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God's Not Dead (2014)

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Joel Mayward said:

 

: Humility and love, a willingness to have honest conversations and listen with empathy, seeing and cherishing the imago dei in others--that seems like a better route.

 

 

Completely agree, and good film can help to increase that empathy.

 

 

:I believe the emerging generation is increasingly tired of the American culture wars for which this film serves as an allegory.

 
 
I think so as well.  It's also a generation of Christians that is developing a more sophisticated and well rounded understanding of such things as film.  Not all of them of course, but I think that some are.

 

While I would agree with both of you, I had the experience of seeing the film at a matinee (my father wanted to see it) that was almost full of people of mixed ages. I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were part of a church group. At the end, a noticeable number of them broke out into applause.

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Piping in from the deep south Bible belt (Metro Atlanta).

 

Interestingly, our church is having a movie night Wednesday, and members can choose either God's Not Dead or Heaven is For Real. I'd be interested to see what the split is (though I know several have already seen God's Not Dead). And I received about four of those text messages before I found out from here that it was directly tied to the movie. I assumed it was just enthusiasm about the film or general "lift you up" texts that we sometimes send out to friends or our small group.

 

To our pastor's credit, we did the same with Noah, though the overwhelming response I heard from the people who went was they didn't like it. Only a small handful appreciated it for what it was, even if they didn't love it (thankfully including our pastor).

 

Myself? I missed Noah and will miss this week's events due to obligations at my daughter's school. I'll eventually get to see Noah. I doubt I make time GND.

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Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: I'm kinda hesitant after being wrong about quoting Noah, but yes, I'm sure he did first yell for someone to call 911.

 

But did the film *show* anyone calling 911? Anyone in the crowd? (Wait, why does this pastor not have a cell phone!?)

 

Like I say, the question is not just whether the *characters* show any interest in getting medical help, but whether the *film* shows any interest. The film just bumped off the professor with elaborate camerawork (there *is* a "God shot" pointing straight down at the professor as he flips through the air, yes? is my memory correct that it might have been in slow motion?), and if it can't be bothered to show a single shot of someone using a cell phone to make a phone call... well, that just shows where its interests lie.

 

No, not that I recall - just him asking someone to call 911. And good point - who doesn't have a cell phone these days?

 

And you're absolutely right - this is all beside the point of what the film wanted to say, and belies how the film wants to say it.

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They did scroll by quickly. But as I said, most, if not all, were cases represented by one group - who also had their website listed at the end of the cases before the credits proper.

 

I believe this may be the web site: https://alliancedefendingfreedom.org/Godsnotdeadthemovie

 

So, yeah, I know this is a fool's errand; I've lived through enough elections to know that fact checking rarely works, least of all at convincing the people who are throwing up claims in such lists. But perhaps they make a small step towards establishing ethos. In that spirit I decided to take one of the cases and dedicate a whole fifteen ninety minutes of my life researching it. I picked Adams v. The Trustees of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington since it was closest to where I live.

 

Ken, you rock. But the question I want to ask from this is did the Alliance Defending Freedom have and direct or indirect input, funding to produce, or funding to distribute the film? If not, why did the filmmakers settle on listing (only?) their cases?

 

Either way, I find it a little unsettling. But would be happy to hear an explanation.

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

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... the question I want to ask from this is did the Alliance defending Freedom have and direct or indirect input, funding to produce, or funding to distribute the film? If not, why did the filmmakers settle on listing (only?) their cases?

 

ADF is listed as a "partner" on the movie's website, which I would assume means they've contributed financially in some way to the production or distribution of the film.

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Considering the screenwriters' nasty, bilious interview with the National Catholic Register, their paltry imdb record of creations that have actually made it to tv or cinema, and the content of this film in particular, one can't help but wonder if the writers' mediocre Hollywood careers have predisposed them to an overall persecution complex.

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A message I received on Facebook last night after Iinked to articles by Steven and Peter:

 

I liked your facebook page because I've read Auralia's Colors, Cyndere's Midnight, and Raven's Ladder and found them to be intriguing and edifying. But I am disheartened to see such disapproving reviews of Christian movies specifically God's Not Dead, because of the Believer's stance while nonChristian movies like Noah ,with severe departure from Scripture, have been approved. I have not personally seen the movie (God's Not Dead) yet, but hope to soon in spite of this. We know people from our church who after watching God's Not Dead have renewed their fervor for ministry and are trying harder to show Christ in their lives. I would also appreciate if you would balance your reviews by posting good ones as well. With such success, there must be some favorable reviews out there for this movie.

(Sigh.)

Edited by Overstreet

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(Sigh.)

 

 

I'm not ever sure how I would deal with this, were I in your shoes. I've become more content reviewing most of the garbage I review because I know a lot of people don't read it. 

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That message is particularly painful because

a) the writer appears to be very young;
B) it's built on so many false assumptions (Christians who make movies=good; "nonBelievers" who make movies=trouble; Noah is unbiblical, but God's Not Dead isn't; God's Not Dead must be good because it's inspiring ministry);
c) The Auralia Thread series raises the very questions that don't exist in her vocabulary, but apparently, even though she apparently liked the books, she didn't understand them;

d) she's clearly hurt because the reviews I've featured clash with the opinions of people she loves, and no amount of critical discernment about a movie will make a difference.

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That message is particularly painful because

a) the writer appears to be very young;

b ) it's built on so many false assumptions (Christians who make movies=good; "nonBelievers" who make movies=trouble; Noah is unbiblical, but God's Not Dead isn't; God's Not Dead must be good because it's inspiring ministry);

c) The Auralia Thread series raises the very questions that don't exist in her vocabulary, but apparently, even though she apparently liked the books, she didn't understand them;

d) she's clearly hurt because the reviews I've featured clash with the opinions of people she loves, and no amount of critical discernment about a movie will make a difference.

I would also add: it seems (to me at least) she genuinely means well and really wants to engage with art thoughtfully and spiritually, but she has many painful misconceptions about art and what its purpose is.

 

Are you going to respond?  I don't know what I would do if I received message a like that.

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There are some problems that simply cannot be resolved by a few emails.  It sounds to me like she needs to read Through a Screen Darkly.  That would be a good beginning at least.  (I lend my two copies of it out regularly, often after being dumbfounded at hearing a long litany of false assumptions, and mostly with a "Just read this and then we can talk" preliminary.)

 

Although, with different controversies and developments since 2007, I expect you could probably write a pretty good second book on the same subject - critiquing some of those false assumptions at a root level.

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I responded first with appreciation for her kind words about my novels. Then I said a few words about how those novels explore questions about the difference between the way art can represent worldviews and the way art is a process of exploration. I emphasized the distinction between art's capacity to move and inspire, and art's quality... and that it is a critic's responsibility to address both. I also encouraged her to read my Noah coverage to explore her assumption that it's not Biblical. And I offered her a free copy of Through a Screen Darkly. No response.

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In such a situation, a gentle puncturing of the myth of monolithic 'Christian' opinion on any topic (just war, universal health care, praise songs vs. hymns, the merits of a particular film) might be warranted.

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I wrote a few thoughts on God's Not Dead and Christian persecution and Noah here:

 

 

...if the best Christians can come up with in America is disagreement over the legalization of gay marriage or abortion, or the occasional protest to the national motto, or the fictionalized straw man of an atheist professor (who will at worst give the student a C in the class if the student aces everything else) in a film like God’s Not Dead, the conclusion is to quote from Shakespeare - whose birthday is celebrated today - “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

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I hate this movie. More thoughts to come, but what a monstrous film that is so familiar to me in so many ways. I'm glad that non-Christians will not see it so they can be spared the indignity of seeing it. It almost makes me ashamed to call myself a Christian, and then explain to people that I don't represent the various viewpoints and vitriolic hatred on non-Christians that this film seems to have.

People are just numbers waiting to go up on the big board of conversions in heaven's gaming hall. Whoever gets the most conversions gets a shout-out at the Newboys concert in heaven.

Edited by Aren Bergstrom

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There are some problems that simply cannot be resolved by a few emails.  It sounds to me like she needs to read Through a Screen Darkly.  That would be a good beginning at least.  (I lend my two copies of it out regularly, often after being dumbfounded at hearing a long litany of false assumptions, and mostly with a "Just read this and then we can talk" preliminary.)

 

Although, with different controversies and developments since 2007, I expect you could probably write a pretty good second book on the same subject - critiquing some of those false assumptions at a root level.

 

Alas, despite my invitation that she read what Noah's Christian admirers are saying about it, she replied with this... which is where I suspect I should let go of my hopes that further conversation would be fruitful:

 

I understand a film critic's responsibilities to consider a film's artistry and excellence but to excuse a film that excels these qualities but fails to show God's truth is straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Also as Believers, we should not worry so much in the production of the film but the message and if it is agrees with God.

 

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...and if it is agrees with God.

 

That's the crux isn't it? at least in terms of her response. I mean, how exactly does a work of art "agree with God?" How do we come to understand that it does or does not? How does she know this? Seems to be the same old Truth, Goodness, and Beauty issue, where Truth is always primary, unambiguous, and declared in jargon, Goodness is secondary, unambiguous, and presented in accepted stereotypes, and Beauty is suspect, likely source of temptation anyway, and fundamentally unimportant. But you know all this and excellently deal with it in your book.

 

Still, she assumes you "excuse" the film when you do not, so you could call her on that and ask her to explain why she thinks you are doing so. She claims the film "fails to show God's truth" yet it seems she has refused to consider other viewpoints than those that line up with her presuppositions, so you could ask her if that's what she has, in fact, done and if that's what a Christian is supposed to do. And she seems to assume the "production of the film" is not related to the message, that these two things are inherently independent. You could ask here where she got that idea and ask if it lines up with how God communicates to us His truth through the "production" of His creation - if His truth and His "production" are independent of each other.

 

It does not seem, from the verbiage of her response, that she is as young as she may have, at first, appeared. I think some gentle challenging of her assumptions may help her think a bit more about what she is saying without directly saying she is wrong. Maybe this would/could prod her to consider actually reading your book, or interacting with you via email, etc. Of course, there are no easy answers. Prayer is good.

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Just wondering if anyone has a clue where one might find this film's *foreign* box-office figures? Box Office Mojo lists *nothing* for the film overseas, but I know it opened in the UK at least a week ago, and it seems to have been playing in some Latin American territories even earlier.

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So, pop quiz, according to 2007 research by a duo from Harvard and George Mason, what percentage (as of 2007) of university professors claim to be atheists? Ready, go......

 

May I suggest that if your answer is not within say, five percent that I don't have to listen to your claims about how realistic a depiction of the university is this film? 

 

http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Gross_Simmons.pdf

 

P.S. While the research suggests that professing atheism is more common among the professorate than the general public (10% to 2.8%), suggesting to me that such films lend themselves / play to the confirmation bias of the audience (they are more likely to meet an atheist on campus than elsewhere), it's worth pointing out that as of 2007, professors claiming to be Christian in the survey outnumbered those claiming to be atheists by about 5-1 and outnumber atheists AND agnostics combined by over 2-1.

 

Not that, you know, truthfully representing the world you are condemning is important in a Christian movie. Okay, that's not entirely fair. After all, the power of the anecdotal example over the law of averages is that there could be an outlier somewhere (probably is) where most film depictions on a spectrum match SOMEONE's experience. But is it representative of the whole? 

Edited by kenmorefield

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Reached for comment, Oscar Wilde says:

The public have always, and in every age, been badly brought up. They are continually asking Art to be popular, to please their want of taste, to flatter their absurd vanity, to tell them what they have been told before, to show them what they ought to be tired of seeing, to amuse them when they feel heavy after eating too much, and to distract their thoughts when they are wearied of their own stupidity.

 

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Like

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I don't have a problem with the meme that faith-based movies make money.  I think it speaks of the times.  These times didn't work when "The Nativity Story" or "Evan Almighty" was released.

 

We're now at a time where there are few "event pictures" anymore.  Franchise movies based on best selling young adult novels are but one.  Comic book movies are another (although, having suffered through most of Thor 2, I'm thinking their days are numbered).  Films that somehow capture the zeitgeist with stories and/or effects that have never been done before ("Gravity", "The Lego Movie") are yet another. 

 

After that, what else? 

 

I can see the studios trying valiantly to court the religious folks, as much of the other demographics (like 13-25 males) are far more preoccupied with other distractions (video games, streaming video, etc, cable television).  The CHALLENGE is to craft BETTER movies; just like how "The Omega Code 2" tanked, "God's Not Dead 2" will also tank.

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