Friday, June 10, 2016

God's not Dead: review + alternate ending

God's not Dead 2 is out.  Which, for a titewad like me, means it's about time to watch the first movie. :)

I'm, of course, exaggerating.
Though I did get it a yard sale for 2 bucks, so there you go, I guess.

Anyway, as both an author and somebody whose had a fringe relationship with Christian films, I really have to say, this one was a pretty big step backwards.  There were some great big-name actors in it, but (with the exception of Kevin Sorbo, who did a great job) it seemed like they got the actor and then tried to figure out a part for them.  The Duck Dynasty folks, and even the Newsboys band felt pretty patched-in and otherwise unnecessary to the story.

Oh, but it was worse than that!  There were a good dozen unrelated subplots that they tried to juggle.  Pick any two and we'd have had a pretty good movie.  As it was, they tried to force them all to interact to seem like they were inter-related, but the relationships were very thin and unnecessary to one another.

Let's see... the student's professor's girlfriend's brother's girlfriend interviews Willie Robertson whose pastor is also the pastor of the student's professor's girlfriend AND hosting and African missionary at the same time.  Seriously!  I'm not making this up!

At no point in the process did any of the creative team stop and question this mess??

But okay, let's put the plot spaghetti aside.

I must say, my main reason for not watching this sooner was the fear that the interaction between Christian student and Atheist professor would be... I dunno... disrespectful proof-texting and quote slamming.  Unhelpful.  Pointless.  Rude.

I had nightmares of a 90 minute rendition of some internet joke where a smarmy freshman puts a know-it-all professor "in his place".

I was pleased in the beginning when the kid's pastor advises against just that, saying, "don't try to be clever".

This advice is quickly forgotten as the kid starts in on all of the latest and greatest apologetics talking points.  We could simply go online and read this information from the original sources... but here they are all over again -- in movie form!  In fact, he begins the presentation, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury..." which is uprooted straight from Lee Strobel's work and plunked down here for little to no reason.

Even so, they did... not quite as bad as anticipated.  The student, while not openly disrespectful, seems merely to keep his fool mouth shut when hallway confrontations arise.  (Admittedly, he probably keeps a cork in it better than I'd be able to.  So, hat-tip there, I guess.)

 If you came here for just the review, I'd advise you to stop there.  The rest of this article contains spoilers like its going out of style!

Finally, if you can sigh through the unnecessary sub-plots and (arguably redundant) lectures, there's still the ending to deal with.  That seemed most contrived of all.

So, as expected, the student wins the argument and proves once and for all time that Christians are smarter than Atheists.
(Or, at least, proves that we can be smug, condescending, intellectuals too?  And that's a good thing??)

Hold on a minute though, the professor said that he was going to fail the student and thus get his revenge, whether he wins the debate or not.  The screenwriter must have choked on his cappuccino when he realized he'd painted himself into this corner!  What to do... what to do...  "Hey!  I know!  We can kill him!"  after a moment... "Oh yeah.  This is a Christian movie, so maybe he can change his mind for no clear reason and get saved first."



After mulling it over, I think it could be solved though, and in a much more Christ-like way.
Actually, in a more Apostle Paul-like way. (Though by proxy... you know...)

1 Corinthians chapter 2 is so great.  Really hard to find a good place to stop, but try this on for size.
    When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
    Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom—but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it. For if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 
I can't help but take a step back and see things from the Atheist professor's point of view.  Here, he lost somebody very dear to him, and holds a grudge against God.  The student has technically nailed the argument when he says that the militant Atheist does not doubt God's existence, but dislikes God's existence.  The trouble is (and this is where I think the ending starts to barf) is the student shouts this out in front of the class.

Though making the point, he is being disrespectful and rude.  In "winning" the argument, he is losing the greater spiritual battle.  Quite the opposite of Corinthians, isn't it?

If I was writing this, I'd drop all the way back to the beginning of the film.  Remember the enrollment dude makes a big point that he has 22 days to withdraw from the class.  (And then this fact just disappears.  What is up with that, anyway?)  Well, why not use that information?  It is pretty easy to fathom a schedule where the first day of class, followed by three weeks of debates puts him just past the withdrawal point.

Then, say, just as in the this version the entire class comes to Christ through his arguments.  Also, he finds out about the pain in the professor's past the same way.

Now, week 3.  His very last chance to withdraw and salvage his career.  Probably the rest of the class has already bailed because they know the professor will be none-to-happy with their new decision.  They urge him to quit... but the doesn't!  They're all trying to convince him, "you've proved your point", etc, etc.  He says, "No.  There's something important I've got to do.  I'm staying."  Well, okay...

The day of the final debate comes and there's a standing-room-only crowd there... students, faculty, everybody on campus has heard of this...

The professor, he's sweating now.  The kid has already shown that he won't be intimidated and can hold his own.  Now is he going to be humiliated in his own classroom with the whole school watching?

The kid, he stands up with his notes.  "I prepared some really great stuff for this week."  Then he takes out a lighter, torches it, and drops it in a metal trash can.  Instead of using the time for some slam-dunk argument, he willingly gives it all up - his future and everything - for what?

I'll tell you 'for what'.  So he can fall down on his knees in prayer for his professor!  That he can cry out to God to bring reconciliation and healing into the man's life for the wounds he has suffered!

Why would this freshman sacrifice career, girlfriend, winning, and everything else just to see another man reconciled?  The same reason the Apostle did.  The Love of God, man!  A self-sacrificial love -- even a love for our enemies!  (Where else do you find that!??)

No, the Kingdom of God isn't about clever ways win arguments.  It's about people.

And to me, that's the kind of movie that the world needs to see.

Live YOUR adventure,
 - E.L. Fletcher

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