Christian book series leaves fans waiting for more installments

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 25, 2000

VIDALIA, La. — Books are flying off the shelves, and enthusiastic fans can’t wait for the next edition in the popular series. Forget Harry Potter. It is a cast of Christian characters called the &uot;Tribulation Force&uot; that has captivated millions of readers over the past few years — including Peggy Moncrief.

&uot;I’ve been reading them since the series first started,&uot; said Moncrief, secretary at Vidalia First Baptist Church. &uot;I haven’t read anything I thought was unscriptural.&uot;

For Moncrief, and many readers like her, the books, have reinforced her faith.

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Written by an experienced novelist and a Christian author, the books are part thriller, part scriptural text. Beginning with &uot;Left Behind,&uot; published in 1995, they follow a group of characters who were left behind by the Rapture and are now battling the antichrist.

The Rapture, described in Revelations, is what many Christians believe will happen just before Jesus’ second coming.

&uot;The idea of the endtimes is based on Jesus’ promise to his disciples that he will come back for them,&uot; said the Rev. Ron Stoker, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church. &uot;It is the time between Jesus’ first coming and Jesus’ second coming.&uot;

The &uot;Left Behind&uot; series may be one of the first examples of Christian fiction to break into the mainstream. This week, the paperback version first book in the so-far seven-book series sat at No. 10 on The New York Times Bestsellers list.

&uot;(The books have) made me more interested in endtimes,&uot; Moncrief said. &uot;It’s helped me understand Revelations better.&uot;

The books are entertaining — something that Moncrief thinks hooks people who wouldn’t necessarily read that kind of book. &uot;People that aren’t really serious about picking up the Bible will read this,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s the book you could read before you go to bed. The problem is, you can’t put it down.&uot;

Stoker, who has read parts of the &uot;Left Behind&uot; series, said the book has accomplished its intent if it encourages people to read scripture. &uot;If it drives people to study the Bible for themselves, it’s done a good job,&uot; Stoker said. &uot;But we’ve got to remember it’s fiction.&uot;