slacktivist: L.B.: Tin men: “Tin men

Please forgive a brief aside, we’ll pick up again on page 129 this week in a second post. Here I want to explore a theory about the theological foundations of Bad Writing and, in particular, Bad Evangelical Writing. As it turns out, I doubt this theory applies to LaHaye and Jenkins, but bear with me.

In the last installment, we followed Buck Williams on an impossible journey across central New Jersey to Manhattan, which seems distorted and immense — like Greenland on a Mercator map. I grew up in central Jersey, in Dunellen, just a few blocks from the commuter train that Buck may or may not have ridden, so the garbled, unreal geography of that section hit, well, close to home.

Gershom Gorenberg had a similar response to the Left Behind series. Gorenberg lives in Jerusalem where he is, among other things, an editor with The Jerusalem Post. He happened to be on vacation in the Galilee, near Tiberias, while reading the third book in LaHaye and Jenkins’ series, Nicolae: Rise of the Antichrist.

Gorenberg reads that Buck Williams, ‘would find who he was looking for in Galilee, which didn’t really exist anymore.’ But it gets worse:

A couple minutes later I’m giggling again: Now Buck has decided to make the three-hour journey to ‘Tiberius’ (sic) by boat — one of the many touring boats that, in the book, ply the Jordan River. Which would be fine if the Jordan were really ‘deep and wide,’ as the song goes, but in reality it’s a narrow trickle not fit for navigating.

The experience is jarring, like meeting someone who calls you by your name, insists he knows you, remembers you from a high school you didn’t attend, a job you never had. I’m reading a book set largely in the country where I live — but not really, because the authors’ Israel is a landscape of their imagination, and the characters called ‘Jews’ might as well be named hobbits or warlocks. Israel and Jews are central to Nicolae and the other books of the hugely successful Left Behind series — but the country belongs to the map of a Christian myth; the people speak lines from a script foreign to flesh-and-blood Jews.

That’s from Gorenberg’s fascinating book The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. (Gorenberg has a lot more to say about LB and the apocalyptic obsession of folks like L&J, so we’ll be getting back to him and End of Days a bit more down the line.)”