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.