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Quotes to Ponder
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Left Behind -- No More

The following commentary is not in the usual style of the Quotes to Ponder section. As a matter of fact, I originally titled this, "Quotes NOT to Ponder". This commentary is about how I changed my opinion about the "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

I just finished reading Assassins, the latest book in the "Left Behind" series. As I shut the book, I asked myself, "Is this 'Left Behind' series really good reading?" My answer is no! This is a turnaround for me. The first three books of the series were recommended to me a while ago. I bought and read the three books all in a week. I thought they were fun and thrilling. As each book in the series has come out, I've immediately bought it and read it in a few days time.

I began lending out my copies of the series to friends and family, both saved and unsaved. I was hoping these books would encourage them to start reading more. The books are so easy to read with a thrilling plot that I knew would be enjoyed. Since some of these people were known to read only romance type books, I also hoped the books would encourage the reading of "good" books.

Even my dear husband began reading Left Behind, the first book in the series. He had to read for himself what I was so gung ho about. About halfway through he put the book down and began questioning how I could be so enthusiastic about it. I countered that these books were a fun, occasional read. He shrugged, conceding that it probably wouldn't harm me to read an occasional book that he considered below my reading level. Yet, with each new book, he repeated his main criticisms, hoping I would take heed:

  • the writing is "sophomoric,"
  • the books are packaged as important looking, but are filled with lots of blank pages (I counted 6 in Assassins) and white space (left margin 3/4", right margin 1 1/4", 1 1/4" top margin, and 1 1/8" bottom margin) and bigger than usual fonts, and
  • the whole marketing strategy is questionable with the excessive amount of books being written with no end in sight, including books written for our children, and an upcoming movie.

Almost everyone I lent the books to loved them, but few were encouraged to improve their level and discernment in reading. The more I thought about it, the more this series reminded me of what I call the "Hardy Boys" syndrome. There was a time in my own life when I read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. My children even went through a stage of Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys reading. A lot of books were read (good for pizzas at Pizza Hut *grin*), but it was empty, fruitless reading. I refer to this as "quantity vs. quality" or "Reading Is Fun" vs. "Read, But Read With Discernment." My point being that reading is good, but we need to be discerning of what we read, not just push the habit of reading. Through my enthusiasm of the "Left Behind" series I was encouraging others to read a lot but not to read books of good quality.

I love entertaining and exciting books, but not to the point where they become addictive or give me the feeling I'm reading something of merit. When I start a "Left Behind" book, I have a hefty, not cheap, impressively packaged book in my hand. When I finished reading Assassins, I slammed it shut as I realized the facts. I had just finished Assassins so that I could have the "pleasure" of waiting months to spend $12 to $20 (depends on where you buy it) on the next book "due in spring 2000!" when I would start the whole cycle again.

Maybe it was the "Who Shot JR?" type ending to this particular book which made me finally understand what my dear husband was saying. I remember shaking my head at family and friends that spent all summer long discussing "Who Shot JR?". I know similar discussions will come up with my fellow "Left Behind" junkies until the spring of 2000. And, of course, it won't end there because that book will leave ya panting for the next book.

So you may ask me what is wrong with this? I mean it's fun and exciting. What's the big deal? It's the old problem of Christian authors writing about a Christian issue but using worldly marketing strategies!! Maybe they need the months in between books and the great number of books in the series to research and for accurate portrayal. Unfortunately, most of these books are filled with neat cell phones, record setting Web sites, descriptions of gruesome deaths and weapons, nail biting attacks and escapes. It's marketing, pure and simple. Although the occasional sermon/teaching by Tsion Ben-Judah hopefully convicts both saved and unsaved readers.

Well, I hope you don't mind me voicing an opinion. I hugged my dear husband and told him he was so right. I got rid of my "Left Behind" books. Yes, I want to read for fun, as well as for encouragement and education. But I can find better written, more honorable books to read, and so can you. I'm certainly not the first person to voice concern over the "worldliness" of a book written by a Christian. I won't be the last, but I do know I won't be reading or purchasing or recommending anything more that has to do with this "Left Behind" phenomenon. Thank you for "hearing" me out!

Love in Christ,
Kathy

August 12, 1999
1999 by Kathy Ridpath
Please ask for permission to reprint this article, ridpath@chfweb.com. Thank you!


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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
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Isaiah 54:13

Kathy Ridpath: ridpath@chfweb.com
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