The World’s Worst Books and the world’s worst public policies

The Left Behind novels are Very Bad. But they are also very influential.

From classrooms, to courtrooms, to the U.S. Senate and all ships at sea, these horrible, heretical books are shaping American public policy.

Tim LaHaye is changing your world.

Item No. 1: Louisiana parents fear “mark of the beast” in school cafeteria.

“A Louisiana school district is trying out a new biometrics device in the hopes of speeding up the lunch line,” vorjack reports. Uh-oh, here it comes:

“I was very, very mad,” said parent Mamie Sonnier. “Disappointed.”

Many parents felt that way. … Sonnier says she’s against the palm vein scanner because of her beliefs.

“As a Christian, I’ve read the Bible, you know go to church and stuff,” said Sonnier. “I know where it’s going to end up coming to, the mark of the beast. I’m not going to let my kids have that.”

Same thing happened when supermarket scanners first were introduced. And credit cards. And ATMs.

These were all denounced and opposed by self-proclaimed Christians who had “read the Bible,” and, “you know go to church and stuff.” What they really meant was that they had read books by Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. Or maybe just seen part of The Omen on cable. You know, Christians.

Item No. 2: Soon-to-be U.S. Senator Ted Cruz fears a one-world-government U.N. conspiracy

Cruz fears, resents and resists Agenda 21 — a 20-year-old nonbinding resolution recommending best practices for sustainable communities.

Agenda 21 has become a right-wing bogeyman based on the false claim that it constitutes some kind of threat to local or national sovereignty. That claim is due to it being an international effort through the United Nations, which is suspect because all good Christians who read the Bible and, you know, go to church and stuff, know that the U.N. is just biding its time until the Antichrist uses it to establish a tyrannical one-world government.

So since Agenda 21 recommends things like septic-tank inspections, bike lanes, walkable communities, mass transit and traffic-reduction, these folks therefore are now angrily, excitedly opposed to septic-tank inspections, bike lanes, walkable communities, mass transit and traffic-reduction.

Because of Nicolae Carpathia.

And because of the John Birch Society — the far-right group whose paleoconservative conspiracy theories are embodied in long-time JBS-member Tim LaHaye’s End Times novels. According to the JBS, Agenda 21 seeks “a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced.”

Thus efforts to reduce traffic jams are twisted into “the Antichrist is coming to take away America’s cars!!1!” It is no coincidence that anti-Agenda 21 hysteria predominates in the same Bible-belt regions where LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy” heresy is widespread.

You might laugh when you hear red-faced Left Behind fans and Birchers shouting such things at a town council meeting. But it’s not as funny when you’re stuck in traffic due to common-sense regional planning being opposed as the New World Order.

And it’s not as funny when Texas sends Ted Cruz to promote this nonsense in the U.S. Senate. The Senate doesn’t need any more of this, because …

Item No. 3: The U.S. Senate spiked the Law of the Sea Treaty in order to foil the Antichrist

As Steve Benen noted last month, the treaty was:

… negotiated 18 years ago, and ratified by 161 countries around the globe. Here in the U.S., it’s been endorsed by the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, the Obama administration, business leaders, the State Department, the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs, and specifically U.S. Navy leaders who, as Josh Rogin explained, see the measure as necessary “to allow the United States to fully participate in the growing multinational system that governs the open seas.”

Yet U.S. participation in the treaty was nixed due to:

… far-right activists, who had irrational fears, based on little more than paranoia, that the measure would give the United Nations power over American laws. Fox News and other conservative media outlets soon began trumpeting the talking points, which were aggressively pushed by John Bolton and other extremists, that our “sovereignty” was being put at risk by treaty backers, including the U.S. military.

Item No. 4: A sitting judge in Lubbock County, Texas, believes he is a member of the Tribulation Force

Tom Head — a judge, an actual judge who presides over actual cases in a court of law — is campaigning for a local property tax hike to hire more county police. Head, a Republican, says the additional police will be necessary to overthrow the one-world government he expects will quickly arise should President Obama be re-elected:

“[President Obama] is going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N. Okay, what’s going to happen when that happens? I’m thinking worst case scenario here. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. We’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations. We’re talking Lexington-Concord take up arms and get rid of the guy.

“Now what’s going to happen if we do that, if the public decides to do that? He’s going to send in U.N. troops — with the little blue beanies. I don’t want ’em in Lubbock County. Okay. So I’m going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say, ‘You’re not coming in here.'”


(Update: An explanatory note from Texan Charles Kuffner — “A ‘County Judge’ is not a person who wears a robe and conducts trials, though they do have the authority to do so in courts that don’t hear the major felony or civil cases. A ‘County Judge’ presides over the ‘Commissioners Court’,’ which is the governing body for counties in Texas. It’s a little like being the Mayor of a county.”)

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  • Bnerd

    Ah yes, I remember the good ole’ round table discussions about the “mark of the beast”. Anytime our Bible study groups would reach Revelations they would automatically start in on, “What is the mark of the beast?”. No one knew of course (which is ironic coming from literalists), but that didn’t stop them from throwing all sorts of crap at the wall to see what would stick. When I was a kid, the popular theory related to RFID chips. *Every* good Last Christian Action Hero just knew RFID chips were the mark of the beast. When that didn’t seem to materialize, the discussion went back to the usual suspects: UPC codes. For some reason Evangelicals have an irrational fear of barcodes.

    I also remember hearing quite a bit of conspiracy theory BS. It was the mark of a good Evangelical to believe that the Government was somehow plottingto steal everything from you. The big one when I was young was the formation of the European Union. Evangelicals LOVED using that as a sign (probably still do I’m sure).

  • Matri

    Heh, I’ve been saying for years that the only people more delusional
    than the “barcodes are possessed by demons” crowd are the ones that have
    any faith in human nature.

    *sighs* And sadly, you’re being proven right every time I look at the news.

  • Kiba

    Disney parks have done it for at least a decade, I know. So this isn’t like the technology’s anything new.

    Yeah, but Disney is already Satan’s hand puppet. I mean they employ gay people and have Gay Days. 

    Regarding wallets: Front left here! I’ve never carried a wallet in my hip pocket.

    Regarding the Empire: I always liked the Empire more than the Rebels. The Dark Side got all the cool stuff.    

  • I’m sure they envision themselves as the plucky Rebel forces, ready to take down Obama’s mighty AT-ATs and Death Stars, cutting down his legions of barely-competent stormtroopers like so many B-movie underlings.

    And yet try as I might, wearing a black cape does not allow me to choke them at range with thought and a gesture.  

  • Kiba

    @ FearlessSon
    I was sooooo disappointed when I realized that I couldn’t do that as a kid.

  • I actually half facetiously commented that the Yugoslav state could have fit the “ten and seven” part of Revelation; I then discovered at one point some fringe Christian sect did in fact try to fit the Yugoslav political structure into Revelation prophecy seriously.

  • According to Dilbert, you can do that with enough coffee.  

  • Kiba

    Lies!  I pretty much live on coffee. I’ve been told my blood type is F for Folgers and I still can’t do that.

    Or maybe I need to practice more…. >.>

  • Tricksterson

    Most other states probably but Texas, like New Hamster and South Carolina seems to be home to a particularly concentrated form of crazy/stupid.

  • Tricksterson

    I remember my boss at the time who was a fundie getting all het up about that.  He was actually mostly a nice and in many ways intelligent person, he just had certain…blcoks and triggers.

  • Tricksterson

    Which also goes for anyone who says the Beast is the UN.  Plain as day Revelations says it’s a ten headed sea monster.

  • The Rebellion gets cooler hardware, but the Empire has all the cool cosplay opportunities.

  • VMink

    Indeed.  The Empire gets better wardrobes, better theme music, and better, well, most everything.  Unless you’re a redshirt stormtrooper.  Them you’re kind of out of luck.

  • Tricksterson

    And it’s easier to pick.

  • I never stop being amazed at Tea Partiers who think they can hold off the U.S. military with their basement arsenals.

    There were also those who, prior to the last election, predicted that the U.S. military itself would rise up against the scourge of an Obama presidency.

    Funny story about that: It didn’t.

  • vsm

    As fun as it is to complain about RayRay and company not doing anything, it may have actually been a pretty good decision on Ellenjay’s part. If their followers get up to such shenanigans all by their own, imagine if the books contained a call for direct action. Granted, the ethical choice would have been to not write anything in the first place, but hucksters gonna huck.

  •  This is something I’ve never quite grasped.

    How the hell does Joe SurvivalNut think he’s going to ‘resist the New World Order’ with just his AK-47, some canned meat and bottled water?

    No seriously, the fuck is an AK-47 going to do when your supposed potential enemies are:

    A) Wearing body armor.

    B) Coming at you in APCs or helicopters

    C) Backed by tanks, attack helicopters and planes, artillery and cruise-missile launching ships and subs offshore.

    D)  Outnumbers you 1000:1 in all probability.*

    E)  Has access to NUCLEAR WEAPONS.  No seriously, this here should be “The End” as far as that debate goes – if you somehow manage to hold out against all of the above, do you really think a tyrannical one-world megalith is going to hesitate to just nuke you?  Because they wouldn’t.

    You know assuming any of that were remotely plausible in the first place.

    *Seriously, if you listen to these folks, just about the entire planet, including much of the US is ‘in on it’.  Which means 1000:1 is probably being overly charitable to the conspiracists.

  •  I kept my wallet in my back pocket and my billfold in my  side pocket until I was in my mid 20s. Then I started having issues with my back and decided it was more comfortable to carry my wallet in my other side pocket. It’s hard to switch back, so I never did ( which is inconvenient, since it’s not a sure thing when buying pants that they won’t turn outto have pockets which assume you would never try to carry a wallet in them, certainly not while also carrying keys.

  •  There are billboards in virginia literally calling for armed insurrection if Obama wins.

    Part of me, the dark, mean-spirited part, wishes they’d try, so we can finally put to rest the idea that personal unrestricted ownership of firearms is a necessary check against the federal government. When someone suggests gun control might be a good idea, and the NRA’s pet congrescritters talk about the intent of the second ammendment, we could just point at the massive graveyard of the criminals slain in the 45-minute virginian treason, and say “How’s that working for you?”

    (Fun fact: I recently read that in decades past, the NRA was actually *supportive* of sensible gun control laws, as they considered unrestricted gun control to be bad for their image. WHat changed? Well, I’m not going to draw conclusions myself, but the turnaround coincided rather neatly with the civil rights act.)

  • Launcifer

    See, I have the creeping suspicion that, rather than dissuading the survivalists, something like that would them want to set up their own R&D facility somewhere, since the military was obviously hogging all the good stuff. That and call for more terrifying weapons and ordnance to be made available for sale in shops, obviously.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

     Yes, they did.  I remember it distinctly as a boy.  Oh, and Henry Kissinger was the Anti-Christ, because of NUMEROLOGY.   My head hurts.  I have to lie down.

  • Ima Pseudonym


  • Ima Pseudonym

    Uhhh…tThat was supposed to go with this picture, since I don’t know how to add a caption to this. 

  • vsm

    Wasn’t Waco more or less that? It doesn’t seem to have bothered the survivalists too much.

  • AnonymousSam

    I went hunting for a picture of those billboards. Didn’t find them, but I found news about the Greene County GOP’s March newspaper advocating armed rebellion against Obama.

    We have before us a challenge to remove an ideologue unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized.
    An individual who has come to power within a Nation which yields it’s strength over the entire world.
    An elected leader who shuns biblical praise, handicaps economic ability, disrespects the honor of earned military might.
    In the coming days and weeks  ~ we the people must come to grasp as a common force, our very soul’s, that our future as a sovereign nation is indeed at risk.
    If every single individual that you know, would contact 25 other individuals  ~ we can make a difference that will be heard across the Commonwealth and in Washington.
    The ultimate task for the people is to remain vigilant and aware  ~ that the government, their government is out of control, and this moment, this opportunity, must not be forsaken, must not escape us, for we shall not have any coarse but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November ~ This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.

  • What amazes me — what leaves me utterly dumbfounded! — is that these creatures are so terrified of Obama being the Antichrist that they are eager to vote for a plutocratic Mormon bishop and a Catholic Ayn Rand cultist! Ellenjay couldn’t have gotten away with making their Antichrist such transparent worshipers of Mammon. It would have been too obvious even for their dull-witted readers to accept.

  • AnonymousSam

    I believe Fred once said that this kind of thinking conditions people to look so hard for wolves in sheeps’ clothing that they ignore real wolves and start suspecting every sheep.

  • Nicolae Carpathia

    I never stop being amazed at Tea Partiers who think they can hold off the U.S. military with their basement arsenals.

    Nicolae Carpathia controls the media, you yahoos. He doesn’t care about looking good on the 6:00 news; he will just bomb your cute little compound flat and get on with his full day of Antichristing.

    Thanks for the tip!

    I was going to just call them terrorists as an excuse, but Americans already know that only brown people can be terrorists.

  • Most welcome!

    *adds to resume: “Assisted Antichrist with takeover of United States government.”*

  • There were also those who, prior to the last election, predicted that
    the U.S. military itself would rise up against the scourge of an Obama

    In point of fact weren’t there rumors that the Bush Jr era Presidency had once been potentially under threat of a military coup due to the civilian administration’s gross fumbling of the invasion of Iraq?

  • I used to point blank ask that of the right-wing types I knew in the 1990s and they never really had a good answer except “uuuuh we don’t think the US would bomb its own people.”

    What the fuck? They’ve already assumed the USA will attack its own people by the assumptions of their extreme gun-rights stance. What makes them suddenly want to assume an outbreak of compassion from the US military and police forces?

  • hidden_urchin

    There are billboards in virginia literally calling for rmed insurrection if Obama wins.

    So why is it those billboards are allowed to stand and someone like Brandon Raub is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for Facebook posts?  (Good news: A judge overturned the action and ordered his release.)

  • PJ Evans

    Or the 666th shopper at the local K-Mart?

    Or born at 6am on the 6th of June?

  • For context.

    Also, I might note that a certain former country was often trashed by the United States for abuse of psychiatric detention.

    It is odd how the extremes meet in some cases, isn’t it?

  • PJ Evans

     There are people trying to get Head kicked out of office, too. I don’t think it’s likely to work – the area is conservative – but it’s at least going to get more attention focused on his nutcasery.

  • PJ Evans

    don’t even think about what the Railroad Commission regulates>/i>

    Oil wells, that I know. Do they have anything to do with actual railroads?

  • PJ Evans

     I figure the FBI is probably looking into it, since he’s doing sedition and working on inciting rebellion.

  • PJ Evans

    something like that would them want to set up their own R&D facility somewhere

    Which would lead me to think that probably very few of them have any idea why the government does that kind of stuff in the middle of the desert, or at least several miles from any place of any size. Or how much money gets spent on R&D, what with the real estate, the facilities on the real estate, and all the people doing the R&D and their support staff.

  •  Why, it’s almost as if they don’t actually believe that stuff about protecting the citizenry from tyrrany, and they just like guns because of a power fantasy. penis-enhancer, and the desire to be able to use a hollow *threat* of violence to bully anyone who they see as a threat to their privilege.

    (And maybe to stop the schools from integrating)

  • “Little blue beanies”!? Um…. 

  • Albanaeon

     Yeah.  It was a little humerous (read scary…) the amount of people after the election (even in the military) who were sure that there was going to be some sort of military coup in the wake of Obama’s election.  People that didn’t seem to get that a. lawfully elected, so good to go for most, and b. a lot of military were pretty unhappy with Repubs in general and the Shrub in particular and there was no particular desire among a lot of the lower ranks to bring them back. 

    Not to say Obama’s the most popular president with the military, but from experience we are generally talking about guys that take their oaths seriously and, particularly with enlisted coming from lower class backgrounds, less sympathetic to the Bible According to Ayn Republicans than is generally appreciated.

  • Albanaeon

     Quite frankly, I am not all that worried about what survivalists could cook up on their own.  Oh, I’m not saying they couldn’t bring out a bunch of clever stuff, but compared to what a chemist, or a physicist, or a biologist with access to a Community College science lab, phbbbtt… 

    There are disadvantages to neglecting education.

  • I wonder if part of the dislike among the military for Democrat presidents in generally has to do with a lot of the people in the lower ranks coming out of southern states will poor economic opportunities.  The military represents a reasonable path out of the poverty for a lot of those people, but the culture of those states slants pretty anti-left.  

  • Lori

    Not a week goes by that I don’t think back to the days when my parents knew that the Birchers were whackadoos. U know that they did because we used to talk about it. They had some friends who were members and used to say the L & A were nice people with ridiculous politics. Now my folks are Tea Party supporters and seem to have no clue that that means they’re basically Birchers. It’s depressing.  Also, I hate Fox News so much I can’t even tell you.

  • Daughter

     It’s almost hilarious. “We have before us … an ideologue unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized.” Really? Obama? It makes no sense, no matter what how much they dislike him, that they think this way. What the hell has Obama done that’s so scary to them?

  • I think seeing how poorly-treated the military has been in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the blatant war profiteering going on in the meantime, has likely soured at least some in the military against the dogma that Republican politicians really mean it when they claim to want to uphold the military.

    The question is, will it have changed the minds of enough armed forces personnel to make a real difference come election time? I don’t know.

  •  Was it here I was reading someone saying that a “high ranking insider” had repoted that Obama planned to hold on to power “by any means necessary” and would not peacefully give up the office if he were voted out?

    In a more reasonable world, the GOP would not be able to get away with trying to simultaneously paint obama as limp-wristed and ineffectual while also trying to paint him as a dangerous extremist and “Scary violent black man”.

  • “What the hell has Obama done that’s so scary to them?”

    Been black and President. If something isn’t done now, this could happen again – or even worse, someone could be female and President.

  • Lori

    The hell?

    It’s painful when dumb people try to sound smart.

  • Dan Audy

     It’s almost hilarious. “We have before us … an ideologue unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized.” Really? Obama? It makes no sense, no matter what how much they dislike him, that they think this way. What the hell has Obama done that’s so scary to them?

    Inspired millions of people who never had voted before in their life to take part in the electoral process.  That scares them more than anything else because if the hopeless, poor, and disenfranchised start voting regularly they will never be able to continue pushing their fear based wealth distribution through the unholy pact of dominionists and corporatists.