No, I didn’t get to see the new Godzilla movie this weekend, despite the fact it ranked #1 on the movie charts. I wanted to, but the one chance was on my 32nd anniversary and my wife wasn’t enthralled with the idea of taking in a monster movie. Romance and all. I guess she’s not in love with Godzilla.
We did go see “God is Not Dead.” Not speculative in any way (though I’m sure some atheist would disagree on that point), but there is one thing God and Godzilla have in common. People keep thinking they’ve been killed off, only to watch them come back to life. Thus the title.
Even in film, the monster keeps returning to the silver screen time and time again. About the only other long-running movie series is Bond.
Yet, in speculative fiction, especially science fiction, God has been declared dead on more than one occasion.
For one example: Star Trek. In that universe, no chaplains can be found aboard the ships. Any being with god-like powers is a more evolved species to which humanity will reach some day. While sometimes you’ll find some positive treatments of faith and religion in general (Bejoran, Klingon), it is presented as based in natural phenomena and/or alien influences—not a reality beyond our own nor an eternal God who oversees it all.
In the Star Trek universe, Christianity is, if anything, a footnote in history that died off long ago and God with it.
Not intentionally, I’m sure. The movie was professionally done. The story, while feeling forced too often, was engaging. It used two veteran actors: Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain. Most of the cast did a decent acting job given what they had to work with, though there were a couple of weak performances.
If I were to critique the movie itself, it would be the writing. One, there were too many story lines that distracted from the main story. They couldn’t fill a movie length with the main plot, so they threw enough unrelated sub-plots to stretch it out.
Two, while the story was entertaining, it lacked credibility on several key spots. Peter Chattaway, a Christian movie critic, describes the movie this way:
a sloppily written, badly argued, unevenly acted film about a first-year college student who tries to prove the existence of God within weeks of setting foot on campus.
But that isn’t what keeps God dead in this film. Rather, it is the intended audience, and the mixed signals it sends.
The title of the film appears to be an attempt to address secular society’s dismissal of God as a dying idea rather than a vibrant reality. However, the film will mostly appeal to conservative, Evangelical Christians who have no need to be convinced of that fact.
If your standard atheist walked in to see that movie, they would say the movie doesn’t really address their underlying issues, relies upon emotion to answer arguments, the premise—that atheists are such because God let them down at some point in their lives and so they hate God—is as straw man as you can get, and the movie conveniently avoids the more serious arguments.
This movie isn’t intended to reach atheist, but based on content, is focused to reinforce Christian beliefs among Christians.
It is the kind of movie a Christian might identify with, but a non-Christian will tend to shun. Which is sad when the national stage they are playing on provided them with so much more potential for outreach. Instead, it is kept well within the Christian bubble, ensuring few outside of Christianity will watch it or take it seriously.
It isn’t because it has a theme or contains preaching, but that the theme was wrapped and explored in an easy-Christian-answers-and-platitudes manner that provides red meat for believers, but nothing of substance for non-Christians, and thus little witness. That will only keep such movies segregated from most of society, and keep God dead in the minds of many.
As Peter Chattaway laments, this film has proved popular enough among Christians that it surpassed Courageous as the highest-grossing evangelical movie. Rotten Tomatoes puts its earnings at $58.9M as of this date. Mr Chattaway says:
And that’s why it pains me to see that God’s Not Dead . . . has been performing so well at the box office, to the point where it recently passed Courageous to become the top-grossing film ever made by and for evangelicals. If this becomes the standard for all Christian films to come, then the genre is truly in deep, deep trouble.
Can such movies and novels successfully break out of the Christian culture to address such issues in a way that speaks to the non-Christian? Or should we be content to stay in our Christian bubble?