Neal Pollack has read Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series.
I haven’t, but as a child I believed in the Tribulation, and was indoctrinated with LaHaye’s views on marriage and life. A few years ago my mother sent my sister and me a couple of the Left Behind books each in the mail. We both set them out by the curb for recycling.
Mom also sent my sister some potassium iodide pills to take when the nuclear bomb hits. She didn’t have any shipped to me, either because by living in New York City I’m already doomed or because I’ve yelled at her too many times for telling me to “get right with God before it’s too late.” Or maybe she didn’t send them because Sister’s the only one of us worth saving.
In Mom’s basement is a closet full of homemade canned goods and dehydrated fruit that she’s prepared so her heathen daughters will have something to eat during the Tribulation — assuming we can make our way down to North Carolina after Mom and my stepfather are swept away in the Rapture.
I know it sounds like I’m making fun of her, but I’m not. It’s thoughtful, really. She wants to protect us, to help us escape from the thicket of sin and find our way back to The Lord. Besides, who knows, maybe the Jack Chick tracts are right: all the Christians will disappear into the ether and only we sinners will be Left Behind. God knows I had enough nightmares about that in childhood. Sometimes I’d wake up in the morning, home alone with Sister, and there’d be no neighbors in the yard, no cars on the street. And I’d wonder: did Jesus come and take my parents? Is it because I took a piece of gum from Mom’s purse without permission?
The Rapture aside, fear of apocalyptic disasters runs in my blood. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear a plane passing without looking up to see if it’s flying too low. A friend and I have a plan to meet by the docks with her inflatable air mattress and ride it out into the ocean if we survive the bomb hit. We’ll take her dog, my two cats, and the men in our lives (who think we’re insane and will have to be drugged and bound and tied to the raft).
After reading last year’s New Yorker article about the Indian River Power Plant, and obsessing about Radiac, a nuclear waste storage facility just south of my neighborhood, I’m almost ready to buy some potassium iodide pills for myself. The American Thyroid Association recommends them, after all. Also, don’t think I haven’t thought about building one of these.
Pollack does a good job, at the end of his post, of summarizing Tim LaHaye’s connections to Ashcroft and the Bush administration. And don’t get me wrong, I loathe LaHaye — his botox brow, his fake preacher smile, his knack for terrorizing everyone into believing.
But there’s a tradition in this country of religious extremists like LaHaye. Hell, the country was founded by zealots. LaHaye’s the contemporary answer to Cotton Mather, the original Puritan fire-and-brimstone preacher.
There’s something about the apocalyptic message that works on the most fearful among us. LaHaye and his ilk scare people shitless and then offer them the Ultimate Salvation: Christ, and by extension Heaven, and Eternal Life!
How does the rational world compete with those promises? Without the religious memes of danger and salvation, how do we make people feel safe?