Christianity Today reviewed the new Left Behind movie and surprised some saying, “Left Behind is not a Christian Movie, whatever ‘Christian Movie’ could even possibly mean (emphasis his).  After the success of a pair of “Christian movies” in the past year, Hollywood has decided to invest more into reaching a Christian audience.  The new Left Behind appears to be an attempt to make an action/thriller out of the books that sold so well in Christian bookstores a decade and a half ago.

The reviewer, Jackson Cuidon, quotes the director, Vic Armstrong, on the potential for a Christian aspect to Left Behind:

[My agent] David Gersh said, “Well, what about the religious aspect?” And I said, “What religious aspect?” He said, “Didn’t you find it strange when people disappeared on the plane and everything?” I said, “David, I did Starship Troopers, and I didn’t question it when great big bugs came climbing over the hill and ripped people’s heads off. That’s the world I live in!”

“That’s the world I live in!” makes a wonderful contrast to Jesus’ testimony before Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  Similarly, the book of Hebrews says of believers, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (11:13).

As Cuidon’s Christianity Today review continues, it becomes about more than just a bad movie.  It’s a lament at how Christians are desperate to be at home in this world, for example, wanting movies with the same production value as the summer blockbuster.  So Cuidon asks whether the characters in Left Behind ever do anything Christlike.  He fears the church will accept “Christian movies” and “Christian books” that have no Christ so long as the explosions are thrilling enough.

I think Cuidon raises a relevant question for our own Christian lives.  Jesus asks us to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  Cuidon says that Christian life can’t just be looking good and inoffensive.  After all, he says, “Jesus offended the devout more than he did the irreligious.”

Jesus’ unusual witness was marked by two characteristics that become stark on the cross.  Jesus denied self-righteousness (e.g. Matthew 6:1-6), being crucified with criminals.  Jesus offered radical mercy (e.g. Matthew 5:38-48), paying for the guilty on the cross.

While Jesus was considered a sinner because He ate with sinners (Matthew 11:19), the whole theme of Left Behind is that the righteous Christians get pulled out of the world and are therefore known to be holy.  In that sense, Cuidon raises good questions about the Left Behind books to begin with that I think apply also to our Christian lives.  Are we more concerned with looking good than with seeking Christ’s kingdom based on humility and mercy?

A similar theme was raised in the newest Lars Walker novel, Death’s Door.  He writes

It occurred to him that in their passion for listening to musical recordings of the highest technical quality, modern people might have given up something better—the pleasure giving music, rather than receiving it as an indulgence.  When was the last time he’d heard someone sing for joy?  Had he ever?  And what does it say about a culture, if its people never sing for joy?  Maybe that was why America was dying, he thought absurdly.  Maybe it was a simple deficiency of song.

Do we lose something about story, art, and song, when we feast on over-indulgent movies whose only quality is technical?  Or is the problem with a saltless Christianity?  What about in our own lives?  How do you think of being salt and light in your own life?