by Jess Peacock
In 1995 I was a twenty-four year old conservative evangelical Christian convinced of his own spiritual piety with a laser sharp focus on winning the planet for Jesus. Okay, a slight exaggeration perhaps. Truth be told, as a full-time family minister I was mostly intent on surviving youth group lock-ins and getting culturally savvy teenagers to come with me to the Michael W. Smith concert (“C’mon guys, dcTalk is opening for him. They rap!”) But people accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and savior was a matter I took rather serious.
After reading Left Behind, I went and got real kooky. While I knew even then that the book was not particularly well written, it succeeded in prying open what I thought were my hermetically sealed spiritual eyes, enabling me to see the absolute imperative duty I had to convince as many people as possible to turn toward Jesus or miss out on the rapture and suffer the wrath of the well hidden (coughBillClintoncough) Antichrist who could be revealed at any moment.
And I wasn’t alone. To date, the original novel Left Behind has sold seven million copies, and the series as a whole (Left Behind: The Kids Series??) has sold over sixty million copies. Granted, not everyone who has read Left Behind gives him or herself over to a literal interpretation of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ action adventure eschatology, but what can I say…I was an idiot.
So, as the Left Behind novel does rather ineloquently, let me skip to the end. It is now nearly twenty years after my first reading and I am a very different person indeed. No longer a practicing Christian, but having spent three years studying theology in a masters program, I have become fascinated by all things emerging from the Christian entertainment complex (and it is a complex if the $70 million dollar haul of the recent religious film God’s Not Dead is an indicator). What’s more, Tom Perrotta’s raptureish novel The Leftovers recently premiered as a series on HBO, and a reboot of the Left Behind film lands in theaters this October with Nic Cage bringing a small amount of star power to the Second Coming (rumors from the set suggest Cage wasn’t happy about Jesus getting the bigger trailer).
Long story short, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to revisit the novel. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to do all of the heavy lifting and read the book for you (to steal a line from chapter one, “A crash into the ocean had to be better than this,”). However, any fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 knows that the suffering is much more enjoyable when it’s done together. So feel free to find a copy (apparently there’s seven million lying around) and join me for Left Behind…Again.
UP NEXT: Chapter One – “Fake Poop”