IFAS | Freedom Writer | Winter 2001 | leftbehind.html

'Left Behind': the movie

Left Behind, the movie based on the best-selling book by the Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, received rave reviews from Focus on the Family and other selected evangelical ministries. Ted Baehr, founder of the Christian Film and Television Commission said, "Left Behind presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a very entertaining, powerful, winsome way," adding that it is the best movie so far in the apocalyptic genre.

However, Christianity Today, the leading evangelical magazine founded by Billy Graham, disagrees. In an article titled "Horror Stories for Christians," the magazine said, "Believers dream again of a breakthrough film. Left Behind is not it."

"Left Behind wants to be another supernatural thriller, but it asks non-Christians to enjoy an End Times story involving evil international bankers and conspiracy theories so Byzantine that they cry for a flow chart.

"Some admirers of the Left Behind book series have expressed disappointment with the film adaptation. But let's place the blame squarely where it belongs: the typical Christian mistake is in treating a theatrical film primarily as an evangelistic tool, and in thinking that telling End Times horror stories qualifies as evangelism.

"Look at Left Behind as a new-generation film that Christians will watch on videocassette at their church's evening gatherings."

Meanwhile, the Rev. Tim LaHaye is suing the film's producers for fraud, breach of contract, and negligent misrepresentation. The suit, filed in US District Court in Los Angeles, alleges "The defendants made certain statements to Dr. LaHaye - to induce him to enter a contract - that weren't true when the defendant made them and they had no reasonable expectation that they were true when they made them."

Also, LaHaye is upset with the defendant's distribution strategy, saying that it "is contrary to industry practice and could have had a devastating impact on the commercial success of the motion picture." Most film companies distribute a movie on video after it's had its run in theaters. In this case, Cloud Ten Pictures released 2.8 million video and DVD copies prior to Left Behind's February 2 release at 1,100 theaters.

© 2001 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.