If you haven’t seen this movie and do not want to know what happens, you definitely should not read this article, as there will be several spoilers. You have been warned.
God’s Not Dead is set up almost exactly like the movie Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. There are several different story lines that are all eventually revealed to be connected through the characters’ relationships. Despite the multiple story lines, the main story is of a college freshman who is required by his philosophy professor to prove that God is not dead in order to pass the class. This all stemmed from Josh’s (the student) refusal to sign a piece of paper stating “God is dead” as required by Radisson (the professor) at the beginning of the year.
Let me say up front that I’m not here to completely bash this movie. In fact, I really enjoyed some parts. Hot Spencer from Good Luck Charlie plays the part of the protagonist, Josh Wheaton, which is a casting choice I fully endorse. And even though the whole movie looked like a commercial for the Newsboys (the final scene happens at their concert), I always enjoy a good throwback to my time growing up in the church….. “Not Ashamed”, “Love Liberty Disco”, “Take Me to Your Leader”, “Reality”, “Shine”…. All songs by the Newsboys that defined my idea of good music in the 90’s. And since when was Michael Tait (of DC Talk) a part of Newsboys??? I’m really off my contemporary Christian music game.
Joking aside, there were parts and ideas in the movie that really led me to think about my beliefs. Josh presents some interesting support for the idea of believing in the Christian God. I won’t relay all of it here, but I do suggest you watch the movie and form your own opinion. Radisson and Josh both use theories from well-known philosophers to try and prove their respective opinions, and it provides for great conversation. Josh has this great quote during his discussion on evolution and creationism where he says, “You don’t have to commit intellectual suicide to believe that God exists.” That’s a statement I can get behind. But what I mostly drew from his reasoning was that you can’t prove God is dead because you can’t prove that God exists (my thoughts, not what the movie was saying). Both arguments were almost solely based on theories and philosophers, leading to no tangible “proof” that God exists, just more questions.
There are a few scenes in the movie that were especially thought provoking for me. During a scene with the Muslim father and daughter, the father tells the daughter that he understands that it’s hard for her to be a part of a world that she cannot partake in (because of her Muslim beliefs), but those who are not Muslims are not truly happy even though they may seem to be because they do not worship God in the way he demands. It was eerie to me how similar those words are to beliefs expressed by Christians… that they are to be “in the world, but not of it”, that non-believers are not truly happy because they aren’t living according to God’s will. Maybe that was the point of the directors, I’m not sure.
In the final showdown between Josh and Radisson, Josh specifically states that without a belief in God, morality has no basis. This is a statement that deserves (and will get) a larger discussion, but know that I find this incredibly problematic and also incredibly offensive. I do not currently hold a belief in God, I don’t really know what I believe, but that does not mean that I no longer hold reason to believe in basic morals. For that to be true, the two-thirds of the world that does not believe in Christianity would have to be living in utter chaos, uninhibited by the morality exclusive to Christianity. A situation that is as absurd as the idea it’s founded on.
What I found most troubling was the portrayal of non-believers. The antagonist, Professor Radison, is a borderline physically aggressive asshole, who demands his students state that “God is dead” and accept that fact in order to move on in the course. He’s even called verbally abusive by his Christian girlfriend (a former student), who later decides that she is “unequally yoked” after being made fun of by him and his seemingly all-atheist fellow philosophy professors for being Christian. A Muslim father hits and disowns his daughter for becoming a Christian. Another atheist we meet is Amy Ryan, who is your stereotypical, “Meat is Murder”, evolution-believing atheist that ambushes famous believers (like Willie Robertson *eyeroll*) for unexpected interviews about their faith for her atheist blog. When she later finds out she has cancer, her atheist/lawyer boyfriend BREAKS UP WITH HER BECAUSE SHE HAS CANCER. He even gets mad at her for bringing up her awful news right after he happily announces that he made partner at his firm…… I am not making this up. In the end, it is revealed that Radisson, the professor, actually believes in God, but he hates God because he believes that God did not answer his prayers to heal his mother who died of cancer. So Radisson exacted a one-man battle against the belief in God in order to exact some sort of sad revenge. It’s honestly the most heart-breaking story out of them all, especially considering that in the final scene Radisson is hit by a car and killed on his way to find his ex-girlfriend at a Newsboys concert (but not before a last minute salvation, led by a pastor who sees the accident happen).
My point not being that these situations never happen (because they most certainly do), but that these are the only portrayals of non-believers in the entire film! It’s every self-proclaimed martyr’s dream-come-true, that all non-believers are out to get Christians. That everyone who doesn’t believe in God is an arrogant ass, unless salvation magically cures their ego. Where’s the case for the atheist who simply does not believe in the Bible, who finds more truth in science? Where’s the case for the agnostic who doesn’t claim to hold the end-all, be-all knowledge about the existence of a god? Where’s the case for the former believer, who is searching for a truth that might not necessarily end in Christianity? I know that not all Christians perceive non-believers in this limited way, but oftentimes it feels like those voices are being drowned out by the stereotypical drivel displayed here.
The sad fact is that our world does not deal well in the “grey”, in the areas where life is not necessarily black or white, where people can’t only exist in two opposing boxes. But in the grey is where real life happens. It’s where people search and struggle, where beliefs are lost and found. In the grey is where reality begins. We might want to try and spend more time there.
Did you see God’s Not Dead? What are your thoughts?