Among members of the cast — which includes actors Nicolas Cage, who plays pilot Rayford Steele and Chad Michael Murray, who portrays journalist Buck Williams — is Alec Rayme, an actor and stunt devil originally from Akron, Ohio, who has a pivotal role in the end times movie.
Rayme, 35, plays Hassid, a kind and compassionate Muslim character who joins his fellow protagonists in coping with the chaos that follows the rapture, a theological phenomenon in which Christians are taken up to heaven by Jesus before the Earth’s final destruction.
Actor Alec Rayme (Stoney Lake Entertainment)
The actor, who is a practicing Christian, told TheBlaze in an interview that he connected with his "Left Behind" role on a deeper level than he has for many of his past acting gigs, citing his personal experience and familiarity with the Islamic faith as the primary reason.
"This role I connected with because [of] my background," he said. "My father being Muslim, my whole entire family overseas being Muslim."
Hassid is presented as a man who is moral and helpful — a "good guy," Rayme said, which made the role even more appealing to him.
The actor, who was born Ali Alherimi but who uses Rayme as his stage name, said that he was never a practicing Muslim, but that his father, an Arab born in Jerusalem, is an adherent of the Islamic faith.
"My dad actually got brought over from the Middle East by a Methodist pastor when he was 18," Rayme explained. "[My dad] met him when he was 9 and he was actually getting beat by an Israeli soldier and this pastor was over there visiting and screamed at the soldier, 'That’s my son! That’s my son!' just to protect him."
That pastor told Rayme's father that if he did well in school he would come back to see him. And, after numerous visits, the Methodist preacher eventually brought his dad at age 18 to the United States, where he went to college on scholarship.
Rayme's mother, who is a Christian of European descent, later married his father, bringing their children up in a mixed religious home.
Despite being raised with faith all around him, Rayme said that for most of his life he only nominally considered himself a Christian. While he believed in God, he was theologically unsure of the finer details and hadn't quite committed — an uncertainty that continued through his college years.
"I liked playing football in college and I liked going out every night drinking," he said. "But it then got to a point where all that started to really take a toll physically and mentally."
Rayme said he didn't truly dive into the Christian faith, though, until five years ago when a friend called him out of concern.
"I had a friend call me that I hadn’t talked to in years and he was like, 'I’ve just been thinking about you. You’ve been on my mind because I’m worried about you, you know? Where are you in your life now?,'" he explained. "I was like, 'Man that’s crazy. You just called me. I’m literally like screaming out to God. I don’t know what else to do I’m in the lowest I’ve ever been. Blackest, darkest, most despair feeling.'"
At the time, Rayme said he had been out partying every night — a lifestyle that he knew wasn't right.
He said that while he believed the Bible was true, he had procrastinated in embracing his faith until he finally came to a breaking point one night while drinking wine and getting high on marijuana. It was that moment that something profoundly changed.
Rayme remembers walking to his bathroom and looking in the mirror, barely recognizing the man who was staring back at him.
"I looked so awful," he said. "It was weird because I looked awful from within. The outside was me still there but I felt like this shell."
It was then that he said he dropped to his knees and started praying. The next morning he picked up his Bible and began reading it — a practice he has continued ever since.
"Physically and mentally I had no where else to go," he said. "I didn’t choose God — he chose me."
Rayme has been more diligently living for God ever since, taking a much stronger stance on his faith.
The actor credited his diverse upbringing with offering him the ability to see the power of true unity. While he said that people of different faiths often fear or avoid one another, he said his family dynamic has helped him recognize the power of love.
"If people would just take the time — and Christians take the time — to get to know people for who they are, that’s when conversions happen," he said, specifically noting some of the sweeping negative generalizations that are many times held about the Muslim faith. "But to sit there and put yourself in a bubble and keep them outside — that’s the trouble."
Actor Alec Rayme (right) with actors Chad Michael Murray (left) and Martin Klebba (center) on the set of "Left Behind" ((Stoney Lake Entertainment)
As for "Left Behind," Rayme is hoping the film "plants seeds" in viewers' minds about what it means to truly be a Christian, as he said that believers are tasked with the responsibility of sharing their faith with those around them.
"I think the movie will plant a seed," he said. "I think people will open the Bible or they'll wonder about something or they’re in a dark place in their life and they’re like, 'Wow look at this.'"
With films and churches focusing on end times eschatology and with "Left Behind" bringing these theories to the forefront, some Christians believe that there are signs that biblical prophecy is coming to fruition
"There is so much evil around us. ... sex is rampant. Drugs are rampant. Killing, war," Rayme said. "I mean, if you really read your Bible you’ll understand what all of this is leading up to."
Read more about end times theology here.