- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Tim and Beverly LaHaye each have an impressive record of religious activism and influence,reaching from the bedroom to the White House. Together, their impact is remarkable.
Their first Christian sex manual, "The Act of Marriage," published in 1976, sold more than 2 million copies. They have recently produced "The Act of Marriage after 40."
Jerry Jenkins, of the record-breaking "Left Behind" series of books, is a co-author. Mrs. LaHaye also is writing a fiction series with Mississippi author Terri Blackstock.
Good-natured spousal rivalry is business as usual in the LaHayes' desert household, a sort of command central for their battle for America.
Even before the "Left Behind" novels, which have sold 29 million copies for adults and 7.6 million in children's versions, the Rev. Tim LaHaye, 75, was a major force on the evangelical scene. By his own count, he has written or co-written 56 books for adults and 19 for children, with new ones coming out at the rate of four a year. He has started two churches, a Christian school network, a college, a center for biblical creationism, a prophecy think tank and several political groups, including the Council for National Policy, an invitation-only alliance of more than 500 political, business and religious leaders whose thrice-yearly meetings draw speakers like President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Mr. LaHaye was recently named the most influential American evangelical leader of the past quarter-century by Larry Eskridge, editor of the Evangelical Studies Bulletin, a newsletter of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College in Illinois, alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham.
"There are others who would, in certain ways, have been higher profile," said the Rev. Jerry Falwell. "But he has set the agenda for evangelicalism more than any other person."
Mr. LaHaye's opponents recognize his power. Bill Wheeler of Marietta, Ga., a former Southern Baptist and leader in the Religious Freedom Coalition of the Southeast, a church-state separationist network, calls him "one of the most dangerous men in America today" — a characterization that makes Mr. LaHaye chuckle.
Mrs. LaHaye, also 75, with 13 books to her credit and more on the way, is best known as the founder of Concerned Women for America, which claims the allegiances of 600,000 conservative Christians. The National Organization for Women has fewer than half that many members. She has a nationally syndicated daily radio program, "Beverly LaHaye Today," broadcast weekday afternoons. Soon after she was voted "president for life" of CWA, President Reagan said she was "changing the face of American politics."
Mr. Falwell describes her as "without a doubt the most influential woman in America."
His friendship with the LaHayes goes back 30 years. Mrs. LaHaye is on the board of his Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Mr. LaHaye helped found the Moral Majority and is establishing the Tim LaHaye School of Bible Prophecy at Liberty, scheduled to begin classes in January with 2,000 students. The LaHayes have donated $4.5 million to build a student center at Liberty, one of many gifts to evangelical causes resulting from the millions made on the "Left Behind" novels.
"As their kids, sometimes we joke, 'They're giving away our inheritance,'" said one of their daughters, Linda Murphy. "But it's too important. It's furthering God's work. We'd rather have that money working for Him than put in our own pockets."
As a couple, he is the dreamer and visionary, plotting new projects and strategies, and pulling in leading voices and craftsmen in their fields to work with him — such as co-writer Mr. Jenkins for fiction.
Mrs. LaHaye is the practical one who tends to details and asks the "how" questions.
They have settled here in arid Southern California because of Mrs. LaHaye's arthritis.
"Nine months of the year it's the anteroom to heaven," said Mr. LaHaye. "Three months, it's the anteroom to the other place."
Mrs. LaHaye's organization, which was officially incorporated in 1979, claims supporters in all 50 states, referred to by her as "my ladies."
In Lynchburg, Mr. Falwell organized the Moral Majority that same year, with a board made up of Mr. LaHaye; the Rev. D. James Kennedy, pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and the Rev. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta.
Mr. LaHaye complemented the grass-roots effort by establishing the Council for National Policy, an organization of business, religious and political leaders, whose privately held membership rolls are said to have included Nelson Bunker Hunt, Oliver North, Pat Robertson, Phyllis Schlafly, Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and the widow of Rep. Larry McDonald, Georgia Democrat.
The LaHayes stepped into politics more directly in late 1987 by signing on as national co-chairmen of Rep. Jack Kemp's presidential campaign. Mr. LaHaye resigned after some supporters of the New York Republican expressed anger that he had called Catholicism a "false religion" in some of his writings and blamed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the Jewish elders in ancient Jerusalem.
Although he has learned to work smoothly through the political process, Mr. LaHaye's primary interest is not politics, but biblical prophecy. He sees the two as linked — with forces working toward secularism and one-world government as fulfilling prophecy.
His "Left Behind" series puts fictional meat on the skeleton of Mr. LaHaye's interpretation of the New Testament book of Revelation, beginning with the Rapture, when true believers are to be instantaneously transported to heaven. Theologically, his outlook is known as "pre-tribulationist pre-millennialism" — the understanding that the end times are at hand, with the Rapture of believers preceding a period of suffering that will end when Christ returns to set up a 1,000-year reign on Earth. His views have been criticized by several denominations, including, most recently, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Theology aside, with a total of more than 41 million sales for all "Left Behind" related products, the books have become "the publishing phenomenon of the last five years," says Lynn Garrett, religion editor of Publishers Weekly. A NASCAR race car is sponsored by the "Left Behind" trademark.
Careful readers can find political statements in the fictional accounts — an unborn baby is raptured out of its mother's womb, making a point against abortion, for example.
For her part, Mrs. LaHaye also tackles some of the tough issues of the day in her series of novels co-written with Miss Blackstock, set in a fictional cul-de-sac — a sort of "Knots Landing" goes to church. A woman pregnant with a Down syndrome child must choose whether to have an abortion. A mother finds a condom in her son's jeans, given to him in a sex-education class at school.
Both hope their fiction will bring readers into their other writings, from Mr. LaHaye's volumes on prophecy to the "white papers" on issues of concern to the Concerned Women for America.

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