24 July 2004

And above all, LaHaye

Going through some Neal Pollack archives and found this entry on the Left Behind series. He then points to a Rolling Stone profile of the author, Timothy LaHaye, by Robert Dreyfuss. (Pollack's link was dead, but mine will hopefully stay valid.)

I previously blogged another of Pollack's alarmingly satirical entries on Bush + religion.

From Pollack's summary of the 12 books in the series:

3. Nicolae: The Rise Of The Antichrist: A young boy flees the clutches of his drunken, Jewish father and heads down the Mississippi with a escaped slave named Jim, who is already among the saved. Along the way, they meet the King and the Duke, two agents of Satan, and kick their collective ass.

Hehe. But he then sounds the alarm You may not have heard it here first, but you’re hearing it now. These are not people of faith, or true Christians. These are lunatics bent on the destruction of civil society by using us as pawns in their Armageddon passion play. And our President is one of them. The Rolling Stone article points out that Reviewers trashed the Left Behind books as "almost laughably tedious" and "unrelievedly vomitous badness," and prominent Christian leaders condemned them as "unscholarly" and a "perversion" of the Bible. But the series gradually blossomed in Christian bookstores, gaining readers by word-of-mouth. In 2001 alone, the books sold a staggering 15 million copies.

After several of my famous one-page-tests, I sympathize with the reviews. Although "vomitous" is a little kind. But there's lots of bad Art out there, so what's the problem?

Well, the political power of LaHaye is the problem. At least with me it is. The self-centered childishness of the fundamentalists, mixed with their higher-power political justification is scarey: everyone's against them and god has told them the only way the world should be. And that telling is, of course, unequivocal. Robert Dreyfuss ties it all together:

He is certainly gloomy about Earth's future. "We have more reason to believe that ours may be the terminal generation than any generation since Jesus founded His church 2,000 years ago," LaHaye told Rolling Stone via e-mail from his home in Palm Springs, California, citing not only biblical prophecy but weapons of mass destruction, incurable diseases, pollution and overpopulation. Despite Bush's election, Republican control of Congress and the success of his own organizations, LaHaye says that things are getting worse, and that "liberal, anti-Christian secularists still control government, media, education and other important agencies of influence."

That's a succinct summation of the tangled, conspiratorial mind-set conveyed in his books. In Left Behind, the "bad guys" just happen to be the same ones whom LaHaye, the Christian right and their allies usually demonize: the United Nations, the Europeans, Russia, Iraq, Muslims, the media, liberals, freethinkers and "international bankers," all of whom team up with the Antichrist, who ends up heading the U.N. and moving its headquarters to Babylon, Iraq. The "good guys," of course, are Christian believers, Israel and a phalanx of 144,000 Jews who accept Jesus. Another heroic force in the series is the right-wing American militia movement, which, as a world war erupts, makes a last-ditch, ultimately futile stand against the forces of Satan and the Antichrist in the United States.

Am I painting and unfair picture? Everyone has philosophical beliefs and everyone acts on them. What makes LaHaye's actions insidious? I think it's the fact that his beliefs are completely unsupported by any rational, empirical evidence. His interpretation of a 2000-year-old document is presented as irrefutable proof that Saddam Hussein is a servant of Satan [and] the forerunner of the Antichrist. Is the Iraq invasion the result of this fanaticism?

I don't think I'm just a religion-hating-secularist. Religion is part of human nature, but this stuff is scary.

[ posted by sstrader on 24 July 2004 at 1:35:33 PM in Culture & Society ]