Greg's Reviews > Left Behind

Left Behind by Tim LaHaye
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Jul 02, 2007

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Most people do now know that I have read 7 of the 13 Left Behind books (12 actually, but then they threw on that extra one, and this is not counting the prequels, the kids versions and the horrendous graphic novels: Armageddon can pay off nicely as long as it's delayed). I don't hide the fact, it just doesn't come up that often. I would have read all of them, but when I went through my Left Behind phase these were the only ones out. The phase lasted I think 2 weeks. The books read quickly.

Why?

Originally I wanted to read something I knew going into the book that it would be shit. I do this from time to time. I also wanted to read what AMERICA was reading, and right around the time I read this there was a good deal of media coverage on the Left Behind phenomena. I felt disconnected from AMERICA at the time, as I was at Grad School and spent most of my time around then reading Adorno, Deleuze and Levinas. Most of AMERICA wasn't reading this, but they were reading LaHaye and Jenkins tales of a post-rapture world.

Once I started reading the first one I got hooked on them, and read all of them that I could. Were they any good? No. They are terrible books. Awful. The writing is shit, their dialog is painfully cookie cutter and except for Rayford every character sounds exactly the same. These two murders of Literature also found it too time consuming to put things like, 'Rayford said', or 'Buck said' after a line of dialog so to follow a conversation again and again I found myself having to count back lines to see who was talking when. That most of their dialog was made up of short declarative sentences made this even more painful (I don't know why but it did).

The plot.

All the born again christians goto heaven when the rapture happens. The non-believers are all left for the 7 years of tribulation. Everyone gets one more shot to believe in the big G and JC, because they are kind that way. The anti-JC and satan though are out to make life a living hell for these new found believers.

Apparently there was a video game that came out, where the Tribulation Force (what a fucking stupid name) got to fight the minions of satan. It looked like a Grand Theft Auto kind of game, and apparently you could kill the evil-doers. Neat, huh?

Did this make me a believer?

No.

What did I learn from these books?

That once again outlandish persecution fantasies dominate the thinking of groups of people. This isn't news, but at the time I was drawing interesting parallels between left-wing theorists like Ernesto Laclau, left-wing theorists like Judith Butler, racist writers like George Lincoln Rockwell, and these two bozos. All of them based their entire philosophy basically on the opposition where they precieved themselves to be a minority being threatened, and basically stuck on the idea of us vs. them as a starting point. All three types of people went in divergent directions with their theorizing, but they all seem to revel in being victims. The Republican Party, and right-wing talk show hosts pass almost their entire identity these days on this kind of thought. You'd think that they were being hunted down and killed by raving liberals, instead of living in a country where their brand of thought is pretty much accepted (I'll avoid going off on my thoughts on our two-party system here). Liberals probably kind of do this too, but they at least have the decency to hide their paranoia by attempting to do something that isn't just whining about how they are being victimized (they might point to someone like a tortured prisoner, or the poor to show how bad things are under some conservative.

This is going way off track.

This book is pop-shit. Sadly this is a mainstream type of thought in this country, a non-thinking brand of religious mania being fed to people through shitty books like this one. Instead of believing in anything this book is getting people to do the old Pascal's wager and put the insurance bet on getting into Heaven, there is nothing here about being any kind of decent human being, just a mindless automaton getting ready to kneel down and pray and preach at anyone until they are brow-beaten into submission.

Why three stars? Because they were just so much fun to read in their terribleness, I'll always be a sucker for the rapture stuff christians produce. Good shit.
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message 45: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 17, 2009 07:05PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio The whole persecution complex emerging from the the utmost dominant sector of a society is a truly bizarre thing to behold. A triumph of delusion and a maddening, hall-of-mirrors style series of deflections and doublespeak and doublethink. It's almost sort of genius, but isn't really engineered top-down from a single source either. It's rather just this bottom-up, emergent property that's bubbled out of a complex series of events...I think.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I didn't know that there were 13 of these things. What the hell happens after like 5? Does a civil war break out in heaven or what?


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Apparently there's actually 16 of them. The series ends thusly (according to wikipedia):

"In the final years of the Millenium, the Other Light amasses its armies, a force a thousand times larger than the Global Community Unity Army. All the billions of members of TOL gather all the weapons they can to battle against God, surrounding the city of Jerusalem where Christ reigns, with Lucifer himself leading their charge. However, Jesus comes out to meet them and says, "I Am Who I Am," and the entire opposing army is devoured by fire. Jesus then speaks personally to Lucifer shaming him for his iniquities and evils. At his final words he opens a hole in spacetime itself and we see the Beast (Nicolae Carpathia) and the False Prophet (Leon Fortunato), who are both writhing in agony and screaming "Jesus is Lord!" Lucifer joins them in their screaming and is thrown into torment with them. The Great White Throne Judgment takes place and all unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire. The earth is renovated by fire, ushering in a new heaven and a new earth. All the believers are then welcomed into heaven, destined to reign with Christ for all eternity."


message 42: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg that must be counting the prequels that came out. I think it was in 12 that Jesus comes back, I'd recommend looking through it sometime at a bookstore. I read the scene of his 'glorious' return, and I remember their description made him sound like Hugh Hefner in a robe coming back with a sword.

I can't remember what happens in each individual book. But basically each book is another part of Revelations, four horsemen, plagues, wormwood, the anti-christ, the mark of the beast etc., Life becomes a living hell for the believers, lots of martyrs, persecution, and Tom Clancy like battles.

There were a few great movies made around the time these were coming out by the same folks. There was the movie version of Left Behind starring Kirk Cameron, which is sort of unwatchable, but there were also a different strand of Rapture movies with some Hollywood washed up stars (for then, some have careers again) in them like Howie Mandel, Mr. T ('I'm gonna bust some heads for Christ'), Margot Kidder, and Corben Bernson are the few that I can remember off the top of my head.

There are also a series of 70's rapture movies that came out that are also great fun. Lots of guillotines in those. All of them are worth checking out if you want to see some really un-intentionally funny shit.

Oh, and the 13th book was what life is like in the thousand year reign of peace and goodness that follows the tribulation. Looks kind of dumb, but the book jacket is white instead of black.


message 41: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 17, 2009 07:11PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Greg wrote: "that must be counting the prequels that came out. I think it was in 12 that Jesus comes back, I'd recommend looking through it sometime at a bookstore. I read the scene of his 'glorious' return, and I remember their description made him sound like Hugh Hefner in a robe coming back with a sword."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Bcj14...

I tried watching the Kirk Cameron flick once or twice and either fell asleep or couldn't stomach the whole thing. I went into it hoping to have a laugh at a B-film but just found it depressing.

I read a scathing review in The Onion about a rather recent "Christian film" starring Kirk Cameron that just made me feel ill:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/firepr...




message 40: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg The Mr. T one was the most 'watchable' of the ones that I ever saw.

Fireproof sounds terrible, the book looks terrible too.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Greg wrote: "The Mr. T one was the most 'watchable' of the ones that I ever saw."

I think I might know what you're referring to, but I'm not sure. What's this?






message 38: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg It's been a while since I saw that sketch. I miss Mr. Show.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-iypG...




Joshua Nomen-Mutatio In a very, very close race, Mr. Show is only second to Upright Citizens Brigade in my personal totem pole of sketch comedy.


message 36: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 17, 2009 07:28PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Bob resurrected (heehee) that character somewhat recently:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWX5_X...

"You thought I was dead. Don't listen to rumors started by bitter German philosophers."


message 35: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg I never saw that one before. Awesome!!


message 34: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "In a very, very close race, Mr. Show is only second to Upright Citizens Brigade in my personal totem pole of sketch comedy."

Upright Citizens Brigade! We still get those on dvd and watch them- ass pennies! Jesus would run on broken glass barefoot- for you!

Greg,

The absolute worst CBA rapture book is called "The Appearing". I am now going to recommend it to you through GR. Beware. It is *better* than LaHaye and Jenkins. Oh, and my man wrote some religious satire in the Door mag years ago about the Left Behind series. Here is a small piece of his satirical interview (Jerry Jenkins ended up responding to it, and getting a hearty laugh out of it- since he had already been to the bank and back again with the series) from their archives. Hope the link works.

http://archives.wittenburgdoor.com/ar...


message 33: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg Great interview. I wonder if Jenkins has died and been taken over by LaHaye yet. I also wonder sometimes if they are still friends because it looks like LaHaye has a new dude doing the writing for him, and Jenkins has his own books. I hope they are still friends.


message 32: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen Jenkins has taken over this christian writing group- seminar retreaty thing that tries to sell christian writing though the use of CS Lewis' name. To be a member, you need more than your Christian charity, you need your American dollars. Jenkins spearheads it and you can hear him give advice on the craft!!!!!




message 31: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen Jen wrote: "Jenkins has taken over this christian writing group- seminar retreaty thing that tries to sell christian writing though the use of CS Lewis' name. To be a member, you need more than your Christian ..."

http://www.christianwritersguild.com/...


message 30: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker ...a non-thinking brand of religious mania being fed to people through shitty books like this one. Instead of believing in anything this book is getting people to do the old Pascal's wager and put the insurance bet on getting into Heaven, there is nothing here about being any kind of decent human being, just a mindless automaton getting ready to kneel down and pray and preach at anyone until they are brow-beaten into submission.

Notwithstanding my devout atheist beliefs, I do find it a tragedy that we have gone from Thomas Aquinas' Confessions to this drivel. What ever happened to doubt, self-examination and spiritual struggle?


message 29: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg I agree. I was trying to think today if there were any theologians of the new evangelicals. I don't know if it's an overstatement or simplification to see most of what they pass off as religious writings is really just the sharing kind of stories that one would find in a 12 Step Program.

There has been in the past century still some Christian writers who have tackled the kinds of questions you bring up, but they have generally Catholic's. I thinking Bonhoffer and Merton, and currently Marion and maybe even Virillo.

What I do find kind of sad in an ironic sort of way is that books like Left Behind, and crappy Christian Rock is produced by 'humble' people who claim no responsibility for the work, but say that it's God working through them. If you were an all powerful being wouldn't one directly inspire literature that is better than a third-rate Tom Clancy knock-off, or some derivative Blink-182 pop-punk? But on the other side of the coin, there is contemporary religious classical music by people like Arvo Part and Henryk Gorecki that is so good that it could be argued that there could be some small slight chance of divine inspiration.

I don't mean to come off sounding like the cheering squad for the Catholics here.


message 28: by Jasmine (new) - added it

Jasmine What I found interesting about this book or the 20 pages that I read was how unlikable all the Christians were.


message 27: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 24, 2009 05:28AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio You guys do realize Aquinas advocated killing heretics, right? And I think you meant Augustine's (who advocated the torture of heretics) Confessions.


message 26: by Jasmine (new) - added it

Jasmine did I know that already, no.

am I shocked, no.

if forced to guess the answer would I have guessed that, yes.


message 25: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 24, 2009 06:13AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I'm just saying that there's nothing in the work of Aquinas or Augustine that we should we welcome back to the 21st century. Unless we're having overwhelming Inquisition nostalgia.


message 24: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 24, 2009 06:24AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Greg wrote: "I agree. I was trying to think today if there were any theologians of the new evangelicals."

Well, they love to champion C.S. Lewis from time to time. William Lane Craig is a Bible thumping philosopher who lines up with the modern day American evangelical movement. Alvin Plantinga is probably the most skilled thinker Christianity has today in general, and I think he's wrong about pretty much everything. He's a Calvinist (and a bigot).

So they have their intellectual apologists, but they're just not very good. And what I mean by this is that their arguments fail tremendously and are often times really unethical. There's also plenty of liberal theology which is basically really loose mysticism that circulates the word "Jesus" in there a few times.


message 23: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Blush blush. You are right, of course. It is Augustine and not Aquinas.

My point is less that any of these thinkers should be brought back but that there is a disturbing lack of hard critical examination of what is believed, what is written, and how that should be played out in life as it is lived. Many fundamentalists claim to read the Bible. But they don't. What they read is seen through the lens of glosses that tell them what to believe. The text they rely on is not the Bible but other people's thoughts. But that is not something that they will examine critically.

I once had a discussion with an otherwise very intelligent woman and pointed out to her that the Bible as it is accepted today has no one single version but is the result of thousands and thousands of recopying which introduced errors, sometimes from carelessness and sometimes deliberate. Her reply was that this was all lies made up by people who were trying to destroy the Church. Ironically, the discoveries were in fact made by devout 19th century Christians searching for the original text and applying a good deal more rigour than she was prepared to.

And I often wonder how many attendees to America's mega-churches with their Starbucks and other franchises consider the unsettling similarity between what is happening before them and the story of Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple. Again, a complete lack of reflection and a smugness of self-satisfaction. Religion is not something that challenges them, it's a prop for their received prejudices. There is no struggle understand, to square the meaning of the text with notions of mercy, love and justice. That is the pity of it all: opiate and pablum for the unthinking man.


message 22: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 24, 2009 07:11AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Why try to square the texts to anything? We simply don't need ancient literature's approval in order to cultivate mercy, love and justice. I find this no more absurd and unnecessary than trying to square the texts to notions of 20th century particle physics or the Internet. It's just not necessary.


message 21: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 24, 2009 07:04AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio What I'm saying is that as much as I'd rather hang out with and vote for religious liberals I find their religiosity to just as often be based on flawed reasoning and a lack of critically interrogating (or reading at all) the Bible or x, y and z ancient Holy Books. I'm just not alarmed by Liberal Quakers like I am by the Fawells, Robertsons, et al.


message 20: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "Why try to square the texts to anything? We simply don't need ancient literature;s approval in order to cultivate mercy, love and justice. I find this no more absurd and unnecessary than trying t..."

We don't need ancient literature's approval, we need its guidance- and I am not speaking here of religious texts alone, although that is certainly included if it helps to cultivate mercy, love, justice, humility...


message 19: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 24, 2009 07:44AM) (new)

Whitaker Greg wrote: "I'm thinking Bonhoffer and Merton, and currently Marion and maybe even Virillo. "

Greg, thanks for the references. I've checked them out and put some of the works on my "possibly may read one day" list.

MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "Why try to square the texts to anything?.."

I agree. If you're not Christian, there is certainly no need to. But if you are Christian, and more so if you are not Catholic but of those multitudinous denominations that profess that the Bible is the be-and-end-all and that there is nothing else, then I think it behooves you to examine that text carefully and with your own mind. The blind reliance on any other gloss is not to read the Bible but to read the gloss.


"



message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I never considered putting up any of the batshit fundamentalist books I've read. I'm not even sure how to go about rating them. But now you've inspired me, Greg.


message 17: by Noah (new) - rated it 5 stars

Noah So what if the writing sucked. The message within was amazing and as a result I have changed my perspective on life. I'm sorry that the book did not have the same effect on you.


message 16: by Jen (last edited Jan 26, 2012 06:32AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen Noah,

I'm curious. What was the message within? Can you give me three or four sentences on it and exactly what it changed in your life?


message 15: by Noah (new) - rated it 5 stars

Noah Well the main message was that you can't be exactly relaxed as a Christian. If you notice all of the characters they all didn't know Christ or did not exactly believe enough in a sense. Personally this helped me to throw myself into my religion and try to uphold those religious values that are supposed to be so important. I don't know if others felt the same way but I feel that for these reasons I was changed.


message 14: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen Noah,

Obviously, you believe in Christ. So, do you think Christ will return within your lifetime? Within the next ten years? Five?

I was asked these questions in high school by my worldview teacher. And right then I realized that I didn't truly believe any of it- because if I did, I wouldn't have plunked my butt down that day and everyday wasting precious time at school. I would have been doing something else I thought more important because I would have really thought time was short and the end was near.

If you really are interested in the end times and the Bible, I'd recommend reading first what the Christ you believe said about those things, then the poetry of Revelation. If, after you begin, you find that you really aren't interested in reading those things, you may want to think about why you may not be interested enough to continue and what that means about throwing yourself into your religion and trying to uphold certain religious values.

I'm glad you are reading and studying. I also agree that books have the power to change people. I know that reading has changed me.


message 13: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg I'm just a hopeless unbeliever who found some weird enjoyment in these books. If I think about the plot/message/motivation of the books though I see these as a blend of disturbing paranoia / persecution fantasies that one normally finds in extreme cases of schizophrenia mixed with sado-masochistic fantasies of revenge (and again persecution).

The whole point of these books and the beliefs they are pushing is depressing and sad. If the whole point of all of existence, the billions of galaxies and all of creation is because some all powerful being needs to have a few grains of insignificant bits of molecules (which is all we are in the big picture of everything that is the cosmos) needs us to believe and say that we believe that he sent his son to die for our sins, then all of creation is really just a sick and absurd joke. I prefer a universe with no meaning, and the reality that nothing we do ultimately matters to the idea that we exist merely to stroke the ego of some all powerful being with an inferiority complex.


message 12: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal Don't worry, Greg. When Christ calls all the believers home, we can hangout and play checkers (which is, of course, code for drinking the blood of newborn children).


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Make your own meaning. Use your imagination. Reading Rainbow.


message 10: by Noah (new) - rated it 5 stars

Noah Jen wrote: "Noah,

Obviously, you believe in Christ. So, do you think Christ will return within your lifetime? Within the next ten years? Five?

I was asked these questions in high school by my worldview te..."


Well I believe that he'll return when he wants to. Whether he returns in my lifetime or not... well I just don't know. I guess it doesn't matter and its just reason to live life to the fullest while you can and redeem yourself while its possible. Personally I believe that both death and Christ returning have similar outcomes on me but one may come before the other. Either way both have uncertainty involved.

My question to you is what are your beliefs exactly?


message 9: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen My beliefs are that nothing is for certain. Life is a creative experiment. Colors are beautiful however they came about. I like oxygen. And whirling dervishes. And wonder.

I am familiar with your position because I was raised in a climate where Jesus' return was spoken of as a bright and terrifying promise. I attended a church where love was shouted about, where holiness meant conforming your spine to a fabric backed pew bench, where curiosity was strangled with crippled reason.

I wish you well in your reading endeavors.


message 8: by Jasmine (new) - added it

Jasmine Jen wrote: "My beliefs are that nothing is for certain. Life is a creative experiment. Colors are beautiful however they came about. I like oxygen. And whirling dervishes. And wonder. "

:)


message 7: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen Joshua Nomen-Mutatio wrote: "Make your own meaning. Use your imagination. Reading Rainbow."

What? No gif?


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Imagination needs not gifs.


message 5: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen I can actually see that on a Reading Rainbow poster.

So you must be right.


message 4: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal Jen wrote: "My beliefs are that nothing is for certain. Life is a creative experiment. Colors are beautiful however they came about. I like oxygen. And whirling dervishes. And wonder.

I am familiar wit..."


*clapping*


message 3: by Chrisolu (new) - added it

Chrisolu damn son...tell us how you really feel about this book.

Oh and thanks for saving me a few books.I'll just borrow it from the libary.


Greg Your welcome, at least if you get hooked on them you'll be able to read all of them, I never could get myself to get back into them and finish up the last couple that hadn't been published yet.


message 1: by James (new)

James M. Left Behind = Harry Potter/Wheel of Time for Fundamentalists.


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