What the "Left Behind" Movie Left Behind?

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The movie, Left Behind, has hit the theaters…with a splat. The reviews have been less than kind, and it has nothing to do with the so-called theology of the story. Apparently, it was intended to be a biblical disaster movie, but it’s mostly just a disaster. Ironically, the bad, big-budget movie is a remake of a different low-budget, direct-to-DVD bad movie. Both movies are based on a series of religious novels which tout a popular (but bad) theology of the end times.

Still, it could spark a renewed frenzy around the idea of a Rapture and WHEN Jesus will return.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Rapture, it’s a “theological” belief that one day Jesus will appear (unseen) in the clouds and all His faithful followers—living and dead—will be instantly “caught up” or “snatched away” to heaven. “In the twinkling of an eye,” is the analogy applied. The movie’s website calls this “the most important event in history.” Technically, the Rapture is not THE Second Coming of Jesus; that happens after a time of severe (seven-year?) tribulation on the “late, great planet earth,” along with the rise and reign of the “Anti-Christ,” a charismatic world dictator.

According to the descriptions from Fundamentalists who believe in the Rapture, as well as the marketing hype of the movie’s website, the aftermath here on Earth will be ominous. The true Christians who are alive will suddenly vanish, apparently leaving behind their clothes, their paperback copies of Heaven Is For Real and any unsaved documents on their laptops. If they were operating heavy machinery, such as planes, trains or automobiles when Jesus jerked them away, those vehicles will be driverless. (Adds new meaning to “driving home a point!”) Food being cooked by righteous bakers who refused to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples will cause fires, likely burning down the building, depending on how many pagan firefighters are “left behind.”

Our government will surely fall without the moral turpitude of the Tea Party Republicans who consistently remind us of their Christian values. They will undoubtedly be “raptured,” and with them gone, the business of governing our country comes to a stand-still, not unlike when they were still in their bodies.  

Since these righteous politicians have assured us our country is God’s favorite, and other world leaders were godless pawns of Satan, this sets up for the seven years of tribulation that supposedly follows the Rapture. Our still-in-office (Muslim?) President will need to find a way to work with all the other countries of the world…setting up for the reign of the Anti-Christ and the Mark of the Beast of those who comply.

TV will be lacking all the paid programming by God’s Chosen televangelists, who will arrive at the side of Jesus with an I-told-you-so smirk.  All their air time will be filled with mindless remakes of old TV shows, endless reruns of Mr. Belvedere and Joanie Loves Chachi and more reality show incarnations of the Kardashians. (Because no one believes they will be in heaven!)

Moreover, in the absence of righteous individuals to monitor and pressure network executives on morality, any semblance of decency on television vanishes with them. The “Boob Tube” will likely include actual boob during prime time.

We can also probably expect predictions of when it will happen, along with world events and world leaders as “proof” of these apocalyptic happenings, which will inevitably involve President Obama, gay people and Muslims.

I anticipate detailed timelines, supported by a hodgepodge of arbitrary Scripture. A verse from I Thessalonians, a few statements by Jesus, (not the ones about us NOT knowing the time of His return, of course) paired with an obscure passage from Daniel, a gem or two from Jeremiah, speculative interpretation of the symbols in the book of Revelation, and lots of conjecture about dire world events.

These diverse, disconnected passages are thrown into a biblical blender and molded into a less-than-congealed granola salad, and served as God’s clear and obvious plan for the end of the world. This fare is presented with loud pontification to portray confident authority. (And prevent logical, dissenting questions?) When the presentation is done, people are usually awed by the great insight and wisdom of the teacher to gather such modern-day application to ancient Biblical texts.

And they are afraid!  
Because that’s the essence (and purpose) of Rapture theology—to maximize the fear of being “left behind.”

The movie’s website includes outreach kits, Bible studies materials, sermon suggestions and ministry resources to be used to frighten friends, family and flock into seeing the movie. (And if the producers make a profit, that’s merely an added divine blessing!) The site combines slick Hollywood marketing with religious zeal. Live “tweets” from those caught up (pardon the pun) in the hype, stream the front page:

If Jesus were to come back right now would you be ready?

Looking for a way to talk to your loved ones about the Rapture, but don't know how?

Left Behind is going to take the message of the Rapture and the Lord's soon return to the whole world!

If you're thinking of making up your mind about God AFTER the rapture, you might want to reconsider.

Do you know someone who isn't ready?
Bring them to Left Behind…so they can get ready while there's still time!

In case you can’t tell, I have…issues with this concept.
For me, it’s less about those who are missing after the Rapture, and more about what’s missing from this movie and the very idea of a Rapture:

1. Reality. I’m concerned that people will confuse this movie (or the books, for that matter) as fact. This is fiction, disguised as faith.

2. Solid theology. What is presented in these books and films is speculative. It involves numerology to define random numbers and seeks to connect Bible passages that are clearly not related. (The explanation of “666” is extraordinary and mind-blowing!) While many believe in a Rapture, this belief has only been around for a short time. It didn’t appear until the 19th century and was then “canonized” in the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909.

3. Respect and Inclusion. This concept is exclusive and divisive in nature—one more of the “us” versus “them” ideas that separates Christians. Anyone who doesn’t believe the same way (and be assured: many sincere Christians do not believe in a Rapture) are not identified as “true” or “faithful” believers. They (we) will be "left behind!"

4. Good News. The message of the Rapture is fear-based. Must like the concept of Hell, this is designed to scare people into “faith.” (There are actual websites to help those who are “left  behind.” Talk about advance planning!)

5. The Instructions of Jesus. The focus on a Rapture places the emphasis of the Christian on “watching” for signs of something in the future, rather than working in God’s NOW Kingdom. Jesus said we cannot know the time, but He did tell us to be busy until His return.

6. Urgency about Social Action. Such a belief can minimize the need for justice, since one of the signs of the Rapture is a deteriorating world condition. Hunger. Poverty. War. Climate change. Violence. Why get involved?  The worst the world gets, the quicker Jesus will return. Again, that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus about our active, redemptive role in God’s Kingdom…now.

I was raised on the belief in a Rapture. I knew all the verses, and I once taught this as Truth. I have since "left behind" this message. However, recently I went online and listened to sermons/studies of those teaching it now. Not much has changed, aside from the actual world events and personalities predicted to play a role in the destruction of our world. In the Bible, Jesus’ return is spoken of as our “Blessed Hope,” but this twisted message is not about hope. It’s about fear. And complacency. And exclusivity.

See the movie. Don’t see the movie.
But please understand that just because it purports to be based on the Bible, it’s about as Biblical as a Walt Disney cartoon.

Personal Disclaimer: I have not read the series of books, nor have I seen either movie.
The books were written by an extreme, anti-gay Fundamentalist. The first movie starred TV's Kirk Cameron, also an outspoken anti-gay Fundamentalist. One of the guys from Duck Dynasty is an executive producers for this new movie, and they have consistently shared their anti-gay rhetoric. In other words, no way in hell (or heaven) will I subject myself to this material, or have my money support their bigotry!

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