I was just browsing through the local newpaper and noticed what seemed to me to be an ironic juxtiposition of two books on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Under fiction, the number 4 ranked best seller is Tim LaHaye's and Jerry Jenkin's The Rapture, the lastest installment in their "Left Behind" series (actually the new prequel series to Left Behind). Will their nonsense never stop??!--I guess not, not as long as Christians (and non-Christians, too!) keep wanting to buy this drivel.
What's very interesting to me, though, is that right alongside The Rapture, the number 1 best seller this week under non-fiction is Ann Coulter's Godless-- a book that exposes the religious nature of political liberalism. I have been reading Coulter's book myself with great delight. Though her satire is sometimes too biting for my taste, her analysis of liberal ideology seems to me to be right on the money.
But why do I find the juxtipostion of these two books so interesting? Both books are written by Christians, both books are no doubt being read by many conservative Christians (with approval of their respective theological messages, no doubt). And yet, the underlying theological themes of each book couldn't be more different! The Left Behind books teach a particular view of the relationship between Christianity and earthly culture that is patently pessimistic. The world is going to Hell in a handbasket, and all that poor persecuted Christians can do is hang on for the rapture. There is no call for cultural engagement, no need to be salt and light so as to transform human culture and make it better as we wait for Jesus' return.
Coulter, on the other hand, seems to care very much about cultural engagement (she's actually doing it!). She has written several books, including Godless, in which she challenges unbiblical thinking in the political realm; she is "destroying arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God." It seems to me that Coulter's approach to Christ and Culture is much closer to the Bible's view than LaHaye's and Jenkin's. Many Christians may not agree with her approach or with some of her political views, but she is nonetheless seeking to fulfill the Bible's cultural mandate.
The irony, though, is that Christian readers like both books and yet have no clue that their underlying presuppostions about the Christian's relation to culture are completely contradictory. Go figure.