God miraculously stops cars from working, a young man faces off with Hercules dressed as a philosophy professor, and one of the two african american characters in the film calls himself “G-Dog”. These are some of the things “God’s Not Dead” had going against it. A lot of my friends on the internet are panning it because it isn’t well made. I went to see it on Friday night and I agree with them- it’s all plot with little character development, the characters as they exist are mostly stereotypes, the plot is 100% transparent, and yet it worked for me.
Granted I am a fan boy, but not of the christian pop subculture that took center stage in this film- I was spared from much immersion in that by being a part of Circle of Hope since I was 12- I’m a fan boy of Jesus and he shows up in the movie. People find faith through crazy channels, like a philosophy lecture given by an 18 year old, a Franklin Graham podcast, and a Newsboys concert. And despite the cynicism we are all programmed with now days I was moved by the conversions stories on screen. I actually shed a couple of tears.
I’m concerned about what one blogger described how the film “fetishizes persecution.” For the record, Usonian Christians are not persecuted, and trying to legislate your way out of being aliens and pilgrims is against the teachings of the New Testament. I’m concerned about the poor standards that are associated with Christian film. One of my friends said he was offended as an artist after seeing the trailer because it looked like it was an after school special on ABC Family. I’m also concerned that the most important debate for many Christians seems to be whether or not God exists, as if God’s existence were the Gospel. Jesus did get professed in “God’s Not Dead” but He is rivaled by the god of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism– the true American Religion that masquerades as Christianity.
Despite all these concerns I was able to rejoice in the last scene with the Newsboys and all the people in the theater who were excited by people coming to know Jesus. It seemed that everyone there was already converted (there was shouting and applause) but a group of kids that looked like they were in a youth group was in the lobby taking their picture together afterwards and I know that these sort of experiences are shaping their nascent faith as they are becoming adults. They may have professed faith in Jesus but they are still becoming Christians- they are still deciding who they will be. This movie got them excited about people coming to know Jesus too. That’s good.
I was invited by some friends who are pretty into the pop Christian sub culture and I invited a friend of mine who is not always sure he believes. He has doubts about the plausibility of the Bible and is searching for a way to be faithful and be a scientist. We made jokes together about the impossibility of the script but in the end we were both impacted by the film. I think this is a credit to what God is doing in us. Our hearts are so easily hardened by cynicism, preference and preconceptions. My Christian friends who were in really “churchy” churches as kids are so bristled by something like God’s not dead. To them I say the capacity to go with the good in something especially when the good is explicitly God and sometimes even Jesus is a gift we should develop.
So when you go see “God’s Not Dead” or “Noah” or “Son of God”, the chain reactions in this little movie Bible explosion we’re experiencing, soften your heart, take a friend, have fun and see what good may come.