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Feeling Left Behind?

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Feeling left behind?

You might be if you have looked in the religion section of a bookstore recently. Since 1995, over fifty million books bearing the banner of the Left Behind series have showed up not only in Protestant bookstores but also in mainstream, secular bookstores. In 1998 the original four books of the series simultaneously occupied the top four slots in the New York Times bestseller list--which does not count sales figures from Protestant bookstores. The tenth volume of the series debuted at number one on the list.

The books of the Left Behind series offer a fictionalized account of the end of the world, based on the authors' understanding of the book of Revelation and other Bible prophecies. But Left Behind is much more than a series of books.

It is a multi-media franchise that includes not only the original novels (which should total twelve to fourteen) but also two motion pictures, over twenty children's books, study guides, dramatized and unabridged audio books, and graphic novels--with more on the way! Also attached to the franchise are a number of non-fiction works in which the authors explain their views of Bible prophecy in a straightforward manner rather than using the form of a novel.

Evangelical publishing has never seen a phenomenon like this. It dwarfs even The Late Great Planet Earth, which was the best-selling book of the 1970s.

Left Behind leaves many Catholics scratching their heads. They may know that it has something to do with the end of the world. Some Catholics have even had Evangelical friends try to get them to read the books as a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to evangelize them. But few have a clear idea of what the books are about, who is behind them, and how they relate to the Catholic faith.

This is a problem. There is nothing wrong with having a successful publishing franchise, but when that franchise contains anti-Catholic prejudice and bad theology, that is a problem. Matters are worse when the franchise is so profit-driven that it puts making a buck over the spiritual and psychological well-being of children. As we will see, Left Behind does all of that.

The Man Behind Left Behind

The Left Behind books carry the bylines of two men, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The latter is a prolific freelance author and ghostwriter who has published several dozen books. He is the actual author of the Left Behind books, but his is the less important role, because he does not generate the ideas for them. According to Jenkins, "We each play a different role in the creation of the books. Dr. LaHaye develops a detailed Biblical outline for each book. I do all the writing." LaHaye, then, is the real man behind Left Behind. Jenkins simply gives form to LaHaye's ideas.

What is there to know about this man?

Tim LaHaye was born in 1926 in Detroit, Michigan. He fought in World War II and afterwards attended Bob Jones University in South Carolina. Bob Jones is a Fundamentalist school known for intense anti-Catholicism. It also did not admit African American students until the 1970s and, between 1950 and 2000, maintained a policy against interracial dating among students. The school explained that intermarriage among the races would further the cause of "One World Government" and thus the Antichrist. While attending Bob Jones, LaHaye met his wife, Beverly. He also began to pastor a church during this time.

In 1956, LaHaye became the pastor of Scott Memorial Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, just outside San Diego. While there, he and his wife began a radio program called The LaHayes on Family Life, which sought to promote family values from a Fundamentalist perspective. Also while in the San Diego area, LaHaye established Christian Heritage College.

His literary flair expressed itself in writing a number of popular (and contentious) books, including Spirit-Controlled Temperament, Battle for the Mind, The Battle for the Family, and Battle for the Public Schools. In the 1970s he began to publish books on the subject of Bible prophecy, including The Beginning of the End and Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain.

The LaHayes have been active in politics. Tim was a co-founder of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and founded a number of his own Christian political action groups as well. Beverly founded Concerned Women for America, a rival of the National Organization for Women that has a membership substantially greater than NOW.

In 1987 Jack Kemp named Tim LaHaye as national co-chair of his presidential campaign, but LaHaye resigned days later when newspapers published anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic remarks he had made. These included references to Catholicism as "a false religion" and to Jews being responsible for the death of Christ. Subsequently it came to light that, during the 1970s, LaHaye's church had funded Mission to Catholics, a virulently anti-Catholic ministry run by former Carmelite priest Bart Brewer.

Scandal continued to dog LaHaye when it was revealed that he had connections with the Unification Church ("the Moonies"). The head of the Unification Church is Sun Myung Moon, who has proclaimed himself "the world's new Messiah" and "the Lord of the Second Advent." LaHaye was the chair of Moon's Coalition for Religious Freedom, and is reported to have received at least half a million dollars in funding from Moon's associate Bo Hi Park. LaHaye and his wife have attended and spoken at Moon-sponsored events, though they have made it clear that they do not endorse Moon's theological ideas.

LaHaye's association with Sun Myung Moon is especially perplexing. As a man who has written so many books warning people about the Antichrist, LaHaye is one of the last people one would expect to ally with a man who literally is a false Christ.

LaHaye claims that the idea for the Left Behind series came to him on a plane trip in the 1980s. He explains:

This is an idea that the Lord gave me when I was on a plane. The airline captain came out of his cave and he started flirting with the head stewardess. I noticed that he had a wedding ring on. She did not. I began to see the sparks flying between these two and as he went back into the [cockpit], I got to thinking, "What if the Rapture occurred right now? On this plane, a third of these people would be gone. It would be pandemonium." I imagined this guy, married to I assumed, a Christian, and all of the sudden it would

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