names Tsion cited but everything Tsion said seemed convincing and he was sure that, wherever Tsion was going, the man was onto something.


Cameron had listened to enough speeches in his time to recognize bullshit when he heard it. What struck him was not that the speech was bullshit, but the quality of the bullshit. It wasn't ordinary bullshit, it was grade-A high quality package it up and sell it as fertilizer bullshit. Clearly Tsion had missed his calling, the man should have been a politician.

The tone, pace and volume of his voice all flowed perfectly with his narrative. If he'd been speaking nonsense words Cameron was convinced the audience would still be left with a deep sense of meaning. They would still feel the rising and falling tension. The cadence was incredible. At times Tsion's voice fell into an almost incantatory poetic rhythm, the fact that it seemed effortless convinced Cameron that it had taken a lot of hard work to prepare.

And Tsion knew exactly how to use his words. A lesser speaker would have simply said that the Dead Sea scrolls said X, Y, and Z, but Tsion knew better. He told the story of their discovery so that you could practically see the cave around you and feel the parchment in your hands. You sensed the sand and dust and the significance of that moment in history, and the listener was so caught up in the experience that he or she would never to stop to ask whether the Dead Sea scrolls really said those things, or if they did say them whether they really meant what Tsion said they meant, or even if any of that was actually relevant to the matter at hand.

And before you could get your bearings Tsion was off again, telling about some other part of the history his scholarship built on. Most of the people listening would never look up the names he mentioned, they'd never check the texts for themselves, and they probably wouldn't realize how much of what Tsion said they had absorbed. They'd just assume that what he said was the way things were, and that everyone knows it. Even if they disagreed with his final conclusion, his lead up would predispose them to persuasion later on.


Rayford glanced at his watch and realized that he'd been so caught up in the speech he'd completely lost track of time. He excused himself to land the plane.


Tsion had tried to leave enough wiggle room that a listener could draw the wrong conclusion, but the moment had come, and reminded himself why he was doing this. He took a deep breath and announced to the world, "Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah."


Chaim was surprised, his friend had picked a very strange time to convert to Christianity. If he had done it quietly, privately, that would be one thing. But this?

He looked at Nicolae.

Nicolae didn't seem to respond at all. He seemed to be perfectly still. Unnaturally still. Then Nicolae reached into his pocket, slid out his phone, tapped out a text message, and slid the phone back into his pocket.


Most of Tsion's team had already gone into hiding, there was a reason that he was the only member who had come to the studio. If all had gone according to plan, his family was waiting for him at a prearranged location.

The Antichrist had threatened him, threatened his team, threatened his family, and he wasn't going to let the bastard get away with it. Jesus was not what Tsion had expected in a Messiah, he hadn't don't what Tsion thought a Messiah should, or even must, do. But the Rapture had been unmistakable. Even that wasn't enough to make Tsion convert, it had simply left him in a state of shock.

Of all of the people in the world, how could
those have been the ones to stumble across the truth. If he had been told he had to convert to Christianity, he would have chosen another sect, perhaps even any other sect, than the ones who actually got it right.

But Nicolae converted him. Nicolae had thought to use his family as a tool, a bargaining chip to be laid on the table, and now Tsion would do whatever he could to oppose them. If that meant recruiting for Christianity, that's exactly what Tsion would do.

There was one last thing he wanted to say. "While I obviously haven't had as much time to study it, I believe that the recent cataclysm has also been prophesied, and there is more: the Antichrist-"


All of the lights in the building went out. Cameron heard Tsion say something in what he assumed was Hebrew. He asked, "What did he say?" to the darkness.

Someone to his left said, "He said, 'Crap.' More or less." The emergency floodlights kicked in and someone near the door said that the TV Studio was the only building to have lost power.

Tsion said something loudly and quickly, in Hebrew. A woman, he thought she was a sound technician, translated for Cameron, "Nicolae Carpathia is the Antichrist." Before Cameron could ask what word or phrase she had translated as "Antichrist", Tsion then added that he didn't recommend anyone tell Carpathia's people that they believed that as he rushed toward an emergency exit. Cameron ran to follow.


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