God's Not Dead (film)
|God's Not Dead|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Harold Cronk|
|Based on||God's Not Dead|
by Rice Broocks
|Music by||Will Musser|
|Edited by||Vance Null|
|Box office||$64.7 million|
God's Not Dead is a 2014 American Christian drama film directed by Harold Cronk and starring Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A. R. White, and Dean Cain. The film was released theatrically on March 21, 2014, by Pure Flix Entertainment.
Written by Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, and based on Rice Broocks' book God's Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty, the film follows a Christian college student (Harper) whose faith is challenged by an atheist philosophy professor (Sorbo), who declares God a pre-scientific fiction. It received mostly negative reviews, but grossed over $62 million on a $2 million budget. The film presents the evangelical narrative of perceived persecution of Christians in the United States, specifically the trope of colleges as "atheist factories". The movie was criticized for using straw man arguments and common stereotypes of atheists instead of any actual debate.
Josh Wheaton, a college student and Evangelical Christian, enrolls in a philosophy class taught by Professor Jeffrey Radisson, an atheist. Radisson demands his students sign a declaration that "God is dead" to pass. Josh is the only student who refuses. Radisson requires Josh to debate the topic with him but agrees to let his other students decide the winner.
In the first two debates, Radisson has counter-arguments for all of Josh's points. Josh's girlfriend Kara demands Josh either sign the statement or drop Radisson's class, because standing up to Radisson will jeopardize their academic future. When Josh refuses, Kara breaks up with him.
In the final debate, Josh halts his line of debate to ask Radisson: "Why do you hate God?" Radisson explodes in rage, confirming he hates God for his mother's death. Josh asks Radisson how he can hate someone that does not exist. Martin, a Chinese student whose father forbids him from talking about God to avoid jeopardizing Martin's brother's chance at overseas study, stands up and says, "God's not dead." Most of the class follows Martin's lead, and Radisson leaves the room in defeat.
Radisson dates Mina, an evangelical whom he belittles in front of his fellow atheist colleagues. Her brother Mark, a successful businessman and atheist, refuses to visit their mother, who suffers from dementia. Mark's girlfriend Amy is a left-wing blogger who writes articles critical of Duck Dynasty. When Amy is diagnosed with cancer, Mark dumps her. A Muslim student, Ayisha, secretly converts to Christianity and is disowned by her infuriated father when he finds out.
Josh invites Martin to attend a Newsboys concert. Radisson reads a letter from his late mother, and is moved to reconcile with Mina. Amy confronts the Newsboys in their dressing room, but asks them to help guide her in converting to Christianity. On his way to find Mina, Radisson is struck by a car and fatally injured. A reverend waiting at the intersection tends to Radisson and helps him as he dies. Mark at last visits his mother, but taunts her; she responds that his financial success was given to him by Satan to keep him from turning to God, then she doesn't remember his name. At the concert, the Newsboys show a video clip of Willie Robertson congratulating Josh on standing up to Radisson and encourages the audience to text "God's Not Dead" as a message to others. The Newsboys begin to play their song "God's Not Dead", dedicating it to Josh.
- Shane Harper as Josh Wheaton, an evangelical college student
- Kevin Sorbo as Professor Jeffrey Radisson, Josh's philosophy class teacher who is an atheist.
- David A. R. White as Reverend Dave, the pastor of St. James Church. He would later play a larger role in the next films.
- Trisha LaFache as Amy Ryan, an atheist blogger who is diagnosed with cancer.
- Hadeel Sittu as Ayisha, a Muslim student who secretly converts to Christianity.
- Marco Khan as Misrab, Ayisha's estranged father who finds out her suspicions
- Cory Oliver as Mina, Professor Radisson's girlfriend who is an evangelical Christian.
- Dean Cain as Mark, an atheist businessman who is Mina's older brother and Amy's boyfriend
- Jim Gleason as Ward Wheaton
- Benjamin Onyango as Reverend Jude, a minister from Ghana who becomes Dave's friend.
- Cassidy Gifford as Kara, Josh's girlfriend
- Paul Kwo as Martin Yip, a foreign exchange student and Josh's best friend who gets to know God.
- Newsboys as themselves
- Willie Robertson as himself, the host of Duck Dynasty.
- Korie Robertson as herself, Willie's wife
- Alex Arstidis as Fahid, Ayisha's younger brother
- Lenore Banks as the mother of Mina & Mark; she is also a Christian, but suffering dementia.
The film was shot from October to November 2012, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with the concert scene done in Houston, Texas. However, exterior shots of the concert is filmed in Staples Center, as well as the entrance.
The film became a surprise success at the box office. In its first weekend of release, the film earned $9.2 million with an $11,816 per-screen average from 780 theaters, causing Entertainment Weekly's Adam Markovitz to refer to it as "the biggest surprise of the weekend". During that weekend, it finished third behind Divergent and Muppets Most Wanted at the box office.
The film began its international roll out in Mexico on April 4, 2014, where the movie grossed $89,021 its opening weekend. God's Not Dead grossed $60.8 million in North America and $3.9 million in other territories for a total of $64.7 million, against a budget of $2 million. At the end of 2014, God's Not Dead was ranked 93rd in terms of worldwide gross, and finished with $64.7 million worldwide.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film received a rating of 13%, based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 2.68/10. The consensus reads, "Deploying sledgehammer theatrics instead of delivering its message with a dose of good faith, God's Not Dead makes for bad drama and an unconvincing argument to the unconverted." On Metacritic, the film received a score of 16 out of 100, based on six critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike".
Writing for The A.V. Club, Emily Van Der Werff gave the film a "D–," saying, "Even by the rather lax standards of the Christian film industry, God's Not Dead is a disaster. It's an uninspired amble past a variety of Christian-email-forward bogeymen that feels far too long at just 113 minutes". Reviewer Scott Foundas of Variety wrote "... even grading on a generous curve, this strident melodrama about the insidious efforts of America's university system to silence true believers on campus is about as subtle as a stack of Bibles falling on your head ..." Some sources and blogs have cited the film's similarities to a popular urban legend.
Evangelical and Roman Catholic response
The Alliance Defending Freedom, American Heritage Girls, Faith Driven Consumer, Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, Trevecca Nazarene University, The Dove Foundation and Ratio Christi have all endorsed the film.
Dave Hartline of The American Catholic gave God's Not Dead a positive review and hoped that other films like it would follow. Vincent Funaro of The Christian Post praised the film for being "a hit for believers and may even appeal to skeptics searching for answers".
Evangelical Michael Gerson, however, was highly critical of the film and its message, writing "The main problem with God's Not Dead is not its cosmology or ethics but its anthropology. It assumes that human beings are made out of cardboard. Academics are arrogant and cruel. Liberal bloggers are preening and snarky. Unbelievers disbelieve because of personal demons. It is characterization by caricature." John Mulderig echoed similar concerns in his review for the Catholic News Service, stating: "There might be the kernel of an intriguing documentary buried within director Harold Cronk's stacked-deck drama, given the extent of real-life academic hostility toward religion. But even faith-filled moviegoers will sense the claustrophobia of the echo chamber within which this largely unrealistic picture unfolds."
Pure Flix Entertainment produced a sequel, God's Not Dead 2, with a release date of April 1, 2016, several days after Easter. A third God's Not Dead film, God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, was released on March 30, 2018. David A.R. White, Paul Kwo, Trisha LaFache, and Benjamin Onyango reprise their roles in the second film. However, in the third film, only David A.R. White and Benjamin Onyango reprise their roles, with Shane Harper also reprising his role as Josh Wheaton.
Reviewing the first and second films, critic David Ehrlich characterized the franchise and its core thesis of the Christian persecution complex:
These movies are fundamentalist propaganda aimed at people who are convinced their religion is under attack in this country just because it doesn't exempt them from the Constitution. At a time when antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise and America is openly hostile towards its own Muslim community (to say nothing of the Trump administration's dehumanizing attitude towards immigrants, people of color, and the LGBTQ population), "God's Not Dead" contends that white Christians are the real victims here.— David Ehrlich.
The sequels, and Pure Flix itself, could be viewed as an embodiment of the trend God's Not Dead helped create. Pure Flix is a streaming service for "feel good entertainment". Such a service arose out of the sense that mainstream media was taking sides, leaving certain voices silenced. As author Alissa Wilkinson points out, "the film heralded a future, one that has since arrived, where culture is fully bifurcated....As pop culture continues to splinter into niches and microaudiences (thanks in part to technological advances), it frequently caters to our individual and identity-group preferences."
- "God's Not Dead (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. April 7, 2014. Archived from the original on April 9, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
- Busch, Anita (April 3, 2014). "'God's Not Dead's Kevin Sorbo Takes Hollywood & Media To Task As He Backs Crowdfunding Campaign For Telefilm On Convicted Abortion Doctor Kermit Gosnell". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 6, 2014. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
- "God's Not Dead (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Archived from the original on August 12, 2014. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Farber, Stephen (March 21, 2014). "God's Not Dead: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
- "God's Not Dead? Neither Is Philosophy". Cite journal requires
- Wilkinson, Alissa (April 3, 2018). "How the Christian movie series God's Not Dead fails to be Christian". Archived from the original on November 14, 2019. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
- Green, Emma (August 14, 2014). "It Turns Out Colleges Aren't Actually Atheist Factories". Archived from the original on March 26, 2020. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
- Van Der Werff, Todd (March 24, 2014). "God's Not Dead is a mess even by Christian film standards". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on April 1, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
- Foundas, Scott (March 22, 2014). "'God's Not Dead' Review: A Ham-Fisted Christian Melodrama". Variety. Archived from the original on March 30, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
- "US associate professor challenged for 'promoting religious beliefs'". December 1, 2014. Archived from the original on March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
- Schoen, Taylor (November 12, 2012). "Christian movie filming on campus". The Daily Reveille. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
- "God's Not Dead (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)". iTunes Store. Archived from the original on December 8, 2016. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
- Highfill, Samantha (March 23, 2014). "Inside Movies Box office report: 'Divergent' heads straight for $56 million win". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on May 25, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
- Brevet, Brad. "Weekend Box Office: Breaking Down 'Divergent' at #1, 'Muppets 2' is Weak & 'God's Not Dead' Surprises". ComingSoon.net. Archived from the original on February 12, 2017. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- "2014 Worldwide Grosses". Box Office Mojo. 2014. Archived from the original on November 25, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- "God's Not Dead (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on May 20, 2019. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- "God's Not Dead Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on November 2, 2014. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
- Seemayer, Zach (March 30, 2014). "'Noah' Washes Away Competition At The Box Office". ETonline.com. Archived from the original on July 31, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
- Mehta, Hemant (September 10, 2013). "If an anti-atheist story on Snopes were made into a film, it'd be this one". Patheos. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
- "God's Not Dead – Endorsements". Pure Flix Entertainment. Archived from the original on December 15, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
- Hartline, Dave (March 30, 2014). "God's not dead; There's something happening here". American Catholic. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
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.
- Funaro, Vincent (April 21, 2014). "'God's Not Dead' Review: Encouragement for Believers Facing Secular Hostility". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved August 5, 2014.
- Gerson, Michael (March 21, 2014). "Michael Gerson: 'Noah,' 'God's Not Dead' are movies lacking grace". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 1, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
- Mulderig, John. "God's Not Dead". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on July 13, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
- "'God's Not Dead 2' Getting Ready to Rock Atheists' World". Charisma News. October 22, 2014. Archived from the original on July 12, 2015. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
- Endriga, Jomar (October 17, 2015). "God's Not Dead 2 Teaser Trailer Released in Time for Woodlawn Movie; NFL Star Tim Tebow Comments on Woodlawn Sneak Peek". The Gospel Herald. Archived from the original on October 19, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
- "God's Not Dead 2: Coming April 1, 2016". God's Not Dead Blog. August 25, 2015. Archived from the original on October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
- Morefield, Kenneth R. (July 8, 2015). "Pureflix Sets Release Date for God's Not Dead 2: He is Surely Alive". 1More Film Blog. Archived from the original on October 15, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
- Judge, Mark (October 27, 2016). "Confirmed: There Will be a 'God's Not Dead 3'". CNSNews.com. Archived from the original on November 4, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
- "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on January 8, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
- Ehrlich, David (March 29, 2018). "'God's Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness' Review: A Hellishly Bad Drama About America's Christian Persecution Complex". Archived from the original on December 11, 2019. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
- "Pure Flix website". Pure Flix. Retrieved July 2020. Check date values in:
- Wilkinson, Alissa (December 18, 2019). "How the 2014 Christian film God's Not Dead became a hit and spawned an ideological empire". Vox. Retrieved July 19, 2020.