Sunday, February 19, 2006

Left Behind

The Left Behind series is a fictionalization of the end of the world, as conceived by Tim LaHaye, a non-denominational evangelical Christian, and written by Jerry Jenkins. The series is staggeringly popular among a certain type of Christian. I bought the first book in the series a couple of years ago, mainly because of a review I read on salon.com that charged LaHaye with antisemitism and other crimes related to the plot of the book. I wanted to read the source material to see for myself. I was thwarted by the low quality of the writing; I just have a very low tolerance for that. So I put it aside. My husband picked it up last week and started to read it. He doesn't have the same standards for prose; his favorite genre of book is the police procedural crime novel. He enjoyed the first Left Behind book, and is thinking of reading the second one now.

I have a lingering bad feeling about the series. My main source of discomfort at this point is the people who love it the most--the anti-intellectual contingent, the Bible-as-literal-truth crowd. As much as they claim to get their truth directly from the Bible, they are eager to read these novels instead: they are so much more accessible, written in simple prose that spells out in concrete examples exactly what will happen at the end of the world.

The books remind me of nothing so much as The DaVinci Code--a book I did manage to get through, and which made me very uneasy, because I knew as I read it that there would be thousands of people who took the fiction at face value as revelations of hidden truths. Left Behind is worse because it actually purports to be a revelation of truths.

Here's something in a similar vein, but more highbrow:

THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

--W.B. Yeats

5 comments:

CagedRabbit said...

That's an eerily prophetic poem, it seems to me. When was it written? Not the first time I've read it, but it sent shivers down my spine this time.

My best friend from high school, whom I visited last summer, is an evangelical Christian. She asked me if I had read the Left Behind series. I hadn't - so I checked out a book by LaHaye from the library - couldn't figure out which was the first in the series, so I got one where he explained the Mark of the Beast, etc. I skimmed through it, was certainly not impressed with his writing. The insult for me is that I had left it on a shelf underneath a potted plant, which "peed" all over it. So I had to pay for the book - the library said I could keep it, but I declined. It's the only book I've ever damaged...

Anonymous said...

Synchronicity as defined by Jung is "a meaningful coincidence in time." I've also read a LaHaye book provided by an evangelical neighbor, and was drawn back to Yeats, seeing in LaHaye a last gasp of a Christianity that had forsaken its roots and become another thing altogether. Sad - and deserving of being peed on.

The Hanged Man said...

The DaVinci Code is a Joke, I know I'm the Hanged man, check out my blog(The DaVinci Joke)and you'll find out why. There is a mystery to DaVinci that I figured out. WoW dude, you'd be shocked.
The Hanged Man
(a game of Mystery)

Anonymous said...

"The Second Coming" does not necessarily refer to a second coming of Christ. Yeats saw civilization changing in cycles, much like Toynbee did later. Yeats saw the gyre - a cone shaped spiral like that of a hawk or falcon's flight- as the "fundamental symbol" of the cycles.

He saw the cycle of Greek and Roman civilization ending with the advent of Christianity - and in "The Second Coming," saw the 2000 year cycle of Christianity coming to an end - to be replaced by a new system antithetical to Christianity as we know it. He imagined "...a brazen winged beast that I associated with laughing, ecstatic destruction."

It is possible that the newcomer is the Christ, angry at the way nominal Christians have interpreted his message; it may presage an antiChrist; or it may see the advent of an existing religion to the position of prominence that some Christians fancy as theirs.

In his words, "...some new civilisation about to be born from all that our age had rejected...; because we had worshipped a single god - it would worship many..."

Among the 5 great religions surviving in the present age, that may presage a rise of Hinduism or certain forms of Buddhism. Yeat's vision seems to exclude the "people of the book" - the Old Testament purely monothestic religions: Christian, Hebrew and Islamic, but it does not eliminate the possibility that an angry God would send an emissary to foster a syncretic ecumenism, an interdisciplinary God of the many faces of religion.

yellojkt said...

Apocolyptic fiction has been popular for years before the Left Behind series brought it into the mainstream. I have had other books of the genre recommended to me, but I always pass. I've felt that if you did not have a strong evangelical background, most of it wouldn't make sense.

It also bothers me that people spend so much time trying to parse the obscure prophecies of the Book of Revelations when the Beatitudes are written so simply and plainly.