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Fred Clark has been doing a close analysis of the Tim LeHaye “Left Behind” books about on life after the Apocalypse for those “left behind” by the Rapture. MacAllister calls the books “post-rapture revenge fantasy,” and that’s the best description I’ve seen yet. Currently, Clark, aka Slacktivist, is up to Tribulation Force: The Continuing Drama of Those Left Behind. Tribulation Force is the second novel in the Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Clark in addition to being a fine writer and blogger, holds a M. A. T. S. cum laude in Theology and Public Policy from Palmer Theological Seminary. He’s hardly hostile to Christianity, or Protestantism. In his latest entry Clark offers an analysis of pp. 192–205 of Tribulation Force, noting:
The Good Christian Dad ought to, like Rayford, pray for his daughter while distrusting her, belittling her opinions and conspiring with the man who appears to be two-timing her. The Good Christian Young Man ought to be, like Buck, stern and parental in his conquest of his intended. And the Good Christian Young Woman ought to be, like Chloe, submissive, distraught and humiliated.
You can, and should, read the entire post. Clark is reliably intelligent, caring, and thoughtful. In an earlier post on the late Evangelist Francis Schafer in which Clark traces the roots of current extreme Evangelists, Clark notes that
. . . by the 1980s, Graham had been eclipsed by new faces and very different voices with a very different agenda — men like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Evangelicalism had become fiercely partisan, polarized and polarizing. It had become more a political movement than a religious one and the dominant issue—the only shibboleth or litmus test that seemed to matter—was opposition to legal abortion.
The founding myth of this new, stridently political faith says that this politicizing arose in reaction to the Roe v. Wade decision acknowledging the legal right to abortion.
Clark demonstrates that this politicizing of the new Evangelism was in fact not inspired by Roe v. Wade. He links to a piece in Huffington Post by Francis Schaffer’s son, Frank Schaffer, author of several books on evangelism in America. Frank Wade, writing about current American extreme Evangelicism in the context of the Hutaree militia obsessive [alleged] conspiracy madness notes that “The rhetoric we in the early pro-life movement unleashed combined, with the apocalyptic fantasies of the fundamentalist evangelicals, is a deadly brew.” He sees the Left Behind books as a distinct ingredient in that “deadly brew,” and notes that the new evangelicals “have cultivated a following among the terminally aggrieved based on ceaselessly warning them about ‘the world.'” Schaffer points out that merchandising is the least of the effects of the Left Behind books, and the aggressive evangelicism they espouse as the religious Right:
Such products as Left Behind wall paper, screen savers, children’s books, and video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise. Less innocuous symptoms include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, adopting “Christ-centered” home school curricula, fearing higher education, embracing rumor as fact, and learning to love hatred for the “other,” as exemplified by a revived anti-immigrant racism, the murder of doctors who do abortions, and even a killing in the Holocaust Museum. And now we have a cult/militia dedicated to the same idea.
This New Evangelism, as much as it scares me, does seem to be having some resistance in the under 25 crowd. As Pastor Carol Howard Merritt notes:
There are three major reasons that a younger generation is leaving Evangelicalism: pernicious sexism, religious intolerance, and conservative politics. The term “Evangelical” is a broad brush that colors a large and diverse movement, so these characteristics may not be true of every Evangelical. But as long as those in the movement allow themselves to be represented by Pat Robertson and James Dobson, then these spokesmen will continue to whitewash the entire group’s values.
In other words, many of these new Evanglists are in fact not evangelizing Christ as much as they are preaching a new world order under the aegis of the Religious Right:
For the last couple of decades, a majority of the movement began to find great power as the Christian Right. Partnering with the Republican Party, they began to extol an idealized view of the family, rallying against abortion and homosexual rights. Often the fixation on these two issues came at the expense of feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. Many Christian Right leaders brushed aside caring for the earth and mocked global climate change. Health care became demonized and wars glorified. So many Christian teachings became sacrificed for the Republican agenda that we hardly recognized our faith any longer. And so we left our congregations.
I’ve added Slacktivist to the blogroll under Nonfiction.