Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America / Edition 1

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Overview

In the "twinkling of an eye" Jesus secretly returns to earth and gathers to him all believers. As they are taken to heaven, the world they leave behind is plunged into chaos. Cars and airplanes crash and people search in vain for loved ones. Plagues, famine, and suffering follow. The antichrist emerges to rule the world and to destroy those who oppose him. Finally, Christ comes again in glory, defeats the antichrist and reigns over the earth. This apocalyptic scenario is anticipated by millions of Americans. These millions have made the Left Behind series—novels that depict the rapture and apocalypse—perennial bestsellers, with over 40 million copies now in print. In Rapture Culture , Amy Johnson Frykholm explores this remarkable phenomenon, seeking to understand why American evangelicals find the idea of the rapture so compelling. What is the secret behind the remarkable popularity of the apocalyptic genre? One answer, she argues, is that the books provide a sense of identification and communal belonging that counters the "social atomization" that characterizes modern life. This also helps explain why they appeal to female readers, despite the deeply patriarchal worldview they promote. Tracing the evolution of the genre of rapture fiction, Frykholm notes that at one time such narratives expressed a sense of alienation from modern life and protest against the loss of tradition and the marginalization of conservative religious views. Now, however, evangelicalism's renewed popular appeal has rendered such themes obsolete. Left Behind evinces a new embrace of technology and consumer goods as tools for God's work, while retaining a protest against modernity's transformation of traditional family life. Drawing on extensive interviews with readers of the novels, Rapture Culture sheds light on a mindset that is little understood and far more common than many of us suppose.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An informative, brightly written analysis of apocalyptic sentiment on the popular level. This is a most interesting book and an important contribution to the growing literature on evangelicalism." —Randall Balmer, author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America

"Rapture Culture offers fresh and illuminating insights into one of the most significant cultural phenomena of our era, the explosion of interest in biblical prophecies of the end times. Drawing on in-depth interviews, Amy Johnson Frykholm shrewdly explores the popular reception of the bestselling Left Behind prophecy novels as readers share their responses in the context of family, church, and other social networks. This eminently readable book explores the interaction of contemporary American religion, cultural politics, gender issues, and the mass media. Highly recommended." —Paul S. Boyer, author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture

"This fascinating book is a one-of-a-kind look at how people read religious literature. Thoroughly engaging, it asks us to consider the importance of imagination in the construction of a spiritual life. The author gives us an inside view of often conflicting interpretations that Christians give of the drama of the End Times." —Colleen McDannell, author of Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America

Library Journal
While the apocalyptic worldview of Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins's "Left Behind" series is not new, the popularity of the series and the growth of evangelical Christianity have helped bring it into the mainstream. Both of these books question the series, an approach its readers-mainly evangelical Christians-may not appreciate. Both books identify the series' appeal as speaking to people's desire for certainty in uncertain times by offering a view of good and evil, saved and damned. Forbes (religious studies, Morningside Coll.) and Kilde (religious studies, Macalester Coll.) present essays addressing the series' popularity, the history of millenarian thinking, and the series' viewpoints as seen through religious, political, and sociological frameworks. Frykholm (literature, cultural studies, & religion, Colorado Mountain Coll.) looks at the series' readers through interviews, which she places in a religious and sociological context. She finds that the acceptance of the story line is often unquestioned and even unrecognized by readers. Yet readers are not passive, as their beliefs require action. Nor are they simplistic, even though they may be accepting a simplistic view. Similar but complementary, grounded in academia but accessible, these provocative books are a rich addition to contemporary thought. Recommended for all libraries.-Nancy Almand, Weld Lib. Dist., Greeley, CO Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195335675
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Johnson Frykholm teaches Literature, Cultural Studies, and Religion at Colorado Mountain College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 The Rapture in America 13
2 Networks of Readers, Networks of Meaning 39
3 The Margins of Left Behind's Readership 67
4 "I'm a Survivor and He's a Survivor" 89
5 Reading the Signs of the Times 105
6 Making Prophecy Live 131
7 Witness to the Apocalypse 153
8 Fear, Desire, and the Dynamics of Left Behind 175
Notes 189
Select Bibliography 205
Index 219
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