L.B.: The denial of death

Left Behind, pp. 4-5

Left Behind has been praised by some as an "evangelistic" book, but it's not. Although the book does attempt to scare people into conversion, that is secondary. The authors' real message for those they regard as unsaved is to thumb their nose and do a little victory dance. "You just wait until Jesus gets back and proves we were right and you were wrong. Then we'll see who's laughing at who."

Not the most winsome approach to sharing one's faith.

But the biggest reason this is not an "evangelistic" book is that it does not present the Christian gospel. It presents something else.

Rayford Steele bemoan's his newly converted (and therefore newly sexually repugnant) wife's "preoccupation with the end of the world, with the love of Jesus, with the salvation of souls."

That is a disturbing listing of the content and priorities of L&J's brand of Christianity. Even more disturbing is Irene Steele's one-sentence summary of the gospel:

"Can you imagine, Rafe," she exulted. "Jesus coming back to get us before we die?"

This is the crux of the matter. This is the Gospel According to Tim & Jerry. But it is not the gospel of Christianity.

Christians, in the words of the Nicene Creed, "look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come." We believe, in the words of the Apostle's Creed, in "the resurrection of the body."

L&J are not interested in resurrection. Resurrection is something that happens to dead people, and L&J don't want to die. Death scares them. And that, more than anything else, explains what rapture-mania is all about.

Christianity is about death and resurrection, not about the denial of death. Not about "Jesus coming back to get us before we die."

This escapist fantasy of a gospel isn't just bad theology. It's cruel. Consider the poor souls clinging to this hope who get the big bad news from their doctor. Consider those who have lost a husband, wife, mother, father, daughter or son. Consider all those who have died and all those they have left behind.

More on this later.

  • jesse

    I have no idea how far you actually are in the book, but once you get furhter into the series, you’ll start to realize just how empty the path of spiritual transformation they lay out actually is. Essentially, peole just realize that God’s there and start worshipping him, but it so quickly turns into the world’s most contrived thriller novel (somehow, everyone in a small circle of people manages to wend their way into the Antichrist’s circle, and they all just happen to be members of the “Tribulation Force” – sort of like Saved by the Bell, but with worse dialogue).
    The theology, such as it is, is sorely lacking. Basically, you either accept Jesus or you don’t. There’s a great moment in the second book where the militia movement is held up as an example of a group which virtuously resists the temptation of the Antichrist.

  • Tlachtga

    Resurrection is something that happens to dead people, and L&J don’t want to die. Death scares them. And that, more than anything else, explains what rapture-mania is all about.
    I wish that had occured to me before. It goes a long way to explain why people are so fascinated with this concept. I grew up Catholic, which means we didn’t really concern ourselves too much with the end of the world; moreover, Catholics don’t even believe in the Rapture. The end of the world is a sort of hazy, not-exactly-necessary element. Yeah, it’ll happen some day. Don’t worry about that so much as what you’re doing right now. Either way, you’ll get into heaven.
    But that’s maybe what these “Left Behind” people fear. They don’t want to die, because they’re not entirely sure they’ll get into heaven. They want proof, they want to see it happen while they’re alive. This is why they’re so insistant that they’re right–because if they’re wrong, if htey don’t keep telling themselves that they’re right, then that means they have to spend eternity in hell with the rest of us.
    Not on my watch, they won’t. I don’t want them uglying up my nice little corner of hell.

  • denise

    I always thought that people who are preoccupied with end times simply cannot imagine that the world (and humankind) could carry on without them.

  • Julia Grey

    Christian theology also contains the concept of living one’s spiritual resurrection in THIS life, too. Believe in forgiveness and become a New Being, a part of Christ’s eternally resurrected Body (which is the Church) and all that.
    It’s definitely NOT all “pie in the sky when you die.”

  • http://www.calpundit.com/archives/002463.html Calpundit

    Left Behind

    LEFT BEHIND….Yesterday the Slacktivist reviewed pages 1-3 of Left Behind:Note that Tim LaHaye’s wife is something of a professional misogynist. She runs the 500,000-member “Concerned Women for America” — jokingly referred to by its critics as “Ladie…

  • Cliff

    I don’t subscribe to the hocus pocus cosmology that Literal Chriatianity believes is a fact, but the case for the rapture is found in First Thessalonians 4 :16 WHERE: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” This makes sense only to some first century person that thinks that there are seven heavens and that God is in the hignest of the seven. Christ appearing on a cloud and sounding a trumpet is a metaphor. Unfortunately, Tim LaHaye cannot accept that for two thousand years the Bible is best understood to be largely metaphorical, or allegorical and not literal. So he stands on his head to make the world conform to his anacronistic, cosmological ideology. He then condemns all who will not forsake their rationality and accept his interpretation of the Bible.

  • http://www.andrewbayer.com/archives/001682.html Andrew Bayer is Dreaming of China

    All That You Can’t Leave Behind

    Left BehindLEFT BEHIND….Yesterday the Slacktivist reviewed pages 1-3 of Left Behind:Note that Tim LaHaye’s wife is something of a professional misogynist. She runs the 500,000-member “Concerned Women for America” — jokingly referred to by its critic…

  • Deana Holmes

    The pretribulation, “secret rapture”, is a relatively new doctrine, having its origins, it is believed, in the first decades of the 1800s. Edward Irving is believed to have been the first person to promote this, and after his untimely death, J.N. Darby took over the doctrine and worked it over. It gained wide appeal after the turn of the 20th century, with the publication of the Scofield Bible (notes by C.I. Scofield). And then, in the later 1960s, Hal Lindsey pushed the pre-tribulation rapture in The Late, Great Planet Earth available at all fine drugstores and supermarkets in the 1970s. I don’t know if there’s a definitive study of the pre-trib rapture available, but that is the general outline of it. I can say, based on my own studies of the history of Christian doctrine, that the pre-trib rapture was simply not out there as an idea taken seriously until circa 1830.

  • Dazir

    For an interesting spin on the whole thing, check out the movie “The Rapture.” It is almost a companion piece to the book of Job.

  • Robert O. Green

    um, not to flog a dead horse or anything, but since all christian (or any other) theology is just completely and utterly and totally…wait for it…MADE UP. arbitrary. i could proclaim that in the year 3030 monkeys will fly out of everyone’s ass and it would have the same level of real-world merit, the same amount of arguable truth. parsing this shit, or splitting this type (any type) of theological hair(s) is just a waste of time. get back to the core of a claim:
    is someone making an assertion as fact without any evidence to support it?
    is any amount of power going to be asserted over people’s minds or bodies by said assertion?
    is the state of being described “undisprovable (sorry about that neologism-ed.)?
    then it is bullshit. and in any other context it would be laughed at, rightly. But for some reason, the moment people start making claims about RELIGION, one is supposed to respectfully discuss the claims. I hate to harp (he said lying), but…if one person says, “i’ve done a lot of research and the earth is clearly round–here’s the evidence”, and another says “the earth is flat cuz i read it in a book written before modern science existed” then guess what? THE EARTH IS ROUND.

  • Jorge

    Well said, Robert. I concur. Fairy Tales make for some fun bed time stories but for lousy international policy.

  • methine

    OK, a stupid, fussy point to make, but…”bemoan’s”?? What the f— is that? Since when do verbs have a “‘” in them? Not every bloody word ending in “s” is spelled like “it’s” (including “its”.)

  • John

    Mr. Green, I think your comments are a) beside the
    point and b) unhelpful. Basically the main point of
    Slacktivist’s comments is that Left Behind
    doesn’t even follow the precepts of the Christianity
    it claims to promote. Going on rants about how
    crappy all religion is kind of elide that point, and,
    further, are bound to be offensive to any believing
    person, most of whom, I would hope, don’t believe
    LaHaye and Jenkins’s tripe.

  • Frances

    I had a friend in college–really, a dorm mate–who revealed to me one afternoon the facts about the Rapture and her excitement for its imminent arrival. As above, I was raised Catholic so had never really heard much about it; of course, she let me know I wasn’t really saved and would NOT be experiencing the Rapture with her. What’s weird and sticks with me even now was her preoccupation with the destruction we poor left-behind slobs would have to deal with. She was especially excited about all the cars that would be crashing when the drivers were Taken Up. Another thing that seemed to thrill her was that her half-brother and -sister would not be participating in the Rapture as they were too young to be saved. They were being raised in a Christian manner, though, and she felt quite sure that they would lead the fight against the Antichrist and she looked forward to seeing them when they had reclaimed the earth and they were all reunited.
    You can’t make this sh*t up!

  • Streaker

    the Bible is best understood to be largely metaphorical, or allegorical and not literal. So he stands on his head to make the world conform to his anacronistic, cosmological ideology. He then condemns all who will not forsake their rationality and accept his interpretation of the Bible.
    Aren’t you talking about bush here? And what Robert Green said. Has anyone asked them lately about this: THE EARTH IS ROUND ?

  • TR

    “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”
    I find it amazing how few Christians are aware that until the Babylonian captivity, the Old Testament Jews didn’t even believe in an afterlife. God rewarded or punished you in THIS life, and when you died that was it. Ideas of an afterlife, Hell and the Devil, were borrowed from other religions (Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Greek mystery religions, etc). And from there, they were passed down to the early Christians.

  • Karen Underwood

    There is only one thing more frightening than the “Left Behind” books. It’s the “Left Behind: The Kids” books.
    These are aimed at a junior high audience and portray a teen-age “Tribulation Force” struggling against the evil forces of the AntiChrist’s government, which, they imply, is indistinguishable from Public Education.
    Check the link, and be very afraid.
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0842321934/002-3275686-0900863?v=glance

  • http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/003901.html Electrolite

    Revelations.

    Slacktivist is blogging about the mega-bestselling “Left Behind” novels, so far here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here….

  • Ken

    There is only one thing more frightening than the “Left Behind” books. It’s the “Left Behind: The Kids” books.
    Let’s see, according to Wikipedia, twelve books (four trilogies) in the main Left Behind story arc. A prequel trilogy (aka “The Antichrist’s Baby Pictures”). At least one sequel (probably another trilogy, given the pattern) set in the New Heavens and the New Earth after the End of Time (which both Sts Paul & John said literally cannot even be imagined by finite mortals; talk about hubris). That’s 16-18 books.
    This is already as obsessively chronicled a timeline as “Slave Girls of Gor”, and now we have Left Behind: The Kids? What’s next, Left Behind for Pets?
    No, I have seen What Is Next. (I wish I had never heard… I wish I had never seen… Ia, Ia, Cthulhu Fthagn…)
    Six weeks ago I was visiting a pastor friend and co-author in rural Pennsylvania. (We’re doing an SF novel together, and he writes good horror AND humor.) At one point we hit a local warehouse-style Christian bookstore so he could pick up some materials for his church. I did the mosey over into the fiction section — or should I say the Left Behind section; between a quarter and a third of the section’s shelves were filled by Jenkins & LaHaye. Then I made the discovery.
    Left Behind is not only a never-ending series, it’s now a shared-universe franchise. There were two *NEW* Left Behind trilogies by different authors (unrelated to Jenkins & LaHaye) written under license.
    I had to show them to my preacher bud before he believed me.
    The horror… The horror… The horror…

  • Parasum

    A new scenario:

    Rapture
    Nicolae Carpathia becomes the big 666
    Cthulhu awakes from sleep
    N.C. sends Conan the Barbarian against Cthulhu
    Galaxus turns up
    Mount Doom re-emerges from the earth
    The One Ring is re-made; Sauron awakes, and sends forth an  immense orc-army to waylay Conan
    The Enterprise lands, to find out what planet it has landed on – twenty red-coars are killed.

    [Add mythology of choice, *ad infinitum et ad nauseam*, taking care to remain within the general outline of the End-Times provided by Dispy schemes of The End]
    Publish
    Make squillions of dollars
    Film
    Make even more squillions of dollars.
    Become POTUS
    Attack Iran, Iraq, Russia, Saudi & Europe with ICBMs
    Be attacked by foregoing with ICBMs
    USA collapses in ruin.
    “In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe lies a
    medium-sized star. And one of its satellites, a green and insignificant
    planet, is now dead.”


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