Left Behind, ultimately, is just nonsense. It makes up its own rules and then breaks them. And then it makes up more rules that require its other rules to be broken. Left Behind refutes itself.
The premise of the book is clear and clearly stated. The Rapture and all the other events foretold by premillennial dispensationalist “bible prophecy scholars” are all real and are all really going to happen. Soon. The book wants to show us the events of this cosmic drama acted out before our very eyes in a story that takes its plot from the authors’ End Times check list.
Yet the more we watch, the more we read, the less convinced we become that such a series of events could ever occur. Not because they’re too outlandish, but because they contradict and preclude one another. We cannot accept the authors’ assertion that A will be followed by B and then by C, because A renders B impossible and C could never take place in a world in which B had already happened.
This is the great and insurmountable failure of Left Behind. It set out to be a work of propaganda, a teaching tool meant to demonstrate — the authors would say to prove — that the events it describes could and indeed will really happen. Yet their attempt to present a narrative of such events instead demonstrates — I would say proves — that these events could not and indeed will not ever happen. It proves that the weird and contradictory events of their check list could never happen in a world anything like the world we live in, or in any other imaginable world. It proves that their supposed prophecies will never, and can never, be fulfilled.
Left Behind fails as a novel for many, many reasons, but all of its other faults — the odious lack of empathy it holds up as a moral example, its blasphemous celebration of self-centeredness masquerading as Christianity, its perverse misogyny, its plodding pace, its wooden dialogue, it fetishistic obsession with telephones, its nonexistent characterization, its use and misuse of cliches, its irrelevant tangents, deplorable politics, confused theology, unintentional hilarities, hideous sentences, contempt for craft, factual mistakes, continuity errors … its squandering of every interesting premise and its overwhelming, relentless and mind-numbing dullness — all of these seem to be failures of the sort that one might encounter in any other Very, Very Bad book hastily foisted off onto the public without a second glance.**
Any one of those faults, on its own, would have been enough to earn Left Behind a place on the Worst Books of 1995 list. The presence of all of those faults — in a single book and in such concentrated form — is more than enough to secure its place on a list of the Worst Books of All Time.
If you’ve not been reading this outstanding series, which I’ll say again is some of the best contemporary writing anywhere, all I can say is you’ve been missing out. Read The Visitation Preacher, with a box of Kleenex handy, for a singular example. You can plow through those archives, or you can hope someone takes up Chad‘s suggestion and gets the whole series published as a book, but either way, go read. And wait as I am with bated breath for the (hopefully less than five years length) series on the “Left Behind” movie, and the first of the book sequels.