Left Behind

I read the first 70 pages of the Left Behind series and then promptly through it across the room satisfied that whatever story there might have been left to tell (all 11 books’ worth), I couldn’t trust the writers to get me there without brain damage. Little did I know that I would read virtually the entire book and much more later on, only this time with running commentary that was insightful, outrageous, and incredibly entertaining. Yes, this was still Left Behind, but narrated by an Evangelist who has proved by wading through every single page that the book (and series) may be the worst book of all time.

That is not hyperbole. The worst book of all time. The same book that Revelationists by the millions have read, that many Christians everywhere down as good Christian fiction. That book.

This kind of detailed, thorough and entertaining pasting of material is just an expansion of my love of well-written movie reviews. I can’t help but gravitate to the hilarious scathings of Walter Chaw against the likes of Sex and the City 2 (if you haven’t read it, the movie is a plausible reason for the Middle East to hate us). Likewise, when a reviewer articulates a film’s excellence using literature reference or historical insight, it’s a pleasure to read.

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed a more thorough, serious, and hilarious deconstruction of a fiction ever before. Nor can I say I’ve seen the breadth of it before or since, as the Frank’s deconstruction is much, much longer than the Left Behind book itself.

Why dedicate so much time to this seemingly pointless task? As you get absorbed into his writing, it is quick to see that every page of Left Behind teems with one or more of the following:
  • “heroes” that are uniformly insipid, delusional, self-righteous, cowardly, creepy, fake, and loathsome
  • plot points that are outrageously unbelievable
  • dialogue that alternates between tedious and inadvertently hilarious
  • inaction upon inaction
  • at least one phone call
The point is not (entirely) to deride the writers for their lack of skill, but to illustrate the mistakes so that good writers can avoid their errors. And evil judgments.

Fred Clark’s introduction to the series analysis says bluntly:
    These books are evil, anti-Christian crap.
Not one to take it out of context, or why I found the series so compelling, here’s his original first post:
    The apocalyptic heresies rampant in American evangelicalism are more popular than ever. It's easy to dismiss these loopy ideas as a lunatic fringe, but that would be a mistake. The widespread popularity of this End Times mania has very real and very dangerous consequences, for America and for the church. ("Premillennial dispensationalism" -- the technical terms for what these prophecy freaks teach -- teaches that the Sermon on the Mount does not apply to Christians living today. It also undermines the core of Christianity -- Jesus' death and resurrection, and the hope of that resurrection. These are not tangential matters for Christians.)

    The cultural standard bearer for these Very Bad Ideas is the "Left Behind" series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. These books have become so popular that every pastor in America is now confronted with the task of gently, pastorally explaining to their congregation why the theology of these books is misguided and misguiding.

    I'm not a pastor, so I won't be pastoral here. These books are evil, anti-Christian crap. This weekend, I'm beginning a new series of posts in which I'll go through these books, page by page.

    Millions of your fellow citizens are reading these books. Millions. If you're wondering what that means for you, read the following, from Glenn Scherer in E magazine:
    In his book The Carbon Wars, Greenpeace activist Jeremy Leggett tells how he stumbled upon this otherworldly agenda. During the Kyoto climate change negotiations, Leggett candidly asked Ford Motor Company executive John Schiller how opponents of the pact could believe there is no problem with “a world of a billion cars intent on burning all the oil and gas available on the planet?” The executive asserted first that scientists get it wrong when they say fossil fuels have been sequestered underground for eons. The Earth, he said, is just 10,000, not 4.5 billion years old, the age widely accepted by scientists.

    Then Schiller confidently declared, “You know, the more I look, the more it is just as it says in the Bible.” The Book of Daniel, he told Leggett, predicts that increased earthly devastation will mark the “End Time” and return of Christ. Paradoxically, Leggett notes, many fundamentalists see dying coral reefs, melting ice caps and other environmental destruction not as an urgent call to action, but as God’s will. Within the religious right worldview, the wreck of the Earth can be seen as Good News!

    Some true believers, interpreting biblical prophecy, are sure they will be saved from the horrific destruction brought by ecosystem collapse. They’ll be raptured: rescued from Earth by God, who will then rain down seven ghastly years of misery on unbelieving humanity. Jesus’ return will mark the Millennium, when the Lord restores the Earth to its green pristine condition, and the faithful enjoy a thousand years of peace and prosperity.
This is enjoyable, fun research into religion and how people think. It’s scary that someone wrote this and that millions of people thought it was ‘the truth’. Just read a few and you’ll be laughing and shaking your head. And maybe a little scared.

Although this is the main link, the pages are not indexed in a way conducive to easy reading. An indexed version is actually found on the side bar of this fan site. Yes, a fan site of a Biblical fiction book reviewer. It’s that good.

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