Last week, I took my daughter to see God’s Not Dead on opening day. I am not a movie buff and I usually wait until movies come out on DVD. Call me cheap! I paid $12 for popcorn! I had no intention what so ever in seeing this film. Actually, it was Kevin Sorbo (Professor Raddison) who drew my attention. I figured if he could pull off Hercules…And he did make the film a worthwhile trip.
My review comes from the perspective of a Christian pastor. But also from the perspective of a former atheist. I was 22 years old before I heard the Gospel or opened the Bible. I walked into my first church completely unfamiliar with the culture of evangelicalism. And it is still foreign to me on most days. So I went to see this movie through the eyes of my former atheist self. And I have to be honest, it stunk!
I want to give it some credit. It had better acting than most Christian films. Kevin Sorbo did a great job as the professor (and he is pretty good looking…can I admit that as a pastor?). I mean, he was Hercules! They also had some well-acted supporting roles. In a particular scene, a woman discovers she has cancer. The actress really does a fantastic job conveying the pain, confusion, and loneliness she is feeling.
On the other hand, it is very predictable and cheesy in some places. They even met their dead-bed conversion quota for the film. I wanted to see something radical and out of the ordinary. The closest they come is having Josh’s girlfriend leave him over his “radical” faith.
But I had two major reactions to this film.
1. My daughter was inspired to live for Christ at a deeper level.
My daughter is 14 years old. Any movie that can inspire her toward faith or her future is worth the money. The best thing I took from this film was a chance to listen to her heart as she talked about her faith in Christ. I would go see it again for that reason alone. If you are looking for a conversation starter with a nominal Christian, this is it. It is not a movie designed to convince atheists they are wrong. It is a movie designed to help the undecided make a decision.
2. My daughter and I were equally appalled by our fellow Christians viewing the film with us.
There is a scene where Josh (the college student) asks his professor why he is so angry at God. He pushes Sorbo’s character into a corner (so to speak) and the professor finally confesses that “yes, I hate God! He took everything that I ever cared about from me”.
Josh responds with saying, “How can you hate Someone who doesn’t exist”?
The student’s words reverberated through the theater followed by a burst of applause and “Amen”s. I was disgusted, embarrassed, and broken as I sat their feeling the pain of my former atheist self. The professor had just confessed to pain and anger and unbelievable hurt. Yet, here, the Christians sat applauding their “win” rather than feeling his pain.
In that scene, the movie became exactly what I thought it would be: an opportunity for Christians to strut around with their spiritual arrogance completely void of an ability to “mourn with those who mourn”. We are more interested in rubbing our prowess in someone’s face than we are in being “wounded healers”.
My heart ached for the professor because he is a real person somewhere. He is someone who has been wounded. He is someone who is lonely and confused and in pain. He is me twenty some years ago!
If you are a Christian, I hope you will take the time to see the movie. If you are not a Christian, I hope you will take the time to see the movie also…just wait until it comes out on DVD.
Keep winning in 2014!