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Monday, July 03, 2006

Skipping Towards Armageddon.

I’m not a religious person. I haven’t felt the need for Jesus since I was about twelve, and even converted to Reform Judaism when I was nineteen and had a Jewish fiancé. Although I liked studying Judaism well enough, when we broke up he took his religion with him and, aside from lighting the Menorah in December and impulsively kissing my fingers before touching a mezuzah outside someone’s door, there isn’t much left from my Jewish days, and even less from the days when I was ten and wanted to be a Christian missionary.

Which is fine, because I no longer get Christianity. And I really don’t get Christian Fundamentalism. I don’t get the ideology, I don’t get the willful blindness to anything presented outside their mega-Church, I don’t understand why they aren’t embarrassed by their stance on evolution, I don’t understand their views on what I see as severe corporal punishment for children, and I don’t understand the Prairie Muffins.

My friend Ginny, who counsels women coming out of religious fundamentalism, once told me that they are deeply mistrustful of what the rest of us think of as “common sense.”

“They don’t put a lot of stock in common sense or gut feelings,” said Ginny, “because that wouldn’t be putting your faith in God, who often tells you (via the church elders) your instincts are wrong. So they teach themselves to ignore their instincts.”

Instincts like the one that tells you actively trying to bring about the total destruction of the planet we live on is a bad idea.

According to Michael Standaert, author of Skipping Towards Armageddon: The Politics and Propaganda of the Left Behind Novels and the LaHaye Empire, this is exactly the plan Christian Fundamentalists have been working toward for the last 150 years.

Standaert painstakingly follows who he calls “dispensational premillennialist” leader Tim LaHaye, the idea man behind the best-selling Left Behind novels, tracing his steps to power bit by bit and documenting his wildly successful efforts to eradicate the separation of church and state, destroy American democracy, establish a theocracy, and maneuver global politics to bring about the Rapture.

“To get to the political reality of why premillennialists hate talk of peace,” writes Standaert, “it is important to understand why the Antichrist character of the Left Behind novels, Nicolae Carpathia, the “peacemaker,” is painted so deliberately as Satan. It is the “manmade” peace and utopia delivered through secular world order which Carpathia represents, in contrast to peace and utopia under Christian dominion, that the premillennialists fear…The words of prominent TV evangelist and premillennialist Jim Robinson echo this fear of secular peace quite clearly. In his opening prayer to the 1984 Republican National convention, Robinson said: ‘there’ll be no peace until Jesus comes. Any preaching of peace prior to this return is heresy. It’s against the word of God. It’s anti-Christ.’”

Although it enters the realm of flat unbelievability that the kind of deep crazy that cheerfully advocates grisly genocide could actually influence global politics, Standaert lays out the case for it fairly convincingly.

LaHaye’s paranoia is nothing new, and even the “prophetic” plotline seems to be lifted from another book graphically detailing the fantasies of another political extremist: William Pearce’s The Turner Diaries.

The resemblance between Left Behind and The Turner Diaries is striking. Both novels depict a violent revolutionary struggle in the United States that escalates into global genocide, where all non-fundamentalist Christians are horribly, gruesomely eradicated. For LaHaye, as for Turner author William Pearce, this is a glorious dream come true. Both novels use paranoid language of persecution, and both use coded references to antisemitism (The Turner Diaries refers to the fictitious gun-control laws as “The Cohen Act,” and many dark references are made to the “International Banking Cartel” in the Left Behind books) And of course, both are horribly written, the wooden dialogue and two-dimensional characters serving only to ham-handedly parrot out LaHaye’s misguided rhetoric.

Seriously, the dialogue in the Left Behind novels is so completely bad, and writer Jerry Jenkins stretches so hard to get his characters into a position where they are able to discuss LaHaye’s fundamentalist hot topics, that it boggles my mind that anybody could read these novels without throwing them across the room in disgust. Dig:

Hattie, the flight attendant who has become Carpathia’s assistant, discusses how her sister just happens to work at a pregnancy clinic. Because the fetuses/children have all been Raptured, Hattie is worried her sister, a distant and undescribed person the reader never sees, will be out of work now that there are no more abortions. This passage conveys the message that abortionists are waiting with bloody scalpels to carve out fetuses for money, and that they need unwanted pregnancies so they can keep in business.

”Hattie seemed to be waiting for some signal of affirmation or acknowledgement that he was listening. Rayford grew impatient and remained silent.

‘Anyway,’ she said, “I won’t keep you. But my sister told me they have zero business.’

‘Well, that would make sense given the disappearance of unborn babies.’

‘My sister didn’t sound too happy about that.’

‘Hattie, I imagine everyone’s horrified by that. Parents are grieving all over the world.’

‘But the women my sister and her people were counseling
wanted abortions.’

Rayford groped for a pertinent response. ‘Yes, so maybe those women are grateful they didn’t have to go through the abortion itself.’

‘Maybe, but my sister and her bosses and the rest of the staff are out of work now until people start getting pregnant again.’

'I get it. It’s a money thing.’

‘They have to work. They have expenses and families.’

'And aside from abortion counseling and abortions, they have nothing to do?'

'Nothing. Isn’t that awful? I mean, whatever happened put my sister and a lot of people like her out of business, and nobody really knows whether anyone will be able to get pregnant again.'”

Clunk! Put down that wooden dialogue, Jenkins! It’s got to be heavy! Why do so many people read such wretched writing that repeatedly rubs the reader’s nose in religious dogma? Jeez. As Rayford himself said, We get it. People who provide abortions want people to have as many unwanted pregnancies as possible, so they can make zillions of dollars. And as is a Religious Right trademark, any contradictory facts that get in their way are completely ignored, such as the fact that abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood also provide prenatal care, pap smears, birth control, and sex education.

In addition to flaying the LaHaye and Jenkins novels, Skipping Toward Armegeddon also outlines LaHaye’s career and his pivotal influence in galvanizing the Religious Right into taking control of American politics. As tightly as they wrap themselves in the American flag, it becomes clear that LaHaye and his cronies - the usual supects of Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and of course, LaHaye’s wife, Concerned Women for America founder Beverly LaHaye – intend to destroy the Constitution and establish a theocracy before the Rapture comes. And of course, among the people who will be controlling the world until their bloody violent Jesus shows up, you can be sure Tim LaHaye will be front and center, preaching his greatest fear: that unless we Muslims, atheists, feminists, Jews, Catholics, and intellectuals are utterly destroyed, we will follow the Golden Rule and do unto Fundamentalists exactly what the Fundamentalists plan to do to us.

P.S. And I never even got the chance to work into the review what I always think is the most weirdly fascinating thing about Fundies: their total obsession with controlling other people’s sex lives while simultaneously being the biggest horndog pervs on the planet. Look at the names of the protagonists: Rayford Steele and Buck Williams. Seriously, if you were watching a gay porn movie, and the cast list looked like this:

Don’t Leave My Behind!


Ryan Idol

Peter North

Buck Willliams

Rayford Steele

You wouldn’t think twice about it.

And, And! Do you know what Tim and Beverly LaHaye did with themselves in the 70’s? They wrote graphic instructional books about sex, that’s what. If that isn’t a fundie, I don’t know what is. Key parties for me, but not for thee.

Skipping Towards Armegeddon
by Michael Standaert
Soft Skull Press, 2006
Softcover, 257 pp.
ISBN: 1-932360-96-4

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