When I was young, my family attended a pretty “normal” evangelical non-denominational church for a couple years. While we were there, the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins was sweeping through American evangelical Christianity, leaving eager young Christians to froth and foam in debates about the end times and personal eschatology.
I read a series of kids books by a similar author, Frank Peretti, among other titles, and all of these stories were essentially heavy-handed allegories about spiritual warfare, the end of days, rapture/tribulation, and whether or not you had been faithful to Jesus enough to make the cut when he came back.
And He WAS coming back. We stockpiled water and dry goods for Y2K, along with almost everyone we knew, because Jesus was going to return shortly thereafter (pre- or post-tribulation was up to your interpretation, but either way it was going to be soon).
I remember being coached for a church evangelism session in our town where we were instructed to go door to door and ask people, “Where would you be if you died tomorrow?” That would lead into a spiel about how Jesus was returning soon and you needed to get right with Him ASAP, oh and here’s a flyer for our church so we can introduce you to Him. And a Chick Tract.
There were also a lot of campy Christian films made about persecution and the End Times, and we watched them in Sunday School and at sleepovers and traded them around — have you seen this one? How about that one? Which do you think is the most realistic? I saw a lot of them, and they were all terrible.
And, of course, there was the original Left Behind movie, starring everyone’s favorite actor Kirk Cameron:
Many of us who grew up with these films ended up having night terrors or obsessive fears that Jesus would come back and we’d somehow miss it. Author and blogger Elizabeth Esther tells her story here (it’s also featured in her book, which is fantastic):
So, Nicolas Cage in the new Left Behind? It could get worse. But believe me, my generation of church kids are going to be watching this from RedBox and we’re going to be playing some serious drinking games to cope with the PTSD it’s bound to trigger. We’re mostly hoping no one’s sporting those terrifying 90s goatees they always gave the Anti-Christ in the movies.