4 Reasons I Won’t See “God’s Not Dead 2”

1. The title is based on a quote the writers totally misunderstand. If you’re going to base two entire movies on a famous quote, go and read the source material first. As it happens, I highly doubt whoever wrote “God’s Not Dead” has read philosopher Frederick Nietzsche, or if they did, they certainly haven’t understood it. Nietzsche said “God is dead” a number of times in his writings, in both Thus Spoke Zarathustra and in The Gay Science (and that doesn’t mean what you think it means either). None of his “God is dead” statements mean what this movie makes it out to mean. Not even close. Here’s the most succinct way I can explain it: Nietzsche believed there was a major shift happening in our human understanding of the world. When he wrote this in the 1880’s he was engaging the question of moral responsibility in a culture that seemed to be heading toward nihilism. So yeah, Nietzsche said God is dead. And in the next breath he said “We have killed him.” He’s not calling for some literal belief in the death of God as much as he is calling for human responsibility.  (There are probably a million blog posts about these quotes by people more well-read in Nietzsche than me if you want a longer answer.) The point is, if you’re going to reference someone’s work, don’t be a lazy hack. If you can’t sit down and read through Nietzsche, write a movie about something else.

2. This movie is an insult to actual Christian persecution. On Easter Sunday, a suicide bomber entered a crowded city park in Lahore, Pakistan where families and friends, Christian and Muslim, had gathered. The Taliban bomber killed over 70 people, a third of whom were children. He was specifically targeting Christians, on Easter no less, to send a message to the government. That’s religious persecution. The recent horrific attacks by ISIS on pastors is religious persecution. Someone getting their feelings hurt in a public school classroom is not. We live in a country where we can choose to attend a religious service or not, give our money toward religious causes we believe in or not, read holy books or not. And that’s BECAUSE of the separation of church and state, not in spite of it. If evangelical Christians want to complain about something (and in America they have the freedom to do so), I suggest they choose a different phrase out of respect for actual Christians who are dying at the hands of real and terrifying persecution.

3. There is nothing Christian about making straw man characters out of everyone who disagrees with you. I’ve only seen the trailer for this movie, but the plot is clearly about a high school teacher who is a Christian who gets taken to court for quoting Scripture in class. She does so in a totally respectful and non-proselytizing manner. She uses Jesus as an example of nonviolence. The idea that this would become some high courtroom drama is crazy, but that’s not my point. From what I can tell, the movie is an overly heightened caricature of us-vs-them, with the “us” being virtuous Christians and the “them” being literally everyone else, including the school board and some angry old white guy and the ACLU, all of whom are evil and to be stopped and who all clearly seem to believe God is dead by default. That’s not a Christian worldview. That’s the worldview of a ruthless dictatorship, or a fundamentalist cult, or ISIS. A Christian worldview, ironically, is the one the teacher quotes in class: love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. The writers of this movie must not actually believe that, though, because it looks like they spend the next 110 minutes trying to convince you that your enemies are out to get you and everyone who isn’t Christian is trying to take away your right to be Christian and your job is to yell out in court with flourishes of drama about how faithful you are for everyone to see. I don’t see any Jesus in that. I see Hollywood. I see Messiah Complex. I don’t see Jesus. 

4. God is not being bullied. By definition, being bullied implies that the bully has power over someone else. If you actually believe in Almighty God, you should find the idea of some high school student or some (completely un-believable straw man) college professor bullying God to be laughable. God is not whining on the playground, huddling in the corner waiting for us to speak up on God’s behalf. God is the Creator of Life, for Pete’s sake. Even if we all stood silent while every person around us yelled out the worst possible things about God, the rocks would cry out. So stop acting like God is being bullied, or as if someone’s opinion of God holds any sway over God’s actual God-ness. More specifically, let’s all remember, although it was Holy Week just a week ago– Jesus has already been bullied to the point of death on a cross, and he pretty much proved he could handle it.  And what did his disciples do, again? Oh yeah, they fled. So you can believe you might be braver than that, but you’re probably not being honest. If God really was being bullied in front of us, we’d likely run or deny him just like they did. Either way, Jesus endured his bullying alone. Also, he forgave them for it. What he didn’t do was grand-stand, complain, or take the issue to court. So if we want to be known as his followers, maybe we should consider a different response. Like listening. Or grace. Or speaking the truth in love. Or brushing off whatever rude comment someone says and spending the rest of the afternoon volunteering at a soup kitchen. You know, Jesus-y stuff. In the end, that’s the best way to show God isn’t dead. Be God’s resurrected people in the world. Let them know we are Christians by our love, not our persecution complex outrage.

26 Comments

  1. Great post, friend! Sorry to nitpick, but for the record, The Gay Science was a separate work from Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

  2. Thanks Kenton! You’re right- I edited it, and tried to do a better job of explaining his point simply, too. If any of you are Nietzscheans, share with us your (much better) summaries!

  3. Danny MackMarch 31, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Listen! Can you hear it? What you hear is my standing ovation for this article.

  4. Hi Danny! Miss seeing you- and thanks!

  5. Clear, concise and coherent. Readable, honest, decent. Please do this again very soon and may your tribe increase

  6. Steven McClellandApril 1, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Great article!

  7. “Actual Christian Persecution”. ANYTHING negative that happens to us BECAUSE of our faith is persecution. That is the definition. One does not have to be beaten, tortured, nor murdered to qualify. It is a lie from the devil himself to say that Christians in America are not persecuted. That is EXACTLY what he wants us to believe! If we don’t see it as persecution then we do nothing about it until it grows to the point that it’s too late and people ARE being beaten and tortured and murdered. If anything, your argument is an insult to Christians being persecuted EVERYWHERE.

  8. Excellent article. Very honest and well-written. I am a ministry student, and one of my best friends is agnostic. I absolutely cringe every time one of these “us versus them” movies comes out and takes the evangelical culture by storm. We should be listening to people’s beliefs and building relationships with them, not fighting a culture war and getting offended when people have different beliefs than us.

    And if I could briefly address Ben: Chill, dude. We have it so easy in the United States. Take advantage of your freedom and use it to love people and spread the gospel. The Christians who live under constant threat of improsonment, torture, and death don’t sit around complaining about the groups and governments that oppose them. They focus on reaching people with the good news.

  9. To BEN, well said!!!

  10. Janet PowersApril 4, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Ben very well said

  11. To Ben:
    Piffle. Listen to EU.

  12. Cindy PowellApril 5, 2016 at 8:30 am

    I feel it is important to show support of Christian filmmakers. The movies cranked out by Hollywood have unnecessary cursing, sex and gore.

  13. I agree with what Ben said. Just because Christians are not having the same level of persecution as in the middle east, etc. doesn’t mean that it isn’t persecution. Suffering for the name of Jesus is persecution, no matter how “minor” it may be. Also, it’s the start. Not being free to speak about religious beliefs in public settings is the first step to what happens elsewhere in the world.
    Also, so what they misused the quote. I don’t think that’s the point. The point is that we consider ourselves comfortable and free in American, but we’re straddling the fence of freedom and having our rights taken away. I haven’t yet seen the second one, but I saw the first and I thought it was a powerful film. We are called to be bold in our faith, because being lukewarm gets us nowhere with God. This country is so focused on being pc that we’re not allowed to disagree or offend anyone anymore. Is the first movie perfect? Nope. There are small details I disagreed with, but overall the message was important. I doubt the second is perfect either, but nothing but God is perfect anyway. If you don’t want to see the movie, fine. Don’t see it. But the reasons honestly were pretty weak for a blog. If it was out and out wrong scripturally, then I get it. A blog like this spewing somewhat intelligent statements here and there are what divides Christians and we are called as a church to come together, not separate. When we separate, that’s when the devil gains ground and causes more damage than he already was.

  14. Brittany, can you tell me where you see we are having our rights taken away? We worship freely, we own Bibles freely, our religion is not outlawed by the state. Because of the separation of church and state, our public schools cannot proselytize ANY religion. I think that’s a good thing. And also, as I mentioned in my blog post, the plot of the movie is strange because the teacher isn’t proselytizing, so there’s no reason she would get in trouble. Just like in the first film (which would never happen), this entire movie is based on something that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s very far-fetched, and it only serves to reinforce a false sense of persecution among American Christians. I’m sorry- it’s just NOT the same as living in a country where you are not free to practice your religion. I still find it insulting to compare the two.

    Cindy, I agree with you that so many movies and TV shows nowadays display things I don’t value myself. It’s becoming more difficult to find shows worth watching, and I do think we should support the ones that do. That being said, I disagree that any Christian movie is worth supporting by default. I don’t see this as a faithful or helpful film. It’s a movie that preaches fear and encourages a messiah complex, and it’s geared specifically toward American evangelical Christianity. I’m not part of that group. I’m not being divisive by refusing to support it. I’m being faithful to my own values.

  15. Love your insight Danielle and how you are always challenging others to question and wrestle with biblical truths. Brittany I agree that we as Christians need to be bold in our faith, but didn’t hear Danielle at all mention that we need to be lukewarm. Showing God’s love and “Jesus-y stuff” by being the hands and feet of God to all IS being bold. Showing grace when everything in us screams revenge IS being bold. Listening to others and truly seeking relationships with others not like us IS being bold. Taking the shirt off our back or offering the other cheek (Luke 6:29) IS being bold also. Bold is LIVING our faith out in everyday circumstances.

  16. Brittany and Ben, even if we assume that we are enduring persecution in the US, what about this type of movie upholds the biblical concept of suffering well, just as Christ did? 1 Peter is all about how to suffer well and endure persecution well. There is no mention of fighting for rights or seeking to end the persecution before it gets worse; rather, “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it in gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-16). We should be unconcerned with our rights and how we should be treated, and concerned solely with how we can, in spite of any mistreatment, give a defense for the reason we have hope in the midst of persecution. In other words, let us seek to promote the gospel instead of ourselves and our rights.

  17. A More Understanding BenApril 6, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Danielle – very well put! Loved the article!

  18. Danielle,
    Ben made it clear that he was not comparing what he considers persecution in the US with the atrocities we see in the middle east. That said, he is right that persecution exists on a spectrum. Of course what we experience in the US is nothing compared to what our brothers and sisters in the middle east and other parts of the world experience. And you are right in saying that we should never lose sight of that.

    But why do you think it is that when the current presidential administration (and probably the one before) does not use the phrase “freedom of religion” but “freedom of worship”? Because they want people to see religious liberty as applying only to houses of worship and the private home. But that is not freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is freedom to practice your religion. Yes there are limitations; schools can’t prosletyze, etc. But even acknowledging that, what is currently being portrayed as religious freedom in the US is a far cry from what the founders intended. Ignore that reality all you want, it doesn’t make it any less true.

    That said. I do agree that this movie looks like it’s gonna be complete drivel.

  19. Cindy Powell, in regards to supporting Christian filmmakers (or artists of any stripe), I hold them to the same standard as I do secular filmmakers. I’m happy to support Christian filmmakers so long as they are producing high-quality work. Unfortunately, many Christian films suffer from the same flaws that Danielle points out in her blog: worn out plots instead of engaging storylines, stereotypical characters instead of real people (with all of their complex virtues and vices), and heavy-handed preaching instead of subtle dialogue. If Christian filmmakers want to be supported then they need to rise to the challenge and produce high-quality work.

  20. This article – so much win

  21. I don’t plan on seeing it, but here is exactly why I don’t plan on seeing it… 1) Pure Flix films in particular are severely lacking in creativity lately….God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe had the exact same formula that I expect from this one: characters who speak only in verses, cliches and other manner of Bible Roulette rather than as actual relatable human beings, a dozen completely disjointed individual storylines that have nothing to do with each other where all of a sudden everybody winds up in the exact same place at the exact same time (usually involving some sort of vehicular calamity, for some odd reason) and we all end the movie worshiping to the beat of a Newsboys song and sending texts to our friends and family. I have no reason to believe this one will be any different. I don’t have any qualms with the idea that God can do amazing things and incredibly put people in the exact place they’re needed at the exact moment they’re needed, but I can guarantee God would look at a movie like “Do You Believe” and say….no, there’s no way I would do it that way.

    2) The quality of Christian cinema is still weak, at best. I am still paying to see these films, and they are still being shown in the same arena as secular films, which means as a moviegoer I’m still going to hold them to a similar standard. If the acting stands up, it’s the writing and producing that can be counted upon to do in an otherwise solid Christian film. I came away from God’s Not Dead feeling like I’d seen a movie that was at least passably coherent from start to finish and there were a fair number of identifiable characters who act like normal people, and the fact that it was an improvement doesn’t speak highly of the faith-based genre. The fact that there are conservative and Christian celebrities like James Woods, Steve Harvey, Denzel Washington, and (yes) Kevin Sorbo and Melissa Joan Hart and the number of really watchable films with a positive (if not overtly Christian) message is so low is downright embarrassing. It also honestly shocks me that Hollywood studios haven’t picked up on it better – look at the financial return on these films. God’s Not Dead made 31 TIMES its budget at the box office. Heaven Is For Real made 8 1/2 TIMES its budget at the box office. Courageous made 17 TIMES its budget at the box office. You don’t even need an incredible special-effects and CGI budget to make a good Christian film. Imagine how a well-written, well-produced film starring James Woods and Denzel Washington would do if it had a positive message, and imagine how many people would give it a chance with that kind of cast (and the promotion that comes with it) who normally wouldn’t give a Christian film the time of day? And the studio still makes bank, which you know is 100 times more important to the studio than being the most liberal kid on the Hollywood block.

    3) I just don’t have a personal preference for movies where I get slugged over the head with the back end of a Bible and I think a lot of moviegoers tend to feel the same way. To reach people who normally wouldn’t give a Christian film a chance, you have to reach them on their level instead of constantly spouting at them. That’s why I loved Soul Surfer. That’s why I loved Woodlawn, and that’s why I liked Heaven Is For Real – they all walk that fine line between ministering and preaching, and they’re well-done enough to give themselves a real chance to reach people the way they were intended to.

    So there’s my manifesto. It’s nothing for me other than, most hard-hitting Christian films anymore don’t appeal to me all that much, and I just don’t think they’re very well-made.

  22. I am having to question a few things. Are you saying you are a Christian pastor and then your supporting quote is from Nietzsche? If you are trying to pastor people why are you adding anything to the Bible or what Jesus says? God’s not Dead is a very well done movie and depicts exactly how atheists are trying to rationalize the non-existence of God and the continuing persecution college students are actually experiencing in our colleges today, having to defend their faith from atheist professor’s attacks. Legal groups are continually fighting to keep crosses, Christmas trees, 10 Commandments, etc. from being torn down. The bible is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It reads in your letter that you are re-writing your church doctrines to align with a court ruling on gay marriage? I’m assuming your church doctrine was written using the Bible teachings. You cannot “politically correctly” change anything in the Bible or you are doing your church community a great disservice.

  23. Steven Adam RenkovishApril 9, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    I have no interest in seeing this morbid display of Christian propaganda. That said, I love this article. I love it bunches. As both a Christian and a filmmaker (not a “Christian film” maker), this resonates. Tell stories about faith that don’t preach. And especially, tell stories that don’t preach to the choir. If you do either one, you’ve failed.

  24. Steven Adam RenkovishApril 9, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    And I will say — it seems as though audiences are catching on. This thing is tanking at the box office.

  25. Brilliantly written and I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you!

  26. Absolutely rubbish reasons.
    As a Christian, I had to take a stand against a government employer, I was told I was nit permitted to practise my faith in the role I was in, after agreeing to the Sabbath before even hiring me, and doing so for the two years I was in their employ. I lost that job, was bullied by the boss continually. That is oppression.

    Each day our society goes a bit further down the drain. Attempting to force us to accept ungodly, worldly things which is clearly against God.

    The world attempts to erase all signs of a creator, likely because if there is now Law Giver, there is no Law and hence no sin. Free ride for all to do as they please, guilt free.

    However, this is a lie, God does exist and all win be made right. All will acknowledge Him one day.

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