By now you’ve likely seen this film poster. Thanks to Relevant.com last month, it’s crashed here from the planet of Do Not Adjust Your Internet, For This Is (Apparently) No Parody.
Yes, that would be none other than a Left Behind movie reboot, the “Caged” version — as in, starring Nicolas Cage, along with another actor I don’t know, and another actress I don’t know but who reportedly headlined in High School Musical 3.
Someone failed to tell the Left Behind re-makers that Nicolas Cage is currently performing community service as the punch line of the internet. Yet I also recall these are the same Christian filmmakers who — I’m sure with the best intentions — pioneered the “release a movie to home video and then to theaters” marketing model.
I still recall my profound disappointment with that first Left Behind movie (The One with Kirk Cameron).1 Here I’d expected blockbuster end-times awesomeness. Instead I got a cheesy direct-to-video low-budget attempt that arbitrarily changed Buck Williams to a clichéd TV reporter — as opposed to the books’ clichéd-and-already-dated-in-the-age-of-blogs weekly newsmagazine reporter — and worse, dropped out all but one mention of the very Name of Jesus Christ from the film. From my memory, the Savior’s only Name-check comes in a mention by T.D. Jakes, the Trinity-obfuscating leader who cameos in the film.
For the sequel, Kirk Cameron, then with Way of the Master, tried to rectify the Gospel-ignoring — resulting in a rather painful reenactment of the “Way” for a minor character.
Those are relatively major objections to the series based on doctrine and storytelling. But nine years after the book series’ 12th volume, Glorious Appearing, released in (expected?) shiny-white-rather-than-black-matte hardback, I disagree with much of the series’ minor-issued doctrines, especially that whole “Rapture” part.2
However, I’m not a snarky Left Behind critic. I have almost all the adult series’ 16 books, missing only Kingdom Come — the truly worst of the series that was set after a “millennial kingdom” and thus had no enemies and no plot. Yet I still appreciate the series in many ways. God used that series in my life for His purposes. If not for the LB series and their authors’ attempts to be faithful to Scripture, to harness imagination for God’s glory, and even to explore sci-fi and fantasy (though with overly constricted applications, especially in Kingdom Come), today I would likely not be writing fiction or writing for Speculative Faith.
Yet it’s the audio drama series I enjoy the most. Few know about the Left Behind dramas — or they confuse them with audiobooks. So I get major evangelical-hipster points for this.
The first dramatized audio adaptation of Left Behind, the first novel, released in 1999 and the last in 2004. When complete, the series spanned 144 25-minute episodes, 12 episodes per book. All were recorded at the Chicago studios of Gap Digital, whose engineers and producers have also edited and sound-effected episodes of Adventures in Odyssey and Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. Chris Fabry, now a successful contemporary-drama novelist, wrote the adaptation, often along with head production engineer Todd Busteed. With few exceptions, the actors were amazing. (In the last episodes, Jesus Christ sounded exactly like Christian recording artist Steve Green. But let’s admit it’s very hard to get His voice right.)
In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s I was quite the audio-drama fan. Being a proto-evangi-nerd, I corresponded with the dramas’ head production engineer and even suggesting ideas for demon-locust sound effects. (When Apollyon released, I was sure they had used the idea.)
Now, as I recently noted in a Speculative Faith comment, I realize that my love for Left Behind was my first experience with fandom — either “evangelical” or otherwise.
And now, about ten years later, I’m listening to the audio drama series all over again.
Want to join me?
Here’s how this will work:
- This won’t be done in a blog series as I usually do. Rather I’ll make use of Speculative Faith’s new News section, to post sporadic updates as I listen to LB episodes.
- In those news posts I’ll summarize an episode and briefly explore its story and doctrine.
- If you want to follow along, I’ll link to episodes that are evidently free at OnePlace.com.
- Meanwhile on the blog, before Easter Sunday, I’ll explore the often-confused and weakly applied yet fantastic Biblical concept of resurrection: Christ’s past resurrection, His people’s present/future resurrection, and physical creation’s future resurrection.
View the in-progress Listening to Left Behind series here.
- I wasn’t the only one. Coauthor Tim LaHaye himself sued the producers and in 2008 they settled — yet somehow Cloud Ten Pictures regained the rights; hence, the “Caged” remake. ↩
- Why? Seven words: Resurrection will be simultaneous with Christ’s return. This alone rules out a secret “rapture” concept: for bodily resurrection is clearly set at the very end of this old Earth’s history, when it’s time for Christ’s redeemed people to enter the final eternal state: the physical, resurrected New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21). Especially in the third prequel, The Rapture, LaHaye/Jenkins mangle the doctrine of the physical resurrection of the saints. ↩