In The Blink of An Eye: Bad Christian Movie at its Finest
I just watched a really bad Christian movie. Yes, “really bad Christian movie” is redundant. Typically I try to start posts with the counter-points of what I want to say, and then move on to why I don’t buy them and why I think the opposite. So the point of this post is that this movie was very bad. The counter-points…. ummm…. maybe they had good intentions? That’s all I got.
If you didn’t pick it up from the title, it is a silent Rapture movie. It opens with two cops, one a Christian and one not, rescuing a kidnapped pop singer. When they meet her manager afterward, he provides the usual polite offer to call him for anything they want, after mentioning his yacht. They do not return the standard polite answer of “thank you, but no” and instead take him up on the offer by asking to go hang out on his yacht. So the majority of the movie takes place on this yacht. There are both cops and their wives, both of who share the religious/non-religious views of their husband, and there is the manager, the pop singer, and a couple others who work for him (basically thugs as you find out his music industry is a front for shadier activity).
Annoyance #1: Production Quality
I have a simple question: why must all Christian movies suck? Honestly, are there no good film-makers anywhere who are Christians? The camerawork and editing I suppose wasn’t “bad,” but it definitely isn’t going to impress anyone. Would I care normally on this count? No, but since it is the sad standard of Christian cinema I needed to include it in my rant. The acting was horrible, often completely missing any emotion. The writing was also bad, but most of that is covered in annoyances 2 and 3 below.
Back in December, I was at a Christian mission conference and they had a film festival. It was a hit, with a lot of hopeful Christian filmmakers there. There was some good stuff talked about, and first and foremost they openly admitted how much Christian movies suck. My hope is that there were some people there who will actually make some good movies in the future.
Annoyance #2: Evangelical Stereotypes
This movie was essentially exactly what you would expect from a fundamentalist church. There was the annoying Christian friend/co-worker who turned everything into an evangelistic plea. This is occasionally referred to as the “Jesus juke.” He was first introduced complaining to the main character about his using his smartphone too much. From then on, almost everything he said was essentially ignoring the main character and saying some Christian cliché instead. The worst was when the main guy, the non-Christian, got shot, and his response was “are you praying?” Seriously?! How about “are you ok?” or “do you need any help?” Ugh. And of course in the end it works out because he does convert his friend so it only encourages this kind of single-mindedness at the expense of relationships.
These people honestly annoy me. I promote the idea of Christians talking about their faith. I genuinely think evangelism is a great thing. I even think we should be initiating it in a gentle and loving way occasionally. Maybe if this guy pull a Jesus juke every once in awhile I wouldn’t have been so annoyed at him. But it was everything! Every single sentence! And right from the beginning, the non-Christian cop tells him to stop in a very agitated way, so repeated harassment of his friend is intentionally developed as a part of his character. This movie makes it praise-worthy behaviour to talk about nothing other than Jesus, not even things like, you know, the bullet-wound that his friend just received.
Then there is also the pop singer. The near-death experience causes her to re-evaluate life, and ultimately to become a Christian as well. Yes, I know this does actually happen often, so I’m not arguing that, but the stereotype of it annoyed me.
Or there’s the initially-non-Christian wife who responds to the Christian wife’s guilt trip with the standard “but I haven’t really done anything wrong!” before giving in. It’s also always the wife who converts first in movies, isn’t it? Then suddenly she goes from miserable and hating her marriage to bouncing with joy and love for her husband. Because all Christians are happy and all non-Christians aren’t, right? Saying the right prayer will immediately solve all your life’s problems, right?
The Christian wife plays her typical role as well. She doesn’t really say anything other than when she’s evangelizing via the four spiritual laws. Otherwise she seems to just be back-up for her husband.
The thugs are pretty typical as well, showing no signs of repentance. Honestly the whole bad-guys group didn’t really play any role in the movie except to stretch it out to a more reasonable length with an extra storyline that otherwise wasn’t at all related.
Let’s add the Bible to the stereotypes. It isn’t too strange to hear evangelicals say that if non-Christians simply read the Bible, they’d realize how right it is. No, to be fair, most people who have just straight-up read the Bible either don’t understand it or can’t get past the atrocities God ordered in the Old Testament, or the laws that seem completely arbitrary but carry the penalty of Hell when not obeyed, or the prophets’ repeated blame-the-victim mentality, or…. This movie makes the Bible the centre of the faith, dropping random quotes and references without context. And ultimately, the Bible saves the pop singer, as she reads John 3:16, which after all is such an obscure verse that she wouldn’t have heard it anywhere before that.
Annoyance #3: Consistency
This was probably the biggest annoyance of all. The premise of the movie was this guy who keeps getting chances to be saved. The message of the movie is trying to be that you don’t know when the Rapture will come so you better get saved now. Repeatedly they quote from Matthew that no one will know the day or hour but the Father. And the whole storyline is that this guy finds out down to the minute over and over again. After the first couple days, he even sets his watch alarm to it because he knows he has until then to figure out how to stop it. Ok, so the message of the movie is that no one knows except the Father… and this non-Christian cop?
Oh, and some pastor who wrote a book on it also knew. There’s also a scene of the two cops talking where the Christian cop tells the non-Christian cop about this book he read. In it, it was talking about how the Rapture was soon because Israel became a nation again in 1948 and there has been more and more prophecy fulfilled since then. Ok, so no one knows except for the Father… and the non-Christian cop… and the Christian cop… and this pastor… and anybody else who read this book. So honestly I wasn’t sure if the movie was trying to say “we don’t know so say the magic prayer just in case” or whether it was reinforcing that the Rapture was soon. It didn’t seem able to make up its mind.
These I don’t really want to get into, because there are lots of Christians who do support a lot of the theology in this movie. A lot of it I don’t. I haven’t really studied eschatology (end of the world theology) well enough, but from what I do know, the idea of the silent Rapture is pretty much just made up for recent fiction like the Left Behind series.
There’s the magic formula theology of the sinner’s prayer being the requirement for salvation. There’s no hint of discipleship, or any actual repentance, just an apology in a prayer and then you’re good to go. Related, there’s the exclusivist salvation, where only those who have explicitly called themselves Christians are saved.
There’s the idea that nothing in this world matters because we’ll all be Raptured anyway (deriving from the annoying Christian cop who couldn’t talk about anything other than God). That’s the kind of theology that has led to us raping our planet over the years and to the idea that it is doing God’s work to threaten to kill people to make them become Christians.
There’s the prosperity gospel – or the happiness gospel I suppose, as it is more about that than about money. If you become a Christian, your marriage will immediately fix itself and you’ll always be happy.
There’s a short anti-Islam moment, where the Christian cop essentially says that Iran is going to cause the end of the world if it gets nuclear power. When you put together that the Rapture does happen, then it is probably safe to conclude that they were saying Iran was the Beast of Revelation. From the same conversation as well as the one I mentioned earlier about the nationhood of Israel, there is a Holy Land theology that Israel is more special than everybody else.
That’s enough ranting for now. Between watching it and the rant I have spent way more time on this movie than it deserves.