My Thoughts On “God’s Not Dead”

 

One of my daughters wanted to see “God’s Not Dead” with a friend. I had no intention of seeing the movie, and hadn’t expected my girls to want to see it. But the hype made its way to my daughters’ ears, and one asked to see it. The only way I’d agree to let her watch it is if I went too, and we had a conversation afterward.

Armed with popcorn and a drink, I ventured into the theater ahead of my too-cool daughter so I wouldn’t embarrass her. Since there’s been so much talk about the movie, I figured I would write a post about it, but I hadn’t intended to take notes. However, less than five minutes into the movie, I had too many thoughts to try to remember. So I pulled out my phone, opened my Notes app, and started typing my thoughts. There are oh-so many!

Now I’m no movie critic, so this is less of a review, and more of my thoughts on how Christianity was portrayed.

I’ll begin by sharing a personal experience. I had several atheist professors during my years in college. Some were adamant about their beliefs and a touch belligerent in the classroom. I remember one professor asking if anyone in the class was an evangelical Christian. At the time, I was a right-wing nut who believed it was my duty to be offended by him. I raised my hand, along with a couple of other people. He ridiculed us for a few minutes, but looking back on it, it was in no way persecution. Other atheist professors occasionally mentioned their beliefs, but were still intelligent and enjoyable educators.

Fifteen years later, I know that even if I had had the chance to debate my beliefs in front a classroom in an attempt to prove an atheist professor wrong, it would have done no good. Love is what draws people to God, not being humiliated in a debate.

Having said that…the movie:

Overall, the movie was cheesy. The plot lacked cohesiveness throughout the movie. The different stories of an Alzheimer patient’s family, a cancer patient, an atheist professor, and the Christian hero, along with a few supporting characters were tied together sloppily at the end.

As I expected, the movie was filled with overused Christian cliches.

The theme of the movie was to prove that God is not dead, and that He needs someone to “defend” Him, all at the expense of the main character’s personal relationships. However, the movie was less about proving God’s existence, and more about debunking evolution.

The prevailing attitude of the movie was that non-Christians may never have “meaningful exposure” to God and Jesus if Christians don’t argue for Him. In addition, God would be disappointed if Christians don’t defend Him.

Not once are we given the main character’s experience with a gracious, merciful, loving God. We only know that he feels like God wants him to defend Him, and that he doesn’t want to disappoint God.

The movie made wide generalizations and broad stereotypes, which is what I expected from this film. The hero of the story was a white, American male wearing Christian t-shirts and walking around with a tract in his pocket. The go-to counselor/pastor was also a white, American male. Non-believers and atheists were made out to be evil, angry and unloving. Women in general and people of other cultures/religions were portrayed as idiots in need of a Christian to tell them how to think.

In one scene, a girl from a Muslim family is abused and disowned for becoming a Christian. While there’s truth to this, let’s not pretend that the same thing doesn’t happen in Christian families. What about the Christian family whose child grows up and announces he/she is homosexual? More often than not, I’ve heard of Christian families disowning homosexual family members. And let’s not pretend that Christian fathers don’t abuse and abandon their own children when they grow up to disagree with the beliefs they were taught as children. I have personal experience with that one.

In another scene, the pastor/counselor said to a salesman, “Lying to an ordained minister is flat out bad. You know that, right?” While it was intended to be funny, and the audience did laugh, this is precisely the arrogant attitude of many pastors I know that turns people away from church as well as Christianity.

There were many evangelical Christian innuendos {which mainly include interpreting Scripture out of context to fit a certain agenda}, including a comment about being unequally yoked; a scene in which the male pastor is counseling a woman, and another woman is present {no doubt to ward off sexual temptation}; and the idea that Christians must stand up for their rights.

In a climactic moment, the young college student yells at his atheist professor in front of the class, “Why do you hate God?” I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where we’re encouraged to yell at unbelievers and make them look like idiots in an attempt to show them the love of Christ. Is debate really what draws people to God? The Christianity that was portrayed in this movie was one of arrogance and division, promoting an us/them mentality.

The movie ended with the typical evangelical scare tactic. The atheist professor is hit by a car and proclaims belief in God with his dying breath, as the preacher and a missionary calmly stand over him. Instead of truthfully portraying such a tragic death, the missionary hovers over the dead man’s body and says that there’s cause for celebration and joy in heaven now that the atheist has believed. Honestly, I sat dumbfounded at the lack of sadness over such a death.

Overall, the movie showed the side of Christianity I expected: fear-based. Fear of not standing up for rights; fear of displeasing God; fear of non-believers and other religions; fear of death without verbally uttering a few, magical words. The movie had nothing to do with loving others; instead, it was about fighting for religious beliefs in order to prove others wrong. Tell me how vastly different that is from religions that don’t claim Jesus as God. Not so different, is it?

Does God really need to be defended? Isn’t He bigger than that? Isn’t standing up for our rights more about us than Him? Isn’t redemption bigger than a scare tactic and the sinner’s prayer?

The one line I did agree with in the movie was when the hero student asked the atheist professor: “Religion is like a disease?” The question was meant to ridicule the professor. However, I’d have to answer, “Absolutely…religion is like a disease, and only the grace, mercy and love of God {which, by the way, were hardly addressed in the movie} can heal such a sickening disease.”

 

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Comments

  1. Christie says:

    While this is your blog and I don’t disagree with you openly sharing your thoughts, I found the movie to be quite good. I am a Christian, not a “holy roller”, but a sinner saved by grace who tried to show God’s love to others. While it may have been a bit cheesy, they did a good job fitting such a big message into a 1 1/2 hour timeframe. I think they did a lot of generalizing and typecasting, but so does every other movie out there. The director accomplished getting the name of Jesus to the masses, which is what we are called to do. What others take from the movie is up to them. I think if this is the only way that if even one person is exposed to this movie and receives Christ a a result, then it is a success. And we as Christians don’t need to discourage anyone from seeing it. I’d hate to be the one that talked someone out of seeing it and that be the one thing that would’ve led them to Christ. If nothing else, it may serve as a catalyst to find out more about Christianity. Sorry to ramble and hope you don’t feel like I’m out of line. Just a simple girl’s opinion.

  2. Jimbo says:

    I’m a believer, I love jesus, and yet I am also sinner and by God’s grace I am also forgiven. One of my favorite lines about Christianity is “I’m not perfect; I’m forgiven,” because I too am a sinner saved by God’s grace. Since typecast labels have been introduced into the blog and comments I would also label myself a “holy roller.” While honest about my typecast I am also realistic that anything more in these comments by me could well be discounted by others due to either their misunderstanding or ingnorance of what a holy roller is. Simply put,, I have a pretty clear ideas about God’s love, religion, and politics.

    Now to our blogger Rebekah’s movie review. I enjoyed reading Rebekah’s views about Christianity, religion, and God’s Love! God is Not Dead the movie contains cliches, innuendo, and perhaps some truth therein, but what Rebekah really hones in on is the unloving comments/behavior and also some hypocritical dispersions and overtones that are scripted into a movie, portrayed by actors paid a fee to perform, and distributed by a production company wanting to fill movie theater seats. Regardless of the movie goers takeaway, it is simply entertainment for you and me and a revenue producer for the cast, the production company, distributors, and the movie theaters.

    Now on the discussion of Christianity and God’s Love. . . . . . .. to be continued on another day in perhaps my own blog . . . . . . See you at mass!

    Jimbo

  3. Ellen says:

    I went to see the movie yesterday, too. Mostly because I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about – positive and negative.

    I agree with your critique. I would also add that there was no overt demonstration of helping people in need. Just those Christian cliche’s you mentioned. For example, when the Muslim turned Christian woman was with the pastor, they spewed scripture at her. Where was she going to live? She was thrown out with only the clothes on her back. Scripture doesn’t fix that.

    Also, I thought it was weird that the missionary character immediately diagnosed the atheist professor’s crushed ribs which was causing his lungs to fill with blood and that he only had a few moments to live – yet the professor continued to talk. If his lungs were filling with blood, it would have been spewing out of his mouth and he would have been unable to breathe, let alone speak.

    And I’m still agape that the blond and the hero were freshmen yet they had been dating for 6 years. So, they started dating as 12 year olds? Hmmm . . .

    And, I’m not so sure that a Newsboys concert would be filled with college-age students. The newsboys are pretty ancient for that crowd.

    Just adds to the cheesiness, in my opinion.

    Ellen

  4. Michael says:

    As an atheist, I want to say thank you for your kind perspective. None of us need this ‘us vs them’ schism, and the world would be quite better off if we asked how others felt rather than assuming and telling.

    Thank you again, much love! :)

  5. Jeremy says:

    Rebekah thank you for your honest opinion on the film. As I would agree with some of your observations regarding the movie’s cheesiness and generalities, I found the movie very refreshing. We live in a culture today where being a Christian and standing up for biblical teachings is shunned upon. Not that Christians are called to force our beliefs on others or belittle someone for having opposite beliefs; however, Jesus Christ calls us to love our neighbors as our selves. Matt 22:37-40.
    Having seen this movie several times, I believe the the point of the movie is how God is working in each of the characters lives to accomplish HIS goal and HIS purpose- that is drawing people closer to HIM. We all are given a choice to accept this gift of unmerited grace and mercy through Jesus’ s death and resurrection on the cross and receive eternal life in heaven or we choose to deny it. It is easy to criticize every flaw in the movie, but I believe the movie is worth seeing.

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