January 1st, 2003

A Pocket Full of Murder

Politics and Eschatology

I took the test at the The Political Compass a couple of weeks ago, and again this morning, and both times it declared me a member of the Authoritarian Left and suggested I read the works of Lenin and Mao Tse-Tung. Wah! Of course, in this context the left-right spectrum is focused on economic policy, and I guess my mistrust of big business and capitalism for its own sake came through there. But Lenin and Mao? That's just wrong. :(

On another quasi-political note, but one more in line with my interests, I turned on CBC Radio One this morning to hear an interview with Jerry Jenkins of the bestselling Left Behind series. Since the focus of the show was political rather than creative, nothing was said about the bad prose, hackneyed dialogue and flat "golly gee" characterization that make those books so (IMO) painful to read and their enormous success (to me) so inexplicable; but apart from that, it seemed like a reasonably fair interview. It's not Jenkins and LaHaye's theology I disagree with (for the most part, anyway); but I believe the cartoonish speculation that drives the books, far from being compelling and persuasive as the authors obviously hope, actually ends up making premillenial eschatology look stupid. Not to mention confusing a lot of readers as to which parts of this sweeping end-times scenario are actually drawn from the Bible and which parts are authorial invention.

Anyway, the Jenkins interview was followed by an interesting talk with two analysts who worry that the bestselling series may have a dangerous effect on U.S. domestic and foreign policy, particularly with regard to the Middle East. They were obviously well familiar with the books and their content -- a good deal more so than I am, in fact -- and most of their discourse was fairly intelligent, but a few of their misapprehensions bothered me. For one, they kept talking about "dispensationalism" instead of "premillenialism" to describe Jenkins and LaHaye's eschatology. The two ideas are often connected, but they aren't synonymous. For another, they seemed to think that premillenialists believe that all Jews will be wiped off the face of the earth in God's final judgment, which is not true either. (Unless, I suppose, one argues that the moment a Jew confesses Jesus as Messiah he immediately ceases to be Jewish, regardless of birth or culture. But even so, there will be a great many more Gentiles judged than there will be Jews, so it's hardly an anti-semitic proposition.)

I shouldn't complain too much, though. It could have been a lot worse.