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. 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.