It seems once more, the rumors of Divine Demise have been greatly exaggerated, so there's a sequel to the 2014 film, God's Not Dead.
Obviously, this is not a movie review, which would imply I saw the movie. Nope!
Let’s call this my Cynical Cinematic Rant, based solely on the trailer.
My first impulse after watching this preview involved screaming at the TV (Is it blasphemous to shout profanities at religious movies?) Then I decided to write my response. More accurately, my reaction. “Response” sounds like I’m talking about my favorite ice cream; “reaction” is what happens when the ice cream curdles on my stomach!
We know God is not dead because we had the first movie to prove that assertion, once and for all. But it would appear not everyone was convinced or converted, so GOOD NEWS: God is still not dead, and there’s a sequel. Surely this one will definitively prove this existential reality.
God is not dead, and they hired anti-gay religious bigot Pat Boone to prove it. (He’s been around almost as long as God, after all.) We also have Duck Dynasty’s Sadie Robertson. Those two would be enough to keep me away from this film. God is not dead, but the hateful rhetoric of such Fundamentalist followers certainly mutilates God's credibility. Why in God’s Name (pun intended) would I spend money to support people who work against my equality? God may not be dead, but their theology would prefer it if I were.
The contrived, slanted ideas of both films are insulting to me as a person of faith:
Movie 1: College student attends a philosophy class, where the uncompromising Professor requires all students to agree in writing that the Christian god is "dead."
Movie 2: When a high school teacher is asked a question in class about Jesus, her reasoned response lands her in deep trouble and could expel God from the public square once and for all.
Please know: I do believe in God, but unlike these movies, I also believe in the intention and equal application of the First Amendment. I'm only stating my opinion; I get to do that in America. (I know that kinda goes against the theme of this movie.) I’m not trying to prevent anyone from seeing this movie; I see that as futile. Those who'll support this kind of film are about as pliable folks attending a Donald Trump rally.
God is not dead, but subtlety clearly is! (“We’re at war!”)
This movie targets those who believe "religious freedoms" are being eroded in our country, though with a decidedly narrow view of which religion is involved. In other words, Christian teachers aren’t allowed to teach about Jesus in public schools because of godless, atheist school policies. (The first movie purported Christian students aren’t allowed to personally believe in Jesus because of godless, atheist professors at state universities.) Oh, and there's the ACLU, those evil minions of Hades, pushing an anti-Christian agenda on the country.
In this movie’s imaginary scenario, God is not dead, but now needs a lawyer. You know, like Santa Claus, in Miracle on 34th Street. A Christian teacher (played by Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, a show that at one time was vilified by the same people who will promote this film) is taken to court for her faith. Well, technically for answering a student’s question, but let’s not cloud the plot with pesky facts. Her attorney is played by Jesse Metcalfe, who previously starred in such righteous roles as a sexual boy-toy gardener in Desperate Housewives, and a bed-hopping Ewing in Dallas.
God is not dead, and apparently neither is the myopic religious privilege that demands Christians be allowed to proselyte their beliefs in public schools.
Would folks be as zealous if the movie were fighting for a Muslim's right to teach Islam in a classroom? Could there such support for a movie that promoted high school workshops on Wiccan principles?
We're aren't told whether God would die or smite the student with a jealous rage if someone discussed Allah, or Buddha or Vishnu in the classroom. Or, God forbid, if schools focused on such mundane subjects as English, Math...or Civics!
God is not dead, and still gets Top Billing, with the hope there's Name recognition to generate robust after-market sales numbers. Let's be honest: this movie is merely an advertising campaign for Christianity. More precisely, a narrow segment of the Christian faith—Conservative Evangelicals. (There's even value-added, promotional items to tie in with the movie. You can drink from a coffee mug that proclaims You have the right NOT to remain silent or wear a wrist ban affirming your stand with God.)
God is not dead, but appears to be on life-support, propped up by many strawman arguments.
The ACLU proclaims: “We’re going to prove, once and for all, that God is dead.”
(They do realize that's not the purpose of the ACLU, right?)
The Christian teacher proclaims: “I'm not going to be afraid to say the name Jesus.”
(They do understand that's not the issue, right?)
God is not dead, and neither are clichés.
It’s all very black-and-white! No gray.
The villains hate God, and the heroes love Jesus.
There's a right way to believe (their way) and a wrong way (any other way).
It's "Us" versus "Them."
To tug at our heartstrings, we're shown a moving montage, soundtracked by the obligatory, upbeat Christian band. We see candles, solemn hand-holding, heads bowed in prayer, scores of people with concerned looks, and a smattering of trite platitudes. ("What does your heart tell you to do?") There's Matlock-style antics in the courtroom, complete with the less-than-obvious symbolic broken gavel of justice. Outside on the steps, we find passionate Christians, complete with chants and signs. But they are not protesting the mistreatment of poor people, or calling for fair wages, or sensible gun laws. They aren't shouting about rampant hunger or homelessness. They're angry that Jesus can't be taught in the classroom!
God is not dead, but might be blushing at the characterization in this movie.
Based on this movie, God is not dead...but is Americanized and probably aligned with the religio-political principles of an unnamed, but easily identifiable Party. I expect we'll soon hear candidates claiming "God told me" to run for public office, in order to enact and enforce divine policies on everyone.
The intended message couldn’t be more obvious if the producers hit us over the head with a giant, leather-bound King James Bible, tied us to the front pew, and demanded we repeat the Sinner’s Prayer under the threat of being forced to repeatedly watch the first movie.
This heavy-handed approach is transparently skewed to that particular, but vocal, religious perspective who are screaming loudly about their pseudo-persecution, and now they have a movie to feed that paranoia. It will entice many of them into theaters, giving glory to the twice-affirmed, not-dead God, while handing over their cash to God's Executive Producers.
God is not dead, and if you doubt that, there are now TWO movies to promote that claim.
Regrettably, I think when the lights come up as the film credits roll—probably to an inspiring Christian pop song—we won’t see scores of new God-followers, and I expect divine existence will still be in doubt by many. Since "the battle is just the beginning," I predict this is not the final word, and there will need to be yet another sequel.
Sadly, I believe the most lasting result will be the feeling of vindication by those of the right-wing religious mindset, who will see this film as proof they're being persecuted because they aren't allowed to run roughshod over the beliefs of others. And that's scariest enough for me to classify this movie into the horror genre.
Oh, and the producers will make money! (Praise God for righteous avarice.)
At least I can enjoy the irony of the movie opening on April 1st, though I know it’s not a joke.
Verily, God is not dead, but needs a new Publicist.