On the Lived Theology Reading List: Rapture Culture

Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America, by Amy Johnson FrykholmLeft Behind in Evangelical America

In Rapture Culture, Amy Johnson Frykholm explores the remarkable phenomenon of “rapture fiction,” a genre popularized by the Left Behind series. Depicting the rapture and subsequent apocalypse, the main characters of the series suffer through a world ruled by the antichrist, one that is wracked with plagues, famine, and suffering. The series culminates with Christ’s return and the defeat of the antichrist, showcasing a scenario that is anticipated by millions of American evangelicals. The genre is wildly popular, with Left Behind having over 40 million copies now in print, and in Rapture Culture Frykholm explores why the idea of the rapture itself is so compelling.

Tracing the evolution of the genre of rapture fiction, Frykholm notes that at one time such narratives expressed a sense of alienation from modern life and protest against the loss of tradition and the marginalization of conservative religious views. Yet even as evangelism has gained popularity and the themes become obsolete, the genre has yet to see a correlated decline. In order to explain this, Frykholm argues that the books provide a sense of identification and communal belonging that counters the “social atomization” that characterizes modern life. This also helps explain why they appeal to female readers, despite the deeply patriarchal worldview they promote. Drawing on extensive interviews with readers of the novels, Rapture Culture sheds light on a mindset that is little understood and far more common than many of us suppose.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“An informative, brightly written analysis of apocalyptic sentiment on the popular level. This is a most interesting book and an important contribution to the growing literature on evangelicalism.” —Randall Balmer, author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America

Rapture Culture offers fresh and illuminating insights into one of the most significant cultural phenomena of our era, the explosion of interest in biblical prophecies of the end times. Drawing on in-depth interviews, Amy Johnson Frykholm shrewdly explores the popular reception of the bestselling Left Behind prophecy novels as readers share their responses in the context of family, church, and other social networks. This eminently readable book explores the interaction of contemporary American religion, cultural politics, gender issues, and the mass media. Highly recommended.” —Paul S. Boyer, author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture

“This fascinating book is a one-of-a-kind look at how people read religious literature. Thoroughly engaging, it asks us to consider the importance of imagination in the construction of a spiritual life. The author gives us an inside view of often conflicting interpretations that Christians give of the drama of the End Times.” —Colleen McDannell, author of Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America

For more information on the publication, click here.

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