I am Jerry B. Jenkins' son, and I'd like to respond to Zachary Karabell's March 1 "review" of the Left Behind series. I'm responding because my father, who is co-author of the series with Tim LaHaye, is currently working on his next book series, or as Karabell might put it, "plotting to bring down the moral structure of America."
Let me first say that I appreciate the fact that the Times stopped ignoring the series, which cannot be said for many other book reviewers. The last four Left Behind books have opened at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and the series is the top-selling adult series of all time, but many reviewers pretend the books don't exist. Thank you for your attention.
My problem with Mr. Karabell's article is that it was located in the "Book Review" section. It was not by any means a book review. We can handle bad reviews, and I would have had no problem with a negative, even scathing review of the books on their merits, even if I didn't agree with it.
Rather than reviewing the books, he reviewed their readers, calling them the "lunatic fringe" and comparing them to the Heaven's Gate suicide cult. The Left Behind books served as an excuse for Karabell to write an op-ed piece about Christian theology. Mr. Karabell's bias against the Christian faith and the Bush Administration was shockingly evident.
The Left Behind books are a fictional account of Tim LaHaye's interpretion of the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. The books certainly represent a particular worldview, but no more than, say, John Irving's book "The Cider House Rules" represents a particular worldview, which espouses the right to abortion. I happen to find Irving's viewpoint scary and dangerous, but there is no way the Times would allow one of its reviewers to dissect "The Cider House Rules" by discussing how dangerous its readers are. Why then did the Times allow Mr. Karabell to treat Left Behind in this manner?
Having spent most of his article describing how dangerous and horrifying these books are, Mr. Karabell slips in his belief that the White House agrees with them and uses their philosophies in their foreign policy. What in the world does this have to do with a book review, or with Christian theology? Support for Israel and suspicion of the U.N. aren't philosophies held by Christians alone. To use a review of a fiction series as an excuse to grandstand against U.S. foreign policy represents a subjectivity of ludicrous proportions.
The philosophy that frightens Mr. Karabell so has not produced consequences worthy of his fear. Left Behind readers are not committing suicide, killing people, or even pouring paint on wearers of fur in the series' name. He writes that the Left Behind books are "an expression of aspects of our culture that have the power to undo us." Good grief. After reading that, I glanced at the top of the page, saw, "Los Angeles Times Book Review," and tried not to laugh.
Mr. Karabell does have a point when he writes, "The books have been ignored by a literary establishment that is geared toward assessing books as books." Well, I should clarify: they've been ignored by the establishment, but clearly the establishment is not in the business of assessing books as books. Mr. Karabell, at least, did not treat these books as books; he used them to propagate his political and spiritual beliefs.
Bash the Left Behind books. Say they're literary trash, unworthy of their sales. It wouldn't be the first time the critics' views didn't line up with book sales (now that I think of it, they almost never do, which is comforting). At least a bad review would be a review. A series that has sold 50 million copies would at last be treated as normal. Just don't pretend that Mr. Karabell's editorial was a serious literary critique.
Los Angeles, Calif.