Tim LaHaye, an evangelist who shaped the modern Religious Right and wanted to be a science fiction author, died yesterday at the age of 90.
LaHaye is probably best known for co-authoring the Left Behind series, which branded itself as a fictionalization of events that haven’t happened yet. Those events, of course, just happen to be a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation, down to the locusts and rivers of blood. “We believe that God has raised up America to be a tool in these last days, to get the Gospel to the innermost parts of the earth,” he told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in 2005. Well, maybe.
Not only was he responsible for unleashing Left Behind upon the world (much the way the Four Horsemen will allegedly spread famine, plague, war and death), he founded the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and published a number of books on the subject. That career made him a fixture in the Religious Right—and a magnet for controversy.
In an essay for Christianity Today, his Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins bemoaned the fact that his friend will be remembered for being “opinionated, polemic, a right-wing conservative fundamentalist—and some will even accuse him of homophobia.” He’ll be remembered that way because he was that way. LaHaye didn’t just peddle apocalyptic paranoia; he also earned millions of dollars agitating against equal rights for women and LGBT people. “A large percentage of women’s and children’s attire is designed by homosexuals, who can hardly be expected to highlight the differences between the sexes. Because the mother is so feminine, what she considers ‘darling’ or ‘cute’ may really be harmful for a boy,” he wrote in his 1977 classic, Understanding The Male Temperament. In that same book, he urged men to consider what it would be like to be under “submission…on a 24-hour basis, 365 days a year.”
“That is exactly what God demands of your wife,” he explained.
Homosexuality proved a bit of a fixation for this man of god: He published a book titled The Unhappy Gays in 1987. In it, he attributed near-supernatural powers to the LGBT community, asserting that they have a “hidden language and means of communication unknown by straights” and are “the best liars you will ever meet.”
The only entity LaHaye hated almost as much as he hated LGBT people was the Roman Catholic Church. He repeatedly argued that Catholics “worship” the pope and therefore engage in idol worship. As Americans United Communications Director Rob Boston reported back in 2002, LaHaye also believed that the Catholic Church was the “whore of Babylon” described in his favorite book of the Bible and would usher in Armageddon due to its heresy.
If that all sounds a bit like a rejected Dan Brown novel pitch, buckle in. LaHaye also believed the Illuminati controlled world events, presumably for the benefit of Lucifer. Jenkins neglected to mention that in yesterday’s essay.
LaHaye’s bizarre views make it even more remarkable that he managed to wield significant influence in the Religious Right before his death. He co-founded the powerful Council for National Policy and his wife, Beverly, founded Concerned Women for America.
The contemporary Religious Right owes its character in large part to LaHaye’s work. He urged conservative evangelicals to participate in right-wing politics—then stoked the nascent movement’s obsession with the End Times and its opposition to feminism and rights for LGBT people. Sadly, that tragic legacy will long outlast him.