Tim LaHaye, evangelical leader and co-writer of ‘Left Behind’, dead at 90

Tim LaHaye, the evangelical leader known for his conservative politics as well as the hit series “Left Behind”, has died at age 90, his ministry has announced.

LaHaye died Monday at a San Diego-area hospital after recently suffering a stroke, his ministry said.

“As thrilled as I am to have him where he always wanted to be, his passing leaves a void in my soul that I don’t expect to fill until I see him again,” said co-writer Jerry B. Jenkins in a statement on the death of his doomsday series co-writer.

LaHaye and Beverly, his 69-year-old wife, were an evangelical power couple, with him serving as a pastor, religious broadcaster and founder of Christian high schools and its founder Concerned Women for America, a prominent conservative organization.

“Between his theology and the writing ability of his co-author Jerry Jenkins, the two have truly managed to capture the popular imagination,” said Marcia Z. Nelson, editor and former book reviews editor. on religion at Publishers Weekly.

The “Left Behind” series, a modern morality tale, tells how an airline captain tried to find his family – and struggled with his own failures – after believers were suddenly “abducted” to heaven and the unbelievers were left to face tribulations on earth.

The series was first published in 1995, as the new millennium approached, causing anxiety among end-time believers as well as others. LaHaye’s contributions to these books made his apocalyptic theology more appealing and accessible to a more general readership.

“To a certain extent, I think it felt like the right time, right place because it started in the mid-’90s,” Nelson said. “I really think there’s a definite connection between this kind of widespread anxiety about what’s going to happen and the popularity of the ‘Left Behind’ books.”

In 1999, “Apollyon” was the first Christian fiction title to move from Christian bestseller lists to general lists, spending several weeks on both The New York Times and USA today bestseller lists.

LaHaye had long been a proponent of relying on the Bible for prophetic messages.

“Everyone wants to know the future and there’s a lot of talk, but only the Bible gives concrete answers,” LaHaye said in a 2005 article by Religion News Service. “What people don’t realize is that 28% of the Bible was prophetic at the time it was written. There are over 1,000 prophecies in the Bible, half of which have already been fulfilled.”

One of his key roles in American politics was to encourage the late Reverend Jerry Falwell Sr. to create the Moral Majority, urging previously reluctant conservative Christians to voice their values ​​and opinions. LaHaye had gathered Southern California pastors to counter the progressives, but thought a national organization should be formed.

More recently, he helped gain evangelistic support for former President George W. Bush and was known as a spiritual advisor to former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Beyond the 16-book “Left Behind” series, LaHaye has written dozens of other books, on topics such as family life, Bible prophecy and critiques of secular humanism, which have sold out. millions of copies.

In 2001, the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals named him “the most influential American evangelical of the past 25 years”. He quoted the series of books from the 1970s and 1980s he had written about the “battles” for evangelicals: “The Battle for the Spirit”, “The Battle for the Family” and “The Battle for Public Schools”. .

Christian author Tom Sine criticized LaHaye’s role with the religious right, but concurred with the institute’s finding, saying he had been influential in promoting the “politics of fear”.

“Tim LaHaye became such a dominant influence in American Christian culture because he defined the terms of America’s culture war,” wrote Sine, author of “Cease Fire: Searching for Sanity in America’s Culture War,” in a 2001 article in Sojourners, responding to recent designation by ISAE.

The son of a Detroit autoworker, LaHaye was an Air Force veteran and a graduate of the ultra-conservative Bob Jones University. He pastored churches in South Carolina and Minnesota before moving to California. He led Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego County for 25 years, expanding it to three locations, including Shadow Mountain Community Church, an evangelical mega-church in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon.

“Tim was one of the most godly men I have ever known,” said David Jeremiah, the current senior pastor at El Cajon Church. “Almost every conversation I had with him ended with him praying with me and for me.”

Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, praised LaHaye for the range of his contributions.

“Dr. LaHaye has blessed the church in America with a legacy that will far outlast his time on this earth,” he said. “The principled stance he took on countless issues impacted the social, cultural and political landscape for generations. He was a unique kind of leader who paved the way for future generations. “

The last tweets before his death was announced on LaHaye’s Twitter account were two quoting Matthew’s Gospel about focusing on heaven rather than earth.

“Do not store treasures here on earth where they can erode or be stolen,” they read. “Keep them in heaven where they will never lose their value and safe from thieves. If your profits are in heaven, so will your heart.”

Barry F. Howard