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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

‘Knowing’ versus ‘Left Behind,’ Part I

It’s the little things, really, that make this job so satisfying. Who’d have thunk that when I made reference to, in my review of Knowing, “the nitwits who wrote those preposterous Left Behind apocalyptic end-times fantasies,” that it would provoke such outrage?

Okay, perhaps I should have known what I was in for.

Reader “Todd” was the first to respond by email:

You say in your Bio that you are a, “writer and a ponderer.” I wonder, if indeed you have accurately assessed yourself, why you would call the Left Behind authors “nitwits”. Now I admit that they interpret Biblical prophecy differently than some but their interpretation is generally considered one of the plausible and doctrinally orthodox possibilities. To simply dismiss them leads me to believe that your someone who generally dismisses the Bible ad hoc. Now, you can do that if you wish but does it belong in a movie review? Also, I believe that if you are who you believe yourself to be then honestly studying the Bible should be intellectually satisfying to anyone who is a writer and ponderer in New York City who drinks too much wine and thinks way too much about such inconsequences as movies, TV, books, and the meaning of life.

See, it’s not that Left Behind is total tripe aimed at taking money from the pockets of gullible fools, it’s that the authors merely interpret biblical prophecy differently than others. (Ooops, should I not have said “gullible fools”?) It’s too extreme for me to call them nitwits when plenty of other people have very similar ideas about 144,000 people being snatched away to heaven while the rest of us burn, and those ideas aren’t preposterous at all.

I adore Todd’s astonishment that I might be someone who generally dismisses the Bible ad hoc — who could possibly do that?

“Suzanne” wrote:

Curious… Was your comment about the “Left Behind” series as “preposterous” simply because it was imaginative and considered sci-fi, or because a person who believed the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and Buckeroo Banzai” have a more credible story line because they don’t include God.
Really, I wonder about a critic who is so narrow minded.

Um, isn’t God a pretty major character, behind the scenes, at least, in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Of course, everyone acknowledges that movie as fiction — Steven Spielberg does not presuppose that you actually believe, for honest real in real life outside the movie theater, that the Big Guy Upstairs smoked some Nazis on an island when an ancient artifact was opened.

And there’s “thatguy,” who was brave enough to post his response in comments:

how can you say thats a fantasy? You have no clue wether or not that WILL happen in the future. There are many things happening NOW that will prove Revelations propechies.

So cute.

As for the preposterousness of Left Behind, I refer you to slacktivist, who has been ripping to hilarious shreds the misogyny, antihumanism, mean-spiritedness, utter ridiculousness, and general lack of storytelling talent of authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

UPDATE: Another one, from “Tim”:

Do you realize how incredibly haughty that sounds?

That’s what bugs me most about movie critics. It’s your pseudo-intellectualism, arrogance, and a false sense of importance in society.


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easter eggs
  • I almost sent you that link – the great thing about Fred’s take-down is that he’s doing it not only from a literary perspective, but also as an actual Evangelical Christian. Even someone who believes in God, and Jesus and Heaven and all that (not sure about hell) thinks the theology is quite specious indeed, and in fact, not based on anything actually in the bible!

    Plus, they’re so terribly written even if they were based on Something in the Bible (or Origin of Species for that matter) they’d be ludicrously heinous even so.

  • Hasimir Fenring

    [the Left Behind authors’] interpretation is generally considered one of the plausible and doctrinally orthodox possibilities

    I had to suppress a guffaw at this. As a nonbeliever I don’t find orthodoxy as a whole any more (or less) believable than any other version, but I have to step up and point out blatant falsehoods like this comment here. The authors’ PMD interpretation of biblical prophecy has never been orthodox, even in their own narrow branch of Christianity (American Evangelical), and I would be hard-pressed to come up with a biblical scholar who would consider it even in the ballpark of ‘plausible’.

    It’s disingenuous to portray the authors’ interpretation as mainstream, especially since they wouldn’t even make that claim (though I’m sure they’d say it’s ‘plausible’). LaHaye and Jenkins revel in their belief that they and their followers are the select few that have figured out the secrets of the Bible which have eluded most everyone else in the history of Christianity.

  • Bill

    Good christ, I do enjoy the hell out of Hasimir’s FF posts. I mean that in all seriousness.

    “Okay, perhaps I should have known what I was in for.” – MAJ

    Ha:) I gotta believe you did know, right? I actually read that as a bit of baiting on your part – which I wholeheartedly support. Is wholeheartedly one or two words? Fuck it – I am not going to dictionary.com again.

  • JoshDM

    Scarlett Johannsenn is a clone.

  • Ryan

    Just for the record, I suffered through 3 semesters of ‘Theology’ (read, two semesters of bible study old testament, one new) at a Catholic College that decided to make it part of their Liberal Arts requirement.

    Studying the bible is ANYTHING but intellectually satisfying. When you are done the question you have to ask yourself is how a bunch of guys 2000 years ago wrote the equivalent of the Silmarilion and turned it into a major religion.

    On the plus side, it did lead me to spend some time speculating on which of today’s books future generations will genuflect before.

    My bet is on Harry Potter at the moment; best messiah figure.

  • Bill

    “Studying the bible is ANYTHING but intellectually satisfying.” – Ryan

    I dunno…the book of job seems a fine subject for some analysis. It always seems to pop up whenever the discussion migrates to critical theory or existentialism. I’m no great biblical scholar, but I tend to think the bible is deserving of some close reads if for no other reason than to bulk up on your cultural literacy. But what the fuck do I know…I just watched Punisher: Warzone for the second time. No one should listen to me about anything:)

  • Mimi

    Re “ad hoc” — Todd, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  • Kevin

    Wait, Star Wars isn’t real???!?!?!? BUT I’VE SPENT MY WHOLE LIFE TRAINING SO THAT I CAN LEARN FROM MASTER LUKE SKYWALKER!!! What will I do with my life now?

  • MaSch


    1. Who said so?
    2. Don *not* believe them, they’re a bunch of wackos (at best, and Sith at worst).

  • Bill

    Kevin – don’t go crazy, now. Star Wars is totally real. There are differing interpretations of the true meaning of Star Wars, but I got my hands on the True version. Turns out, as fate would have it, I am the one and only true Jedi Master. So, you can totally train under me for the low price of $599.99 per month. L. Ron – you are a genius. Someone tell me how this is different than modern American evangelism.

    So, i guess my point (“which is parenthetical at best”…bonus points for whoever can tell me what movie or tv show that’s from…) is that Jesus Fucking Christ cant we all just trash eachother’s worldviews in the most inconsiderate ways and then toast our humanity with due reverence and proceed to drink our beers in the spirit of peace and fucking harmony? NO. We can’t. And I blame the fans of the “Left Behind” series for that. Not all of them, just the worst and most vocal of them.

  • *grin* Thanks for the link to the slacktivist site. It delightfully pwn3d my productivity for an entire evening. B)

  • diggerdugger

    What kills me about this movie is how it appears to pander to the religious, but in a way succeeds in demonstrating the absurdities of relgious belief. The more you think about the methods and motivations of the alien beings, the less sense they make. Subsequently, when you start to think of them as being allegorical to a Christian rapture, the same nonsense still applies.

    I found the scene in which Cage’s character is forced to part with his son so he can join the alien beings on their spaceship to be shockingly callous and ridiculous. Why can’t Cage just get on the spaceship with them? It’s right there. I’m sure they have room. And they obviously have the technology. Why is Cage not allowed to be relocated to the new alien planet? They never explain this.

    Then that got me thinking similarly about God and the end of days. Why would an all powerful God, who can do absolutely anything, choose only to speak to a few selected people in the least direct way possible when he could just as easily announce his presence to everyone all at once and be done with it? And why would he save these select few and wipe out everyone else (EE) when they could so easily be saved as well?

    The only answer I could come up with, based in no small part on the old testament, is: ego.

    I was raised religious but I’ve since drifted. In a weird way, this movie made me even less relgious. It’s annoying how religious people are so morbidly obsessed with the apocalypse. That’s why, even after the alien spaceships take off and vanish into the cosmos, of course…they have to show the world blowing up. They just have to. For religious people, that’s what they’ve been looking forward to the whole time!

  • Rich

    [Just spotted the following non-copyrighted article on the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site. Enjoy it to the fullest! Rich]

    [entire article deleted by maj]

  • MaryAnn

    I deleted the article, Rich. It doesn’t matter if it’s not copyrighted or not — an entire article is not the stuff of a comments posting.

    If you want to post a link to the article, that’s fine.

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