Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity

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NYU Press, 2005 - Religion - 273 pages

The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins has become a popular culture phenomenon, selling an astonishing 40 million copies to date. These novels, written by two well-known evangelical Christians, depict the experiences of those "left behind" in the aftermath of the Rapture, when Christ removes true believers, leaving everyone else to suffer seven years of Tribulation under Satan's proxy, Antichrist.
In Marks of the Beast, Shuck uncovers the reasons behind the books' unprecedented appeal, assessing why the novels have achieved a status within the evangelical community even greater than Hal Lindsey's 1970 blockbuster The Late Great Planet Earth. It also explores what we can learn from them about evangelical Christianity in America.
Shuck finds that, ironically, the series not only reflects contemporary trends within conservative evangelicalism but also encourages readers—especially evangelicals—to embrace solutions that enact, rather than engage, their fears. Most strikingly, he shows how the ultimate vision put forth by the series' authors inadvertently undermines itself as the series unfolds.

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I enjoyed this book, although it was a bit steep on concepts, more of an academic piece than anything else. But I enjoyed the way Shuck tactfully pointed out the contradictions in the writings of Jenkins and LaHaye in this novel series.
As for myself, I never read a single one of the 12 or more Left Behind books. To me, it would have been a waste of time. I mean, as Shuck notes, if everything is fixed, then I'm afraid I know where I'm fixed at, and unfortunately for me, I'm not in with the In Crowd. Oh, well.
But reading Shuck's book (aw shucks), I got the gist of the entire series of 12 books. It was pretty much what I imagined it would be, the plots, the characters, the tensions.
Shuck cites some interesting sources to prove his own points. One of these secondary sources noted the importance of tension in keeping a church congregation alive. Without tension, between the church and society in general, there's no "purpose" in the church, in many senses.
This may explain the American exodus from the mainline churches.
I recommend this book, but be prepared for a heavy read, with many footnotes. This is good for some but maybe not good for others, who prefer lighter reading without such complete documentation.

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User Review  - satyridae - LibraryThing

My species frightens me more than a little, and this book makes me despair of us ever getting anywhere worthwhile. Read full review


The Dispensational Background of Evangelical Prophecy Belief
2 Reluctant Rebels
3 The Emergence of the Network CultureBeast System
4 Technologies of Transcendence
5 Marks of the Beast
6 Beast Inc
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About the Author

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Page 48 - After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
Page 43 - This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
Page 36 - And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
Page 36 - And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary ; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Page 41 - Now learn a parable of the fig tree ; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh : so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Page 44 - Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars : see that ye be not troubled : for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Page 51 - And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads...
Page 47 - And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months ; and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when he striketh a man. 6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it ; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
Page 53 - And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Page 241 - Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 60-157, esp.

About the author (2005)

Glenn W. Shuck is visiting assistant professor of religion at Williams College. In addition to a number of published essays, he is coeditor, with Jeffrey J. Kripal, of Esalen in American Religious Culture.

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