Lest there be any confusion, I am no relation to Jerry Jenkins, who, with Tim LaHaye, published the staggeringly successful series of Left Behind novels some years ago. These books are set in a post-Rapture world in which a heroic band of Tribulation Saints resists the overwhelming forces of the Antichrist. The appeal of the series is enormous, with some 65 million copies sold to date.
Apart from offering spectacular action scenes, the Left Behind books allow readers to imagine themselves in an alien religious world in which Christians face the threat of direct and bloody persecution aimed at forcing them to renounce their faith and accept the Mark of the Beast. Perhaps some readers are prompted to ask themselves how they might respond in such a situation. Would they hold firm or would they apostasize?
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.