God’s Not Dead: The Christian Right’s Embarrassing Propaganda Films

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Many times, I and many Christians are left to facepalm ourselves as we watch right wing Christians protest about how Christianity is under attack in America. Protests against same-sex marriage, against Planned Parenthood, which resulted in one friend of mine being told she was going to Hell and other such lovely cases of them making a flagpole out of a matchstick. I already did a post about the supposed ‘War on Christians’ which is easily debunked with simple statistics. 70% of the United States identify as being Christian, every president they’ve had has been Christian, though this may change if Bernie Sanders, a Jew, is elected. And the so-called liberal elite on the offensive are also Christian, from the liberal gang of MSNBC to Stephen Colbert, heck, even Michael Moore, the most hated liberal in America, is a Catholic. But I wanted to do a post about a pair of recent films that just personifies everything wrong with right wing Christianity in the US.

God’s Not Dead is a Pure Flix film series directed by Harold Cronk, which has been labelled by critics and indeed, other Christians like myself as propaganda, among such great titles as Rock, It’s Your Decision, which said listening to rock and roll was a one way ticket on the Highway to Hell (pun intended) and Deception of a Generation, which saw Eagle’s Nest Ministries pastor Gary Greenwald decry cartoons and toys of the 1980s as an occultic conspiracy to trap children. A friend and film critic also told me she considers the films one of the best arguments for atheism or agnosticism she’d seen. But why exactly has it been lampooned? Allow me to explain:

The first film follows an evangelical student in a philosophy class whose atheist professor forces the class to write Nietzsche’s “God Is Dead” in order to pass. When the student refuses, he is forced to debate him over three classes to prove his faith is reasonable. The film also has several subplots with different characters as well as others already introduced. One is a liberal blogger who goes after Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty. The second is a Muslim girl who secretly practices Christianity. And the third is the professor’s girlfriend as she goes about her life with him. Now, it doesn’t seem so bad upon first inspection, but looking closer reveals something absolutely disgusting.

This movie creates some of the most awful caricatures of atheists and Muslims and an unfounded attack on liberals with its plot, and it’s simply disgusting and offensive. The liberal blogger, shortly after going after Robertson, is diagnosed with cancer out of the blue. Her boyfriend breaks up with her, and she later ends up converting to Christianity with the aid of the Newsboys, a band with a song from which this film gets its name. I’m disgusted they’d be willing to appear, let alone use their song.This boyfriend, a wealthy atheist businessman, refuses to see his mother, a dementia patient, and when he visits, is told his wealth was a gift from Satan in order to keep him from God. As for the Muslim, upon having her secret discovered, her father BEATS her and throws her out of the house. And I thought how Fox News talked about Islam was offensive. But the worst caricature, has to be the atheist professor. He is portrayed as an absolute bigot. He treats those who believe in God as second class, even his own girlfriend and is revealed to be just angry at God for not saving his terminally ill mother when he prayed, in the heat of the final debate. This man is also killed by a car crash and converts before he dies. Flat out disgusting, that they portray him in this way. I don’t deny there are atheists who fit into this caricature and, yes, those people are awful, to say the least, but this flat out stereotyping is plain wrong and un-Christian. The film has no point and just serves to reinforce the prejudices of the Christian Right against those who they believe are marginalising their faith.

The second film, God’s Not Dead 2, is due for release in a matter of days in New Zealand as of writing this, and as I’ve heard from friends and critics, it’s just as bad. This film follows a Christian teacher played by Melissa Joan Hart, known for her work on the live action Sabrina the Teenage Witch. When the teacher refers to Jesus in class while answering a question of a student. Word gets out and she is taken to court for ‘preaching in class’, prosecuted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It’s a massive courtroom drama that features cameos from the likes of Pat Boone and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a man who once claimed America was ‘rapidly moving towards the criminalisation of Christianity.’ But what is disgusting is the villainisation of the ACLU. This is an organisation that has fought for black civil rights, for LGBT rights and immigrant rights. And while they support the separation of church and state, which this film tries to label persecution, they have stated students should have the right to pray in schools, one issue the Christian Right believe should be contested. But they treat them as if they’re some evil atheistic organisation out to persecute religious people, with one of the main lawyers stating he wants to prove God is dead.

This is simply ridiculous! People like Cronk are trying to paint a world for right wing Christians as being out to get them. Saturday Night Live even went as far as to parody the film trailer, called ‘God is a Boob Man,’ in which the teacher is replaced with a baker who refuses to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The lawyers tell her they want her to say God is gay, to which she refuses. SNL’s regular hilarity ensues throughout. While it was well-received, Pat Boone was outraged, decrying the skit as ‘satanic’ and condemned them to hell, something I consider one of the most un-Christian things a Christian could do. Christianity is a faith of forgiveness and reconciliation, not of condemnation and shame.

To those of my faith and others who decry the film, thank you and well done. This kind of film does not belong in cinemas anywhere and it certainly doesn’t belong here. But to those of you who actually defend this film, those I’m criticising, have you ever looked at yourself and thought it may be you, that’s the problem?

This negative view of Christianity didn’t start out because they hated churches going out into the community, giving care to those who needed it most. Even I get non-religious people telling me how happy they are about what my church does in the country. It’s because people like you are out on the streets attacking the LGBT community and innocent women and whining about your faith being under attack when progress is being made. You claim to be people of God, yet your actions contradict the core of Christianity and Christ’s teachings themselves. Step back and look at yourselves in the mirror. Ask yourself: is this really something a Christian would do?

Liam Bateman

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