God's Not Dead
Directed by Harold Cronk. Starring Shane Harper, Kevin Sorbo, Dean Cain, David A.R. White, Benjamin Ochieng, Cory Oliver, Trisha LaFache, Paul Kwo, Hadeel Sittu, Marco Khan, Willie Robertson, Korie Robertson. (2014, PG, 113 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 28, 2014
The latest Christian film to find its way into our neighborhood theatres has its message emblazoned in its title: God’s Not Dead. However, any just God would likely recoil from the ham-fisted and spurious defense put forth in this film.
Josh Wheaton (Harper) is a college student at the fictional Hadleigh University, where he enrolls in a required liberal arts class – Introduction to Philosophical Thought – taught by Professor Radisson (Sorbo), a bullying atheist who starts off the semester by having the students write “God Is Dead” on a sheet of paper, then sign their names to it, and turn it in. Wheaton is the only student who is reluctant to comply and is offered a deal by the professor in order to not flunk the course: Spend 20 minutes during the next three classes at the lectern convincing his fellow students why he believes that God exists. It’s a devil’s bargain that Wheaton seems set up to lose.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t some arrogant assholes loose in the halls of academia, but by all rights, any professor who begins his class by insisting that every student deny God’s existence or receive a failing grade would likely find him- or herself booted from that institution. But this exaggeration is in line with the film’s overall tone: You’re either a jerk or a true believer. Maybe it takes an evangelical mindset to think that everyone of differing opinions is also out to proselytize for their beliefs. Dramatically, the narrative conflicts and character depictions are starkly obvious. For example, a Chinese (and therefore a godless communist) student is converted, as is a Muslim coed (whose strict father beats her before evicting her from their home). Even those icons of subtlety – the Robertson clan from Duck Dynasty – are given a platform in this movie. And the worst fate of all awaits the atheist.