Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bereft Lehind -- Evangelical Christian action cinema

Bereft Lehind -- Left Behind II Evangelical Christian action cinema: Ed Wood Meets L. Ron Hubbard

Last summer I was given a copy of Kirk Cameron's magnum opus Left Behind II by a person starting a video mail order business. Having never heard of the Left Behind book series, I was morbidly fascinated to see what an evangelical Christian action movie looked like (in much the same way I was once curious to see what the genitalia of a hermaphrodite looked like -- a fleeting curiosity that I would have been much better off not satisfying).

The two men pictured here (who are clearly in love with one another) are (left) Tim LaHaye -- a sort of Christian Liberace -- and (right) Jerry B. Jenkins, who will likely one day be selling Quaker oats on TV to all of us.

The hermaphroditic genatalia... sorry, the evangelical Christian action movie seems to have been constructed in much the same way the Bible was written -- with little attention to creating consistency in detail, and having no respect for the intelligence of its audience. You see, in Left Behind, the Rapture occurred, leaving the earth littered with millions of sets of empty clothes on air planes, offices, in vehicles on the street -- everywhere. More Dockers and striped Polo shirts than God himself could count.

Also, it appears that only the litterers of the world were left behind -- the movie sets stream with garbage in every direction. Cleanliness is next to godliness! Anyhow, the proprietors of the empty clothes were, of course, whisked to heaven because, of course, we live in the End Times. Although every other generation of Christians who believed they lived in the End Times were wrong, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are not wrong.

So, the Book of Revelations is finally stretching its legs, finally getting its pyro show underway. Following the Rapture comes the sequel Left Behind II, which picks up the action a week after the Big Day of Empty Clothing. These people "left behind" weren't "right with God" so they're stuck on earth, still in their clothes, but are told by some passage in the Bible that they'll have a second crack at heaven. Good thing, too, because Kirk Cameron's (Buck Williams) onscreen girlfriend, Chloe, is hot!

More importantly, however, is that following the Rapture comes the rise of the anti-Christ. This personage takes the tired, Cold War form of Nicolae Carpathia. Yeah, this guy with the horrible Russian accent leads the U.N. and subtly spouts patently unChristian platitudes about seeking world peace, ending war and hunger, and ending religious intolerance: in other words, eradicating the pillars of Christianity. This monster must die! The evangelical authors of this mess are more than a little ridiculous in their longing gaze back to the good ole Moscow-hating days of the 1980s when evangelical nut Ronald Regan seemed poised to hurry the apocalyptic-pyrotechnics with a few nukes aimed at the Kremlin. As if the blue-helmeted U.N. could ever overrun America and lull the world to sleep with a "false" peace! What a perfectly Christian term: "false peace." It has no meaning whatsoever.

Anyhow, after much "real world" talk about God, and a lot of easy running around and globe-trotting on bad sets, Buck Williams, star reporter for the Global News Network converts a leading Jewish scholar to Christianity, and foils the anti-Christ by getting the new Jew-for-Jesus to proclaim on worldwide television that Jesus Christ meets all of the criteria in "ancient texts" describing the messiah.

One of the most nauseating moments in this thoroughly nauseating film came about twenty-four minutes in when "Chris," the skeptical friend of Rayford Steele -- manly Christian man, airline pilot, who is struggling with his faith since his wife and son were removed, nude, from this world -- storms out of a church service, unimpressed with the airy talk about God. When Chris tells his friend Rayford that he, Chris, believes himself to be a good person, Buck Williams swings into action. "According to whose standards?" Williams intones and then begins quoting the Ten Commandments. "If a person who murders is a murderer, what is a person who lies?" Williams asks, ensnaring his prey and oozing pungent self-righteousness through my TV screen. Chris reluctantly accepts that because he has lied in his life that he's a liar. He's also stolen -- something small, he concedes -- so he's a thief. And of course he's lusted after women, so he's an adulterer at heart. Yeah, ole Buck Williams took that son of a bitch to task. By God's standards, Chris is a piece of shit. The result of this realization? Chris goes home and within three minutes of screen time is contemplating suicide, sloppily spinning a revolver around on his coffee table -- in his messy apartment (cleanliness is next to godliness).

All the while, through the film, people are "coming to Christ" in the most easy, superficial ways. So, so realistic. Everyone prays with their hands clasped together and their brows furrowed with ecstatic intensity. And there isn't the least bit of consistency regarding what tasks and situations the characters will tackle for themselves and those they will leave to the will of God. "It's in God's hands," more than a few characters sigh weightily. If it's in God's hands, then why doesn't everyone just go back to bed? Are they suffering the sin of pride and believing they are capable of doing something God cannot? The film is a shoe stuck in a huge wad of theological gum.

In the end, the Devil is defeated and the convoluted predictions of the Bible come true, and Buck Williams struts down the aisle of a packed, candle-lit church at the film's conclusion -- with skeptic, Chris, singing his heart out; filled with faith! -- in the midst of the sort of hackneyed awful music that drove me from the church so many years ago. He's a conquering hero in Dockers.

Man, if this is the realm of the saved, please book me another table in the afterlife.


jamieford2 said...

Arg. Sounds painful to watch. I friend gave me the first book in the series and I made it about half-way through it before I just grew weary of the platitudes. Then when I realized there were 10, count them, 10, books in the series I retired it for good.

Whetam Gnauckweirst said...

I give you credit for even trying. The guy who wrote this stuff is a mega-millionaire Christian ideologue.

Anonymous said...

My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions!

Read My Inaugural Address Online
My Site = http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman
Your jaw will drop!

Macphisto said...

WTF???? You had this gem to watch and didn't even mention it to me? Damn you to cleanliness!