LaHaye's Fiction Leaves Competition Behind; as 'Desecration' Tops Charts, Some Doubt Author's Influence on Christianity
Byline: Larry Witham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Rev. Tim LaHaye, apocalyptic novelist and evangelical minister, has pushed aside top secular rivals to become the nation's best-selling fiction author.
Even as the debate continues over his influence on modern Christianity, the current issue of Publishers Weekly ranks Mr. LaHaye's co-written novel "Desecration" - the ninth installment of a series about Christ's return at the end of the world - as taking "the fiction lead" in 2001 for hardcover sales.
The book, co-written with veteran novelist Jerry Jenkins, sold 2.9 million copies and for the first time displaced a regular group of predictable blockbusters, the trade magazine said. The term "desecration" stands for the defilement levied by the Antichrist upon a reconstructed Jewish temple just before the Second Coming.
"For the first time since 1994, John Grisham does not hold the year's lead [fiction] spot," Publishers Weekly said.
The dramatic success of Mr. LaHaye's series, which is the story of "characters readers can care about" caught up in an end-of-the-world biblical tale, has also drawn criticism. The Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, a 20-year-old research center at Wheaton College, recently published a satirical essay in which a fictional character in a dialogue argued that Mr. LaHaye was the most influential evangelical of his time.
Perhaps not grasping the essay's irony, publicists for the novel series, published by Tyndale House, drew on the essay to declare that Mr. LaHaye was "recently named the 'Most Influential Evangelical of the Past 25 Years.'"
Larry Eskridge, associate director of the institute, said his essay meant to show Mr. LaHaye's wide influence in Christian pop psychology, creationism, founding of the Christian conservative political movement, book packaging and evangelical culture wars.
The article compared him to evangelical leaders such as the Rev. Billy Graham, James Dobson, Bill Bright, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Rev. Bill Hybels and the Rev. Benny Hinn. In the end, it suggested that Mr. LaHaye, despite his behind-the-scenes modus operandi, may have shaped popular faith the most.
"LaHaye has breathed new life into the sagging fortunes of dispensationalism," or belief in a prophesied and detailed judgment plan, said "Blinky Killeen," a fictional character in the Eskridge essay. …