Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Joel C. Rosenberg's The Twelfth Imam
Joel C. Rosenberg is an Evangelical Christian author who is a former research assistant for Rush Limbaugh and is the head of the Joshua Fund which promotes Evangelical support of Israel. Rosenberg came to prominence as an author when he predicted in one of his novels that Middle Eastern terrorists would use airplanes to attack the United States.
As you probably know, there are two denominations in Islam, Sunni and Shia. Like Protestants and Catholics, Sunnis and Shias have significant theological differences. The majority of the Muslim world is Sunni. Iran is Shia. The Twelfth Imam is about the efforts of Iran to build nuclear warheads and the Shia belief in the return of the Mahdi or Twelfth Imam, who, according to Shia eschatology, will establish Islamic supremacy over the entire world. The main character, David Shirazi, is an American of Iranian descent who is a C.I.A. agent posing as a German telecommunications executive in order to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program.
I wanted to like The Twelfth Imam but author Rosenberg kept doing things to irritate me. As a current affairs briefing, The Twelfth Imam is both interesting and frightening. As a spy novel it’s an entertaining read but nothing special. As a “Christian novel,” The Twelfth Imam exhibits all of the worst aspects of the genre.
I didn’t mind that the Islamic messiah who appears in the book is an agent of Satan and probably the anti-Christ who does all kinds of miraculous things and is a mysterious supernatural figure. I also didn’t mind that Jesus shows up as a character in the novel and makes miraculous appearances to people. I did mind the mindless Evangelical Protestant depiction of Christ.
First of all, in line with Evangelical Protestant theology, all that’s necessary to be a Christian is to believe in the divinity of Christ and start reading the Bible. I found it highly implausible that Christ appears to people who don’t have a Bible and immediately begins demanding that they look up Bible verses.
This book suffers from the much made fun of tendency of “Christian novels” to become a Bible study. Do real people who are in mortal danger sit around and spontaneously begin having a Bible study like Rosenberg’s characters do?
Furthermore, although I am a Christian who believes in conversion and the power of prayer, I find it highly implausible that people who five minutes before were devout Muslims would spontaneously totally abandon all of their previous beliefs, “get saved” like they went forward in a Baptist tent meeting, condemn the Koran as the work of the Devil, and immediately become American style Evangelical Protestants. I also don’t like the implication all through the novel that those who are devout in their religion and believe what they have been taught will die and go straight to Hell because they haven’t “accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior” in the Fundamentalist Protestant fashion. Of course we know that it ain’t just the Muslims who are going to Hell, all of them Catholics, Orthodox and Liberal Protestants are going Hell too for the same reason because none of them are real “Christians.”
Rosenberg should be applauded for his painless briefing on Shia Islamic theology which drives the Islamic Republic of Iran. I suspect that Rosenberg’s depiction of American officials as clueless with regard to the deep religious motivations of Iran’s leadership is largely true. The prospects of a nuclear Iran are truly frightening. As a current affairs briefing, the book is good. As a spy novel, it could have been much better. The book ends with the major plot issues unresolved so that we will all be ready to pluck down another twenty bucks when the next installment is published. As I previously said, as a preachy “Christian novel” which seeks to evangelize, The Twelfth Imam is not entirely awful but is so bad that I almost laughed at it as a parody of the genre.
All in all, on a scale of one to five, The Eclectic Reader gives The Twelfth Imam two and a half Bibles.