Rapture Culture: Left behind in Evangelical America

Rapture Culture: Left behind in Evangelical America

Rapture Culture: Left behind in Evangelical America

Rapture Culture: Left behind in Evangelical America

Synopsis

In the "twinkling of an eye" Jesus secretly returns to earth and gathers to him all believers. As they are taken to heaven, the world they leave behind is plunged into chaos. Cars and airplanes crash and people search in vain for loved ones. Plagues, famine, and suffering follow. The antichrist emerges to rule the world and to destroy those who oppose him. Finally, Christ comes again in glory, defeats the antichrist and reigns over the earth. This apocalyptic scenario is anticipated by millions of Americans. These millions have made the Left Behind series--novels that depict the rapture and apocalypse--perennial bestsellers, with over 40 million copies now in print. In Rapture Culture, Amy Johnson Frykholm explores this remarkable phenomenon, seeking to understand why American evangelicals find the idea of the rapture so compelling. What is the secret behind the remarkable popularity of the apocalyptic genre? One answer, she argues, is that the books provide a sense of identification and communal belonging that counters the "social atomization" that characterizes modern life. This also helps explain why they appeal to female readers, despite the deeply patriarchal worldview they promote. Tracing the evolution of the genre of rapture fiction, Frykholm notes that at one time such narratives expressed a sense of alienation from modern life and protest against the loss of tradition and the marginalization of conservative religious views. Now, however, evangelicalism's renewed popular appeal has rendered such themes obsolete. Left Behind evinces a new embrace of technology and consumer goods as tools for God's work, while retaining a protest against modernity's transformation of traditional family life. Drawing on extensive interviews with readers of the novels, Rapture Culture sheds light on a mindset that is little understood and far more common than many of us suppose.

Excerpt

The narrative of the rapture, drawn from the tradition of Christian fundamentalist apocalypticism, has achieved unprecedented popularity through a recent series of evangelical adventure novels called Left Behind. More than 50 million copies have been sold; the series has spawned companion comic books, movies, children's books, and audio tapes, as well as a radio drama, a large Internet fan club, and a revival of controversies within evangelicalism about the particularities of what scholars call dispensationalist premillennialism. Beginning with the fifth book, Apollyon, each addition to the series (there are twelve in all, with two additional series planned) skyrocketed to the top of every major best-seller list in the United States. the books have become a publishing phenomenon, surprising their publishers, their authors, scholars, and industry analysts. Conceived by longtime evangelical prophecy writer Timothy LaHaye and written by evangelical fiction writer Jerry Jenkins, Left Behind has brought this religious “subculture” fully into the mainstream.

Left Behind is a series of apocalyptic novels that traces the last seven years of life on earth. It begins with something called the rapture. in the rapture, Jesus secretly returns to earth and gathers to him all believers. As they are taken to heaven, the world they leave behind is plunged into chaos. Cars and airplanes crash; buildings crumble; people search in vain for loved ones. As the series continues over the seven years that believers in this apocalyptic tradition call the tribulation, the world suffers plagues and famine. a dictator . . .

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