[I wrote the following article a couple years ago after seeing the original “God is Not Dead”, but never published it. Now that “God is Not Dead II” has come out, and there has been some controversy over it and SNL’s parody of it, I figure there’s no time like the present to publish it, because the damage done by such films needs to be addressed. I hope to view “God is Not Dead II” eventually, but I can’t go to theaters due to my severe LED and fluorescent lighting sensitivity here in my post-Lyme years, so I’ll have to wait for the DVD.]
Upon recommendation by numerous fellow Christians, I rented the popular Christian movie, “God is not Dead.” For those of you unfamiliar with it, the movie tells the story of a Christian college student whose philosophy professor tries to make every student sign a paper stating that God is dead, so they can skip the topic of religion in the class, and as a reward, every student gets an “A” on that part of the course. The Christian student refuses and is forced to make a case in front of the class in favor of Christianity, while the professor threatens to fail him if he fails to convince the class of the existence of God.
The premise of this movie paints a picture of Christianity under attack – innocent Christians being persecuted by academia, despite having done nothing wrong to inspire such attacks. But the movie goes further. It paints every non-Christian character in the movie as a horrific human being, from the non-Christian who dumps his girlfriend the moment she tells him she has cancer to atheistic university professors who scoff at Christians and speak to them in condescending tones. Meanwhile, the Christians in the movie are presented as nothing more than innocent people with hearts of gold who just can’t understand why anyone would want to persecute them. Naturally, this is an oversimplification of human nature, because I’ve known my share of friendly professors and condescending Christians over the years. Worse yet, it’s the sin of judging people (judgmentalism) as being evil simply because they are out of alignment with the Bible on a single issue. The truth is that there are thousands of things a person can say or do right or wrong, so it’s a major sin to judge people on just one or two of those things, as this film does. When we do, we effectively take our seat on God’s throne, doing what only God has the authority to do.
The movie also promotes stereotypes by going as far as to feature a cameo appearance by Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, who is verbally attacked by a reporter from a publication called “the New Left,” whose bumper stickers read, “Meat is Murder” and “I Love Evolution.” She asks him how in the world he can be proud of killing ducks and then, with a sour sneer on her face, asks him if it’s true that they pray to Jesus on his show, as if that’s the most despicable, audacious thing a person could do. So, all in one character, the movie manages to lump democrats, vegetarians, and those who believe in a universe older than 6000 years into the same evil cesspool as atheists who have a seething hatred for Christianity.
This movie could have been a good one, because the arguments made in favor of the existence of God and intelligent design are good. In fact, I would have been much happier with a movie that spent all of its time on the existence of God debate. Instead we got a movie that spent 20 minutes on the debate and the rest on inflaming the culture wars.
What I want to know is how the evangelical church expects to recruit people to the faith (which is the meaning of the word “evangelical”) by attacking vegetarians, non-Christians, Democrats and scientists. Do they really think that non-Christians who see this movie will want to join the faith after they’ve been portrayed by Christians in such disparaging and stereotypical ways?
Unfortunately, evangelism has been rendered worthless and ineffective, because Christians have failed to turn the other cheek. Yes, the church has come under attack by atheists at times. But let’s not forget, it was Christians who once made it illegal, to the point that a person would go to jail, for teaching evolution in a school (this is what led to the famous Scopes Trial of 1925). We Christians have also tried to block mosque construction and gay marriage, because they violate our religion, even though we live in a nation that has, since its inception, guaranteed its people religious freedom in which no one can be forced to obey someone else’s religious beliefs. Yet, when these persecuted groups lash out against Christians, conservative Christians act as though they have no earthly idea why anyone would want to attack us (reminds me of U.S. foreign policy). They then strike back with attacks of their own, as the producers of “God is not Dead” did, which only makes matters worse.
What Jesus called us to do when insulted or attacked by others is to “turn the other cheek.” That means we Christians need to be the bigger person. If those we’ve persecuted in the past lash out, we need to let it roll off our backs rather than return fire. Others who verbally attack us, or even legally attack us, as has been the case with lawsuits that seek to remove all Christian symbolism from our nation’s landscape, are to be dealt with in a biblical manner, which is one of respect. If others truly persecute Christians, and we Christians respond peacefully rather than vengefully, then society will see the Christians as righteous and those who persecute us as evil, and people will turn to embrace Christianity. This is what happened in ancient Rome and later in Africa. But if we Christians go on the attack, we will be seen as the persecutors, and people will turn against the faith. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s been happening over the past several decades.