Wednesday, November 24

Left Behind. Jesus could you just take them already?

There is a series of very popular books that describe the return of Jesus the retrieval of the faithful, and hellfire and brimstone for all who are not true believers. It might not be a stretch to consider that upwards of 30 percent of the population may be inclined to believe that we now live in the end-times. Given the amount of shit flying through the air with respect to the interpretation of the intent of Jesus and the Founders, I dream that Jesus, and Jefferson night return and explain themselves. I am not sure that either would agree with what has been done in their names. I guess it is just a downside of historical immortality. Nick Kristoff wrote a piece during the summer about the left behind series, that I may have covered here, and he got some letters from the authors of the series and writes about it in todays NYT.
Apocalypse (Almost) Now

If America's secular liberals think they have it rough now, just wait till the Second Coming.

The "Left Behind" series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world's Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: "Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching."

Gosh, what an uplifting scene!

If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series, we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering. We should hold ourselves to the same standard.
Sounds about right. You can only imagine the hissy fit throughdown (or should that be hoe-down). I can head on over to LGF and find a multitude of commentary that suggests, if Muslims don't repudiate the terrorist activities in the strongest voice possible and turn around and sign loyalty oaths demonstrating to their satisfaction, that they are loyal to the country first religion second, they should be rounded up and shot. so indeed if an Islamic Cleric wrote a book stating that Christians would be cast into a pit of fire, certain elements of the population would be screaming for a Nuclear solution. You can find lots of this going on at LGF already.
Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the co-authors of the series, have both e-mailed me (after I wrote about the "Left Behind" series in July) to protest that their books do not "celebrate" the slaughter of non-Christians but simply present the painful reality of Scripture.

"We can't read it some other way just because it sounds exclusivistic and not currently politically correct," Mr. Jenkins said in an e-mail. "That's our crucible, an offensive and divisive message in an age of plurality and tolerance."

Silly me. I'd forgotten the passage in the Bible about how Jesus intends to roast everyone from the good Samaritan to Gandhi in everlasting fire, simply because they weren't born-again Christians.

I accept that Mr. Jenkins and Mr. LaHaye are sincere. (They base their conclusions on John 3.) But I've sat down in Pakistani and Iraqi mosques with Muslim fundamentalists, and they offered the same defense: they're just applying God's word.
Well I have my starting point, bust out the good book and turn to John. You can talk to any fundimentalist and you are talking to a true believer, Muslim or Christian, or Zionist Jew. These guys are gonna be "right" no matter the evidence to the contrary.
Now, I've often written that blue staters should be less snooty toward fundamentalist Christians, and I realize that this column will seem pretty snooty. But if I praise the good work of evangelicals - like their superb relief efforts in Darfur - I'll also condemn what I perceive as bigotry. A dialogue about faith must move past taboos and discuss differences bluntly. That's what blue staters and red staters need to do about religion and the "Left Behind" books.

For starters, it's worth pointing out that those predicting an apocalypse have a long and lousy record. In America, tens of thousands of followers of William Miller waited eagerly for Jesus to reappear on Oct. 22, 1844. Some of these Millerites had given away all their belongings, and the no-show was called the Great Disappointment.

In more recent times, the best-selling nonfiction book of the 1970's was Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth," selling 18 million copies worldwide with its predictions of a Second Coming. Then, one of the hottest best sellers in 1988 was a booklet called "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988." Oops.

Being wrong has rarely been so lucrative.

Now we have the hugely profitable "Left Behind" financial empire, whose Web site flatly says that the authors "think this generation will witness the end of history." The site sells every "Left Behind" spinoff imaginable, including screen savers, regular prophecies sent to your mobile phone, children's versions of the books, audiobooks, graphic novels, videos, calendars, music and a $6.50-a-month prophesy club. This isn't religion, this is brand management.
Bingo, it is all about the marketing of certain religious doctrine in the service of power and increased hegemony, with the fundimentalist christians willing tools in this exercise. Welcome to the new time religion, where christianity has about as much to do with the teaching of christ, as a fish has to do with a bicycle.