MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Harold Cronk. Starring Jesse Metcalfe, David A.R. White
Some Christians are just naturally skittish about someone taking their faith away from them. From time to time folks will share rumors about Congress attempting to take religious programming off the air, textbook editors removing all references to the Bible from school curriculum, or churches losing their tax-exempt status. Of all of the religions currently being practiced in America, Christianity has the least cause for worry. If anything, our faith seems to get preferential treatment.
So why are there films like God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas and Last Ounce of Courage in which our Christian faith is being put on trial by atheists and other non-believers? These films show Christian characters with the courage to share their beliefs in a culture that is open to a variety of worldviews, religions and moral codes. But freedom of religion means freedom for all. The love of Christ is inclusive and able to stand alongside other worldviews without fear. No points are gained for Jesus when a film chooses to label “rationalists” and “free thinkers” as the enemy (they aren’t), implies that people need to be persuaded that Jesus was a real person (this was never in question), or imagines a world in which sermon transcripts from all local preachers can be subpoenaed to be used against them (this has never come to pass). Ever since the 1970s and Hal Lindsay’s book “The Late Great Planet Earth”, there have attempts to strike fear into the hearts of believers about a coming apostate age in which everything Christians hold dear will be taken away from them.
2014’s God’s Not Dead depicted an atheist professor demanding that everyone in their intro to philosophy class sign a statement declaring that God was dead. God’s Not Dead 2 tells the story of Hope Springs High School history teacher Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart) who is brought before school administrators by answering a student’s question about Martin Luther King’s practice of nonviolent resistance and its parallels to the teachings of Jesus. Grace replies: “The author of the book of Matthew has Jesus saying: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44)” It’s only responsible scholarship to cite this portion of the Sermon on the Mount as a reference; not once do we see this teacher using this moment as a time to proselytize for the faith.
That isn’t enough to deter the principalities and powers to call forth the ACLU and its diabolical attorney Pete Kane (played with evil glee by Ray Wise, who has done this role before as Satan in TV’s Reaper and Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks). Kane vows that when the trial is over “the world will know that God is dead”. With a sneer and a crooked smile, Kane gets to work. But he will find his efforts challenged by popular apologist Lee Stroubel and other real life personalities who are brought up to make their case. Grace is not helped much by the feeble defense from her pro bono lawyer (Metcalfe). Obviously, she will have to take the stand for herself..
The courtroom drama takes up much of the running time of God’s Not Dead 2, which is intermittently interspersed with mild Christian humor from Pastor David A.R. White and scenes of Grace at home with her grandpa, played by Pat Boone.
Before going to see this movie, I mentioned to a pastor friend that the generic title “God’s Not Dead 2” was likely chosen to set the table for a third film in the trilogy. If you take a few minutes to sit through the closing credits, you will find that my hunch was right.
Two halos: The Lord gets his day in court in this sequel.
One pitchfork: For some mild scaremongering, including anti-Islamic innuendoes.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
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