The Philosophy of Left Behind

Adapted from my IMDB review. Spoiler warning.

I knew this movie had terrible ratings and reviews. So I knew there was a pretty good chance it would be horrible. But I wanted to watch it anyway because it has 2 things I enjoy – (1) landing a plane under perilous circumstances and (2) the consequences of people suddenly vanishing off the face of the earth.

I’ll address the first point quickly and spend more time on the second in this review. As a movie about landing a plane when you’re out of fuel and the closest airport has no open runway, it did a good of job to keep me invested. It’s not the best in its genre, but worked for me.

Now on to the “Rapture”. Full disclosure: I am not Christian. But I remember the time when a Christian floormate in college told me the story of the Rapture and it gave me chills. And I’ve been fascinated with the concept. This led me to check out the show The Leftovers. And then there’s of course Avengers Infinity War and Endgame. Each of these three properties take a very different approach to what it means for the population of the world disappearing, but I won’t focus on that here.

But first, another disclosure: I haven’t read the series of novels on which this is based, or the other series of movies based on those novels. However, from what I can gather, all of these follow the Rapture pretty closely. So, I’m guessing only “the true believers” get zapped into Heaven.

But is that what really happens in this particular movie though? It leaves it kind of wishy washy in my opinion. In the family of the central characters, only the mother and the brother are Raptured because she was a true believer in Christ and the son was a child. The father and the daughter clearly did not believe in either religion or in Christ, which is probably why they didn’t get Raptured. But neither of them explicitly state that they are atheists. It is implied that they are, more strongly for the daughter (and the journalist) than the father.

Anyway, I noticed that they showed us many couples of whom only one member was Raptured and the other wasn’t. Do we conclude that one person was a true believer and the other wasn’t? It seems unlikely that you would have that many couples where there is such a huge discrepancy in faith. This led me to think maybe the person who didn’t get Raptured has Sinned in some way and had not repented. After all, the sins of most of the people on the plane were quite clear (the guy who gambled, the guy who was very close to cheating on his wife, the drug addict, etc.)

Interestingly there was a Muslim guy on the plane. I was curious – did he not get Raptured because he was not Christian / didn’t have the “right” beliefs about Christ, or was it because he had Sinned? I did notice that he was checking out the blonde woman in a creepy way, so maybe he was a bad guy?

But there are no answers to this question in this movie at least. I’m guessing the book series goes into detail about this. But I was also curious about how the Rapture was determined for children. Where was the cutoff? Was it a certain age and if so, how was the calculation of the age done? But I digress.

I bring all of these up to address the philosophy of the movie.

I went into this prepared for a very preachy Christian movie about the consequences of not Believing in “The Truth”. That is why it surprised me when (1) there were no concrete answers to the points I raised above, and (2) the non-believing characters actually made well articulated and compelling points about why they don’t Believe. In fact throughout the whole movie, we sympathize with these characters who were “left behind” and I felt like I could totally relate to their point of view. And while some of them were shown to have vices, some of them were also shown to be good people. (For example, the journalist goes out of his way to help everybody, and that Muslim guy was also shown to offer help to people around him despite some creepy vibes.) As far as the central characters go, the movie doesn’t seem to blame these characters for not Believing or even paint them in a negative light.

The point the characters make over an over again is – why would a loving God do these things? They talked about natural disasters and how people suffer and die due to them and how God does nothing to help. The “God works in mysterious ways” arguments is brought up but dismissed. And when the Rapture happens, the world goes into chaos, it seems so hard to believe that a loving God would do this.

So what is the philosophy of the movie? That maybe God ISN’T loving. Maybe God is punitive and will punish all of us. The movie seems to raise the question, so what do you do if you discover that God is vengeful and punitive? And that kind of blew my mind. I fully expected that this movie would go to extreme lengths to justify God’s actions, but it really doesn’t. (Yes, sure, it does say that the people who were Raptured were taken to Heaven to be protected, but God was being PRETTY DARN exclusive and petty in who was Saved vs. who wasn’t.)

I don’t know what direction the potential sequels would have gone, but to me it felt like they were going for a post-apocalyptic movie where the survivors of the Rapture would have to deal with the consequences of having displeased a vengeful God. And I don’t think they would overcome this God by the end of it – by the end of it, they would have to give in and submit to this God. And that’s kind of depressing.

Another disclosure: I’m not atheist. I believe in God kinda sorta in my own unique way that doesn’t strictly follow any scripture. But I do subscribe to the idea of a loving God and definitely not to one of a vengeful and petty God. And I also am not arrogant in my beliefs such that I think I am right and everyone else is wrong. So that could be why I had this take on the philosophy of this movie – that it raises the question – what if the Rapture is real even though it doesn’t make any sense according to your beliefs? And that’s a very interesting take, in my opinion.


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