Movie Review: “God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in Darkness” tries to be less angry

 

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The virtues of “God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness,” are few. So let’s get them out of the way right out of the gate.

It’s replaced the generally hostile, defensive and political tone of the first two films with a veneer of “We have to learn to get along.” It’s still toxic, only less so.

So the parade of straw men this propaganda piece trots out are fewer in number and less testily-defined. No godless academic shrieking for the superstitious to prove their superstition is “the only Truth.” The preacher (David A.R. White) jailed for not surrendering the texts of his sermons (!?) in ARKANSAS (!#?) is at least out of jail in this third film in the series.

And John Corbett’s in it, the “Northern Exposure/Sex and the City/Big Fat Greek Wedding” veteran who makes most everything he turns up in a little more whimsical, a little better.god4

But here’s a tip. You want to see a pretty good, reasonably apolitical faith-based drama with Corbett in it? Redbox or Netflix “All Saints.” Much better.

Corbett plays the faithless older brother/lawyer who comes down from Chicago to represent his brother in the fight with Hadley College, a state school trying to evict St. James Church, whose presence on campus has been deemed unConstitutional and divisive by the women of the college’s board (among them, a martinet played Tatum O’Neal). The poor college president (Ted McGinley) has his hands tied.

The divisions on campus have consumed coed Keaton (Samantha Boscarino), her beau Adam (Mike C. Manning) and their outspoken pal, Mateo (Schwayze).

The church gets torched, causing even Pastor Dave (White) to lose his temper and question his faith. “Now, it’s just a crime scene.”

And one and all decry the “political agenda” that everybody seems to have…everybody on the “other side,” that is. Funny thing, there are all these talk shows depicted debating this conflict. Hosted by impartial voices like…shrill Fox News Judge Jeanine Pirro.

Corbett gets to make the counter arguments here, a preacher’s kid who gave up God as he got more educated. “The church has outlived its usefulness,” he says. But he sticks up for his brother, even if the preacher is “pretty quick to play the victim card.”

The protests have loaded imagery — Mateo taping a speech with his cell phone, which has an upside down photo negative image of a flag. But one young person sums up the Evangelical movement’s NASCAR (falling attendance, ratings, etc) problem in a flash. “We’ve spent years hearing what the church is AGAINST. What’s it FOR?”

Aside from anybody running for office calling themselves a “social conservative?”

But the logic-resisting pre-law kid who started all this on campus bickering (Shane Harper) is still tugging at Keaton’s soul and counseling everybody to act more like Jesus and get along.

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This is far and away the worst of the three faith-based choices viewers have at the movies this Easter. The presence of Corbett only underlines how his charisma lets him act rings around the rest of the cast. Boscarino is sympathetic, nobody else in this blandly reactionary script stands out. Not even McGinley.

Tatum O’Neal should sue the cinematographer.

There’s one laugh in it, Preacher Dave seeking counsel from the African American minister (Gregory Alan Williams) across town, wallowing in his victimhood, telling him “You have no idea” how he’s being persecuted, and getting schooled.

“Brother, who d’you think you’re TALKING to?”

In America, churches that burn are almost always black. Torched by white men. Mass murdering a congregation is most famously a white racist-on-black crime. Religion was politicized by the intolerant far right, and that continues to this day, even as church-going shrinks within the American populace.

And all this “Get along” stuff? It’s what we see in Congress whenever one party has used disrespect, inflammatory lies and Russian money and influence to steal a Supreme Court seat and put a stealing, cheating, lying treasonous whoremonger in the White House.

“Come on, can’t you guys be NICE and not, um, DIVISIVE?”

The one comfort I take from this is that I saw it in the rural South, in a Red State cinema. As an audience of one. Nobody else is buying into this garbage.

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MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including some violence and suggestive material

Cast:  David A.R. WhiteJohn Corbett, Samantha Boscarino, Shane Harper, Benjamin A. Onyango, Tatum O’Neal, Shwayze, Gregory Alan Williams, Ted McGinley

Credits: Written and directed by Mason Williams. A Pure Flix release.

Running time: 1:48

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8 Responses to Movie Review: “God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in Darkness” tries to be less angry

  1. Derek says:

    Here’s the thing, unless you have born again, by virtue of the term, you are still dead in your sins against God! Unfortunately dead people don’t and cannot understand the things of God. When you are dead, you are not living and therefore simply can’t reason. Do you really want to understand the Gospel and true Christianity? First you must recognize that God is who He (not you) says He is! Second you must acknowledge that you have sinned and there is nothing you can do to correct your condition! Third you must believe that God loves you so much , He did not want to leave you in your condition so He sent His Son to take upon Himself all the punishment and judgement that was coming to you! Jesus bore your transgressions by being completely mutilated and nail to a cross…your cross! And on the third day God raised him from the dead as we celebrate Easter today in remembrance of His resurrection!!! Jesus did everything He could do to forgive you, love you and transform your life! Why do you despise Him? Why do you hate Him? Jesus did not come to condemn you! He came that you must get be born again and spend eternity with Him!
    His thoughts toward you are loving, caring and wanting you to have the best!!! Consider your thougts today toward Him? The scripture says the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. What are your thoughts concerning the cross and what Jesus has done to secure a spot for you in His kingdom?

    • Here’s the thing, “Derek.” Nobody has ever walked on water. No dead person has ever become undead. Nobody’s dancing on the head of a pin save for bacteria. There is no “super” natural. There is the natural world, and that’s it. No all knowing, vengeful/forgiving being with a beard is passing judgment, as useful as you’d wish for that to be.

      • Derek says:

        Roger,
        While I respect your opinion, the love of God is beyond anything you can understand or comprehend. The scriptures are very clear that the wisdom of mankind is foolishness and the the foolishness of God is greater then the wisest of man.
        God asked Job if he understood how the stars were formed and stood in place in the skies? Or how every tree and animal produce after their own kind, etc.
        it is not a debate or an argument. The simple fact is deep down in every human being there is something missing. There is a void to find out the answer as to what will fill that void. And look at all the things mankind has created to fill the void, yet we are still empty!!
        There is a man who was dead and is now alive! His name is Jesus Christ! It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not Roger. Many millions have gone to their graves fighting the truth, hating everything God has done for them. I only wish you could hear their cries, begging and hoping that you will receive the love of God that will fill the empty void!
        I urge you to just simply ask God to make Himself real to you as He has done millions before you. Once you receive His love for you and once you become born again, your life will be transformed like Saul of Taurus who was renamed Paul.
        Unfortunately until that rebirth, you simply cannot understand and nothing you attempt on your own effforts will ever fill the emptiness inside!
        Allow the Holy Spirit of God to speak to your heart and receive His gift of eternal life!
        All the very best to you my friend!!!

      • The mere “it is not a debate” is so “Sharia” of you that I will bid you adieu. I never debate drunks, toddlers, conservatives or Evangelicals. Reason plum evades them. We’re done here.

      • If you cannot see Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” for the anti-Semitic sneer it is, you’re not really “watching” it. And yes, I knew what you were pulling with your original query, inviting yourself to prosthelytize. You’re welcome, but this is of no value to movie fans. We’re done here.

  2. Y. Chireau says:

    I greatly enjoy your reviews. Can you recommend any “inspirational” or “Christian” films that I might take my undergraduate students to see? I Can Only Imagine and God’s Not Dead 3 are currently showing, but I am trying to find a faith-oriented film available on DVD that would have the broadest appeal possible, for smart, secular-minded students as well as spiritual seekers. I would appreciate your advice on any agreeable crowd-pleaser that is representative of this genre. The Shack? Heaven Is For Real? (I don’t think that they passed theological muster with the evangelicals). Thank you.

    • Biblical stories are always safe bets, “Risen” and “The Nativity Story” being the best of the recent lot. The fog of history lets Hollywood skip past the supernaturalism we attach to the events passed down and treat them as the amazing stories they are. “Soul Surfer” has faith as a backdrop, “Miracles from Heaven,” too. “All Saints” suggests what preachers and priests should be doing with their time and church energy and assets — providing shelter, comfort and inspiration by example. These “God’s Not Dead” movies, from their irrational testy titles, started out angry and aggrieved and unjustifiably “victimized.” If you’re going to title your movie “The Case for Christ,” you’d better approach it with the skepticism the huxter/journalist who wrote claimed to practice, but did not.

    • Derek says:

      Thank you for your reply. Before giving you a couple of my favorite movies, please allow me to make a few comments. I am not a theologian nor do I claim to know everything concerning scripture. There are only a few basic things that move me when watching “Christian” or other films. The biggest is a deep concern or love for the broken and hurting! The second is seeing someone who goes out of their way to reconcile the hurting with passion. Every Easter we watch “The Passion of the Christ”. It gives us a glimpse and a reminder of what God has done by giving us His own Son! How Jesus left heaven and came to Earth to take upon Himself the punishment for every sin of every person since Adam to the very last born!
      Another film I have always enjoyed is the true story of “The Cross and the Switchblade”. How God moves on David Wilkerson to go to the ghettos of New York where he met Nicky Cruz! I have personally met Nicky as well as a member of the opposing gang who was spending time in prison for murder.
      Another strong film is “The case for Christ”. This is the true story of a man trying to prove that Christianity is false!
      I wish you the best success with your mission! You will be in my prayers! Remember, “they overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony!” No one can take away the blood or your testimony!!!!
      God richly bless you!

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