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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Monday, March 24, 2014

"God's Not Dead" And Neither Are Stereotypes

The wife and I just came back from a movie we didn't expect to see. The movie was God's Not Dead. A good review of the movie can be found here. A point from this review should be emphasized: what is depicted in the movie has never happened that we know of. And that is the problem especially with what is at least strongly suggested at the end of the movie. At the end, a list court cases regarding religious liberty issues are listed.

What happened in the movie? A philosophy professor, who is a rabid atheist, makes his students sign a paper on the first day of class stating: "God is dead." If they don't, they risk failing the class. So, the hero of the movie, a traditional freshman, after feeling conflicted refuses to sign. He is confronted by the professor in class. They work out a deal where the student gets three 20 minute segments to present his case. The winner of this challenge is determined by the students in the class.

Now if I tell you that this film is a Conservative Christian film, then I've told you all about the end of the movie. The student wins the contest with a unanimous decision from his classmate jury, the professor was found to be an anti-theist rather than an atheist because of a family tragedy that occurred when he was young, and almost every key person in the film who didn't believe in God at the beginning of the film was converted by the end including the professor who made a deathbed conversion. And, btw, my fellow Calvinists need not watch this film because the presentation of the Gospel was filled with free will being used to answer the question, "why is there evil?" 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the end of the movie. All of the political leftists in the movie reinforced a stereotype that many Conservative Christian have of that group. These cooperative Leftists included the professor, his colleagues, and the young reporter who was converted after she discovered she was terminal with cancer and was left by her boyfriend.

What stereotype of the political left was reinforced here? It was one of hating God and having snobbish disdain for any of His believers. The professor himself served as a caricature but the other political leftists were no slouches. And herein lies one of the major problems. This movie's depiction of the "godless" Left does not match my experience with leftists. And that includes one of the atheists which the professor listed in class as an atheist, Noam Chomsky. 

Yes, Chomsky is an atheist. But he respects people and he holds deep respect for all, including theists, who involve themselves in helping others and defending their rights. In fact, on an office wall, Chomsky has a painting of the Angel of Death as he stands over Archbishop Oscar Romero (click here).  The Angel of Death is in the painting because of the assassination of Romero which was later followed by the assassination of 6 Jesuit priests who were helping the people of El Salvador free themselves. Their assassinations followed U.S. aid to a military junta as well as American training for some of the junta's troops. The assassinations of the Jesuit priests were carried out by a squad that was trained in the U.S. 

Or you can go to how he praised religious Conservatives who joined solidarity movements that went into Central America to protect the people from imperialism (click here). While doing this, he recognizes how American religious Conservatives were not a monolith. But at the same time, he can come across rather strong against Intelligent Design (click here). The point being is that how the Left reacts to religious Conservatives cannot be accurately portrayed as being singular and that always being against God. Sometimes, their reaction to us religiously Conservative Christians is because of our politics and other beliefs.

And that has been my experience as an anti-Capitalist, Leftist. The percentage of fellow Leftists whom I have encountered and who have disdain for my faith lies around 1% to 2%. In fact, some Leftists are thrilled that a Conservative Christian is protesting with them and wish for more. And so the movie's portrayal of the Left as being monolithic and unconditionally against Christians is wrong.

But this movie tells another story. That story told seems to be another product from the Christian persecution industry. This industry is in the words of commentators, preachers, the blogs, and this movie. Christians are being portrayed to themselves as being pitted against the world in all matters. And according to the Christian persecution industry, this conflict stems from the nonChristian's irrational rejection of God. It has nothing to do with some of the questionable things American Conservative Christians support such as our current predatory Capitalist economy, American Imperialism, our current attack on the climate, and our opposition to gay rights.

As a whole, the movie doesn't just try to defend the Gospel, it attempts to keep Christians in the conservative political and cultural fold. This was shown by stereotyping of the Left as well as by the role that a member of Duck Dynasty plays in the movie. It was there to show the contrast of the Christian cultural conservative with a person from the Left.

But in the end, while stereotyping the Left, the movie reinforces a stereotype that some in the Left have of religiously Conservative Christians. That stereotyped image is that such Christians have such a self-centered preoccupation with where they will go after they die that nothing and, perhaps, no one else matters to them. Thus, saving faith, in the movie, is something that is practiced so one can get a ticket to Heaven for oneself. And as important as Heaven is, there are additional matters to tend to until one is called up yonder. Those additional matters make up part of the repentance that comes with belief.

Of course there are many other things to point out about the movie, but it is the use and inadvertent maintenance of stereotypes which which seems most pronounced. And how unfortunate that is in this case since both religiously Conservative Christians and those on the political Left have many things to teach each other. And it seems that the movie was designed to keep the two sides apart. 

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