God's Not Dead... but Christian Films are on Life Support
- Friday, March 21, 2014
With these tropes and unrealistic scenarios, it’s difficult to take much of the film seriously. But even the predictable plot and one-dimensional characters would be salvageable if only the characters would behave and speak in ways that make sense – in ways that people in real life behave and speak. Unfortunately, this crucial element is sorely lacking from God's Not Dead.
For example, when a young liberal reporter (a caricature of a role played by Trisha LaFache) accosts Willie and Korie Robertson (playing themselves), the scene is cartoon-like. She wields her recording device in a clenched hand and a nearly hyper-flexed arm straight toward the friendly couple, as if she’s afraid to get too close and catch what they've got. When they graciously agree to an impromptu interview, she begins with a snide jab at Korie, saying she's "surprised to see her" (even though the family is clearly just walking into church) and that she would have expected Korie would be at home "barefoot and pregnant."
The list goes on and on. Couples break up in public places with bizarre, stilted dialogue. When a woman is told she has cancer by her doctor, her immediate response is "I don't have time to have cancer. I'm too busy." Two men about to embark on a 12-hour road trip are unable to start their car, so they call for a rental car (which doesn’t come ‘til the end of the day), and then when the rental is a dud… they decide to wait til the next morning for another rental (somehow, none of the adult men involved thinks to have the car towed to a mechanic and simply have the battery replaced). Logic is sacrificed again and again for the sake of moving the plot forward. But because everyone's dialogue and actions are so devoid of coherence, the plot feels forced. Many scenes that should be touching, or moments that should evoke empathy, leave you scratching your head, wondering, "Why did that just happen?"
Yes, God's Not Dead will make you feel supported, possibly even inspired. You'll get to see Willie Robertson and Michael Tait wax poetic on their love for Jesus Christ. You'll get to see a dozen different characters turn their lives toward Christ (if you can manage to keep them all straight enough to care deeply about any of them).
But is it really worth it? Is this pat-on-the-back type of inspiration worth the inevitable dismissal by non-Christians for its cheesy script and manufactured plot? Is it a "necessary evil" to support such lackluster films for the cause of Christ? Do the noble ends justify the means to get there? Perhaps more importantly, is it even possible for movies about God to simultaneously be movies that are good art?
Yes. It's been done many times. Movies like The Prince of Egypt and The Tree of Life come to mind as two of the most well-crafted, star-studded, magnificent films in recent years which also happen to be incredible stories of faith.
At the end of God's Not Dead, viewers are encouraged to send a text message to everyone in their contact list proclaiming "God's Not Dead." You can do this, if you think it will spread the love and message of Christ to your friends and family. If, however, you live in a more nuanced reality, one where actions and conversations and relationships with real people take time and patience to grow, maybe you'll pray for them instead. Maybe you'll send a text to just one person saying "I'm thinking of you, let me know if you ever need anything."
Or maybe you're an artist, and you're just waiting for the right time to unleash your creativity and passion in a way that will not only point to God, but will be thoughtful, well-crafted, and carried by a story that connects to the human heart.
After all, our God is alive – and the ultimate artist. Doesn't he deserve thoughtful, worthy art attached to his name more than just an on-screen-tract?
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: People are shown drinking wine
- Language/Profanity: None
- Sex/Nudity: None
- Violence: A man is shown being hit by a car and killed; a young woman is slapped across the face by her father
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: March 21, 2014
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