God’s Not Dead; There’s Something Happening Here

There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear…The opening words to the Buffalo Springfield (the band that would introduce to us the likes of Stephen Stills and Neil Young) classic song written in 1966, but released in 1967 certainly resonated to those who heard it whatever their political leanings. There was a sense even before the famous or infamous 1967 events, like the Newport Folk Festival and San Francisco’s Summer of Love that something in society was changing. The same could be said today in light of a flurry of religious themed movies that have come out in the first three months of 2014.

One could argue that the first signs of the secular sea change we have been under were first seen after the mid-term elections of 2006. By November of 2008 there was no doubt the western world was changing. However, for every action there is a reaction. It may have taken the world of faith a bit longer to react but it has. Already in 2013, the Bible mini-series caught the attention of those in Hollywood who notice TV and cultural move watching habits. The Bible mini-series, the brainchild Mark Burnett and Roma Downey literally spun off into the Son of God film which is currently one of the year’s early top grossing films.

However, it seems that what is bubbling under the current is what catches everyone by surprise, and so it is with the year’s first big surprise, God’s Not Dead.  The film’s entire production budget was between 1-2 million dollars, the mere advertising budget of most medium size films. The screenwriters are faithful Catholics Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, whom I met some four years ago while giving one of my talks at Family Theater in Hollywood (founded by Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton CSC also known as The Rosary Priest.) I was impressed by Cary and Chuck, their frequent Mass attendance during the week, their fervent study and practice of the faith (as evidenced by the St. Thomas Aquinas type logic used in some of their arguments in God’s Not Dead,) and their embrace of the sacramental life, especially the Sacrament of Penance.

Both men weren’t living some fantasy of wanting to hobnob with Hollywood’s hipsters. They had been down that road successfully working and mingling with the likes of Sylvester Stallone among others. Cary and Chuck felt called to write faith based scripts. In an interview with me featured in the National Review both men spoke of the hypocrisy that the faithful have to endure in the public square.

  Hartline: I think a faithful Christian, or anyone of faith, feels a lot has changed in the last five or six years. People of faith are often mocked or belittled in popular culture, and the faithful are accused of all sorts of bigotry and ignorance. We are told to get with the times, as if our consciences could really leave the truth behind. It seems the movie is addressing that underlying feeling in the faith community.

Solomon and Konzelman: Yes, that’s definitely the nerve that’s been touched. Secular humanists insist that Christians in general — and Catholics in particular — are supposed to leave their belief system at home when it comes to matters in the public sphere. So according to the rules they propose, their belief system is allowable . . . and ours isn’t. Which is a deliberate attempt to subvert the whole democratic process. As someone else pointed out: Democracy is supposed to be about more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

 I then posed the question as to why some are willing to defend their faith as did the college student in God’s Not Dead, but sadly most do not.

Hartline: College student Josh Wheaton appears to be the nondescript everyman. While everyone else accedes to the professor’s atheistic rants, Josh decides to take up the challenge, even though he’s far from being a theologian. Is there a message there for most of us?

Solomon and Konzelman: It’s a question of being willing to try . . . and fail, if necessary. Mother Teresa got it right: God does not require us to be successful, only faithful. Secular humanism has really been racking up the score in the culture wars lately, largely because of the unwillingness of many Christians to counter their efforts. Unfortunately, doing nothing is doing something: It’s enabling the other side. Every time we roll over and don’t confront the challenge, our forfeit shows up as a win in the other team’s column and encourages them to push further.

Perhaps it will be because of small budget movies like this one that Hollywood will get the message. Now we will have to endure some Hollywood big time productions that will attempt to usurp the message, we better get use to that  (can certainly read about Chuck and Cary’s feelings about that in the interview I conducted for the National Review.) However, the only way we are going to change the culture is if we try, brick by brick as Father Zuhlsdorf would say. 

I could write a whole new post about the burgeoning Contemporary Catholic music scene with the likes of Americans Audrey Assad and Sarah Hart and Canadians Matt Maher and Dave Wang. However, that will have to await another time. However, it is certainly nice to see some Catholics amidst a field that was almost entirely Evangelical.

History is full of those on the Secular Left starting small; Mao’s infamous Reign of Terror, which emulated the original French Revolution Reign of Terror, began with a single step as he so often reminded us.

The Secular Left has been trying to usurp Pope Francis, but all one has to do is ask the ruling Argentine Kirchner family how well that turned out for them.  Their original congratulatory message to him after his election to be the 266th Successor to St. Peter was the most terse of any nation’s leader, including those from the remaining Communist nations.  They came to realize that they could not strong arm the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Today’s secular left may think they can twist the words of Pope Francis to suit their needs. However, as the White House found out, after the infamous two vastly different versions of events following the meeting between President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, you will eventually lose that battle.

Sooner or later Pope Francis quotes about abortion such as “It is not progressive to take a human life,” will make their way into quotable, or even quotes attacking the modern I am ok, you’re ok spirituality will surface, “Religion without the miraculous or mystical is merely philosophy.”

The true words and gestures of Pope Francis (like his being the first pontiff to ever be  photographed  going to Confession) will eventually displace the narrative that the mainstream media and the secular pop culture want us to follow and believe. However, as Chuck and Cary mentioned in the interview it will be up to us to carry the cross and defend the faith. We can do that in many ways, and one of those ways to is to attend true faith based movies.

It will be because of movies like those being produced by small independent film companies that will help make the difference.  After all there’s reason over 500,000 came to Woodstock in August of 1969. Even though groups like the Archies were topping the charts with songs like Sugar, Sugar, groups like Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, along with guitar virtuosos like Jimi Hendrix were barely making the charts. However, their influence were becoming wide and deep in the field of music and popular culture something bubble gum groups like the Archies could never do.

Now old liberal and secular Hollywood won’t go down without a fight as evidenced by this review of God’s Not Dead found online in Variety in which the reviewer uses the words “Nazi propaganda films” to describe the portrayal of Professor Radisson in God’s Not Dead, as if militantly atheistic professors didn’t exist. Interestingly enough Father Peyton predicted the rise and the futuristic fall of liberal Hollywood at a time when the Hayes Code was vigorously enforced and Father Peyton was universally admired in Tinsel town. 

Slowly but surely with movies like God’s Not Dead, others will follow, and the old secular guard will not like it and force us to endure some trials and tribulations. To quote from another Hollywood movie, the 1961 Dino DeLaurentiis classic, Barabbas we may have to, as St Peter put it before his upside down crucifixion, suffer a little. However, hope and help is on the way.

We are only the beginning. We won’t see the time when the earth is full of the kingdom. And yet, even now, even here, the hour at the end of life, the kingdom is within us. There’s nothing more to fear. Upon us, the years will be but many years, many martyrdoms. The ground of men is very stubborn to mature. But men will look back to us in our day, and will wonder, and remember our hope. It is the end of the day. We shall trust ourselves to a little pain…St Peter quote from the 1961 film Barabbas.

11 Responses to God’s Not Dead; There’s Something Happening Here

  • Very encouraging! Here’s something else: http://www.nicaeathemovie.com/ .

  • God is Not Dead. Only the love of God in some men’s hearts is dead. If man is called to love God with his whole heart and man refuses, it is man who has no heart. It is man who becomes heartless, a bully and a hypocrite and practices bigotry.
    When a self-professed atheist says: “I AM”, using God’s name in vain, the atheist contradicts himself. When an atheist breathes God’s air, the atheist confounds himself. When an atheist exercises his free will, the atheist bears witness to his immortal human soul. When an atheist enjoys his freedom, the atheist gives testimony to God. When an atheist exists in time, the atheist is the proof of God.
    Only the love of God is dead in some men’s hearts. As nature abhors a vacuum of the love of God in men’s hearts, the atheist will soon come to the realization that God is love and man is made for love.
    The freedom of religion must remain absolute so that when the atheist comes to the knowledge of God, the atheist may be free to express his love for and his belief in God. The atheist must be free to acknowledge God.
    The atheist will have found freedom from discrimination, prejudice, bullying , hypocrisy and ignorance.

  • Something else is happening here. The NY Times is out flogging the priest sex abuse garbage again.
    I wish Catholics would boycott that birdcage lining waste of ink. Can somebody please advise why that rubbish is “influential”?
    In a somewhat related note, I read a review of the new Jesus movie in Yahoo. In the review, the critic, who is a young Jewish woman, calls Catholic icons (such as her former boyfriend’s crucifix) “trinkets”, and concludes that Judas is the real hero of the passion.
    We should all feel good that the media is taking a brief respite in their war on on our beliefs and morality, but do not kid yourself for a second. Trashing Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) sells. To me, it looks like they may be simply re-setting the target for a fresh onslaught in the near future.

  • The Supreme Sovereign Being is infinite and everlasting from age to age, before all ages, infinite, and cannot die. God, our Creator, is infinite, the Endower of unalienable rights and the reason there is a First Amendment.

  • Me, my wife, my three kids, and two of my kids’ friends went to go see God’s Not Dead yesterday. We all loved it. Instead of wasting their money on something like Noah, Catholics should be going to see this movie.

  • The infinite God is infinite. God’s Not Dead
    .
    God and The Son of God, Jesus Christ, had to be vanquished from the public square before the government could ignore man’s dignity and confiscate the work of his hands.
    .
    “They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant; they shall not build houses for others to live in, or plant for others to eat. They shall not toil in vain, not beget children for sudden destruction; for a race blessed by the Lord are they and their offspring. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hearken to them.” Isaiah 65: 21- 24.
    .
    The New york Times must be flooded with the truth. Why is the statute of limitations without limit for the Catholic Church for the prosecution of child sexual abuse and only 90 days in New York Public schools? See the open thread at Starry, Starry Night for some rather unpleasant antics of the courts. The Catholic League and Dr. William Donohue will have something to say too.

  • The atheist must be tolerated. Atheism is unconstitutional. Atheism denies the freedom of religion to respond to the gift of faith from God, a relationship between God and man that cannot be interdicted by anyone claiming to be an atheist. No one has ever claimed to be atheism, not ever and especially not even the devil. The devil is not an atheist. The devil knows that God created him and the devil spends eternity frozen in the bottom of hell rejecting God.
    .
    I hope and pray that the New York Times does not join the devil frozen to the bottom of hell rejecting God.

  • Loved this movie! Went to see it with my wife and 6 children!! Also loved the Louisiana flavor as I’m a former Tiger! So thankful for the courage and wisdom infused in this movie as I believe God has called us all to fight!! As St. Francis of Assissi said “Go and spread the Gospel, and when necessary use words”.

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