Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series of sixteen novels represents everything that is most deranged about American religion. To understand why Trump became president — with 81 percent of the white evangelical vote — you have to understand the importance of these novels and all they represent.
Trump didn’t just fall from the sky to become the nominee. White evangelicals made him president. And they have a lot in common with Trump. It’s no accident he wound up as the “God-Sent One” of the evangelical-dominated Republicans.
Trump lives in an imaginary universe divorced from reality– so do evangelicals.
The Left Behind novels have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an “End Times” cult, or rather egging it on. In this world of harbingers of doom Trump’s conspiracy theory-laden self-made apocalypse fits with the evangelical’s perpetual hysteria perfectly.
Trump’s anti-everyone-but-us platform mirrors the evangelical view of the world. God will be revenged on anyone not like us… especially if they “threaten” Israel. There are true believers and everyone else. And God is going to burn the “other”–forever.
It starts with believing the Bible is all literally true. After accepting that “fact” the evangelical mind is prepared to accept any outsider’s claim of special knowledge.
Trump wasn’t the first to tell evangelicals that liberal opinion, science and political ideas that contradicted his claims were “fake news.” Evangelicals have been hearing the same thing from their pastors for the last 100 years.
Evolution? Not true! Gays born that way? Not so! Men and women equal? No! The Bible tells us women must obey men! … and so forth. Do not trust “worldly knowledge!” Trust only what your pastor tells you!
A time-out for disclosure is in order:
I knew Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins quite well many years ago when I was a religious right leader myself before I fled the brain dead. That said . . . the evangelical/fundamentalists—and hence, from the early 1980s until the election of Trump in 2016, the Religious Right as it informed U.S. policy through the then dominant Republican Party—have been in the grip of an apocalyptic Rapture cult centered on revenge and vindication. This End Times death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. It feeds a blood lust to get even with all unbelievers. God promises to build a wall between the good guys and everyone else- forever.
The Left Behind series is really just recycled evangelical/fundamentalist profit taking from scraps of “prophecy” left over from an earlier commercial effort to mine the vein of fearsome End Times gold. A book called The Late Great Planet Earth was the 1970s incarnation of this nonsense. It was written by Hal Lindsey, a “writer” who dropped by my parents’ ministry of L’Abri several times. Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth interpreted Revelation for a generation of paranoid evangelicals who were terrified of the Soviet Union and communism and were convinced that the existence of the modern State of Israel was the sign that Jesus was on the way in our lifetime.
After everything predicted in the book came to nothing, Lindsey rewrote and “updated” his “interpretations” in many sequels, in what must have been some sort of record for practicing George Orwell’s idea of “doublethink” via editorial revision of ever-changing “facts.” According to Jenkins and LaHaye, who took over the Hal Lindsey franchise of apocalypse-for-fun-and-profit and expanded it into a vast industry, the “chosen” will soon be airlifted to safety.
The key to understanding the popularity of this series (and Trump’s rise) was the deepening inferiority complex suffered by the evangelical/fundamentalist community.
The words left behind are ironically what the books are about, but not in the way their authors intended. The evangelical/fundamentalists, from their crudest egocentric celebrities to their “intellectuals” touring college campuses trying to make evangelicalism respectable, have been left behind by modernity. They won’t change their anti-science, anti-education, anti-everything superstitions, so now they nurse a deep grievance against “the world.” This has led to a profound fear of the “other.” The sense of being left out and left behind is what Trump appealed to in evangelicals.
Feeling aggrieved, left out and victimized is the evangelical specialty.
Having pitted themselves against science, facts and reality itself–after all these people believe in a literal Noah’s Ark but not in climate change!–no wonder evangelicals felt left out. Instead of looking at their beliefs critically they blamed the “world” for rejecting them. They were being “shut out” by the media and colleges. In fact they’d divorced themselves from any institution that valued reason.
Jenkins and LaHaye provided the ultimate revenge fantasy for the culturally left behind against the hated “elite.” The Left Behind franchise holds out hope for the self-disenfranchised that at last soon everyone will know “we” were right and “they” were wrong. They’ll know because Spaceship Jesus will come back and whisk us away, leaving everyone else to ponder just how very lost they are because they refused to say the words, “I accept Jesus as my personal savior” and join our side while there was still time! Even better: Jesus will kill all those smart-ass Democrat-voting, overeducated fags who have been mocking us!
Meanwhile Jesus hasn’t come back yet so Trump will take revenge for us evangelicals on the godless elites… or so went the subconscious evangelical thought process…
The problem is that white American evangelical Trump supporters won’t ever feel reconciled to a happy life or being a patriotic part of America. That’s because their real war isn’t with liberals and science but is an inner war with themselves over how to understand reality itself.
To live in a fantasy land is to perpetually be paranoid that someone will mention that you’re crazy or stupid or both. Thus to be a white American evangelical is to make the entire world your enemy. “They” (the secular “elite”) trust science and facts but “we” (“saved” white Christians) trust in God and (these days) in Trump.
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