The story begins with Reverend Hill’s church being destroyed from arson on a college campus. A young college student, full of bitterness toward the church throws a brick through the church’s basement window in a drunken stupor and sets into motion a series of events that pit the college, students, and community against the church.
The movie uses the imagery of fire and flame throughout to show the Church as a light in a dark world which is a fair enough message but the cheesy acting and the sub-par production get in the way of hearing that truth.
It’s hard to know exactly who the movie is speaking to. At once the audience is expected to sympathize with the congregation of a church being burned, and later in a college dorm, college students have a back and forth about Jesus being the ultimate social justice warrior. Do the filmmakers want audiences across the religious and political spectrum to find worth in this story? It isn’t clear and the film suffers for it.
The lead performances in the movie all seem to have intense struggles with faith and the voices that try to lift them out of that darkness seem muzzled and inadequate. It’s strange for a film about faith to have few answers to characters such as these. The title for instance, God’s Not Dead, presupposes that God in fact has ceased to exist or can. It is a reactionary title to an American culture that furthers itself from God more each day. It seems the Christian response to that kind of worldview is found in Romans 1:18-20:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
According to Romans, everyone knows that God exists. It’s just that we, as humans, suppress the truth in our unrighteousness. This is the confidence a “Christian” movie needs to espouse. Not the conciliatory platitudes of a consumerist business model in need of more customers.
The movie makes some predictable turns and the Reverend Hill concedes to having his church torn down, realizing as an apparent lesson that he, a pastor, didn’t already know, that the church is not the building. Concessions are made and some common ground is found between the congregation and the college campus. A few positive beats from the film show people of different faiths and political backgrounds looking past their differences and listening to one another. The movie ends with an attempt at a poignant moment using the title, but something about the way it’s done (on social media) seems to cheapen its effect.
Although the story and message in these types of faith-based films is worthwhile, the inadequate execution of performance and production make it hard to watch. It might be a better experience if only the technical prowess of more secular films could be employed in a movie like this.
Article Written By Nick Murillo
eParisExtra.com Movie Reviewer