Sunday, March 30, 2014

Is God Dead ?

If you follow movies at all, you'll know that there are two "religious" movies that recently came out. Most recently is "Noah," but about a week before that, a movie called "God's Not Dead" made its debut. I had seen an ad and it piqued my interest, and began reading reviews, almost all of which were pretty sour on the film. Perhaps against my better judgment, I figured I would give it a shot and go see it anyway.

I must admit I was terribly disappointed. And I'd like to explain why. 

(please note that this will contain movie spoilers)

If you don't know, the movie's premise is that a guy starting college enrolls in a philosophy class led by a tyrannic professor that is an atheist. The professor begins the first class by having every student write "God Is Dead" on a piece of paper and sign their name. Naturally, the Christian boy refuses and the rest of the movie is spent following him attempting to prove God's existence (in three 20 minute class sessions allotted by the professor...the punishment for anyone who tries to go against him).

Already you should be saying to yourself, this is ridiculous. And you'd be right. The fact that there is even a professor like that in the movie is ridiculous. Such a person would immediately be removed from any level of academia, especially at a university. The absurd things continue throughout the movie.

From the opening scene, we begin following a multitude of people of all race and religion that have no real seeming connection to one another, except for the fact that they all live in the same town. Though all of their paths seem to randomly cross at one point or another, it's just too insane. The stereotypes are so evident it's borderline offensive: an Asian student studying abroad with an overbearing father heavily involved in business; a Muslim girl whose father makes her cover her face; and then of course the atheist professor and seemingly every other student at the school who seems to give no care to religion whatsoever. The movie is set up to victimize the one Christian kid in the movie. The fact of the matter is Christians are not a minority. And that's how they are portrayed in this movie. It's just not true! To suggest something like that in even the most remote aspect is ludicrous.

Another thing that bugged me was that the protagonist's girlfriend begs him to give up this quest of proving God's existence, saying that he has to choose between doing this or giving her up. It is mentioned earlier in the movie that they have been together for six years. What kind of fucked up girlfriend is she? If they've been together that long, their love must be pretty strong. And a woman who loves someone that much would never ask them to give up something that means so much to them. I would know, because I have that kind of woman in my life, and while we have not been together for six years I well know that she would support me in anything that meant a lot to me unless there was some adverse consequence that affected my health or something like that. Not to mention that while there is no scene for it, it is mentioned that his parents also told him to give this up and just drop the class or sign the paper saying God is dead. That's bullshit too. There is this absurd "lone Christian against the world" mentality, and everybody basically gives up on the dude and then he of course comes back and wins everyone over.

I also wonder how much of an influence the Christian group Newsboys played in this. In the opening scene when Josh (the protagonist) is walking to confirm his classes, he is wearing a Newsboys shirt sporting their latest album "God's Not Dead", which, coincidentally is the title of the movie. If you thought that was it, you'd be wrong because they also contributed to the soundtrack, and even play a part in the movie, as they just happen to be coming to play a show in podunk Louisiana. The end of the movie consists of a giant concert where all of the "good" people (aka people who are Christians and not atheists) happen to show up and recognize each other. Product placement anyone? Maybe selling more albums for Newsboys took an even larger priority than the "message" of the film. One review described it as Christian propaganda for those almost militant theists that believe that any and all non-believers or non-Christians are going to hell. This will only fuel the fire.

The pure ridiculousness of the minister and his buddy trying to get to Florida with at least three cars that refuse to start is dumb. It's amateur and childish, and I found it odd too that Josh texted with a minister that he didn't even seem to know. After all we are assuming he just started college and he's far away from home, right? When did they become best buddies and start texting one another?

Then of course we have the Asian father who never pays any attention to his son and blames him for ruining the little brother's chances of studying abroad because of his religious study, the Muslim girl who gets beat and kicked out of the house by her father because she wanted to be Christian, and even Willie and Korie Robertson from Duck Dynasty (the fact that they are in the movie period is strange to me).

The message I'm getting here is that "everyone is a terrible awful going-to-Hell person unless they are a Christian" and that's just wrong. It's not cleverly done, there's no room for error, and it's a very in-your-face message, if you can even call it that. So much so, that as a Christian and a Catholic myself, I was even kind of offended.

All stupid scenes aside, perhaps poor acting aside, and even maybe a pretty poor premise aside, the worst part about this whole movie is how atheists are portrayed. One gets cancer, and her also-atheist boyfriend dumps her saying that love is a myth and she should've realized that. Then we have the boyfriend himself, who is a giant douchebag who doesn't even go to visit his dementia-stricken mother in the hospital for years, and when he does he just makes fun of her. We had Radisson, the professor who is an atheist and then at the end of the movie when he shows promise gets hit by a car and is killed. It is portrayed that the atheists have to be set up to die in order to come to faith, and that that for some reason is "beautiful" as explained by one of the characters in the movie! Immediately after Radisson gets hit by a car, the two preachers (finally on their way to Florida) witness it and don't call for help, but rather ask him if he believes in Jesus. Um, WHAT?! It's seriously just retarded.

The whole point here, besides the fact this movie is not worth watching, is that we are one people as a human race, and regardless of your religious beliefs, we can all get along. This seems like a film designed to pit theists and atheists against one another, or reinforce religious extremists in their torment of those of other beliefs. The fact of the matter is, some people believe and others don't. And we all have that choice. And no matter what happens at the end of our lives, or during our lives, or whatever, we will all have had the freedom to make that choice. Some will be born into their belief, others will grow into it over time, some will make a distinctive choice to pursue one or another, and others still will make a choice to switch from believing to not or vice versa. I know plenty of people that aren't religious that are amazing people. My buddy Tyler doesn't practice any religion, but has always been incredibly respectful of mine and even offered to come to mass with me just out of friendship. Everyone I have met that does not believe, or even is just struggling with it, always tells me that they are so happy that I have found something I can believe in so strongly, and sometimes even that they are jealous that I feel something when I pray. Why is it that we are pitted against each other? Religious beliefs simply do not dictate whether or not you are a good person. Everyone has their own idea of how they should live, and that's what they live by. Religion may have an influence on that (i.e. 10 commandments or the Bible) but in the end you decide how you want to live. I have been blessed to have people of other religions, beliefs and mindsets come into my life, because honestly I've had some amazing conversations with those people, just learning about what they believe and how they came to believe that way, or perhaps to not believe anything at all. 

Atheists are not automatically assholes and Christians are not automatically victimized Saints and martyrs, and it would be ridiculous to assume so. We all believe what we believe, and as long as we feel strongly about that, it's all goo. And while I may go to mass every Sunday, celebrate Catholic holidays, and read my Bible, you are more than welcome to do anything else you like, and we can still be bros. Because at the end of the day, if you're just a good person, I have nothing against you at all.

If you've seen this movie, or are planning to, feel free to leave some comments. I'm interested in what people have to say about it. Please be respectful in your comments should you leave them.

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