Art Imitates Life in God's Not Dead 2

Full disclosure: When I received an evite to a pre-release screening of God’s Not Dead 2, I accepted, but considered it unlikely that I would ultimately review the movie for publication. I had not only not seen the movie’s precursor, God’s Not Dead; I had never seen a contemporary Christian feature film.

Going in as a rookie, I knew not what to expect. I ended up thoroughly enjoying this well-made dramatization of one of the key issues of the day: the erosion of religious liberty by an aggressively secular and politically correct society.

Most Christians have seen the classic faith-based films, The Robe, The Ten Commandments, King of Kings, and The Greatest Story Ever Told among many others. We never seem to tire, myself included, of watching the biblical stories retold in vintage Hollywood fashion. I consider The Passion of the Christ to be one of the best films ever made in any genre.

But as far as an up-to-date movie depicting the struggles and barriers facing modern Christians who endeavor to live their faith in daily life, I was going in with no frame of reference, nothing to compare to.

Soon after God’s Not Dead 2 began, I realized that while I had not seen any movie like it, I’ve seen it in real life, happening all around me, instances of what many Christians warn is an assault on religious liberty. And I’ve seen firsthand good people who have been hurt.

See next page for some examples of religious liberty violations and for the official trailer. 

As God’s Not Dead 2 unfolded, I was very impressed with the quality of the film, but more so by its timeliness.

I am well-acquainted with the Sweet Cakes couple, Aaron and Melissa Klein, who lost their small business—a bakery–and were driven to near-bankruptcy after they declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.  I’ve met the Kleins, written about them, and have even tasted Melissa’s delicious cupcakes, which she now bakes at home.

I interviewed Harmony Daws, a young woman from Corvallis, who lost her long-time position as a housecleaning company supervisor after she was named the president of Oregon Right to Life.

I have met and interviewed Marion County Circuit Court Judge Vance Day, who is facing removal from the bench for, among other allegations, allegedly refusing to marry same-sex couples. The case is headed to the Oregon Supreme Court.

The story of public school teacher Grace Wesley in the movie, played effectively by the lovely Melissa Joan Hart, is fictional, but these days, the dilemma the character faces is all too real.  After offering a reasoned response to a student’s question about Jesus, Ms. Wesley is removed from the classroom, and finds herself in court.

The movie is well-cast, and the roles tastefully underplayed by a talented group of actors. The student, Catherine Thawley (Maria Canals-Barrera), is understandably devastated when her innocent question gets one of the school’s most popular teachers in a lot of trouble.

Robin Givens plays the school principal who sympathizes with Grace, but whose hands are tied. 1950s crooner and personality Pat Boone offers a nostalgic and suitably spiritual turn as Grace’s father.

Another aspect of the film that resonated with a first-timer is the professional level of the production. God’s Not Dead 2 clips along briskly, moving sure-footedly toward the final scene where the jury hands down its decision. The cinematography, camerawork, and editing compare favorably with the once-ubiquitous made-for-TV women-in-peril movies and high-end soaps like Ordinary People and Terms of Endearment.

For Christians who make cultural and entertainment choices based on instincts and beliefs inspired by their faith, there should be no complaining that there’s nothing good to see at the Cineplex. God’s Not Dead 2 is more than just a good movie about the troubled interface between secularism and Christianity. It is a parable carved right out of today’s headlines, about the future, and the potential for criminalization of deeply-held religious beliefs.