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.
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.