Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity

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NYU Press, 2005 - Religion - 273 pages
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The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins has become a popular culture phenomenon, selling an astonishing 40 million copies to date. These novels, written by two well-known evangelical Christians, depict the experiences of those "left behind" in the aftermath of the Rapture, when Christ removes true believers, leaving everyone else to suffer seven years of Tribulation under Satan's proxy, Antichrist.
In Marks of the Beast, Shuck uncovers the reasons behind the books' unprecedented appeal, assessing why the novels have achieved a status within the evangelical community even greater than Hal Lindsey's 1970 blockbuster The Late Great Planet Earth. It also explores what we can learn from them about evangelical Christianity in America.
Shuck finds that, ironically, the series not only reflects contemporary trends within conservative evangelicalism but also encourages readers—especially evangelicals—to embrace solutions that enact, rather than engage, their fears. Most strikingly, he shows how the ultimate vision put forth by the series' authors inadvertently undermines itself as the series unfolds.


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I enjoyed this book, although it was a bit steep on concepts, more of an academic piece than anything else. But I enjoyed the way Shuck tactfully pointed out the contradictions in the writings of Jenkins and LaHaye in this novel series.
As for myself, I never read a single one of the 12 or more Left Behind books. To me, it would have been a waste of time. I mean, as Shuck notes, if everything is fixed, then I'm afraid I know where I'm fixed at, and unfortunately for me, I'm not in with the In Crowd. Oh, well.
But reading Shuck's book (aw shucks), I got the gist of the entire series of 12 books. It was pretty much what I imagined it would be, the plots, the characters, the tensions.
Shuck cites some interesting sources to prove his own points. One of these secondary sources noted the importance of tension in keeping a church congregation alive. Without tension, between the church and society in general, there's no "purpose" in the church, in many senses.
This may explain the American exodus from the mainline churches.
I recommend this book, but be prepared for a heavy read, with many footnotes. This is good for some but maybe not good for others, who prefer lighter reading without such complete documentation.

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - satyridae - LibraryThing

My species frightens me more than a little, and this book makes me despair of us ever getting anywhere worthwhile. Read full review


First Words on Last Things
The Dispensational Background of Evangelical Prophecy Belief
2 Reluctant Rebels
3 The Emergence of the Network CultureBeast System
4 Technologies of Transcendence
5 Marks of the Beast
6 Beast Inc
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About the author (2005)

Glenn W. Shuck is visiting assistant professor of religion at Williams College. In addition to a number of published essays, he is coeditor, with Jeffrey J. Kripal, of Esalen in American Religious Culture.

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