Counterfeit Miracles

Counterfeit Miracles
By Benjamin B. Warfield
Kindle edition, 2014, 336 pp.
Originally published in 1918

I’m a “cessationist” in regards to the apostolic “sign gifts” of the Holy Spirit (prophecies, foreign languages, healings and raising from the dead, etc.). The cessationist view holds that those sign gifts were granted to the apostles to signify their authority and were gradually removed as the early church was established. There are Christians who are “continuationists” who believe the gifts of prophecy, languages, and healing are granted today. This Pentecostal/charismatic movement traces its roots back to Charles Parham and William J. Seymour and such events as the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in the early-1900s. I realize many genuine believers are part of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, so I generally try to avoid debates on the topic, but I’ve been meaning to read this book for a couple of years and finally got around to it.

B.B. Warfield (1851-1921) was a notable theologian, a principal of Princeton Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) back when it was still orthodox, and also a cessationist. In this volume, Warfield examines some of the popular “miracle movements” that followed the apostolic era.

Warfield notes that by the time of Augustine (bishop of Hippo from 396 to 430), there were already claims throughout the church for extravagantly fanciful miracles that mimicked/adapted the outlandishness of pagan mythologies. The author labels these as “romantic” (i.e., quixotic, wild eyed – not sensible about practical matters; idealistic and unrealistic). The miracles recorded in the New Testament, which validated the authority of Jesus Christ and His apostles, were vastly different in nature than the fanciful tales being embraced by some of the early “church fathers.” Over the centuries, the Roman Catholic church would perpetuate and add to these miracle myths, which would be duly accepted by the credulous peasant faithful. Warfield focuses on the alleged miraculous cures at the Marian shrine at Lourdes, France as an example of this Roman credulity for the miraculous that was perpetuated despite the overall lack of verifiable evidence. Each year, five million pilgrims (pre-COVID-19) continue to make the trip to Lourdes, many hoping for a cure for their particular illness, only to return to their homes disappointed.

The author examines several other healing/miracle movements of his era that presaged or were contemporaneous with nascent Pentecostalism, including the Irvingites (see here), faith healing as propagated by Baptist minister, A.J. Gordon, who strongly influenced the founders of Pentecostalism (see here), the Emmanuel Movement (see here), and Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science movement (see here). What was common to all of these healing movements was that imperceivable illnesses were readily “cured,” while perceivable illnesses/diseases/deformities generally were not, which was always attributed to the supplicant’s “lack of faith.”

This book was very difficult to read (A) because of Warfield’s flowery, early-20th-Century prose, and (B) especially because the transcription of the printed text to ebook was extremely poor. I chose this Kindle version because of its cheap, 99-cent price tag, but I got what I paid for. I had to constantly guess at words because of the terribly bad mistranscription. But I’m glad I persevered. Warfield’s examination of Roman Catholicism’s adaptation of paganism’s “romantic” miraculous mythology is eye-opening. I would add that manifestations of miraculous phenomenon, e.g., healing, prophecy, speaking in ecstatic utterances, are also common among various non-Christian religions throughout the world today.

I appreciated this book for its examination of “miracle movements” prior to 20th century Pentecostalism, several of which I was unfamiliar with.

Dopesick

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America
By Beth Macy
Little, Brown and Company, 2018, 376 pp.

addiction: a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects.

dopesick: slang for opiate withdrawal symptoms.

There’s all kinds of addictions out there, including gambling, shopping, eating, exercise, pornography, hoarding/collecting, video gaming, and, yes, even blogging. But some addictions are downright deadly.

We’ve all heard about the dramatic rise of heroin addiction in the U.S. In this book, investigative journalist, Beth Macy, takes a look at heroin abuse from the perspective of a few small towns in the Appalachia region of Virginia and West Virginia.

As the coal mines shut down and the manufacturing jobs in the region were shipped overseas, the unemployed workers of Appalachia increasingly drowned their miseries in opioids, both street heroin and doctor-prescribed Oxycodone.

Macy gives a short history of the medical use of opioids as a painkiller and focuses on pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma’s development of OxyContin in 1995 into a goldmine as well as a nationwide abuse problem. Many people who were prescribed OxyContin for pain became addicted and subsequently “graduated” to street heroin.

Macy follows several heroin addicts from “fix” to criminal activity in order to sustain the habit, to court, to jail/rehab (repeat cycle). Several of the individuals either died from the heroin or were victims of violence experienced while living homeless on the streets. The author crusades throughout the book for MAT (medication-assisted treatment), the use of alternative drugs to help addicts break their addiction cycle, but the use of MAT is controversial.

This was a sad and depressing book to read. Substance abuse and addiction is a dastardly business. I’ve had some experience with friends and family members who were addicted to alcohol. I also had a niece who died eight years ago from a drug overdose at the age of thirty-three.

People need salvation in Jesus Christ and God’s power to overcome all kinds of addictions in this world. However, sometimes even Christians can fall back into addiction. We must walk according to the Spirit and circumspectly lest we become entangled by the snares of this world.

Legion #9: Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Part 2

Yes, it’s time for another LSH frivolity break! Last month, in Legion #8, writer Brian Michael Bendis, introduced this two-part “Trial” special, with a bevy of DC artists, each spotlighting a member of the Legion. Let’s pick up the action in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #9
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils and Inks: Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, and twenty-one guest artists, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, September 29, 2020

Plot

The Legionnaires collectively stand trial before Madame President Brande and the United Planets Council, charged with kidnapping General Crav Nah of Rimbor and defying the U.P.’s space-time continuum regulations by bringing Superboy to the 31st Century. Brande introduces “memexes” (video clips) of Legionnaires’ auditions to prove treachery from the start, including those of Dawnstar, Bouncing Boy, Monster Boy, and Timber Wolf. Intermixed with the memexes are live-action segments at the trial, spotlighting Shadow Lass, Blok, Wildfire, Invisible Kid (returned after quitting in #5), Dream Girl, and Triplicate Girl. General Crav crashes the party, but is subdued by Legionnaires, Mon-El and Gold Lantern, while Dream Girl, Doctor Fate, and White Witch warn of an impending “Great Darkness.” It’s revealed that Crav selfishly desired the Trident as a weapon against the advancing threat. The trial is cancelled as Brande is finally convinced of the Legion’s loyalty and a romance blossoms between Saturn Girl and Superboy.

Comments

This two-part special was enjoyable with the wide-range of illustration styles provided by the guest pencillers. Quite an experiment! Bendis did a passable job of interweaving the trial storyline with the single-page focus on many of the Legionnaires. However, noticeably missing from the spotlight cavalcade were Karate Kid, Matter-Eater Lad, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, and the unnamed glowing skeletal character in a containment suit who still has yet to be identified after nine issues! Bendis evidently omitted those six characters because he simply ran out of plot and pages. Disappointing.

Well, we now know that The Great Darkness (Darkseid? Mordru?) looms large on the far horizon. But first, there’s a New Krypton in the immediate works for issue #10.

Postscript: We all wondered whether Ferro Lad survived the cataclysmic encounter with Crav Nah in #8. Not to worry. There he is on page #3 of this issue, fit as a fiddle. Bendis’s attempt to add some oomph to one of comics’ most ridiculed super-heroes, Bouncing Boy, by making him invulnerable is interesting. The Legion’s Silver Age fans appreciated Bendis’s hat tip on page #6 to the implausible Moby Dick of Space from Adventure Comics #332, May, 1965.

Throwback Thursday: “Catholicism: East of Eden”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a short post that was originally published back on February 19, 2016 and has been revised.

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Catholicism: East of Eden: Insights into Catholicism for the 21st Century
By Richard Bennett
Banner of Truth, 2010, 336 pages

In this excellent book, ex-priest, Richard Bennett, provides a compassionate yet uncompromising critique of Roman Catholicism in comparison to God’s Word and Biblical Christianity. Catholicism claims to be the “one true church,” but in each chapter Bennett details how the Catholic church strayed from the genuine Gospel and simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ that was preached by the New Testament church to institutionalized religious legalism and ritualism. As a former Dominican priest for twenty-two years, Bennett’s insights into Catholicism are unassailable.

Chapters

  1. From Tradition To Truth: A Priest’s Story
  2. The Lord Gave His Word: Unshakable Authority
  3. The Mystique of the Catholic Priesthood
  4. The Papacy: An Overview of Its History and Nature
  5. The Papal Claim to Have the Keys of the Apostle Peter
  6. Baptism, Confirmation, and the Anointing of the Sick
  7. Encounters in the Confession Box
  8. The Mass as a Sacrifice
  9. Holy Communion
  10. The Mystic Plague
  11. Images of “Christ” and the Gospel
  12. The Biblical Mary and Tradition
  13. God’s Institution of Marriage and Rome’s Infringement on It
  14. Convent Life
  15. Biblical Unity in the Lord
  16. The Alignment of New Evangelicals with Catholicism
  17. Conclusion

Bennett is founder and director of The Berean Beacon, an evangelical ministry to Roman Catholics. Copies of “Catholicism East of Eden” can be ordered directly from the Berean Beacon or from Amazon.com here.

For a list of over 360 books that compare Catholicism with God’s Word, see my Books tab here.

“Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” – Genesis 4:16

Faithful servant, Richard M. Bennett, was called home by the Lord on September 23, 2019 at the age of 81.

High-tech scammer

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
By John Carreyrou
Random House, 2018, 541 pp.

5 Stars

Elizabeth Holmes was a very bright, chemical engineering major at Stanford University. She dropped out of college in March, 2004 at the age of 20 because she had an amazing idea: to develop a compact blood analysis machine that could run hundreds of tests with only a few drops of blood drawn from a single finger prick.

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Elizabeth Holmes

Holmes founded the Theranos corporation in Silicon Valley to turn her dream into reality. She leveraged her youthful good looks and confident demeanor (which included a feigned deep, authoritative voice) to attract a bevy of big-name investors eager to get in on the ground floor of another high-tech start-up success. Holmes accomplished her dual dreams of becoming famous and a billionaire (on paper). There was just one small problem. Her idea wasn’t viable. Try as they might, Holmes’ team of scientists could not get reliable test results from a few drops of blood. Behind closed doors, Theranos actually used large blood analyzers built by competitors to test the blood samples that were sent to them. Holmes kept the truth from investors and regulatory agencies as long as possible, but whistle blowers confided in John Carreyrou, a suspicious investigative reporter working for the Wall Street Journal, who broke the story in 2015. Holmes denied the allegations, but mounting scrutiny eventually forced the shutdown of Theranos in 2018. Holmes was indicted on charges of fraud and awaits trial in March 2021 (the trial date has been rescheduled several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Recent filings indicate her lawyers may attempt a “mental illness” defense.

Holmes was quite a character; absolutely driven to be the “next Steve Jobs” and impressing potential investors with her trademark ninja black turtleneck shirts and her affected masculine voice, but with zero credibility. It was all “smoke and mirrors.” As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think about how society worships at the altar of fame, wealth, and attractiveness.

Throwback Thursday: Mary – Another Redeemer?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on February 24, 2016 and has been revised.

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Mary – Another Redeemer?
By James R. White
Bethany House, 1998, 164 pages

5 Stars

This book is a short, evangelical response to the groundswell within Roman Catholicism to dogmatically recognize Mary as “Co-Redemptrix,” with Jesus Christ. “Mary – Another Redeemer?,” by evangelical apologist, James R. White, was written during the papacy of Karol Wojtyla, aka John Paul II, who had completely dedicated himself to Mary. Wojtyla’s official Latin papal motto, “Totus tuus sum, Maria,” is translated as “Mary, I am completely yours.” John Paul II was a strong advocate of formally recognizing Mary as Co-Redeemer, but fifteen years after his death, Mary’s supporters are still waiting. As White points out, some of the Catholic hierarchy hesitate to formally proclaim this belief as dogma because they realize it will dampen efforts to gather in the “separated brethren.” Pope Francis has publicly stated that he is not interested in defining the doctrine as binding dogma. Although the doctrine is not yet official, for all intents and purposes Mary is recognized as Christ’s Co-Redeemer within Catholicism.

How did Catholics come to worship Mary as semi-divine and as Co-Redemptrix when there is absolutely no Biblical basis? White briefly reviews the history of the rise of Mariolatry and compares the simple, Biblical view of Mary to the idolatrous Marian extrapolations invented by Rome. It’s somewhat puzzling that White refrains from any mention of the development of Marian worship as an accommodation by the increasingly institutionalized early church to pagan, mother-goddess worship (e.g., Asherah, Isis, Ishtar, Hera, Venus, Pachamama, etc.), which was clearly the case. See “The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess” by historian, Geoffrey Ashe, for a thorough examination of Mariolatry’s pagan roots.

Evangelicals are amazed and saddened by Rome’s transformation of Mary from a sinner in need of the Savior, as we all are, to the alleged sinless Queen of Heaven, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mother of God, Holy Mother, Holy Virgin, Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate. Catholics vehemently protest that they don’t deify and worship Mary, but their practices and attitudes demonstrate otherwise. This book was written as a wake up call to evangelicals who are increasingly embracing Rome, as exemplified by Chuck Colson’s once-influential “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) project.

I’m so grateful that I was redeemed by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone. I pray many Catholics will leave the religious ritualism, legalism, and man-made traditions of their church and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Christ came to save sinners, not the religious self-righteous who believe they can earn heaven by receiving the Catholic sacraments and by obeying the Ten Commandments. “Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God.” – Galatians 3:11

Biblical perspective on Mary: “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” – Luke 11:27- 28

The Kindle edition of “Mary – Another Redeemer?” can be ordered from Amazon here.

For a list of over 360 books that compare Catholicism to God’s Word see my Books tab here.

Jack Hyles: The Fundamental Man

Jack Frasure Hyles: The Fundamental Man
By Cindy Hyles Schaap
Hyles Publications, 1998, 528 pp.

Having started out at an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church as a new Christian back in the early-1980s, I have a continuing interest in the movement and its history.

Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001) was one of the biggest names in the IFB back when I was a new believer, with his First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana (23 miles from Chicago) being one of the largest churches in the nation at the time (15,000 weekly attendance). Hyles became a widely sought-after speaker and IFB pastors across the nation studied and emulated his methods. Hyles was the face of the IFB in the 1980s and 90s.

Cindy Hyles Schaap (photo left) wrote this adulatory tribute to her father three years before his death with Hyles’ full cooperation. God’s Word certainly exhorts us to honor our pastors, but this very handsomely-bound, 538-page, coffee-table book exemplifies the kind of leadership idolatry that’s prevalent within the IFB. Jack Hyles gets 95% of the glory in this book and Jesus Christ gets the scraps. I can imagine the apostle Paul’s reaction if someone tried to memorialize him in a similar fashion.

This lengthy biography presents an incredible amount of the detail from Hyles’ life, from his birth in Italy, Texas, to pastoring several small churches, to his break with the Southern Baptist Convention and his affiliation with John R. Rice and the IFB camp, to moving to Hammond and growing the largest church in America. As one might expect from a biography written by his daughter, this book is unabashedly hagiographical. Hyles most assuredly accomplished much good for the Lord as pastor of FBCH for 42 years, but there were also serious problems:

  • Hyles perpetuated and further popularized a preaching and pastoral style that was marked by arrogance, authoritarianism, intimidation, and bullying. Hyles was an absolute dictator at FBCH. There were very cultish aspects to Hyles’ pastorate at FBCH.
  • Hyles’ crusade to have the largest church in America turned conversions and baptisms into a numbers contest. Disingenuity and numbers-padding abounded.
  • Hyles promoted the popular and misguided notion of America as a Christian nation. His self-professed focus toward the end of his life was to “save America.”
  • Hyles’ arrogance and authoritarianism engendered an attitude of recklessness and entitlement. Scandal caught up with Jack Hyles in 1989, which Cindy Schaap refers to only briefly and without detail. She also circumspectly alludes to the scandal that brought down her brother, David Hyles, who had held a leadership position at FBCH. Cindy Schaap’s husband, Jack Schaap, succeeded Jack Hyles as pastor of FBCH in 2001 and emulated his predecessor’s arrogance and authoritarianism, but he was brought down by scandal in 2012, after which Cindy divorced him.

I enjoyed portions of this book despite its “rose colored glasses” perspective. I especially enjoyed the accounts of Hyles’ associations with John R. Rice, G.B. Vick, Lester Roloff, Bob Jones, Sr., and other prominent figures in the history of the IFB movement. Hyles’ history is a history of the IFB.

See my review of a book that took a much more critical view of Hyles here. One of Hyles’ other daughters, Linda Hyles Murphrey, presented a totally different view of Jack Hyles in this video.

I would recommend this idealized biography only for its revelations with regards to IFB history.

Throwback Thursday: “The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on February 29, 2016 and has been revised.

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The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional
By Charles Chiniquy
Chick Publications, 1979, 144 pages

5 Stars

I don’t normally waste my time with material from Chick Publications because I don’t believe every calamity is attributable to a Jesuit global conspiracy, but I received this book as a gift. This Chick reprint of “The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional” by ex-priest, Charles Chiniquy, preserves a valuable, nineteenth-century Protestant critique of Roman Catholicism’s sacrament of auricular confession. Chiniquy’s book was first published in 1875, followed by many subsequent re-prints.

With overwrought prose typical of his times, Chiniquy warns his readers of the dangers inherent in “auricular” (spoken into the ear of the confessor) confession. Catholics are obligated to confess their “mortal” sins to a priest at least once a year under penalty of incurring yet another “mortal” sin. Since most penitents are extremely reluctant to divulge any embarrassing sexual sins, whether they be thoughts or actions, priests are instructed to thoroughly question the person about such matters to ensure a candid “good” confession. Chiniquy gives many examples of the dangers of celibate confessors (priests) interrogating their female supplicants about such personal matters. The Catholic church acknowledges the pitfalls inherent in its process by defining the use of the confessional for immoral purposes by priests as “solicitation.”

Catholicism teaches that salvation comes by receiving its sacraments, all tightly controlled by the clergy, and by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules. The sacrament of reconciliation, auricular confession, is just another opportunity for the Catholic clergy to exercise control over its members. Chiniquy demonstrates that confession of sins to a priest has no basis in New Testament Scripture and he urges the reader to turn from man-made Catholic legalism and traditions and accept Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Once a person accepts Christ as Savior, they should confess all sin directly to God, not to a human mediator (Mark 2:7).

“The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional” has been lumped together with similar evangelical Protestant books of the period as anti-Catholic “hate literature” of a bygone era. One could argue the title is a bit salacious and meant to appeal to prurient interests. Likewise, the illustrated cover provided by Chick Publications is mildly sensationalistic. Ex-priest Chiniquy definitely exaggerates his point by claiming the confessional was directly responsible for bringing many Catholic countries down to ruin. These minor objections aside, even the most sectarian Catholic apologist can’t deny the Roman confessional has led to abuse of scandalous proportions.

While Chiniquy was concerned with relationships between confessor priests and their adult, female penitents, news reports over the last thirty years have revealed shocking clerical sexual abuse of children, mainly boys, validating the ex-priest’s warnings regarding the confessional, but going far beyond the improprieties alluded to in this book. In many cases, the abusive relationships between priests and children began in the confessional box. The sacraments of the “eucharist” and confession had been reserved for adults prior to 1910, but that year pope “saint” Pius X issued his Quam Singulari decree, which mandated that Catholic children begin receiving communion and going to confession at age seven. In 2012, bishopaccountability.org reported the number of American priests credibly accused of molesting children since 1950 to be more than 6,100. Over 16,000 victims have been documented although many others surely never came forward. The Catholic church’s cover up of its pedophile priests scandal involved the highest offices of the hierarchy.

In contrast to Chiniquy’s time, Catholics now stay away from the confessional box in droves despite the threat of “mortal” sin. Who can blame them? Catholic sources state that only 26% of the membership participate in confession at least once a year. Evidently the other 74% would rather take their chances with eternity than share a “dark box” with a priest. Additionally, asking penitents to recall all of the times they disobeyed the Ten Commandments in the past year is beyond ludicrous. I couldn’t possibly recall all of my sins against God in either thought, word, deed, and omission for even a single day. Christ reveals in Matthew 5 the utter hopelessness of attempting to obey the law as a means to salvation. The entire business is a religious sham designed to keeps its members totally dependent on the Catholic clergy.

“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” – Galatians 2:16

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to direct you to an evangelical church in your area that’s preaches God’s Word without compromise.

Legion #8: Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Part 1

Time to take a frivolity break, so climb aboard our time cube and take a trip to the 31st Century with me as we review…

Legion of Super-Heroes #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils and Inks: Ryan Sook and twenty-two guest artists, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, August 25, 2020

5 Stars

LSH #7 ended with General Crav Nah of Rimbor attacking the Legion with his powerful forces and demanding that the heroes surrender in retaliation for having imprisoned him during the Trident Saga. Let’s pick up the action in LSH #8.

Plot

Chameleon Boy and his mother, Madame President Brande of the United Planets, review various video files of the Legion from a vantage point following the team’s encounter with General Nah. First off are the orientation files of Superboy, Element Lad, Dream Girl, and Princess Projectra. Cham then recalls the battle with General Nah, with one-page spotlights on Lightning Lass, Wildfire, Mon-El, Blok, Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy (yup, the former leader is back), Brainiac 5, and Ferro Lad, who manages to single-handedly defeat the Rimborian leader in a cataclysmic finale.

Madame President Brande then dialogues with the Legion’s U.P. liaison, Rose Forrest, before directing the entire team to face trial for disobeying their oath of allegiance. The Legion reacts in dismay, with the spotlight on an incredulous Phantom Girl.

Comments

One of the objectives of this two-part “Trial” saga was to introduce each of the Legionnaires with an individual page. Legion newbies really needed some assistance to help become acquainted with the intimidatingly long roster. I counted 17 members who were highlighted in this issue, which leaves 17 for issue #9. I had assumed Bendis was going to include a lot more biographical data in these one-page “spotlights,” but that regrettably was not the case. Twenty-three different DC artists were each given the task of illustrating a single page of this issue. I enjoyed the variety (although some of the artwork is just downright poor), but didn’t see anything that surpassed the work of regular penciller, Ryan Sook. This installment marks the first appearance of Ferro Lad in the reconstituted Legion. His single-handed effort to defeat Nah recalls his sacrifice to vanquish the Sun Eater in Adventure #353, which was published way back in 1967. Did Ferro Lad survive this ordeal? Bendis doesn’t make it clear if FL is still around and neither does he make it clear why Madame President Brande changed her mind once again about prosecuting the Legion. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of this two-part saga, which will be another cavalcade of character spotlights and guest artists.

Postscript: As sometimes happens with comics, the cover illustration depicting two factions of the Legion in conflict, has zero connection to the plot within.

The Plot Against America

Today, we’re going to play hooky from house painting and head over to the shores of Lake Ontario, settle into our beach chair in the sand, and enjoy some breezy summer fiction. Okay, “breezy” isn’t the most appropriate adjective for…

The Plot Against America
By Philip Roth
Houghton Mifflin, 2004, 400 pp.

4 Stars

Plot

It’s 1940 and Nazi Germany is overrunning Europe and implementing its anti-Semitic policies throughout the continent. President Franklin D. Roosevelt desires to enter the United States into the war in support of the frazzled Brits, but there’s a growing isolationist movement led by aviation hero, Charles A. Lindbergh. In his speeches around the nation, Lindbergh is guardedly circumspect, but in private it’s clear he has pro-German and anti-Jewish sympathies. Lindbergh defeats Roosevelt in the 1940 election and begins to implement anti-Semitic reeducation and resettlement programs, which are defended by a few high-profile, opportunistic, quisling, pro-Lindbergh Jews as being ultimately beneficial.

The tire meets the road in Newark, New Jersey with the Jewish Roth family who watch in horror as the nation turns increasingly fascist and anti-Semitic. The parents are mortified when their teenage son is duped into voluntarily participating in a Jewish youth reeducation program. When the father’s employer selects him and his family for resettlement as part of a government initiative, he quits his job and contemplates moving his family to Canada, as several Jewish families in their neighborhood have already done. Pogroms ensue and Jews must increasingly take up arms to defend themselves. Just as circumstances reach critical mass, Lindbergh disappears while piloting an airplane. Conspiracy theories abound and the fascist administration uses the opportunity to further crack down on Jews and arrest dissenters. Lindbergh’s sensible wife makes a radio appeal to the nation and the fascist elements are successfully checked. Emergency elections are held in 1942 and Roosevelt is reelected to a third term. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor the following month and the United States declares war against the Axis alliance.

Comments

I enjoyed this alternative history. Few people today are aware of the extent of the popularity of the pro-German, isolationist, and anti-Semitic network in America prior to WWII (see Lindbergh, Henry Ford, radio-priest Charles Coughlin, Senator Burton Wheeler, German-American Bund, etc.). The pace at the conclusion of the novel, after Lindbergh’s disappearance, is a jarringly frantic roller coaster ride, as if Roth suddenly tired of the project and just wanted to get it over with.

Postscript: President Franklin Roosevelt is portrayed as the hero of this novel as the defender of the American Jews. An ironic historical twist is that FDR directed that between 110,000 to 120,000 people of Japanese ethnicity living mainly in the Western States be forcibly consigned to internment camps during most of WWII.