'Left Behind' author Jerry Jenkins on God and September 11
Jerry B. Jenkins is the author of the "Left Behind" book series conceived by Tim LaHaye. Jenkins is the author of eleven New York Times best-selling books, including all eight of the "Left Behind" series, and biographies about baseball pitchers Orel Hershiser and Nolan Ryan. He joined the CNN.com chat room from Colorado.
CNN: What was your own experience and reaction to the event?
JERRY JENKINS: We were in midtown Manhattan and I was doing media on a new book. We were having breakfast at our hotel. My chief of staff was there with my wife and I. He got a call from his wife here in Colorado Springs who told him what had happened. This was after just the first plane had hit, and like most people, we thought it was an accident or a small plane. We rushed to a TV, and we were watching when the second plane hit. We went outside, and from the corner of 5th Avenue we could see the smoke.
Of course, at that point, you realize immediately that it's a terrorist attack, because it was two of them, and they were big planes. In one sense, in spite of the fact that we were just several blocks north, I think our experience was the same as anyone else watching on television. It seemed surreal, and of course terrifying. As you heard about the Pentagon, then, and the plane in Pittsburgh, we just wondered when it would end. It's hard to believe that it's been three weeks already.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Have you heard of more people taking an interest in the "Left Behind" books since September 11?
JENKINS: Yes. The publisher told us just a couple of days ago that the sales pace, which has been really strong for the last several years -- we generally sell about a half-million copies of the series every month -- actually doubled since September 11. I'm about to go on my second book tour since the attacks, and these tours are not for a "Left Behind" book, and yet the bookstores are telling me that they hope I won't cancel, as most authors have, since it's been hard to travel. They said that customers are calling and saying that they realize that I'm touring for my novel called "Hometown Legend," but they hope that they can ask questions about the "Left Behind" series, and how these end times issues might tie in with that.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: I was wondering about your thoughts on martyrdom. You portray Christian martyrs in your most recent books as being tremendously heroic. Have the acts of September 11 changed that image somewhat?
JENKINS: In contrast to these so-called terrorist martyrs, the people in the "Left Behind" novels who die for their faith are really dying in heroic ways. They're not obviously killing innocent people, but they're the ones that are truly suffering for their faith. Readers who are really familiar with our stories realize that there can be no comparison between the believers in "Left Behind," and these clearly misguided zealots who were behind these attacks.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: How do the events of September 11 tie into the "end times," and are there any Biblical references that point to what has happened?
JENKINS: I don't think that Bible prophecy specifically referred to this incident, but there's a fairly well-known passage in the New Testament where Jesus' disciples are asking Him about when the end will come. He tells them, "You'll hear of wars and rumors of wars, and nation rising against nation." Clearly, that's what we saw, and yet Jesus went on to say that that would not be the end, but rather the beginning of the end. Because God has such a different economy of time than we do, He could wait one more day, and to us it could seem like a thousand years, because scripture also says that to Him, a thousand years is as a day.
So, while these events that happened clearly appear to fit an "end times" scenario, I'm not predicting that the end is right around the corner. Most prophecy experts believe that there's nothing left to be fulfilled on the prophecy calendar before the return of Christ, except possibly the gospel being preached to every nation. In my opinion, that was fulfilled when the National Prayer Service was broadcast around the world.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: A lot of people have been asking where God was that day. How would you answer that?
JENKINS: God was where He always is. He remains sovereign, and all-powerful. He remains loving and caring personally about everyone He created. Clearly, He allows tragedies that we can't fathom. This is not original with me, but I heard somebody say that we have to decide in essence how much of God we want. We've spent several decades making it clear that He's not welcome in our schools or in our government or in public, and ironically, now it takes a horrible tragedy like this for us to wish He were more visible in our lives.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is your opinion of certain religious leaders casting blame on certain groups for the attacks: homosexuals, pro-abortionists, etc?
JENKINS: I think those were clearly misguided and unthinking comments, and even those who said those things are now admitting that. I think the blame for these atrocious acts belongs to those who committed them. Some people point to Old Testament passages, where God allowed His chosen people's enemies to win over them, because they had been disobedient, but it's a stretch to try to point the finger at certain people in our society when looking for somewhere to direct our anger over these incidents.
CNN: As a novelist, did you feel the events were something that could have come out of one of your books?
JENKINS: That really was one of my first reactions, and I've heard that probably every day since from different readers. I was born after World War II, so this kind of chaos and tragedy has always been separated from me by decades and oceans. To have this happen on our own shores, and for me to be within several blocks of it even made some of my own fiction more realistic to me.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: In light of what has happened, will the "Left Behind" series be written any differently?
JENKINS: I don't think it will be. These are set in the future, and so any specific reference to 9-11-01 would artificially date the story. I do think that what happened just makes what we're writing about seem all that more plausible to readers.
CNN: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us?
JENKINS: I appreciate being invited, and it's been good to interact with the audience. I would like to conclude by revisiting the point I made about how interesting it is that it took something like these attacks to all of a sudden make God "okay" again. Senators are singing "God Bless America," people are praying in public, and strangers talk to each other about where God is. I just hope we maintain that curiosity and sensitivity.
CNN: Thank you for joining us.
JENKINS: Thanks again for having me.
Jerry Jenkins joined the chat room via telephone from Colorado and CNN.com provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Wednesday, October 03, 2001 at 12 p.m. EDT.
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