Communicator (communicator) wrote,

in praise of slacktivist

slacktivist is an American evangelical Christian, whose blog I admire. Since September 2003 he has been systematically deconstructing a single book, in this series of posts which I try to catch up with weekly (in blog style those are in reverse chronological order, of you follow that link). It is a phenomenal work of analytical reading - in the three and a half years he has been producing this account, he has covered fewer than three hundred pages of a single book.

And is it a good book? No, it's a crappy book, possibly one of the worst ever written. If I say it's considerably worse than the Da Vinci Code you'll understand how much I despise it. The book is the first of the Left Behind series of novels. The action takes place just after the 'Rapture' which has spirited all the children and foetuses on Earth, and a few select evangelical Christian adults, up to heaven. In the world that remains the United Nations is taken over by the anti Christ ('Nikolai Carpathia of Roumania') and his evil scientist sidekick ('Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig of Israel').

Here is slacktivist's impassioned introduction to his massive work of criticism:

The cultural standard bearer for these Very Bad Ideas is the "Left Behind" series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. These books have become so popular that every pastor in America is now confronted with the task of gently, pastorally explaining to their congregation why the theology of these books is misguided and misguiding... These books are evil, anti-Christian crap. This weekend, I'm beginning a new series of posts in which I'll go through these books, page by page. Millions of your fellow citizens are reading these books. Millions.

As you know I am not a Christian, but I am interested in slacktivist's dense, compassionate, detailed unpicking of this book. He unpicks the morality, the language, the characterisation, the plotting, and (not that I care about this) the theology. It's very impressive.

It's difficult to recommend a way in to this massive critique slacktivist has created over the years. One question it raises for me is about the banality of evil, or perhaps the evil of banality. For me the ugly shallowness of the book is part of why it is wrong. The latest post is about how crappy the science fiction element is, and there's a lot of good discussion in the comments. Obviously idiotic science fiction writing isn't automatically artistic and moral failure, but is it completely independent of it? It's almost a symptom of the shallowness and the lazy ignorance of the book.

My final hanging question is whether it is fair to link crap writing to bad morality. Is it as unfair as linking an evil character to an ugly face? Or is compassion and empathy part of what makes writing good?
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