“God’s Not Dead” as Reverse Revenge Fantasy

The following is the paper I delivered at Subverting the Norm 3, this past November, which I thought would be relevant given the discussion about the sequel to the film God’s Not Dead debuting this past week.

You’ll Have to Pry Christendom from My Cold, Dead Hands:

God’s Not Dead as Reverse Revenge Fantasy

The 2014 film God’s Not Dead was a surprise box-office hit and reinvigorated the Christian film industry.[1]  Costing only $2 million to make, the film has grossed $64 million, and has launched publishing, music, apparel, and liturgical tie-ins; a sequel, God’s Not Dead 2, is scheduled to debut during Easter Week of 2016.  The film tells the story of a victim being victimized for his faith: a mean, atheist philosophy professor, Jeffrey Radisson, victimizes the Christian student in the classroom.  We meet the professor in the classroom teaching that the end of philosophy is atheism, and spouts off a litany of names of philosophers who are allegedly atheists, and demands that the students sign a waiver that there is no God so he and the class can be on the same page of doing serious philosophy together.

The lone white Christian male in the class—named Josh Wheaton, in an obvious nod to the evangelical Wheaton College (the significance of this will be seen later)—just can’t stand for this, so he challenges the professor for a debate.  Along the way he sacrifices the girlfriend he’s been saving himself for, who can’t tolerate the public persecution he is inviting upon himself by challenging the atheist professor.  Over the course of too many plot threads for one film, the young man wins the debate and the atheist professor is hit by a car, and finally gives himself to God in his last breath, to which a pastor ministering to him whilst dying on the curb observes, “soon you will know more than I could ever know about God.”  The atheist professor dies tragically, but it is a eucatastrophic tragedy: the professor is the first in the film to dine in Paradise with their Lord and Savior, Jesus.

But the film is more complicated than this.  Had the professor not challenged the courageous Christian student to a debate, he would have probably died without his heart open to the Good News of Jesus.  Several other students along the way would not have been saved or been encouraged to stand up within the secular persecution of the modern university.  The pastor who happens to be on the street when the professor dies is having a little crisis of ministry, appearing to be the pastor of an empty church on Sundays, and now leading the lost sheep into a cheap-grace confession of faith that is, for evangelicalism, the great equalizer.

The notion that the one persecuting the true believers can convert and speak radically to pagans is part of the canon of Christian tradition.  We may recall the scriptural account of St. Paul’s life prior to conversion; St. Augustine’s confession of his sinful Manichean ways which is corrected by the Catholic faith; and Constantine’s pre-Christian rule before laying groundwork for connecting the ecclesia to Empire, which is of course wrapped up in a military triumph. Later in history we hear John Wesley speak of his heart-warming experience at Aldersgate as a kind of recognition that his prior understanding of Christianity was holding back the true Christianity, and this realization could only demand a new revival in the church, because it is the church holding back the heart-power of Christ.  Personal testimonies often take this form:  I was the persecutor, and then I joined the persecuted.  “I once was lost and now am found.”  I left the small, dying mainline church and found Jesus in the vibrant nationalistic megachurch.

The film, God’s Not Dead, continues this narrative into the battleground of much of our contemporary culture wars, the modern American University.  A staple of conservative and Christian talk and television media is regularly to affirm the liberal indoctrination of the modern university, always asking, “Where else would we expect or demand an open exchange of ideas, if not in higher education?”  Of course, the dots are never connected about how this narrative is a larger discourse that wishes to see the accessible higher education dissipate into finishing schools for the wealthy and those who wish they were wealthy.  But nonetheless, there could be no more fertile ground for a persecution narrative than in the university.

I myself grew up participating in this narrative.  I was the first in my immediate and paternal family to go college, and only the second male to graduate from high school.  The episode of The Cosby Show where Claire tells Vanessa, upon coming home from college, within the context of her older sister flunking out of college, was that college was a “different world”: I took this to heart and thought of it often in both high school and in college.  So apparently pervasive was this Very Special Episode of Cosby that it spun off a whole new show titled A Different World, and, of course, Vanessa never finished college.  This mythology compounded with the religious warnings arriving from my local church:  College was the place where your faith would be tested like never before.  We were taught to stand tall for Jesus, try to find a Campus Crusade chapter if possible, and perhaps even attend a college known for strict doctrine and discrimination against the open and free exchange of ideas.

But with this teaching was an open acknowledgement that the professors are probably going to be out to get you to conform to Satan’s work.  The professors are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Do what you have to do to go to college and be successful, and be bold in your faith, but you have to be a double agent as an undergraduate Christian student.  Much like the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya, the message was to disambiguate yourself, incognito, as much as possible: we need educated Christians on the other side of a college degree if we’re going to change our culture into one that prioritizes holiness.  I was taught this, and I recognize it in my students, who, very much like I was arriving to college, convinced that your professors, especially the philosophy professors, are trying to convert you to the most abhorrent philosophical position possible.  And here we enter the Nietzschean reference to the title of the film, God’s Not Dead.

The fantasy of persecution and victimization in the film is prefigured by decades of conditioning by evangelicalism, Promise Keeper movements, purity ring cultures, and the so-called silent, moral majority that coincidentally emerged out of the ashes of the death of God theology of the 1960s.  As it has been argued elsewhere, and I believe it to be at least partially true, this new evangelicalism of the 1970s is a response to a perceived failure of academic theology; as such, it would make sense that a film that continues this fantasy echoes the theological movement best kept obscure and hidden, the death of God theology.

In Jacques Lacan’s Seminar II, he discusses his closing move for analysis as “traversing the fantasy.”  Traversing the fantasy is the acknowledgement that the fantastic desire of a subject has moved beyond its perceived boundedness to reference the object of desire or the other.  A villain in a story can become the object of desire by disclosing its flaws and conditioned ontology, so that the subject can interpose herself onto the other, so that those flaws may emerge as the desires of the subject.  In Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Slavoj Zizek interprets this concept as fantasy that “shatters, disturbs, pacifies, and disarms” our own reality.[2]

Following this, in God’s Not Dead, the professor is vilified, but then humanized and offered a tragic and painful back-story that explains that his atheism comes from a life of hard knocks without Jesus there to guide him.  But the villain’s lack is the object of desire of the subject, the courageous Christian student, and of course the assumed audience of the film.  The viewer of the film is given permission to empathize with the villain as an allegory for one’s own path from justification to sanctification.  One can simultaneously read oneself into every character of the film, including and especially the villain professor, who ultimately “wins” the film.  He enters the gates of heaven while everyone else gets to go to a Newsboys concert.

Beyond this, however, the persecution narrative of the Christian student at the secularized or liberal university becomes the reality that is attained by the participant in the film.  Before the credits of the film play, a list of real-life examples where Christian students were persecuted by the American university machine are offered like unexplained footnotes without context beyond the reality into which we movie-goers enter when leaving the cavernous movie theater: its flickering shadows prefigure the lived reality of persecuted Christianity in America.

How real is this?  Just in the past week a story went viral on social media about a seventh grader in Texas who was offended when a student pointed out that belief in God is a belief, and not necessarily a fact.  Instead of the educational moment being about different types of categorical statements, anything that leads to serious reflection on the nature of faith, or language, for that matter, has become anathema. The young girl appeared before her school’s school board to report the incident, to which we was commended for her courage by the chair of the school board.  The investigation, of the incident, however, painted a very different picture.[3]  It would appear that the culture of evangelicalism today posits itself as a victimized population, even when differentiating the difference between fact and opinion for a critical thinking class; it would be better not to have a critical thinking class than to victimize the poor Christian students any more.

But God’s Not Dead is still a much more complex film than this.  As a kind of Revenge Fantasy, God’s Not Dead would be at home, thematically, with the revenge narrative of Quentin Tarantino’s films.  The two Kill Bill films explore with great detail an epic revenge of a woman against men; in Inglorious Basterds Jews get revenge on Nazis.  In his more controversial film, Django Unchained, which was denounced by academics for its implicit racism, we find a much more obfuscated kind of revenge: the film ultimately is a revenge of African Americans against WASP-y white Americans, but even deeper, it is a film that takes on whiteness itself.

Django Unchained’s white hero, insofar as he is a hero, Dr. King Schultz, is the liberal anti-slavery white man, whose death appears to be a tragic moment for the black protagonist Django. Yet his death offers the opportunity  for Django to find a greater liberation, which is realized in killing all white folks involved and blowing up the slave plantation.  Adam Kotsko observes—taking a cue from Zizek’s reading of Bertolt Brecht—Dr. King Schultz, representing white neoliberal attitudes toward race can only be corrected through an elimination or erasure altogether:  “they are dealing with a ‘good man’ by shooting him with a ‘good bullet’ against a ‘good wall.’”  “In the limit situation of slavocracy,” Kotsko writes, “the ‘good man’ must be killed,” and in doing so Django suppresses the white neoliberal solution to slavery, “the ‘good man’ in himself.”[4] A character named “Dr. King Schultz” could only offer partial liberation to Django; the fantasy of neoliberal whiteness must be traversed.  Revenge must be taken on all; and the death of Dr. King Schultz offers the redemptive avenue to make this revelation possible.

So with God’s Not Dead, we have the professor’s death offering liberative hope to the persecuted Christians, whose demand of academic martyrdom upon his students in the philosophy classroom leads a domino effect that unchains the persecuted into a utopian vision of the kingdom of God without Parousia, or perhaps embodying a Parousia, through, again, a Newsboys concert, singing the words, “God’s Not Dead” but he is alive.  The atheist who proclaimed himself the deity of his own universe is dead, but we are assured that he is truly alive. The death of the atheist redeems the persecution as promise of the social jihad which Christians must believe about themselves in the contemporary United States.

I wish to offer a step beyond this reading of God’s Not Dead.  The film has as its completion a Lacanian traversing of the fantasy, but the film’s social function as a cultural artifact represents not just a revenge fantasy, which is the film’s narrative now and a common trope in American cinema.  But further, God’s Not Dead enacts a reverse revenge fantasy.

The racism that is accused, for example, in Django Unchained, hinges largely on the fact that the film’s writer and director, Quentin Tarantino, is a white guy, and he is telling this story from a position of patriarchal privilege. The story must then underscore whiteness as its absolute dogma, even if it offers the appearance of suggesting whiteness as a doctrine which could be negotiated.  The reality is that had this film been pitched by an African American in Hollywood, the film wouldn’t have been made, as Kotsko observes, “for the same reason that our first black president doesn’t support slave reparations.”[5]  I would also suggest that this film would not have been made if Quentin Tarantino hadn’t been the one of privilege to demand its creation.

So what would it mean, then, for a white guy to make such a film as Django Unchained?  I propose, following Thandeka’s theory on race and whiteness in her Learning to Be White, that such a cultural artifact be understood an as a deep penetration of the guilt and sense of ethnic loss of whiteness, and Django Unchained could be understood as undoing and untangling the minstrel theater which underlies race in white Hollywood.  The revenge fantasy is reversed to ultimately be a revenge upon oneself and those held dear to the audience-participant and the author: we “feel white shame because the persons who ostensibly loved and respect [us] the most actually abused [us] and justified it in the name of race, money, and God.”[6]  What Tarantino does not do is offer a solution that ascribes the notion of the “person of color” now referring “to every human being,” but rather an exploration of guilt and violent purging as perhaps a first step.[7]

Returning to God’s Not Dead as a reverse revenge fantasy, I have no delusions that the actor-participants in this film or its audience are aware of how the film discloses some truths about evangelicalism in completely unintended ways, but instead believe the film is a pretty straightforward confession and call to arms for young Christians to stand up against their educators.  Anyone who works in higher education knows that the belief that colleges and universities are hotbeds of liberalism is not as true as it might appear; my own experience of higher education is that the entire concept is better described as “neoliberal,” that colleges offer laboratory space for liberal and some radical ideas to be tolerated or explored, but the laboratory itself answers directly to shareholders, religious pressures, the “administrative class” of management, and the market, without taking genuinely progressive or radical ideas seriously enough to embody or shape the entire enterprise.  At the same time, we should recall that the death of God theology, and its theologians, were fired, persecuted, and marginalized by the academy; the United Methodist Bishops—an institution today seen as the liberal voice of the denomination—even issued a directive that Thomas Altizer’s books have no place in any Methodist colleges, seminaries, or universities.  William Hamilton was forced out of teaching and university administration, and left the field of theology altogether.  Mary Daly was eventually forced into retirement after a long history of attempts to fire her at Boston College.

Any exploration of the status of many religious colleges and universities and the lack of academic freedom of the professors will demonstrate this reality very plainly in our present time.  The rise of contingent faculty at all American educational institutions, along with the consumer culture approach to education and the importance of anonymous feedback as primary evaluative tools for teaching for those without any job security has created a situation where exploring ideas on the left and the right can become quite dangerous, depending which institution we are talking about.  And religion is, of course, a trigger for all kinds of debate regarding its proper place in a university, whither religion defines the very character of the university or must be absent altogether.  The fear of many Christians regarding the absence of religion in education has not really created a hostile environment for conservativism but has allowed for conservative religion to flourish without formal criticism in many of these environments:  some of the largest state universities in America today have no mainline Christian campus ministry at all, or if they do it is very small, but conservative and fundamentalist ministries often flourish.

This is all to suggest that the picture of higher education painted by evangelical youth culture, and demonstrated in God’s Not Dead, is largely a traversed fantasy about the world into which many wish they lived in.  But why would evangelicals wish to live in such a reality?  Anyone in higher education knows that any professor who acted as irresponsibly and unethically in the classroom as does Professor Radisson in the film would have easy grounds for termination in just about any higher education context, yet his behavior is predicted by a student at the course registration table, and acknowledged as common knowledge in the university: with his cross necklace on display, Josh Wheaton is strongly advised not to take an Introduction to Philosophy course.

As a reverse revenge fantasy, then, where the revenge is placed upon oneself and one’s cultural institutions, I propose that God’s Not Dead, in its primary story of secular atheists persecuting Christians, be understood as a fantasy about what evangelicals wish they could do at their own institutions of higher learning.  The fantasy of an atheist professor requiring students to sign a faith statement that “God is Dead” on the first day of class is actually a repressed fantasy of what Christians wish they could do in their religious colleges and universities to atheists and secularists.

While this might sound conspiratorial, we should point out that this is actually the entire point of many evangelical and fundamentalist colleges and universities, that religious and academic freedom be limited to a very direct understanding of Christian faith and practice, and that even the slightest deviance would be grounds for terminating a professor or poorly grading a student’s work.  A very quick study of religious colleges and universities will show that many religious colleges do offer academic and religious freedom, but others very much do not—often those colleges are Bible colleges or seen as third- or fourth-tier institutions.  At the best religiously affiliated colleges, academic and religious freedom is at least tolerated.

The question then becomes, what if religiously-affiliated colleges and universities actually treated atheists the way Christians believe they are treated, even at their own colleges?  On this point, the student character’s name, Josh Wheaton, makes sense, as it likely refers to Wheaton College, which is arguably the most reputable evangelical college in the United States, but is also the site of controversy between liberal and conservative strands of evangelicalism over the character of what it means to be an evangelical Christian college.  Josh Wheaton represents the messianic catalyst required for Christian institutions of higher education to simply stand up for themselves and reclaim their identity; with some courage and bold faith, Christians could finally undo their status as victims and become the righteous victimizers.

Hence the reverse revenge fantasy of God’s Not Dead: the fantasy is completed through a desire that Christians could act like the villain professor of the film, and begin with the fact of God’s existence, rather than scrutinize the concept of God altogether.  The ultimate salvation of Professor Radisson is disclosed as the scapegoat:  if secular or atheistic education could be sacrificed, imagine the ripple effect, the New Great Awakening, just bubbling beneath the surface of this faithless generation?  And again, the assumptive question of the perspective is, “If they can get away with this, which is unfair, immoral, and un-Christian, what would happen if we could get away with this?”  This question is asked within the context of fantasy, since it is a dishonest portrayal of the current situation and the solution and its believed outcome would be impossible to achieve.

This assumptive paradigm, then, explains the kind of behavior we are witnessing among Christians in the United States in recent times.  Kim Davis, the county court clerk in Kentucky, refusing to sign gay marriage licenses sees herself, as do many Christians believe, a martyr figure, believing that the LGBT agenda for civil rights violates the civil rights of good Christians:  if the secularist gay agenda can force their beliefs upon me, why can’t I enforce my beliefs upon them?  Davis was in a position to live out this fantasy, for which she went to jail, and was even afforded a private meeting with Pope Francis.  The belief that civil rights of others violates one’s own civil rights, because they underscore the heteronomativity and homophobia of one’s own beliefs and sexual identities, is a ridiculous position unless it is lived within this traversed fantasy.  The evangelical response then, must be, to limit the civil rights and voice of others as much as possible, to ensure that there is the possibility of a Kim Davis being democratically elected and living out the reverse revenge fantasy.

Any listen to The Sean Hannitty Show on AM radio hears this logic loud and clear:  ‘if they can do this thing that we believe is totally immoral, why can’t we participate in this thing that is totally immoral, or even more immoral?’  The classic example that Hanitty returns to, time and again, is the public funding of Andres Serrano’s work, The Piss Christ; that our secular, atheistic American government will fund a work of art that many Christians find offensive, and yet disallow public displays of religion on government-funded property?  Everyone knows that this isn’t quite true, that public displays of, for example, Christmas celebrations are allowed on public property so long as other religions are offered equal representation.  The facts of the real world in which we live do not matter: the so-called “War on Christmas” is evidence of the persecution Christians face in not allowing plastic baby Jesus in the public square, rather than in the American constitutionally-protected space of my own front lawn. And as the conversation always goes:  if we could only enforce prayer in public schools again, if we could only create a religiously and culturally intolerant situation in our public expressions of government could Christians possibly believe their rights are being honored—these “rights,” as a term, are a fantasy code for “right to suppress other expressions of faith which we champion ourselves for tolerating in limited ways.”

The discourse usually spins further to connect the public funding of Serrano’s Piss Christ to the tolerance of the Western world in respecting Muslims’ beliefs to not present Mohammed as an artistic representation, always citing the rioting, killing, and fatwa against Salmon Rushdie and the terror attack on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.  Again, the assumptive position is why do others get to do this thing that we believe to be immoral, and we don’t equally tolerate ourselves doing this immoral act?

Here we enter the larger political realm of this assumptive reverse revenge fantasy, as evangelicals respond to Islam.  Local evangelical politicians attempt to create resolutions in communities to ban shari’a law.  In 2014 Alabama voters passed an amendment to their constitution outlawing shari’a law.  In Pennsylvania, one state representative proposed the law, and then changed it to be a ban on foreign law when she was accused of being Islamophobic. I called and left a message on her office machine to let her know that if foreign law that predates the founding of the United States is now banned, that this law would mean that the Ten Commandments would have to be removed from every courtroom in the commonwealth.  Suddenly she dropped the resolution.

Radical theologian Carl Raschke observes that contemporary evangelicalism’s disdain for Islam is better explained as a rejection of Islam’s rejection and criticism of American evangelicalism.

 

The Western evangelical church, in contrast to its counterpart in the global South, has had a fatal attraction with contemporary consumer culture and made a fateful alliance with it.  The attraction is not unlike the one that the people and kings of ancient Israel had with the Asherahs and the Baals.  Like ancient Israel’s subtle entanglement with the local pagan cults, many evangelical Christians, including many postmodern adherents, have seen the power of the gospel dwindle in their lives and their churches because they have gone whoring after the false gods of spiritual and material consumption. Just as the ancient worshipers at Jewish shrines could not differentiate between worship of the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and local fertility rites, contemporary Christians frequently faith to distinguish between worship as self-surrender and as self-gratification.

 

The Islamists know that the West is entangled with this cult of consumption, and they have gone out of their way to denounce it and to demand its overthrow in the name of the “one true God” of Islam.  A widely circulated story tells how radical Islamism was birthed.  As a young educational bureaucrat for the Egyptian government in the early 1950s, Qtub was sent on a fact-finding mission to America to learn about Western ways and mores.  He witnessed and was supposedly shocked by what he considered sexual licentiousness in America, exemplified in teenage pop culture, dating customs, and casual gender relations.  According to the story, such outrage prompted him to begin formalizing a program for a revival of Islam as a counterforce to the Westernization and secularization that was sweeping the Middle East.

 

Raschke concludes:

 

The lore concerning Qtub is instructive only because in a perverse sense it points up what should be more obvious that it has been so far to those who lament the de-Christianization of the West.  The issue is not simply gender relations.  It is also the question the prophet Elijah raised when confronted with the massive confusion in his time between worship of the Holy One of Israel and the cults of the Baals:  Who really is God in Israel? Like Elijah, we need to ask:  Who really is God these days in the West?[8]

 

The mandate Raschke offers to postmodern Christian pilgrim is as follows:  “If Christians are going to contend with radical Islamism, they are going to have to reinvent themselves in a more powerful and positive manner than they have ever conceived,” specifically, in returning to the basic deconstructive philosophy of Jesus in the Great Commission.[9]

The towering feat for Christianity—and by this I mean all Christianity, and not just evangelicals—is to move beyond resistance to this reality and reinvent itself in the midst of the unacknowledged age of post-Christendom and the death of God in which we live and into which we minister.  This call is too big, too tremendous, too unthinkable for Christianity; as Nietzsche’s madman observed, the age of the death of God leaves the believer to ask whether we ourselves must become Gods to become worthy of the age.[10]

In other words, refusing to let go of Christendom—you’ll have to pry Christendom from our cold, dead hands—Islam and radical Islamist movements present a challenge that is rooted in a deep jealousy.  This is to say, evangelicalism looks at the status of women, homosexuals, religious minorities, and civil rights in predominately Islamic societies and asks out of what appears to be a humanist concern, “How can we possibly allow this to go on?”  The subtext is we are persecuted in our own country as Christians, and we see ourselves as the moral solution to the social Ills of Islam, even while owning the history—some of it recent and ongoing—of blocking the civil rights and liberties of minorities, women, and homosexuals themselves.

But beyond this moral stance, which often takes the position that Islam is not a religion but rather an “ideology” to here obscure evangelicalism’s intellectual move—the jealousy observes the total demand of Islam as a political, ideological, sexual, military, and intellectual force within its culture.  Deviation is futile, it is unacceptable and intolerant.  In many countries basic rights are observed, minorities have protections, so long as they except their status as infidels or under dhimmitude.  Lying for one’s own religion, the doctrine of taqiyya, is seen as an abhorrent Islamic practice, but within the revenge fantasy creating false discourse and calumnious argumentation—as in the recent illegal bill of attainder attempt to defund Planned Parenthood in the United States House of Representatives—is seen as normative and acceptable.  Evangelicals often rile about the immorality of a religion that allows lies, when deep down, their fantasy eliminates all points of reference to truth or falsehood.

For example, in God’s Not Dead one of the numerous subplots in the film explores the home life of a Muslim girl who is secretly a Christian in a Muslim-American household.  The father, oppressive and strict, demands an absolute adherence to the Islamic faith, to the point of being paranoid about the daughter’s inner persuasions.  As it happens, the strict father was right in his suspicions regarding his daughter.  And furthermore, if the religious identities of the characters were inversed—if the father were Christian and the daughter dabbling in Christianity—the father, as oppressive and intolerant as he might be, would represent a microcosm of an evangelical model home, where the father takes absolute authority over the religious persuasions of the household, even down to mandating the daughter’s conservative dress.  The evangelical affinity with the father would likely stop short of the hijab dress, believing that on this point the patriarch has gone too far, even if one could respect the demand for feminine modesty.

God’s Not Dead is a cultural artifact that arises as an instance of popular evangelical subculture, a film, video, books, music, etc., that exhibits the kitchy, schlocky, and commercially driven world of Christian bookstore, evangelical churches, and American youth group culture.  The film and its material culture represents the very system of commodified religion which Islam itself vehemently rejects; a rejection that is not so much directed at liberal or progressive Christianity (which also rejects much of this subculture for similar reasons as Islam), but directed at one of the very centers, sacred cows, of contemporary American evangelicalism.

As such, we can understand the political abjection to all things Islamic by evangelicalism, which leads to open-carry protests at American mosques, laws to criminalize shari’a, the acceptability of Islamophobic beliefs by championed candidates for the country’s highest office, and the belief that the highest-ranking black man in the United States, Barack Obama, is secretly gesturing and enacting global jihad.  Who is the victim of this global jihad, one might ask?  The American evangelical Christian, who is also the victim of atheism and secularism, and just about every other ideology that evangelicalism has suppressed and oppressed in the United States in the past.  The fantasy into which evangelicalism seeks to live, then, is one where the victimized become the global victimizer, the supreme ideology over all, the homogenizing force that eliminates all that stand in its way, whether this evangelical jihad is played out over United States foreign policy in the Middle East, and that policy’s wished fantasy of morally unambiguous actors and players, or in the fantasy of the secular university classroom.  Because at the base level, in universities, where middle and upper class white teens go when they leave home, is the base battleground of the death of God and its theology in the United States, that is, the only place where a theology which names the reality of our post-Christendom age, is sometimes tolerated.  There is no real argument against the death of God—the argument over God’s existence is secondary and arbitrary at this point, as is in the film—but simply the statement God’s Not Dead, affirmed by its own fantasy.

 

[1] God’s Not Dead, dir. Harold Cronk (Pure Flix, 2014).

[2] Slavoj Zizek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real (London: Verso, 2002), 18.

[3] Emily Foxall, “Katy Student Contends School Activity Called Faith into Question,” Chron (29. Oct. 2015), online, accessed 30. October 2015.  http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/katy/schools/article/Katy-student-complains-to-school-board-after-6595512.php#photo-5750775.

[4] Adam Kotsko, “A First Pass at Django Unchained,” an und für sich (2. January 2013), online, accessed 30. October 2015.  https://itself.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/a-first-pass-at-django-unchained/.

[5] Kotsko, online.

[6] Thandeka, Learning to be White (New York: Continuum, 1999), 134.

[7] Thandeka, 135.

[8] Carl Raschke, GloboChrist (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 106.

[9] Raschke, 107.

[10] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1974), aph. 125 (p. 181).

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