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Friday, April 15, 2011

TAKE TEN: Bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins

TAKE TEN: Bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins

He is one-half of the most successful writing team of our generation. Jerry B. Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye, the authors of the bestselling LEFT BEHIND series, are responsible for a phenomenon that has both sparked discussion and a renewed passion in reading. Though impressive, this is only part of Jenkins' story. Apart from the partnership with LaHaye, he has penned almost 200 books, many of which are biographies, selling millions of copies worldwide.

In this exclusive discussion, Jenkins takes time from writing his newest novel to discuss everything from the success of his religious thrillers, why people fear Bible prophesy and the Harry Potter books. (-This interview was originally published in 2007 and appears in the April/May issue of Conversations Magazine.)

Mr. Jenkins, we appreciate your taking time out of your writing season to answer a few questions for us. When I am discussing the LEFT BEHIND series with others one of the things we always comment on is how real the world you describe is. Has it ever saddened you to think that so much of mankind will choose to walk away from God?
Yes, our capacity for sin is amazing. God created a perfect garden, and Adam and Eve sinned. He set up a system of laws and sacrifices, and His own people chose to go their own ways and to worship other gods. He sent Jesus to die for our sins, and He was despised and rejected of men. He will rapture His church and still people will decide against Him. God will rain down 21 judgments over 7 years, all prophesied in order, and despite that the Bible says no one will be able to doubt He exists, still people want what they want. Then comes the Millennial kingdom with Jesus on the throne, and by the end of that time, Satan will still be able to tempt the nations. It's mind boggling.

The Bible book of Revelations is avoided by so many Christians today. Why do you think its prophetic message evokes so much fear?
The biggest problem is the temptation to try to interpret it symbolically or figuratively when much of it is best understood literally, as it is written. We don't advocate a wooden literalism where it is obviously evocative. For instance, we don't believe the sword in Jesus' mouth is a literal sword but rather is His word. But where the revelator says, "I looked and I saw..." we take it literally, use it in our stories that way, and it seems to have brought the Book of Revelation to life for people.

Your work has made history on so many levels in the literary world, but how has it affected you personally? Do you see writing as part of your ministry?
Writing is my ministry, as it is my only gift and thus I feel obligated to exercise it. I don't sing or dance or preach, so I'm currently working on my 172nd book, more books than I've read. (smile) The Left Behind series had much the same impact on me as it did on the readers. I am much more aggressive about my faith and more expectant of the return of Christ.

I have heard it said that the mere thought of the end of the world is fearful to some, including those who say they are Christians. Why do you think the final battle between Good and Evil raises so many different opinions? There should be no fear for the believer, as the Scripture promises we will be delivered from the worst of it. But we are no longer people of the Word for the most part, and so many -- even believers -- live in fear.

In Mississippi we have battled apathy towards reading for many years among young and old. What advice would you give to someone who is interested in the subject matter that you write about but may be hesitate to pick up the book?
We have made our books available on unabridged and abridged audio, dramatic audios (with original music, sound effects, actors, etc.), and even in graphic novel (comic book) formats. It's in some format for anyone.

When I initially contacted you in June 2007, I found out that you have written quite a few non-fiction books as well, including a biography about one of Mississippi's own. Tell us about some of your other work?
About 80 of my books have been nonfiction, including marriage and family titles, documentaries, and many biographies. These include working with people like evangelists Sammy Tippit, Luis Palau, George Sweeting, and Billy Graham; musicians Christine Wyrtzen, Bill Gaither, and B.J. Thomas; and athletes Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Meadowlark Lemon, Orel Hershiser, Nolan Ryan, Mike Singletary, Joe Gibbs, etc.

There has been much discussion about how books and movies that feature supernatural characters affect the minds of especially the young people exposed to them. What is your opinion? Is it enough that they are able to find books and reading material that hold their attention, or should we be concerned about the subject matter they are drawn to?
If you're referring to Harry Potter, I don't have a major problem with it. If parents believe their children are too young to understand that it's fantasy, they should restrict them from reading it, or read it with them. Most people were raised on similar stuff, like The Wizard of Oz, which had every bit as much supernatural magic stuff in it and yet was plainly understood for what it was. Oz and Harry teach that good wins over evil, etc.

With the release of the final book of the LEFT BEHIND series, was it hard to see it end?
Sure, it was bitter sweet after almost 12 years, but it was time. 

Thank you again for taking out a few moments with us. Do you have anything you want to say to those who might be considering reading one of your books for the first time?
Probably best to start with Left Behind.

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