Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I Don't Want to be 'Left Behind'

Our culture cannot discern truth from fiction. What prompts me to say this is the way in which millions of people are banking on the fact that the "end-times" will turn out exactly the way Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins say it will. I was watching one of my son's baseball games recently, minding my own business, when the parent sitting next to me asked, "You're a pastor, do you think the 'Left Behind' series is true?" (Watch out anytime someone prefixes their question or comment with the phrase, "you're a pastor." It usually isn't good.) I sat befuddled mulling over this question, wondering whether this person wanted me to go into all the ugly details of what I believe about eschatology, or simply make some amorphous comment about the popularity of the series without giving away my secret disdain for all things "Left Behind".

In a similar way, everytime I turn around I see someone else devouring Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code." Like the end-times, I am often asked what I think of the book as if my opinion about a fictional account of a renegade scientist and an alleged papal conspiracy matters. I usually smile and tell them I think it is a "good story" in hope that that will satisfy their need for my opinion. It usually doesn't, so I must then gently unveil some of the aspects of the story that I find misleading and just plain wrong. And to suggest that what Dan Brown wrote isn't true is akin to insulting your mother's apple pie.

Why is it so difficult for people to know truth when they see it, and likewise so difficult to identify fiction when they see it when it comes to some of our culture's most popular literature. Perhaps at one level, it is an indictment on our educational system which has apparently failed to help people understand that "good literature" (and this is debateable in the previous two examples) is not defined by whether it's true or not. Perhaps part of the blame should be laid at the front door of the Church that has failed articulate a sensical eschatology (theology of the end-times). Perhaps the reason why people can't discern the truth from fiction is because they don't want to. Perhaps the success of these books is tied to the vain hope and desire that they are true. We read "Left Behind" in hope that we are not left behind. Whatever the case, the church cannot ignore the insatiable passion for something that is exhibited by the popularity of these two books. I don't know what that something is, but I'm open for suggestions.

While I'm on the topic of truth or fiction, you may want to check out this clearing house for urban legends (stuff that people believe to be true like the alligator that lives in the sewer, but are false)--


At 8:48 AM, Blogger Scot McKnight said...

First it was Salem Kirban's books, then Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth -- then Bob Gundry sacked that eschatology -- then pastors lacked the backbone to teach a post-trib eschatology -- then pastors and theologians went silent -- then Tim LaHaye.

Why so popular? It is a story that tells the story that many want to hear and believe and because they read it in LaHaye they think it is even more true.

Why Dan Brown? Again, a good story that tells people what they believe (the institutional church can't be trusted) and then by reading Dan Brown their sentiments are proven true and the story becomes even more true.

Oddly enough, there was a PhD dissertation last year from UNorth Carolina Press (I believe) that demonstrated that most of those who read the LaHaye series didn't actually agree with it. Which messes with my point above, but only be reducing quantity -- many read it because it tells their story.

Good post, Brad.


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