Several years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Wertheimer of
National Public Radio about the then extraordinarily popular Left Behind
series. At one point, she asked me if I thought the Left Behind books were
funny. I paused, trying to absorb all the layers of her question, and then came
up with a brilliant answer: "No. Why? Do you?"
I've always wondered if I just lack the right sense of
humor. Was I supposed to find the books funny? Was I just not getting the joke?
It was a relief, then, this week to pick up Presbyterian pastor Mark Davis's
book Left Behind and Loving It. It
I cannot say that I see an urgent need for this book at this
particular moment. Surely Harold Camping, Timothy LaHaye and company have been
so thoroughly discredited in the minds of Century
readers that they will not need this book for theological purposes. I myself
have read way too many debunkings of rapture theology, both earnest and
sarcastic, to find another one interesting.
But I sat with Davis's book in my office and laughed out
loud. Repeatedly. For people interested in the weird intersection of the Bible
and American culture, this book does the trick of making you see better because
you laugh more.
Davis begins with a description of a rapture tract that
appears on his desk. It goes through the usual gyrations about terrorism,
Israel, the Beast and even "Asian Tigers." Then at the end, in the fine print,
a little note says, "The views expressed here...are not intended to represent,
favorably or unfavorably, any persons, person, national or ethnic group." Davis
rightfully sees a strange sort of identity crisis afoot, a "passive-aggressive
He goes on to offer very deft and humorous biblical and
theological readings of "Left Behind Theology" that speak to the anxiety at
work in prophecy culture. Considering that I've had three messages in my inbox
this week related to the ongoing drama of prophesy--two from people claiming to
be the Antichrist and one from someone claiming to know who the Antichrist
is--I think Davis's timing, comedic and otherwise, might be right on. Maybe it
can be preventative medicine for the next all-too-predictable rapture crisis.