God’s Not Dead

not deadI haven’t been impressed by a lot of Christian films.
Sometimes the theology within the story can be dodgy, as can the acting. However I recently enjoyed these three.

The first of the “trilogy” has Josh, a young student forced to defend his belief in God to his philosophy class, when he refuses to give in to the lecturer’s demand that they all sign a statement declaring that God is dead.

By doing so, the lecturer claims the class can leave aside vain discussion of religious thought and move straight on to the “valid” aspects of philosophical ideas.

Facing opposition from friends and family, Josh takes on the challenge despite the likelihood, no matter how strong a case he makes, that he will be failed for that course, undermining the desired direction of his education.

not dead 2The second film has a couple of overlapping characters from the first film giving a continuity between the two.

This time a high school teacher finds herself in court because she quoted Jesus when answering a student’s question in history class; despite the fact that the questioner brought up Jesus in a discussion of Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

For some reason the student’s parents see the court case as a means of advancing their daughter’s educational future, if only through the financial gain they hope to receive as compensation.

The student herself is appalled by her parent’s choice, but due to her age is prevented from having a say in the matter.

Within this film, several real life Christian experts are called upon to give evidence regarding the historical facts of Jesus’ existence, as well as the validity and reliability of the gospel accounts as reliable historical documents.

After watching this film, viewers need to wait until the end of the credits where a post-credit scene sets up the story of the third film.

not dead lightDuring the third installment of the series, on-going character Pastor Dave, finds himself at odds with the law when the ongoing survival of his church building is threatened.

The building is currently on part of a school campus, having in the past being associated with the school, originally built on church land, which was ultimately sold to the educational institution.

A tragic act of vandalism sets up circumstances to enable the school board of to demand the church be demolished so they can make use of the cleared land.

Pastor Dave has been a familiar character across this series of films, usually a minor role, in this one he takes prominence as his faith is challenged. He is faced with choices that will determine how his faith will be lived and demonstrated to those around him.

Each of the films has a different approach to a common theme: to what extent is Christian faith being opposed by an increasingly antagonistic secular culture.

While the films themselves are fictional representations, the situations portrayed are inspired by real life cases where Christians found themselves in courts having their right to believe and practice their faith opposed. In the credits of the first two films, lists of more than twenty (I lost count after that) actual cases are provided.

I had only one or two small quibbles with content of the films, but those minor objections probably reflect the reality of Christian expression (religious clichés, the constant citing of bible verses in everyday conversation), so those issues are more about the way Christians often speak or act than with the films themselves.

Across the films the Christian band The Newsboys make appearances of various lengths and importance. In the first one they have a more dominant role in the story, and of course, the film’s titles come from one of  their songs.

Overall the three films were entertaining, informative and challenging, and they have made me aware of some potentially interesting resources to follow up from some of the writers who played themselves within the films. So far I’ve tracked down two books I’m looking forward to reading in the next week or two.

mmmcold case

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What Colour is Oscar?

oscar-statuettesIt’s been many years since I took any interest in the Oscars. At one time I wouldn’t miss the TV broadcast of the awards and I’d do everything I could to make sure I didn’t hear any results before I saw it.
The broadcast in Australia was always delayed so it could be screened in prime time.
But as I said, that was long ago. These day’s I wouldn’t recognise the titles of most the films nominated.

The segment of the awards that kept my interest longest was the tribute to those who’d died during the year, where there could often be more surprises than in the announcement of the winners.
This year, in the lead up to an awards show that I won’t be watching, I couldn’t help being made aware of the controversy regarding the lack of African Americans among those nominated.

It seems there will be some boycotts.

As I said, I no longer take much of an interest in the awards themselves, but the threatened boycott raises one or two issues about race. Maybe it’s time to divide the nominations equally, so out of the standard five nominees for each category there should be one white nomination, one black nomination, one Hispanic, one Asian and one gay.*

Maybe it’s the only way to ensure all appearances of prejudice are avoided.
But then again, maybe it would be nice if race and colour played NO part at all – that ALL could consider others AND THEMSELVES as actors, directors etc., instead of actors/directors of a particular race or colour, and an Oscar category can be populated entirely with “white” names – or entirely with “black” names without leading to claims of racism.
And if only that same attitude could be seen across all sections of the community…

But maybe that’s expecting far too much in a world where racism clearly remains a serious problem, and where some sections of the community can continually be referred to (even by themselves) as “minorities”.

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* Just to be sure that no one misunderstands. That comment was not intended to be taken seriously. However, despite the intentional flippancy, it can’t be denied that a similar approach is often taken in the casting of TV shows in the US.