There are a number of ways to look at Left Behind, a new movie adaptation of a novel series about the rapture and second coming of Christ. As a piece of cinema, it's bad. As a theological or existential meditation, it’s worse. But as a product of the film industry, it’s a fascinating, timely mashup of two trends: the recent boom in mass-marketed Christian films like Son of God, Heaven Is for Real, and God's Not Dead, and pop-culture’s ongoing apocalypse fascination, seen recently in works like The Leftovers, Planet of the Apes, and Noah.
There's an anxiety beneath both trends, one that's old and never truly absent from artistic expression: What should we make of the unknown, the inexplicable, and, really, human existence? If, as happens in Left Behind, millions of people just up and disappear from the face of the earth on an otherwise regular day, how should you even start to deal with that?
Left Behind offers one answer, which echoes the beliefs of at least some of the 2.18 billion Christians around the world: At the end of days, there will be a rapture. In certain interpretations of the Bible, like that of the movie, this means some people will rise to join God in heaven (hence the sudden disappearances), while others will remain on earth for a period of "tribulation" before Christ returns. There's no question of "how to deal" because the fate of humanity has already been written and a path out of the chaos has been offered: redemption and salvation through the forgiveness of Christ.