Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity / Edition 1

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A timely analysis of a religious movement that is quietly exercising enormous political influence today. Shuck's careful reading of LaHaye's troubling vision establishes unexpected connections with the leading edge of contemporary network culture."

-Mark C. Taylor,author of About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture

"With this book, Glenn W. Shuck establishes himself as one of the foremost scholars of American evangelical Christianity. This work is both wonderfully written and creative. Based on Shuck's even-handed and insightful analysis, the reader learns about the meaning and astonishing popularity of books about end times, especially the Left Behind series. Marks of the Beast provides a dynamic lens into the meaning of religion in modern times."

-Michael O. Emerson,Director, Du Bois Center for the Advanced Study of Religion and Race, University of Notre Dame

"A provocative study."

-Berkshire Eagle,

"Well-researched work employing sociological, literary, and theological perspectives."

-Choice,

Publishers Weekly
With the Left Behind series nearing 70 million in sales, neither religious nor secular theorists and academics can ignore its influence. Shuck, a religion professor at Williams College, turns his decidedly academic mind to exploring modern prophecy fiction, specifically the work of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. His study is not a lightweight look at the phenomenon. It's a heavily academic analysis of "personal and collective identity among prophecy-believing evangelicals." He explores the background of dispensationalism and its underlying tension between a desire for action and the "blessed despair" of knowing God controls everything, as well as the fine points of evangelical identity. Believers, he says, are torn between preserving their identity and becoming involved in culture to make a safe place for themselves. Shuck offers a thorough discussion of what theorists call our modern "network culture" at present and in the novels, offering the conclusion that while Left Behind protagonists fight the Beast's system using its own strategies, "They may... build the perfect Beast, even as they purport to resist it." Shuck does not address scriptural interpretation, instead focusing the cultural and historical highlights of the series, which he concludes is "not simply innocuous fiction." (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814740057
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 273
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

Preface : about American evangelicals
Introduction : first words on last things
1 Signs of the times : the dispensational background of evangelical prophecy belief 29
2 Reluctant rebels : the Left behind novels and the politics of evangelical identity 53
3 The emergence of the network culture/beast system 82
4 Technologies of transcendence : "beast religion" and the deification/demonization of the network culture 112
5 Marks of the beast : the struggle for evangelical identity 141
6 Beast, inc. : evangelical resistance and the internalization of evil 167
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