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Slacktivist Wraps Up Left Behind
September 19, 2008 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Slacktivist has been discussed on the blue before. His epic deconstruction, interpretation, and at times even translation of the Left Behind book series started in October of 2003. Today, it has come to an end. In between, Slacktivist has explored the impact of the Left Behind series and the fundamentalist worldview on religion and the media, and even gone on to inspire Left Behind fanfic. Fred Clark, the Slacktivist himself, intends to continue his five year project with the Left Behind movie, followed by the second book, Tribulation Force.
posted by Maastrictian (39 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
McCain's ad works as a dogwhistle, but there's no larger message for the larger audience. The Left Behind readers will understand his coded message, but the larger audience will just see him standing there, growing red-faced from blowing into a whistle that appears not to work.

If only he were so lucky. I've never read any of the LB books and even I could see what that ad was trying to say. Someone gave McCain a real whistle and told him it was for dogs.
posted by DU at 2:14 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Damn—he's moving on to book two?! For his sake, I hope there really is a rapture, and that it comes right soon.

Slacktivist is great, and I always look forward to Left Behind fridays.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:23 PM on September 19, 2008


I admit that I tried reading one of those things years ago but couldn't get past the first or second chapter. My smart-assed hypothesis was that sometime before the first word of the first chapter of the first book was written, there was a linguistic rapture in which all the good writing was taken up to heaven, leaving behind only labored, lackluster prose.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 2:45 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think The Simpsons covered this much better than any of us will in this thread.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 2:46 PM on September 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


That signature failure, Left Behind's forceful refutation of itself, is what earns this book my vote as the Worst Book of All Time.

Now that's a hell of a way to conclude such an in depth study.
posted by shmegegge at 3:13 PM on September 19, 2008


The bit about Buck's victory lap killed me. Left Behind is crazier about telecom technology than a Warren Ellis comic.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:56 PM on September 19, 2008


This is really good stuff. Too bad I didn't know about this while it was going on, because as well-written as it is, I don't think I can slog through that kind of backlog.
posted by gurple at 4:00 PM on September 19, 2008


I do really hope this keeps going, because it's had a fantastic, fantastic run.

Too bad I could never get anyone else to read it, though.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 4:07 PM on September 19, 2008


I've read all the Slacktavist entries on the Left Behind first novel.

It is an excellent analysis of the thinking, motivations, and batshitinsanity of an influential psuedo-Christian sect. These are the people that are infiltrating your government, being hired out of Regent University and other quackery-level religious schools by the Republican administration.

Time well spent: reading his backblog of Left Behind posts.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:20 PM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Didn't apostle Paul expect the rapture to occur in his lifetime? I could swear this was the case, but I can't find citations for it.
posted by boo_radley at 4:49 PM on September 19, 2008


boo_radley, I don't think there's much evidence that anyone expected the rapture until the 18th century.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:21 PM on September 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I listened to several of the Left Behind books on tape back when I used to commute a lot. They're completely compelling pot-boilers, quite entertaining. I'm sorry to hear from Slacktivist that they never go head-on into the weird shit in Revelations. The most fascinating bit of this series is how they'd reconcile the 1600 year old sci-fi against modern sci-fi tropes. I guess they just dodged it. Too bad, I'd love to see a modern literal rendition of something like
And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire… and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth… And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever,… that there should be time no longer
You've got to like an author who unironically names his hero "Rayford Steele", such a forceful name, sort of like "Lance" or 'Rod" only not a porn name.
posted by Nelson at 5:38 PM on September 19, 2008


I think it's more-or-less obvious that John of Patmos was doing some serious 'shrooming when he wrote Revelation.
posted by Ritchie at 6:46 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I asked a question about that on Askme and someone pointed out that interpretation. I actually read quite a bit of it, the book itself certainly sounds pretty terrible.
posted by delmoi at 7:17 PM on September 19, 2008


I was gonna make this post as well. It's the longest, most heartful, most thorough pwning the net has yet given birth to. I monstered the book for half an hour at a book group years ago. Fred destroyed it, comprehensively. There's barely a sentence escapes.

I never want to get on his bad side.

Actually, nor do I want to watch the damn movie. But if he's going to cover it, I might have to.
posted by bonaldi at 7:45 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tim La Haye Moons.
posted by hortense at 8:27 PM on September 19, 2008


Fred's deconstruction (and I think I'm actually using that word correctly in this case) of Left Behind is so witty and insightful (it's really a fun read), he almost redeems the existence of these books.

The man is a Christian whose prime motivation, really, is to lament the poverty of the lame version of Christianity represented by these books. He documents how, over and over, the artistic failures are a direct result of the moral and theological failures of the authors.

Fred's writing is so great because he believes that a book about the Rapture and the Antichrist ought to be (and could be!) so much better. And he believes that people living out the Christian faith ought to be (and could be!) so much better.
posted by straight at 8:51 PM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Holy crap, you mean I've been reading this for three years, and he's been writing it for five? Christ on a cracker, that's a lot of work, far exceeding the value of the original books. And it's been riveting all the while, too.

Fred Clark, I salute you.
posted by breath at 9:08 PM on September 19, 2008


Truly, a man whose dedication is a service to us all. Having chewed my way through lots of Rapture Fiction as an evangelical youth, I can say there's a whole genre out there for those who have a taste for the so-horrible-it's-hilarious.

Nobody does it like Fred, though -- he brings a passion to the shredding of these books that's actually inspiring.
posted by verb at 9:16 PM on September 19, 2008


Revelation was, most likely, a political tract. It's simply the genre of literature it was written in — a post-Jerusalem, "Yahweh is going to come and lay the smackdown on the Romans" piece written in the language of obscurantism. Ironically not unlike the Left Behind books, it used the apocalypse to comment on its period. I've seen several analyses that point out that the imagery and utter lack of anything resembling New Testament Christology implies that it was a Jewish apocalypse that was "adapted" to Christianity rather than the original product of a single Christian mind. Either way, it's about coded references to Rome and its downfall at the hand of Yahweh and not an actual literal prediction of the end times.

FWIW, the Slacktivist summaries/reviews are awesome and should be published as a book deconstructing the fundamentalist Christianity the LB series represents.
posted by graymouser at 9:17 PM on September 19, 2008


Such a good party in here I hesitate to add that the LB series is so bad it goes all the way around to being good and then on to being bad again. I couldn't even read it at once remove, through slacktivist, though, lord knows, I tried. It just isn't interesting, and I already know the ending.

/party pooper
posted by telstar at 9:21 PM on September 19, 2008


You know, I actually read (well, skimmed) the Left Behind series when I was younger and still an unquestioning churchgoer. Although I think I understood at some level even then that the writing and the worldview of the book was absurd. I skipped over most of the interpersonal stuff and the religious musings, and read mainly for the odd SF/fantasy appeal, to see the way LaHaye and Jenkins would interpret the events of Revelation in the real world. The mechanics of the Rapture, the political rise of Carpathia (the book's Antichrist), the collapse of American democracy, the way the various miracles and curses manifested themselves in the world. It was pretty interesting stuff, when taken purely as fiction. But as great literature or story or inspirational religious doctrine? Utter crap.

Also, while reading the blog the acronym "RTC" has popped up a few times. Anyone know what it means?
posted by Rhaomi at 9:26 PM on September 19, 2008


(Ah, a little googling shows it means "Real True Christian".)
posted by Rhaomi at 9:29 PM on September 19, 2008


In the last month or so, I rediscovered Slacktivist's Left Behind posts, noticed he was just about up to the end, lost the URL, found it again earlier this week, and now: this nice MeFi entry. Best of all, the "Left Behind fanfic" link has led me to some really nice bits of writing, and the very appropriate neologism "foefic".
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:46 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Been reading it for almost the entire time. He also writes insightful items on social justice and against torture. But this is his magnum opus.
posted by moonbiter at 1:14 AM on September 20, 2008


This series (Slacktivist's) has been a non-stop buffet of fantastic writing (his), witty remarks, and extremely insightful commentary. His loss in having to write about these horrible books is our gain, and proves without a doubt that great suffering can produce great art. Congratulations on making it through the first one, Fred!
posted by Legomancer at 4:48 AM on September 20, 2008


The entry entitled "The Visitation Pastor" is probably my favorite of Fred's entire LB series.
posted by deanc at 5:59 AM on September 20, 2008


I posted the Left Behind deconstructions three years back. Clark is simply awesome at this.
Kind of makes me wish he'd move on to other books now....

Nelson: You've got to like an author who unironically names his hero "Rayford Steele", such a forceful name, sort of like "Lance" or 'Rod" only not a porn name.

Dirk Squarejaw! Slab Bulkhead! Hunk Hardcheese! Slab Steakface!
posted by JHarris at 7:24 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is an excellent analysis of the thinking, motivations, and batshitinsanity of an influential psuedo-Christian sect.... Time well spent: reading his backblog of Left Behind posts.

And I expect one might find it similarly enlightening to read an intelligent, in-depth analysis of The Turner Diaries or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but that doesn't mean I don't have a thousand other things that have priority over an analysis of some batshitinsane subculture's pulp writings.

So, while it sounds like a worthwhile project, I can't imagine why someone who is not a specialist would want to read this.
posted by jayder at 9:08 AM on September 20, 2008


So, while it sounds like a worthwhile project, I can't imagine why someone who is not a specialist would want to read this.

Well, personally, it's because (a) it was interesting; (b) I like to learn things; (c) reading a blog entry once a day, so that I covered the past three years of once-a-week posts in a little over four months, wasn't really that big a hardship.

But, hey, whatever floats your boat. I certainly wasn't suggesting that you be forced to read it. Sheesh.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:08 AM on September 20, 2008


jayder, that's understandable. Very likely it's biggest appeal is to former (reformed, we hope) fundie types like myself, who at one time felt like we agreed with LaHaye et al. I literally believed I lived in the end times, that any prominent world leader might be revealed as the Antichrist, that I might escape death via Rapture at any moment and go on to...whatever eternity was. It was all very exciting. But also, very confusing and paranoia-making, and when I left the church, I left that as well, but I didn't really examine why.

Fred's deconstructions are highly entertaining explorations of the history of this kind of writing (religious apocalyptic propaganda)--taking something that was presented to me as an ahistorical absolute truth and showing me how, exactly, this branch of belief came to dominate churches like the ones I grew up in. And how it actually contradicts many core tenets of original Christianity that those churches seem to have forgotten.

And for those who still have belief but don't want to go back to their fundie roots, Fred himself and the compassionate, literate, intelligent theology he subscribes to is a breath of fresh air and hope.
posted by emjaybee at 10:31 AM on September 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


So, while it sounds like a worthwhile project, I can't imagine why someone who is not a specialist would want to read this.

Fred's writings don't just cover the rapture-cultists (who are, bizarrely, an unexpectedly large segment of evangelicalism), but he also has a lot of insight into evangelical Christian culture in general and how this has influence the tenor and language of the books. This is interesting to me because I've had a perverse fascination with evangelical culture since I first encountered it in college. If you have that same curiosity about evangelicals and trying to get inside their heads, Fred's work makes for some great reading.
posted by deanc at 11:51 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


boo_radley, I don't think there's much evidence that anyone expected the rapture until the 18th century.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:21 PM on September 19 [1 favorite +] [!]

Nooooooobody expects the Spanish InquisitionRapture!
posted by kcds at 6:29 AM on September 21, 2008


So, while it sounds like a worthwhile project, I can't imagine why someone who is not a specialist would want to read this.

Because there exists a sizable portion of Americans who believe this batshitinsanity. They are fearful of the Antichrist. Yes, people in the 21st century are fearful of the Antichrist, and they vote, and they are in positions of power. You may not be interested in what they're doing there, but I sure as hell welcome the opportunity to figure out their plans.
posted by Legomancer at 6:36 AM on September 21, 2008


Ah, wonderful to see this post. I'm always happy to see Slacktivist get some love. (Disclaimer: I've met Fred through friends in common.)

My favorite part of his analysis of Left Behind is that, while snark against any religion or sect proliferates across the internet, he's (hilariously, insightfully) writing from the heart. These books are offensive to non-Christians (like myself) because of the self-righteousness and intolerance and terrible writing -- but they should be a hell of a lot more offensive to more mainstream Christians, with how how they have popularized the idea that this very pushing-the-bounds-of-theology interpretation is somehow canon.
posted by desuetude at 7:51 PM on September 21, 2008


I've been reading slacktivist for a good portion of the run of this, and I've read all of the LB stuff. It's excellent, and the dedication that man has to destroying the book is awesome. I tried to get some of my friends who had made positive noises about Left Behind to read some of it, but I don't think they ever did, unfortunately.
posted by Arturus at 6:55 PM on September 22, 2008


Slacktivist's guided tour of the LB book was alternately hilarious and sad. I would have thought that a book written by a true believer would have involved a bit more effort.

Though I must admit I've never actually read the Left Behind books and probably never will, I did try the video game which similarly failed miserably due to its sacrificing gameplay to fit into an ideology (male recruits can become preachers, soldiers, construction workers, or musicians, female recruits can become nurses... that's it.).

What is it about so much Christian consumer products that makes the creators do such a half-assed job? There's no reason something has to be terrible just because its Christian-themed. The faith has given us so much great art over the centuries, and so much complete and utter crap. It's sinful.
posted by Durhey at 1:19 PM on September 23, 2008


There's no reason something has to be terrible just because its Christian-themed.
There's no reason that something should have a Christian-themed knock-off just because it's good.
posted by verb at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2008


What is it about so much Christian consumer products that makes the creators do such a half-assed job? There's no reason something has to be terrible just because its Christian-themed. The faith has given us so much great art over the centuries, and so much complete and utter crap. It's sinful.

As tempting as it is to snark about the depth of faith being proportional to the depth of the resultant art, it's not even true. Much of the great art (especially painting and sculpture) was on religious themes because it was what was the most commercially viable, basically. It's what the patrons were paying the big bucks to see. Meanwhile, religious subjects being immensely acceptable gave artists license to explore all kinds of sensuality within nominally proper subject matter. We don't need to do that now. Hence less religious art.

Anyway, tons and tons and tons of forgotten cheap crappy art to make a few pennies was done over the many centuries of Christianity, too. The great stuff by the great artists would've been influential no matter whether the subject was secular or religious.

I am not for one moment defending CCM, Left Behind, or any of the more regrettably terrible dreck produced for the Christian Market, mind you. But most groups who wish to carve out a niche for themselves have a certain element of this type of thing. (Seen the catalogues full of terribly cheap LBGT jewelry?) I agree that it's sad that these books were such ungodly (ahem) terribly writing. Sadder is how few people actually care, apparently.
posted by desuetude at 1:51 PM on September 23, 2008


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