Over the past decade, author and former political consult Joel C. Rosenberg has been amassing a huge following with multiple New York Times best sellers. Drawing off his as a consult for Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky and then-former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rosenberg’s books tend to focus on Middle Eastern politics and terrorism (think CIA and State Department thrillers).
A good chuck of Rosenberg’s fame comes from his uncanny ability to ‘predict’ real-life events within his books. For example, he wrote about kamikaze plane attack on an American city nine months before 9-11 and five months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq he wrote about a war with Saddam Hussein.
Having heard bits and pieces of this fame throughout the years, I finalize decided to give his books a try (well, that and the fact that a co-worker was pressuring me to read them!). Looking at my local library, I discovered that they had both the “The Twelfth Imam” (2010) and the sequel “The Tehran Initiative” (2011) in an audio format, which is my preferred method of ‘reading’ non-fiction books.
As to be expected, the hero of the series is an American CIA spy named David Shirazi who must infiltrate the Iranian government and try to stop a nuclear war. What was not expected was the way in which Rosenberg incorporated both Shia Islam eschatology and Christianity into the story line. Simply put, in the books the leaders of Iran are devoted Imami Shīa Muslims who are trying to hurry the arrive of the Mahdi (the twelve successor of Prophet Mohammad who is prophesied to unite the world under Islam) via destroying Israel and the USA – i.e. ushering in the end of times.
In fact, the Mahdi does show up in the books as someone with supernatural powers and insight into the future. Jesus also makes various appearances – only Jesus tended to appear to small groups of folks while the Mahdi takes the spotlight and control of various nations. Think of them as a Frank Peretti, Tim LaHaye/Jerry Jenkins, and Tom Clancy hybrid novel. (Note that Rosenberg is a Christian believer with a family tree of Orthodox Judaism.)
Interestingly enough, the longer I read them the more I kept thinking about how much the Imami Shīa Muslims leaders sounded like USA Dispensationalism Christian church and political leaders. Both groups are heavily focused on end time prophecies and use such writings to defend and/or justify their political, economic, and religious choices and behaviors. They also are both awaiting a savior who will usher in a peaceful world-wide rule via an Armageddon type war and are willing to ‘help’ the prophecies along via their choices. If you think I’m reading too much into things, you should probably note that I’m not the only person making these comparison.
In addition to exploring Islamic and Christian eschatology, Rosenberg explores the religious themselves with various characters converting from Islam to Christianity. While this makes sense to a certain degree within the world of the novels, it actually rubbed me wrong as each of the new converts then proceed to help the CIA and USA government (a religious/political marriage that I STONGLY disagree with). The excuse or rationality for this help was that the USA was fighting to stop a war while the Iranian leaders were trying to start one – i.e. Christianity was for peace and Islam was for war.
However that stereotype does not work for me as I know there are plenty of Muslims who long for peace and have no desire to destroy or harm the nation of Israel or the USA. They mostly just want to live life, get a good job, marry, have some kids and enjoy living – just like most Christians, Hindus, Atheists, etc. People are people. As such, I would have like the books to have included a some Muslims heroes fighting for peace from within their religion…
I guess in conclusion I am torn as to what I think about the books… on one hand there were good pop-corn reads with plenty of action coupled with some good thinking points. However, they do seem to promote a theological view and stereotype that I dislike… can I say 2 or 2.5 stars out of 5? 😕