AntiLeftBehind

Came across a post while Digging today that commented on the US military’s newfound commitment to the Left Behind series. Or something like that.

“Thinker’s” post on the support for spreading the Left Behind video game raises some questions for me, but very few of them have to do with the motives for the government. We have already covered all over the web the fact that the American Government is a fundamentalist group set on taking down other cultures. Such comments have been out there for years, varying from “neo-colonialism” (see Derek Walcott) to breaches in international policies (see a plethora of Bloggers, including good ol’ Dad.) Whether emotional, military, financial, or otherwise, however, it is clear that the US has some devotion to dominance. And, from the description of the Left Behind video game, it’s hard to argue that its spread would do anything but encourage dominance of one culture over another.

What questions arise, in my mind, is when did the authors become blind to their property? I have read some of the Left Behind series, and the reason I stopped reading them was simple boredom, not scorn for overly fanatical doctrines being spouted throughout the books. Yes, partly they are based on converting other people to the Christian faith, but it’s hard to think that that’s not a fair goal for the characters seeing as they are witnessing empirical proof that their faith is well-founded and liable to be their only justification as the world falls apart. However, there is a big leap from converting people out of a personal fear for their safety to the Rapture Wars that seem to take place in the reasonably new video game title.

There are two key differences between the game description and the books, as far as I can tell. The first is that there is a holy war. Not massacre, as is the case in the books. The fact that “Angelic forces” led by Christian humans are able to fight back against the forces of the Antichrist seems to be far more even footing than is found in the books. The Christians in the Left Behind novels are the vast minority — since most of their kin have left the planet — and their access to resources is far less than limited. Through covert activity, they make it their goal to help other people and bring them to Christ while keeping themselves alive. That’s a far cry from the clash between the Tribulation Force and Global Community Peacekeepers that is the background for the video game.

Secondly, there seems to be a lack of personal intimacy, which is pretty core to the books. I’ve touched on it already, but it really is pivotal to the novels that the characters are bonding and working together to help people out of a personal sense of duty. Walking around converting people to your cause — seemingly only to enlist their aid in taking down opposing military forces — is hardly as emotionally validating a goal as saving people you know and love. Suddenly it’s about gaining the upper hand in nubers and strength rather than saving one another.

Perhaps I’m wrong about the game. Neither Thinker nor the IGN description give much insight into the actual content of the game. But the surface description is often the majority of the story when it comes to video games, and since that’s the case I can only assume one of three things:

One: Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have been blindsided by copyright purchasers. The people who bought the rights to make the video game had a different view of what the game should be about, and the authors either haven’t picked up on the mess or don’t think it’s worth fixing.

Two: The two writers have changed their notions of the end-times slightly. No longer is it a tale of being Left Behind, it’s a tale of two militaristic forces clashing to decide the fate of the earth.

Three: The first two and a half books don’t give much sense of where the immensely long series is going, and nothing has changed but my understanding of the authors’ doctrine.

Any of the three don’t change the fact that the new game is becoming something of a joke. After all, a series that was renowned for its use as a tool to bring people to Christianity based on realistic interpretation is suddenly undeniably bigoted. Forget the holy war, let’s go back to a belief in a personal love for people and Christ!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen (aka Q)
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 08:42:00

    I just noticed the subtle change to your header: Vita [Machina]. Very nice. It sets up an appropriate tension between the two words.

    I’ve blogged about the Left Behind game before. It find it deeply disturbing that the Christian community in the USA makes strange bedfellows with the “hawkish” elements of US society: pro-war, pro-torture.

    I don’t know what Tim LaHaye thinks of the “holy war” format of the games. (LaHaye was a leading figure in the evangelical community long before the Left Behind series; Jenkins plays a supporting role, writing novels based on LaHaye’s end-times theology.) I figure the designers wanted to up the holy war ante because male gamers in particular want action, not relationship-building. And of course, action can only mean shoot-em-up.

    If your spirituality looks to Revelation as the core text of the Bible, blood and gore is going to be a prominent element. On the other hand, if your spirituality looks to the synoptic Gospels as your core text, you might emphasize turning the other cheek and meekly submitting even to those who wish to kill you. Here’s a radical concept: entrust your fate to God. As Paul puts it, vengeance is the Lord’s prerogative, not ours.

    As ever, there are real tensions in scripture, and believers select their own canon within the canon. Clearly I am out of step with those Christians whose spirituality is fueled by the book of Revelation. My canon wouldn’t even include Revelation, so that’s my bias. (Its place in the canon was still in dispute as late as Eusebius, c. 310 A.D.; and it is not included in the Syrian canon, even today.)

    In any event, your description of the books seems to tone down the worst elements of the whole Revelation blood up to the bridles of the horses thing; whereas the video game exploits that as a marketable feature.

    Reply

  2. Knotwurth Mentioning
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 17:13:00

    I suppose you can look at it as a contradiction. I think it’s hard to deny that there will be major bloodshed to come at the end of the world, although I also think it’s pretty cocky of us to think we are interpreting Revelation accurately. After all, the Jews believe(d) that their Messiah was to be an earthly king who was a great warrior. If traditional Christian theology is to be believed (which I think it is), then the scriptures that point to this were misinterpreted. We assume that we are better than the Jews were at interpreting our scriptures, but Revelation is an incredibly difficult book to read, let alone make meaning of.

    That being said, Jesus proved that he can cause a bigger impact with peaceful resistance than violent conquest. Who’s to say that he’s going to come storming back causing a huge amount of blooshed, when he didn’t do it the first time? It’s arrogant to assume we have it all perfectly worked out!

    Either way, the books and the game both use Revelation as a core, I think, but the authors preferred the bloodshed to be against the Christians, while the game would apparently suggest that it’s going to be more evenly matched. I just can’t fathom the latter being a correct interpretation.

    Reply

  3. Anonymous
    Aug 17, 2007 @ 21:26:00

    Someone on the web hopes that LaHaye’s millions that he got from “Left Behind” books will soon be left behind! (How’s that for being subtle?) I did find a couple insights into him titled “Deceiving and Being Deceived” by author MacPherson (note LaHaye’s hypocrisy in section “1992”) and “LaHaye’s Temperament” (both on Google). Rebekah

    Reply

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