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BOOK REVIEWS 675 Graham and the new evangelicals:' the students of the Moody BibleInstitute and of Wheaton College (202) and evangelical Christians throughout the United States to the Quietism espoused by Madame Guyon and Fenelon. Karen Pagani The University ofTexas at Austin Writing the Rapture: Prophecy Fiction in Evangelical America. By Crawford Gribben. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-532660-4. Pp. xi + 258. $29.95. Catapulting dispensational premillenial theology into the American cultural mainstream, the 16-part Left Behind series has spawned children's adaptations, a controversial video game, and such audacious parodies asKissmy Left Behind (2003) and Supergeddon: A Really Big Geddon (2003). In Writing the Rapture: Prophecy Fiction in Evangelical America, Crawford Gribben deftly charts the evolution of the genre throughout the twentieth century, from its heterodox beginnings until its culmination and exhaustion in the best-selling Left Behind phenomenon (19952007 ). Claiming that the genre can be read as a "barometer of cultural and political attitudes within the evangelical movement:' Gribben persuasively contends that prophecy fiction challenges cherished American ideals at the same time that it justifies-and occasionally questions-evangelical ideals (21). The staggering popularity of the genre at the end of the twentieth century not only dramatizes the cultural mainstreaming of conservative Christianity, but also reveals the startling extent to which fiction increasingly shapes theological and eschatological beliefs that were once fashioned by non-fiction such as Hal Lindsey's TheLate Great Planet Earth (1970). Gribben's cultural analysis opens with an examination of the eccentric and ethnocentric prophecy novels at the turn of the twentieth century, including Joseph Burroughs' Titan, Son ofSaturn (1905) and Milton Stine's The Devils Bride (1910), the former playing upon Nativist fears of immigration and the latter decrying the rampant capitalism of the robber barons. The second chapter traces the "orthodox consolidation of prophecy fiction" in the second decade of the twentieth century, investigating novels such as Joshua Foster'santi-Catholic Judgment Day (1910) and Sidney Watson's popular trilogy (1913-1916), which established recurring motifs and tropes for the genre, including a journalist as protagonist and an emphasis on political Zionism that is often counterbalanced by anti-Semitic themes. As the third and fourth chapters reveal, prophetic fiction and non-fiction in the mid to late century viewed the establishment of Israel as a fulfillment of prophecy and treated Communism as the ultimate threat, although fears of an international cabal of conspirators, Freemasons, and non-literal biblical critics lurk in the background. 676 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE The geopolitical repercussions that surrounded the demise of Communism led American evangelicals to look internally for enemies, finding in the rise of syncretistic "New Age"philosophies another nemesis to combat. Though his novels did not privilege eschatological themes, Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness (1986) and Piercing the Darkness (1989) emphasized angelic and demonic warfare with outcomes that could be influenced by the prayers of believers-an innovative vision of evangelical and Pentecostal activism that ultimately led to renewed political action in the public sphere, as exemplified by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. The fifth chapter's consideration of Peretti's and Robertson's fiction also reveals a striking example of the escalating influence of fiction upon theology; during a study at MacMaster University, Paul Bramadat noticed that his student interviewees "were more likely to cite Peretti than the Bible" when discussing the unseen spiritual realm (114). Gribben's sixth chapter scrutinizes Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' Left Behind series, in which the problematic representations of Jews, Catholics, and Muslims sparked as much controversy as the video game adaptation, in which players gain points for executing Muslim and Jewish enemies. In his final chapter, Gribben explores James BeauSeigneur's Christ Clone trilogy (1997-98), perhaps the most artistically accomplished of the genre, and interrogates Jerry Jenkins' dystopian thriller Soon (2003), which promotes the militarization of evangelicals in isolationist compounds. Gribben's perceptive study provides an insightful analysis of the cultural contexts and literary traditions of a "genre" invented by "evangelicals;' and to which scholars-with the exception of a few such as Amy Frykholm-have paid very little attention in the past. I use the terms "genre" and "evangelical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 675-677
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-14
Open Access
No
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