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How Popular Are the Left Behind Books … and Why?

A Discussion of Popular Culture
  • Bruce David Forbes
Chapter

Abstract

A few years ago, a stranger seated next to me on an airplane looked up from the novel he was reading and asked, “Have you read any of the Left Behind books?” I replied that I had heard of them but had never read one. He held up the latest installment, told me that he was hooked, and said that he had recommended the novels to several family members and friends who now were reading the entire series as well. When I asked about his personal religious background, he said that he was not much of a church-going person, but the books fascinated him.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The airplane quotation in this paragraph is from the Tim LaHaye Ministries website: www.timlahaye.com. Billy Graham, with Jerry Jenkins, Just as I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (London: HarperCollins, 1997, 2002).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The first volume of the military-focused Left Behind series is Mel Odom, Apocalypse Dawn (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2003).Google Scholar
  3. The politically focused series begins with Neesa Hart, End of State (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2004).Google Scholar
  4. The first volume of Jerry Jenkins’s new trilogy is Soon: The Beginning of the End (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2003).Google Scholar
  5. The first volume of Tim LaHaye’s new series, actually written by co-author Greg Dinallo, is Babylon Rising (New York: Bantam, 2003).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Hal Lindsey with Carole C. Carlson, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1970).Google Scholar
  7. The sales statistics and New York Times assessment are repeated in many places, including William J. Petersen and Randy Petersen, 100 Christian Books That Changed the Century (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fleming H. Revell, 2000), 165–166.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    Randall Balmer, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 62. See chapter 3 for a discussion of the film and its director.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    Tim LaHaye, Spirit-controlled Temperament (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1966).Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    Tim LaHaye, Understanding the Male Temperament: What Every Man Would Like to Tell His Wife About Himself … But Won’t (Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1977);Google Scholar
  11. Tim LaHaye and Beverly LaHaye, Spirit-controlled Family Living (Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1978).Google Scholar
  12. 8.
    Tim LaHaye and Beverly LaHaye, The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1976). The quoted phrase is from Larry Eskridge, “And, the Most Influential American Evangelical of the Last 25 Years Is …” Evangelical Studies Bulletin (Winter 2001), 3. This article, plus Tim LaHaye’s own website (www.timlahaye.com), provides much of the basic biographical information about LaHaye summarized here.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    Glenn H. Utter and John W. Storey, The Religious Right: A Reference Handbook (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1995), 59.Google Scholar
  14. 10.
    Tim LaHaye and John David Morris, The Ark on Ararat (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 1976).Google Scholar
  15. 11.
    Tim LaHaye, The Battle for the Mind (Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1980);Google Scholar
  16. Tim LaHaye, The Battle for the Family (Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1982);Google Scholar
  17. Tim LaHaye, The Battle for the Public Schools (Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1983).Google Scholar
  18. 12.
    Tim LaHaye, The Unhappy Gays: What Everyone Should Know about Homosexuality (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1978).Google Scholar
  19. 13.
    Tim LaHaye and David Noebel, Mind Seige: The Battle for Truth in the New Millennium (Nashville, Tenn.: Word Publishing, 2000).Google Scholar
  20. 14.
    Mark A. Noll, American Evangelical Christianity: An Introduction (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 23.Google Scholar
  21. 15.
    Rob Boston, “If Best-Selling End-Times Author Tim LaHaye Has His Way, Church-State Separation Will Be Left Behind,” Church & State 9 (February 2002), 33;Google Scholar
  22. Gerald M. Boyd, “Official in Kemp’s Campaign Quits After Reports on Books,” New York Times (8 December 1987), B13;Google Scholar
  23. Marjorie Hyer, “Unlikely Coalition Gathers for Protest of Moon Jailing,” Washington Post (July 28, 1984), B6;Google Scholar
  24. Carolyn Weaver, “Unholy Alliance,” Mother Jones 11 (January 1986), 14–17, 44, 46.Google Scholar
  25. 16.
    Tim LaHaye, Rapture under Attack (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, 1998). Previously published under the title No Fear of the Storm.Google Scholar
  26. 23.
    “The ‘Left Behind’ View is Out of Left Field,” The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Office of the President, Statements, www.lcms.org/president/statements/leftbehind.asp; G. Brent McGuire, “Will You Be ‘Left Behind’?” The Lutheran Witness (March 2001), 6–8, provides another Missouri Synod critique of the Left Behind books.Google Scholar
  27. 24.
    Gary DeMar, End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), xviii.Google Scholar
  28. 27.
    Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1997), 359.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Cathleen Falsani, “Bishops Warn Catholics about ‘Left Behind’ Books,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 6, 2003;Google Scholar
  30. Carl E. Olson, Will Catholics Be Left Behind?: A Critique of the Rapture and Today’s Prophecy Preachers (Ft. Collins, Colo.: Ignatius Press, 2003);Google Scholar
  31. Paul Thigpen, The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to “End Times” Fever (West Chester, Penn.: Ascension Press, 2001). It is interesting that both Olson and Thigpen are former evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants who converted to Catholicism.Google Scholar
  32. 30.
    Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, with Norman B. Rohrer, These Will Not Be Left Behind: True Stories of Changed Lives (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2003), xii–xiii.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Teresa Malcolm, “Fearful Faith in End Times Novels,” National Catholic Reporter (June 15, 2001), 13.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Gershom Gorenberg, “Intolerance: The Bestseller,” The American Prospect (September 23, 2002), 44.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    Paul S. Boyer, “John Darby Meets Saddam Hussein: Foreign Policy and Bible Prophecy,” Chronicle of Higher Education (14 February 2003).Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    This statement has been quoted repeatedly, for instance in Malcolm, “Fearful Faith in End Times Novels,” 13. The common source seems to be Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics: Militant Evangelists on the Road to Nuclear War (Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill & Company, 1986), 16, who attributes the statement to James Robison. Unfortunately, Halsell’s entire book contains no citations, so we are unaware of her exact source.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bruce David Forbes and Jeanne Halgren Kilde 2004

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  • Bruce David Forbes

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