A Dreamer Walking

God’s Not Dead – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 3, 2014

God's Not Dead PosterFor those who don’t know I work two blogs. One concentrates on my ambitions to understand the technique and art of storytelling/filmmaking and the other covers my views on faith and politics.  Even though both blogs revolve around my pursuit of art and efforts to understand God the subjects don’t usually intersect. However, just the other day I accompanied my mother and sister to the movie God’s Not Dead and I knew immediately I needed to write about my experience. Seeing it was a movie and concentrated on a the issue of faith I have decided to post my views about this movie on both my blogs. I am also going to break my thoughts into two posts. For this post I will try to explain why I chose to watch this movie and my next post will concentrate on what I felt about the film.

To be honest this movie never appealed to me. From seeing the very title God’s Not Dead I was afraid it was going to be another Christian produced film that never really tried to give us something to think about but rather told us what to think. There is an argument to be made I, along with many other secular audiences, had already made preconceived judgments on the movie without being willing to give it a chance. I will not try to suggest I went into the theater with a completely open frame of mind. I tried to have an open frame of mind but I couldn’t help but be influenced by the title, the advertisements, and the second hand comments I had already heard regarding the film.

Lets first look at the title. Why would the title God’s Not Dead turn me off? Well, you tell me the last good film you watched with a title telling the audience precisely what to think? I mean the movie didn’t even want me to think about the possibility God could be dead. I did not need to watch a frame of the movie to know we were going to see a story trying to prove the existence of God. It might just be a malfunction of how I was brought up but I was taught to think for myself. The teachers who really mattered to me allowed me to come up with my own conclusions about what I believed. However, this film with its very title suggested it didn’t want to trust the audience in that way.

The advertising for God’s Not Dead felt just as manipulative as the title. Here is the first trailer I had seen for the film:

Here is another example of the movie not trying to leave anything up to the imagination. Sure the movie suggest the premise is “We are going to put God on trial”. But based on the characters we see in the trailer and the Newsboys song playing in the background with the lyrics “God’s not Dead, he is surely alive” we could tell this premise is only there to thinly disguise a cookie cut message about the evils and dangers of the secular world and the need for us to choose God. The reporter in the trailer even asks about those who don’t believe and the famous Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson replies, “If we disown Him (God), He will disown us”. The secular world is represented by a power hungry professor who calls himself god. We also see another secular businessman who is asked to visit his mom and replies back, “What’s in it for me?”. They don’t want us to question the story arc of the freshman either. The trailer makes sure to show us a clean cut collage Christian who ends up standing for what he believes and confronting his power hungry professor. I felt like the trailer showed a movie aiming to make the Christian audience feel good about themselves at the expense of the rest of the world. The trailer offended me because it seemed to be further proof of a film interested in talking down to it’s audience by not even giving them the chance to discover any truths for themselves.

Now the title and the advertising of the film are prime examples of why I wasn’t interested in going to the movie. So the big question is, why did I end up going? After God’s Not Dead came out I found the reaction from friends and across the internet interesting. What was most intriguing was the difference in opinion I heard from the Christian base compared to the secular base. There were advertisements all over my Facebook wall where Christian friends were posting statuses declaring “God’s Not Dead” and suggesting I and the rest of Facebook go see the movie. I also saw flyers posted claiming the film was #2 in the Country’s Box Office. I didn’t really understand where this stat was coming from since Box Office Mojo and IMDb claimed it took fifth in the box office nationally. Absolutely none of my none Christian friends claimed to see the movie. I did look on Rotten Tomatoes and out of the few people who chose to review the movie, it received a 20% rotten Tomato rating. For those who don’t know it takes a 60% or higher for a film to receive a “fresh” rating.

So what was this huge separation about? Why were so many outside the faith criticizing the movie and so many inside the faith praising it? Why was an advertising campaign that felt manipulative and demeaning to me seem to intrigue so many of my Christian friends?  I knew I needed to check out the movie for myself to find out these answers. Rather then make this post excessively long I will leave you guys with a cliff hanger and give my thoughts on the actual movie in my next post.

 

The Chains of Faith

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on September 10, 2012

I can not create a story without thinking how it reflects my perspective on family, politics, and most importantly God. Many have debated on whether faith in God limits the storyteller or frees him. Because I personally have chosen to devote my life to God my creative decisions always need to be filtered through my faith. There are an extra bundle of questions I need to ask myself when creating a story. Is my story giving God reverence or putting Him down? Am I allowing Him to speak to others or am I turning others away from Him? Does the point of my film justify the immorality I show in the story? I personally believe because the Christian industry is so afraid of the way their films reflect God they limit their creativity. You could justly ask how am I different? How could I possibly create satisfactory entertainment with all these questions interfering with my creative decisions?

Christian films such as the Left Behind series, Fireproof, and Facing the Giants don’t seem to attract much more than the audience who already agrees with their message. I watched christian produced films all through out my childhood. Hardly any of the movies taught me how to think.  All they really tried to do was teach me what to think. The morals of their stories were obvious and often shallow. All of their stories make a big deal about the importance of “choosing Jesus”. It’s the answer to every problem. “With God on our side we can do anything”. The rest of the world is shown to be completely corrupt and evil. Most Christian films talk down to non-believers. They don’t take the time to understand the outside world and thus are not able to bring substance or give insight to the world’s problems.

Most of my friends’ faiths stops them from opening up to the outside world.  The stories they create are black and white. They lack the shades of grey that bring depth to good storytelling. In real life the answer is never as simple as “choose Jesus”. The problem is never as simple as “He doesn’t have faith in God”. When a name becomes the most important point of a story you will lose your audience. The Christian industry is stuck on a name. They put the name ahead of the person’s character. The relationship a Muslim, Buddhist, or any other religion seems to have with God means nothing. If you do not call him by the right name, you are screwed. Thus the name trumps any true value represented in the story. If the Christian industry is going to make a movie about friendship it needs to involve introducing one or both of the friends to Jesus Christ. If the story has to do with drug addiction healing only happens through relationship with Jesus. If the film has to do with abortion the value of life is only found through the realization that Jesus loves us. The Church actually frowns upon putting Jesus’ teachings above his name, as if saying “I believe in love” is more important then being loving. If Jesus represented the medicine that would cure the deadly disease in the story the Christian industry would have the story concentrate on the importance of those affected understanding what the medicine was called rather then how it could actually heal them.

Because of the Christian industry’s inability to see God anywhere else than in their religion they end up closing doors to the outside world and themselves. Their faith becomes no more then a hollow name. They create a set of chains which stop them from being creative and exploring the essence of God. The christian God, at least the God I believe in, is infinite. There is no limit to His depth. I observe a different part of Him in everyone I see. Jesus is clearly seen in the story about a child bringing meaning to an old man’s life or the tale of a goblin finding out growing gardens is better than battle and bloodshed. See, Jesus told many stories in his life, hardly ever did he say what faith his characters claimed to follow. Jesus was not interested in giving the world another religion. His stories were about exploring real issues, like what it means to love your brother, neighbor, and enemy. He didn’t want His followers to tell others God loved them, He wanted them to show others God’s love through helping feed, cloth, and heal “the least of these”.

I want all the stories I create to give people more insight to who my God is. The questions I ask myself before embarking on a story are not there to limit my creativity. The questions give me a direction to go and a reason to put my heart into my visions. I have a foundational belief that God gave me the visions I have in my head to show to others. I give God reverence by being true to myself and the stories I create. I allow God to speak to others through getting myself out of the way. The world is full of immorality. Immorality is justified when it is not being used as a form of entertainment, but rather as a way to bring a reality to my stories and show a contrast to my God. As a Christian community we need to have faith God can be seen in our stories even when there is no name attached to Him. We must have faith in who our God is not in what we call Him.