Based on copies sold, the sixteen novels that comprise the Left Behind cycle, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, represent something of a literary phenomenon at the kick-off of the twenty-first century. The series is based on interpretations of prophetic books of the Bible under which, in End Times, the faithful will undergo rapture and be instantaneously taken up to heaven. The unbelieving are…left behind. The books appeared in the period 1995-2007; seven became best sellers; total copies sold have topped 65 million. Three movies were made from this series as well, also popular. But this series, while remarked upon by the mainstream, which cannot help but admire a commercial tour de force, has been ignored because it belongs to an alien culture, so to speak.
Two recent mass killings (at a movie house showing a Batman film, at a Sikh Temple) taking place within 19 days of one another made me think that these are symptoms of cultural break-up—and curiously brought to mind the “left behind”—those individuals and groups who feel left behind in some sense of that word. Massive, rapid change always produces such individuals and groups; the KKK represented one kind of reaction to the outcome of the Civil War. And that war, in the fullness of time, also produced the last major social movement where unity, thus integration, was at the center of the great effort: the Civil Rights Movement. It wasn’t very long after its successful implementation that we suddenly developed a fascination with rapidly-branching ethnicity. Soon after came multiculturalism on the left and fundamentalist activism in politics on the right. The Michigan Militia formed in 1994—and will here be a stand-in for other similar groups that have sprouted since.