First, I must say that I won’t be seeing the new Left Behind movie. Ever. I don’t think you should see it either. In fact, I beg you not to see it. It may be “Christian art,” but it isn’t Christian. An article in Christianity Today sums up my perspective on it pretty well:
. . . Hollywood producers now know that American Christians feel that way about their faith [that Christians want their faith included in the mainstream discourse]—that Christians so desperately want to participate in the mainstream, that they’re tired of having sanctioned music that’s like other music and movies like other movies and politicians like other politicians but always still being on the outside, that Christians just want to feel identified without having to carve out little alcoves or niche markets that exist alongside the Big Boys. And, now that they know it—that is, now that they know they can make back 5x their initial financial investment—they want to exploit that, by pumping out garbage (not moral garbage, just quality garbage), slapping the “Christian” label on it, and watching the dollars pour in.
They want churches to book whole theaters and take their congregations, want it to be a Youth Group event, want magazines like this one to publish Discussion Questions at the end of their reviews—want the system to churn churn away, all the while netting them cash, without ever having to have cared a shred about actual Christian belief.
They want to trick you into caring about the movie. Don’t.
Left Behind is a Commodity, Good Art Isn’t
Along that vein, my main issue with the Left Behind movie is that its creators treat art like a commodity. (I’ve written about that elsewhere.) The producers of the movie and other movies like it actually don’t care one way or the other about Christianity. They just want to make money off of Christianity. Like the charlatan with an ichthus on his business card, Hollywood wants to cash in on the market demand for Christian art.
Like the charlatan with an ichthus on his business card, Hollywood wants to cash in on the market demand for Christian art.
And let me tell you that the mainstream church is playing right into their hands. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Check out what John had to say about the whore of Babylon (the false church) in Revelation 18:11.[1. I guess it’s fitting Revelation should make it into a discussion of the Left Behind movies] When she was destroyed, her most vociferous mourners were, you guessed it, the merchants:
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more . . .
The false church is a consumer, not a producer. And when I look at the merchants of this world growing fat by selling hollowed-out Christianese tripe to the church, while talented artist Christians have to make tents to feed their families, I mourn for the state of things.
Support Christian Artists, Not Christian Art
And perhaps part of the problem is that such a thing as “Christian art” exists. There is no such thing as Christian art. It’s a convenient label with disastrous consequences. There are Christian artists, in the sense that there are Christians called to the arts, but the art that they make should not be constrained by some external, superficial idea of what “Christian art” should sound or look like.
There is no such thing as Christian art. It’s a convenient label with disastrous consequences.
As an example, it blows my mind that the instrumental music they play at Chick-fil-A sounds like mainstream Christian music. Even without any lyrics, the vaguely pulsating, repetitive soft rock with anthemic choruses, Coldplay melodies, and U2 delayed guitar layers can’t help but sound exactly like everything you always hear on your local family-friendly Christian radio station.
This should end. The church needs to stop financially supporting every piece of art with an ichthus stamped on it in the assembly line, and we need to be supporting artists who are Christians instead. That means going local. If there is a godly person in your church called to the arts, give your entertainment budget to him to make his art. Support God-honoring artists and they will make God-honoring art.
Even if you don’t always “get” it, artist Christians should feel free to create whatever God gives them to create. If it doesn’t sound or look like what the church has grown accustomed to, maybe that’s a good thing. God loves variety, and we should too.
That’s one of our main goals here at the Nehemiah Foundation—to rally support for Christian artists in the church to create whatever God gives them, whether it is marketable or not. Because most of the time, the truth isn’t marketable. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it.