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Books–Left Behind November 22, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Other.
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Finally got around to reading this one, by LaHaye and Jenkins.  I really wanted to check it out for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that they have managed to sell eight million copies of this book since it came out in 1996.  Another reason is that I have been thinking a bit about the nature of belief.  (Chelsea Merz of Open Source has started a Feature on their website around the fact that the old Murrow series “This I Believe” has been resurrected on public radio.  See that discussion on www.radioopensource.org.)

As usual, I won’t go into the plot or anything in detail here.  There is tons of stuff about that on the web for those who are interested.  The burning question on everybody’s mind, the one that only I can address, is: “So, what does somebody who has such a tentative core belief system that he doesn’t even expect the sun to rise in the morning tomorrow think of this book, anyway, huh?”

And I can only answer that it is a pretty damned good read.  It is action-packed.  It has some pretty well-drawn violence and reasonably believable characters.  It keeps you guessing, more or less, about what’s going to happen next.  It is not so preachy as to become unreadable.  I give it two thumbs up, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

But did it make a believer out of me?  Well, come on.  That would be a lot to expect, wouldn’t it?  The problem with the book, and I’m not sure that it is a problem at all, is that it mainly hits upon those chords to which Christians are most likely to respond.  Since I’m not really a Christian (within the definition of the writers of the book) it pretty much left me unconverted.  The main characters of the novel are unbelievers at the beginning, and the whole work is premised on their belief that they can become Christians after the Rapture, during the seven years of tribulations.  So it gives a lot of Christians an easy pass, or at least one to which they are already accustomed.  And even if it didn’t, the characters in this book have some signs and wonders that should have tipped them off to the Rapture ahead of time, had they been paying attention.

It’s up to the second or third or, I think they are up to the thirteenth now, novel.  If in one of the ones I read next has these characters finding out that they were woefully wrong, and that when the Rapture comes it is too late, well, that’s another story. 

Where the novel does fail is in its odd and uncomplicated reading of world politics and economics.  Unfortunately, to somebody who is well-read, it will take a pretty sizeable suspension of disbelief before you are truly prepared to believe.  This is verisimilitude, I’m sorry to say, without the veri part.

Next Up: David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten

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Comments»

1. maryjunebrown - November 23, 2006

Thanks for this post——i read this book years ago, it was goot do get your perspective. i stopped reading this series somewhere around the 7th book…had actually forgotten about it…it was good to see your post. maybe i’ll pick up this series again.

2. maryjunebrown - November 23, 2006

Thanks for this post——i read this book years ago, it was goot do get your perspective. i stopped reading this series somewhere around the 7th book…had actually forgotten about it…it was good to see your post. maybe i’ll pick up this series again.

3. stjarna67 - November 26, 2006

I had seen and heard about this book from several places, including Christian talk radio shows. While I have had an interest in the ‘End Times’ that the Book Of Revelations describes, it has been curiosity. My religious beliefs fall well beyond the pale of Christianity, so the interest has always been purely academic. However, I am sure that many who are fundamentalist in their Christian faith may think that reading something like this (or viewing a film like PASSION OF THE CHRIST) will instantly convert anyone. Much like your example, I walked away spiritually unscathed and unchanged in my spiritual viewpoint.

You would think that the history of the Crusades would have reminded everyone that even torturing and killing those who didn’t support mainstream religion still managed to survive to this day without being converted. I seriously doubt a book, even The Good Book would sway someone who has already found their bearings on the Divine.

4. caveblogem - November 27, 2006

stjarna67,

Thanks for your comments. You’re probably right about books having such a dramatic influence on those who have already more or less decided what they believe. It is possible that it was intended for a different audience.

I try not to be too cynical about this stuff, but since I sometimes do opinion polling and marketing research I wonder. If these books become very popular and widely discussed, they can reach more people, and since some of these people will be those who are wavering in their beliefs, it might help to retain the faithful.

5. stjarna67 - November 28, 2006

While I think that some Christians like to generate material for themselves, I believe that some like to use books (and movies) with their spiritual themes as getting their message out, possibly even to recruit others to some extent. Minimumly, some treat material like this as some kind of spiritual castor oil which, to them, might be able to cure society’s ills…if only they could get it to the masses…..

However, I don’t think this book offers a loud message as I have heard little about it outside of Christian talk radio and religious tv programming. The fact that it has to do with End Times also limits the audience interest, in my opinion. I think that only a small fraction of Christians are extensively focused on the last chapter of The Good Book.

The main example I can think of is Rev. Hagee, a televangelist out of Texas, who likes to dwell on this topic. While Christian, I wouldn’t consider him or his faith mainstream in their tenets. Books like this also fit nicely in with the 700 Club mentality as well. Pat Robertson, who once may have had some significance as a spiritual leader has really cash in his credibility chips with his last few tirades. His suggestion to have a hit put out on Hugo Chavez, the leader of Venezuela, was pretty “left field” for him. I think the man just needs to find a nice, quiet parkbench somewhere and feed the birds his curmudgeonous thoughts along with some bird seed.

6. caveblogem - November 28, 2006

starjna67,

I probably overestimate, as a matter of habit, the effect that books–especially fictional–have upon the general population. There are so many more competing messages out there on television, in the cinema, on the radio, and in the blogosphere.

I just like books, though. And I like stories about the apocalypse, whether in the Christian mode, on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, or Stephen King’s versions (The Stand, Cell, etc.), Douglas Coupland’s wonderful Girlfriend in a Coma, Larry Niven’s Lucifer’s Hammer, Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series, or the many others from science fiction. Such novels seem to betray so much about the beliefs, values, and worldviews of the authors.

I think I’ll write my own, someday, if I can think of some way of ending the world that I haven’t read elsewhere.


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