Rapture rhetoric: prophetic epistemology of the Left Behind subculture
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This thesis provides a rhetorical analysis of prophetic texts, non-fiction premillennialist dispensational studies, the fictional series, Left Behind and interviews with series’ readers. This thesis argues that prophetic rhetoric constitutes an epistemological position whereby Rapture believers create knowledge, cast knowledge as good or evil and finally act as gatekeepers to determine what can and should be known. Rapture subculture is composed of both a hard core and a set of narrative believers, those who have acquired the nomenclature, but perhaps not the dogmatic belief in a Rapture, Tribulation, Armageddon, and Millennium schema. The process of turning narrative believers into hard core believers relies on the use of a range of topoi, appeals to authority, evil and time. Rapture rhetoric, aimed at bolstering the beliefs of the hard core and cultivating the beliefs of those still undecided, relies on the process of transfer to gain acceptance for one claim based on acceptance of another and then relies on narrative plasticity to enlarge the basis for those accepted claims. These arguments are exchanged for stories in the fictional Left Behind series, whereby the characters, institutions and knowledge of the end-times becomes encapsulated in an easy-to-read and simple-to-relate tale that codes knowledge as either good knowledge revealed from God or evil knowledge acquired through human understanding. These narratives and arguments both get used among prophetic believers to explain their lives and their world, internally and externally to the prophetic subculture, in order to convince more narrative believers of the truth of their claims. Prophetic communities develop knowledge products, cultural entailments and cultural manifestations of prophetic belief to serve as symbols of the end-times narrative. Rapture subculture, based on prophetic beliefs, is not monolithic; however, this thesis is able to draw some broad generalizations about the prophetic community and the rhetoric they use to explain their claims within their ranks and to the outside world.
Hill, Kristin Dawn (2007). Rapture rhetoric: prophetic epistemology of the Left Behind subculture. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from