Tim LaHaye was on the US public radio show Fresh Air last night. He is a minister, a fundamentalist, a pillar of far-right politics, a former honcho in the Moral Majority, and…a best-selling novelist. To put it mildly. He is the co-author of a series which has sold (I cringe to relate) 50 million copies. The ‘left behind’ series. For those who have the good fortune not to know what on earth that is, the subject matter is ‘the Rapture’. You know. When Jesus shouts in the sky and all the believers are instantly taken up into heaven, to leave the rest of us down here to be tortured for all eternity (after a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing with End Times and tribulations and killing all the Jews and the Anti-christ and never being able to find a parking space).
I have been aware of this delightful cultural artifact for a long time, but have also been doing my best to ignore it. But I listened last night, and as of course I knew it would be, it’s even worse than I thought. I was repelled but not at all surprised by the obvious relish plus loathing in LaHaye’s voice when he talked about all the people who refused to ‘call on God’ (and thus were doomed doomed doomed), about the way they ree-bell, and their attitude. And the air of faintly surprised generosity with which he said he hoped that as many as a billion people might be saved. And the naive fatuity with which he said that because Jesus said ‘Whosoever believes…’ that means he meant everyone, without stopping to reflect that Jesus didn’t actually speak English or that the translation might possibly not bear out his interpretation. But I was (I shouldn’t have been, but I was) a little surprised to learn that the rapture crowd believe that the Bible predicts that ‘one world government’ and world peace are part of the plan of the Anti-christ. Not figuratively but literally. Now there’s a reassuring thought. And there are 50 million of them sold.