Those of you who are unfamiliar with the writing of Joe Bageant are in for a treat. Those of you who are familiar with the writing of Joe Bageant know the kind of treat you are in for.
Most readers here, have probably heard about the Left Behind series of novels, by Christian right leader Tim LaHaye; and the nasty spin-off kid vid Left Behind: Eternal Forces. Turns out, my friend Joe Bageant (who is hanging out (fishing) in an undisclosed location, but most certainly not with Dick Cheney)wrote an essay about the Left Behind novels awhile back, and he has kindly posted it over at Talk to Action. I can't post the whole thing here, but I can give you the beginning and if you are in the mood for a good read, come on over and check it out. No hurry of course, unless you need it right now. It will still be there tomorrow.
Joe's book, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War, is due out from Random House in June. This essay was originally published in December 2005 -- long before the Democratic take-over of Congress seemed possible. One friend said affter reading it: "Bageant writes in the tradition of Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth."
He sure got that right.
What the 'Left Behind' Series Really Means
A Whore That Sitteth on Many Waters
"Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and a yawning chasm opened in the earth, stretching far and wide enough to swallow all of them. They tumbled in, howling and screeching, but their wailing was soon quashed and all was silent when the earth closed itself again."
-- From Glorious Appearing by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
"The best thing about the Left Behind books is the way the non-Christians get their guts pulled out by God."
-- 15-year old fundamentalist fan of the Left Behind series
That is the sophisticated language and appeal of America's all-time best selling adult novels celebrating the ethnic cleansing of non-Christians at the hands of Christ. If a Muslim were to write an Islamic version of the last book in the Left Behind series, Glorious Appearing, and publish it across the Middle East, Americans would go beserk. Yet tens of millions of Christians eagerly await and celebrate an End Time when everyone who disagrees with them will be murdered in ways that make Islamic beheading look like a bridal shower.
Jesus -- who apparently has a much nastier streak than we have been led to believe -- merely speaks and "the bodies of the enemy are ripped wide open down the middle." In the book Christians have to drive carefully to avoid "hitting splayed and filleted corpses of men and women and horses" Even as the riders' tongues are melting in their mouths and they are being wide open gutted by God's own hand, the poor damned horses are getting the same treatment. Sort of a divinely inspired version of "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on."
This may be some of the bloodiest hate fiction ever published, but it is also what tens of millions of Americans believe is God's will. It is approximately what everyone in the congregation sitting around me last Sunday at my brother's church believes. Or some version of it. How can anyone acquire and hold such notions? Answer: The same way you got yours and I got mine. Conditioning. From family and school and society, but from within a different American caste than the one in which you were raised. And from things stamped deep in childhood -- such as coming home terrified to an empty house.
One September day when I was in the third grade I got off the school bus and walked up the red dust powdered lane to my house only to find no one there. The smudgy white front door of the old frame house stood open. My footsteps on the unpainted gray porch creaked in the fall stillness. With increasing panic, I went through every room, and then ran around the outside crying and sobbing in the grip of the most horrific loneliness and terror. I believed with all my heart that The Rapture had come and that all my family had been taken up to heaven leaving me alone on earth to face God's terrible wrath. As it turned out they were at the neighbor's house scarcely 300 yards down the road, and returned in a few minutes. But it took me hours to calm down. I dreamed about it for years afterward.