God's Not Dead: What the critics got wrong

April 7, 2014

After hearing good things, I went to see God's Not Dead with Sean this weekend. I love the Christian film trend despite the fact that they certainly have a tendency to be cheese fests. In this case, I felt like it was well done: while it did leave some loose ends, it spoke truth and wasn't overly corny.


In normal fashion, I came home and got online to stalk the actors on IMDB. In the process, I encountered the Rotten Tomatoes page for the film - it scored a 20% rating. Was I shocked? Of course not. I in no way expect for a religious film to convert the whole country let alone any critic or person in Hollywood. I don't expect them to love it. However, I quickly noticed that in comparison, Noah scored 76%. I haven't seen it, but thanks to Matt Walsh' spoiler and other reviews, I am drawing the conclusion that the movie has very little in common with the actual story.

In other words, two Christian movies are in theatres, and the one that tells the truth is rated at a fraction of one that is apparently full of bold-faced lies. Oh, what a world.

So, I got to reading said reviews of God's not Dead and felt my blood boiling pretty quickly. People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but, like in many cases, these opinions seem strictly biased  because of the fact that Christianity is involved. Those darn, intolerant, melodramatic Christians. We certainly can't have that (that statement was clearly dripping with sarcasm in case you aren't familiar with or don't know me.)

So, here are some favorite complaints of mine along with some rebuttals:

  • "Persecution isn't real." Several reviews basically up and say that Christians aren't persecuted in the US, that this whole thing is grossly exaggerated and melodramatic - like this one here that says "stop whining, 80% of the nations claims to be Christian and their thought used to dominate America", or this one that says the persecution theme is a "fetish," or, simply put, this one that just says the whole thing is "unrealistic."

Really? A fetish? A figment of our imagination? Isn't such a scathing review proof that the bias persecution is made of is very much alive? Surely I don't have to bring up the fact that the same people who call Christians intolerant are thus persecuting us by labeling our intolerance the absence of our agreeing with their opinion only- something that sounds strangely like intolerance. And yes, it does become persecution. Think Chick-Fil-A media attacks. Heck, think the dude from Mozilla who just had to leave his job - whether you agree with him or not, it was persecution - he's in America and has every right to hold and practice whatever opinion is his. So yeah, I'd say persecution in the states right now is both relevant and real.
  • "Standing up for your faith is immature." In the film, the protagonist makes the hard choice despite everyone else (including other Christians) telling him to take the easy one. Many reviewers agree - "report the professor," "drop the class," "just suck it up and sign the paper." It seems the reviewers agree - he should have shut his mouth and taken an easy way out. Staying firm in your beliefs and standing up for them is clearly the weak and irresponsible thing to do.
Wow, way to tell us all to be sniveling cowards. Am I saying we need to stand up in every bio class and debate evolution? No, but come on, back to persecution - people in other countries suffer imprisonment, torture, and death for Christ and here we consider it immature to risk our grade or the opinions of our peers by admitting our belief in Him in a country where we're supposed to be free to do so? Wow.
  • "It's unrealistic" Most reviewers inserted some form of a whine/argument that this situation isn't realistic - either such a professor doesn't exist, or that surely the student would have reacted in another way. In other words, the premise of the movie isn't plausible in real life.
You're absolutely right. I hate to break this to you, but if we're basing our cinematic opinions on the plausibility of the situation, it's time to throw out half your movie collection - guys, throw out anything based on Marvel comic books, girls, toss that Twilight - you may like it, but it clearly sucks, because we all know that would never happen in real life. Nevermind Star Wars or so-called classics like The Wizard of Oz. You all are screwed! Even the films based on true stories throw in some extra fun. Oh, wait, those are OK? If that's the case, you've taken me back to point 1. I smell a little persecution here. Movies are OK to exaggerate a little only if those pesky Christians aren't sharing their beliefs? Oh, and by the way, the film was inspired by a substantial list of campus court cases dealing with religious freedom (all included in the end credits) - so apparently the issue is more relevant and present than you care to give credit for.
  • "The characters are caricatures." The Christians are all Christian and say cliche things, the atheists are all stereotyped - everyone is stereotyped. It's not realistic. It's not fair.
Yeah. Yeah, they are. Sorry. Sure, they could have done a better job. Nobody else has ever turned characters into extreme labels - certainly not every high school movie ever made with the jerky jocks, mean cheerleaders, and nobody geeks. Nope. Movies never exaggerate character types. Oh wait, that's right, there's extra rules stating Christian movies can't do the same things as Hollywood movies. Then that's just offensive.
  • Hasty Generalizations Everywhere! Because the professor is atheist because of a bad experience as a believer, the film must be saying all atheists are this way. Because the atheists in this film are unkind, we must be trying to tell the audience this is how all atheists are, etc. etc.
Logic was discussed often in this film, and hasty generalization, my friends, is what we call a logical fallacy- the argument that something must be true of all if it is true of one. The professor's story is his alone. It is in no way intended to explain atheism as a whole, it is simply something done in all films - giving a character a background to explain his or her personality/actions. It's a big jump to make such accusations as the ones above - it's like saying that Spiderman accuses all superheroes of  getting their powers from a spider bite - there can simply be no other reason for this information! I think this is especially clear when we flip the script and look at the Christian characters who are all very different - the protagonist who takes up a challenge, the bossy girlfriend who literally tells him she forbids his choice, the pastor who is clearly human and gets discouraged when his car breaks down, the christian girl who is dating the atheist....the film clearly is not judging an entire people group based off of one character. Each person has their own story, and that's all there is to it.
  • "It's preaching to the choir." Self-explanatory. It's for Christians more than anyone else.
So? ...really, so? You don't want to be preached at? Fine. But now it's not OK to encourage our own either? I totally agree this film likely has more value to a Christian than to a non-believer. I totally have no problem with that. As my pastor likes to say, church is a hospital for the sick, not a country club for the well - we need the sermon as much as anyone else. We're not perfect, and we can use encouragement and reminders too.  If the film reaches non-believers, it's a blessing, if not, it's still a blessing to the said "choir members" who gleaned any inspiration from the film.

*steps off pulpit* - come back Wednesday to see what I think the reviewers got right!

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  1. We haven't seen this movie yet--we saw Noah, and yep, I wouldn't have minded if they changed a couple side details or had some artistic interpretation....but they pretty much changed the entire plot and overall message of the story, so, that wasn't good at all.
    We had a somewhat shocking experience noticing the hatred many people have for Christianity recently: The church we attend had their property vandalized, causing about $10,000 worth of damage. Of course, this was reported on the local news website and my husband happened to check the comments on the story--and he was amazed at how filled with hate the vast majority of the comment were. Ranging from "They're a nonprofit and aren't taxed by the government, so they can afford it" to "They deserved to get vandalized because of their insane beliefs" and worse. People definitely do feel strongly anti-Christian, and that's heartbreaking, but to be expected!

  2. Remember, Rachel, according to critics ''we're not persecuted''.

  3. Haven't seen either one yet, but of course the buzz is, like you've said..."Noah" ( with Christians a thumbs down and non-believers - a thumbs up) and with "God's Not Dead" (the total opposite)...didn't see that one coming..HA! I loved your in-depth review Bekah! Think I'll go see the more realistic one -from a Christian perspective that is! ;-) Thanks for the heads up, lol! Have a good one!

  4. My parents are heading to see this with their small group Wednesday. I almost always feel the exact opposite about a film than the critics, so that was no surprise. I also hate ending up on comment sections of websites because they tend to get negative and out of control. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reasoning about this movie!

  5. I appreciate this review. I haven't seen this movie or Noah either, but like you-I'm glad to see more Christian themed movies coming out lately. In college, I didn't have this particular professor, but there was one who would call out people who were Christians and make fun of them, call them stupid, etc. in front of the whole class (and this was in southern Alabama! so I can't imagine being in more liberal states)

    "Surely I don't have to bring up the fact that the same people who call Christians intolerant are thus persecuting us by labeling our intolerance the absence of our agreeing with their opinion only- something that sounds strangely like intolerance." I LOVE THIS QUOTE!!!! I have thought this so many times through the whole Chick-fil-a thing or Hobby Lobby thing or any other Christian controversy. It makes no sense!

  6. Okay I didn't read every single line but I read most of this and I'm so glad you wrote it. After reading things about Noah (though I've not read the popular Walsh one) I was rather disappointed about it. But I've always been intrigued to see God's Not Dead, I naturally expected it to have some cornyness to it however I'm so glad you wrote more about it. Definitely reading wednesday. I want to see this one!

  7. Wow these are some really good points! I haven't seen the movie, but I want to. Just maybe not in theaters. Anyway, I am so tired of the persecution and double standards in our country against Christians. It's ridiculous!

  8. Yes ma'am to this entire post. I was just having the tolerance and perctuation converstion with friends Sunday night.

  9. I honestly haven't even heard of this film. But then again, I rarely get to even watch anything on tv these days. Regardless, you have made some valid points about how Christians are viewed in the country!

  10. I really have to get over to see this movie! I have been hearing so much about it.

  11. It looks like a great movie :) I'll red box it!

  12. ok now i need to see this movie...i totally agree that most christian films have mega cheese factor. also the whole persecutions thing...they should try walking around a high school these day and see what it is like to be a Christian boldly.


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