Beliefs Opinion

Can Left Behind merch save your soul?

Left Behind t-shirt | Image via http://www.kerusso.com/leftbehind/products/

I think this is what you call The Singularity:

“Opening the door to unbelievers has never been this much fun,” Robertson, who has been made an executive producer of the film, says about the Left Behind movie. “Visit leftbehindmovie.com for more information, cool clothes, ministry tools, and group ticket sales.”

The “cool clothes” are under the “outreach” section of the website because, presumably, wearing T-shirts that say “Are you ready?” is a form of evangelism. There are also insulated tumblers, wristbands, and a line of ladies’ t-shirts, all purple, with “I’ll Fly Away” in flowery lettering across the chest.

Left Behind t-shirt | Image via http://www.kerusso.com/leftbehind/products/

Left Behind t-shirt | Image via http://www.kerusso.com/leftbehind/products/

The whole premise of the marketing behind this film (itself a remake of a film about a book series) is an interesting one. Beyond the clothes and mugs, there are group ticket sales, Bible studies based on clips from the movie, and a sermon series kit. The whole endeavor seems to suggest that the best way to make sure you are taken up to heaven–that you are “ready”–is to, first of all, accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and then, pretty quickly afterwards, buy the merchandise. You can never be too safe.

It all reminds me of a review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire from last year written by my good friend Alissa Wilkinson. After examining the power of that story to critique governmental excess, Wilkinson writes:

This is the second movie in the franchise, and the second time there’s been tie-in merchandise like this, which has emerged to very little criticism. One can only presume it’s being sold because it sold so well last time around. Even the forthcoming final film in the trilogy (like Twilight and Harry Potter) is being split into two parts to maximize profits.

They give us what we ask for. Bread and circuses. Chocolate and theme parks.

Remember who the real enemy is.

I don’t think Robertson (or most people associated with the film, for example) mean to encourage a kind of schlocky materialism when they talk about the Left Behind merch. I think we’ve been swimming in these waters for so long as a culture that Christians don’t see how we have taken a wrong turn sometimes, how we’ve mistaken cultural influence for actual power, how we’ve conflated empire and kingdom. There are so many wonderful things to spend our money on, and great films and good clothing can fall under that umbrella. But this, unfortunately, is neither.

About the author

Laura Turner

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. In addition to being a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics” blog, she has also written for publications such as Books & Culture and The Bold Italic. She is interested in the intersection of church and culture.

4 Comments

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  • I am getting a big Battlefield Earth vibe from this. Designed to appeal to certain religious types but far too ridiculous for general audiences to bother with (despite best efforts to court them).

    Unless the film producers decide to trash the original source material, its going to be a stinker. Bad novels tend to make bad films without heavy script doctoring, brilliant direction and a dose of irony.

  • “I don’t think Robertson (or most people associated with the film, for example) mean to encourage a kind of schlocky materialism when they talk about the Left Behind merch.”

    The Duck Dynasty brand has reportedly been plastered on 1,200 different officially licensed products. At what point do Christians stop giving one another the benefit of the doubt? He is pretty clearly an opportunistic crap-merchant.

  • I’d wear anything to help others be drawn to Jesus and be saved.. I’m a shy person so I use tracts, but I’m getting more confidence, Lord knows, after being a Christian since I was 8…I am 55 now! I love the Lord and I know He loves those I come into contact with. Can’t wait to see the movie! Was very blessed by the films Heaven Is For Real, and Son of God. Thank you Hollywood for seeing the Light! God bless all who read my words.

  • Left behind? I didn’t even get an RSVP. I personally like the Raptor; isn’t that what God uses to have all the people disappear from the earth by raptors from prehistoric times? Must be that God is reincarnating the little buggers to come back and get some of us! I believe in recycling, but this is going too far!
    On a serious note, Religion is marketing, and marketing is a religion. I tell all of my Christian friends just to see their deer-in-the-headlights-look that Jesus had a great marketing plan. It usually takes 10 seconds for them to recover as the gears turn slowly in their head. After they pick themselves up mentally, I can see that a Thomas Edison light went on in the dark recesses of their religious experience.
    My own philosophy, as you will see, would be a horrible marketing plan for you and me. I view God as an Eternal Parent who never, ever gives up on His children. So what does that mean? When everybody else thinks the race is done and the Rapture has come, God repeats the Geico ad where the basketball player wiggles his index finger and says, “No, no, no! I’m in control!” For the Journey does not end; the Game is not over; the Love does not stop; the Learning and the endeavoring continues. Like a good Parent, give me one more day, one more life, both me and my child, to help right the wrongs. For it is not so much that God puts us on earth to save our own Soul, as to save another’s. In so doing, we save our own.
    Please note: there is no nirvana, no heaven, no 70 virgins, there’s not even a hell. What a horrible marketing plan!

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