Are the “God is Not Dead” Films Christian?

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A lifelong Christian, a former film critic at Christianity Today, and a professor of cultural theory at the conservative evangelical The King’s College, does not think so.

I will admit up front that I have not seen any of these movies.  I have always considered them to be just another weapon in the culture wars and yet another example of the evangelical persecution complex.

Here is a taste of Alissa Wilkinson’s piece at VOX:

God’s Not Dead has never been warmly welcomed by mainstream critics. The problem isn’t really the production value (which is mostly fine), or even the statement in the title, a contradiction of a willful misreading of Nietzsche that’s so generic and bland that few people would find it offensive.

The thesis of the God’s Not Dead series is that Christians and Christianity are under attack in America, and that the way to fight back is through exercising First Amendment rights, mostly in educational settings. In the first film, a college freshman named Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper, who returns as a campus minister in the new film) intellectually conquers his caustically atheistic philosophy professor in three classroom rounds of debates about the existence of God. The professor gets hit by a car at the end and dies, but not before he becomes a Christian….

Despite their titles, the movies haven’t really been about arguments for the existence of God, either anecdotal or philosophical. Arguments for God’s existence are trotted out mostly in support in the movies’ main plots, which are about threats Christian characters face from people who are hostile toward Christians talking about God in the public square.

This, the films posit, is the relationship of Christian America to the rest of the country. And implicit in this idea is the notion that it hasn’t always been that way. As someone in a montage of cable news talking head programs says at the start of the third film, “This is what our country has come to.”

There’s a reason the first God’s Not Dead movies did so well at the box office. (The third installment didn’t fare as well, bringing in less than half of its predecessors’ opening weekend take at the box office — likely a result of competing with the very successful and largely apolitical I Can Only Imagine, and perhaps waning interest.)

White evangelical Protestants, who make up the lion’s share of the so-called faith-based audienceare the only major religious group in America who believe they face more discrimination in America than Muslims do. And nearly eight in 10 white evangelical Protestants believe that discrimination against Christians is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities. (I hardly need to point out that about the same proportion of white evangelical Protestants still form the lion’s share of President Donald Trump’s base.)

One thought on “Are the “God is Not Dead” Films Christian?

  1. I have to admit that I haven’t seen any of these movies, so I can’t judge the review based on the movie itself, but it certainly rings true. The persecution complex runs deep in conservative evangelicalism.
    I also tend to avoid “inspirational” movies for other reasons. First, I know how they are going to end. Because of the genre, the filmmaker has preset commitments, so it’s not really all that interesting. Second, these types of movies always end in evangelical triumphalism. There is a lot of “winning” going on, and the movies’ messages tend to be pretty shallow. (Although I do have to admit liking lots of shallow movies. Avengers, anyone?)

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