Monday, October 20, 2008

A few words on the Left Behind series

The words are not my own (and are perhaps a little tardy, given the first book of the series was written in 1995), but those of Daniel Radosh, author of Rapture Ready!
To say the Left Behind books are badly written is like saying the Great Wall of China is long. I use this analogy - cliched, unhelpful, and awkward - because LaHaye and Jenkins use it themselves in the first book: "To say the Israelis were caught off guard, Cameron Williams had written, was like saying the Great Wall of China was long." The comparison is even worse in this context - what does China have to do with Israel? - but what is most revealing is that the Cameron Williams character who wrote this sentence is supposed to be a brilliant and famous journalist. "To say the Israelis were caught off guard was like saying the Great Wall of China is long" is not just a random bad sentence, it's LaHaye and Jenkins's idea of Pulitzer-winning prose.
Cameron Williams is one of Left Behind's two main heroes. His friends call him Buck, "because they said he was always bucking tradition and authority." The other hero is Rayford Steele, an airline pilot. That's right, Buck Williams and Rayford Steele. There's also Steve Plank, Bruce Barnes, and Dick Burton. Apparently, having a porn star name is enough to keep you from getting raptured.
He later makes this point, something subtly lost on the series' target audience:
LaHaye and Jenkins protest vehemently when critics accuse them of bloodlust. They preach the unvarnished truth, they say, because they love non-Christians and want them to be saved. They take no glee in anyone's demise.
Let's go ahead and read an excerpt from the final book of the main series.
Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood. It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.... Their innards and entrails gushed to the desert floor, and as those around them turned to run, they too were slain, their blood pooling and rising in the unforgiving brightness of the glory of Christ.
As Radosh says, "Suffice it to say that these claims are hard to square with what's in their books." Someone who truly understands Christianity couldn't in seriousness write something about "the unforgiving brightness... of Christ."

Radosh's description continues, unabashedly pointing out the idiocies and idiosyncrasies of the Left Behind books, concluding his poignant rant with this last, beautiful sentiment, which sums the entire series up in one sentence: "Gloria in excelsis Deo, motherfucker."

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