Jerry Jenkins: Soon

Well, good afternoon everybody. Thanks for joining me this afternoon. You know, the Left Behind series, along with his sports biographies, have established Jerry Jenkins as arguably one of the most successful and established writers today. And of course, he is a follower of Jesus. His newest book, Soon, is a suspense thriller that argues before millions were left behind they couldn’t see it coming soon.

Q. Jerry, it’s great to have you with us today.
A. Thanks, Dick. Always good to be with you.

Q. You know, Left Behind really ¢€œ just to go back for a minute ¢€œ was really kind of a bit of a surprise. I mean, the original concept was-was a book about the end times, but you guys did not have an idea that this was going to take off like it did.
A. Oh sure. We thought it would sell 55 million copies.

Q. Doesn’t everybody when they sit down and write a book?
A. Actually, we thought that we had something pretty good and that it might do 100,000 or 200,000 copies. And we would have been thrilled with that.

Q. Yeah.
A. But this phenomenon, one thing it does is it makes it impossible for us to try to take any credit for it, you know. I mean, after awhile you just have to admit that it’s¢â‚¬¦ Somebody else is involved here.

Q. Yeah. When-when¢â‚¬¦ I mean, I know there have been a lot of research projects and a lot of, you know, informal and more formal looks at why the Left Behind series tapped into American life. What are you thinking about it after you’ve kind of seen the success of the series, you’ve read the articles, you’ve-you’ve heard the different theories? Why did the public, both Christian and-and those outside of the faith, find something absolutely captivating about Left Behind? Because it’s¢â‚¬¦ Obviously, it was not the first, nor will it be the last, end times series. So there were other end times series out there that didn’t do this.
A. That’s right. Yeah, I think it was the great writing. No, I’m kidding. I think that, you know, I think there is a God-hunger out there and-and people are looking for things beyond themselves. They’re buying books by the Pope and the Dalai Lama and the, you know, healing gurus. But as you say, there are other ones like this. You know, part of me is gratified that the fiction itself must work in some fundamental way.

Q. Yeah.
A. Because people care about the characters, they keep turning the pages, they want to know what happens next. And past that, it’s something that, you know, without sounding too cliché, I mean, God clearly had his hand on this and wanted it to go.

Q. Yeah. It’s a phenomenal thing. And what’s interesting is, you know, here we are on 911, another anniversary of 911, and-and the Left Behind series came out before 911. But I think 911 created even more of an appetite for the kind of things and issues that you dealt with in the Left Behind series and are dealing with in this, in the book Soon, which is the one we’ll be talking about here.
A. Yeah, I think that’s true. And we had a-we had a spike in sales, especially of the non-fiction book, Are We Living in the End Times? —

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ through the end of September, two years ago. But of course, the series was already going crazy, and it’s stayed at that pace since then. But I think it did set the stage, as you say, for Soon. Because what I’m dealing with here is the potential loss of our right to practice our faith.

Q. Yeah.
A. And at first with 911 we were all encouraged, because it seemed like all of a sudden God was okay with everything again.

Q. Yeah.
A. But you know, God was okay but Jesus wasn’t, because now we’re getting into something divisive and exclusivistic ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and it behooves, I think, Evangelicals to find some way to express, This is what we believe is the truth, and yet we want people to know it breaks our hearts, too. You know, for us to be smug and condescending and say, Well, Jesus is the only way to God. That’s what the Bible says. Good for me, too bad for you, that’s going to turn people to the point where they don’t want to hear any of it.

Q. Well, and interestingly enough, it is-it is being asked. I mean, just last Friday night Dr. James Dobson was on-on-on Larry King Live. And kind of out of left field because they were talking about the Ten Commandments, Larry King says, Well, are Jews going to go to heaven? And you got right into this kind of exclusivistic claims of Jesus which Larry King ¢€œ I don’t know if you saw it ¢€œ but he kind of came back at James Dobson about it. And the idea that we have that Jesus meant what he said when he said he was the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father but by him, is-is a fact of our faith. And yet as you say, it’s one that doesn’t play well in a relativistic society, and one that we haven’t maybe been as attentive as we should have to expressing in ways that show compassion for-for people that are not followers of Jesus.
A. Yeah. We can’t shrink from that truth, and yet we have to find ways to say it, because the truth of it alone is offensive.

Q. Yeah.
A. I mean, across the fence, it divides.

Q. Yeah.
A. But when we sit with our thumbs in our lapels and say, Well, that’s what it says then you know, so there they are ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. I tried to express it when I was on ABC. I said, when the guy said to me, So you have friends that you admire and like and they’re devout in other faiths ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ but you believe that they’re going to be left behind or that they’re going to go to hell. And I said, That’s my fear. That’s what I read.

Q. Yeah.
A. And I may not like it. In fact, if I were God maybe I wouldn’t have done it that way.

Q. You know, as you’ve been kind of traveling in those higher echelons and those kind of national media opportunities on shows that don’t usually have someone who’s a clear Evangelical, what is your kind of sense of what is going on? I mean, are they having you on just because you’re a best-seller? Or once you get there are they really, is there a kind of an intrigue about-about the stuff that you’re talking about?
A. I think at first it’s because they’re finally recognizing the phenomena of the sales. And then, I think they’re halfway hoping that I’m going to be one of the typical sort of polemic Evangelicals ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ who does sit there and sort of smugly say, you know, This is it, that’s what it says, too bad for you. And when I-when I say, Look. You know, I realize this is offensive and I realize that not everybody is going to accept this, but I feel my job is to share this news and what they do with it is up to them.

Q. Yeah.
A. But if they reject it I would still pray for them, still love them, still associate with them. And then they’re intrigued, sort of like wow, this is sort of not what we expected to hear.

Q. And as you examine your own heart ¢€œ and that’s a very difficult thing to do ¢€œ would you have ever really sought the kind of breakthrough opportunity that you’ve had? I mean, you are getting in places that there’s no way you can prepare for them. But is it something that you would ever have thought would make sense for you to be in that place?
A. I probably wouldn’t have picked me as the one to be in this. In fact, I wouldn’t have picked me as the writer, you know. I mean, it’s sort of like¢â‚¬¦ I’ve said to people, and this sounds like false modesty, but I’ve said to people, you know, I really wish if God was going to do this he’d have picked a better writer for it, you know? And yet I guess, you know, I have been prepared for that part of it. And as far as the sharing, you know, of those truths on the air, in some ways God does prepare me. I remember being on some of the morning shows where you’ve only got, you know, 30 seconds. And when the person asks the question they look away, they’re reading their notes, they’re listening to their ear phone. And you’re trying to explain this. And then they cut you off and keep going. But when I got on the Nightline show, it was a longer program, and the guy gave me eye contact, really wanted to hear, and it was the same questions. And I finally had time to answer them. So I think God was in that.

Q. What are the essential questions? If you had to summarize the thrust of what you’re hearing in common from-from those types of interviews, what are they-where are they scratching? Where are they itching?
A. Well, they really hone in on the whole idea of, you know, you believe that Jesus is the only way to God. What does that say in our pluralistic society, in our tolerant, you know, age ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ about, you know, so you’re better? You-you’ve got the inside track and everybody else is going to hell. They-they really love¢â‚¬¦ I mean, it would be more newsworthy for-for us to just trumpet that and act proud about it and smug about it. And I try to say, you know, there should be no smugness. It should break our hearts.

Q. Yeah.
A. And yet we need to share this because we do believe it.

Q. Yeah. In a certain way ¢€œ and I’ll say this because you can’t ¢€œ I think you-you were prepared for this kind of role simply because you’ve always kind of had a self-deprecating humor, you’ve had a sensitivity within and towards those outside of the faith, you-you’ve been kind of in the-in the solidly Evangelical Christian camp. But you’ve also been very cordial and a bridge-builder to those outside of it. And-and you’ve thought about language a lot and you’ve thought about how to communicate truth in ways that preserve the truth but build bridges with it. And so, in that sense, I think it’s great that you’ve had that opportunity.

We’re going to be back and talk with Jerry Jenkins about his new book, Soon. It is-it’s coming out soon, next Tuesday. It’s published by Tyndale and available in your local bookstores and online and, well, just about everywhere you look you’re going to see this book. And pick up a copy. We’re going to be back right after this. Don’t go away.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re with Jerry Jenkins, best-selling author of a number of books including the Left Behind series. He’s got a new one out titled Soon: The Beginning of the End.

Q. And-and Jerry, in an odd sort of way, here we are on the second anniversary of September 11th. September 11th does play a part in-in-in this book Soon. We’ll get to that in just a moment. But take me back to two years ago, where you were on September the 11th, as long as most of us are thinking about that today. Where were you and what was your reaction that day?
A. Well, strangely, we were in Manhattan. And my wife and my chief of staff and our publicist were having a breakfast meeting with a publisher. And I’d had a book that was re-released just the day before. That was good timing.

Q. Yeah. Which book was that?
A. It was Hometown Legend.

Q. Oh, yeah.
A. And I had been interviewed by Bryant Gumpel for the morning show. We were going to air it in a couple weeks and, of course, that’s never seen the light of day.

Q. Yeah.
A. But my chief of staff got a call from his wife here in Colorado Springs and she said, Did you see what happened? And so we-we ran to a television.

Q. Now, how far were you from the Trade Center?
A. We were in mid-town, so we were about 30 blocks north.

Q. And you didn’t hear anything.
A. We didn’t hear it, but as soon as we went outside we could see the smoke already.

Q. Yeah.
A. And¢â‚¬¦

Q. Now, were there a lot of people in the street by that time?
A. There were. And-and people were ¢€œ they couldn’t have already reached us from down there, but people who had been heading that way were now heading back.

Q. Yeah.
A. And they were turning people away and stuff. But that was even before the second plane hit. And so we first thought, well, it’s just a crazy accident. Some new pilot is, you know, lost his way. And then, of course, we get the news that the second one hit, and then everybody knew what happened. And we were stranded in Manhattan for probably 30 hours. We finally were able to get a car and get out. But it was really frightening.

Q. Now, how did you spend that time?
A. Well, in strange ways, some of it was very normal and some of it was just sort of surreal. We-we did spend a lot of time on the streets and heard rumors that were even more bizarre than what happened. I think, people were talking about they’d heard that Chicago had been hit and all of that. And so we thought World War III.

Q. Oh yeah.
A. But then you just kind of hang around. You know, there’s nowhere to go and there’s nothing to do, and so you’re kind of in your hotel room just watching the television.

Q. What was kind of your-your¢â‚¬¦ When you think about yourself as a spiritual person, how did this tap into that element of who you are?
A. Well, I did have a kind of bizarre reaction, especially when the building fell. You know, you’re watching the television and they fall right in front of your eyes.

Q. But you went right in and started watching it like the rest of us, even though you were in New York.
A. Yeah. We would look out the window, we could see the smoke, we could see people stranded in offices, and that type of thing. And-and traffic jams and all that. But I had this thought that, you know, because of the age I am ¢€œ I’ll be 54 this month ¢€œ I was born in, you know, late 1949, and so this kind of tragedy and mayhem I had been separated from by oceans or by decades.

Q. Yeah.
A. And here it was in the very city I was in. And I was thinking, I’ve written about this kind of thing in Left Behind. And of course, I was guessing. If something bad like this happens, I had airports shut down, I had the whole country kind of stalled ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and here it was happening. And I’m saying, you know, this is making it realistic even to me.

Q. So now, now you’re thinking as a writer about where you go next with the projects that you’re working on. And how does 911 become a backdrop, an inevitable backdrop, a point of reference for all of us, it certainly is a common reference for every human being on the planet. I mean, I was in a Dayak village a year ago right now with fairly primitive people that had walked 14 hours to get to the nearest road to talk with us. And they actually were apologizing, not on behalf of themselves, but on behalf of the world and their tribe, for what happened at the World Trade Center. It’s-it’s everywhere. How does it, now, become an element of your thought process as you write?
A. Well, it was a tricky thing for me because of the Left Behind series, because those are set in the future and so you can’t all of a sudden talk about, you know, start talking about 911 because it pre-dates it.

Q. Yeah.
A. But of course, the whole tenor of the thing. It’s all the country’s thought about, in my mind, for the last two years. You can’t shake it. Any time anything happens, when the power goes out you think, you know, was it terrorism? And then for the book Soon, because it’s set in the future after World War III, I refer to 911. And in my story it’s, you know, it happens 45 years before.

Q. Yeah.
A. So people talk about it as something that helped start World War III which, you know, I hope isn’t true, but that’s kind of the scenario.

Q. But now let’s get¢â‚¬¦ First of all, why did you desire to write Soon? What is it that drew you to this story?
A. Well, I saw a couple of letters to the editor of Time magazine after 911, where people said, you know, it’s these religious extremists that have caused all of our wars.

Q. Yeah.
A. If you really study war, you’re looking at people who think God is on their side. Therefore, eradicate religion and you’ll eradicate war. Now, obviously that’s a short-sighted thing. But I got to thinking, as most novelists do, what would that world look like? What would the ramifications really be?

Q. Now, as a person who really knows the lay of the land, and you’re one of those people who does, within Evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity, has it surprised you that-that people in the ¢€œ certainly in the secular media, but even in the broader culture ¢€œ have kind of at some levels bought into the notion that Christians, both fundamentalists and Evangelicals, are extremists and that they’ll even utter it in the same breath with radical Islam? Does that surprise you?
A. In a way it does. And¢â‚¬¦

Q. We’ve done something wrong if people don’t see the distinction. There’s something wrong, clearly.
A. That’s right. And-and of course, people like-like to use those. They’ll-they’ll refer to it, you know¢â‚¬¦ If they don’t like the President they’ll start using, you know, Hitler terms for him.

Q. Yeah.
A. But when people say things like, you know, Falwell and Roberts are not too far from, you know, Osama Bin Laden. You want to go no way in that.

Q. Yeah.
A. They may be polemics, they may be extremists, and they’re definitely fundamentalists, that type of thing, but have they ever killed somebody in the name of their faith? I mean, let’s get serious.

Q. Yeah.
A. So you want to kind of bring them up short and say, you know, This is really wild rhetoric.

Q. But the book, Soon, now ¢€œ and let’s get into it ¢€œ it starts with that kind of premise that there’s been a reaction on the planet to religious types that World War III has taken place, that September 11th, 911, actually is one of the triggers because it brings about the idea of a Muslim Holy War. Now, talk about wading right into it.
A. Yeah.

Q. I mean, is that¢â‚¬¦ When you say, I hope these things aren’t true, I hope they don’t happen, I mean, how-how do we sift through the degree to which you are kind of operating on what is and saying if we keep going this way this might be? And how much is it just going to be an interesting read?
A. Well, I think the former. And that’s my fear. Some people say, you know¢â‚¬¦ I did web chat recently and they said, Now, with Left Behind you and LeHaye are clearly saying this is going to happen someday. What are you saying about Soon? Did God tell you this is going to happen? And I’m saying, No. I’m hoping it won’t, I’m praying it won’t, but we’re on a slippery slope. And if we don’t find compassionate ways to share the truth of John 14:6, or if the tolerance police get their way and tolerate everything except the exclusivity of Christ, we’re going to lose our freedom to share our faith. And this is what’s going to come of it. And I think the premise for Soon is that World War III is so devastating that the planet barely survived it. And everybody said, Whatever we have to do, we have to eliminate war. What does it take? And the international government says, No more religion. And most people say, Fine. You know, if that’s what it takes, you know, ban religion. And only the true believers are, you know, still there and forced underground.

Yeah. Weirdly enough, in preparation for a trip I’m about to make to Cambodia, I watched the movie Killing Fields. And I had forgotten John Lennon’s Imagine song. Imagine no religion, playing as the background, as if that would have eliminated the war in Cambodia. We’re going to be back with more of Jerry Jenkins. His new book is Soon, published by Tyndale. It’s going to be another best-seller. Pick up your own copy and find out why. We’ll be right back.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. It’s always a privilege and a pleasure to talk with Jerry Jenkins. I felt that way even before Left Behind.

Q. I remember those days. And that’s one of the reasons, I think, that actually God had prepared you for where you were headed, because I’ve always appreciated the fact that what is at the core of your life is-is a love and commitment to Christ. And your writing has always grown out of that, and it’s always been an attempt to reach to a broader audience. And I think it’s just wonderful that you’ve been given this opportunity. In this book, Soon, we have a new calendar.
A. Yeah.

Q. Why do we have a new calendar?
A. Well, what I have in Soon is that World War III ends in 2009. And everybody knows the calendar is based on the birth of Christ. And they’re banning religion, so they’re saying, Let’s just start over. Let’s call next year the first year of post-World War III, so it becomes 1, 2, 3, whatever, P3.

Q. Yeah.
A. And then I wanted to set the story in 36P3 so that I wouldn’t have to spend one whole book, or book-and-a-half, setting up how this would happen. It’s simply, you know, the religions have been banned and by now it’s 35 years later. And so my main character, who was born at the end of World War III, was raised an atheist and has always known this as his life.

Q. Now, some bad things have happened, some of our worst fears. There are references to what happened at the Super Bowl, Disneyland, Eiffel Tower, London Bridge, the Vatican, subways. This has been-this has been a definite bad thing. I don’t want to give people the impression there’s no fun here. Playfully, we’ve got Daily International, Bush International, Julianne International. We’ve got Marty’s Bag Donuts, Bag-o-Donuts, sorry about that. And you’ve also invented some new cars, like the Chevy Electro-Lumina which, you know, companies spend millions of dollars to come up with names and Jerry is just throwing some in for free.
A. Yeah. I hope I get a commission on those when they come out.

Q. So there’s a lot of fun in this. But-but behind the fun is this imagine no religion. Talk about that, how it’s such an important theme in this book.
A. Well, because religion has been banned and, you know¢â‚¬¦

Q. And back up for a minute. Who has banned religion? At the end of World War III, kind of, who’s making that kind of decision?
A. Well, the-the governments of the world had realized they needed one central government, and so there’s an international government. And they all agree that this is, you know, a good thing. And so religion is really banned around the world. Now, I’ve been in countries ¢€œ I know you have, too ¢€œ where they’ve tried to do this.

Q. Yeah.
A. I was in the eastern block before the Communist revolution.

Q. Yeah.
A. And what it does is it strengthens the church because it pushes it underground and makes these people, you know¢â‚¬¦ I mean, you have to mean it if you’re going to live it there.

Q. Yeah. And there is a zealot underground now.
A. Right. And that’s a perjorative term used by the government. They want to wipe them out. And my main character is, interestingly enough, a guy named Paul.

Q. Yeah.
A. And if people like to do anagrams, they can try and anagram his last name, which is fun, too ¢€œ which I don’t tell anybody but they’ll figure it out ¢€œ and he is a parallel to the Biblical Paul because he’s assigned by the National Peace Organization to root out believers and kill them.

Q. Yeah.
A. Eradicate this underground movement.

Q. Yeah.
A. But along the way he sees the light. And yet, instead of coming out and writing the New Testament, he keeps working for the government ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ but he’s really a supporter of the church now, so his life is on the line every day.

Q. And there’s a wonderful kind of play on the Apostle Paul in a number of ways, one of which is the loss of his eyesight ¢€œ
A. Right.

Q. ¢€œ and so forth. The world in which we live now, there is a new USA. There are seven capitals, there’s new holidays, Wintermas. Talk about how life has changed for the typical person living in our country now.
A. Yeah. You wouldn’t have Christmas, you’d have Wintermas. And your decorations would be flags and patriotic symbols, rather than angels and stars and things like that. And you know, everything has changed. I mean, religion is-is strictly verboten. And people get in trouble for practicing their faith, or even having memories of their faith. So it is a whole new world.

Q. There’s new technologies. Cells implanted in molars.
A. Well, you know, I talk to my technological consultants and I say, you know, I’m-I’m thinking up this idea where maybe you’d have something implanted in your teeth and you press your fingers together and you can dial and talk and hear in your head. And they all say, That’s in the works. Anything you can imagine will be here in five years.

Q. One of the things that I enjoyed about this book is I felt like there was a lot of playfulness going on here. You were having some fun along with a very, very serious book, and that’s what makes it a great read. There-there¢â‚¬¦ Talk about the variety of some of these interesting characters. Let me just mention some names. Andrew. Who’s Andrew?
A. Well, Andrew is-is the main character’s mentor from his days in the military.

Q. Yeah.
A. And he became ¢€œ and he doesn’t know it yet ¢€œ but Andrew has become a believer, a secret believer. And when the main character finds out that he’s died and-and is considered a martyr to the Christian cause, he can’t believe it.

Q. Yeah.
A. And Andrew, his name is Andrew Pass, and if that sounds like Antipass, there might be a reason for that.

Q. Wow, there you go.
A. And he winds up, you know, dying burned.

Q. Yeah.
A. And there are all kinds of other playful things. For instance, Paul’s mentor in this, is a guy whose nickname is Straight.

Q. Yeah.
A. Well, I couldn’t exactly call him Ananias, but Ananias lives on a street called Straight.

Q. Absolutely.
A. So there are things that are there for the finding, if you look for them.

Q. Talk about Angela.
A. Angela is Andrew Pass’s daughter. And our main character who, when he’s not a Christian, he’s kind of attracted to her. And he’s got kind of a bad marriage, so he’s kind of playing around the edges of the possibilities there. But it turns out she’s a believer, too. And she plays a very important role in the story and helps him.

Q. I don’t want to get into too much of this, folks, because I want you to just read this book and enjoy it. Lots of interesting characters along the way. Coker, Bob Kuntz, Ranold ¢€œ I’m not even sure how to pronounce it ¢€œ R-a-n-o-l-d.
A. I pronounce it Ranold. And Ranold B. Dissenti is an anagram for a two-word name that should be fun for people to figure out.

Q. Interesting. Okay. And then the Demetrius Brothers. They’re in here.
A. Yeah. They’re interesting characters out of New York.

Q. Now, when we talk about the Bible, what has happened to the actual printed Bible or Bible on digital format, in this new world with no religion? What has happened to the Word of God?
A. Well, it’s-it’s only used for research purposes. And-and books aren’t even published anymore, generally. They’re all on digital, on tape, on DVD, CD, that type of thing. And so when Paul finds a group of underground believers who have libraries of old books, he’s fascinated by these ancient documents.

Q. Yeah.
A. But even when he wants to study the New Testament to find out what the enemy is up to, he orders it on disk and has to be cleared at high levels to do that.

Q. Yeah. One thing that’s obvious is, as you talk about the underground church being strengthened, can’t stop belief in God, can’t stop prayer, and really can’t stop the Word itself. Even if people don’t have it on disk, there are people that have memorized it, there are people that are quoting it. In other words, you get this great sense of the truth of what Jesus said, that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church.
A. Right. And that the word is sharper than any double-edged sword and that it won’t return void.

Q. Yeah.
A. That’s a pretty heavy truth. I mean, it moves me when I write it because you see the power of the Word of God.

Q. Yeah.
A. Jesus was the Word, you know, and the Bible uses that terminology for Him. So it’s powerful.

Q. Well you know, I-I have to say that if I was a writer, and I was using my imagination and-and having just experienced 911, and I wanted to write something that gave me a sense of hope, I think you pretty well nailed the themes that we need to hear.
A. And that’s a hard thing to do in a book that’s so dark because, you know, people know that I like to be funny. And they say, How can you find any humor in that kind of situation?

Q. Yeah.
A. But usually it’s by making bureaucrats into buffoons. That always works. But then there is always hope. And in fact, that’s the difference between this novel and the competition in The New York Times best-seller list¢â‚¬¦

I’ll tell you, we’ll pick up there when we come back. We’ve got to take a quick break. I love the theme of hope, and you’re going to find it in the book, Soon, a great one. We’ll be back with Jerry Jenkins right after this.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. Jerry Jenkins is my guest. Best-selling author, Left Behind series and other wonderful books as well. And now, Soon, a suspense thriller that picks up after World War III. A book that does have a level of darkness because, after all, we live in a fallen and polluted and dangerous world, but does so with a sense of Biblical integrity, a sense of-of humor that-that would take us through some difficult times. But most importantly, a subject we were just talking about with Jerry, a sense of hopefulness.

Q. And Jerry, you were just mentioning before the break that hope is what separates this book, Soon, from the other thrillers about the days we’re living in that people are going to find on the best-seller lists.
A. Yeah. And that-that pertains the most. And I can’t say all, but it seems to me that’s the difference. Our world view is that things will eventually turn out God’s way. My wife and I love to go to Broadway and watch plays. And so often I’ll see one that just, you know, it gets to the end and you realize that the conclusion is there’s no hope. When we visited Romania back before the fall of Communism, I was despaired when I left there. I thought, these poor Christians are living underground, they can’t get permits for anything, they’re persecuted for their faith, how will it ever change? And when the revolution came, a lot of people made the mistake of thinking it was a political revolution. It was a spiritual revolution.

Q. Yeah.
A. These people stood in the square, 200,000 of them, and chanted, God is alive.

Q. When we look at this novel, Soon, as a-a little glimpse, though it is fictionalized, into what Jerry is seeing on the world stage we look at the issue of Islam. You can’t help¢â‚¬¦ Briefly, what-what… How is Islam part of your thinking these days?
A. Well, I had to deal with Islam in the Left Behind series, eventually, because of 911. I had sort of, you know, ignored it. But then I had an underground cell there because¢â‚¬¦ The one thing I have to say ¢€œ if you’re going to say anything positive about Islam ¢€œ they’re not likely to cow-tow to an anti-Christ either ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ who says there’s a one-world religion.

Q. Yeah.
A. They’re going to say we got our own. Now of course, I come down on the side that they still need to become believers in Christ. But it is pervasive. It has to be dealt with in situations like this.

Q. And when we think about what you’re seeing in America and our attitude towards religion, we just had the Ten Commandment issue. We’ve got-we’ve got a lot of things happening, both politically and otherwise in our culture, around whether God and religion have a place in American life or not.
A. Yeah. And that’s such a huge issue. We do live in a pluralistic society and, you know, I find it, it’s a dichotomy. On the one hand you applaud people who take a strong stance and say, Look. This is what this religion is about. On the other, you need people who say, Let’s not be critical, let’s simply introduce them to Christ and-and give them the choice.

Q. Yeah. When we think about the theme of hope and the gates of hell not pervading against the church, here’s ¢€œ and I want to handle this kind of gently ¢€œ but the reality is when you look at American Christianity, there is a lot of American Christianity that is highly superficial, shallow, is not probably prepared for a level of deep, deep persecution and-and threat. And-and how do-how do we weave that into the church that we see in this group of believers in Soon as we compare it to American Christianity, which is large? We have our cruises, we have our music stations, we have… We kind of have a really, really nice easy road in many ways.
A. Yeah. I think this¢â‚¬¦ I’m hoping that Soon will be a bit of a wake-up call because we are really dealing fat and-and comfortable. And you know, a lot of times our Christian brothers and sisters who are oppressed will say, you know, you won’t really know what the faith is until it’s taken away from you or it’s threatened. And we’d like to say, I know, we’re all active. We go to church, we do everything. Your faith only grows for real when you’re really persecuted. And persecution, to me¢â‚¬¦ I’ve been laughed at and smirked at. Now, compare that to what people go through in prison and overseas. I’m saying, be careful because we may get tested to this point.

Q. You are at the center of a storm, a kind of a storm, within Evangelicalism because your book was so wildly successful. And so on the one hand it’s being given credit for getting into the mainstream and creating opportunities for us to engage in dialogue, but those who are looking at what concerns them about American Evangelicalism are saying it’s marketized, it’s consumerized, it’s about best-sellers. I actually had an author tell me the other day that in the wake of Left Behind, it’s almost impossible to suggest to a publisher a book that isn’t going to sell a lot of copies, that there’s a mindset shift. How-how have you personally sorted through ¢€œ because on the one hand I absolutely agree with what you’re saying you’re seeing in American Christianity, we’ve gotten soft ¢€œ but we’ve also kind of gotten where we have a comfortable, cozy kind of relationship with American enterprise. And you’re right in the middle of all that. How are you sorting that through?
A. Well, I try to deny responsibility for it. And seriously, people want to accuse us of having done this on purpose. And-and we say, Look. We had no idea it was going to sell like this and we don’t have anything to do with the fact that people buy so many. We just kind of put our view out there and ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ this is what happened. But I do think it’s crucial because people then want to know, what are you doing with all this excess?

Q. Yeah.
A. And we’re not supposed to brag about what we do with our money because we lose our reward in heaven for it. But I do like to assure people that Dr. LeHaye is a great example to me, and we try to be, you know, very generous. You know, nobody needs what we’ve got and it would be the highest form of hypocrisy for us to all of a sudden live opulently.

Q. Yeah.
A. But it does put us right in the middle of that. In fact, the guy on ABC was asking me, you know, he had me articulate my faith. And then he said that the Bible also says it’s, you know, harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. So he knew¢â‚¬¦

Q. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, one of the things that must be an encouragement to you ¢€œ and I think it’s kind of a bold stroke ¢€œ is that some people have said, Well, the Left Behind series is a great series, but it basically lifts all these nice Christians out of the bad stuff. Soon reminds us that we’re going to be here for some bad stuff.
A. Yeah, that’s right.

Q. And it’s a very important message to the Christian church that we’re not just going to bale out. I mean, we’re going to be part of some very tough stuff and we may be in the middle of it right now and we need to have eyes to see.
A. Exactly. Yeah, I do hope it’s a wake-up call.

Q. Now, talk just briefly, then, about how your experience with 911, your-your writing the Left Behind series and now writing Soon, how everything that’s been happening in your life over the last few years has helped you get focused on your own calling and mission as a writer and as a Christian.
A. Well, it really has sobered me. I mean, it does focus you. And I find that I have the same reaction to the writing that the reader does. I feel more urgent about my faith, more aggressive about it, more expectant of the return of Christ. And you know, there’s this feeling ¢€œ and I heard it when I was a teenager and speakers tried to, you know, wake us up and I don’t think I woke up until I was 50 ¢€œ but they basically say, you know, you really at some point are going to have to choose up sides and pay the price. And I think at some point when we’re adults we realize, you know, we don’t have time for anything else. This is it.

Q. Well, and one of the things that I love again in your character, Paul, in the book Soon, is that he goes through this time where he’s blind and he cannot see, and then he can see. And then that really is the analogy for all of us in culture, whether we’re already Christians or not, to open our eyes to what’s happening around us, and certainly as those who follow Jesus to make sure we’re very intentional and serious about that commitment. Because the things that Jerry is talking about, whether specifically as he describes them or otherwise, are probably coming soon. Jerry, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.
A. Thank you, Dick. Always a pleasure.

Folks, the book is Soon. It’s published by Tyndale. It’s available at your local bookstores next Tuesday. You can pre-order it online. It’s published by Tyndale. And again, Jerry Jenkins’ new book is Soon. We’ll be right back. Don’t go away.

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