Monsters in the Church: Marking the Body in Evangelical Horror
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,
and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
—H. P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (1927)
The universe depicted in the third film in the Left Behind series, Left Behind: World at War (2005), is a magical place, especially for the Christians who have organized a resistance force against the Antichrist. They are, for example, able to use the Bible to decode mystifying current events. Early in narrative, President Gerald Fitzhugh calls on journalist and recently born-again Christian, Buck Williams, to offer an explanation of the origins of a newly discovered plot to attack America with biological weapons. Buck responds by reading Matthew 24:3–7 from his obviously well-worn and heavily bookmarked Bible. 2 The passage instantly clarifies the meaning of the plot.
. . . these stories of supernatural horror fascinate us—for the monstrous evils that lure us to destruction are not just projections of anxieties and fears, but also our own desires.
The Left Behind universe is also one in which Christians may transcend the natural limitations of their bodies. After a prayer meeting, Buck Williams walks away and picks up his well-used Bible, whereupon he is instantly transported to a dark room where Pastor Bruce Barnes of the underground church greets him. Though stricken by anthrax courtesy of the Antichrist, the pastor appears healthy and strong and encourages Buck with a sermon. Later, as Buck’s wife, Chloe, lies dying (again, due to anthrax), she is healed when she drinks communion wine. Then, near the conclusion of the film, President Fitzhugh miraculously survives a twenty-story fall from an office tower after being thrown through a window by the Antichrist. And when he later returns to the same office building and prays for protection, God makes the president invisible to the Antichrist’s guards.
Examples such as these reveal something of modern evangelical understandings of the body. It is not merely a location of moral conflict and technological anxiety but also a site where a de-spirited and exhausted modernity may be re-enchanted. 3 In these stories, it is in the body that a re-sacralized cosmos is sought. They achieve this effect by making the body the focus of attention of both a visible monster (the Antichrist) and invisible supernatural force (God). But it is the monstrous, the horrible, that holds a peculiar fascination for both authors of this kind of evangelical fiction and their readers.
While most scholarly attention has understandably been directed toward issues of politics, identity, and gender, 4 much less critical work has been done on the subversive quality of much evangelical end-time literature and film as a form of horror. Working with various horror tropes, “evangelical horror” fiction and film is ultimately subversive through its particular political and religious conservatism and critique of modern American society.
As Paul Boyer observes, what we find in Left Behind is “a theology of the people” crafting “harmony, symmetry, and meaning in history.” 5 This theology is decidedly populist, suspicious of trained theologians and other intellectual experts—despite craving their approval—and motivated by a radical post-Reformation biblical exegesis that holds the Bible as so common-sense-simple that the most authoritative readings are also the most decentralized. 6 The Bible is so simple, in fact, that anyone can read and understand it, so that to supplement one’s reading with commentaries and biblical scholarship is pointless at best, corrupting at worst. 7 Given this hermeneutical context, conspiracy readings are perhaps made more likely and, as in the horror genre, ordinary people scramble to make sense of a world descended into chaos where authority is often absent, ineffective, or corrupt.
Although horror overlaps with religious, science fiction, and other genres, among its many characteristics is an abiding concern for the relationships between religion, death, and the body. 8 Gore, a hallmark of certain horror genres, is certainly not new to art and has been a feature of literature from the beginning. Moreover, in “movies of graphic excess [gore] constitute[s] a kind of perverse sublime . . .” 9 The shock, gore, and terror of horror are often pleasurable for the audience and “endorse very conservative value systems.” 10 For some, in fact, graphic horror films “do not counsel despair in the face of great mysterious evil, but rather, they celebrate evil.” 11 These elements are all present in the Left Behind series, but also in the evangelical end-time genre going back at least to the mid-1900s—a monstrous evil must be confronted. 12 There is a reason why the books and films focus so intensely on the tribulation and its terrors and are not so much concerned with heaven or the millennium of peace.
In horror, monsters are often human-like, though supernatural intimations are often present, as in one of the most notorious horror films, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Significantly, in the evangelical sub-genre, as Cynthia Freeland observes of graphic horror in general, “the mayhem is exercised not so much on urban skyscrapers as on the human body.” 13 Although there is little blood in evangelical end-time films, the same is true of Texas Chain Saw.
Yet, elements of terror in evangelical films are undeniable, as noted by Randall Balmer, who described such films as A Thief in the Night (1972) and A Distant Thunder (1978) as “chilling,” 14 “portraying the brutality of existence during the tribulation . . . much of this is gruesome, replete with radiation sickness, blood-curdling screams, increased repression . . . and stainless-steel guillotines.” 15 As Balmer also discovers, the horror and fear elicited from films such as these are useful evangelistic tools. 16 Fictional bodies on the screen elicit changes in actual souls in the audience, establishing the continuity of the one with the other.
Caroline Walker Bynum has examined the concept of body in medieval contexts and found a powerful concern with material continuity between human identity and the resurrection body. The same concern is pervasive in twentieth-century evangelical writing. 17 Following Bynum, I suggest that evangelical concepts of body in twentieth-century American end-time literature go beyond merely inscribing the body with social anxieties and place it (with those inscriptions) at the center of a final mythic cosmic drama. 18
The embodied staging of the end-time turns on at least three major events: the Rapture, the mark of the Beast, and the resurrection of the dead. These events project both material and spiritual concerns onto the body: the Rapture with its bodily escape and avoidance of suffering, pain, and death; the mark of the Beast with its technological and economic branding of the body by the Antichrist, making soul continuous with body; and the resurrection of the dead with its assumption that the New Testament rendering of Jesus’ resurrection body is normative for all Christians (and violent bodily destruction normative for all others). Producers of these stories are fixated on the body—its health, status, and location. Additionally, to follow the analysis of Edward J. Ingebretsen, the seemingly endless writing and rewriting of the same formulaic end-time story brings with it an interesting intersection of free-market capitalism, civic religion, and the ritualized cleansing of society of failed humans. 19 The very predictability of these stories is also part of the ritual; it is a key component of the cleansing purpose of such fiction. It reminds us that “here we must go again.”
These tales also sacralize the technologies of modernity while delighting in the culmination of history. Edward J. Gitre argues that the appropriation of threatening technologies of modernity “grounded religious practices within material culture, which led to the reinterpreting of those technologies. [That is] . . . reinscribing sacred space on to the ‘modern world.’ ” 20 At the bodied end of evangelical history, “others” are destroyed with their bodies split open in justified annihilation, whereas believers are given glorified bodies, often with supernatural powers, and a beauty that does not age or fade. In the case of Hattie Durham, a martyr in Glorious Appearing (2004), Jesus hands her a tiara. 21
RAPTURE OF HORRORS
What typically sets a horror story in motion is a liminal transgression: entering a haunted house or opening a grave. In evangelical end-time horror there is no liminal transgression of this sort as the Rapture is typically the plot device that sets up the terrors of the tribulation. However, one’s own body is liminal and crossed with a satanic mark in this mythic cosmos. Thus, in A Thief in the Night, the Rapture is framed as horror—blood-curdling screams, sudden disappearances, and the wailings of supposed Christians not raptured. There is also significant foreshadowing, as when a young girl, convinced she has been left behind when her family was raptured, screams in horror before discovering they are still there. That moment of despair and terror leads to her conversion to Christianity and the assurance that when the real Rapture happens she too will be taken. 22
Reverend Matthew Turner, on the other hand, is introduced as a freethinking liberal who reads the Bible mythically, denies a literal six-day creation and emphasizes a “good person” definition of a Christian. He is forsaken. Patty, one of his congregants, accepts this teaching and is likewise left behind. In the post-Rapture world, she suffers tribulation, betrayal of friends, and one-world government repression after refusing to take the mark of the Beast. When Patty finds Turner, post-Rapture, he is disconsolate and terrified as he contemplates the number of people he has led to damnation by his false teaching. 23 Liberal beliefs and pieties are not good enough, progressive theology is not good enough, and the clear message is that everyone not converted to a particular form of evangelical Christianity is destined for perdition. These films and books are as much teaching instruments as they are entertainment, and the horror implicit in these stories is intended to have an impact on one’s spiritual life. Even if you think you are a Christian, go to church, read the Bible, and are a good person, you may still be condemned to a dreadful existence under satanic rule. This trope is common enough: Left Behind likewise features a pastor who lacked an authentic “born-again” experience and was consequently left behind. 24
In Left Behind, the Rapture occurs and people disappear, leaving non-bodily items such as clothing behind them. Both in the novel and film, mass confusion, fear, and horror ensue. Parents cannot find their children, suddenly driverless vehicles crash, unborn children disappear from wombs, and general panic swells. Soon it becomes clear to the main characters that the prophecies told to them by Christian friends and family were true. Such chaos leads naturally to world government, supported by the United Nations, led by an eastern European charismatic politico. It culminates in global rule by the Antichrist, whose government is enforced by an identification mark placed on either the hand or forehead. 25
Jenkins and LaHaye vividly describe the terrifying scene on a jet plane immediately after the Rapture: “[Passengers] cried, they screamed, they leaped from their seats.” 26 There is “confusion,” “terror,” and “chaos far beyond imagination.” All around is “death and destruction.” 27 The pilot, Rayford Steele, is hit by a stunning realization: “The terrifying truth was that he knew all too well [what had happened]. Irene [his Christian wife] had been right. He, and most of his passengers, had been left behind.” 28 However, this is only a prelude. The Rapture is exceptionally effective as a plot device that establishes the Antichrist and the terror of the mark of the Beast, but it also serves as a warning to viewers and readers that this could happen to them.
To underscore the point, the Left Behind franchise includes in the eponymous first novel, first film, and a videocassette titled, Have You Been Left Behind? If you Find This Tape, Play it Immediately. Your Future Depends on It! (1995, 1999), a script that explains the sudden disappearances to those left behind. In all three of these formats, a similar script is presented where a pastor leaves a tape for the post-Rapture world to see—explaining why he and others who believe as he does are missing. It is delivered in a tone attempting empathy towards the person(s) watching and the terror they are experiencing, “As you watch this tape, I can only imagine the fear and despair you face, for this is being recorded for viewing only after the disappearance of God’s people from the earth. . . . You are no doubt stunned, shocked, afraid, and remorseful.” 29 With the drama and dread of a post-Rapture dystopia set in motion, an amalgam of fears and anxieties tingle the spine of readers and viewers. These writers and producers have blurred the line between entertainment and teaching, which deepens the supernatural thrills. The Bible—properly decoded, of course—becomes a source of special knowledge of the violent future and helps to create that excitement. It is as if H.P. Lovecraft started going to church.
666: MARKS, TATTOOS, AND CHAOS
The “mark of the Beast” is one of the more captivating aspects of the end-time for writers and readers alike. Billy Graham, in his 1965 crusade book, World Aflame, explains that “[Antichrist] will regiment all humanity, demanding that before food can be purchased his subjects shall be stamped with his mark. The age of the computer will contribute to his ability to control the life of every person on the globe. He will be the very incarnation of evil.” 30 The mark of the Beast dramatically merges the themes of evil, technology, and control over the body.
In his best seller, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), Hal Lindsey understands the mark of the Beast to be a tattoo on a person’s forehead or forehand. The number 666 signifies “man making himself God,” for 6 is the number of man in the Bible. 31 By connecting 666 and electronic financial services such as credit cards, Lindsey explains how technology marks the body and subjects it to economic control. Three years later, Lindsey suggested that the mark could be “a tattoo visible only under ultraviolet light”—again, an instrument of economic control where technology marks the body for those who are “Beast-worshippers.” 32 Lindsey develops his analysis by noting that the three sixes represent humanity trying to “imitate the trinity of God,” and the punishment for taking the mark is eternal separation from God. 33 As well, the financial system, so tied to one number for all one’s transactions, is precarious. If you lose your number or it’s stolen, someone else can assume your identity—unless the body is tattooed, implying that the body, not the soul, spirit, or personality, is the locus of identity. 34 Lindsey and others will also find that same locus of identity in the resurrection body.
Salem Kirban’s novel, 666 (1970), expresses similar concerns over the mark of the Beast. When Bishop Bartholomew, a Catholic and the Antichrist, is raised from the dead, he announces his intention to build a kingdom on earth for those deemed faithful, those “who bear my Mark . . . and by so doing die again, bury their selfish pride . . . and rise to walk with me in newness of life.” 35 Kirban casts the issue of acquiring the mark in terms of the Antichrist’s miraculous resurrection and immediate setup of “Marking Stations.” “Marking Deputies” are surprised that most people want the mark on their forehead as a way to demonstrate their loyalty. The idea that choosing forehead over forehand is proof of one’s “patriotism” is also found in A Thief in the Night (1973). In the sequel, A Distant Thunder (1978), significant tension revolves around this choice, where the one decision will lead to beheading by guillotine and the other to being marked. 36
At Kirban’s “Marking Stations” the choice is between having a “666” on the forehead or forehand. But once that decision is made a person has yet another choice to make: between a “cosmetically branded number . . . applied by laser-beam” and readable under ultra-violet light and a “bold visually branded number.” 37 The latter is applied by “an instant-heat radio beam branding iron” and those who receive it consider it a “beauty mark and a mark of sacrificial loyalty as it involved some pain at the moment of application.” 38 Yet Kirban carefully describes the interaction of the branding technology and body—from the administration, head placement in a cushioned brace, needles in legs for anesthesia, a needle in the arm called “Sleep and Memory Fader” to wipe out the person’s memory of the event, and a bold, “slightly puffed . . . emblazoned in brilliant red . . . 666.” 39 Horrors like these technologies also reside in the power of choice: a singular wrong choice is damnation itself—even if made in a moment of weakness or fear.
In The Mark: The Beast Rules the World (2000), LaHaye and Jenkins describe the mark as “embedded on a biochip inserted under the skin” where everyone will have a distinct number based on which region of the earth he or she comes from. While they do not mention “666” directly, the authors make the point that the government tracks individuals and exercises repressive economic control—one cannot buy or sell without it. 40 The innovation in this text is the array of choices one has. While the application of the mark is described as “inserted as painlessly as a vaccination in a matter of seconds,” more detail is given to individual choice in the matter:
Citizens may choose either location [right hand or forehead], and visible will be a thin, half-inch scar, and to its immediate left, in six-point black ink—impossible to remove under penalty of law—the number that designates the home region of the individual. That number may be included on the embedded chip, should the person prefer that one of the variations of the name of the potentate appear on their flesh. 41
When others in Antichrist’s employ ask about the variations, the response from those tasked with developing the mark is:
Most, we assume, will prefer the understated numbers next to the thin scar. But they may also choose from the small initials—no bigger than the numbers—NJC [initials for Antichrist Nicolae J. Carpathia, His Excellency Global Community Potentate]. The first or last name may be used, including one version of Nicolae that would virtually cover the left side of the forehead. 42
If the Rapture provides the entry to the horror, the choosing of the mark provides the tension of life or death, and the violence of the tribulation provides the background and dystopian atmosphere that situates newly converted and persecuted Christians. The spectacle of beheading and the implied gore in punishment for rejecting the mark heightens the terror. In The Mark, an execution scene is depicted near the conclusion of the novel. A number of women refuse the mark. One is severely beaten, “her skull had shattered and surely bone had been driven into her brain,” 45 and they are all beheaded. As the time to choose came near we learn that “The injectors sounded like electric staplers, and while some recipients flinched, no one seemed to feel pain.” 46 Many teenagers receive the mark without understanding what it means. As the narrative progresses, the beating victim grows pale, sporting “a cadaverous grin.” 47 Buck Williams watches from a distance and “couldn’t help but envy them!” as they “literally made their bodies living sacrifices.” 48 Significantly, men tend to choose to have their foreheads marked while women prefer the mark on their right hands, as they do in 666 and A Thief in the Night.
Even more innovatively, LaHaye and Jenkins create a character who bears both the marks of Christ and Antichrist. Drugged by his father and forcibly given the mark, Chang Wong is understandably concerned about the fate of his soul. But other Christians assure him that he is not responsible as it was not his choice. Conveniently, followers of Antichrist cannot see the mark of Christ, and since he now has the biochip, Wong becomes a Christian mole in the Antichrist’s world. 49 Thus, identifying markers may both reveal and conceal —make public and hide from view. 50 Even in the universe of all-encompassing satanic tyranny, the Antichrist should not believe everything he sees.
In his novel, Raptured (1950), Ernest W. Angley describes the acquisition of the mark in some detail. Here, the very instruments of the mark are suspect:
The man raised the shining instrument, then it descended toward Jim’s hand. . . . It felt colder than any ice Jim had ever felt. Something shot up his arm and traveled on to his heart. It was amazing how his countenance suddenly changed. Like magic he had been turned into a different man. His eyes glittered, and his lips curled into a sneer. Jim had never been one to swear, but now the blasphemies began to roll from his lips as a great torrent. What a great change had come over him. 51
Angley sticks with an economic reading of 666, but in an interesting expansion of the mark of the Beast trope adds, in what is intended to be a significant insult, that a dead body without the mark cannot be buried. 52
From these perspectives, marking the body with the economic symbols of the Beast is to participate in evil to the point of complete separation from God. On the surface, the context of the mark of the Beast demonizes technology at worst, suspects it at best. However, this particular understanding of body and modernity, where the forces of God and Satan contest, is significant beyond the critique that technology has gone too far. These texts declare that the branding of the body with symbols of allegiance or economic efficiency is in itself an act of mythic consequence. The body is once again not merely the center of identity, it also provides flesh to a theocentric cosmos. 53 Though existing technologies make the prospect of a global satanic mark realistic, they also heighten the tension when individuals willfully present their bodies to a branding that is cosmically significant. This point is significant because it upholds an important dogma of modernity—freedom of choice with regard to one’s body. Here the freedom over one’s body moves beyond the issue of technology to sacralize/demonize body, choice, and modernity.
In this reading of body and horror in evangelical Christian end-time literature, what appears to be an evangelical preoccupation with conspiracy, international politics and finance, and foreign policy is congruent with the task of destabilizing totalizing narratives in late/post-modernity. Likewise, the often-reported evangelical fixation on the sexual practices and identities of others—even granting the power to destabilize civilization to the private life of a minority—may express not so much Victorian frigidity but rather a concern joined with a particular mythopoetic reading of the stability of the cosmos centered on bodily presentation. Tim LaHaye, for example, interprets the phrase “like the days of Noah” to mean “sexual perversion,” i.e., any sexual activity outside of heterosexual monogamous marriage. In fact, part of the apostasy of the Church leading us to the end is guiltless masturbation. 54 The body may be a temple in the New Testament, but it is also a location of great power that we may easily, even carelessly, lose control of at any moment with eternal and hellish consequences.
In the modern dispensationalist imagination, the care, use, and expression of the body directly influence powerfully destructive cosmological forces. It is the monsters—Antichrist, Beast, and Satan—that draw us to the edge of this abyss. Thus these stories of supernatural horror fascinate us—for the monstrous evils that lure us to destruction are not just projections of anxieties and fears, but also our own desires. There is something in us that craves to behold these evil creatures, gory futures, and ultimate victories. 55
The evangelical end-time pulp mill witnesses to an exhausted and conflicted modernity. Its end-time narratives tell a modernist tale bathed in the glory and decadence of technology, in de-spirited religion, in re-enchanted bodies, and a necessarily ruthless destruction of one’s enemies. In that tale, reward and punishment are meted out almost exclusively in terms of body. Although much scholarship situates this religious expression in opposition to modernity (Susan Harding describes it as a “pesky little chapter in modernity’s otherwise steady unfolding toward ever more secularity and reason” 56), the case can be made that evangelical end-time stories are complex, even dissonant, embraces of modernity. Their authors are not outsiders to the modern world; they inhabit the hyphen between post and modern, and suffer from the excesses, promises, and contradictions of modernity while desperately trying to sacralize or re-enchant it. It is no coincidence that these end-time tales situate chaos and cosmos in the body and mark it up with the betrayal of technology at the hands of supernatural evil. This form of evangelical Christianity appears enchanted by body, determined to find continuity between body, soul, and identity—to make flesh sacred, while seeking the pleasure of escaping, through the Rapture, the suffering of the non-raptured in satanic tribulation. 57
Despite these contradictions and the failure of the apocalypse to occur, such evangelical “endism” continues apace, forever republishing the same horror-filled tropes. However, evangelical end-time pulp writers and producers are not exiles of modernity, nor simply Republican shills in a liberal nightmare; rather, they embrace the promises and recoil at the betrayals of modernity. 58 In this way, as Gitre suggests, “Rather than receding into oblivion in the face of ‘modernity,’ believers reinscribed the sacred onto physical bodies and physical space—and technologies of modernization.” 59 Indeed, scholars have noted that horror can be read as a protest against ruthless capitalism and the elusiveness of American ideals, even while it upholds such conservative values as family and community, which fit well within the evangelical apocalyptic orbit. 60
In the final installment of the Left Behind series, Glorious Appearing (2004), LaHaye and Jenkins portray in graphic detail Jesus’ return to earth. With his second coming, the narrative concludes with a millennium of peace in which God resurrects the saints and righteous dead and gathers them together with the bodies of believers glorified into perfection. Christ returns, however, in an orgy of bloodshed, where he slices open the bodies of his enemies by the sound of his voice: 61
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” Jesus said, “the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Almighty.” . . . And with those very first words, tens of thousands of Unity Army soldiers fell dead, simply dropping where they stood, their bodies ripped open, blood pooling in great masses. . . . With every word, more and more enemies of God dropped dead, torn to pieces. . . . For miles lay the carcasses of the Unity Army. . . . As Rayford slowly made his way down to the desert plains, though he had to concentrate on missing craters and keeping from hitting splayed and filleted bodies of men and women and horses, Jesus still appeared before his eyes—shining, magnificent, powerful, victorious. And that sword from His mouth, the powerful Word of God itself, continued to slice through the air, reaping the wrath of God’s final judgment. 62
With that description LaHaye and Jenkins present Jesus as righteously washing the blood of ignorant others from his teeth in tribal acknowledgement of the universal righteousness of his cause. These scenes also depict the destruction of technology. Yet modernity is more than technology—it is also a perspective that places the self at the center. At the end of these end-time tales, newly perfected bodies dominate the story as Jesus hovers in the background, offering congratulations and handing out tiaras. The body is the center of identity, soul, and now gloriously perfected with the bodies of the opposition sliced open, bled white, decaying, swallowed by the earth. 63 It is in places and images such as these that horror dwells. As Richard Walsh so aptly observes, “horror aesthetically explores the gap between maps and the terrain mapped, between meaning and chaos/evil.” 64 Here it explores the gap between dispensationalist charts and one’s eternal body: perfected or sliced. The horror of evangelical fiction rests most powerfully, however, in the evangelistic intention to bring it forcefully to an audience in “real life.”
It remains possible, even when seen through the lens of horror, to embrace these stories for the mythic worlds they seek to enact. The narratives reveal an understanding of the power and significance of the body in the cosmos—it keeps chaos at bay. Moreover, dispensational hermeneutics and horror-like creative license have created stories that blur the line between fiction and actual life as part of a ritual of enactment. While taking salvation and the Bible seriously, these evangelicals also enjoy stories that excite, scare, and thrill—and they know it. 65
In “real life,” LaHaye found himself embracing another face of modernity. Attempting to control the narrative, he filed a lawsuit in 1999 against the producers of Left Behind: The Movie (2000). LaHaye alleged that the producers “did not make the blockbuster they had promised, thereby limiting the movie’s mass-market appeal.” The lawsuit was “not about the money,” according to LaHaye’s attorney—“[He] wanted to provide a really strong Christian message.” In that “strong Christian message” was also the desire to “control the film rights to sequels and children’s video spinoffs [sic].” 66 The terror, indeed, resides between the map and the terrain.
- An early draft of this paper was presented at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA, November 18–22, 2005.
- Left Behind: World at War, dir. Craig R. Baxley (Cloud Ten Pictures, 2005).
- The author acknowledges that the term “evangelical” is problematic for its breadth of applicability. It is retained here because the texts and theology we are examining are considered evangelical not only by scholars but by their authors too. A fine argument for abandoning the category altogether is made by D. G. Hart, Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004).
- Examples of this scholarly activity include gender analysis, Jennie Chapman, “Tender Warriors: Muscular Christians, Promise Keepers, and the Crisis of Masculinity in Left Behind,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 21:3 (Fall 2009). Chapman also provides a helpful introduction to the series’ popularity and critical reception (paragraphs 1–3). On identity formation, see Glenn W. Shuck, Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity (New York: New York University Press, 2005); John Walliss, “Celling the End Times: The Contours of Contemporary Rapture Films,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 19 (Summer 2008). For studies of the series as political critique, see Simon Pearson, A Brief History of the End of the World: From Revelation to Eco-Disaster (London: Constable & Robinson, Ltd., 2006), 252–7, 265; Hugh B. Urban, “America, Left Behind: Bush, the Neoconservatives, and Evangelical Christian Fiction,” Journal of Religion & Society, Vol. 8 (2006). A media studies perspective can be found in Heather Hendershot, Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004). Amy Johnson Frykholm, Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America (Oxford University Press, 2004) approaches the series using reader response theory. Biblical studies perspectives will be found in Wesley J. Bergen, “The New Apocalyptic: Modern American Apocalyptic Fiction and its Ancient and Modern Cousins,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 10 (Fall 2008); Loren L. Johns, “Conceiving Violence: The Apocalypse of John and the Left Behind Series,” Direction 34 (Fall 2005): 194–214; and the devastating critique of Left Behind in particular and dispensationalist biblical interpretation in general, Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation (New York: Basic Books, 2004). This list is partial and limited to treatments of the Left Behind series of twelve books published (1995–2004) and three films released (2000–2005), though sequels, prequels, and spin-off series have also been made.
- Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992), 293–324.
- Ibid., 310–11.
- Ibid., 306–8.
- Douglas E. Cowan, “Do I Look Like Someone Who Cares What God Thinks?” Rethinking the Relationship between Religion and Cinema Horror, GOLEM: Journal of Religion and Monsters 2, no. 1 (2007), paragraphs, 8–15.
- Cynthia A. Freeland, The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000), 243.
- Ibid. The celebration of evil is seen most clearly in the iconic status many great villains, monsters and evildoers achieve, for example, Freddy Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, or Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th franchise.
- Richard Walsh, “The Passion as Horror Film: St. Mel of the Cross,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 20 (Fall 2008), paragraph 35.
- Freeland, The Naked and the Undead, 243–4.
- Randall Balmer, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 61.
- Ibid., 62.
- Ibid., 61–3. See also John Walliss, “Celling the End Times: The Contours of Contemporary Rapture Films,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 19 (Summer 2009), paragraph 4.
- Caroline Walker Bynum, “Material Continuity, Personal Survival and the Resurrection of the Body: A Scholastic Discussion in Its Medieval and Modern Contexts,” Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 239–97. See also, Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), especially, Preface and Introduction.
- Norman Cohen, Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith, 2nd ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001).
- Edward J. Ingebretsen, “Staking the Monster: A Politics of Remonstrance,” Religion and American Culture 8 (Winter 1998): 92–3, 95–6, 99.
- Edward J. Gitre, “The 1904–05 Welsh Revival: Modernization, Technologies, and Techniques of the Self,” Church History 73 (December 2004): 815.
- Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Glorious Appearing (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2004), 393.
- A Thief in the Night, dir. Donald W. Thompson (Russ Doughten Films, 1972).
- Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House publishers, Inc.), 42ff; and, Left Behind: The Movie, Dir. Vic Sarin, Cloud Ten Pictures, 2000.
- LaHaye and Jenkins, Left Behind, 11ff; and Left Behind: The Movie.
- LaHaye and Jenkins, Left Behind, 13.
- Ibid., 13–14, 24, 33.
- Ibid., 13–14.
- Ibid., 152ff. This is similar to the pre-recorded speech found in the film and videocassette, Left Behind: The Movie; and, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Have You Been Left Behind? If you Find this Tape, Play it Immediately. Your Future Depends on It! Videocassette, A Left Behind Video Presentation, 1995, 1999.
- Billy Graham, World Aflame, Crusade Edition (Minneapolis: The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1965), 209.
- Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 112–13.
- Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey (Santa Ana, CA: Vision House Publishers, 1973), 194.
- In Sydney Watson’s The Mark of the Beast (London: W. Nicholson, 1911), the mark is not presented as a number, but as a “bold, curious hieroglyphic” composed of two Greek characters for the name Christ separated by a serpent, the name of Jesus “turned into a devil sacrament,” or “oath of fidelity” (108). The use of the mark here is seen more often in artwork, people talk of the mark, but the process of physically acquiring the mark is not described.
- Lindsey, New World Coming, 195.
- Salem Kirban, 666 (Huntingdon Valley, PA, 1970), 187–8.
- Walliss, “Celling the End Times,” paragraph 21.
- Kirban, 666, 189.
- Ibid., 190–1.
- Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, The Mark: The Beast Rules the World (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2000), 84–5.
- Ibid., 86.
- Ibid., 85–6.
- Ibid., 170–1.
- Ibid., 300.
- Ibid., 297.
- Ibid., 301.
- Ibid., 302.
- Ibid., 348ff.
- Glenn W. Shuck, Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity (New York: New York University Press, 2005), 165–6.
- Ernest W. Angley, Raptured (Akron, OH: Winston Press, 1950), 153.
- Ibid., 157.
- James A. Aho, “The Apocalypse of Modernity,” Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem, ed. Thomas Robbins and Susan J. Palmer (New York: Routledge, 1997), 61–72.
- Tim LaHaye, The Beginning of the End (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1972), 125ff, 102.
- Timothy K. Beal, Religion and its Monsters (New York: Routledge, 2002), 180–181, 196.
- Susan Harding, “Imagining the Last Days: The Politics of Apocalyptic Language,” Accounting for Fundamentalisms: The Dynamic Character of Movements, ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), 75.
- There certainly are examples of stressing the importance of the soul and spirit in what it means to be human. See, for example, Richard W. De Haan, “From Time to Eternity,” (Grand Rapids: Radio Bible Class, 1970), 19, “The resurrection body will also be spiritual and heavenly in nature.” However, there is an emphasis that even with these elements, “A bodiless immortality is not the ultimate aim of the Christian’s salvation” (p. 15).
- For this line of exploration, I am indebted to Hugh Urban’s penetrating analysis of Aleister Crowley and modernity. Hugh B. Urban, “The Beast with Two Backs: Aleister Crowley, Sex, Magic and the Exhaustion of Modernity,” Nova Religio 7, no. 3 (2004): 7–25.
- Gitre, 827.
- Note the counter-intuitive conservative observations of cultures of horror and Goth. Lauren Stasiak, “ ‘When You Kiss Me, I Want to Die’: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gothic Family Values,” Goth: Undead Subculture, ed. Lauren M. E. Goodlad and Michael Bibby (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 307; and Freeland, 243–4.
- For a persuasive critique of LaHaye and Jenkins’ use of “pervasive violence” that situates the series’ “Christology” as a subversion of Christian biblical ethics, see, Loren L. Johns, “Conceiving Violence: The Apocalypse of John and the Left Behind Series,” Direction 34 (Fall 2005): 194–214.
- Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Glorious Appearing, 204, 205, 208.
- Walsh, “The Passion as Horror Film,” paragraph 41.
- For another, albeit brief, look at the mythical world of evangelical end-time literature, see Robert Fuller, Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 169–70, 198–200.
- Michael R. Smith, “Author LaHaye Sues Left Behind Film Producers,” Christianity Today, posted 3/28/01, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/006/14.20.html.