I suppose it should come as no surprise, but the rhetoric of victimization is back on the religious right, with a vengeance. Today Brody is retailing a War on America’s Religious Roots that is taking place, horrors, in the new Capitol Visitors Center. It was back in September that Sen. Jim Demint (R-SC) expressed his outrage at the outrage, and now National Review Online’s John J. Miller has taken up the hue and cry. Not to mention, of all people, Newt Gingrich, who by way of hawking his new book, Rediscovering God in America, and whatever other less than holy end he has in mind, is soliciting online signatures for a petition that reads in toto:
We the undersigned petition Congress to ensure that the new Capitol Visitor Center is historically correct and accurately reflects the centrality of “our Creator” in the founding of America and in its historic development.
Of course, this unholy secularization of the national past cannot be laid at the feet of the newly elected president. For the spectre of Obamaism, you’d best turn back to Focus on the Family’s “Letter from 2012,” which in late October laid out the horror that would be America in four years if Obama were elected. While the letter was designed to gin up votes for McCain-Palin, it provides a fascinating panorama of the strange and hostile land that the religious right would have its constituents believe they are living in when Democrats come to power.
In many ways, the famous Left Behind series, which got off the ground in 1995, should be understood as intended to create this view of Life under Democratic Rule. The novels offer a fictionalized version of the End Times that does not concern itself with the good Christians who are raptured away on the 21st page of the first volume. Instead, as is traditional in this genre of imaginative literature (and such a genre does exist), the focus is on those who have been, well, left behind. And what consumes the series is the struggle of a small band of heroes—the Tribulation Force—to combat the evil empire of the Antichrist by creating a world-wide movement known as the Christian Collective.
That it is somewhat theologically irregular for some of those who are not raptured to manage to get a second chance at salvation—no Christian left behind, as it were—has been noted with asperity by some conservative theological critics of the series. But, I venture to say, the significance of Left Behind premillennialism in constructing this world lies not so much in theologically correct apocalypticism as in a vision of Christians as a beleaguered but resourceful body of warrior pilgrims, working together to defeat the powers and principalities even as they work alone on their individual salvation. Back in the mid-1990s, the stand-in for Antichrist was Bill Clinton. Now he figures to be Barack Obama.