Apocalyptic Science Fiction Series Becomes a Long-Running Smash Hit

Commentators have objected to Left Behind's politics and views on other religions. In the books, the Antichrist becomes secretary-general of the United Nations, and uses the organization to create a global government. A Catholic cardinal becomes an aide to the Antichrist in the books, and the protagonists of the story set out to convert 144,000 Jews to Christianity, in what is described as a necessary step for the Second Coming to occur.

"Politically, it does have some underlying assumptions," says Goff.

Standing Firm by the Bible

Lahaye and Jenkins defend their work as Biblically based.

"If people want to say, 'Well you're exclusivist, only Christians go to heaven,' Jenkins says, "Well yes, that's what we believe."

That does not mean they are against those practicing other religions, they say.

"We believe there are many Catholics that are true believers," he says. "We certainly aren't anti-Catholic; we certainly don't say all Catholics are going to hell or anything like that."

LaHaye has no qualms expressing his unease with the United Nations and moves toward increased globalization, like the introduction of the euro. The Antichrist will form a one-world government, he says, and the United Nations could be the instrument used to do it.

"They're trying to solve the world's problems without any leaning on God," he says of the international body.

Some critics have been concerned that Left Behind readers might come to expect the Rapture to happen relatively soon. They might fail to make long-term plans for themselves, or could become disenchanted with Christianity when the Rapture does not happen when they expect.

It's a worry that LaHaye takes seriously, but he says he believes the books haven't inspired any extreme behavior.

"So far we've not had any reports of people doing bizarre things," he says. Instead, he thinks the possibility of an imminent Rapture draws people to the faith.

"If you believe that Christ could come in your lifetime then your going to live more zealously and committed," he says.

"We're well over 2,500 people who [have written to the authors and] said, 'I became a believer because of these — actually became Christians because of this,'" says Jenkins. "And needless to say, for us that's more important than best sellers, or money, or anything else."

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