Have plans for this Friday? Harold Camping does.
Camping, a Christian broadcaster, will be awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, slated for Oct 21. This isn't the first time the rapture has been foreseen. In fact eschatology, a branch of theology that studies the end times, often attracts writers who, like scientists, seek to prove, quantify and make predictions. These students sift the Bible for metaphor and symbol, searching for meaning in what are often puzzling passages in scripture. It helps to remember that a doomsday event has seemed reasonable for centuries, given the chaos inflicted by natural disasters, pandemics and perfervid world leaders.
Speculating about a specific date for an end-times scenario allows us to assert human control over what we cannot know. I am therefore sympathetic to fictional accounts of these prophecies. If such predictions appeal to your assessment of human nature, check out these extreme tales of tribulation.
Left Behind: A Novel Of The Earth's Last Days
By Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, paperback, 496 pages, Tyndale House Publishers, list price: $14.99
Left Behind is the bestselling granddaddy of eschatological thrillers. Where would we be without this tale involving Hattie Durham, the flight attendant who gets promoted to personal assistant of the Antichrist? Professional perk: Your passenger agrees to introduce you to the new world despot. One might well question how she could receive such a promotion, but I'm here to tell you that Hattie has some powerful je ne sais quoi. Her improbable access to the most brilliant political and journalistic minds of her era convinces us that even savvy overachievers can be refreshingly accessible. Plus, at the back of the book there's a quiz called "Test Your Prophecy IQ." This is sort of like Myers-Briggs, but more uplifting.
By Jim Munroe and Salgood Sam, paperback, 160 pages, Idea & Design Works Llc, list price: $14.99
This post-rapture graphic novel would make an excellent stocking stuffer for your favorite disturbed teen, along with black lipstick and a wee nipple ring. Lovebirds Mummy and Raven negotiate the ins and outs of a creepy apocalyptic world in which dogs talk and demonic mutations abound. You might have to don an unattractive bird mask as a reminder of what happened to you during the rapture. This action-packed narrative is sure to entertain any youth who wears a trench coat to school. Sam Salgood's imaginative art puts an edgy twist on this world of disaffected youth.
By Liz Jensen, hardcover, 304 pages, Doubleday, list price: $25
The Rapture is a page-turner that develops a relationship between a murderous child and her therapist, the attractive but paralyzed Gabrielle Fox. You will be glad to know that although Gabrielle Fox is in a wheelchair, she has a generous bosom and an active sex life. It soon emerges that this child is not like other little girls who savagely murder their mother, oh no! This girl makes accurate predictions for natural disasters. Is she a prophet? A demon? Her father certainly thinks so. Sadly, we never learn whether the Christians have been caught up into the clouds with Jesus. This is because Jensen is more interested in global warming than the Messiah.
Faith takes many forms, and it is good to know that there is room in God's kingdom for believers of all stripes. In truth, scripture does seem to invite eschatological prediction with its talk of plagues and earthquakes, harlots and beasts. Let the final word be that of the book of Revelation. Amen. Let it be so.
Rhoda Janzen teaches English and creative writing at Hope College. She is the author of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.
Three Books... is produced and edited by Ellen Silva with production assistance from Rose Friedman and Lacey Mason.