As if 12 weren’t enough, evangelical celebrities Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have planned two more titles to their “Left Behind” franchise.
In addition to the dozen novels on dispensational theology, a prequel set before the tribulation and a sequel presumably set during the Millennial Reign are slated. These additional novels, of course, go along side the Left Behind political series, military series, the 40-book kids series, the graphic novel series, the audio books of both child and adult series, the dramatized audio of both child and adult series, the two film adaptations, the two daily devotional books, the Left Behind Illumina computer software, the visual guide to the “Left Behind” series, the “Are We Living in the End Times?” non-fiction title, the Bible study series, the non-fiction kid’s guide to understanding the end times, the Left Behind Prophecy Club, “The Truth Behind Left Behind” non-fiction title, the Left Behind greeting cards, calendars and the non-fiction “These Will Not Be Left Behind” title. And that’s not even all of it.
As one blogger pointed out earlier this week, even the famed series of J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are contained within the bounds of only seven novels. But honestly, Left Behind has more to do with the budget than literature any more. How else do you explain the absolute gluttony of products? It may be good business for Tyndale, but it certainly doesn’t help set a standard in the world of evangelical expression. This is especially true when Jenkins and LaHaye are set above as examples of the desired goal for Christian publishing houses, record labels and production companies.
Within evangelicalism, a community that should be honest, we’re seeing the gatekeepers of media pursuing the bottom line of the buck rather than quality. This may not seem like a big deal to you considering Christian circles haven’t exactly been the epicenter for cultural expression for hundreds of years. But mediocrity shouldn’t be a comfortable place – especially for genres that dare to use the name of Christ.
I attended a Derek Webb concert this past Thursday. He talked about his own depravity. He sang of his fears and his failures. And he gave criticisms of the church and our willingness to embrace lovers less wild than Jesus. Unfortunately, this challenging expression and honesty is the exception and not the rule in contemporary Christian music. While the music of the ever-positive and encouraging “K-Love” radio network may fulfill their desired goal for some, most CCM completely skips over the pain and depravity of life, choosing instead to whitewash everything with a fake smile.
The same goes for a lot of Christian fiction being pumped out these days. A lot of it exudes more of agenda-driven politics and morality than true expressions of art. This turns off anyone with other ideas about life and should leave the rest of us wondering why we can’t confine political activism to Jerry Falwell’s appearances on Fox News.
When it comes to movies, it’s a tough world for evangelicals. “The Passion” was great, but it was certainly art before it was a commercial for Christianity. One thing: TBN really has no excuse for making a sequel to the “Omega Code,” much less the original.
This column is not intended to be cynical or arrogant. There are certainly great artists out there expressing honestly about life in light of Christ. However, I’m afraid that sensationalism and greed, rather than honesty, rule a subculture of media. I’m afraid that cheap media to the masses in hopes of making a buck is competing with Christ’s command, “If you love me, feed my sheep.”