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Thursday, November 20, 2003

Sinister buttcheek.

Well, I finally decided to see what all the shouting was about, and read the first book of the "Left Behind" series--you know, the one which aims to tell the Book of Revelations in fictional form, the heroes being the folks left behind after the Rapture who become born-again Christians and oppose the Antichrist. Naturally, it shook me to the core and I now accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.

Gotcha! Bet I'll get a lot more Google hits now, though.

Seriously, the book is very well-written--a definite beach-novel style page-turner. And you can approach it as just that and enjoy it; if you're not an atheist like me, just replace every instance of "Christ" with "Gandalf," say, or "Odin" if you're into Norse mythology, and you'll get an idea of how I approached it.

But what struck me is how it must seem to believers... this is a world in which things are exactly as a certain kind of Christian wants them to be. As the End Times begin, orthodox Jews in Israel fall to the ground and weep as they accept Jesus as their Messiah. Islam does not appear to exist. A cabal of international financiers control the world and bring the Antichrist to power. A journalist I heard on Fresh Air called this "a world in which certain dissonances have been removed," but I tend to look at the immediate wish-fulfillment and call it Christian pornography, in essence.

And as for the question of why the Jews didn't accept Jesus as their Messiah, well, that'll be fixed, because all the Jews must either convert to Christianity, or they will die. Gee whiz. Ain't that a bummer.

Another thing I didn't get was why the Christians were so eager to oppose the Antichrist. Throughout the book, a main theme is "this is what will happen, because the Bible's prophecy is true." Well, Revelations said there will be seven years of tribulations, then Jesus will bop on down to earth and defeat the Antichrist, and then it'll be a thousand-year reign of peace and harmony. Okay. So if that's all destined to happen, why bother trying to stop the bad guy? All you have to do is wait seven years. One might even think you would hope the Antichrist would come to power; even if he kills you, it's no big deal, because you're going to heaven anyway. (Just ask Antonin Scalia, who gave this reasoning when asked about the execution of innocent people.)

Still, as a book, if you ignore the implicit anti-Semitism, appeals to ignorance (a character wishes his daughter would stop thinking so much and just come to Jesus), and long passages on conversion and preaching strategy, it's not bad. And yeah, I admit, I probably will read the rest of the series.

Know thy enemy, and all that.

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