God’s Not Dead (2014)

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One thing you have to admire at least about “God’s Not Dead,” is that it wears its propaganda on its sleeve. Being Christian is depicted as noble and courageous, while the more pragmatic and atheist characters are subtly referred to as snakes, and tyrants. Kevin Sorbo (intent on alienating his remaining fans, apparently) plays the evil philosophy Professor Radisson who is up to no good, mainly because he dons a goatee, and asks his class to consider the idea of the lack of an existence in a God. Which is a shocking notion considering his class is peppered with a few absolutely devout Christians.

Shane Harper out blands the entire cast with his portrayal of Josh Wheaton, a Christian student appalled by Radisson’s philosophical question. Thinking?! The horror! Why even take philosophy if you outright resist any sense of radical thinking?

Director Harold Cronk takes a simple question and tries to over complicate it to stretch it out in to a ninety minute dilemma that’s quite laughable. It’s almost like someone asks a character which color is better Red or Blue, and then padding it in to an existential dilemma that could easily be settled in a matter of minutes. Character Josh is a self entitled and petty character who simply won’t open his mind to other thought processes, though the script tries its best to depict him as noble and heroic for standing up to Radisson. Sorbo as Radisson is about the same atheist stereotype you’d expect.

He’s smug, self-assured, and cocky, and belittles his theist students. Sorbo has obviously channeled a lot of the cartoonish rogues from his “Hercules” show for this role, depicting the atheistic Radisson as this obnoxious blowhard who tells Josh to either prove the existence of God, or fail the class. He even confronts Josh after every class threatening him and snarling in his face. And of course, you can’t hate him too much; he’s an atheist only because he’s angry about a past tragedy. Obviously, there’s no other reason to be atheist other than anger and cynicism.

Josh would at least be capable of posing an empathetic viewpoint if Shane Harper could at least muster up a lifelike performance that is anything but abysmal. “God’s Not Dead” laughably tries to become a reverse “12 Angry Men,” or “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” where a little man stands up against impossible odds to convince everyone of their righteousness, but the movie is so hell bent on expressing Christians as everything to everyone, so we already know Josh is going to convince people that his God exists. Or at the very least, he’ll depict the refusal to consider alternative thinking as a justified stance, rather than simply being set in his ways.

In fact most of “God’s Not Dead” is about justifying the Christian lifestyle. It posits the idea that perhaps it’s going to open up the floor for a real look at the debates of the existence of the Christian God, and allow its characters to really ponder the idea of religious faith, and if it can exist in everyone’s life. But the position and viewpoint are set from the very beginning with no room for budging or at least opening itself up to other ideas. The Christian characters are sweet, kind, upright, and–of course–martyrs, while the atheist characters are mostly immoral, despicable, and unlikable individuals that make life difficult.

The entirety of “God’s Not Dead” lambasts reason, and celebrates Christianity unabashedly, which is a shame, because it has an opportunity to really challenge its target audience. The film doesn’t want to open the floor for various viewpoints, and chucks the same creaky (easily defeated) arguments theists have been using for decades in an effort to disprove the atheists viewpoint. Its propagandist angle is best summed up by the mind shatteringly stupid argument posed by Josh: “Atheists says that no one can prove the existence of God, but I say no one can disprove that God exists.”