The 'Left Behind' Series is Evil, Anti-Christian Crap

Fred Clark, who authors a popular liberal Christian weblog called Slacktivist, wrote an epic review of the Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins which spans 300 of his weblog entries posted between 2003 and 2011:

I’ve sampled a few dozen of the posts (most aren’t long). And back in high school I read the first five (or six?) books in the series before I lost interest (there are 13 in total). I liked them. They remind me of those painfully unrealistic post-apocalyptic television miniseries (which I also like) — only better, because the surreal religious imagery in Left Behind makes up for some of the implausible bits. I did have to skip over pages of prayers and dialog in every book that were more alter call than plot developments, but those parts didn’t interrupt the action too much (I also skip the songs and verses when I read The Lord of the Rings).

Fred Clark is a better, more entertaining, and more insightful writer than LaHaye and Jenkins, so if you have some interest in the books and their themes I’d recommend reading some of his review series first (or instead). He didn’t like the books as much as I did, though. In fact, Clark (who is an evangelical Christian) thinks the books are evil.

One of Clark’s predominate complaints, other than the immorality of the characters and the poor telling of their story, is the sheer implausibility of it all (“The more you read, the more this book undermines the argument that our world and the world of the End Times are the same thing”). The relationships are shallow, the science isn’t sufficiently explained, and the political actors are irrational.

Oh, if you’re not familiar with the basic premise of the books, they are based on one of the more imaginative of modern Christian end-times theories (a form of dispensationalism) which reads some of the metaphorical language in the Bible as literal prophecies that will take place in the [perhaps near] future. In the novels those prophecies include a nuclear war between Russia and Israel, billions of people supernaturally disappearing from earth, and some of the people left behind fighting a guerrilla war against a new world government lead by a freshly incarnate Satan. There are also demon grasshoppers, fire breathing angels, as well as sundry other Bible-type plagues and creatures.

And Fred Clark thinks the story contains implausible elements. Pfft.

Of course not even a writer as motivated as Clark would write a 300-part review denouncing a popular post-apocalyptic religious thriller for not being realistic enough. There is a deeper, darker, more harmful aspect of the Left Behind books which Clark’s review attempts to counteract. You see, the books aren’t Christian enough.

Whereas I read the Left Behind books and thought they were fun (if too long) religious-themed action-thrillers with second-rate delivery based on an intriguing premise which borrows from some of the more colorful aspects of contemporary Christianity; Clark read the same books and thought they were dangerous heretical works that need refuting.

Unfortunately, the books aren’t like the old, boring heresies of monophysitism or whatnot. To Clark, Left Behind is popular heresy which is having a real, harmful effect in the world. Industrialists are destroying the earth because they believe Jesus will return to fix everything soon (“'Left Behind' is evil”), and fundamentalist Christians want to kill all Muslims in order to fulfill end times prophecy (“L.B.: Why this matters”). More succinctly, as Clark puts it, “These books are evil, anti-Christian crap.”

Clark’s idealistic worries that the heresies in Left Behind are a contributing cause to the worst excesses of capitalism and nationalism, I don’t find convincing. But I think he may be correct to worry that people will read those books and think they are representative of what Christians actually believe. Or worse, that Christians will read those books and think it is what they should believe.

Chief among the alleged doctrinal errors committed by LaHaye and Jenkins in their novels is what Clark calls the denial of death:

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."

Can you imagine? A novel — a novel — that does not conform to the Creeds! But I understand Clark’s concerns. It is important to always emphasize the orthodox position that we die first and then Jesus brings us back to life later. Otherwise Christianity just seems silly.

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