God's Not Dead is an uplifting and enjoyable Christian-based movie appropriate for students from elementary school through college and their parents. We went with two of my teenage children and my 8-year-old daughter and we all enjoyed the movie and have had many discussions about it since.
We enjoyed it as a family, but I would also recommend this movie for church youth groups and homeschooling groups. I hope to buy the DVD when it comes out to donate it to our parish.
The premise of the movie involves a freshman philosophy student's challenge to defend the existence of God to his adversarial and intimidating philosophy teacher and his classmates. The stories of other characters (a preacher, a selfish business man, a young woman caring for her mother with dementia, a successful blogger who faces a devastating diagnosis, and a Muslim convert to Christianity) are woven into the plot line until they are all connected with each other by the end of the movie.
There are seven great takeaways from the movie that I think are good to reiterate to younger viewers, and are important for us older folks to keep in mind too.
Spoiler alert! Go see the movie first and then see if you agree with my list!
1. At the beginning of the film, Professor Radisson presents a list of great thinkers, scientists, philosophers and writers who were all atheists. He intimidates his young Christian student by asking him how he can take a stand on the other side against all of these great atheist geniuses.
There are two logical fallacies here: The appeal to authority, and appeal to popularity. Something isn't right or wrong simply because an authoritative source says it is. Likewise, truth isn't true because many people believe that it is. This is one of the first ways to discount that type of a presentation.
2. But if we're going to go list for list, there are plenty of great thinkers, scientists and authors who were/are theists as well.
Augustine, Aquinas, Mendel, Galileo, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, John Paul II to name a few.
3. One of the ongoing bits throughout the movie is the plight of two preachers who are just trying to get to Disneyland. Every time they get into a car to drive away, the vehicle fails to start! When they finally do get a working car, they drive only a short way before they find themselves witnessing to a dying man during the powerful conclusion of the film.
This is a good reminder that sometimes our own plans don't work out quite the way we wanted them to because God has another plan in store for us.
4. One of the preachers who works as a pastor in the city, envies his fellow preacher who is working in the missionary field. He longs for an opportunity to "make a difference" for God by working in the missionary field too. Yet throughout the film he has several opportunities to make a difference in the lives of many of the people in his community including the young philosophy student!
We all have opportunities to serve God right where we are - if only we open our eyes to the possibilities!
5. The business man in the film, played by Dean Cain, goes to visit his elderly mother who is suffering with severe dementia. He asks her why she should be in such a condition when she was such a good person all of her life. In one of the most profound and touching moments in the film, his mother unexpectedly speaks out almost as an oracle and with great wisdom.
It's hard on the face of it to see much value to the old woman's life as she barely recognizes her own children. Yet we see joy on her face from the little things (her favorite chicken dinner!) and the kind words and touches from her daughter. Older people still deserve respect, and if we are patient and willing to spend the time, the words and experiences they choose to share with us are invaluable.
6. So what did the oracle say? "Sometimes Satan allows a person a life without trouble so that they won't turn to God." She reminded her son that a life of comfort and plenty can be it's own kind of prison. We don't strive to better ourselves when we have everything we want and need. Comfort and satisfaction can be enslaving if it keeps us from venturing away from it.
7. At the very end of the movie, most of our main characters are at a Newsboys concert. As the concert is winding down, the audience is encouraged to text the message, "God's Not Dead: to everyone of their cell phone contacts - spreading this news to millions of people around the world. The business man gets this text, as does Professor Radisson at a very key moment! Coincidence? Don't think so. These messages touched the people who got them just when they or the people around them needed the reminder. There are no coincidences with God.
See this and all of the other links at the Catholic Carnival