In a couple weeks time the Left Behind movie will open in cinemas around the world. As someone who got “onboard” the Left Behind evangelistic bandwagon 14 years ago when the original version with Kirk Cameron came out (yes I rented out the big screen at a clubhouse and invited many unsaved friends hoping that by watching it they may become “saved”) can I offer 3 things to consider before getting evangelistically excited about the new Left Behind?
Take it as the voice of experience…
Left Behind Theology is Bad Theology
News Flash: The Rapture – Tribulation – Anti-Christ theology of the Left Behind series is only about 200 years old!
Theologians are still pondering how the musings and theories of 19th century Plymouth Brethren minister John Darby became the eschatological underpinning of millions of evangelical and charismatic Christians.
But it did…
I was one of them.
Darby’s theology ( later propagated through Biblical translations like Scofield’s Reference Bible) fostered an escapist attitude among the church that focused the Bride’s attention on escaping the earth rather than renewing it.
Fast forward 200 years to when many Christians increasingly cast themselves in the role of persecuted victim, a theology where Jesus comes back and proclaims we were “right” after all and proceeds to kill everyone else has a certain attractiveness.
The problem is (to paraphrase Brian Zahnd) Jesus is not like that. Jesus has never been like that. There has never been a time when Jesus was remotely like that. Many Christians don’t realize that…but they should.
Summed up, Left Behind theology is bad theology for a number of reasons but chief among them is that it just makes Jesus look bad.
And I don’t care much for that…
People won’t get saved watching Left Behind
I was perusing the Left Behind facebook page and one thread had over 30,000 comments talking a lot about the movie being used as a tool for salvation.
Comments such as:
* Can’t wait to see this movie! Hope this movie brings the unsaved to Christ so they don’t get left behind.
* I pray that many get out to see this, to realize what is ahead of they aren’t ready for the coming of Christ.
* I can’t wait. I am dragging my husband (agnostic) to this so he can SEE what he will be facing someday..
I appreciate the sentiments (hey, I was there once) but seeing a movie doesn’t “save” anyone. And when fear is used as the tool, that’s about as far away from the salvation Jesus brings as you can get.
And that’s what Left Behind sells. It sells fear! As if Jesus can’t woo his bride to himself through unconditional love, he instead has to put a shotgun to people’s head and threaten them with all sorts of catastrophe if they don’t “accept” him.
I’m not saying books, film, and art can’t be used to help reveal who Jesus is to people…
…I’m just saying the Left Behind film doesn’t reveal who Jesus is.
Left Behind is about money
Christians are simply being marketed as a group and used to make a number of people a LOT of money. As a film lover myself I have no issue spending my hard earned cash at the cinema or for a download on iTunes knowing that while I am purchasing a couple hours of entertainment and storytelling some producers and actors are raking it in.
* no one is trying to convince me to bring my friend to see Iron Man 3 because their eternal salvation is at stake.
* no one is trying to sell me a ministry resource kit so I can do a church small group study on Guardians of the Galaxy
* no one is urging me to see the latest disaster movie because it’s all in the Bible and going to come true one day
No, movie producers know that there is a huge market now for Christians who will not only pay to watch movies where they are cast as the persecuted victim who is finally vindicated (God is Not Dead) but movies where they can be convinced that it is their moral duty to bring as many friends as possible.
The sound you hear is Jesus turning over tables in the market place…
To sum up
My transition from evangelistic promoter of Left Behind in 2000 to vocal critic in 2014 doesn’t come from deep theological discussions or eschatological arguments.
Not in the slightest…
It’s because I see who Jesus is just a little clearer now than I did then.
I see now that the prince of peace really is The Prince of Peace
Why do I feel so strongly about Left Behind?
Because Jesus deserves so much better…