God’s not Dead has a variety of characters, which shows how different Christians can be. We can be timid and silent, like Mina. We can be more focused on the world rather than on God, like Kara. We can stand by our beliefs like Josh. We can even trust God so fully, that we’re willing to lose everything rather than deny Him, like Ayisha. Some of us turn to God only when we have no where left to turn, like Amy.
The main point of the movie is to reveal what is happening to Christians in American universities and to encourage Christians in these situations to stand up for the God they put their faith in. While these characters each decide whether or not to stand for God in one way or another, unfortunately, I find these characters more distracting from the main point of the movie than I find them helpful in reinforcing the message. While I think some characters did add some meaningful aspects, I felt like other characters just did not fit, such as the pastors. I also think Willie Robertson and the Newsboys were forced into the storyline to gain popularity for the movie rather than strengthen the plot and message. Now, I respect Duck Dynasty, and I love the Newsboys. I don’t dislike either of these groups. I just think the popularity gig would not have been needed had the message itself been strong. If this movie had been shot only in that one classroom with debates going on between Professor Radisson, Josh, and the other students, I think this movie would have been both simpler and stronger.
The fact is, what happened to Josh in this movie is similar to what is happening in reality. I know people whose grades and credits are suffering due simply to their religious beliefs. I know one person who gathered research with his/her professor for a book, but this person disagreed with Freud’s and Darwin’s theories. As a result, the professor did not give the student credit. I know someone who has been physically pushed by a professor at a university because of his Christian beliefs. This persecution is minor compared to jail time and death seen in other countries, but it is real. I was hoping the movie would better reflect how serious these situations are, and I think the movie could have done that if it had gone more in depth with Josh and Radisson rather than expanding to the lives of so many various characters.
Some of the characterization could easily be seen as offensive. Perhaps the creators of God’s not Dead were trying to allude to the persecution of Christians in China through Martin, and perhaps they were trying to show that Islam is a strict religion through Ayisha. However, communism and Islam are two very complex topics that cannot be contained in a handful of characters. Many secular viewers saw this movie as Christians saying that all Muslim men are abusive. Many secular viewers feel that the movie implied all communists are brainwashed and naive. The characterization was a little thoughtless concerning how it would be perceived. Along this same line of thinking, the movie also seemed to imply that all atheists, rather than denying the existence of any god, actually hate the Christian God. Are there angry atheists out there? Sure. But God’s not Dead probably would have been better off sticking to a true story rather than creating a Christian’s perspective of an atheist. And many true stories exist, as can be seen at the end credits where a list of lawsuits roll down the screen in teeny, tiny, illegible font. (Honestly, those are the stories I want to know about!)
Certain scenes were a bit untidy when it came to wording and editing. The scene with Amy interviewing Willie has an error in which Willie misquoted Matthew 10:32. Willie said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, he will acknowledge before the Father in heaven.” The verse actually says, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before the Father in heaven.” It was a simple pronoun mix up, but it changes the meaning quite a bit. “He” is a pronoun that refers to the person who acknowledges God before other people. “I” is a pronoun that refers to Jesus, who will acknowledge those who believe in God. When quoted correctly, it is amazing to think that Jesus will acknowledge someone as lowly as me before His Father in heaven. Thankfully, this verse is quoted correctly later on in the movie.
Another scene that could have used better wording is the scene between Ayisha and her father when he picks her up from class. Her father says, “Ayisha, I know it’s hard living in their world and being apart from it, a world you can see but can’t touch. I know they seem happy, but know that when you look around at all those people, there is no one who worships god, not the way he deserves and demands to be worshipped…. I only insist on this because I love you.” It really bothers me that the writers of God’s not Dead used the word “god” rather than “Allah.” This bothers me so much because I know many people who believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God; this is simply not true. Christians worship the Lord God. Muslims worship Allah. Because of this popular misconception, it really bothers me that the script did not have the father say “Allah.” (I plan on eventually blogging on the differences between God and Allah in a separate entry.)
I noticed one disturbing weakness in Josh’s debate. He argues for a Creator rather than the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution, but his argument leaves room for the Theory of Theistic Evolution – and perhaps even implies that it is possible. Theistic Evolution is the theory that the Big Bang and macro evolution did happen, but it was part of God’s plan. Christians believe the Bible is without error, and we are to read the Bible literally rather than figuratively (except when figurative language is used such as in the parables and the Book of Revelation). If someone believes in Theistic Evolution, that person is not reading the Genesis account as truth. If people compare the theories of the Big Bang and Evolution with the theory of Creation, they will see there is simply too much conflict for Theistic Evolution to make sense. I also plan on eventually blogging a separate entry on this topic, but to put it simply, the theories of Evolution and the Big Bang rest on the ideas of chaos and chance while the theory of Creation rests on order and patterns.
My biggest complaint about God’s not Dead is that the movie constantly mentions Jesus’ death and our forgiveness through Him, but the movie never mentions Jesus’ resurrection. The entire Christian faith rests on the belief that Christ defeated Satan, death, and sin when He rose from the dead. A movie titled God’s not Dead should probably mention that Jesus literally was – and is – no longer dead.
Josh’s debates had some really good points. One of my favorite points is the very first sentence Josh speaks in his first debate: “Atheists say that no one can prove the existence of God. Well, they’re right. But I say that no one can disprove the existence of God.” There is no proof that God exists (and that’s okay because what is the point of faith if we require proof?). However, there has never been an argument that completely and solidly disproves the existence of a loving Creator.
I was also pleased to see that Josh answered the question, “Why does a good God allow bad things to happen?” and defended absolute morals against relative morals since these are two of the biggest hang ups I experienced when I struggled with when my faith was weak.
While I wouldn’t use God’s not Dead to evangelize to a nonChristian, there is some good to this movie:
- It gives Christians encouragement for standing up for Jesus in a culture that doesn’t want Jesus.
- It gives some material for Christians to use in defending their faith using science and logic.
- It reminds us that freedom of religion is becoming more and more narrow.
I think the movie’s strongest message was this: What is there after life on this earth, and where does your hope lie? Where do you receive your comfort? Where do you receive relief from guilt? Christianity isn’t about being right or wrong; it’s not about freedom of speech or being politically correct. Christianity is about believing that because of Jesus, we are forgiven, and we have hope of eternal life with Him.