Monday, January 19, 2009

Left Behind as Evangelical Pornography

This paper that I wrote has been floating around the Internet for awhile, and it was recently deleted and then reposted at The Matthews House Project (due to a site redesign), so I decided I better put a direct link here and give a bit of provenance history.

I originally wrote the core of this paper for a session on Children's Literature at an academic conference (I think it saw SAMLA) in the mid 1990s. I got good responses to it, but life intervened, and I eventually submitted it to an academic journal (the title of which I recall but won't mention) focused on cultural studies. They asked me to revise the paper (which is usually a precursor to publication), and it was in response to their request that I added the sections with a bit more history of the terms "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" as well as the stuff on Sedgwick and "paranoid readings." Unfortunately, at the last moment, the paper was dropped from the special issue, and it went back in the drawer until a year or so later. At that time, I made an off hand reference to having written the paper at a discussion board for faith and the arts (in a thread about Little House on the Prairie, my contributions to which [the thread, not the show] have since been deleted). Another reader of that web site, Mike Leary, asked if he could read the paper, and he eventually passed it on to Zach Kincaid at The Matthews House Project. A number of people read it there and linked to it, but those links became inactive when MHP redesigned its website, and Zach is gradually reposting some of the cataloged content, including this essay.

For what it is worth, the phrase "evangelical pornography" was coined (as far as I know), by my wife, Cindy, who used it to describe Left Behind after having read Louise J. Kaplan's Female Perversions. Since that time, it's become chic to add "pornography" or "porn" to any number of genre titles, pretty much stripping it of its distinctive descriptive power, and I've even heard one or two people attribute the origin of this phrase to Os Guinness or Rick Warren. One or both of them may have used the phrase, though I couldn't find any reference to it by Guinness in print. A Google search of the term, will, I think, reinforce the timeline claims I've made here.

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