It’s been a while since Grumpy has wrapped at y’all. He’s missed ya. Don’t take it personal. GP ain’t got nothing against the readers, he is just busy.
Now GP is going to start with the big bang of criticism. GP comes by this one honestly. Grumpy confesses to you all that he’s harvested some resentment ever since that first God’s Not Dead movie. See, that 1st God’s Not Dad combined some super-weird plot lines along with some misrepresentations of typical state university college faculty and combined them with a 1st grade understanding of 19th century German Aesthetic Philosophy.
The line “God is Dead” came from Friedrich Nietzsche. It was explained in the original movie as a pronouncement of atheism, and that because of science there is no longer a need to believe in God.
Now Grumpy Pastor won’t really blame you for not reading any of Nietzsche’s works. They read like a strung together list of vague status updates & tweets by your friend with the constant boyfriend drama that you won’t unfollow because it’s just way too juicy to ignore. Nietzsche presents a slightly psychotic narrative to teach his ideas. When you read any of his work you’re stuck between confusion and indigestion. If you can understand what he is saying, there is a chance you may or may not like it. This is kind of like how your stomach may or may not like the chili dog you’ll have next Friday night. But there is one thing that isn’t confusing about Nietzsche and his now famous statement. When Friedrich Nietzsche wrote “God is dead,” it wasn’t an atheist pronouncement telling everyone that they shouldn’t or don’t need to believe in God anymore. The full quote of what he wrote was…
“After Buddha was dead, people showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a cave, - an immense frightful shadow. God is dead: but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow. - And we - we have still to overcome his shadow!”
The tragedy (and the hope) of what Friedrich Nietzsche said when he wrote “God is Dead” is he was saying our previous understanding of God is no longer valid. When we cling to those understandings, we’re stuck to the shadows in the caves. In other words, 19th century people (and in our time, 20th and 21st century people) clinging to a 16th century understanding of God is way outdated. And here’s the rub. Nietzsche was right. Our understandings are outdated. Nietzsche was saying it’s time for a new understanding. Now his new understanding didn’t really come from the whole Jesus thing. Eh. Oh well. I guess Jesus can’t please everyone (if anyone at all).
Now before you decide to start the fire at the stake and roast ol’ Grumpy as a heretic, GP would like to note that just because the 16th century God is no longer valid, it doesn’t mean the 21st century understanding of the God cannot or should not come from scripture. If you think that is what GP is saying, you got some screws loose in your brain and your eyes and ears haven’t worked since childhood when your mom “accidentally” hit you with that potato she threw across the room. Nope. All GP is saying is “God is Dead” wasn’t an atheist war cry. If you still don’t believe Grumpy Pastor, for the love of God go read Nietzsche yourself. But do the laundry first. Or the dishes. Or math. Or really, anything that will give you more entertainment and meaning than the meanderings of a crazy German, no matter how right he might have been.
Now that the big mama-jama criticism is out of the way, what about the movie? What about God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness? God’s Not Dead 1 had a weak plot with uber-exaggerated story lines not even coming close to the realm of reality. Some church people got some nice cameras and decided to make a movie that didn’t relate to anyone outside of evangelical Christianity. In God’s Not Dead 2, they managed to improve on their product and while they still had uber-exaggerated storylines, it contained some serious and deep truths of the current cultural milieu of conflict surrounding Christianity and everything else non-Christian.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to God’s Not Dead 3. It was actually pretty good. Grumpy Pastor was about as surprised by this as when Mary Jo Johnson kissed him underneath the metal stairway behind the school in 5th grade. The movie still contained storylines not that common. The main plot line is a State University using eminent domain to get rid of a church for political & public image reasons. Most state universities are highly accommodating to both Christian and non-Christian religious groups (the 1st Amendment doesn’t let them do anything otherwise). But the movie struck right at the heart of the Christian vs. Non-Christian worldviews, and the tension between the people holding them - and there is a lot.
Near the end, one of the main characters in speaking with the pastor shouted “Pastor, you want to know why my generation is leaving the church? It’s because all we hear about is what the church is against, instead of what the church is for.”
Whoa. First off, being a mainline protestant pastor, GP is kind of mad that our tribes ain’t getting no love for that kind of statement. Our tribe is full of people thinking the long list of crazy Christians we have no control over have done a disservice to the Christian Faith. The Benny Hinn’s, the Jimmy Swaggerts the Pat Robertsons, resistance against LGBT folks, and the love for other political fringe issues is responsible for creating the fastest growing religious demographic in the United States – the unaffiliated.
Son of a biscuit! This movie even had an actress that is romantically involved with women (though Tatum O’Neal apparently won’t identify as a lesbian because she doesn’t like labels – props to you Tates, GP doesn’t like labels either). This ain’t your mama’s evangelical Christianity. It might be actual real Christianity. The rare kind. The kind that Jesus founded but is rarely replicated. For example, it’s got these other examples…
- Constant reassurances and encouragement that doubt and questions are acceptable and realistic.
- The call for someone to forgive someone who had killed another person.
- A pastor dropping a lawsuit because he loves his friends and community, which actually pretty biblical since the Bible tells Christians not to bring suits against others.
- A bunch off state university atheists and agnostics, along with some Christians having a kumbaya moment with candles at the end.
It’s like Evangelical Christian movies decided to say “I repent. I am so sorry for doing what I’ve done.” And Grumpy Pastor is glad they did. Because it was a surprisingly good film – one in which the creators might have jumped to a 21st century understanding of God.