Tim LaHaye, 1926–2016

The Left Behind coauthor and Moral Majority cofounder dies at age 90.


Chrysalis Records

Tim LaHaye has just died at age 90. LaHaye had a long career as an evangelical leader and a conservative activist, and he was among the clergymen who helped Jerry Falwell launch the Moral Majority. But he is best known for co-writing the Left Behind series, a long sequence of novels about the Endtimes that sold like crazy after they started appearing in 1995.

I try to keep up with the big developments in pop apocalypticism, but I've never been able to bring myself to slog through all 16 volumes of that series. But I did read the first one, which begins with the Rapture and then starts skating toward Armageddon. It's a stiffly written story that at times feels like it was composed in an alternate timeline. (LaHaye and his coauthor seem to think, for instance, that secular reporters refer to Israel's boosters as "the Jewish Nationalists.") The only time it comes alive is a scene where a character becomes a born-again Christian—evidence for the old saw that you should write what you know. Or maybe it's evidence for the opposite: Millions of people bought this novel and then ponied up for the sequels without carping. Write whatever you want, fellas!

LaHaye has a cameo in my book The United States of Paranoia, chatting about the Illuminati in the early '70s with a young man named Mike Warnke. Warnke then went on to pose as a defector from a vast Satanic conspiracy he called the Illuminati, and he got a lot of attention on the Christian circuit before he was revealed to be a fraud. Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott, the reporters who exposed Warnke, think LaHaye inadvertently introduced him to the idea of the Illuminati, and thus played an indirect role in spreading one of the most popular conspiracy theories of our time. So that's two big contributions LaHaye made to modern apocalyptic folklore. How many of you have done even one?

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  1. Anyone else notice the Moon just cracked in half? Weird.

    1. I did notice that the man from Mars stopped eating cars and bars and started eating guitars.

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  3. Check out the God Awful Movies podcast episodes for the 3 Left Behind movies.

    1. Are you referring to the 3 with Kirk Cameron? Yeah, those were pretty bad. So bad that LaHaye and his co-author sued the studio and actually won.

  4. My favorite pop culture twofer is Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. He not only did the famous “dogs playing poker” paintings, he also invented those painted backdrops at Coney Island etc. in which you stick your head through a hole and have a photograph taken that looks like you are wearing some sort of costume.

  5. He died with a pillow under his head, a clear calling card of the Reverse Smotherers, an elite group of assassins funded by none other than the Illuminati, probably as revenge for exposing their organization to the masses.

    Though their real revenge was to allow LaHaye to publish all of the Left Behind series. Well played Illuminati, well played indeed.

    1. Maybe he was a Blowhole-American.

  6. The premise of the story was somewhat interesting – what would happen if the end times described in Revelation began to occur today? The execution was….lacking.

    1. Their books are an interpretation of Revelation, not literally what it says. The actual book is an acid trip.

  7. After a delay of nearly two thousand years, an embarrassing failure of prophecy – well, apocalypse porn is all they got.

    And time to plug Robert M. Price’s “Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind”

  8. I thought 2012 was more convincing.

  9. I remember the Illuminati freak-out! Several of my buddies were convinced that this guy’s story was true (we were sitting around in college listening to a somewhat scratchy bootlegged cassette tape of one of his speeches/sermons to a well-known Baptist church in Edmonton). I guess I couldn’t get the skeptical look off of my face, ’cause one of them told me he was gonna pray for me.

    A few months later, the conspiracy-monger guy was outed as a fraud, and my (now-ex) buddy couldn’t look me in the eye for the rest of our time together at college. I suspect he did a bit of growing up over that.

    Good times.

  10. LaHaye was also a vehement homo-hater. Not a phobe, hater. And a general, all-around, conspiracy-minded douchebag.

  11. Religion, Apocalypse, Conspiracy

    Great, another Trump article

  12. I bet he made good money writing apocalypse porn for the fundie set.

    “Har, har. Look at dem Jews and atheist gettin’ what they deserve!”

  13. You had to light the Shriek signal eh Jesse?

  14. From Wikipedia:

    LaHaye has been a harsh critic of Roman Catholicism, which he has called “a false religion”.[10]

    He also endorsed Catholic Newt Gingrich for president in 2012.[33]

    I guess it’s ok because Newt is a really bad Catholic.

    1. He divorced his wife while she was in the hospital with cancer. Does the Catholic church frown on the that or something?

      1. I guess what you do before you convert to Catholicism doesn’t matter.

        1. Kind of like being a lesbian in college.

      2. “He divorced his wife while she was in the hospital with cancer. Does the Catholic church frown on the that or something?”

        Depends on the size of the check.

      3. In all fairness to my Catholic friends (Charlemagne slaughtered some of my Saxon pagan ancestors for not converting 1300 years ago, but I guess I can let it go) the Catholic Church doesn’t take a position on civil divorce per se. It is the “living in sin” with the next broad (or dude) that is the problem. Because, the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize a religious divorce (I mean theoretically). Of course, if someone wasn’t Catholic to begin with, or didn’t get married in the Church, then they weren’t religiously married in the first place.

        It takes a pretty big douche bag for me to defend the Catholic Church. LaHaye pretty much fits that bill.

    2. Newt didn’t convert to Catholicism until 2009 at the behest of his third wife, so I mean…

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  16. (LaHaye and his coauthor seem to think, for instance, that secular reporters refer to Israel’s boosters as “the Jewish Nationalists.”)

    Yeah, that’s just crazy. Everybody knows that it’s “the Zionist Nationalists”.

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  18. Rot in hell, LaHaye.

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