Monday, March 28, 2005

Banality Fair Reviews The "Left Behind" Movies, Part 3

So what is the "Left Behind" series about, in a broader sense? On its face, it is an evagenlical movie, seeking to convert people. But, more interesting, perhaps, are the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious attacks the movie launches against secular humanism.

Secular humanism is a school of thought basically views humans as having the capacity to solve any problems faced by humanity relying on science and rational inquiry. Secular humanists view earthly harmony as the ultimate goal of one's existence. Most troubling to an evangelical: secular humanists reject the notion of the supernatural (God didn't create man, man created God) and believe that they only have one life -- this life -- to live.

It is clear that the authors and producers of the "Left Behind" series believe that secular humanism has infected the social and political discourse, dooming most of humanity to a fate of eternal suffering in hell. They are out to save humanity from its own hubris.

And, the place where the rot of secular humanism is most evident: the United Nations. The anti-christ in the movie is a diplomat named Nikkolai Carpathia, who through various machinations maneuvers his way into becoming the secretary general. Once appointed the secretary general, he begins pushing for the spread of democracy, the elimination of poverty and suffering, and harmony between the religious people in the world.

You are probably thinking, "Ah, so the anti-christ will trick people into thinking he supports all this stuff. But, in reality he is evil and is using these feel-good sentiments to sucker people into suypporting him." Well, you'd be right and wrong. The anti-christ in "Left Behind" is trying to sucker in the (potentially) faithful. But, it is not evident that he is lying about his beliefs.

Instead, the movie insinuates that those beliefs -- shared political, social and religious values throughout the world -- threaten true Christianity. How? Two principal ways. First, it gets them focused on the problems and pleasures of the natural world and distracts them from their duty to believe in and serve God and Christ. In other words, it is secular humanism in action.

Second, the anti-christ, by talking about harmonizing the religions, was in fact perverting spirituality. Here is the interesting nuance in the "Left Behind" concept of secular humanism. Most would agree that secular humanism is athiest in belief and practice; there is no God, only man and his world. The "Left Behind" authors, however, conflate mainline secular humanists with other religions. Anyone who does not share their view of Christianity is a functional athiest. For them, there is only way to get to heaven: believe that Christ was the messiah and follow certain rules in the way you live your life here. Otherwise, you are wasting your time with misguided good works.

So, there you have it. A life of virtue -- without the right faith -- is, nonetheless, a doomed one. As I blogged about a couple of months ago, I have been told that I am going to hell because I don't believe the right way. I can see it now, Mother Theresa and I hanging out in Hell. Her turning to me, saying, "Ain't this a bitch?" Me replying, "For real. If it was going to come to this, you should have not bothered with those poor folks and just screwed around."

The final review will address some loose ends about the movies, in particular the not-so-subtle anti-semitism, the movie's extreme violence, the weird product placements, and whether Kirk Cameron is a man or a mannequin.


Blogger tequilita said...

i've tried 3 times to comment and it hasn't been fruitful thus far -we'll see if it works this time. this was a great post. i only watched the first left behind movie -and that was hard to get through, because it was such an embarrassment. but i think you've summed it up pretty well here. it's been a while since my viewing, but these movies struck me as christian recruitment videos they'd show to 3rd and 4th scare them into believing (scared straight?). i have a problem with using fear as a motivation. i have a LOT of questions about faith...but i'm pretty sure this isn't what the message was about.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Joseph K said...

Yeah, they really emphasize particularized faith. Faith is important, but I am not sure how the blance between faith and virtue plays out. Is everything that happens in this world really irrelevant, and particularized faith all that matters? Is God as angry with us and judgmental as these evangelicals would make us think?

11:17 PM  

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