Sunday, October 12, 2014

Left Behind: I'm In The Minority Report

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!  I have briefly described scenes in the movie in order to offer up my opinion.

As many of you may have already noticed, the film, "Left Behind: The End Begins," stirred up a lot of controversy among Christians. First there was the controversy between those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, those who believe in a mid-tribulation rapture and those who believe in a post-tribulation rapture.  Then there was the controversy between those Christians who liked the film and those who expected more. I will not attempt to address the former controversy in this post (I'm saving that for another time), but will instead attempt to address the latter.

As we all know, opinions are mainly subjective. In this case, either you liked the film, "Left Behind: The End Begins," or you did not.  I've read film-goers' positive and negative responses as well as online reviews from established Christian web sites and I can't seem to agree with the negativity that has been circulating throughout parts of the Christian community regarding this film.

Let's address some of the negative comments you may have heard about this film.

#1 This new film is not like the books or the original movie.

Since this is a "reboot" of the Left Behind series, complaints about straying from the original storyline found in the books and the original movie just don't seem to make sense to me. It's a reboot, not a remake. If anyone is going to see this film expecting to see an updated version of the original movie from opening title to closing credits or that it tells the story of the first book from cover to cover, then let me tell you that you will be disappointed.  

Star Trek had a "reboot." Among the changes made was the addition of Spock's romantic relationship with Uhura, Capt. Pike's altered future (he's alive and well), and the destruction of Spock's home world of Vulcan. This wasn't part of the original series or the original theatrical releases that resulted from the popularity of the series, but it didn't deter many people from going to see this film. The same should be true about the new Left Behind film. The changes in the storyline should not deter people from seeing this film. Here are a few of the changes that have been made:
  • Hattie isn't the ditsy blond from the books
  • Rayford's indiscretions are noticed by his daughter earlier on in the time line. 
  • Raymie is raptured in Chloe's presence.
  • Buck has use of his personal satellite phone on the plane.
  • Characters on the plane actually have a story line and aren't just there to take up space.
  • The film focuses only on the day of the rapture, beginning with Chloe's arrival at the airport as she returns home for her dad's birthday, and concluding with the dramatic landing of Rayford's aircraft.
I could go on, but I believe the point has been made. This is a REBOOT, not a remake of the original story line.  There is no mention of a Tribulation Force at the end of the movie, only the ominous statement by Chloe that this was just the beginning of what is to come.

#2 Christians are portrayed as lunatics.

A woman in the movie approaches Buck in the airport terminal and immediately begins to bible bash him. We all know the type. These people lack wisdom and humility and tend to be very judgmental. What I'm trying to say is that these people are real and their behavior, although well meaning I'm sure, is overbearing and just pushes people further away from Jesus. It may be difficult to watch a Christian movie that has a character that makes us cringe, but it's a part of our Christian culture and we can't run away from it. We can't shove it in a closet and pretend it doesn't exist. We have to own it. It's real. The film makers understand this and put it right out there for everyone to see right from the start. This scene not only instructs Christians how NOT to witness to unbelievers, but also helps us to understand how many non-believers view Christians. The film makers show empathy toward unbelievers who have had to deal with people like this in the past (which may have helped push them further from making a decision for Christ). This is a teaching moment, people!  

In another scene, as Chloe describes this incident at the airport to her mother, she lets slip that she believes the woman at the airport is just as crazy as her mother. Her mother is wounded, which makes Chloe regret her choice of words. Her mother tries to share God's word with her, to prepare her for what's coming, but before she can, Chloe makes an abrupt departure. Another missed opportunity to share God's word on wide screen? Some may see it that way. I just don't happen to agree with them. I'll explain why in the next section.

#3 The name of Jesus is never spoken and scripture is sorely lacking. It's a watered down version of the book meant to appeal to the widest Christian audience possible.

How many people know what Christians are going to say before they say it? How many unsaved know that we're going to tell them that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one goes to the Father except through Him... or that Jesus shed His blood for them to cover a multitude of sins... or that they need to be born again to enter the kingdom of God? How many of them have heard those words from church, on television, in secular movies, in soup kitchens, and yes, even at church? Yes, the words are out there, but the unsaved aren't falling to their knees in droves. They remain on the broad and easy path that leads to their destruction. The film makers decided to take a different direction. Gone is the in-your-face preaching that would drive many of the unsaved away from this movie, and in it's place is a real life example of what life is for many people.  

What do I mean by that? Here is Irene. She's the mother of Chloe and Raymie and is wife to her pilot husband Rayford. A year prior to the events of the movie, she became a born again believer in Christ. During the past year she's quoted all the scripture and shared her faith with her reluctant family, yet they still do not believe. Her daughter even goes so far as to say that her mother "drank the Kool-Aid." So what does Irene do? She doesn't press. She lives her life as a faithful Christian woman and surrounds herself and her family with symbols of her faith. She tries not to push them away from the truth, but attempts to gently draw them to Jesus by setting an example for them. Yes, she still tries to share her faith with them because she loves them and longs for their salvation as well, but she also knows that she can't go too far because that will just drive them further away from the truth. You can see that when Chloe comes home and Irene places her gardening gloves on top of her bible. She doesn't want to push.

We see Irene's faith by the jewelry she wears, the bible on the table (mentioned above), mention of her church attendance, the little reading nook she has set up with a pillow that says Pray and subtle artwork of Jesus on the cross.  Many people would look at this as a way to plug Christianity into a movie that has no Christian underpinning, but I disagree. I see the little nook she has set up, the one Chloe glimpses at as she searches the house for her raptured mother, as a subtle message. What is that message? Get alone with God, no matter where it is. Get to some small, quiet, private place where you can be alone with Him. Pray and confess your sins. Repent and give your life to Jesus. That's what I took away from that ever-so-short glimpse of Irene's little nook.

So, scripture doesn't play a major role in the movie, but Irene's faith does. That reflects real life. I don't beat my friends and family over the head with scripture. They know what I'm about and they've heard me say it all. How I live my life is my testimony to those who refuse to repent and believe. That's what this movie is to me... real life. It doesn't beat you over the head with something you already know. As a side note, scripture is presented on screen at the end of the movie before the credits roll. The closing credits roll with the beautiful voice of Jordan Sparks as she gives us her rendition of the song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready."  

Some people want to draw a line in the sand with a detailed list of examples of what a Christian movie should contain. If it doesn't meet their demands, it's deemed a poor example of Christian film making and they automatically give it a thumbs down. I have to honestly disagree with that. There are Christian films that are made solely for Christian audiences and then there are those rare Christian films whose main purpose is to reach out to the unsaved. I believe that "Left Behind: The End Begins" is an example of the latter.  

The conversation, the questions and the scripture all come after watching this film, when you and those who have seen the film begin to share your thoughts. This film is a door that starts the conversation moving in God's direction. It's like handing a tract to someone. First they look at the cover and then they read what's inside. Look at the film as the tract cover that invites the one receiving it to want to read more. What's inside that tract is what we share when the movie's over. It's not the film's responsibility to witness to the lost, it's ours.  

Invite someone to watch the movie with you. They won't feel as if they're being force fed scripture, which may allow them to open up and begin asking those questions that they've been dwelling on for awhile.

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Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!