It’s not a historical revelation to say that Christians have had a good run. Sure, things were hairy for Christ’s followers back when the date was still in triple digits, but it’s not a huge stretch to say that the past millennium has solidly been God Country.
So it is a worrying trend, this past decade and change, to see the ever-growing Christian persecution complex.
From Fox News’ “War on Christmas” to films like the original “God’s Not Dead,” we see an ever-growing notion that someone — “liberals” usually take the brunt of the blame — is slowly but surely trying to make it illegal to worship Christ.
It’s poppycock, of course, but that doesn’t stop the message from drawing big ratings and making decent bucks at the box office. “God’s Not Dead” was an abjectly terrible film, but it knew its audience and reached it well enough to turn a profit. Now, the creators are back with a sequel that is even more unnecessary while being every bit as nonsensical.
For starters, the film is propped up by a complete strawman argument: Grace (Melissa Joan Heart, who should really be better than this) is a high school teacher in Arkansas. When she compares the words of Christ with the words of Martian Luther King Jr. in a class, one of her students texts a panicked alert, and before you know it, some uppity liberal parent is complaining to the school board.
Nothing like this has happened. Nothing like this would happen. But that’s where our story starts. From there, the situation escalates into a full-blown First Amendment trial, where loathsome ACLU lawyer, Pete Kane (Ray Wise), declares that he has “pure hate” for Christians who dare to espouse their faith.
If you can get past the ridiculous premise of the story, you are a better person than I. But even then, it is hard to find much else about the film to like. The acting is wooden and forced. The direction is laughable, with some shots being so rudimentary as to seem like a first-year film student’s interpretation of “deep,” and the dialogue is so simple and cheesy it makes Tyler Perry seem like an award winner by comparison.
There are genuinely good films about faith out there. Films that celebrate the strength to be found in a higher power and the love and trust that Christian faithful find in God. There are films that celebrate Jesus and his teachings and films that show the joy in a faith that is tested and found to be pure. Some of those films have even come out recently. Go rent “Risen” if you want a good film about faith. But films like “God’s Not Dead” and its unnecessary sequel only pander to the base segment of the Christian faith. It speaks to the fear mongers and weakest among us and aims not to elevate its material but to make a quick buck off fear and xenophobia. The film portrays “liberals” and the ACLU as viewing Christians as weak-minded and stupid, but in reality, it is the film’s producers who think its audience is dumb. It is the people who churn out chattel like this film who assume Christians are too stupid to know when they are being pandered to.
Films like “God’s Not Dead 2” is a disservice to Christians, to Christianity and to Christ. Do not become a part of such a cynical, jingoistic cash grab. Avoid this film like all seven plagues of Egypt, and find a better way to express and revel in your faith. CV
Starring: Melissa Joan Hart, Jesse Metcalf, Ray Wise