I have mixed feelings on the Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. There was a time when I certainly would have accepted much of what they proposed in the theology of the books, but I always read them as enjoyable novels.
When discovered the books while browsing a Christian bookstore. I picked up the first one, liked the back cover synopsis and made a decision buy the first 3. I started reading them and was hooked from the first pages. I found the stories original, enjoyable and engaging.
At that time of my life I have not given End Times much thought for many years and while I was very dubious about the literal turn of events, it didn’t bother me enough to affect my enjoyment of the books. One can read and enjoy a fantasy without it affecting real life after all.
Within weeks of me purchasing and starting to read the books, I was on the phone to a friend and he excitedly told me that he’d found the most enjoyable books he’d read in a long time and started extolling the virtues of their story telling and narrative. Before he even got to the point of telling me the name of the books or the subject matter, I interrupted him and told him he was talking about the Left Behind books. His dumbstruck silence at the other end was hilarious, yet is very illustrative of the impact my first encounter with these books had on me.
I gobbled up the books, eagerly welcoming each new one as it came out. I even bought the first three movie DVDs that came out.
Then the boredom set in, as the series progressed and got to book 10 or so my enthusiasm had waned, I continued to read the series because I wanted to know what happened, but the enjoyment and the pleasure had gone out of reading them. By the time I got to the last book, the reading of it was a mere formality, just to say I’d done it, there was very little of the original pleasure of the reading left and I found the ending all rather twee and ‘Hollywood’ in its perfect ending.
If I discovered the books now, I’m not so sure I’d read them. I certainly doubt I’ll ever read any of them again.
That’s not because I’ve changed my mind on my original opinion. I am sure if I read the first book again I’d enjoy it to the same degree, I think the series certainly lost its momentum and should have been several books shorter. Its almost as though huge profit was visualised when the popularity of the books was realised and so the latter half of the series stretched the story out. I have no idea on the truth of that but it certainly felt that way. Now I discover that beyond the original 12 books that I read, there are now three prequels and another one added to the end, cynicism confirmed me thinks.
So yes I did enjoy reading the initial books, I enjoyed them very much. Yet looking back at them with the eyes of an Atheist I found myself being very cynical and sad. Cynical that its cashing in on a dubious theology that has caused hurt to many (see my previous post: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it/) and sad that the books have probably helped to reinforce that dubious theology into many and thereby (possibly) causing yet more hurt to those who now needlessly fear a Rapture that will never come.
- Apocalypse now? Christian Rapture fiction and the end of the world (guardian.co.uk)