James Allen Walker for WORLD

Influence & action

Q&A | Best-selling novelist Tim LaHaye has helped get evangelicals involved in civic life-and more involvement, he says, is needed

Issue: "The ABCs of C Street," Aug. 29, 2009

Left Behind fans, rejoice-a new Tim LaHaye series is coming next year.

With his wife of 62 years, Beverly, sitting next to him and suggesting that he not reveal much of the plot, the 83-year-old pastor and author said the next series will be an action-adventure one featuring a wealthy, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel desperately trying to keep two neutron bombs from blowing up New York City.

"Based on the same prophecies as in the Left Behind series," LaHaye declared. His co-author this time will be Craig Parshall rather than Jerry Jenkins, but LaHaye promises, "It will have people leaping off their seats."

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LaHaye, named by Time as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America, has written 50 books. His latest, just out, is Jesus: Why the World Is Still Fascinated by Him (David Cook). A graduate of Bob Jones University and Western Seminary, LaHaye was involved in the founding of Christian Voice, the Council for National Policy, the Moral Majority, and other organizations.

He has spent much of his life trying to get church members to leap off seats and into establishing schools, working in media, and electing biblically conservative politicians.

Q: Which of Time's most influential evangelicals has had the most lasting impact? Jerry Falwell. He founded a university and showed that the church should get back to Christian education. Education should be based on the wisdom of God.

Q: What was the attitude of Christians toward politics when you were growing up? A pietistic mood influenced a pacifistic tendency. In the early '40s, when I was 15, my pastor said that politics is a dirty business and we Christians should never get involved-we should leave politics to all the nice, civic-minded people. That sounded real spiritual. When I got into ministry in the '50s, I found the nice, civic-minded people were not nice and civic-minded.

Q: You moved to San Diego in 1958. Why there? I was a pastor in Minneapolis for six years. When I was shoveling snow from the same sidewalk for the 25th time, I said to God, "Thank you for blessing our church. Isn't there a warmer place that will call me?" I was ordained in a Southern Baptist church, and there was a church in San Diego divided between American Baptists and Conservative Baptists. The church leaders wanted a young man who was neither. When they found out I was a Southern Baptist, that was perfect.

Q: California's economic problems have been in the news lately: When did the state take a wrong turn? When Edmund G. Brown was governor [1959-1967], he was a prime mover of the California university system. He came to San Diego to dedicate the University of California-San Diego and told faculty members that it and the one in Orange County were located in the hotbeds of conservatism, and "your job is to liberalize those areas." That was the modus operandi: "Give us your tax dollars and the brains of your children."

Today we ask, "Where are these government officials who want to spend and spend coming from?" We're educating them in the schools and universities.

Q: How can that be changed? We need to get over this stupid idea that educators are more intelligent than parents. We should use school tax money to provide tax credits or certificates so parents can pay tuition at whatever school they choose. Churches already have buildings and can supply classroom space.

Q: Christians have been trying to do that for years, but voucher referenda have lost at the polls. So far the votes aren't there. We need to elect people who are pro-life and pro-education. We need to be more assertive. We get beat up in the primaries and let the secular conservatives push some candidate not really committed aggressively to the pro-life and pro-education side-but you need a committed candidate to get the evangelical church aroused.

The other side has the engines of education, dominated by unions. The only way to break the teachers union domination and department-of-education domination is by competition. I went to school on the GI Bill of Rights. If it was legal in the '40s [to use those funds for tuition at Christian colleges and seminaries], it should be legal now. We need to get pastors more involved in this.

Q: Ed Dobson, one of the pastors who was involved with you and Jerry in starting the Moral Majority, said he voted for Obama last year because he thought that's what Jesus would do. Ed is dead wrong. Jesus would not vote for anyone who is in favor of murdering babies. I won't vote for anyone who is pro-death.


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