Call for Discussion: Being Christian in Left Behind books

I have just finished "Glorious Appearing" the 12th and last book in the "Left Behind" series by Jenkins and LaHaye. I hope many of you have read at least some of the books in the series, regardless of your faith tradition. Over 60 million copies of these books have been sold in the US, so there's a good chance you'll encounter someone who has read this series and takes them at face value.

I'm not going to provide spoilers for "Glorious Appearing" (yet), but wanted to start a conversation with folks here who have read any of the books.

Specifically, what is your opinion on "What does it mean to be a Christian in the Left Behind books?" From somewhat careful reading of all of the books except for Assasians (skimmed), I have concluded the following:

1) You verbally profess faith in Jesus Christ as your personal savior.
2) You do not swear.
3) You do not have sex outside of marriage and try not to have unchaste thoughts.
4) You spread the message of Christ as Messiah through whatever means are available to you.
5) You pray to Jesus.

That's all the identifiably Christian characteristics I find in the books. Am I missing something here? I don't find anything uniquely Christian in the four points above.

In addition, it seems like the saved can do things that my reading of the Bible indicates are sin:

1) You can kill in anger.
2) You can practice deceit, forgery, etc if that will assist you in infiltrating Antichrist's forces.
3) You are under no obligation to aid non-believers outside of telling them the good news.

About these last three points, I'm saying that believers are allowed to do these things because repentence is not required of them for these things.

I'm willing to believe that I'm not fully open to these books even though I do not believe them to be anti-Catholic. So, would any fellow "Left Behind" readers like to illuminate me on what makes Rayford, et al, Christian? How do the characters live their lives so outsiders can tell a difference between them and say, the Jews and Muslims who refused to submit to Carpathia?

Comments

A little off topic

I tried to read Left Behind, because, despite not being a Christian, I find end-times stories very compelling. I found LB to be so wretchedly written that I couldn't get past the first chapter. Can you recommend any other similar themed books that are well-written?

I think you've put your finger on what's

been bothering me about that series.

Haven't read them, but will answer anyway ;-)

I have never gotten around to reading any of these books for two chief reasons: (1) my impression is that they aren't well-written (cf. Rochelle's comment), and (2) I find the influence of the Dispensational theology that underlies them very regrettable (and I mean no offense to my Dispensational brothers and sisters). (FWIW, the chief distinctive of Dispensationalism is its eschatology or view of the end times. It takes a premillenial, futurist reading of John's Revelation and adds to it the notion of a pre-tribulation rapture of Christians from the world, and the notion that Jews, ethnically and nationally, are the main People of God, while the Church is a "parenthesis" in God's activity in the world. Dispensationalism has become the most commonly held eschatological view among evangelicals. There's a lot more to be said about Dispensationalism, but now's not the time.)

Of the five points you cite, I'd say that (1), (4), and (5) are practically by definition uniquely Christian (unless you and I mean very different things by professing faith or spreading the message that Jesus is the Messiah). True, Dispensationalists have often equated a simple verbal profession of faith with actually becoming a Christian, which in my view is a serious error to which their teachings can lead. Much more regrettable in my opinion than their eschatology is the tendency of Dispensationalists (many but not all) to "easy-believeism": just say this prayer and you're saved! There is a distinction widely held among dispensationalists between the so-called "carnal Christian", who is saved but doesn't live a life of godliness ("lives like Hell but expects to get to Heaven") and the "spiritual Christian", who is striving for personal holiness and sanctification as she lives her life. This "easy-believeism" and "easy-discipleshipism" can lead to a watered-down understanding of Christianity, but it must also be noted that there have been some very godly Dispensationalists. It's possible to have bad theology (as I see it) and still love and serve God.

As for the first your three points, I have to assume you mean "unjustly killing out of anger" vs. "killing (justly) while angry". Let's say I'm walking down the street, and I see a very strong person unjustly assaulting a weaker person. This makes me angry. I am persuaded that unless I intervene, the stronger person will kill the weaker person. I believe I am obligated under God to intervene, and my anger is no excuse from doing so. I pick up a tire iron and with one blow I kill the stronger person. Unless you are a pacifist, I don't think you could argue that this killing in anger was wrong. I can't speak about the killings carried out in the book, though.

As for deceit and forgery, I am persuaded that the Dutch and Polish and French Christian families that deceived the Nazis while hiding Jews, who lied when asked if they knew where the Jews they were hiding were to be found, were acting in a godly fashion. They were under no obligation to help the Nazis find Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, etc. As I understand the Bible, Christians are obliged to obey earthly rulers until they demand something God forbids, or forbid something God demands. I take the Bible to forbid me from assisting in the unjust killing of another, at least where I can avoid it.

As for aiding non-believers, I do believe that Christians are obligated first to aid the household of God, but they may not omit helping non-believers when they are able.

Re:Haven't read them, but will answer anyway ;-)

Hi Chuck!As usual, you bring up excellent, well thought out points. The points you bring up as uniquely Christian:1) You verbally profess faith in Jesus Christ as your personal savior.4) You spread the message of Christ as Messiah through whatever means are available to you.5) You pray to Jesus.Are unique AS I WROTE THEM, but it is very easy to translate them into other faiths and ideologies like:Islam:1) You verbally profess that there is only one God and Muhammad is His profit.4) You spread the message of Islam through whatever means are available to you.5) You pray to God (Allah).OrCommunism:1) You verbally profess faith in the inevitable triumph of the proletariat.4) You spread the message of the workers' revolution through whatever means are available to you.5) You mediate on the inevitable triumph of the proletariat. (Ok. That's a stretch!)On my other points, you're right that I mean mean "unjustly killing out of anger" vs. "killing (justly) while angry". There's a scene in "Glorious Appearing" where one Christian character is looking for another. He's dressed in the uniform of the Antichrist's army when he finds his friend dead. At that moment, another enemy soldier comes up and wants the boots from the body. The Christian, who hasn't been id'd as such, whacks the enemy soldier with his friend's boot, killing him. Understandable reaction, but still sinful, especially in view of the book's view that the defeat of antichrist's armies will be performed by Christ himself.Your points on deceit and forgery are well taken and I agree that your examples are not sinful, but in fact virtuous. However, throughout the series, disguises and infiltrating the antichrist's forces are usually used just to see what antichrist is up to. Except for a few cases, the Tribulation Force doesn't interfere with the mass executions going on under antichrist. At times, it seems like the Tribulation Force can't figure out whether they're under the protection of God or their own technological wizardy.Thanks again to everyone who posted. I'll have a reply to Rochelle later, but need to get going now.

Character in writing

1) You verbally profess faith in Jesus Christ [...]. 2) You do not swear. 3) You do not have sex outside of marriage [...]. 4) You spread the message of Christ as Messiah [...]. 5) You pray to Jesus.

That's all the identifiably Christian characteristics I find in the books. Am I missing something here?

Probably not. More likely that's the full extent to which the authors drew the characters. I can't say, because I haven't read the books, but a valid reason for why you might draw such fairly two dimensional characters is: the books are primarily adventure stories and: a) character development is not that pertinent to the story; b) the stories do not explore the age old question of Good v: Evil to any depth from a philosophical or spiritual viewpoint, so there is really no opportunity for the
characters to question their faith and methods.

The only invalid reason for having two dimensional characters is ineffective writing.

Another reason for it might be that the authors dumbed down the books to avoid offending some churches by not aligning the beliefs of the characters too much with any particular creed.

In addition, it seems like the saved can do things that my reading of the Bible indicates are sin:

Double standard morality. Common to most religious zealotry and a mainstay of fanaticism in particular.

He had written an entire book on why women should be completely covered. He said that Islam allows women to show only half of one eye. This, of course, is simply not true. I responded to BINBAZ">Sheik Bin Baz's book with a very critical article stating that one can be a good Muslim woman with a naked face. The Saudis were furious.

I was attacked in newspapers in Saudi Arabia, and also in the newspapers here that have Saudi affiliations. A lot of journalists here are paid by Saudi Arabia. One Egyptian newspaper called me corrupt and against Islam, and said I wanted to teach women to be immoral. But morality has nothing to do with hiding the face.

Saudi Arabia is a country that preaches many things, but when you look at their daily behavior, examine their lives, you find a lot of decadence. But as long as they are covered, that's okay. It is the superficiality of religion. Saudis call Egyptian women loose, and then they come here for prostitutes, for nightclubs. In Saudi Arabia, the more you find segregation of the sexes, the less you find morality. --Nawal El-Saadawi, Egyptian and Islamic feminist, physician, writer, quoted in
Price of Honor, pg 332

One of the most commonly repeated lies, (read: a popular concensus of reality) in the U.S. today is that God has been kicked out of the schools. I haven't made up my mind yet whether this is blasphemy, an attack on the authority of God, or a heresy, a false doctrine, but I have no doubt that it is one or the other because it assumes
that man-made laws can constrain God Almighty, and those who repeat the lie, and bear false witness thereby, are those who will be the first to tell you that God is all present and all powerful, and you are required to obey the Ten Commandments or burn in Hellfire.

I'm willing to believe that I'm not fully open to these books even though I do not believe them to be anti-Catholic.

I think that you are fully open to these books because you are willing to seek understanding. And the kind of intolerance which would brand these books as anti-anything is not conducive to open-mindedness, so not believing in that also speaks in your favour.

Re:A little off topic

I'm afraid I can't recommend any other similar themed books because in general, I don't find "religious end times" stories very interesting. On the other hand, I do appreciate "end of civilization" stories like "Nightfall", "Alas Babylon", "Lucifer's Hammer", "A dark benediction", etc.I started reading "Left Behind" because it so quickly became its own social phenomenon. While the writing does leave something to be desired, it does occaisonally invoke powerful images, like the martyrdom of Chole Williams. I also found myself quickly turning past the 10 page sections of Bible verses since I recognized most of them.I find it interesting that so far, I'm the only person out of five here who has read the series. Most of my friends inside and outside my library don't care for the series either. One dear friend told me there just wasn't any point in "reading that kind of crap for any reason." I'd still take "Left Behind" over your typical Harlequin. For that matter, I've only read one Harlequin romance, so I'm not as open minded as I make myself out to be!

Re:Character in writing

Thanks for writing. Can you give me a full cite for Price of Honor? It sounds like it might be a good read.I'm completely with you on the "God has been kicked out of schools" meme. I'd add to it by saying that if God isn't in our homes and in our hearts, then a forced prayer in school won't help our children. If God is in our homes and hearts, then we would carry Him into the schools no matter what the State proclaimed.Unless things have changed mightily since I graduated high school back in 1984, I can't believe in the active suppression of individual religion in our schools. Back in those days, I often took a Bible to school. I usually finished exams quickly, so I would turn in my blue book, take out my Bible and start reading. No teacher, administrator or student ever challeged my right to read my Bible in classroom, provided we were not in the middle of a lesson.We didn't have after school Bible studies back then, but I think those have been legal since the mid-90s. That hardly sounds like a God-free sphere.

Re:Character in writing

Yep; here you go:

Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World
Jan Goodwin -1994
ISBN 0-316-32028-5
Dewey # 305.486971 G656

Ms. Goodwin also has an eye-opening article entitled Buried Alive: Women Under the Taliban , that is well worth the read.

Unfortunately, when the Taliban were chased out of Afghanistan they headed North to Turkmenistan. That country is now becoming increasingly totalitarian as a result.

Turkmenistan - the tragic thing ...

Is that Turkmenistan is considered a valuable ally in the "War on Terror." We don't care that the leader is such a meglomaniac that he's renaming the months and days for him and his mother or that he's written a new scripture for his people. We don't care that he's the same repressive chap who has ruled the country since before Turkmenistan broke away from the Soviet Union. They agree with our foreign policy and let us base troops. That's good enough for us.Now, if freeing the oppressed were our number one concern, our relationship with Mr. Niyazov might be quite different.My apologies for preaching to the choir!

Re:A little off topic

At least you tried. I'm a Christian, but not a dispensationalist, so have never been even mildly interested in the Left Behind theory.

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