LaHaye and Jenkins: Why is the Criticism Left Behind?
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 11:26:37 PM EST
Senior Analyst,
Political Research Associates
(author info)
Left Behind
When White supremacists post websites demonizing Jews and gay people, they are condemned for the hatemongers they are.

When leaders of the armed citizens militias and their allies in the Patriot Movement in the 1990s urged their followers to form anti-government underground cells and battle global cooperation and the United Nations, they were condemned as dangerous guerrillas spreading divisive conspiracy theories.

When Timothy LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins write the Left Behind series of novels containing the same type of bigotry, they sell 70 million books and are interviewed by clueless journalists who use a double standard by not confronting LaHaye and Jenkins for spreading hate and conspiracism as well as promoting religious violence as a heroic duty.

All religions have peaceful and violent sides, notes Rapoport. Fundamentalism does not necessarily demonize opponents, or promote theocracy or violence. LaHaye and Jenkins, however, are embedded in a type of fundamentalism rooted in dualistic apocalypticism. As Wessinger explains, this form of fundamentalism is based on "the belief that one has access to an infallible source of authority." Wessinger continues:

That source of authority may be a text, a tradition, a leader, or a combination of these. The fundamentalist, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist is certain that he or she knows the `Truth', and that truth resides in an idealized earlier way of religious life. There is no openness to alternative points of view. Fundamentalism involves the belief that pure Good is battling pure Evil. This dualistic perspective pits believers against unbelievers, us versus them.

Armstrong has written that with the "most extreme types of fundamentalists, members see conspiracy everywhere and cultivate a theology of rage and resentment." This is the basic frame and narrative of the Left Behind series.

Religious violence and terrorism flows from that aspect of religious imagination that has "the propensity to absolutize and to project images of cosmic war," according to Jurgensmeyer. These are people who feel buffeted by rapid or dramatic political, social, and cultural changes that leave them feeling a "sense of personal humiliation" and a need to "restore an integrity" they feel they have had stolen from them by sinister forces.

These religious fundamentalists may use "prayer and faith as weapons," explains Wessinger, or they may stay within the electoral system and simply take part in regular politics and elections. But some of the more revolutionary "fundamentalists resort to violence to destroy enemies and establish the righteous kingdom. Those designated the 'other' are demonized, and thus it may become acceptable, even praiseworthy, to kill them." This is certainly the plotline of the Left Behind series.

LaHaye and Jenkins write the novels to fit the theological beliefs of premillennial dispensationalism, a view of the apocalyptic End Times with a specific timetable and sequence of events. They have a particular conspiracist version of this form of millennialism.

Wessinger argues certain types of apocalyptic millennialism generate a "radical dualism" that demonizes opponents. This type of dualistic millennial belief can lead some to see violent confrontations as inevitable--or even glorious. "Exemplary dualism," is the term originated by Anthony and Robbins to identify a form of apocalyptic belief in which "contemporary sociopolitical or socioreligious forces are transmogrified into absolute contrast categories embodying moral, eschatological, and cosmic polarities upon which hinge the millennial destiny of humankind."

Anthony and Robbins argue that some people who feel their basic identity has been fractured by being buffeted by social and political forces may turn to a "totalist movement" including various "[i]deological and religious groups with highly dualistic worldviews" and "an absolutist apocalyptic outlook", where members are taught to project "negativity and rejected elements of self onto ideologically designated scapegoats."

Quinby observes that the attraction of apocalyptic thinking lies in "its promise of future perfection, eternal happiness, and godlike understanding of life, but it is that very will to absolute power and knowledge that produces its compulsions of violence, hatred, and oppression"

This is the demonizing theology, ideology, and action plan being taught to millions of Americans by the LaHaye and Jenkins Left Behind series. We ignore this phenomenon at our own risk.


Richard Abanes. 1996. American Militias: Rebellion, Racism & Religion (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Richard Abanes. 1998. End-Time Visions: The Road to Armageddon? New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.

John Keith Akins. 1998. God, Guns, and Guts: Religion and Violence in Florida Militias." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida.

Dale Aukerman. 1993. Reckoning with Apocalypse. New York: Crossroad.

Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins. 1997. "Religious Totalism, Exemplary Dualism, and the Waco Tragedy." in Robbins and Palmer (eds.), Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem.

Karen Armstrong. [2000] 2001). The Battle for God (New York: Ballantine Books

Michael Barkun, (ed.). 1996. Millennialism and Violence, Cass Series on Political Violence. London: Frank Cass.

David S. Katz and Richard H. Popkin. 1998. Messianic Revolution: Radical Religious Politics to the End of the Second Millennium. New York: Hill and Wang.

Mark Juergensmeyer. 2000. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Berkeley: University of California.

Philip Lamy. 1996. Millennium Rage: Survivalists, White Supremacists, and the Doomsday Prophecy. New York: Plenum.

Sarah Elizabeth Mahan. 1997. A Dramatistic Analysis of the Video Rhetoric of the Militia of Montana, Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio University.

Carol Mason. 2002. Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-Life Politics. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press.

Lee Quinby. 1994. Anti-Apocalypse: Exercise in Geneological Criticism. Minneapolis: Univ. of MN Press.

Lee Quinby. 1997. "Coercive Purity: The Dangerous Promise of Apocalyptic Masculinity", in Strozier and Flynn (eds.), The Year 2000, pp. 154-165.

David C. Rapoport, 1993. "Comparing Militant Fundamentalist Movements and Groups," in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (eds.), Fundamentalisms and the State: Remaking Polities, Economies, and Militance, The Fundamentalism Project 3. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Thomas Robbins and Susan J. Palmer, (eds.). 1997. Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements. New York: Routledge.

Charles B. Strozier and Michael Flynn. 1997. The Year 2000: Esssays on the End. New York: NYU Press.

Catherine Wessinger, (ed.). 2000. Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Catherine Wessinger. 2000. "Introduction." In Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, Wessinger, (ed.). Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.

Catherine Wessinger, `Bin Laden and Revolutionary Millennialism', New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10 October 2001, <>.

Portion of this article are drawn from the following material.

Chip Berlet (associate editor). 2000. "Apocalypse," "Conspiracism," "Demagogues," "Demonization," "Militia Movements," "Populism," "Survivalism," Totalitarianism," and "Year 2000." Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements. Richard A. Landes, ed., (Berkshire Reference Works; Routledge encyclopedias of religion and society). New York: Routledge.

Chip Berlet. 2001. "Apocalypse," Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism. Brenda Brasher, ed., (Berkshire Reference Works; Routledge encyclopedias of religion and society). New York: Routledge

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 <> (December 12, 2003).

Chip Berlet. 2003. "Terminology: Use with Caution." Fascism. Vol. 5, Critical Concepts in Political Science, Roger Griffin and Matthew Feldman, eds. New York, NY: Routledge.

Chip Berlet. 2003. "Apocalypticism," Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia. Peter Knight, ed. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO

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.

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 Christian Identity: The Apocalyptic Style, Political Religion, Palingenesis and Neo-Fascism. Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, Vol. 5, No. 3, (Winter), special issue on Fascism as a Totalitarian Movement.

Chip Berlet. 2005. "When Alienation Turns Right: Populist Conspiracism, the Apocalyptic Style, and Neofascist Movements." In Lauren Langman & Devorah Kalekin Fishman, (eds.), Trauma, Promise, and the Millennium: The Evolution of Alienation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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

I included a giant section of sources and cites to document that the arguments I am making are rooted in a rather large body of scholarly literature. Often, people dismiss a harsh criticism of LaHaye and Jenkins and the Left Behind series because they are not familiar with the concepts of apocalypticism and millennialism and how, when dualistic, they can generate demonization, scapegoating, and conspiracism.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 09:12:42 AM EST
This is helpful and important to do.

As we know, denial and dismissiveness towards the most important ideological an organizing trends of the religious right in its various strands, has been one of of the movement's greatest assets.

The pooh poohers are among the most significant obstacles to doing anything constructive about the religious right.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 12:31:56 PM EST

Maybe we should not worry so much about  Left Behind.  The writing is awful.  I picked up the first book, tried to read, laughed, and left it.  Can such big, bad books last?

by Tom Neely on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 11:50:28 AM EST
reportedly 70 million copies in print.  Whether it lasts, is hardly the point.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 04:33:25 PM EST

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