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Pre-Trib Porn And Left Behind

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Some Watery Tart at Shakespeare’s Sister is wondering about those loopy Left Behind books and movies. You might have heard of them. They were written by God’s Right Hand Man Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The movies are being released directly to DVD, and are being sent to congregations for pastors to show to their flocks.

I’m reposting a post I made in 2003 about these books and movies. I haven’t seen or read them, and I don’t want to. I’m long familiar with LaHaye because in my fundy days I used to listen to his wife, Beverly LaHaye, on the radio program for Concerned Women For America. That show drove me batshit even when I was a fundy.

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I finally read all the segments of Slactivist’s scathing review of Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. [via Electrolite] You may have seen the jacket for at least one of the film versions at the your local movie rental joint. Kirk Cameron avoided 1-800-CALL-ATT acting Hell for a far worse sort of Hell in starring in the movie series. Slactivist, who is a Christian, called this $50 million dollar phenomenon “pre-trib porn.” The book series is about the supposedly imminent Rapture and the good Christians who will be pulled directly to God’s side. It sounds to me like the authors and fans want to convince themselves that they can avoid the fear, pain, and loneliness of death. Left Behind is a multi-million dollar exploitation of cognitive dissonance.

I’m more familiar with LaHaye’s wife, Beverly Lahaye. Back in my fundy days I used to listen to her radio program for her organization, Concerned Women for America. I couldn’t stand her show or her the organization even when I was a Christian, but it had a train-wreck kind of appeal for me. I noticed the show’s irony immediately. Here’s a woman who extolled to her obedient female listeners the Godly virtues of Stepfordwifedom, all the while broadcasting 3,000 miles away from her husband. Tim pastored a church in San Diego. Bev sat in a cushy office in the Murder Capital of the World (Washington, D. C. at the time Marion Barry was mayor.). Susan Faludi made the similar observation as Slactivist about the phallic symbolism outside LaHaye’s office window. Referring to Freud, he wrote “sometimes the Washington Monument is just a cigar.” Faludi’s description of LaHaye’s office in her book Backlash, had shown how much LaHaye reached for that phallic power herself.

A large mirror hangs at a strange angle on the opposite wall — but it’s not for applying pink lipstick. “Mrs. LaHaye had that mirror put up there like that,” Rebecca Hagelin, spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, explains, “so she can look at it from her desk and see Capitol Hill.”

What struck me the most about Concerned Women for America was that it played on fears held by her listeners that upgrades in women’s status would, to use Faludi’s words, “threaten their traditional marriages and leave them ‘unprotected.'” At the same time, LaHaye capitalized on her own enjoyment of the power she had gained. She provided for her listeners the message that it is okay for Christian women to be assertive and to express their “empowerment” — as long as it was in the very narrow sphere of hearth and home. Above all, expression of this “power” shall never threaten the traditional family hierarchy that these women believe has been ordained by God. This was the budding of conservative, anti-feminist co-option of women’s empowerment that persists to this day.

I’m not surprised that Slactivist noticed that one of Left Behind’s protagonists, the “virile, sexually obsessed but chaste hero pilot” Rayford Steele, was nothing more than LaHaye’s wish-fulfillment alter ego. LaHaye has always seen himself as a Christian studmuffin. When he would speak as a guest on his wife’s show, he portrayed himself as a sexual Mr.-Know-It-All. He also promoted his books. One of Lahaye’s books written in the early ’70s has the laughably ironic title, How To Be Happy Though Married. It harkens back to The Good Old Days That Never Were. In this book he spread the myth of vaginal vs. clitoral orgasms. He also promoted supposedly biologically-based gender roles, especially when it comes to who initiates sexual relations. For instance, he quoted Matthew 5:28: “But I say unto you, that whosoever look unto a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” He claims that Jesus made no such statement about women because most women do not look at men with lust. Thus man “should be the initiator because of [his] stronger sex drive,” while “the role of the woman is to respond.”

Reading Slactivist’s opinions brought back some bizarre memories for me. I am so glad that I “left behind” that particular era of my life.

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About Trish Wilson

  • Nancy

    The “Left Behind” novels & movies are, IMO, strictly for preaching to the choir, i.e. for the enjoyment of the already-converted loonybin; they certainly don’t have much appeal for anybody not already in the clutches of evangelical/fundamental christianity, being poorly written &, while based on an interesting premise, poorly carried through. I wish someone who could actually write and had no overt religious agenda had had a go at the idea first. It could have been a good one in the proper hands, and with a trace of talent.

  • Maurice

    I rarely read fiction. I did read Left Behind and was surprised at how well it was written. It has a very engaging style that draws you in. I read the Da Vinci Code and was bored with it. Very predictable and clumsy.

    I am an agnostic boardering on atheist.

  • Nancy

    You did think it was well written? How so? I just thought they (the LB books) were very preachy and transparent about being christian propaganda, but maybe I’m reading into them stuff that isn’t there, which would be my problem & not the books’. I agree w/your assessment of Da Vinci Code.

  • http://trishwilson.typepad.com/blog The Countess (Trish Wilson)

    I agree with you, Nancy. I think Left Behind is strictly for the fundy masses. It certainly didn’t make Kirk Cameron a star. I expect to see him next on a made-for-Sci-Fi movie about giant mutant mosquitos. Yeah, I know it’s already been made at least twice, but I’m sure Sci-Fi would go for a third time. 😉

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Maurice,

    Stick with agnosticism – you don’t have to prove what you don’t know.

  • Warren

    The only reason I have to finish the series is that I am getting it for free. The characterization is shallow, and anyone familiar with pre-trib eschatology could predict 90% of what happens.

    FWIW, only about 1/3 of all evangelicals even hold to a pre-trib eschatology, so the book’s market is even narrower than you might think. Some of the best refutations of the book have been written by conservative evangelicals.

  • Ron C

    A book review about books you haven’t read? Shouldn’t this go under politics?

  • Maurice

    My expectations for LB were very low. Conversely by the time I read DC it was a big hit and very much talked about. Both books convinced me to stick with non-fiction.