L.B.: 21 days

Left Behind is rife with continuity errors of a sort.

Yet these inconsistencies are consistent in that most of them seem to involve the myopia of fundamentalist American Christianity — an ignorance or amnesia to any suffering or need that exists outside of the tiny protective bubble that surrounds our main characters. Hence a bored, idle doctor treating our hero while ignoring the plane-crash victims directly outside.

Those curious about the editing process that allows such gaping holes in continuity might be interested in this article, from Today's Christian, in which we learn more about Jerry Jenkins' writing process:

Jenkins shared some insights into his writing regimen. "By the time I get here I have done my research and information gathering, so my goal is to produce 20 pages a day," he says. "Each morning I edit and rewrite what I wrote the day before, and in the afternoon I finish the next 20 pages. When the manuscript is complete, I do a thorough edit and rewrite again."

At that pace, Jenkins is able to crank out an entire novel in about 21 working days.

Jenkins himself does a "thorough edit" — with the kind of thoroughness one might expect from a writer who cranks out a complete novel in 21 days.

You too can learn to be a prolific, best-selling Christian author. Just sign up for courses from the Christian Writers Guild, a "training institute" Jenkins purchased "with the goal of giving something back to the writing community":

CWG offers online writing courses, teaming students with experienced writing coaches. According to Jenkins, the guild has dozens of mentors serving more than 1,500 students, and is adding more than 100 new students a month.

Since Jenkins's acquisition of the guild, it has expanded its services to include college credit courses, agent and publisher referrals, and more. His vision for the guild is "to restock the pool of Christian writers and to hopefully upgrade the overall level of work."

The goal, apparently, is to produce even more efficient writers — people who can crank out a novel in, say, 18 days.

As for Jenkins' partner in crime, Chris Jones e-mails this link to the blog-like "Kristof responds" column at the New York Times, where Tim LaHaye's recent letter to the editor (see "There goes the neighborhood") is posted in full.

Kristof had criticized the triumphant, cackling tone of L&J's 11th LB novel, The Glorious Appearing, in which the redeemed — and Jesus himself — seem to delight in the destruction of the lost and the unforgiven. LaHaye responds:

The eschatological problem Kristof mentioned of believers mourning the lost in the next life is a subject that bothered me for years until I found Revelation 21:4, which informs us that in his mercy God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. Somehow the memory of all who reject Christ will be mercifully eradicated from our memories.

Blessed are those who mourn, for their memories will be wiped clean of whatever it is that they were mourning about. The eternal sunshine of the evangelical mind.

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  • Mike Russo

    As someone who’s spent the better part of the last two years working on writing a novel (first draft ~ 420 pages, 2nd draft ~ 350 pages), I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand, I would kill to be able to bang pages out that quickly. On the other hand, looking at the pages that are produced, there’s not much there to envy.

  • VKW

    A tangential question in relation to LaHaye’s statement: Wasn’t there an early saint who declared that one of the joys of the saved in Heaven would be to look down and watch the torments of the damned? If so, who was it (can’t find anything useful on the net today) and was this doctrine based on specific Biblical verses, or just a nasty personality? I find LaHaye’s idea disturbing, that the saved would simply have a memory wipe and forget about loved ones who ‘didn’t make it’.

  • Stacy

    Lahaye seems to be forgetting his premillenial bread-and-butter here. Not that I’m a Bible scholar or anything, but a quick look shows that Revelation 21 is referring to *new* Heaven and *new* Earth, which only come after the old ones “pass away.” All this happens after the millenium, which is covered in chapter 20, and Satan being unloosed for the last time, finally destroyed, yadda yadda. So I don’t think Lahaye can very honestly quote Rev 21:4 there, unless he means after the millenium and the end of time, after the saved will have had quite a lot of time to mourn their lost ones. And that doesn’t seem to be what he means.
    Of course, if we’re going to start requiring consistency and honesty from L&J, well, we’re just in cloud cuckoo land (as my coworkers call it), aren’t we?

  • changetion

    Also regarding LaHay’s statement: I watch the History Channel a lot, and once saw a documentary on apocalyptic writings. There were more than what was ultimately chosen for the Bible. In one, Peter asks Jesus how people in heaven will be happy, knowing that others are suffering in Hell. This book then says that Jesus tells Peter a secret: After the end of the world, if someone in Heaven asks for those in Hell to be saved, they will be. It is believed this book was left out of the Bible because it contained the idea of the damned being saved. (note: I’m doing this from memory, so some details may be wrong, but I know that was the basic idea.)

  • Brandon

    “Eternal sunshine of the evangelical mind”
    Had I the words, I would begin to express how wonderful I found this quote. Thanks Fred.

  • Isabeau

    I think VKW is thinking of Tertullian. He’s not a saint, though; he left the mainstream church to join the Montanists, then founded his own sect before he died.

  • Peatey

    Well put, “eternal sunshine of the evangelical mind.”

  • Patrick Mullins

    The subtext of all the uninspiring inspirational oeuvre of L&J must surely be the goal of the highest comfort level they can achieve for themselves without having to experience their own vaunted Rapture personally–except for the low-rent furnishings they have surely earned (I’d love to see their homes, or rather, just photos of them.)
    L&J are doing all sorts of little merchandising of their commodities. I wonder if there will be night school.
    I do think that they succeed, as Adorno might say, in the sedimentation of their particular social and historical moment, however–a big, fat out-of-control sclerosis ignoring even minimal standards of literacy—actual thought is nowhere in sight, any mediation by the rational never encroached to cause them the slight inconvenience they so obviously are terrified by.. Of course, their “objects” are not the kind that could be “unlocked” to reveal any real secrets or history. Their “objects” are no more than a little subjective sense of shame.
    There is little worry that their “lost” (which I do hope includes me) will suffer if L&J would please go ahead to the place where they can “wipe their memories clean” of us. Those “lost” may be stubbornly singular and irreducible by the shapeless post-modern Harlequin Romance-level texts of L&J and Company. These writers are as gifted as Dale Evans.
    Only in this era could we find this kind of “eternal sunshine”–a complete and utter simulation and the direct opposite of the kind in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”–I mean, the kind you see when you get out of the cave.
    L&J live in total darkness and want everybody else to have to live in their fetid air, and maybe drink a little Sanka from time to time.
    But L&J are not a surprising phenomenon. The “eternal sunshine” of real time has spawned any number of silly, powerless “religions” and
    “-isms” and they all reflect the secret worship of the speeding-up of technology at all costs. This “eternal sunshine” is like brand-new styrofoam or latex.
    However, I am sure that whenever and wherever they could “forget” us “lost,” there would be a fantastic new job creation.
    I have heard so much about the Rapture in the last few months now, I think I could even live with the irrationality of its actually occurring, if only it would: a fantastically large body of “unsaved” souls would be gone and the burden of Social Security and Medicare would be drastically reduced. Of course, I wouldn’t laugh, because they wouldn’t have “died.”

  • VKW

    Isabeau: Thank you! It seems Tertullian had a nastier vision of the afterlife than the author of Revelations, who simply dumps people like me in the lake of fire and forgets about us.

  • timecarrot

    No, it seems pretty close to Revelations. But read it for yourself, here. (You want the last chapter.) As for leaving the mainstream church: perhaps, but didn’t he help create the distinction between mainstream/orthodox and heretical thought?

  • He Left the Quality Behind, Too

    Left Behind author write average novel in 21 days…

  • Jeffrey Kramer

    I have to guess that lesson #1 of Jenkins’ speed-writing course would be the same as lesson #1 of the speed-reading books I’ve sampled: never look back.

  • Michael Bowen

    Jenkins shared some insights into his writing regimen. “By the time I get here I have done my research and information gathering, so my goal is to produce 20 pages a day,” he says. “Each morning I edit and rewrite what I wrote the day before, and in the afternoon I finish the next 20 pages. When the manuscript is complete, I do a thorough edit and rewrite again.”
    At that pace, Jenkins is able to crank out an entire novel in about 21 working days.
    Wow! I guess Jenkins really is the “Ed Wood” of the religious right.

  • Keith

    When i was nineteen, I sat down for the summer and decided to make my first attempt at writing a novel. I wrote ten pages a day, for thirty days. That 300 page novel wasn’t all that great but it didn’t have the continutiy rrors that LB has. Also, I knew better than to try and have the thing published as I didn’t then and still don’t now wnat my name attached to a substandard novel that i tossed off in a month.
    Until recently, i still entertained the fantasy of writing a novel. I gave up after three years of toiling away, producing in that time about 250 pages of pretty decent prose. I’ve decided to stick to short stories from now on, as I no longer have the patience for the work invovled in trying to write a novel. Never thought I’d have anything in common with L&J.

  • obeah

    Jenkins would kick ass at NaNoWriMo. Although, the participants in NaNo at least are aware they’re producing crap.

  • Andrew Reeves

    Two thoughts. The first: Has Christian fiction really gone in one hundred years from The Brothers Karamazov to dreck pounded out in 21 days? I shudder to think what the next hundred years will bring.
    The second is that VKW, there is something of a thin reed upon which to base the “Saved get to enjoy the torure of the damned” teaching. Indeed, I remember in my evangelical days in a Bible study it was pointed out to me that this is clear from Isaiah 66:22-4:
    “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD , “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD. “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
    On a final note, the theology of the mind-wipe has got to be the creepiest thing that I have read this week. *shudder*

  • A Left Behind Novel Every 21 Days

    This is what happens when you no longer have any self dignity and the musky aroma of the har-dee-har-har “look how many units we’ve been moving” contingent has completely taken over your mind. Slactivist explains….

  • A Left Behind Novel Every 21 Days

    This is what happens when you no longer have any self dignity and the musky aroma of the har-dee-har-har “look how many units we’ve been moving” contingent has completely taken over your mind. Slactivist explains….

  • Daddy-O

    The wonderful plan God has for the future of mankind may not be attractive to those who reject Christ, the Bible or God. But compared with plans for the future life (if any) taught by the other religions, it is the best thing going!
    LeHaye must have been saved by a late-night infomercial by Ron Popiel.
    Christianity: It’s the best thing going! Saved, or your money back!
    The blind leading the blind…

  • bellatrys

    Has anyone here seen this article in World magazine, defending LaHaye’s “cleansing” theology [sic] against Kristof’s denunciation?
    (I just found out about World, myself, in the course of researching the ties between the followers of Tashlan. They’re the ones who run World Journalism Institute, with Barbara Bradley “random Massgoers” Hagerty and Jack “I just make shit up” Kelley.)

  • Patrick Mullins

    Many thanks, Bellatrys, even though I have a headache now after even semi-deciphering all that atrocious Newspeak. There are some facts I hate to face, but I appreciate it when properly warned–however, I begin to think that it’s all Hydra-headed by now and that I may not have time to do anything else.
    The following quote from the article is one of the most insidious things I have ever read, confident that it can just go ahead with ethnic cleansing, barely pretending it is not anymore.
    “To think of the Last Judgment as ‘ethnic cleansing’ suggests that a religion is what you are, rather than what you believe. This assumes that faith is ethnicity, a matter of cultural identity rather than the state of one’s soul.”
    It obviously hasn’t a thing to do with anything religious–this whether one thinks of oneself as religious or not–but just insults a concept of ethnicity that is founded by ignorant people who can’t write.
    No “forgiveness” is warranted by this kind of dangerous thinking, but rather we should practise a merciless “reverse ethnic cleansing” precisely upon such sickening “writing.” (Because writing is is NOT. I looked at a few other offerings in there, and it is all, as this one, primarily just a matter of “changing paragraphs” more or less regularly.) After all, the likelihood that they are “fakers, liars, hypocrites and even porn fans trying to ‘define out sin'” is very great.
    It is helpful to think of Gregor Samsa and other dung-beetles–however, even dung-beetles may have more “cultural identity” than one finds in this rag which would be better called PROVINCE MAGAZINE & SHOPPING CLUB.

  • Samuel

    Hey, I love your “Left Behind” review- it’s great to hear about this book from a Christian who doesn’t believe in all that right-wing nonsense. I’m interested in the books, but I’d never actually read them, so it’s great that you’re doing this. Just one question- could you go just a little faster? I know a lot of people have asked this, I know.
    Also, would you consider reviewing the movie? It’s supposed to be really awful (surprise).

  • Chris P.

    The problem with Mr. Lahaye’s books,other than his pillaging the pocketbooks of the Biblically ignorant, is his stance, whether real or put-on, that the rapture and the imagined events of his ramblings are Scriptural in basis, i.e. are they true? The answer being; of course not. On the other side of this coin is the typical post modern behavior of ripping something to shreds, even when it should be, and offering nothing of substance to fill the void. At least postmodernism is honest in the fact that it admits to being foundationless, and without Scriptural basis whatsoever,thus making it unable to offer anything substantial in place of the bad. There is only this pseudo-apophatic tendency to rant about what doesn’t work or what it isn’t. When did two wrongs ever make a right?
    Finally,the Canon of Scripture was not assembled based on agreement with doctrines of punishment for the un-saved and the apparent glee of the redeemed. We live in a day where that which calls itself church has lost continuity with it’s beginnings. This goes for those on both sides of this arguement.

  • Homunculus

    That Tertullian passage is a fairly hair-raising piece of invective, but I had always had it in mind that it was Thomas Aquinas who actually set this down as cold-blooded dogma. A bit of reasearch showed me that’s not quite right, though: In the relevant passage from the Summa Theologica, he seems to be arguing that any delight that the saved feel will come, not directly from seeing the damned being tortured, but from the relief that it ain’t them.
    I did find a thoroughgoing doctrinal defense of the notion that the saints will consider the punishment of the damned to be first-rate entertainment in and of itself, by Jonathan Edwards– though I have no idea whether he was the first.
    Sample quote from Edwards: “[T]he sufferings of the damned will be no occasion of grief to the heavenly inhabitants, as they will have no love nor pity to the damned as such. It will be no argument of want of a spirit of love in them, that they do not love the damned; for the heavenly inhabitants will know that it is not fit that they should love them, because they will know then, that God has no love to them, nor pity for them… However the saints in heaven may have loved the damned while here, especially those of them who were near and dear to them in this world, they will have no love to them hereafter.”

  • bellatrys

    “However the saints in heaven may have loved the damned while here, especially those of them who were near and dear to them in this world, they will have no love to them hereafter”
    Whereas at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Anathematizers, you have Pelagius and (probably) Dame Julian of Norwich: don’t worry, God the Mother and Father of All is more generous than we can imagine, and “all manner of thing shall be well.”

  • Proteus454

    Also, would you consider reviewing the movie? It’s supposed to be really awful (surprise).
    There’s a MOVIE as well?
    I have not the words.

  • Samuel

    Proteus454 wrote:
    There’s a MOVIE as well?
    I have not the words.
    There are actually two movies. Low-budget productions, of course, starring Kirk Cameron of “Growing Pains” as Buck Williams. Both went direct-to-video, although the first one was actually in theaters after its video release (Huh?).
    There are actually some differences between the books and the movies; in the movies, Williams works for a cable news station, an Iraq attacks Israel, not Russia.
    No, I haven’t seen either of them. I’d feel too ashamed at the video store…

  • Charles Larson

    One of my friends reviewed the Left Behind movie and the first book. It’s not NEARLY as indepth as this site (I love this site, really great)
    Check it out, if you’re curious.

  • elizabeth

    Hmmm… Maybe the rapture is *how* the meek inherit the earth?

  • Dan

    Only recently discovered this online exegesis, well done, Fred! This is what LB’s extensive fan base really needs to know. Have you considered publishing these as a complete book? Although there are several critiques of LB out there, by Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Mennonite, etc authors, these seem to be content with general, sweeping statements and analyses of only its broad themes. While these are useful for those who have no contact with LB or the fundie evangelical world, there is (to my knowledge) no in-depth running commentary that states and examines each part of the text; which is more effective when dealing with LB fans/pretrib adherents than overall comments and criticisms. They can be neatly ignored or explained away as simply the “raging of the nations” or other such “work of the devil”. But in-depth analysis of the language and individual scenes that make up LB highlight forcefully the sheer magnitude of contradiction, error and diabolic theology.
    I remember when I first read the book (skimmed through it more like, I don’t have Fred’s stoicism), although I found the whole scenario frankly ridiculous, I didn’t realise the scale of error until reading this commentary. Like the vast majority of the 55 million LB fans, I suspect, I simply read through it superficially, never stopping to thoughtfully consider its full implications (besides from being disturbed by the characters’ total lack of empathy for the rest of humanity, and the whole ‘they’ve taken the mark so they’re doomed no matter how much they may repent’ schtick). And deep and honest consideration of LB is IMHO, its own death-warrant.
    Frankly, we can’t let the Evangelical community, which possesses perhaps the greatest wealth and political power than any other Christian group on earth, squander these gifts by wallowing in introversion on the basis of some intellectually-lazy, half-baked, non-biblical worldview. It is essentially folk religion/superstition, but that wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that its preventing them from helping the Church at large. There is currently an unprecented spread of the gospel throughout the Third World for example (which now holds roughly 3 quarters of all the world’s Christians, I might add), and with it an unprecedented (in scale) persecution of believers, mostly at the hands of hostile communist and muslim leaders/communities. There have been more martyrs in the 20th century than in the past 1900-odd years combined!!!! And there are also massive humanitarian needs; most of the world has trouble getting clean water, proper food, health care, decent living wages, etc.
    Yet what stirs their collective hearts? Causes such as funnelling funds to various ultra-right Jewish zealots who plan to level the Dome of the Rock and the al-Asqa mosque and rebuild the Temple of Solomon, even if it leads to total (and possibly nuclear, chemical or biological) war in the Middle East. Even if a Third Temple is to be built (a fairly controversial reading of Thessalonians and Revelation), where in the NT are believers commanded to help reconstruct it? Couldn’t their resources be better spent bringing the gospel to the Middle East for example, or digging wells in East Africa?
    These evangelicals must start thinking for themselves; but they need help to get past LB’s onionskin-thin superficial storytelling, and penetrate slightly below the surface. So think about it, eh Fred?
    Sufferings of the Damned
    Sorry for that long excursus, I meant to discuss the issue of the suffering of the damned after the judgement.
    As Fay Zwicky points out in her poem “Thoughts on the Christian doctrine of eternal hell”, there does seem to be biblical support for eternal suffering for the enemies of God.
    However, I don’t think the underlying theology of it is as brutal as LaHaye et al seem to feel it is (judging from their unconvincing justifications). Scripture declares that Jesus came to world to save it, not destroy it (John 3:17). Furthermore, God “wants ALL people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), and salvation’s freely available to everyone: “all who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21, Joel 2:28-32).
    So the picture drawn in the Bible is NOT one of God angrily and callously sentencing billions of ‘pagan babies’ and so forth to the flames simply because they’d never heard of him, but something quite different. Look at Revelation, the textbook par excellence of the school of Humanity’s Fiery Doom. Look at the portrayal of the ‘damned’: they “cursed the Name of God … but REFUSED TO REPENT” (Revelation 16:9,11). Nobody questions God’s existence, everybody’s heard the gospel (see Rev 14:6 especially); as Fred has said, the deus ex machina has appeared, there’s no doubt at all. Yet even so, many people flatly refuse to repent. Their only response to God’s open (and blatant) invitation of love is to curse at Him. Quite a difference, eh? So the fires of hell are more a consequence of rejecting God than of God rejecting them. CS Lewis once wrote that “the gates of hell are locked from the INSIDE”.
    As to question of how a loving God could sentence even unrepentant enemies to eternal flame, it should be noted that fire is a prominent symbol of God Him/Herself throughout Scripture, the burning bush, etc. In fact the Bible clearly states that God IS “a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29). During the Middle Ages, certain saints spoke of the “fire of love” which surrounded them. In some cases, this “fire” was so strong that the saint’s body itself was abnormally warm – literally, too hot to touch. They would walk over the mountains and through winter wearing barely any rags at all and not be affected by the cold at all! (I’m not making this up!)
    And so, it has been pointed out to me, this “lake of fire” may in fact be God’s own fiery (and loving) presence that fills existence (see Jeremiah 23:24). This would make the torment of the ‘damned’ the direct result of their own hatred – doomed to feel the powerful, omnipresent love of a God they wholeheartedly despised and rejected surrounding them forever and ever. The same fiery love that ‘the redeemed’ reciporicate and rejoice to be swallowed up in.
    In this scenario, the response of the saints to the damned’s suffering would be primarily one of pity, pity at their choice to revile God, and its horrific effects, but at the same time accepting that each one made their own choice.
    This is only one theory among many, but for those who are interested in serious study of heaven, hell and judgment are recommended to read CS Lewis’ ‘The Problem of Pain’ and his other writings, plus the following books by Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft:
    Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven, but Never Dreamed of Asking
    Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing

  • Scott

    Once the election is over, can we expect more LB? Please? :-)

  • patter

    Hey, come on, you guys — too much exposure to this crap can render you sterile or insane or both. Give poor ol’ buddy Fred a break, willya?

  • John Harris

    Jenkins himself does a “thorough edit” — with the kind of thoroughness one might expect from a writer who cranks out a complete novel in 21 days.
    Hey, way to tell ’em! I-
    Wait a minute, what am I saying, I’m participating in Nanowrimo!

  • OG

    But John, will you consider the novel ready for publication on December 1?

  • none

    I too am participating in NaNoWriMo, and have about three-quarters of a novel. I would say it’s better than LB, but that would be rather like damning with faint praise…

  • Ken

    At that pace, Jenkins is able to crank out an entire novel in about 21 working days.
    Wow! I guess Jenkins really is the “Ed Wood” of the religious right.
    That sort of pace was common in Thirties Pulp, where it was a penny-a-word and volume meant income and income meant survival during the Depression.
    A NaNoWriMan buddy of mine calls it “diahrrea writing”, where you just slam the first draft through the typer to get it down before your muse clocks out, then go back and rewrite/edit it into coherence.
    Except Jenkins & LaHaye seem to be too busy slamming out the next trilogy to ever go back and rewrite/edit. Come to think of it, they don’t have the “volume means income means survival” excuse either.