Apocalypse, now? The geopolitics of Left Behind

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Abstract

This paper is a reading of the geopolitical scripts, themes, and representations found within the Left Behind series. This best-selling series of twelve books, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, portrays the last 7 years of the world, a time known in premillennial dispensationalist eschatology as the Tribulation. During this period, the world becomes increasingly centralized, politically and economically, around Nicolae Carpathia, a figure that turns the United Nations into a one-world government called the Global Community. The increasingly oppressive New World Order is opposed by a group of new Christians known as the Tribulation Force, who see Carpathia for what he really is: the Antichrist, a figure later indwelt by Satan himself, who is intent on leading humans away from the true Christ. This paper begins with an overview of the books' narrative, focusing on how specific geographies are constructed that tie certain places and peoples to either cosmic good or cosmic evil. The paper then explores three geopolitical themes that emerge in this reading of the text. First, the paper addresses the importance of spectatorship in defusing the ennui caused by the characters' living through a preordained set of events. Second, the paper discusses the role of technology in enabling a resistant evangelical Christian identity that requires a dominating, yet not dominant, secular Other. Third, the paper addresses the relationship between violence and righteousness, as portrayed within this popular series.

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