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Sunday, 15 March 2015

The great debate!

This isn't so much a review - more just a bit of a response, I think.
A couple of weeks back, I saw the movie God's Not Dead.

If you're not familiar with the movie, the basic idea is that this Christian (Josh) going to university is taking this Philosophy class. The first thing the lecturer, Professor Raddigan does, is to tell all of the students to write the words "God is dead" on a piece of paper, sign it, and hand it to him; this way, they can skip all of the religious debate - which he believes is wasted, because the conclusion is already obvious. Josh, however, won't do it; so Raddigan says he's going to have to argue the antithesis - that is, argue that God's not dead. Josh manages to convince him that the class should be the deciding vote as to what is true; and the rest of the film centres around the debate between Josh and Raddigan, who is an atheist.

Now, there are some things that are done quite well in the film; I love the way that there are lots of different stories being told, and they all weave together towards the end. (Strangely enough, at a Newsboys concert, where the big song is also the title of the movie.) I also quite like that it shows the pastor as not being all-knowing, and not always getting it right - but in a more realistic light, as being human too. Which is good, because they are! I also liked some of the different arguments that were presented in the debate, which were often the more well-known ones, so it does give answers to those if you're not familiar with them.

What I didn't like, though, was how the film portrayed Professor Raddigan. For almost all of the film, he's basically made out to be the big bad guy. He's set in his ways, he's mean, and imposing - and there's really only two times we see this not being the case, maybe three. The first is when we see him with his girlfriend - who, interestingly, is a Christian. And he's quite nice to her; but the deal is, they don't talk about religion, and Christianity. Or rather, she can't. Not too long afterwards, we get a scene where he is quite putting-down of Christians in front of her to a group of his friends, and she leaves.
The second time is when he starts quoting some Scripture in response to something that Josh says - and then Josh asks him, "what happened to you?"

The moment here is probably one of the best in the film. Raddigan turns around and says, "When a twelve-year-old watches his mother dying of cancer, it's only natural to beg God for her life. And he'll promise anything to his make-believe Grandfather in the sky - including to love and worship him forever - if only he will spare her." There's a great exchange, and you can watch it here:

Here, for once, we can see past Raddigan's exterior, and see his inner pain. And this could have been an opportunity for Josh to talk to him, to speak into that - but instead, what do we see happening? In the last argument, Raddigan has decided to go up against Josh in a proper debate, rather than just pitching in at the end. And Josh isn't going easy here - he absolutely slams Raddigan; in the end, coming up to him and asking, "Why do you hate God?" This, repeatedly, insistently, increasingly louder. Until Raddigan finally answers - "Because he took everything away from me! Yes! I hate God! All I have for him is hate!" Josh replies - "How can you hate someone that doesn't exist?"
The class all say that God's not dead (yay, title!), and Raddigan walks out.

In the end, Raddigan is trying to get on to his girlfriend (now ex, because she dumped him); he figures out she's at the Newsboys concert, and starts to walk there. He gets hit by a car running a red light, that speeds away. At the same light happens to be the pastor, who gets out and talks to him - and in his last moments, he accepts Jesus into his life, and the pastor prays for him.

At the beginning of the film, I was following along with Josh; but by the end of it, I was feeling sorry for Raddigan. He was vulnerable with Josh, and then got slammed by him and ridiculed in front of his entire class (about sixty people or so). He's been on a ridiculous emotional journey, and all he gets in the movie to end up with is a deathbed conversion.

I can't say I'm particularly happy with that, to be honest. I think he deserved more of a look, and I think that his character was one of the deeper ones in the film. I think that Christians going to watch this will be encouraged - but atheists going to watch this could well feel quite discouraged, or angry at how they've been portrayed (incidentally, if there are any atheists who have seen the film who are reading this, I would love to hear what you did think about it - I could be wrong!). And I think, given the nature of what the movie is supposed to be, that that's really not helpful.

But anyway - that's what I thought. I think it's a good movie for Christians, or maybe agnostics - but not so much atheists. But what did you think? I'd love to hear your comments about this movie if you've seen it :)

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