Left Behind Video Reflects Bigoted Apocalyptic Violence of Original Fiction Series
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 12, 2006 at 10:53:02 PM EST
Senior Analyst,
Political Research Associates
(author info)
Left Behind
The real scandal involving the violent video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces is that the demonization of enemies, bloodthirsty dualism, and murderous rampages on the computer screen are accurate reflections of the apocalyptic theology espoused by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in their Left Behind series of novels which have sold more than 70 million copies.

Few in the mainstream media have dared confront the fact that the best-selling Left Behind series is a primer valorizing bigotry, paranoia, and guerrilla warfare against those who promote tolerance, pluralism, and global cooperation. Almost four years ago, however, author Gershom Gorenberg, blasted the Left Behind series for its open "contempt for Judaism," making a "fanatic killer" a hero, and general rejection of tolerance and democratic civil society.

Gorenberg, writing in the American Prospect, objected to the Left Behind series because in it LaHaye and Jenkins:

"promote conspiracy theories; they demonize proponents of arms control, ecumenicalism, abortion rights and everyone else disliked by the Christian right; and they justify assassination as a political tool. Their anti-Jewishness is exceeded by their anti-Catholicism. Most basically, they reject the very idea of open, democratic debate. In the world of Left Behind, there exists a single truth, based on a purportedly literal reading of Scripture; anyone who disagrees with that truth is deceived or evil."

As someone who has read a number (far too many) of the Left Behind series novels, I concur with what Gorenberg wrote in his book review of the ongoing series. The Gorenberg article, titled: "Intolerance: The Bestseller," appeared on September 23, 2002.

Gorenberg noted the video-game atmosphere of the novels, explaining that "LaHaye and Jenkins work sermons into the story," to explain their theological and political views stemming from their reading of the book of Revelation, "but these are short intervals between long chase scenes in which the faithful drive souped-up cars or fly jets while shooting large-caliber guns and engaging in atrocious dialogue on satellite phones."

Gorenberg highlights the role of the chief villain in the Left Behind series of books: "Nicolae Carpathia, the man who turned the United Nations into a one-world government with himself as dictator," on behalf of Satan. In fact, Carpathia is the dreaded Antichrist, Satan's chief henchman in the End Times.

"Perhaps the most striking scene in the Left Behind series is the climax of book six, The Assassins. Carpathia is speaking at a mass rally in Jerusalem. Out in the crowd is Rayford Steele, armed with a high-tech handgun. He prays for God's guidance, and finds himself firing what appears to be a fatal shot at Carpathia. Intentionally or not, this is an eerie rewrite of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination at a Tel Aviv peace rally in 1995 -- but the authors are on the side of the fanatic killer. In the next novel, Rayford Steele's daughter asks Ben-Judah if her father is a murderer. "I believe we are at war," answers the voice of truth. "In the heat of battle, killing the enemy has never been considered murder." Having demonized religious and political opponents, LaHaye and Jenkins suggest a method for dealing with evil leaders."

In December 2006 Craig Unger penned a devastating look at dualistic Christian apocalyptic culture, "American 'Rapture.'" in Vanity Fair. The teaser line for the article suggests "Best-selling author and evangelical leader Tim LaHaye has contacts that extend to the White House. That could spell trouble, since his theology espouses a bloody apocalypse in Israel."

Unger went on a trip to the Holy Land featuring Tim LaHaye as a guide. Unger is turning his experiences into a book. In the Vanity Fair article, Unger traces the apocalyptic and millennialist theology embraced by LaHaye, including the belief that a bloody apocalypse is inevitable in the Middle East. According to this specific reading of Biblical prophecy from the book of Revelation, God orders Christ to place all those who have not converted to Christianity into a winepress like so many grapes to feel the wrath of God. These "grapes of wrath" are then squeezed into blood flows freely.

As Unger explains:

"With its highly figurative language, Revelation is subject to profoundly differing interpretations. Nevertheless, LaHaye's followers insist on its literal truth and accuracy, and they have gone to great lengths to calculate exactly what this passage of Revelation means.

"As we walk down from the top of the hill of Megiddo, one of them looks out over the Jezreel Valley. 'Can you imagine this entire valley filled with blood?' he asks. 'That would be a 200-mile-long river of blood, four and a half feet deep. We've done the math. That's the blood of as many as two and a half billion people.'"

And people are upset because of a few bodies on a cyber street?


Gorenberg, "Intolerance: The Bestseller," book review of Left Behind series by T. LaHaye, J.B. Jenkins, American Prospect, September 23, 2002, http://www.prospect.org/print/V13/17/gorenberg-g.html

Craig Unger, "American 'Rapture,'" Vanity Fair, December 2005.

Brenda E. Brasher. 2001. "When Your Friend is Your Enemy: American Christian Fundamentalists and Israel at the New Millennium." In Millennial Visions: Essays on Twentieth-Century Millenarianism, ed. Martha F. Lee. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood.

Brenda E. Brasher and Chip Berlet. (2004). "Imagining Satan: Modern Christian Right Print Culture as an Apocalyptic Master Frame. Paper presented at the Conference on Religion and the Culture of Print in America, Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America, University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 10-11, 2004.

Chip Berlet. 2004. "U.S. Christian Evangelicals Raise the Stakes," (The Threats to Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount), BitterLemons (International), Volume 2, Issue 34, September 2, online magazine. http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/previous.php?opt=1&id=55#226

Chip Berlet and Nikhil Aziz. 2003. "Culture, Religion, Apocalypse, and Middle East Foreign Policy," IRC Right Web (Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center) online at http://rightweb.irc-online.org/analysis/2003/0312apocalypse.php

On LaHaye:

by Chip Berlet

"Left Behind Video Reflects Bigoted Apocalyptic Violence of Original Fiction Series," (6/12/2006)

"LaHaye and Jenkins: Why is the Criticism Left Behind? "

The World According to Tim LaHaye: A Series
Part One: Hunting Down the Enemies
Part Two: Pre-Trib Perspectives
Part Three: Satanic Secular Humanism
Part Four: Secular Humanism as False Religion
Part Five: The Secular Humanist Web
Part Six: The Council for National Policy
Part Seven: Humanists Attack the Family
Part Eight: The Age Old Conspiracy

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates
The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates
Chip's Blog

Thank you.

So, here we are : early prophetic research is cued up for acceptance by avante garde political elements. Next, let's hope this in turn reaches the right ears.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 12:11:36 AM EST

Premillennial dispensationalism is a particular version of apocalyptic belief, and even within that theological viewpoint, the LaHaye version is unusually bigoted and bloodthristy.

Fred Clarkson will recall that we attended a symposium on reporting on the Christian Right years ago sponsored by the Columbia Journalism Review where someone pointed out that the problem was that the religion reporters didn't know how to write about politics, and the political reporters didn't know how to write about religion.

There are a few exceptions, but largely that remains true today.

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 08:27:20 AM EST
Although I respect your opinion, and Fred's, I've experienced that personally as well.  

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 11:22:54 AM EST

It is one of the reasons why things are the way they are in the U.S. at the moment. If the major media cannot come to grips with some of the most important political and religious phenomena of our time -- the citizenry doesn't have much of a chance either.

And of course decades into this, those who have made their careers perpetuating ignorance and misinformation, who sometimes get a clue, are reluctant to acknowledge that things might have been different than they reported; and if their reporting had included better understandings of the religious right -- things might have turned out differently.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jun 14, 2006 at 09:13:46 PM EST

Thank you for exposing this to a wider audience--in my own way, I've tried (mostly by writing on my experiences on the "inside" of a group that promotes not only spiritual-warfare stuff in general but the particularly scary variants of premillenial dispensationalism in particular).  It's still good to see more people pointing this out.

If anything, it's probably this stuff and the religiously motivated child abuse I still have the roughest time with (in regards to nightmares, occasional panic reactions, etc.)--still have nightmares over the church body gloating over everyone else getting nuked while they partied as the rest of the world burned in nuclear hellfire :(

by dogemperor on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 09:34:17 AM EST

Two cyber-bodies or two billion real bodies, killing in the name of religion - any religion - or even advocating such killing is a horrible thing, and history has borne that out repeatedly. Didn't we learn anything from the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the witch burnings, etc.?

One of my friends (deceased at a far-too-early age, may his soul rest in peace) in my church youth group in high school in the late 60s used to joke about "killing a commie for Christ."  If he were still here, I doubt he'd be laughing.

by anomalous4 on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 11:14:28 AM EST

Jesus' human sacrifice was clearly insufficient. And the sacrifice of thousands upon thousands of Iraqis is not enough either.

At least we have the Left Behind game to keep the body count up until we can increase the real killing. And in the meantime, we can always hope for another Katrina to obliterate more "undesirables"...

by Tenoch on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 01:16:03 PM EST

The link above for "American 'Rapture.'" in Vanity Fair is apparently now obsolete. The URL below does take one to the American Rapture article by Unger: "American 'Rapture.'" in Vanity Fair

by Meek Zeke on Thu May 17, 2007 at 04:04:33 PM EST

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