You may read this full article by Elizabeth Palmberg at: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=news.display_article&mode=C&NewsID=5485
At press time, more than 60 million copies have been sold of a mediocre yet extremely popular fiction that, under the cover of an improbable adventure plot, peddles an ideologically driven, wildly unbiblical theology.
I’m talking, of course, about the Left Behind series of books. (Da Vinci what? Never read it). Actually, while The Da Vinci Code is also reported to have sold 60 million copies, for Left Behind the 60 million is an umbrella figure covering Left Behind, its 11 sequels and three prequels, another series of 40 kids’ books, and several more series of novels, plus associated audiobooks, graphic novels, devotionals, and, of course, the upcoming video game. So, while its reach may not be as wide as Dan Brown’s, its fans are invested deeply enough to buy book after book.
Mr. LaHaye, the Cold War called. It wants its paranoia back.
There’s a lot more bad plot in World at War, but before I tackle that, let’s get a few things straight. The Antichrist in Revelation gets global political authority from Satan (13:2), not, as the Left Behind books and movies suggest over and over, by promising humans peace and nuclear disarmament. In fact, assuming that John’s attention didn’t just wander in the middle of his Antichrist description, the Antichrist’s power is overtly military, while Christians should embrace nonviolence: “If you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10; see also Matthew 26:52). The world, except for Christians, worships the Antichrist because of his apparently invincible power (13:4, 7-8), not because he offers ostensibly humble words about tolerance – in fact, the Antichrist speaks arrogantly (13:5).
Revelation repeatedly emphasizes the revolutionary idea that conquering, for humans, comes about through patient endurance (1:9, 2:3, 3:10, 13:10, 14:12) and public avowal of faith (2:13, 3:8), including faith unto death (2:10, 6:9, 12:11, 20:4). Given this emphasis on sacrificial trust in God’s power, it’s disturbing to see the main characters in the Left Behind books and films repeatedly depend on their own strength and wisdom. Our heroes adopt the vaguely military-sounding name “Tribulation Force,” and in the film of that name Buck and Rayford both hide their Christianity in order to get jobs working for the Antichrist. Buck doesn’t even offer temporary resistance to what his future wife Chloe calls “this whole hanging out with the Devil thing.”
In other words, the main problem with the Left Behind movies and books is not the biblical literalism they incorrectly lay claim to over and over. The real problem is that Left Behind is a big old plateload of neo-con neo-gnosticism designed to almost completely ignore some of the most clearly stated points of Revelation (and the gospels), in the pursuit of a particular, arguably idolatrous, present-day political mythology.
But the Left Behind films are not about discerning the actual signs of the times; they’re about a extreme right-wing political script shaped over the last few decades. Concern for one’s neighbor is just a blind to impose the ultimate, repressive, godless big government on the globe. In this New Testament-turned-upside-down, any talk of peacemaking (“Peace is imperative. We must help our neighbors, forget our differences”) is a dangerous ruse, not a blessing. Same goes for concern for the poor; the only people in the Left Behind movies who voice any concern for them are the Antichrist and one of his equally evil backers. (Carpathia fleetingly appears on TV in front of a tent-dwelling African family, intoning “How can we find peace when people are starving?”) In fact, the movies give the impression that there aren’t any poor people - at least none worth more than four seconds of screen time.
So, for the readers, viewers, and writers of Left Behind in all its forms, here are a few good words: Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the peacemakers. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven. Take care of the poor at your gates. Be faithful until death, and God will give you the crown of life. And lay off the Gospel According to Dr. Strangelove, OK?
Elizabeth Palmberg is assistant editor of Sojourners.