Why didn’t more critics get around to “God’s Not Dead”?

god2The average new release on Metacritic or Rottentomatoes.com has a healthy sampling of America’s reviewers weighing in on its merits. Chances are, you can find a review to your liking or that fits your tastes — since a lot of people actually look at reviews to find somebody who agrees with them about the movie they just saw — justifying their tastes, in other words.

But there aren’t even half a dozen “God Isn’t Dead” reviews up there. Why?

Well, I tried to reach Freestyle Releasing and Pure Flix last week to get a screener or screening of the film. Never heard a peep. Some studios aren’t really set up to make that happen in time for newspaper or others’ deadlines. Others don’t make the effort. I suspect something just slipped through the cracks, here. Freestyle I’ve had good luck with in the past.

On the other hand, faith-based filmmakers often don’t want criticism. For a movie that supposedly is about Christians welcoming an intellectual debate about their beliefs, this is the coward’s way out. Sure, you worry about getting a fair shake, especially when you have, as this film did, all sorts of prejudices about “elites” and the educated and media people. But there are a couple of positive reviews out there, none of them worth taking seriously (Variety’s just reacting to the box office, and pandering. They do that.).

Then there’s the backlash you get from criticizing a Christian film in this country. I can pan “Divergent,” which reached 10-12 million people this weekend, and maybe a dozen people will complain in the comments here on my blog (where I aggregate all my wire service reviews). Pan something like “Son of God” (I didn’t) or “The Nativity Story” (I didn’t) or “Courageous” (I did) and you get endless tirades about Godless media, and “liberal bias” and every other cant rant under the sun.

Is it worth it?

You tend to have to overwrite the review, covering a lot more theology and logic and the like than you’d prefer. The review feels labored as  a result.  All because you know the brimstone storm that’s coming your way from the Duck Dynasty set.

So maybe some people tried and the studio wouldn’t accommodate them. Maybe some critics didn’t note that “God’s Not Dead” had opened in their market. And maybe some said, “Simply not worth it,” because seriously, you can’t “debate” people who treat facts, reason, science and education as “opinions.” And who weight the pandering words of a TV preacher the same way they’d credit a Nobel Prize winner.

And speaking for myself, there is no point in arguing with people who use circular logic to try and argue that “You’re just angry with God” when you take issue with their name-calling because, well, shoot, everybody believes what they believe and disagreeing with them is disagreeing with a supernatural deity. That’s the way of madness.


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Why didn’t more critics get around to “God’s Not Dead”?

  1. Lexington says:

    So, what does it take to make a Christian film compelling and well-constructed? Many Christian oriented review sites bemoan that their ideologies are not being represented in the present culture. I have not viewed the “Not Dead” movie yet, and I will take your words into consideration. It seems that “God’s not dead” leans toward current hot-topics to make noise, rather than to resonate after the curtain closes. I will not be certain how it leaves me unless I invest the time or the money in it. If these films are guided by faith, then should they not inspire a way to take on life; to make art out of conflict? I still think it can be accomplished and am pleased that “Noah” might get closer to depicting faith, albeit on a much grander scale, with an enormous budget.
    As for that 2 Corinthians 6:14 passage, my Bible spells it “yoke”. I think it is taken from a very complex Greek word, “heterozugeo”. It might have to do with being placed together in discord. The town of Corinth during Paul’s evangelical life was infamous for drunkenness and prostitution; overall debauchery. When Paul writes to the people there about being separate, he is referencing polytheists-pagans-who were involved in immoral behavior. He does not the faithful to the influenced for the worse by it. I do not think that the verse should be interpreted to mean that the Christians should take on a holier-than-though attitude, and never interact with anyone who strongly disagrees with them.
    I can not presume to know your relationship with any deity, so I will most definitely not comment about you being angry with one. It seems it can be a rough occupation for you when your thoughts are debated with a lack of restraint. I hope that people recall that you are a person before they engage you.

  2. Greg Peterson says:

    I am an atheist, and I just want to say that the one work–not yet a movie, though I hope it becomes the sequel to “John Dies at the End”–that presented faith wonderfully, compellingly, in a way that alost made me wistful for my old beliefs, was “This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It.” I know that sounds like a joke, but I am in earnest. It was the most compelling case for a Christ I’ve encountered in many years, and the reason it was so effective is precisely because it came from such an unexpected source.

    I would DESTROY the arguments in “God is Dead.” No former Christian, who believed as I did in heaven and hell and all the rest, would dare possibly become an atheist without being as close to certain as possible that every single good argument rests on the atheist side. They do. I actually feel a little bad for Christians today–no wonder they are so filled with bile. They are witnessing the beginning of the end of their paradigm. I’m not saying religion or theism will wilt away anytime soon, but orthodox Christianity’s time is very nearly up.

    Which means I expect to see many more attempts like “God is Dead,” trying to drown out that death rattle. The increased desperation is evident, and will, as the review implies, only backfire over time. I wish I could be more sanguine about that, but a great many of the people I love are going to have to deal with the painful break-up with their imaginary friend, and I know first-hand how agonizing that can be. All I can say is that once on the other side, life is so, so much better. Just being able to be done with the cognative dissonance of a reality that does not match our cherished beliefs ALONE is a profound relief.

    Hasten the day, bad movies! Hasten the day.

    • sirdm says:

      I agree with pretty much everything you said. Christians, and in particular, WASPs, are seeing the demise of their iron grip on power; their world really is ending. And they are not going down quietly. But that’s fine. Because unlike their martyr complexes want them to believe, no one is going to feed them to lions and give them the glory they crave. We will just continue to laugh at them as they struggle to maintain doublethink in an increasingly-rational world.

  3. OccamsRazor says:

    Well, Hawking also backs the Palestinians against the Israelis, despite the fact that the technology that helps his superwheelchair function is made by an Israeli company. He is neither always logical nor always correct. Nor is his area of interest in biology. Hawking’s work is in mathematics.

    I’m kind of wondering how you get increasing complexity in life forms against the entropy ladder myself. I also assume competition, Prigogine systems, and plasmids, but the fact is that life leading from simplicity to complexity tends to defy the laws of thermodynamics.

    I’m neither Christian nor Muslim nor Othodox Jew. I am a physician.

  4. OccamsRazor says:

    I might also point out one very minor, small, teensy issue: no atheist or secular society is breeding to replacement. NONE.

    • sirdm says:

      Why does this matter? If people start to realize that revealed religion is a ridiculous premise, then atheists will “convert” … and besides, if you look at the numbers on millenials, a huge chunk (~30%) disavow any specfic sect / religion and don’t go to a church of any kind. That’s not exactly an uphill battle…

  5. davidgary1 says:

    have any of you atheists even watched God’s not dead? Because as far as I seen the arguments used in the movie are unquestionably valid.

    • sirdm says:

      There are valid arguments in support of the existence of a deity. Not so much when it comes to specific deities, which is where people’s brains leap across the logic chasm. I wouldn’t pay $0.02 to watch propaganda like this, so no. But I have garnered a lot of specifics from reading a lot of reviews, and they all sound exactly alike: this movie is a cheesy, ham-fisted approach to denigrate atheists as angry, brainwashing, etc., while elevating religious folk as good, kind, charitable, etc. It’s exactly like an old Jack Chick tract called “Big Daddy” — http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0055/0055_01.asp

    • Greg Peterson says:

      David, please feel free to provide the best three points from the movie that you found most valid (easy) and compelling (not so easy). I was an evangelical Christian for 20 years, have a biblical studies degree, did apologetics outreach, and worked for Billy Graham’s organization. I say that not because it’s impressive or that it’s any kind of argument for or against the existence of the Christian god. I just say it by way of relating that, if there IS a cogent argument for the existence of the Christian god out there, it has been carefully hidden from the likes of me. But I AM open-minded. I don’t plan to see the movie, but if you give me even one, the strongest one, argument for your god, I promise to look into it. And if I have a counter to your eample, I trust you will show me the same truth-loving, open-minded courtesy.

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