NRA: Rayford the Spy


These two paragraphs can serve as a metaphor for, or a summary of, the kind of religion that Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are advocating in these books. It’s a faith that drives you to work for the emperor, faithfully and capably obeying everything the empire commands while enjoying the prestige and paychecks that come with such work. Yet at the same time it encourages you to imagine yourself as a rebellious and counter-cultural. So even though it leads you into complicity with “horrible atrocities,” you’ll be able to blithely take it all in stride. [Read more...]

NRA: Marriage lessons


Rayford Steele reminisces about how he first met and fell in love with his second wife, Amanda. But this three-page trip down memory lane doesn’t actually tell us anything about Amanda as an individual and a human being. Instead, it’s just a mini-lecture on the generic virtues of a generic Good Christian Wife. Such a woman, the authors tell us, should have a “quiet, gentle” spirit; should avoid being forward, being a flirt or a “jabberer;” and should cook and clean as a cheerful, willing servant. [Read more...]

NRA: Can’t wait for the funeral


This discussion of Verna seems intended to be a pep-talk for readers regarding the duty of evangelism. The present-day Christian readers of these books are meant to identify with the members of the Tribulation Force, whose behavior here is meant to serve as a model for how they can witness to or share the gospel with their own unsaved co-workers and acquaintances. But this pep-talk fails to recognize the difference between the starkly supernatural context of this story and the context of readers’ lives here in the real world, where such supernatural evidence is a bit harder to come by. [Read more...]

NRA: By him all things consist


Maybe Jerry Jenkins’ jarring refusal to maintain even the broadest, most basic consistency in his fictional world is some kind of theological experimental fiction. Maybe these huge contradictions and massive continuity errors are actually his literary attempt to convey a world in which divine grace has been withdrawn — taking with it the consistency, coherence, logic and non-contradiction that we now, by God’s grace, take for granted. [Read more...]

NRA: I love it when a plan comes together


The final chunk of Chapter 13 will be familiar to anyone who grew up watching the TV shows of Stephen J. Cannell. These pages offer gunfire, explosions, and a mad scramble across the tarmac fleeing Bad Guys with bad aim. It’s almost like an episode of “The A-Team.” The main difference, though — and here’s a phrase I never expected to write — is that the writing was far, far better on “The A-Team.” [Read more...]

NRA: We’re on a mission from Gahd


We’ve got an overnight car chase with comically absurdist dialogue, jokes about cigarette lighters, and providential mayhem in the service of a divine mission. Am I just imagining this, or is proud Chicagoan Jerry Jenkins deliberately referencing “The Blues Brothers” here? [Read more...]

NRA: A second time through customs


The author’s explanation for this mass conversion seems to be that, prior to the Rapture, these thousands of diverse religions all taught something that was not real, true Christianity. The Antichrist’s One World Faith also is not real, true Christianity. So converting from one form of not-RTC to another form of not-RTC, the authors assume, couldn’t be that big a deal for any of these non-Christians. [Read more...]

Bad Theology makes for bad movies: ‘Left Behind’ is a story with no place for real humans

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Theology is the story of God’s relationship with humanity. The parts of that story that pertain to God will always be, at some level, speculative — marked by assertions and contentions that can never be wholly proved or wholly falsified. But the other part of theology — the part of the story that tells us about humanity, about people — is something we can verify, measure, confirm or disprove, based on our own experience and our observations of the experience of others. [Read more...]