Monday, August 18, 2014

God's Not Dead (2014)

IMDB plot summary: College philosophy professor Mr. Radisson's curriculum is challenged by his new student, Josh, who believes God exists.
Directed by Harold Cronk. Starring Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, and David A. R. White.

(For a much much less serious, more snarky take on this movie, check out my live tweet.)

As is the case with an unfortunate number of Christian movies, this isn't a good story. It's (literally) a series of lectures. There are a few attempted narrative subplots, but none of those really connect to the central characters, and most of them are barely ever seen so it's not like we'd have a chance to connect to them anyway.

My main issue with the movie, however, is that it's full of REALLY negative stereotypes about all the non-Christians. There is NO character in this movie who is a decent person without being a Christian, except for maybe the Chinese kid, but he gets a pass because he apparently kind of wants to be a Christian the whole time.

It makes it sound like being a Christian is some sort of risky act in America because everyone in the country is going to try to ruin your life (no lie, the philosophy professor tells the Christian kid EXACTLY that at one point). I've known plenty of non-Christians throughout my life and not a single one of them has been as overtly nasty to me as this movie would have you believe they ALL are. Are there nasty atheists out there? Sure. But there are also plenty of nasty Christians.

The movie deliberately sets up an unpleasant stereotyped characterization that is both unkind and untrue. That seems like the opposite of everything a Christian movie should be striving for. How can it claim to offer spiritual truth when people watching it KNOW that the world they're presenting as fact is a lie?

There's really nothing I liked about this movie. It's scattered, it's unkind, characters have nearly no definable personalities... It's just a mess, and, worse, it's a mess that is trying to represent my faith. Not to end this review sounding like a 4-year-old being served vegetables, but it's icky and I don't like it.

0.5 stars.

Flickchart: #2012 out of 2204, below Big Fat Liar and above Hotel Translyvania.


Brittani Burnham said...

You raise an interesting point. I've been watching 19 Kids and Counting recently (because I can't help but snark) and Josh Duggar went into this tangent recently on how Christians are being persecuted in society today and how everyone is against them. As a Christian, that couldn't be more wrong to me. I've never experienced that. A good amount of my friends are agnostic/atheist, and they've never once made fun of someone for being a Christian. Where is this coming from?

wintermute said...

Some disclaimers: I'm not a Christian, and I've not seen this movie. I don't believe the two are unrelated.

However, I am a fan of interesting apologetics and I'll read / watch almost anything on the subject that people put in front of me, and when I first heard this was in production I was intrigued, but the more I heard about the worse it sounded, both as entertainment and as theology.

I think the problem is that, when speaking to members of a minority religion within the Roman Empire, 2 Timothy 3:12 says "You guys are going to be ridiculed and persecuted for being Christians" (as is true for every minority religion), and modern American Christians feel that this means that all Christians will be persecuted for all time, even when they're the vast majority and their mores are enshrined in national laws. Therefore, they must be being persecuted, or they're not really Christians. Therefore, that guy who wished me "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" was an act of persecution. An the fact that their particular church can no longer prevent other churches from marrying people they disapprove of is an act of persecution.

It leads to the dichotomy that Fred Clark of Slacktivist refers to as "persecuted hegemony", where someone believes both that "this is a Christian country" and that "Christians are persecuted for their faith".

This basically means that any interaction with non-Christians (or the wrong type of Christian) can be viewed as persecution. But even with that, it's still necessary to construct outright falsehoods in order to demonstrate that the persecution that's happening is worth getting upset about; or in some cases isolated events are spun as being part of a wide-ranging policy that affects millions of people.

Anyway, this movie seems to be aimed not at convincing people that God is real and that they should be Christians, but rather that Christians really are being persecuted, and so by refusing to shop at Target you're just like St Simon the Martyr being stoned to death, and therefore a Real True Christian, suffering for their faith, just like Jesus said.

Hannah M said...

There is a disturbing amount of persecution complex throughout this movie, with evil atheist straw men characters out to LITERALLY ruin the lives of the Christians. It's ridiculous. (One of my other atheist friends asked me over Twitter, "So I guess I'm supposed to start ruining your life now?")

Reading reviews from Christians was infuriating too because they were all saying things like, "There are so many people like that out there!" and then they'd cite examples that were things like, "My professor said Christianity was dumb." That is NOT the same thing as insisting everybody deny God's existence to pass a class. One IS discrimination, the other is just voicing opinions. The fact that so many people think the two things are virtually the same is baffling to me.

I think this thought of "they must be being persecuted or they're not really Christians" hits it exactly. I've heard a lot of people quote the verses about "friendship with the world is enmity with God" and decide that that means you're not being bold enough in your faith if people like you. So they get deliberately antagonistic and then when people respond accordingly (because nobody likes people who are acting like jerks), they go, "Yay! Persecution!" And that can't POSSIBLY be what that's supposed to be about.

wintermute said...

Here's a particularly egregious example:

The article is about a high school football coach forcing all the athletes to take part in Christian rituals if they want to play on the team, and how the mean old atheists are persecuting the coach just because it's "discriminatory" and "unconstitutional" (and there's a huge amount of case law out there, so the school is setting itself up for a massive fall if they decide to let this get to court). Sure, the people on the team aren't complaining, but that may well be because the kids who would be uncomfortable with this have already left, or because they know that speaking up and not joining in will get them kicked off the squad.

But anyway, one of the commenters has this pithy advice:

I honestly wish that we could go back to the day where public atheists were stoned to death in the town square. If we kill a few public blasphemers, atheist bigots will probably be deterred from their attempts at persecuting Christians.

Which shows both an excellent understanding what what persecution actually is, while simultaneously somehow believing that they're being persecuted by not being allowed to murder people who disagree with them...

Hannah M said...



Like... I can't even wrap my mind around that.

Fortunately, most Christians (that I know, anyway) don't go nearly that far. They may get a little huffy when someone says "You're not allowed to write a paper proving the existence of God in my class because I'm bored of them," but for the most part they refrain from actually wishing we could all kill the atheists so they'd stop saying we can't force nonChristians to pray all the time.

wintermute said...

Oh, I know. I deliberately chose the most extreme form of the persecution mindset I could find, to demonstrate the kind of person that is watching and agreeing with this movie.

And to be fair to the school in question, it's not so much about forcing non-Christians to pray as not realising that there are non-Christians in their community in the first place, so what's wrong with the football team (who are obviously all Christians, because what else could they be?) praying before games?

And I can understand that attitude; it's one of ignorance (though, at this point, wilful ignorance) rather than malice.