“God’s Not Dead” tries to sell itself as a Christian film that is wholesome entertainment for the whole family like “Facing The Giants.” However, what you really see is a film that tries to take all of the good qualities of Valentine’s Day to only find out that they have only taken the idea of putting together a series of stories that are somewhat connected with only one needing to be there. Before I continue, I would like to make it clear that I myself am a Christian (Episcopalian) so I can except that this film has an agenda. It’s fine for a film to have one, but when it’s a religious film, it becomes taboo. But I digress.
The film is about a Christian freshman named Josh (Shane Harper) who must take a philosophy class to fulfill a graduation requirement. His instructor, Professor Raddison (Kevin Sorbo) is an atheist who uses his position as a philosophy professor to spread his “atheist propaganda.” Instead of the first lesson being the definition of philosophy, he starts his class out by listing a bunch of great minds/philosophers who were atheists. First flaw in his logic, he includes such names as Hawking (a scientist), Freud (a psychologist), and Brecht (a playwright).
Now here’s the problem, some of those people that he names wouldn’t even describe themselves as atheists. Sure, some like Ayn Rand considered themselves atheists but others, like Chomsky, did not (and that’s a whole other argument that I wish to not cover). Raddison has a good list of atheists under his belt but some of them should not be considered serious philosophers. He cites Stephen Hawking and Dawkins, who are scientists and no doubt brilliant minds. But what he’s doing is the equivalent of a Christian throwing around Bible verses. In an argument, they don’t work, because in order for scripture to be considered serious facts, the person you are arguing with must take scripture seriously. And if that person’s an atheist, you have no ammo, and vice-versa. I’m going to end here because I’m not a philosopher and therefore I have no right to argue. But come on, have a true debate, not a competition to name the most people who share your beliefs. I’m done now.
There are many stories that just don’t need to be there. I say that this is like the conservative right’s version of Valentine’s Day because there are just way too many subplots to care about. There’s one about two pastors who are trying to go on a trip but can’t because their cars broken. This of course leads to nowhere. There’s one story with the guy from “Duck Dynasty” and a reporter who works for a blog called “The New Left” (I wonder who they’re referring to). Then there’s a story of an elderly woman who has two children. One is a young woman who apparently just wants to make a scene wherever she goes. And the other is played by Clark from Lois & Clark who is the biggest asshole ever (even Scrooge would cringe). This story, also leads nowhere.
Then there are two stories that are proof to me that this was a film made by conservative white men. There’s a story of a Muslim family who are “very traditional” where the daughter is a secret Christian who reads the Bible and listens to Franklin Graham. When her “traditional” father finds this out, he beats her and throws her out of the house. Here are the numerous problems with this story. First off, Islam is not an “anti-Christian” religion. It is in fact an Abrahamic Religion. I am no authority on religion, but I do know that each religion has added scripture to make them unique. Judaism has the Tanakh (the old testament) and the Talmud. Christians added to the Tanakh the New Testament, and Islam adds the Quran. All three religions believe in the same God, but apparently to the filmmakers Islam does not. If the father was a true Muslim, he wouldn’t care that his daughter was reading the Bible because it is still considered a holy text in his religion (just not the central text). I know this because when I was younger, there was a Muslim who was a janitor at my school. He was not wrathful, violent, and reclusive, as the filmmakers want you to believe, he was a very social man who took all religious texts as sacred. He could recite the bible better than I can, and I respected him because of his understanding. So in conclusion, the father is not a “good Muslim” for kicking his daughter out for accepting Christ as her savior, he’s just an asshole. And in my experience, you don’t need to be religious to be an asshole.
The next story is about a Chinese student named Martin Yip. As I type that name, I cringe because they were just too close to naming this character something like Charlie Chan or Odd Job. He is the Cantonese speaking son of a Mandarin speaking father (because hey, it all sounds the same anyways). Martin is beginning to accept Christ, and form his own opinion. Nothing wrong with that part. It’s his father’s reaction that bothers me. When Martin speaks to his father about what is happening at school, he tells him about his Philosophy class and how they are arguing about the existence of God. His father says to him, “What does your professor say?” Martin tells him that he doesn’t believe in God. So his father says, “Then you don’t either!”
That right there is incredibly racist not because of the fact that the filmmakers want to show that China is atheist, but that Asians are all obsessed with their education and take their educator’s words as truth. I know a lot of Asians, I can even go further by saying I’m related to some, and I can tell you with more than full confidence that there are some who do not give a shit about their education (like all races and creeds). But the worst part is that Martin becomes Christian because of Josh. I could go further by saying that the filmmakers are trying to portray Josh as a white savior. But I’m not going to do that because that’s just ridiculous. Like this movie.
I quote Roger Ebert when I say I hate, hate, hate, hated this movie. I hate it because it is a bad representation of Christians; I hate it because it’s a bad representation of non-believers. I hate it because it’s racist and anti-intellectual. This film is not a good representation of faith. I have seen numerous films that have justified faith better than this movie and some of them were made under secular circumstances. In fact, I’ll go even farther by saying that the film “Kingdom of Heaven” which is about the crusades (ammo for justifying the hating of faith) sends the message of the importance of faith better than “God’s Not Dead.” I am offended as a cinephile of faith because when non-believers see this film, they’ll use it as a reason why religion keeps us from going forward.
This film should be considered offensive to anyone who has a brain because it uses a weak argument to support an even weaker argument. It should offend filmmakers who take their craft seriously. Christians, Muslims, philosophers, educators and atheists, for reducing them to mere caricatures. And even email-trolls who spread these kinds of stories. This film is not about being faithful, it’s about the persecution that the modern American Christian faces in academia; an issue you might prioritize just above jay-walking.