Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Carl E. Olsen has a fascinating piece appearing in today's NRO comparing Tim LaHaye's and Jerry Jenkins's Glorious Appearing (the most recent in their Left Behind series) and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

The books currently hold the top two spots on the New York Times fiction bestseller list. One might be tempted to see significance in two "Christian" books sitting atop the publishing field, but Olsen says there is no common ground between their two versions of Christianity--at least not in the way you might think:
In fact, Brown's and LaHaye/Jenkins's views of Jesus are a point of serious difference, and no amount of glib semantics should obscure the matter. Rather, it's far more accurate to describe both books as neo-Gnostic mythologies based on radical interpretations of ancient texts. Both are created without much concern for fact and scholarship, but both give a wealth of lip service to supposed research and historical veracity. Both rely on a dramatic emotional appeal that is steeped in anger and fear. Both rest on a distrust of authority and a desire to be free from the confines of tradition. Both promise special knowledge, or gnosis, to those willing to accept the authors' premises and suspend judgment about the veracity and solvency of those premises.
Still, one is a wacky corner of actual Christianity (although LaHaye's and Jenkins's corner arguably comprises a sizeable chunk of the room right now), while the other is a different religion altogether:
Now, if push came to shove, I'd choose to be in the trenches with LaHaye and Jenkins over Brown any day. Despite serious disagreements, we share essential beliefs and I have no doubt about where they stand. Not so with Brown, whose hip and popular postmodern cant is syncretistic, often incoherent, and thoroughly relativistic.
What a shame that a book on Christianity as it has actually been practiced for the past two millennia can't seem to crack the best-seller list.

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