(CNN) — HBO has just launched a new TV series based on a novel by Tom Perrotta called "The Leftovers," which in turn is based on the fundamentalist Christian idea of the rapture. Apart from the title, which suggests a refrigerator full of stale food, the series looks promising.
It's a terrific premise: Jesus returns and calls to heaven 140 million people, leaving behind billions of stupefied, confused, and grief-stricken others. In the show, a mother loses her baby, who disappears. A boy's father seems to have vanished as he pushes a shopping cart. Cars collide as drivers go missing. Chaos strikes in the fictional Mapleton, New York -- and throughout the world. How to cope?
The famous "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins was already out there. It consisted of 16 best-selling novels on the same premise, and it's about to come to the big screen again, in a film starring Nicholas Cage. The original film adaptation (of three) appeared in 2000. And then there is the Christian real-time strategy video game called "Left Behind: Eternal Forces." If anyone hasn't noticed, the rapture has become a commercial juggernaut, endlessly shape-shifting, finding new and highly entertaining outlets.
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But what about the theology behind this industry?