Editor’s note: God’s Not Dead will be shown on over 600 screens nationally beginning on March 21. According to a press release, the movie hopes to weave “together multiple stories of faith, doubt and disbelief, culminating in a dramatic call to action. The film will educate, entertain and inspire moviegoers to explore what they really believe about God, igniting important conversations and life-changing decisions.
God’s Not Dead is the story of a Christian college freshman, Josh (Shane Harper), who takes an Introduction to Philosophy class from a notorious atheist professor, Dr. Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). The first day of class, the professor demands that the students write “God is Dead” on a piece of paper and sign it. Josh refuses so the professor offers him an alternative assignment – he gets 20 minutes at the end of each of the next three classes to prove to his fellow students that God is not dead.
The premise is familiar. We’ve seen it in a number of “forward this to everyone you know” emails – the Christian student takes on the evil atheist professor and wins. Though the plot setup was a bit contrived, I was really hoping for an interesting story that got to the heart of the very real struggle of many Christian college students whose faith is challenged in college. But unfortunately, God’s Not Dead completely missed the mark on reality. What could have been a thought-provoking film turned into a hokey, unrealistic story filled with flat, one-dimensional, stereotypical characters that at times even bordered on offensive. The whole story line felt contrived and unrealistic. The subplots and cameo appearances weren’t really connected to the main story line in any meaningful way. Most of the characters and their interactions with each other were just not believable.
I really wanted this movie to be a powerful story that I could share with high school and college aged Christian youth and even with atheist friends. Many Christian college students really are facing situations similar to Josh’s (though not as dramatic and in-your-face) and need encouragement to stand up for their faith in a meaningful way. For those Christian kids, I wouldn’t mind showing them this movie. Even though it’s cheesy, it might help give them the courage to speak the truth in love in their own situations. It could at least serve as a discussion starter about their own experiences with teachers and friends.
But what truly saddens me is that if I showed this to my atheist friends, I’m afraid it would only make them dislike Christians even more. I’m afraid that those who really need to hear the message that God is not dead would be so turned off by the story and characters of the movie that they would completely miss it.
Kathy Larson is the director of Christian Education and Creative Arts at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C. She attended a Feb. 4 screening of God’s Not Dead, held at AMC Concord Mills 24 in Concord Mills, N.C.