I am following up on a question and suggestion posed by Glen on yesterday's post in the comments:
"What an odd post, TB. I have never read the 'Left Behind' books - would you recommend them to others?
Perhaps if you focused on your questions and exactly what is causing you to question your church and Christianity - you might find why you are drawn back to the books."
A) Left Behind
The Left Behind Series was series of 12 books published by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which spawned an entire eschatological industry. The original 12 books - published from 1995 to 2003 - started with the eponymous Left Behind, which posited a simple question: what would the world look like if The Rapture occurred and seven year period referred to as The Great Tribulation occurred? It follows a band of characters that are left behind during the seven year period as The Antichrist arises and the events of Revelation are played out.
The books make certain assumptions: A pre-tribulation pre-millennial Rapture (as opposed to a mid or post-tribulation Rapture) combined with a literal interpretation of Chapters 6-20 (the remaining chapters of Revelation, 20-22, are covered in the 2007 book Kingdom Come). This is one of several views of the Return of Christ, one that has occupied 2,000 years of arguments and disagreements and in that sense, is beyond the scope of this discussion.
Would I recommend the books? To be honest with you, it has been a great many years since I read the first one and as I recall, I do not remember it being particularly well written (my memory may be vague on this point). That said, the audio drama (you can find it on Youtube) is amazing and completely worth the listen.
The books made a splash at the time, perhaps connecting with the upcoming turn of the century but also connecting with confrontation in terms of what such an event would actually be like. It spurred a bit of a development like The Passion of the Christ, creating a sort of ripple effect in Christian circles. It was successful enough that it spawned additional books and series for events for and during the Left Behind timeline.
B) What are the questions that are drawing me to this audio drama and in a lesser sense these eschatological questions now?
I will start by saying that in my interest, I am not aware of becoming hyper-eschatological. Christ can indeed return tomorrow - or twenty years from now. He Himself said no-one shall know the day or the hour; who am I to outguess the Son of God? Yes, He said there would be signs, but He certainly did not seem to indicate that Christians were supposed to dwell on them or become consumed by them, a sort of people no better than the Romans of old looking for auguries in flocks of birds or sheep's livers.
And yet, I find myself drawn to them.
Perhaps part of the question or issue I am trying to resolve within myself is simply my own relationship with God. I listen to the services for our current church and feel...nothing. Others obviously feel the presence of God in that place; I do not.
Why? Part of it may be presentation, of course: we are in a fairly charismatic church and I was raised in a very traditional church setting. For various and sundry reasons, I prefer an order of service to a more free flowing service (not that there is inherently anything wrong with them, it is just my preference).
Another part - a personal part - is that I feel largely that the Church no longer calls people to what I understand is a key factor of the Christian life, holiness. “Be ye holy, for I (the Lord) am holy" said Peter, quoting Leviticus, yet it feels to me that outside of very traditional sects like Catholicism or Orthodox, holiness is just kind of a word we banter around. It is one among many things, not one of the primary things.
A third part is simply that I feel a little at a loss. For years I was much more deeply involved in serving in the Church than I am now. I am not sure what changed - and when looking at the opportunities that are available to me, they just seem to be other versions of volunteer work.
Lastly, I suppose, there is simply the sense that I feel less and less at home in the world that I live in right now. Often it almost feels like there are three lives going on: the life I live outwardly, the life I live through this blog, and the live I live inwardly (the latter two are far more congruent than any other combination). Living in different spheres long enough can make anyone feel attenuated and stretched thin, I suppose.
This is the first time I have tried to frame my discontent in these terms. I do not know that it makes it any clearer to me, but at least it starts to identify the key aspects of what seems to be troubling me.