“God’s Not Dead”
Here’s a sampling of the truly horrible reviews it’s gotten.
But first you must go through the DOOR.
I invite you to compare what I say with interesting films like the Twilight movies and Hunger Game movies (which I’ve seen), those which have an approved, unspoken, secular, politically correct overlay.
For “God’s Not Dead’ there were plenty of positive reviews–“Awesome!” “Must have!” “Best Christian movie ever!”– as one might expect from the Christian faithful. But let’s look at the polarizing other side of this movie that has attracted millions. To inspect many reviews yourself (I used IMDb.com) get ready to wade through dozens of mainly “1’s” to get to the mainly “10’s” at the end. Note how much judgmental attention is given to the small Muslim segment. Beware, many of these reviews are “spoilers” if you haven’t watched the story. I’ve omitted those parts here. From 100 to 200 or so comments, about 50% were considered “helpful.”
Negative Review Segments from the Internet
• “[God’s Not Dead is]…NOT a good movie, at all…only some of the acting and cinematography. The movie is so stereotypical, one-sided, and offensive that it will push many away from the gospel…
• “Pedantic Christian propaganda garbage.”
• “This film is simply religious propaganda for Christianity as every belief that isn’t right-wing Christianity (Islam and communism) are [sic] shown to be evil and can be saved by God.”
• “This movie outright attacks anybody and everybody that isn’t Christian and represents them as either terrible people or just plain stupid.”
• “This movie contains nothing even close to truth and in fact this movie is harmful to anyone watching it. showing this movie to children is nothing more than intellectual mutilation.
REGARDING THE SMALL MUSLIM SEGMENT
• “…that just disgusted me. They only show one Muslim family, which so happens that the dad is an abusive father. This will probably cause any Muslim watching the movie to immediately step out in disgust….That alienates any Muslim in the audience as being dysfunctional. Way to love your neighbor, Mr. Director.”
• “…Muslim girl…violently abused by her father when she wants to convert to being a Christian…sends a horrible message and stereotype about Muslims in addition to atheists.”
• “They also make the father of a Muslim girl a terrible person because he hits and kicks out his daughter for wanting to be Christian.”
• “I can’t imagine any Muslim father raising his hand on his daughter. That is beyond my comprehension….All the parts in the movie that assassinated the Islamic faith were especially disrespectful.”
• “The anti-Muslim view was unacceptable. Many religions believe in God and they do not do it through Christ. This was offensive to Jews, Muslims,and other religions that deeply believe in God but they believe in God alone and do not worship through Jesus. I almost walked out.”
• “This movie is intended for the pretentious Christian who enjoys feeling morally superior, self-righteous and most importantly oppressed.”
• “…this film is far exceeding the box office gains they’d projected to make, which means we’ll be seeing even MORE terrible Christian films…that continue to preach to the choir and give the world more reason to turn away from the Church.
• “I knew I was in trouble when I saw all the old people and young families with school age children in the audience.
Typical negative comments (such as “Your judging is terrible, ours is okay”) abound. Be warned. How realistic is this story? Does it sink to the level of a talented female archer struggling above and under water, always coming up with a full quiver of perfect arrows? Or vampires and werewolves flying at each other without leaving scratch or bite marks? Of course stories like that aren’t trying to make people go a certain direction. Or are they? How many death blows can a martial artist give and receive and still live? Of course I’m missing where such nonreligious stories are going. They’re entertainment…but part of their power, I’m convinced, is because their producers are showing us what they think is necessary today to win in a scrambled-up world. A religious goal without a written creed, by the way.
Ironically, in “God’s Not Dead,” Josh, the freshman, is criticized by reviewers for whatever he does: His eventual arguments are too sophisticated and unreal (his quiver’s always filled with perfect arrows) for sparring with his atheist teacher. It just couldn’t happen like that. Or, on the other hand, his arguments, when tightly analyzed, are too fragmentary and incomplete, with perfect rejoinders overlooked. Why didn’t he say this? And the teacher say that? Therefore it’s amateurish, illogical–and unreal. He can’t do the right thing.
But for me, having been both university student and teacher, this exchange is more real than you might think. Josh had easy access to the sort of things he said–that had “force,” by the way, though they could be responded to–and the teacher, up to his eyeballs in a fresh kind of encounter with a student–could easily for the moment come up empty. (I’ve been there.) This could have happened. The winning vote, however, would have made the story more plausible if it were not unanimous.
In my university past–you can discover it out with persistence, though it hardly matters here–more than 30 years ago, a formal debate was set up between a noted philosophy professor and a freshman who was a member of a Christian club on our campus. The topic was the Bible account of creation versus evolution. When I, a young faculty member, heard about this, I was aghast. I went to the club and asked how this came about, declaring it was totally unfair. The designated debater smiled and was greatly relieved. “We’ve heard you’re a Christian. Well you’re just the person we’re looking for! The job is now yours!” Hiding my terror (profs can become good at that), I agreed.
For three weeks I prayed and prepared–not very useful for movie material, by the way. In the middle of the week before the debate a fantastic article appeared in a Christian magazine that covered in great detail the approach I planned to take. I photocopied about 60 copies (not the easiest thing to do back then) and put them in my briefcase. I enlisted two older women from my church who were prayer warriors to come to the debate, sit in the back, and pray–though they weren’t sure exactly what for. (Wouldn’t that make a cute film clip!)
The night of the debate came. I was first since I was making a case for what the Bible said, giving my opponent time to load his cannon. I did not know, however, that my opponent’s main case for evolution was that the Earth had to be billions of years old, and my main point was that given more than one option for beginnings, I felt that the billions of years scenario was the best one, and was completely in agreement with the Genesis account! I gave significant support to this position, much of which was discussed in the article I “happened” to have received, copied, and brought with me. Since he’d considered his part in the debate a slam-dunk, he’d done no further homework on other arguments. I agreed with his timeline completely and showed how the sparse listing of plants and animals during the “long days” of the creation week corresponded to the fossil record. He hadn’t thought about this. The debate was over just after it began. I handed out the copies I’d brought and responded to questions.
I must point out that to this philosopher’s credit, he took my handout, thanked me, and told me later he used it for teaching in his own classes when certain Bible issues were discussed.
This, of course, couldn’t have happened.
But it did.
Many things that have been branded as unreal, preposterous, unfair, and stereotypical, with regard to Christian faith on a secular university campus, I have seen myself. The professor in the story doesn’t surprise me–with his ideas, his teaching approach, or his questionable relationship with students. Not at all.
And I’ve seen students open their minds and be dramatically changed by Jesus Christ.
As to the movie? I will see it again for what I might have missed. There was an excellent scene that focused on dementia–exploring what is remembered and what is not. And the spoiled wine scene was clever. No one it seems has dealt with that. Whether you see this on the big screen or not, of course, is your call.
I’ve endlessly overlooked weaknesses in secular movies to discover what’s going on. I can do the same with a low budget Christian movie that’s not perfect, but risks reaching ahead for something more than just lowering the bar farther to cause the eyes to pop out of viewers’ heads.