Nicholas Kristof goes after the “Left Behind” book series.
The “Left Behind” series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world’s Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: “Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching.”
Gosh, what an uplifting scene!
If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series, we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering. We should hold ourselves to the same standard.
Now, I’ve often written that blue staters should be less snooty toward fundamentalist Christians, and I realize that this column will seem pretty snooty. But if I praise the good work of evangelicals – like their superb relief efforts in Darfur – I’ll also condemn what I perceive as bigotry. A dialogue about faith must move past taboos and discuss differences bluntly. That’s what blue staters and red staters need to do about religion and the “Left Behind” books.
I don’t hold out much hope for a dialogue with people who go in wholeheartedly for the rapture stories. I’ve had my share of Friendly (using the Quaker definition) conversations with them and it is like trying to teach a cat to march. The worst thing is that they are humorless, a trait they share with the demented, and I have no tolerance for that.
They’ve made a couple of “Left Behind” movies starring Kirk Cameron. You remember him as the obnoxious teenaged son on Growing Pains, the 1980’s sitcom that proved that even Alan Thicke can have a hit. I’ve seen clips from one of the films, and the scenes depicting the rapture – where the “right people” suddenly are lifted up to Heaven, leaving their earthly possessions, including their clothes, are a hoot. (HBO’s Six Feet Under did a spoof of the rapture as an opener to an episode – helium-filled blow-up dolls escaped from a porno shop and caused a traffic accident that killed a woman mid-rapture.) The films have apparently been a big success in the evangelical community, although I don’t know if they ever went into wide release. Niche films, like porno, have a limited market and usually go straight to video.
As for the dire predictions of death and destruction when the Apocalypse comes, that’s what we’ve been telling them about with global warming. And if all of the born-again Christians are lifted up and leave the rest of us behind, well, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me. Get rid of all the pompous, arrogant, and ignorant tightasses and leave behind a world where people can lead their lives according to their own spiritual calling. Think of all the interesting people who wouldn’t get lifted up. Meanwhile, if Heaven is filled with all those born-again Christians, I’d rather not go. Who wants to spend eternity with Jerry Falwell? Talk about your definition of Hell. As Mark Twain noted, “You go to Heaven for the climate, but to Hell for the society.”