Film Freak: God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness

godsnotdead3.pngGod’s Not Dead is the final movie in the PureFlix trilogy of movies. In addition to this trilogy, they released a movie based on Lee Strobel’s “The Case For Christ”, and a remake of the “Left Behind” movie starring Nicholas Cage. What I found interesting is that “The Case For Christ” was actually able to tell a story while presenting information from the book, presenting it as an arc. It gave me more hope that this company does know how to tell a story without relying on the persecution complex these movies have.

This movie has a different writer and director from the previous movies. I think the change in director and writer resulted in a better movie. The persecution complex is still there, but less pronounced. There’s only one plot! (But now, this makes the subplots of the other two movies even more irrelevant.)

Our focus is on Pastor Dave, who in my opinion was the only good thing about these movies. He is a flawed character and tries to live his life as an example. He’s the only character who doesn’t quote chapter and verse. The closest thing he says to a theological message is his motto “God is good all the time.” He lives his life the best he can. THIS is the character to build a movie around, not some stupid persecution complex that couldn’t happen in the real world. No more leaving out facts to fit an agenda here, like in the previous movies. We also see Josh Wheton, the protagonist of the first movie, but only for a few scenes.

Here, the plot is more focused on reconciliation. Dave is trying to stop his church from being moved off the evil atheist college. But once he hires his brother as a lawyer, the persecution complex stops! The movie then moves into its new plot: Dave and his brother Adam healing the rift caused by their dysfunctional family. Dave is an atheist, but the movie does not make him the bad guy! He actually does help his brother.

Another thing I can applaud is that there is no easy solution. Adam works out his problems, but he does not easily convert back to Christianity. The movie actually understands that faith is not that easy. It realizes that sometimes we can’t find the answers, and sometimes we think God doesn’t care. There are no easy solutions in this movie.

It’s far from a perfect movie. As I said, it still harps on its persecution complex for about the first 30 minutes of its run time. But once that’s out of the way, there’s no more preachiness. I have nothing against Christian movies. But I feel we shouldn’t act like we’re being persecuted in a country that has freedom of religion in its Bill of Rights. We shouldn’t be given a covert message to vote for a certain candidate and leave out key information that doesn’t fit an agenda. That’s not how you evangelize. You evangelize by sending God’s actual message, not one muddled with politics.

I’m not done with Pureflix yet. They’ve made a movie out of Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned. When I see that movie, I’ll talk about it here.

 

Film Freak: God’s Not Dead 2

notdead2A few years back, I reviewed the Pure Flix movie God’s Not Dead. I was not too happy with it, and at the time I was unaware that there was going to be a sequel, much less two. I believe that all three of these movies are terrible tools for evangelization. Now that Pure Flix has actually made a “franchise” out of this trilogy, I have decided I should go back and review the other two movies.

Although this movie is billed as  a sequel, it really has very little to do with the first movie. This time our main protagonist is not Josh Wheaton, but a high school teacher named Grace Westley. Josh is only mentioned in passing. Like the previous movie, this one has several different arcs, although much fewer and more tightly connected. The ones that don’t carry over now seem even more unnecessary than they were in the previous movie. If they weren’t going to carry over, why even have them in the first place?

Our story begins when Grace is talking with her class about Martin Luther King Jr. (coincidentally, it’s also the namesake of the school) When Brooke, a student she’s been consoling since the death of her brother, asks her about King’s own beliefs as a Christian, Grace affirms this. While this is going on, we see several students taking out their cell phones and texting to others, implying disbelief that a teacher would dare to bring up Jesus.

Brooke’s parents are outraged and even decide to get the ACLU to help them. This is one of my biggest problems with the movie. Despite what the right-wing propaganda people who made this movie want you to think, the ACLU is not some evil organization manned by atheists to persecute Christians. While they have brought cases against Christians (such as the infamous cases where bakers are sued because they refuse to bake cakes for same-sex marriages), the ACLU has actually helped Christians in many cases to defend their beliefs.  The whole name is AMERICAN Civil Liberties Union. I used to believe they were the enemy myself, but ever since I left the “right-wing” Christian mentality, I have reexamined my beliefs and learned that they are in fact an organization that helps ALL Americans, not just those who attack Christians. If you want proof of cases where they have assisted Christians, here’s a link! Yet every time we see their lawyer, he just can’t stop making evil glares and smiles. It’s a wonder we don’t see the lawyer rip a puppy’s head off the way they want us to know THIS IS THE BAD GUY!

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Film Freak: God’s Not Dead

godsnotdead

Ever since Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ, there’s been a growth of Christian films in the market, with movies like Fireproof, War Room, and a remake of Left Behind starring Nicholas Cage. Most rarely are released theatrically, but instead make money through direct-to-video sales and rentals, as those more easily lead to impulse purchases. One notable exception is the movie God’s Not Dead and its sequel. The first movie boasts a cast consisting of Kevin Sorbo (who you may remember from the Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess TV series), Dean Cain (of Lois and Clark fame, and William Robertson and his wife from the AMC Duck Dynasty reality show. I have several problems with this movie, so let’s get started.

Problem 1: Too many subplots: The main plot concerns Josh Wheaton, a college student taking a Philosophy class taught by Professor Jeffrey Raddison, a stereotypical atheist. On the first day of class, Raddison has all the students write on index cards the famous Nietsche quote “God is dead.” Josh is defiant and writes “God’s not dead instead. Rather than fail him outright, (as he had promised) Raddison proposes to debate him on God’s existence, letting the class decide the winner. In addition to the main plot, the movie pads out its run-time with the following subplots:

  • Two priests try to go on vacation at a water park, but keep getting cars that break down.
  • A female Muslim student wishes to convert to Christianity, but has to contend with her abusive father.
  • An agnostic Japanese student (or at least it’s implied that he’s agnostic) is attending Josh’s class, and may or may not be convinced. He talks to his father via cell phone, but is pressured to focus on his studies.
  • Raddison’s Christian fiancée, who he is trying to convert to atheism by ridiculing her faith and forbidding her from practicing it in her presence.
  • An atheist liberal blogger hounds William Robertson and Christian rock band Newsboys about their faith. She then discovers she has cancer. The Newsboys, being the “good Christians” they are, pray over her before their next concert. (I happen to be a fan of the Newsboys, but I was still disappointed with this scene.)

Most of these subplots have little to do with the main story. In fact, I’m sure you could throw some of them out and nothing of value would be lost.

Problem 2: Almost all of the “bad people” are non-Christian: the professor, the abusive father, the defiant son, and the liberal blogger. All the “good people” are either Christian or at least agnostic. Folks, this is unrealistic finger-pointing. Raddison is an embodiment of the strawman fallacy. Yes, I am well aware that many Christian students are facing the same situation as Josh on both high school and college campuses and having atheism beaten into their heads. They are being forced to renounce their faith in order to get a passing grade. But not all colleges are doing this. My alma mater, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana allowed Christians to practice their faith. We even had a Baptist church and a Catholic church on the campus grounds. (The fact that I live in the “bible belt” is irrelevant, by the way, so don’t bring that up) I’m well aware that atheists are ridiculing and bullying Christians online, as I’ve been the victim in groups on Facebook and in message boards. But I’ve also met atheists and other non-Christians on Facebook who are willing to at least tolerate my faith, if not ignore it. Some have even defended my right to express my faith in the Facebook groups. In the movie, there is only one Christian who isn’t good, Josh’s girlfriend, who pressures him into dropping the class.

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