That’s the impression you probably came away with if you saw the movie God’s Not Dead, which came out on DVD last month. Some of you may have seen this in your Sunday school classes. Some of you may have gotten the “God’s Not Dead” texts from your friends.
Today I wish to direct your attention to a review of this movie by Neil Carter at Godless In Dixie. Basically the movie is a monumental fail; it is a sorry excuse for a film with nothing that even remotely resembles a plot, it does nothing more than tell evangelicals precisely the things they want to believe about atheists, and it exists for no purpose other than to tell us that we’re right and they’re all wrong.
Carter breaks down several things he learns about atheists from seeing the movie, then offers these quotes:
In the end the central injustice of this movie is its failure to fairly represent a class of people whom Christians purport to love. But it’s not loving people well to misrepresent them this badly. This movie caricatures, dehumanizes, and depersonalizes people like me, portraying us in the worst possible light. How could I not find this movie disgustingly offensive? Every single atheist in this film is a spineless, uncaring jerk. This is how you love someone like me? You made atheists the bad guys! And not even complex bad guys. You made us two-dimensional cartoon villains who rub our hands together menacingly, tweaking our pencil-thin moustaches above our sinister grins. Children should be afraid to come near us. Employers should think twice before hiring us. And clearly women should steer clear of dating us because obviously we lack hearts.
This is not love. You cannot love people while ignoring everything they tell you about themselves. You are not loving people when you refuse to listen to their stories. You are not loving them well when you decide before hearing them that you already know all that you need to know about them, overruling their own self-descriptions and self-identifications because you are convinced you know better than they do what’s going on inside of them. When you continually speak of people in terms to which they cannot agree, you are not showing them respect or validating them as real people. This movie represents a grievous failure to love people like me. If you watch this and then beg me to go watch it as well, it tells me that in some way you accept its presentation of what I am like even though I’m telling you it’s not accurate. If you say you are to be known by how you love, then this should upset you. The words may be there, but the thing your words promise is not.
So if you are a Christian and if you are able to make it through this film without cringing at the stereotypes and misrepresentations it presents, I cannot imagine you will be able to see me for who I really am or relate to me in any way that is based in reality. If you harbor such a grotesquely caricatured straw man picture of what I’m like, then I dare say you won’t be able to hear a word I’m saying. If this movie doesn’t irritate you the way I know it would have irritated me when I was a Christian, you need to spend some time getting to know real flesh-and-blood non-believers. I’ll wager you wouldn’t ordinarily have much motivation to do that (except in order to engage us in debate). But someone you love may be an atheist, and I’m trying to warn you that as long as this movie doesn’t make you nauseous for all its misrepresentations and clichés, you aren’t gonna love your loved one well. You’re going to need some real conversations in which you ask some sincere questions and let your loved one tell you about themselves and their own thought processes without trying to cram what they say into a pre-conceived doctrinal grid. Is loving them worth that to you? Are you secure enough in your faith to even have such a conversation with someone like me?