“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.

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René Girard (1923-2015)

I heard while traveling today to the Subverting the Norm III conference that René Girard passed away.  I had been told by Michael Hardin, who is close to the family, that he had been ill for some time.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Homebrewed Christianity Podcasts

I was interviewed by Tripp Fuller for his Homebrewed Christianity Podcast; the link to the podcast is here.  We discussed radical theology in the church, some of my current ministry work, and my forthcoming book, The World is Crucifixion and my earlier book, The Synaptic Gospel.  I had a lot of fun doing this, and I hope it is helpful.

If you’d like to tune in this Wednesday, July 22, I will again be interviewed by Tripp as part of the Imagination Sauce podcast event from the Disciples of Christ General Assembly, sponsored by The Hatchery LA. Read the rest of this entry »

GAIN Critical Conversation

Carl Raschke interviewed me for the Global Arts and Ideas Network’s Critical Conversations, about some of my church practice and my forthcoming book, The World is Crucifixion, a second book on preaching the death of God.  The video is up on the YouTube, embedded below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Methodists, Family Life, and Contraception: A History (by Ashley Boggan)

As some of you might know, I have been for several years a copy editor for the journal Methodist History. This peer-reviewed journal regularly has articles on the history of global missions, various aspects of the Wesley families, stories of defunct colleges, and interesting stories about preachers in the Methodist tradition, broadly defined. A few years ago I published an article in the journal on the Methodist Bishop’s declaration of Altizer’s theology as heresy.  In the new issue, I was very much impressed with Ashley Boggan’s article, “A God-Sent Movement: Methodism, Contraception, and the Protection of the Methodist Family, 1870-1968,” a link to the article is below. In particular I appreciated the fresh approach to the history of sexuality being told here within the context of the history of Methodism, particularly in the post-Civil War period, especially in light of the national press that the United Methodist Church has received in the past two years about its teachings on homosexuality.  I asked Ms. Boggan if she would like to write a guest post for AUFS to introduce her research to a wider and different audience.  Ashley Boggan is a third-year Ph.D. candidate at Drew, with a focus on American religious history, and is working as an intern with the United Methodist denomination’s Human Sexuality Task Force.  The following is her introduction to the article.

Methodists, Family Life, and Contraception: A History

When one discusses the United Methodist Church and its position regarding human sexuality what most likely comes to mind is the denomination’s current impasse regarding homosexuality.  For over forty years now, the UMC has upheld its position in the Book of Disciple which states that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”  However, by looking at a larger notion of human sexuality, one that moves beyond the homosexual/heterosexual binary, academics, clergy, and lay persons can learn what historical events and reasonings, both secular and theological, led to particular stances on human sexuality, why denominations still uphold these stances (or why some have changed their stances), and why many Americans hold certain (and often differing) ideologies of family life and constructions of human sexuality. Read the rest of this entry »

Subverting the Norm 3: Call for Papers and Conference Announcement

The Subverting the Norm conference series is unique in bringing theologians, philosophers, and religious studies scholars together with religious practitioners to encourage collaborative conversations about how continental philosophy can both inspire radical theologies within the academy and energize contemporary Christian discourse and practice. The third Subverting the Norm conference will specifically examine this intersection of theology, philosophy and lived religion in the light of contemporary political questions, both theoretical and practical. In particular, we hope to bring to the fore issues of race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity – issues that have too often been eclipsed or marginalized in postmodern, political and postsecular theological discourse and church practice.

We would like to invite proposals for 1) individual papers, 2) panels of papers or workshop sessions, and 3) performance/art pieces (including transformance art/worship events, poetry/prose readings, art exhibitions, etc.) related to the conference theme. We are especially interested in presenters who can bridge the gap between the academy and the church, and whose presentations are accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike. Preference will be given to presentations that connect not only with the academic community but with church audiences as well.

About Subverting the Norm III
Keynote speakers include Catherine Keller, J. Kameron Carter, John D. Caputo, Sarah Morice Brubaker, Sandhya Jha, Namsoon Kang, Peter Rollins, and more TBA

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Strangest and weirdest stories in the Bible?

As I am finishing up my second lectionary preaching book, tentatively titled The World is Crucifixion and under contract, for the first time in my preaching ministry I am going completely off-lectionary for a series on the strangest or weirdest stories in the Bible, beginning the last Sunday in Christmastide to the final Sunday of Epiphany, which is traditionally Transfiguration Sunday.  The final “strange story” will be the transfiguration.

Obviously, what I think are weird stories from the Bible might be different from what others think.  Here’s a list I’ve assembled from some internet searching about what people think are strange stories in the Bible: Read the rest of this entry »

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