God Took My Co-Pilot
March 29, 2004 6:38 AM   Subscribe

The Evil of Banality. "You should never, ever get on a plane with a born-again pilot." Recent entries in Slactivist's excellent line-by-line Christian deconstruction of a best-selling series that MeFi has discussed before. But this time it's really the end. Jesus is coming back, and it's front page news.
posted by Slagman (47 comments total)
The main trouble with the Left Behind books is that the supposed heroes react indifferently to the destruction that happens when the faithful are called up, leaving planes to fall from the sky and so forth. It's not clear if we are supposed to root for or gloat at the people who are suddenly trapped in a world gone mad.
And they react to it all with a strange indifference, even as millions die in the catastrophe.

"This is what LaHaye and Jenkins believe it means to be a Christian. This is what LaHaye and Jenkins believe it means to be a human. Hannah Arendt gave a name to this perspective: 'the banality of evil.' The subject of her book, like the heroes of Left Behind, was a man primarily focused on travel arrangements....

"It's not just the prose here that's awful ("like ... the blizzards, only without the snow"), it's the stunted vision of what L&J are trying to describe. They make the apocalypse sound like trying to get out of the parking lot at Shea Stadium after a game."

I can only imagine what will happen in the last book when Jesus comes back. Will he be armed with a sword and smite the sinners personally? I'd be a little worried, considering how we treated him in that Mel Gibson flick.
posted by Slagman at 6:50 AM on March 29, 2004

From the NYT article about "Glorious Appearing":

A bookseller tells the reporter: "I really believe that there is a blessing on this series from the Lord... Just like with the `Passion' movie, it is all part of the warning we get before Christ returns." He added, "Many people have asked me, Do you think they will finish the series before Christ comes?"
posted by Slagman at 6:57 AM on March 29, 2004

I know that I shouldn't take them so seriously, but the conceit of the evangelical brigade gets right up my nose.

Of course Jesus is about to come back! He's been waiting for you to witness it, you're that good and wonderful and special! You are!!
posted by dmt at 7:00 AM on March 29, 2004

And everyone keep in mind that not everyone who fits into the description of "Christian" or even "evangelical" believes in this particular version of the end-times. If my high-school bible-knowledge isn't failing me, the whole rapture blink-of-an-eye thing is part of a school of thought called "pre-milennialism" and many Christians don't hold with it.
posted by deadcowdan at 7:10 AM on March 29, 2004

He has been Raptured."
"How do you know?"
"I write bad apocalyptic fiction. I know things. Endtimes are my game."
posted by brownpau at 7:11 AM on March 29, 2004

the book offers the finale in a reverent tone indicative of Christ himself speaking.

How very modest. Presumably they've reclassified Pride these days.
posted by biffa at 7:26 AM on March 29, 2004

I've linked to it before, but this essay covers the series and the issues surrounding it.

It includes nice big words like "Antinomianism."
posted by john at 7:26 AM on March 29, 2004

I feel called by God to write my own apocalyptic End-Times series.

In it, otherwise well-meaning Christians are duped by the likes of Tim LaHaye - who is actually working for the AntiChrist.

In my bestseller millions are duped by LaHaye and his ilk, tricked into fostering a world religious strife which leads to WW3.

In my series, the ranks of the "saved" will be revealed to include large numbers of Gays and Lesbians, secular humanists, liberals and progressives of all stripes, many libertarian and fiscally conservative Republicans, and also Buddhists, Muslims, B'ahai-ists (and so on) and also many righteous Christians - from all political persuasions - in general, those who at the very least do not feel that they have the right to impose their morality or religious judgements on others, and who have remained steadfastly opposed to the march towards World hatred and war.

Only, these saved will not be snatched, bodily, from airplanes, from their graves, and from operating tables. They will remain on Earth and be informed, only privately, of their special status by the Good Witch Glynda who comes to them, in their vision, in the form of a giant clitoris.
posted by troutfishing at 7:29 AM on March 29, 2004

Can't wait to see the movie, trout.
posted by deadcowdan at 7:30 AM on March 29, 2004

deadcowdan - Do you want to write it? I'll help. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, so I can't do it all myself. But many hands make short work. It could even be set up as a Wikki.


I'd love to launch a loving counter to Lahaye's (covertly) hateful ouevre. My brother has been reading LaHaye's spew since about 1979. I feel like I should have taken a stand against this a long time ago.

The very project parsing of humanity into the †saved† and the damned seems like a presumptuous and even an Evil Enterprise™ to me.

The idea of turning the premises of the Right Wing Christian evangelical crowd on their head's tickles my fancy : saying - What if God were to judge us by the outcomes which flowed from our actions and beliefs and not from some clubbish status as the "saved" ? What if Jesus - in emphasizing that he was "the way" - actually meant that he exemplified the way ?

Millions of (professed) Christians might have to reexamine their tightly held faith in the sterling nature of their status as the "saved" .
posted by troutfishing at 7:44 AM on March 29, 2004

NPR just rebroadcast a Terry Gross interview with Tim LeHaye a few weeks ago. I especially enjoyed his story about the time he tried to save the Dalai Lama's soul.
posted by crumbly at 7:57 AM on March 29, 2004

They will remain on Earth and be informed, only privately, of their special status by the Good Witch Glynda who comes to them, in their vision, in the form of a giant clitoris

My God! that happened to me! Not so much God the big G as God the big G-spot!
posted by Pericles at 8:20 AM on March 29, 2004

Check out Slacktivist's Left Behind category for more wonderful insight into this train wreck of evangelical fiction. Pulp fiction like "Left Behind" does for serious Christian eschatology what "Da Vinci Code" does for apocrypha scholarship: squat.
posted by brownpau at 8:22 AM on March 29, 2004

The Terry Gross interview is great. LeHaye is batshit crazy.

(More from NYT:)
To those unfamiliar with Dr. LaHaye's views of Revelation, the most striking aspect of the novels may be the bloody massacre Jesus wreaks on the Antichrist's unbelieving armies.

"Tens of thousands of foot soldiers dropped their weapons, grabbed their heads or their chests, fell to their knees, and writhed as they were invisibly sliced asunder," the authors write. "Their innards and entrails gushed to the desert floor, and as those around them turned to run, they too were slain, their blood pooling and rising in the unforgiving brightness of God."

But, wait, there's more:

That might seem like the end of the end, but Dr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins say they are not quite finished. They plan a postscript to the series, describing one last battle between God and Satan at the close of Jesus' 1,000-year rule on Earth, and a prequel, filling in the early history of the Antichrist.

Now, why not a book about the 1,000 year "Government of Christ"? I guess even LeHaye knows that would be a bore.
Can you imagine spending eternity with some of these people? Ay, ay, ay.
posted by Slagman at 8:31 AM on March 29, 2004

If you don't believe in God what's the problem with book? Should it be banned from the Library?
Notice "the older" push "the end is coming" after they've grown old. The young have just begun, no old age for them, common?
Honestly think this idea becomes "a happening soon" because that way they'll skip the physical death process which they have worried about while younger.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:33 AM on March 29, 2004

trout, I'm in if you can set it up. Even if it's just a pointless writing exercise, it sounds like fun.

It even could have a Biblical basis. There's a part of the old testament where God gets one group of people to do evil in order to teach a lesson to the others. He of course kills the evildoers to make sure the righteous understand they are supposed to do God's bidding. But it made me wonder how those evildoers felt, since they were actually following what God told them to do, and still got punished for it. Weird lesson there. Does anybody recognize the passage?

Name the time and place, and I'll chip in some words.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:33 AM on March 29, 2004

I don't think the book should be banned, but I am troubled that it is clearly a distortion of Christian teaching. The original linke I posted (mentioned again by brownpau) is a Christian critique of the books. I think if people act on this flawed interpretation, suffering will be increased, in many ways. Secondarily, it just seems like bad fiction, and I hate to see poorly written works sell well when so much good stuff, even from a spiritual and Christian perspective, gets ignored.
These books are sensationalist and violent, yet they are also lacking in character development and suspense. Read the links and you'll understand my perspective on both these points.
posted by Slagman at 8:37 AM on March 29, 2004

where God gets one group of people to do evil
God made people sin?
posted by thomcatspike at 8:44 AM on March 29, 2004

troutfishing, would this be in the form of an actual parody of the Left Behind series? Because if it is, that would mean I would have to read the series so I could parody it accurately. And I don't think I could do that without getting suicidal.

But if it's more like an alternative vision, with only the broadest parallels, I'd be willing to entertain ideas. I'm a so-so writer, but I think I could pull a few things out of my ass for this.
posted by deadcowdan at 8:51 AM on March 29, 2004

I too would be curious which passage in the Bible that refers to.

About your question, thomcatspike, I didn't make the remark,
but here is my take:

If the God of the Bible made man, and God is all knowing and all powerful, then he knew that man would be sinful. He could have prevented us from sinning, but he chose to give us free will, then he spent thousands of years flooding and smiting us, and sending us messengers, including his son, even though He knew we would kill his son. Not that it mattered, since his son was also God and therefore death did not mean anything to him. It is a very mysterious game this particular God is playing. I am reluctant to believe anybody who claims to have figured it out, or who claims to know the future. Speak for God at your own peril, that's one lesson I see in the works attributed to him. And in my own lifetime. Jimmy Swaggart, the Bakers... how many people have built themselves up only to be knocked down? That is proof that karma works even in this lifetime. So I tend to believe, as some Buddhists teach, that the world has already ended, and that we need only realize it to be "saved" then we can climb into the bodhisattva time machine to save the others, even the bugs and beasts. I suspect, though, that even Jesus would frown upon people buying books that seem to gloat on the suffering and punishment of others. Before you worry about the mote in your neighbor's eye, consider the beam in your own, and all that. These books are bad for your soul. There is nothing Christian about them.
posted by Slagman at 9:07 AM on March 29, 2004

Deadcowdan, for parodies, the book that I linked above, "Right Behind," is just that: a wonderful sendup of "Left Behind" by a merciless Calvinist satirist and his sock puppet.
posted by brownpau at 9:25 AM on March 29, 2004

where God gets one group of people to do evil
God made people sin?

I too would be curious which passage in the Bible that refers to.

There are actually quite a few. The most famous is Exodus, where Pharoah is initially quite an asshole, but it seems like he would change his tune once he begins to see all of Moses' prophecies fulfilled. God "hardens his heart", so that He can make a point, through Moses, about His power and the strength of the covenant, and so Pharoah continues to defy God, against his will.

Here is a Boolean search of the KJV with the phrase "harden AND heart," which is the key word tip-off that free will is being undermined.
posted by Hildago at 9:45 AM on March 29, 2004

[side tracking]
Not that it mattered, since his son was also God and therefore death did not mean anything to him
Jesus did feel pain on the cross as He was a human being. His dying as a perfect human being is why He came. Jesus, God the Son, had deity yet using it on earth would had been a sin. An example, when He was in the desert for 40 days if He had created food from a rock it would have been a sin. He performed miracles in order of proving Himself a true prophet. He was able to live an un-sinned life a little easier than us. Because He was born by the emasculate conception, virgin birth which unlike us we have a sin nature which comes from your father's chromosomes. This is what makes us "evil" in God's eye until our judgement.

harden AND heart
First it's your soul that is harden, think of it as your judgement call. The heart pumps blood through your body maintaining life and you will find "heart" is a bad translation.

Your "heart" is hardened when you sin over and over. Like lying takes a lie to keep one going. So you become accustom to it without thinking that it is wrong.

God "hardens his heart"
Think we created the ability of making more wrong decisions by doing them over and over. Then not aligning them to the corrected ways is how our "heart is harden". You sinned, no one forced you to do it. It's also easier sinning once you have ignored the first ones.
Example that I've seen and is a hard judgement call: a thief who thinks it's ok to steal because their children are starving for food.

Please don't take this wrong: Have you read the Bible? I ask as notice every where that this is a book which is discussed thoroughly though some have only read passages. I've known many, many in churches whom have never read it straight through.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:23 AM on March 29, 2004


I am confused by your comment that it would have been a sin for Jesus to use his divine powers on earth. Did he not heal the sick and raise Lazarus? Did he not turn water into wine to please his mother at a wedding? What of feeding the multitudes? I think you misread the story of Jesus resisting temptation in the desert.

I have read the Bible, yes. I often find that people who claim to be Christian have not thought too closely about what it says, though. Please point to the part of the Bible that mentions chromosomes and the "emasculate" conception.

But I have no interest in debating the Bible. God's house has many mansions. But the Left Behind series is the outhouse. It makes a mockery of Christian belief and the Bible, in my opinion.
posted by Slagman at 10:52 AM on March 29, 2004

It's not just that the Left Behind series is drivel, which it unquestionably is, or that its eschatology and soteriology are so banal and simplistic that they make Christianity seem like a game of Chutes and Ladders, which they do--okay, maybe it is those things, too. But what really galls me is how thoroughly this literalistic and uncompromising and closed-minded crap has come to be equated with Christianity as a whole. If I didn't love Tim LaHaye as myself, I'd hate his guts.
posted by vraxoin at 11:41 AM on March 29, 2004

I made a Sword +5 Against Christians just in case the events in Left Behind happen. You know, as an insurance policy.
posted by moonbiter at 11:54 AM on March 29, 2004

I nominate LaHaye and Jenkins for a Bulwer-Lytton Lifetime Achievement Award.
posted by chuq at 12:06 PM on March 29, 2004

Rise Of The Righteous Army
posted by homunculus at 12:42 PM on March 29, 2004

Did he not turn water into wine to please his mother at a wedding?
Slagman don't know this tale, is it in Thomas? If he had done this it would have been a sin as He pleased. Why, what is the purpose? Self gratitude. I commented Jesus performed miracles proving His prophecy. He performed the mircle creating food for the masses for two reasons. To show who He was and the people needed to be fet which was not self pleasing. Understanding the canon of scripture will help delute the tales from truth.

I think you misread the story of Jesus resisting temptation in the desert.
This is the perfect example extinguishing why Jesus did not use His deity as Christ. Again if He had He would have sinned thus being imperfect to die on the cross for our sins.

Please point to the part of the Bible that mentions chromosomes and the "emasculate" conception.
The word "chromosomes" is not mentioned nor do I know enough accient text to find it. We do know through science DNA is passed by your father. We do know children of alcoholic families are more likely to drink than non drinking families. There are versus that talk about the sin nature, yet don't have them referenced at hand.

and the "emasculate" conception.
"Immaculate conception", bad proof reading on my part sorry, not sure where I pulled "emasculate" which reads horribly. The reasons for it has to do with Jesus being born without a sin nature. If Jesus had sinned He would have had one like Adam after being banashed from the garden.

The Bible reading was in general, sorry if I made it seem directed towards you. Not saying if the author is correct or not, as all can discern better than me telling them.

Good thing the author didn't create this.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:04 PM on March 29, 2004

Homunculus, that link is GOLD:

“I think if you cut us, Jerry and I would bleed red, white and blue.”
posted by Ptrin at 1:20 PM on March 29, 2004

2:1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the
mother of Jesus was there:

2:2 And both Jesus was called, and his
disciples, to the marriage.

2:3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him,
They have no wine.

2:4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine
hour is not yet come.

2:5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you,
do it.

2:6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner
of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

2:7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they
filled them up to the brim.

2:8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor
of the feast. And they bare it.

2:9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made
wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the
water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

2:10 And
saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine;
and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast
kept the good wine until now.

The Gospel According to St John
posted by Grangousier at 2:27 PM on March 29, 2004

[from Homunculus' link]
“When Jimmy Carter began to support abortion or other things, then that became a jarring inconsistency for many of these voters,” says Bauer. With the president, what he says he believes as a matter of faith also seems to be reflected in many of the policies in his plan to distribute social services through religious institutions.”
This statement makes no sense besides: This guy thinks a Christian supporting abortion is a "jarring inconsistency." Think this guy needs to fully read and realize the times with which the Bible was written. No government taxes either?as church tithing was for city taxes too. Then the idea the churches would serve as government even for the poor sounds scarry. Think this guy is anti-government which can be good yet he wants the church to govern him, no thanks I have God.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:40 PM on March 29, 2004

>2:1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the
mother of Jesus was there:

Gospel of John 2:11 - This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

Why Jesus may have said: 2:4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine
hour is not yet come.

posted by thomcatspike at 2:55 PM on March 29, 2004

Think the above was prophesied in the Old testament.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:01 PM on March 29, 2004

"I'm sorry, but the correct answer is Mormon." -- South Park
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:11 PM on March 29, 2004

(from homunculus' link) But do evangelicals think they will live to see the Rapture?

“My thinking is I sure hope so. I think it'd be really cool,” says [Thomas] Ice.

ding, ding, ding!
posted by mrgrimm at 5:01 PM on March 29, 2004

He was born by the emasculate conception

That's great. Emasculate conception: no sperm involved because "God" is neuter.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:38 PM on March 29, 2004

Metafilter : I think I could pull a few things out of my ass

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:51 PM on March 29, 2004

Oh come on, Stavros, that stuff was philosophy of religion 101. You must have taken the class in college.

The arguments go something like this...
If God is a perfect being, he must be all powerful and all knowing. So why does he allow evil? Well, St. Augustine or one of those deep Catholic cats would say he has to allow
us to be able to choose evil, so it will be more meaningful and true if we choose good, otherwise we wouldn't have free will.

Why is free will important? Because without it, we would not freely give our love to God and choose goodness. We'd be automatons. Well, why is it important that we
be able to freely love God? Why can't he just make us do it? Well, that wouldn't be very satisfying for him. But wait says my old professor -- that sounds a bit vain. I thought he was
a perfect being capable of perfect love. Why is he so needy?
Why is his love conditional? People love their children even if their children are murderers and thieves? Why can't God love us no matter what? Why must he send us to hell for sin? Some answers that aren't too satifying: The ways of God are mysterious. He does love us, but it's a tough love.

Ok, so let's imagine there's free will, because to do otherwise is depressing and intolerable. From our point of view, we have it, because we don't know the future. But God is supposedly omniscient. Isn't there a conflict there? If God knows everything, he knows what will happen in the future. That means, from his point of view, we've already done it, whatever it is. He already knows who is going to accept Jesus and who is going to hell. From his point of view, it's a done deal. So we have no choice. There is no free will if God is omniscient.

And there's more: God is all powerful if he is a perfect being, right? So he has the power right now to end all suffering yet he allows his creations to suffer just so they can have the free will to choose to love him and be good. Kind of twisted, especially when his teaching pretty much says, hey, you're gonna sin, you creeps can't help yourself, you were born in sin and you'll die in it. This does not sound like the behavior of a perfect being, frankly. Why wouldn't a perfect being create a perfect world with perfect beings in it? God needs a little Zoloft or something. But it probably gets lonely up there. Maybe he wanted something unpredictable. He wanted to play a game, maybe, surprise himself. Only solution: Hide the future from himself, create free will. Odd behavior.

Free will is a big problem for Left Behind. On the one hand, we're supposed to believe it is foretold that these events will occur, and there's no escaping the prophecy. Israel will do this, the antichrist will do that, 144,000 specific Jews will be converted, etc. That means none of us has a choice, not the people who choose God and not those who reject him. It's already done. So don't worry about it. Those who will be saved have already had their names written in the great book. And those of us who will be left behind have no choice either.
Start stocking up on canned goods, unless it's foretold that you will scoff and not do that.

So here's the kicker, what kind of God, knowing that we have no choice, would then come down and cut off our heads and burn us up and generally kick the shit out of us? Not much of a perfect being. Kind of inhumanly cruel, in a way. He knew we were going to mess it up. He made us that way. So he kicks our tails anyway?

There are some ways around these arguments. That's what philosophers of religion do. They tie each up other in nots trying to rationally understand God as described by some guys who, let's face it, were not terribly educated when they tried to explain basic stuff like, why does the sun go around the earth (whoops, it doesn't) and why are people such jerks a lot of the time? The zen buddhists are right that you'll make yourself crazy if you try to parse the spirit with logic or try to control human beings with rules, if their hearts are unquiet. Just sit. Just sit. Wake up. You are all perfect right now here on this earth, you are all one, and the time grows late. Wake up wake up. That's all you have to do.

Or so I've heard. Haven't seen it myself.
posted by Slagman at 10:28 PM on March 29, 2004

knots, rather. or "shalt nots"
posted by Slagman at 10:32 PM on March 29, 2004

Jesus has been coming back since the gospels. What say you Christians? Still waiting?
posted by skallas at 11:15 PM on March 29, 2004

The Christian Taliban
posted by homunculus at 12:25 AM on March 30, 2004

Premillenial Dispensationism is heresy. End of story.

In other words, what Vraxoin said.
posted by ninthart at 4:56 AM on March 30, 2004

Whoops, that should be Premillennial Dispensationalism.

My spelling is atrocious today...
posted by ninthart at 4:58 AM on March 30, 2004

"If the God of the Bible made man, and God is all knowing and all powerful, then he knew that man would be sinful. He could have prevented us from sinning, but he chose to give us free will, then he spent thousands of years flooding and smiting us, and sending us messengers, including his son, even though He knew we would kill his son........"

Slagman - God was so infuriated by your effort, through your puny human logic, to plumb his inscrutable motives that he sent two lightning bolts, last year, to strike somebody else.
posted by troutfishing at 10:28 PM on March 30, 2004

Oh come on, Stavros, that stuff was philosophy of religion 101.

Wha? I was just makin' one of those tired old tagline jokes, and feeling guilty about doing so.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:04 PM on March 30, 2004

I'm quite "down" as well with helping to write the Wiki novel.

Though it is a scary prospect. The brainstorming would be worth the effort maybe.
posted by crasspastor at 2:36 AM on March 31, 2004

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