Latest in Popular, Controversial Christian Book Series Released

Nov. 15, 2005 — -- The authors of the popular and controversial "Left Behind" series are releasing their 14th book today.

"The Regime" is a prequel to the other books -- a series that in 2002 knocked John Grisham out of the top-selling position he had held for six years. The first Christian books to reach No. 1 on The New York Times' best-seller list, the series has made record-breaking revenues of $650 million.

Based on the Bible's account of the apocalypse in Revelations, the "Left Behind" books foretell a time when millions of "true believers" are brought up to heaven in what is called "the rapture." The "non-believers," on the other hand, are left behind to suffer seven years of war and disease. The authors -- Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins -- firmly believe this is what will happen.

"God has a wonderful way of tracking people down if they're open to him," said LaHaye, who's also a minister. "But people who are closed to him, that resist him and have nothing to do with him, they'll be left behind."

"We realize in an age of tolerance, this can be an offensive message and we don't say it to offend," Jenkins added. "We read this and we believe -- we have friends who are devout in other faiths."

Some evangelical leaders have objected to LaHaye's interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Specifically, they argue the Bible says the Tribulation will occur before the rapture (when all true Christians are suddenly transported off the Earth). Others say LaHaye's attempt to take the confusing events of Revelations literally is misguided.

Outside the evangelical community, critics have voiced a host of concerns about the books. 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.