I was not planning on watching the Christian film God’s Not Dead anytime soon. This was mostly due to limited time to watch movies and a desire to watch other things. Then I saw it was free streaming on Amazon and I could not resist. This movie had been heavily promoted in Christian circles and heavily panned elsewhere. I had to give it a viewing.
My first thought upon watching it was that evangelical Christians who complain about being caricatured in movies do the exact same thing to atheists! Every atheist in this movie is a total jerk. You would think that Christians, knowing what it is like to feel unfairly portrayed, would seek to create sympathetic characters of their so-called enemies. But nope. Next time a Christian whines about the portrayal of Christians in movies and television, they ought to expect people to point to God’s Not Dead as an example of the pot calling the kettle black.
For all the problems this movie had, there was an interesting story in there to tell. I heard a philosopher on the Unbelievable podcast a while back who had a similar experience when he was in college. He was challenged by an anti-Christian professor. But in his real-life story the two conversed and became friends. The Christian student became a professor in the same department as his one-time nemesis who was still an atheist. That, I thought, would have been a more intriguing story.
Unfortunately, God’s Not Dead surrounded a potentially compelling story with lots of pointless, even offensive, fluff. A liberal newscaster interviews a guy from Duck Dynasty in a totally pointless cameo. A Muslim student is beaten by her father for converting to Christianity. So not only are all atheists jerks, but all Muslims are intolerant and violent. If I was a non-Christian viewing this film, I would not want to spend time with Christians if this is how they view me.
It is also weird that the only time people feel the need to convert to Christianity is when life threatens them with cancer or kills them with cars. The gospel here is apparently only relevant if horrific things happen to you. So…should Christians pray for our non-believing friends to get cancer or hit by cars so they are receptive to the gospel? Even the way people convert is suspect. When the atheist professor is dying on the street, the pastor he meets coaxes him to say he “accepts” Jesus. Viewing the movie, it was clear at this point that he had clearly recognized his wrongs and wanted to know God. Isn’t that enough? Had he died before saying it out loud, would the God of this film condemn him to hell for failing to dot his I’s and cross his T’s?
Speaking of the atheist professor, it was a bit comical that he said there was no place in his classroom to discuss God, then he assigned them to read Descartes’ Discourse on Method. In this work, Descartes offers proofs for God’s existence. What, I wonder, would that discussion have been like in the classroom? I think it just shows that this stereotype of such professors is not realistic, for any philosophy class will engage with arguments for and against God just by reading philosophy. And somewhat ironically, there are schools which demand students sign an affirmation to a belief system, but they are Christian schools.
So yeah, I did not like this movie. I think there was a potential for a good story with two characters, a Christian and atheist, meeting and talking and both doubting and changing through their relationship. But real world change is more complex then is portrayed in this film which never rises above the level of propoganda.