Left Behind Series
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The "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye makes repeated reference to the
Antichrist being a pacifist. We presume that the reason for this is that
Bible prophecy says the Antichrist will "through peace destroy many", and
it warns that "when they say 'Peace! Peace!' then sudden destruction will
come." Certainly as you read through the series it becomes clear that the
Antichrist's outward talk of peace masks a personal delight that he takes
in making war. We agree that there will be (and is) a lot of deception
that hides behind a facade of supposed pacifism. The old Soviet Union
would, for example, support peace marches in the West, even though they
themselves were actively preparing for war against the West. In our
article Anarchy and Pacifism we discuss a number of fallacies and
weaknesses in the pacifist philosophy.
However, we are deeply concerned that the "Left Behind" series says almost
nothing in support of real pacifism. What is even more disturbing is the
book's assumptions about violence on the part of Christians. In "Nicolae"
(volume 3), on page 191, a Christian boatman says to Buck Cameron, "I have
twice within the last forty-eight hours fired this weapon into the heads of
people I've believed were enemies of God." (He does it because he is
protecting a spiritual leader, Tsion Ben-Judah.) The boatman goes on to
say, "People coming up this river looking for someone I don't want them to
find wind up dead. If you're the third to go, I'll still sleep like a baby
tonight." Buck asks him how he justifies such murders, and he says, "Those
were the wrong people looking for the wrong person." Later, on page 194,
he explains further: "I do not consider it murder. Better their bodies
than his." That is all the explanation that Buck (and presumably La Haye's
readers) need to be at peace about the murders as well. And this is just
one of many such comments with regard to violence by Christians during
their period of persecution.
Throughout "The Assassins" (volume 6) the book's other hero, Rayford
Steele, plots the assassination of the Antichrist, as part of his service
to God. He even prays for divine assistance in his task. And such is the
general reasoning of other supposedly Christian characters when backed into
corners or provided with opportunities to kill the opposition.
This tendency for Christians to meet violence with violence is only
marginally questioned throughout the book. There is some consideration
about whether or not the victim is prepared to meet God, and the whole
exercise is seen as distasteful; but on the whole, the idea of "kill or be
killed" goes pretty much unchallenged.
The militia movement is mentioned several times throughout the series, and
it is done without judgement, and even with a hint of conviction that they
are brave heroes, who make a gallant last stand against the armies of the
Antichrist. On page 324 of "Nicolae" (volume three) there is reference to
the war between the militia forces and the Antichrist, and the book's hero
says, "Many of those who have died in this world war, and are yet to die
until a quarter of the world's population is gone, are considered
tribulation martyrs." A few pages later (page 359) one of the world's
false religious leaders says, "I have not seen anyone die for their
religion. I haven't seen anyone 'slain for the word of God'." And,
indeed, the way LaHaye tells the story no one does. The "saved" saints
continue going to church pretty much the same as they did before the
rapture, continue to work as they did previously, even serving the
Antichrist. No one is forced to deny their faith, because the difference
between the good guys and the bad guys is fairly indistinguishable.
In what I have read of the series so far, I do not recall any mention of
pacifism which suggests that pacifism is the proper Christian way to deal
with injustice in the world; nor do I recall any criticism of the militia
movement. This assumption that pacifism is evil and militancy is righteous
is deeply disturbing.
To begin with, it must be made clear that the Antichrist will not be
a pacifist. He may profess to being a pacifist; but that is quite a
different matter. The problem is not pacifism. The problem is
counterfeit pacifism, i.e. pretending to believe in the principle of
turning the other cheek while actually believing in violence and revenge.
By assuming that pacifism is the doctrine of the Opposition, and that a
strong defence force is the way of true believers, LaHaye presents a
picture of the endtime in which Jesus himself, the Prince of Peace, would
almost certainly be viewed as the enemy, because he would be quite openly
pacifist. And we too are seen as the enemy when we say such things. What
we are doing in this series of articles about the "Left Behind" series is
trying to correct such errors and point people to the truth about the
second coming of Christ. But while we are doing it, there is widespread
teaching amongst those in the churches who know of us, that we are false
prophets, trying to lead people astray through talk about peace and love
and turning the other cheek. Only those who are able to confront their
fears about the Antichrist will be able to see through the lies and hear
the truth of what we are saying.
The answer that comes from Jesus is one of faith and love; whereas the
spirit behind so much of the reactionary right-wing approach to Bible
prophecy is one of fear and hate. Once anyone starts down the path of
fear, it begins to create a whirlpool of paranoia that spreads until they
sense conspiracies behind almost everything. The biggest problem is that
the ones they will fear the most will be those who come with the truth. A
person motivated by fear does not want to hear talk of love and faith. It
will only be seen as a trick to get them off guard. And as a consequence,
genuine Christianity and the real Christ will be opposed, feared, and hated
by such people... often in the name of Christ himself!
Perhaps the most fundamental message of The Revelation is that laying down
your life willingly, and turning the other cheek is God's answer to all the
weapons of the Antichrist. The Revelation features a collection of
'beasts', which represent the various Empires of the world. These beasts
culminate in the ultimate Beast -- the Antichrist himself, and the world
empire that he leads. But the Revelation teaches that all of this evil
will not be overcome through weapons, plots, retaliation, or force.
Instead, they will be overcome by one who is represented as the "Lamb that
was Slain". This spiritual conqueror is the ultimate pacifist, the Prince
of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Unfortunately, La Haye writes from the political perspective of right-wing
fundamentalist Christianity, assuming that this section of the church
(because it is the section most interested in Bible prophecy) will be the
section most prepared for the events of the endtime. Whether or not La
Haye personally agrees with such things as the militia movement, he knows
that he will not sell his books to these people if he takes a stand against
violence. And so the series of books passively supports the philosophy of
violence, and passively condemns pacifism, by suggesting that pacifists are
naive wimps who have been conned by the Antichrist.
If the "Left Behind" series is going to be truly Christian, it must be very
clear about preaching the message that Jesus actually taught. Yes, Jesus
warned that there would be persecution and tribulation. He also told us
that God himself would eventually punish evil doers. But Jesus is very
clear about the fact that "the wrath of man does not accomplish the
will of God." (James 1:20) Vengeance belongs to God, and not to us. We
have been instructed to love our enemies, and to pray for those who
despitefully use us. And this love will be the hallmark of a true
Christian. It is the one thing that distinguishes the kingdom of heaven
from all of the other kingdoms of the world.
In all the wars that have ever been fought, troops have been told that they
are murdering other human beings for a sacred cause. They have demonised
the enemy in an attempt to numb their own conscience to the seriousness of
what they have done. If so-called Christians do the same things, then
there is no real difference between us and the ones we resist.
The way of the cross is one of love and self-sacrifice. It is not easy,
and because it is not easy, we need to do all that we can to encourage one
another to hold true to the message of love even in the face of torture and
The extreme patriotism of the militia movement in particular, and of
American evangelicals in general is based on the belief that America has a
special Christian heritage that has come from God and that must be
preserved. Certainly the history of America is an inspiring one.
Persecuted Christian minorities fled to this new world, where they were
able to live out their faith in peace. But it seems that these present-day
patriots have forgotten what is most Christian about the American system
and its origins. Let me explain:
There are very few Christian denominations anywhere in the world today
which officially teach pacifism. The main ones are the Amish, the
Mennonites, and the Quakers. All three of these denominations are most
prevalent in the state of Pennsylvania, which is called the Quaker State.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania became the birthplace of so many of the ideals
which Americans consider to be most sacred. In other words, America's
Christian heritage grew out of a heritage of pacifism, in a state where
loving one's enemies was the rule, rather than the exception. And yet the
militia mentality professes a form of patriotism that runs counter to
almost all of those ideals. The greed, fear, hate, and racism that
characterises the militia movement were anathema to the Quakers who
established the city of Philadelphia (which literally means "The City of
Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, is a hero to the militia
movement. Even now they are actively campaigning for his release on the
grounds that the bomb he made was not big enough to have caused all the
damage that occurred in Oklahoma City. In other words, they admit that he
set off a bomb, but they still want to see him freed on some technicality
about whether or not someone else set off a second bomb at the same time!
This straining at gnats and swallowing camels needs to be addressed. Two
"wrongs" do not make a "right". Bombs of any sort (and especially
terrorist bombs) are wrong, whether they are big or small.
In conclusion, we feel that the "Left Behind" series has distorted the
message of love and peace that Jesus taught, and that it has done this in
an effort to increase book sales. The end result is that many (if not
most) readers will be inclined to suspect genuine Christians of being
Antichrist dupes, simply because they preach and practise pacifism. The
error comes from too much focus on the counterfeit pacifism of the
Antichrist, and too little focus on the genuine pacifism of Jesus Christ.