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I spent a good chunk of last summer reading the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Why would a heathen like me do such a thing? Well, I felt there was a hole in my pop-culture knowledge, and Left Behind has been read by millions of people, so I thought it might be nice to at least read the books before forming an opinion.
It was a mistake. And a huge waste of time. I must confess, I could not read the whole series. I read books 1 - 8, and then skipped to book 12. I missed nothing. You might think that is an uninformed opinion, but you'd be wrong.
You see, after 8 books, it became clear how this thing works. Roughly a quarter or more of each sequel book is spent rehashing what went before. It's like the old Friday the 13th movies that spent large chunks of movie time reliving previous installments. Let me just say that even the thin plotting of those movies easily surpassed the quality of writing in the Left Behind series.
But they have nothing on the gore!
Much lip-service is given in the books to how loving, perfect, all-powerful, glorious and wonderful God/Jesus are (the books treat them interchangeably and as a unit). But you never see any of that godly goodness in them. You get famine, war, pestilence, locusts, creatures, destruction, disasters, blood and guts. You have to take the goodness of God/Jesus on faith, because none is ever displayed.
The writing style is sub-eighth grade level. The characters are poorly drawn and somewhat interchangeable. The "good" people never have sex outside of marriage, and even if married never get much romance either. If they ever have the bad taste to curse, it is referred to obliquely, such as "Rayford swore." And then Rayford felt bad about it.
All of this is based on the book of Revelation, a very slim and confusing volume of the Bible, indeed. There are a few other books taken out of context to make the story work. And it's all very Earth-centric. All of this disaster and turmoil is happening on Earth. What if you're on the international Space Station, on the space shuttle, or we've colonized the moon or Mars by the time of the Rapture? Are those people going to be spared?
The series is being milked for all it's worth, with countless spinoffs, movies and tie-ins. It is quite obviously all about the money. And middle-America is now convinced--by extremely bad fiction--that this is mainstream religious fact.
If you get the urge, like I did, to see what all the fuss is about, do this: read books 1 and 12. You'll get the gist, and you'll wonder what's wrong with people.
The only good thing about this series? It inspired (and I do mean inspired) a classic The Simpsons episode, with a parody called Left Below.
Left Behind: Avoid at all costs
The Simpsons: Highly recommended