Apocalyptic and atop the bestseller lists
Author Tim LaHaye takes on the final battle between good and evil
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"We're in a religious war and we need to aggressively oppose secular humanism; these people are as religiously motivated as we are and they are filled with the devil," LaHaye said on a visit to Mr. Falwell's TV show, "Listen America."Skip to next paragraph
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It is this tack that distresses some other Evangelicals. "Nowhere else do Evangelicals talk about a sinister elite of secular humanists out to destroy the Christian family and take away liberties," says Tom Sine, an Evangelical writer and teacher. "That kind of fear-mongering I've found only in the US, and Mr. LaHaye deserves the credit."
Mr. Sine says LaHaye's analysis is not valid biblically or historically, and precludes civil discourse and keeps Evangelicals from understanding the real nature of secularism and its effect on their values. He says the Left Behind series "presents the same ideology in a more subtle and nuanced fashion, causing people to unwittingly buy into some of those assumptions, not just in eschatology but in politics."
LaHaye clearly sees a connection between the two. "The Bible prophecies predicted that in the last days perilous times would come, men would be lovers of their own selves, haters of God ... so it's not surprising we are seeing fulfillment of prophecy," he says. "Secular humanism explains why we are losing our culture of morality and decency."
His prophetic views come from premillennialism a teaching that emerged in the 19th century which says that things are going to get worse rather than better, with signs of evil and wars increasing on earth as evidence that Jesus Christ will soon return. Jesus will first take Christian saints up into heaven in the Rapture. Those left behind will experience seven years of the Tribulation, when the Antichrist rules the world and they must choose sides. Then Jesus will return and establish the kingdom on earth for 1,000 years.
The Left Behind series is the dramatic tale of the seven years of tribulation. It begins during an airplane flight over the Atlantic, on which half the passengers suddenly disappear in the Rapture. The same has happened to those on the ground, producing chaos. The pilot and a journalist become leaders of a force opposing the Antichrist, who is the former head of the UN. His evil troops are called the Peacekeepers; his headquarters are in Iraq.
Along with earthquakes, plagues, and breathtaking action, there are plenty of miracles and the winning of converts.
Apparently only half of series readers are Evangelicals, and a recent Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe the prophecies in Revelation.
"You can't understand the meaning of this series," says Dr. Boyer, "without being aware of themes woven through the books ... the menace of international organizations, the US president sort of turning government over to the Antichrist (suspect federal government); and mainstream liberal churches unmasked as wicked and dangerous."
Not all readers are going to be converted to LaHaye's perspective. Yet Boyer questions an apocalyptic view that "puts major public institutions on the side of evil ... and says your job as an individual is to get on God's side."
That's what LaHaye has in mind. More Left Behind books are planned, and kids' and comic-book versions, audiocassettes, and videos are spreading the word.
But he's looking beyond that. The deal with Bantam Dell, for which he engaged a new writing partner, will be a series combining archaeology and prophecy. Meanwhile, there's the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy, offering a one-year course that covers the whole ground.