Marks of the Beast

The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity

273 pages

December, 2004

ISBN: 9780814740057

$26

Paper

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Author

Glenn W. Shuck is visiting assistant professor of religion at Williams College. In addition to a number of published essays, he is coeditor, with Jeffrey J. Kripal, of Esalen in American Religious Culture.

All books by Glenn W. Shuck

The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins has become a popular culture phenomenon, selling an astonishing 40 million copies to date. These novels, written by two well-known evangelical Christians, depict the experiences of those "left behind" in the aftermath of the Rapture, when Christ removes true believers, leaving everyone else to suffer seven years of Tribulation under Satan's proxy, Antichrist.

In Marks of the Beast, Shuck uncovers the reasons behind the books' unprecedented appeal, assessing why the novels have achieved a status within the evangelical community even greater than Hal Lindsey's 1970 blockbuster The Late Great Planet Earth. It also explores what we can learn from them about evangelical Christianity in America.

Shuck finds that, ironically, the series not only reflects contemporary trends within conservative evangelicalism but also encourages readers—especially evangelicals—to embrace solutions that enact, rather than engage, their fears. Most strikingly, he shows how the ultimate vision put forth by the series' authors inadvertently undermines itself as the series unfolds.

Reviews

  • "A timely analysis of a religious movement that is quietly exercising enormous political influence today. Shuck's careful reading of LaHaye's troubling vision establishes unexpected connections with the leading edge of contemporary network culture."

    —Mark C. Taylor, author of About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture

  • "With this book, Glenn W. Shuck establishes himself as one of the foremost scholars of American evangelical Christianity. This work is both wonderfully written and creative. Based on Shuck's even-handed and insightful analysis, the reader learns about the meaning and astonishing popularity of books about end times, especially the Left Behind series. Marks of the Beast provides a dynamic lens into the meaning of religion in modern times."

    —Michael O. Emerson, Director, Du Bois Center for the Advanced Study of Religion and Race, University of Notre Dame

  • "A provocative study."

    Berkshire Eagle

  • "Well-researched work employing sociological, literary, and theological perspectives."

    Choice