Was the Gospel Left Behind?

I began this blog simply because on my down time I like to research what Christian movies are on their way.  I often find bits of information that I think would be interesting to my friends and family.  I am not a good writer.  I am not good with grammar or typing as many of my friends and family have known for decades.  Good writing was not why I started this blog.  I started this blog to share my reviews of Christian movies coming out, share the news that I find on Christian projects in the works and to give my opinion on Christian movies as a whole. This is what I am about to do.

Now, if you read any of my other posts you will know that I did not care for the new Left Behind movie starring Nicholas Cage.  It was a project I was extremely excited about but it really disappointed me.  The other day I went on Facebook and saw that Paul Lalonde had posted an encouragement to purchase the Blu-ray or DVD if you would like to see more films in the series.  I will not be buying it any time soon as I did not like the film, but I do encourage you, if you liked it, BY ALL MEANS GO BUY IT! And buy one for a friend or family member.  This is how you support a film.  However, this is not what caught my attention.  At the end of the post Paul writes, “I’ve got a few minutes here, anyone have any questions they’ve been dying to ask?”  I read these words and had a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Not because I didn’t like the movie.  Not because I don’t like Paul… in fact, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach because I love Paul Lalonde and his brother Peter.  I credit them as pioneers.  If not for the work they did we would not have had the year we did with the success of God’s Not Dead and Heaven is for Real.  They had nothing to do with those movies but they paved the way for wider releases of Christian movies.

As I read down the list of comments, some comments began to stand out to me… because they were repeated over and over again.  The comments began to reveal some misunderstandings that the general Christian public has about this Left Behind movie.  You might see several comments like “The movie was horrible! I’ll stick to the one Hollywood didn’t ruin!” What do they mean by “Hollywood?” I use that term (much to the dislike of one of my good friends, sorry Eric.) I don’t see anything wrong with using that term.  However, when I do use it, I am referring to the giants in the industry.  I am using it as a collective term for Fox, WB, Sony, Disney, etc.  The funny thing about these comments in regards to the Left Behind reboot is, the driving force behind the project is the same as “the one Hollywood didn’t ruin.”  It was still an independent project headed by Paul LaLonde.  It was not backed by a major studio, it was not backed by Nicholas Cage, he just acted in it… or, in my opinion… he… kind of… showed up… As Christians, shouldn’t we speak truth? How can we when we talk about things we don’t know anything about? How can we say things like, Hollywood ruined it if we don’t even define what we mean by “Hollywood.” (I am not saying that the people who used this as criticism are not Christians, I am just saying that we need to watch what we say and how we say it.)

There was another criticism though, this one is the one that spurred me to write this post.  It was said in many ways at many times.  “no doctrine in the movie at all!” or “The Gospel was not shared!” or “no scripture references!” And as I read these comments I shook my head.  Paul responded to one of these comments by sharing that in his office he has hanging two articles.  The headline of one (and I am paraphrasing because I can’t find the comment again) is “Left Behind, Not a Christian Movie” and the other headline “Left Behind, Nothing but Heavy Handed Christian Propaganda.” He points out that these are two articles about the same movie that have completely different views on what the Left Behind movie was like.  The Christian article thought it was not Christian enough, the secular review saw it as very heavy propaganda.  There is a line to walk there.

I liked Paul’s response to this accusation.  It got me thinking.  I am a Pastor, it is not just the title of my blog.  I began to wonder why some Christians demand scripture references in movies.  You see, as a Pastor I work very hard to focus completely on Scripture.  I have been accused of not being a Preacher but more like a Biblical teacher.  Some say it in a negative way but I take it as a positive.  Some people, when they say this mean they want to hear more personal stories or more jokes but I refuse to change.  Teaching scripture is what I do and I am doing it in an age where Biblical illiteracy is at an all time high. So why should I stop? Biblical teaching is needed now more than ever.

With all that said, you might be tempted to say “That is exactly why the movie needs more!” and I would say that you are wrong! That is exactly why it is important to make a movie that is not a sermon or a Bible lesson.  My job is to teach scripture and encourage my congregation to further their study on scripture.  A movie maker’s job is to make a movie that entertains.  A Christian movie maker’s job is to make a movie that entertains and makes you ponder Christ. A Christian movie is something that allows me to sit down and have a fun time with a non-Christian friend that will lead to a conversation about God and about Christ after the movie ends.  It is during that time after the movie that scripture is shared.  Not by the movie but by the fully equipped and prepared Christian.  It takes time.  It takes preparation.  It takes commitment.  It takes learning.  It takes work…. And that is why we would rather have the movie do it for us.  We would love it if the movie did all the work and then when the movie is over we say a prayer with our Non-Christian friend, He becomes our New Christian friend, we send him home without a meaningful, relationship building conversation and we go to bed feeling like we just won a battle for the Kingdom.  When the reality is we just stayed home during “the time Kings go to war” if I can make a comparison to the fall of David.  We didn’t fight, we allowed others to do the research, the equipping, the work. We have become lazy Christians. Movies that act as a springboard for Christians to share create opportunities for Christians to grow in their knowledge of Scripture.  What good would it be if parents did their children’s homework for them? Would they every learn themselves?

Mr. Lalonde, I may not have liked this Left Behind movie but I am a fan of yours.  I will be seeing the follow up, if there is one.  I will be seeing whatever project you do next.  Personally, I would like to see you expand from the “End Times Thriller” genre but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what you have done already.  I propose we stick to our jobs.  My job as a Pastor is to teach the Word.  Your Job as a Christian film maker is to make movies that allow us to build a conversation around (it is not your job to do the work for us.) My fellow Christian brothers and sisters, your job is to prepare yourselves for battle, study scripture, build relationships with non-believes, live lives that point to Jesus. Be kind. Be positive.  Don’t attack fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Do everything to build each other up…. (to add scripture reference or not… ummm…. Look it up, why should I do all the work for you.)

And to all, Grace and Peace from our Heavenly Father!

Christian Movies Nominated for Awards for 2014!

It is award season! And after the “Year of the Bible” two Christian movies have been nominated! You might ask “What movies? What awards? An Oscar? Academy Award? Critic’s Choice?” No, none of those.  I hope one day, but that day is not today. The Award that has seen the nomination of two Christian films is… The Razzies, or The Golden Raspberry Award.  What is this award? Well, the categories are things such as “Worst movie of the year””worst actor” “worst actress” you get the picture.

How does that make you, as the reader, feel? I am going to make a case for why that is a good thing and it has nothing to do with “any publicity is good publicity.” Let me start by sharing the nominees.

And The Nominees for the 35th Golden Raspberry Award for worst picture of the year are….

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Legend of Hercules

Left Behind

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Before I share why this is a good thing let me share something I take issue with.  You see, I completely understand Left Behind, but Saving Christmas? Let me make one thing clear, I did not see Saving Christmas, so I am not saying that it was or wasn’t bad.  The reason this one surprises me is because it was a much smaller release that would have been more in line with former Christian movies.  Not to mention that I feel that fifth spot could have easily been filled by The Amazing Spider-man 2 or Transcendence, both of which were highly anticipated and disappointed across the board.  Spider-man was so disappointing that it has caused the entire franchise to be called into question.

The temptation for Christians might be to look at this and accuse “Hollywood” of choosing these because of their Christian slant.  I considered this for a moment but there are two major reasons why I feel this has nothing to do with their Christian message. The first reason is that if it was because of the Christian message, God’s Not Dead is low hanging fruit.  It’s message was bolder and still very low in quality.  So if the point was to make fun of Christians God’s Not Dead would be the way to go… The Rolling Stone Magazine included it in their 10 worst films of 2014. The second reason I don’t think this decision is religiously motivated is because the Razzies have been around for 35 years.  I could not find a single other Christian film that was nominated in the past 35 years and I promise you that there are plenty that could have been.

So why is this a good thing? Well, because, for the past 35 years Christian movies have been left alone by the Razzies.  Why had the Razzies gone this long before they nominated a Christian film? Because they were not taken seriously before! The same reason that they nominated these movies this year, is the same reason I began this blog! The film industry knows that there is money in Faith based movies! Now that it is known that faith based movies make money it should be easier to find investors but with that, quality should begin to rise.  Why is it good that Left Behind was nominated for a Razzie? Because with the Left Behind budget and content it should have been a better movie and the Industry knows it.  They are treating the Left Behind movie like any other film in the industry.  They are calling them out and saying “If you want to run with the big dogs you got to run harder!” I see these nominations as a message from Hollywood saying “Come on! We know you can do better than this!” In this light, suddenly it does not seem like the movies are being included to make fun of them on the grounds of religion, but rather they are finally getting the respect of being acknowledged! They aren’t being ignored anymore!  This is fantastic news! This is a great time in Christian film making! It is now very important that we respond by respecting our own work.  Lets produce work worthy of respect.  Let’s demand a product from our Christian movies that is worth of respect.

I am so very happy that two Christian movies were nominated for awards and I can promise you I will be rooting for Left Behind to win Worst Picture of 2014…. Because it deserves to win! Even the Dove Awards decided to ignore it!