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From: Judy Austin email@example.com If you want to include specifically Mormon fiction, just about anything by Levi Peterson is eminently readable. It's written from within the Mormon community but with enough personal distance to give some added insights and twists. The journal Dialogue (subtitled "A Journal of Mormon Thought") regularly publishes short stories as well. *** From: Sarah R Hammond [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Dear Mr. Ketchell, Depending on how much you plan to incorporate contemporary materials into your class, I can't resist casting a vote for *Left Behind*. Thanks to its Tom Clancy-esque potboiler prose, the series is an accessible gateway into what noninitiates might see as the arcane and remote history of popular premillennialism. Tim LaHaye's Bob Jones roots and more recent engagement with therapeutic, suburban Protestantism are on full and ambivalent display, offering rich fodder for discussion both of conservative evangelicalism/fundamentalism and of religious readership in general. For list members who haven't read *Left Behind* and its successors, the books are techno-thriller versions of every fundamentalist child's nightmare of being passed over at the Rapture. (In fact, there's a kids' series starring teenagers who blew their chance at the age of accountability. They find Jesus when they become Rapture orphans.) Theologically, the books offer the usual fare: pointed jabs at liberal churches whose Christianity consists in nonjudgmental do-gooding (all of whose stiff-necked members keep insisting that Revelation was never meant to be taken literally); philo-/anti-semitic anticipation of the "harvest" of Jewish converts; a strong anti-Catholic streak (a Pope in trouble with the Council of Cardinals for issuing dogmas that sound suspiciously Lutheran gets raptured, and the antiChrist appoints his successor as the head of the one-world religion); stern reminders, in the form of unraptured characters who had seemed like perfect Christians, that "head" religion is not the same as taking Jesus into your heart; elaborate analysis of biblical prophecies, down to identifying the antiChrist from a roster of candidates by his racial lineage. Readings from Paul Boyer's *When Time Shall Be No More* or Timothy Weber's *Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming* may be useful -- Boyer, especially, for the conspiratorial political context, since the antiChrist is based (where else?) at the U.N. Culturally, *Left Behind* and its successors are a complicated and canny mix. The authors issue several pre-emptive strikes against the *Elmer Gantry* vein of mockery. All the main characters are upwardly mobile professionals, two of them Princeton- and Stanford-educated to boot. The New Class credentials are ambiguous. The explicit message is a thumb in the nose to fancy degrees and yuppie self-congratulation: after they're saved, the characters realize how dumb they were when they thought they were so much smarter than everyone else. Yet LaHaye and Jenkins repeatedly underscore their heroes' secular success, denying modern Menckens or Lewises any chance to sneer at Bible-thumping bumpkins. In the same vein, the writers are in love with up-to-the-minute technology, a perfect jumping-off point for a classroom challenge to the supposed anti-modernity of "fundamentalism." To no small extent, these novels -- like Clancy's -- are upscale boys'n'toys fantasies. Boys'n'toys notwithstanding, gender is perhaps the most unresolved issue of all. (It would be great to get a demographic breakdown of the buyers.) LaHaye and Jenkins, building on the LaHaye duo's pop psych, veer between essentialism and challenges to traditional gender roles that reveal how far feminism has diffused throughout the culture. It's a Promise Keepers perspective, but that perspective is far from straightforwardly patriarchal. For the men of *Left Behind*, becoming Christians means getting in touch with their feelings and valuing family more than the rat race. The main female character is tough and assertive, challenges men who patronize her because of her gender, and becomes the CEO of a worldwide Christian co-op designed to evade the mark of the Beast. Sure, she agrees to submit to her husband. But the one time the issue comes up (at least through book 7), she tells him that the plan he wants her to obey is idiotic. He realizes that she's right and he's wrong, and doesn't exercise his headship. Some "submission"! R. Marie Griffith's, Christel Manning's, and Brenda Brasher's work on conservative Christian and Jewish women would be terrific supplements. Also, have you considered a Christian Book Distributors catalog as a handout for the contemporary period? There are pages of blurbs for Christian (i.e., evangelical Protestant) westerns and romances. That could get people talking about the strengths and limits of niche fiction as a source on American religion, versus religious fiction aimed at a wider audience. Sarah Hammond B.A., Yale University *** From: Jeffrey Marlett, The College of St. Rose <email@example.com> My classes read one novel--Ana Castillo's _So Far from God_--and one personal narrative (OK, so it's not "fiction")--Dennis Covington's _Salvation on Sand Mountain_. Most St. Rose students are Catholics from eastern upstate NY, so both of these books introduce them to contexts far removed from their own experiences (New Mexico Catholicism and southern Protestantism). I insure they realize that Covington's book concerns a tiny percentage of the South's population.