Holy Crap: I watched ‘God’s Not Dead’ so you don’t have to
When I first saw the trailer for “God’s Not Dead,” I figured I knew the deal already. After all, I have seen that Chick Tract before, as well as the myriad chain mail urban legends about the courageous Christian student who stands up to their strident atheist professor and wins and everybody in the class cheers for them.
But my god, it is so much more. So, so much more. So many plot lines. So much bizarre drama. So little understanding of what either college is like or humans are even like. Most certainly not what an Intro to Philosophy course is like.
What this is like, however, is a common sitcom trope where two people tell their side of the story and both tell stories in which they are portrayed as the put-upon hero and the other is 100% completely evil and wrong. Except, in this case, we do not get the other side of the story.
My guess, were the other side of the story to exist, it would be a far less involved tale of a College Freshman being mad about having to read Hume and Russell in addition to Descartes and St. Thomas Aquinas. Or being confused by John Locke, Kant and Kierkegaard, who, although not atheistic, had very complex views on religion–particularly if you’re a person coming from a “question nothing” type of background.
But let’s just jump in, shall we?
The movie opens like so many other college movies, with a montage of most of the people in the movie waking up or getting dropped off by their parents and whatnot. We’ve got White Lady #1–Amy the Atheist Blogger, a Muslim Girl named Ayisha getting dropped off by her Traditional Muslim Father and removing her hijab upon leaving his car, White Lady #2, Mina, buying some wine, and a pretty offensive stereotype of a Chinese transfer student, who, remarkably, goes nameless until the very end of the movie. And, of course, our intrepid hero, Josh Wheaton and his girlfriend.
Wheaton goes up to check in. Registrar guy asks him what he’s taking for his humanities requirement, and Wheaton is like “Intro to Philosophy with Professor Radisson.” Registrar dude takes one look at the GIANT cross hanging around his neck and is like “You might want to think about another instructor.” White dude is like “HUH?” and registrar dude is like “Let’s just say you are wandering into the SNAKE PIT.” and suggests he take any other teachers and tells him that this dude’s class is like the ROMAN COLOSSEUM, and full of lions and people cheering for his death, because, get it, feeding Christians to the lions! Get it!? It is a reference to that.
Then Chinese dude checks in, and his check-in lady thinks he is making up the People’s Republic of China, because everyone at this college is stupid. Which I think is going to be pretty much the moral of this story.
Now we meet Atheist Blogger Amy, with a car replete with atheist themed bumper stickers. Like we all have. She ignores a call from a Dr. Stevens, and sees that her car has been broken into and someone stole her GPS. Probably because she does not believe in God.
She calls her boyfriend, Dean Cain, up at his big fancy business office where he conducts all the business and buys all the companies from a giant empty meeting room, in order to ask him for directions to a place and he is like “NOPE I WILL NOT DO THAT” because he is too busy buying all the companies, he will, however, take her out to someplace fancy on Friday.
She then tells him that she is on her way to do an “ambush interview” with Duck Commander Willie Robertson where she will surprise and destroy him with her evil blogger powers, because that is how the people who wrote this movie seem to think we come up with the horrible things these people say. WITH THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE. And, naturally, Saul Alinsky tactics. Where would we be without those?
Now there is another 20-something white lady, Mina, who is visiting her definitely 90 year-old Dementia stricken mother at Shady Pines. Mom doesn’t remember her, so she’s like “I’m you’re daughter” and Mom is like “there’s no ring on your finger!” because obviously this is what matters and Mina looks sad and sighs “It’s complicated” and that is the end of that.
Ah yes. The part we have all been waiting for. Professor Kevin Sorbo! Smug Atheist Professor extraordinaire. He starts off Intro to Philosophy Class by listing off all the smart person atheists, and then is like, “Let’s just skip over the part of class where we debate whether or not god exists and everyone FAILS, and everyone can write “God is Dead” on a sheet of paper and agree about this. Yep. I realize it is only three minutes into this Intro class, but it is definitely time for everyone here to immediately become atheists or you will fail my class.”
This, of course, is when it becomes abundantly clear that no one involved with writing this movie has ever taken Intro to Philosophy. Or ever been to college. Or anywhere near a college. I don’t even think they’ve watched “Saved By The Bell: The College Years.”
Naturally, every person in this 100+ person class does this, except for our hero. Josh Wheaton is like, “Sorry Professor Hercules, I cannot do this because I am a Christian.” This sends Professor Hercules into a fitful rage, and he is like “WELL, if you cannot agree that God doesn’t exist, then you need to prove that he does or else you will FAIL.” Which is obviously a thing that happens all the time in Philosophy 101 courses. Josh takes the challenge, and sets the rickety plot into motion.
Meanwhile, a man I will henceforth refer to as Reverend Nickelback is off to meet his African missionary friend at the airport, who has apparently flown 36 hours on a plane to hang out with him and go to Disneyland.
YES. Now we are whisked away to the “ambush interview!” So excited for this! SO, Atheist Blogger “ambushes” Duck Dynasty and his wife on their way to church in order to snidely ask them a series of hilarious and easily refutable questions (You admit you kill innocent waterfowl? And that you pray to Jesus? What do have to say for yourselves?) and gets incredibly flustered at their fabulously eloquent responses. This movie 100% takes place in Conservative Christian fantasy land where they get to do a rewrite of that Rolling Stone interview but this time they WIN, and it is honestly a little bit adorable.
We are back to Muslim Girl, whose name, we find out, is Ayisha. Ayisha is getting picked back up by her dad, and thus has to put her face covering hijab back on to get in the car, because her dad is so traditional. He is, however, not so traditional that he is bothered by the fact that she is wearing short sleeves, with her bare arms just hanging out all over the place.
Josh goes to visit Reverend Nickelback and tells him of his woes, and Reverend Nickelback is like “How many of these students do you think have ever been to church” and they both agree that the answer is definitely NONE OF THEM, because we live in a country where only 80% of the country is Christian, and that probably Josh is the only way they will ever hear about Jesus. Reverend Nickelback is then like, read these scriptures and call me in the morning, and Josh goes home to do this, and then, naturally, decides to take on this challenge because Jesus is definitely not OK with anyone denying him. It is definitely one of his big “things.”
Atheist Amy goes to the Doctor, whom you’ll recall, called her earlier. UH OH. Turns out it’s CANCER. Not any specific kind of cancer, just the general kind. But Amy is like “SORRY DOCTOR, I don’t have time for cancer. I have blogging to do, and still have not finished that one post I was going to do on the Duck Dynasty dude.” And Doctor is like “SORRY, I realize you are super important, but you need to start treatment right now or you are going to die.”
Josh runs back into his girlfriend, who has previously told him to not do this because it will ruin their future together, and she tells him that she hopes he has given up on this crazy dream of his so he does not fuck up in school and ruin their future. Josh is like, “God, god god.” and then Girlfriend dumps him, announcing that her mom was right about him ALL ALONG.
Now we are back with Reverend Nickelback and his African friend, and they are getting ready to take an awesome road trip to Disneyland, which appears to be why this missionary has come to wherever they are, as it is his LIFELONG DREAM.
Alas, their dream is deferred when THE CAR DOES NOT START. Snap.
After that exciting little miniplot, we are whisked back to the Classroom where it is Josh’s turn to talk about how god definitely exists, and uh, he does this for a while, and then Professor Kevin Sorbo is like “Stephen Hawking is smarter than you and says you are wrong, so there.”
Then Professor Sorbo accosts Josh in the hallway and basically threatens to destroy him if he keeps going with this, because he is so incredibly threatened by this whole thing. Mostly because, obviously, atheists are not used to encountering Christians at all in their daily lives.
Ayisha comes home and hides in her room….in order to secretly listen to Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son on her iPod. BECAUSE TWIST! SHE HAS BEEN A SECRET CHRISTIAN ALL ALONG! But she gets caught by her brother who, as a seven year-old Muslim child, totally knows who Franklin Graham is and she begs him not to tell her Traditional Muslim Father.
Atheist Amy is out on her fancy date with Dean Cain, and he’s like “I got a promotion” and she’s like “I have cancer” and so Dean Cain is like “UGH, could you not have brought this up tomorrow?” and tells her that she broke their contract wherein she was his “hot young girlfriend with a chic job” and now that she has cancer, he has to break up with her, because love isn’t real.
Josh runs into Chinese guy from the beginning of the movie, and he’s like “AH, you are Mr. Josh. Tell me why you are doing what you are doing.” because HEY, why not just make this a stereotype festival, right?”Anyway, Josh is like, “Jesus is my friend and to me he is not dead, and I don’t want anyone to get talked out of believing him just because this PROFESSOR thinks they should.” Chinese guy says nothing, but looks like he is really processing everything MR. JOSH is saying.
OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. We are back to Reverend Nickelback and his erstwhile companion trying to get to Disneyland, and a guy from the Rent-a-Car agency or something has brought them another car. AND THIS ONE DOESN’T START EITHER! Cool side plot, guys. Rental car guy can’t go get them another car though because the place is closed and everyone else is gone home, plus he is a selfish asshole who has to go to an audition for a dinner theater production of “Death of a Salesman” and does not even care if these two holy men have to wait a whole nother day to ride the teacups.
Oh, weird. Turns out that Mina, the unmarried chick who was visiting her mom earlier is Dean Cain’s sister, and she is yelling at him to go see their mom at Shady Pines, and Dean Cain is like “WHATEVS. Mom is dumb. I have businessing to do. BUSINESS!” She asks how Amy is, and he tells her they broke up because Amy had “personal stuff to attend to.” You know, like that general cancer she has that she is probably going to die from.
BUT WAIT. There is an even bigger twist! Mina’s boyfriend is none other than PROFESSOR KEVIN SORBO. And he wants to know where his wine is, and then they talk about how he started dating her while she was his student, and how he thought she was soooo sexy but wanted to make sure she had a “brain” before he asked her out, and Mira is deeply offended and like “Why would I have to have a brain?” about things, and he explains that this mattered to him for some weird reason, which is why he waited to ask her out until she “aced his midterm.” Which I guess is just more evidence of Professor Sorbo being a man who does not care about doing 100% illegal things in his classroom?
Anyway, they are preparing for a dinner party and Mina is super worried about all the smart people who will be there to intimidate her, and Professor Kevin Sorbo wistfully recalls when Mina was smart and quoted Shelley all the time because that is what smart people do all the time.
TWIST AGAIN, Nina is a Christian and starts talking about the Bible, and Professor Sorbo is having none of that. He says that if he can’t have a mistress, then she doesn’t get to have Jesus, so there.
Professor Hercules and Mina have their party, and Mina is pretty much there to wait on everybody, and the Professor keeps going on about WHAT A FOOL this uppity Christian student is, and then Mina says she’s a Christian too, and all the mean professors laugh and laugh at her.
Walking Chinese Stereotype guy calls his Dad up for some sage advice, and is like “We’re talking about God a lot in my class and whether or not he exists” and Dad is like “What does your professor say?” and WCS is like “He says God does not exist” and Dad says “Then the answer is simple. God does not exist.” and then pretty much hangs up on him.
Back at the party, the aforementioned wine is served, but because DUMB MINA left it in her car, it cooked in her trunk and the wine is bad now. Then Prof. Sorbo is like “Haha, as SOCRATES SAID, “gn?thi seauton.” and Mina looks at him questioningly and then the whole table has a good laugh about how this dumb broad does not even speak Greek, and one guy is even like “Looks like it’s Greek to her!” and Prof. Sorbo explains that “gn?thi seauton” means “know thyself”–which in this situation means to know that you are a moron who leaves wine in the trunk of her car by accident. All the intelligentsia laugh at her once more and Dumb Mina runs out in tears.
Atheist Blogger is now getting an MRI done for her General Cancer that she has, accompanied by sad and poignant music. The Doctor asks if she has anyone to be with her during The Cancer, and she tells him there is no one. Lesson? She is totally alone because she does not believe in god.
Now we are back in class, with Josh totally proving Stephen Hawking wrong and bringing up this dude John Lennox who is always debating Richard Dawkins about things. Oddly, this is the least interesting part of this whole movie. But, naturally, the whole class is TOTALLY CAPTIVATED.
Josh and Professor Sorbo chat after class, and it is of course revealed that the REAL reason for his atheism is that his mom died of cancer (probably General Cancer) when he was 12 and god didn’t save her. SAD TROMBONE.
Now we are back with Ayesha, whose Traditional Muslim Father has just discovered her secret Franklin Graham stash, and, naturally, starts smacking her around and demanding that there is “only one god and he has not begotten!” And Ayesha is like “NO PAPA, Jesus is my lord and savior and he died to save me from MY sins!” and then he kicks her out of the house and they both cry.
We are now back with Chinese Stereotype Guy! STILL HAVE NOT LEARNED HIS NAME, BY THE WAY. He’s on the phone with his dad again, who seems like a pretty important business man who is not interested in Chinese Stereotype Guys’s shenanigans. I am just going to transcribe this whole conversation here, so we can all glory in the zero amount of sense it makes.
CSG- Father do you remember the old woman who used to have the Christians gather in her home in secret?
Dad- Why are you talking about this?
CSG- There are many arguments in my class about God, they seem to make sense.
Dad-Why are you talking like this! You never know who’s listening! Don’t you realize you’re jeapordizing your brother’s chances of studying abroad!
CSG- But I thought it was important for me to—
Dad- We will speak of this no more!
Now I am obviously not any kind of expert in like, the rules of studying abroad–although I almost went to college in Canada–I am pretty sure that no one is going to be like “OH, sorry, Chinese Stereotype Guy’s brother, your brother secretly disagreed with a teacher one time, so we can’t let you into this American school.”
Meanwhile, Atheist Blogger chick has still not even started on her Duck Dynasty interview, which is understandable since she has General Cancer of the Body and all and is probably dying from it. She gets started on that, but deletes it and decides to just tell everyone she has cancer and is going to die, then she throws her laptop and starts hysterically crying. Because she is dying and she is alone and has no one because she is not a Christian.
Dumb Mina then shows up to the university, appropriately, to interrupt Professor Sorbo during an important conversation about Richard Dawkins (natch) to tell him she’s leaving him, and he is like “You can’t. I won’t accept it” but Dumb Mina stands up to the big mean blowhard and leaves him anyway. Jesus, we imagine, has given her the strength.
This is when you start to realize that this movie is like a Christian version of “Love, Actually” and also when you start yelling “NO!” at your TV because you cannot handle the full body cringe you are currently experiencing.
Because guess where Ayisha goes right after getting kicked out of her house? That’s right, straight to Reverend Nickelback, who assures her that it’s totally fine if she doesn’t have a roof over her head or anything to eat, just so long as she has Jesus.
Finally, we reach the final “debate” as Josh has apparently been “teaching” this class for at least half the semester, and he’s blabbering on about how without GOD, everything is permissible and you can pretty much just go on a murder spree and it is fine. He then gets into a blubbery fight with Professor Sorbo in which he gets him to admit that he hates God because God stoled his mother away, and if he hates god, then god must be real. SO THERE.
Then, naturally, everyone in the class, starting with our Asian Caricature, stands up and says “God Is Not Dead” and Professor Sorbo walks out in a huff. Asian Caricature runs out of the class, which is where we finally learn that his name, all along, has been Martin, and Martin wants Josh to know that because of him, he has decided to follow Jesus.
We finally come back to our two intrepid Reverends trying to get to Disneyland. Reverend African Missionary, though, thinks he has it figured out this time! FIRST, they must pray. Then they must put their bags in the trunk to show faith, and then they have to believe, together, that the car will start. AND THEN IT DOES. Because Jesus.
Finally, in the storyline we completely forgot about, Dean Cain goes to visit his dementia-stricken mom, and he’s like “You were so holy your whole life, and I was a jerk, and you have dementia and my life is SWEET. How does that work if there is a god” and Dementia Mom is like “Sometimes the devil makes things comfortable for you so you’re so comfortable that you don’t think you need God, but then you end up in hell for all eternity. Who the hell are you again?”
So, there is this big Newsboys (a Christian band) concert in town, and EVERYONE is there, including Atheist Amy who is there to ambush interview them backstage, because who would not give this woman a press pass. She gets halfway through before being like “I HAVE CANCER. No, not any specific kind, just general CANCER.” and the Newsboys are like “AHA, we think you actually came here to find Jesus” and Atheist Amy is like “HOW DID YOU KNOW?” and they’re like “God told us, duh.” and then they all pray together.
Professor Sorbo is all alone, looking wistfully at all his “God is Not Dead” papers, and he finds a letter from his mom telling him she hopes he’ll totally love God forever, and then, realizing he is all alone, tries to call Dumb Mina. But then he sees on the front page of the newspaper that everyone’s favorite band, The Newsboys, are in town, and that she must be there, and so he heads down to see her.
So Dumb Mina, Ayisha, Martin, Josh and the whole entire town are in the audience ROCKING THE FUCK OUT to this band I’ve never heard of, and meanwhile, Professor Sorbo is running in the rain, and the Reverends are driving along, and then they see Professor Sorbo get hit by a car.
Reverend Magical African Missionary goes down to him and is like “Yep, he is definitely dying!” But instead of calling 911, or telling him not to talk, as you’re kind of supposed to do, they decide to preach to him about Jesus, and they do so, and then he’s like “YES, I accept Jesus” and then dies in the street. It is all very dramatic.
Back at the concert, it turns out that Duck Dynasty dude has heard ALL ABOUT the shit going down at college, so he appears on a massive screen to congratulate the boy who stood up for Jesus and asks everyone to text “GOD’S NOT DEAD” to everyone they know, because that is not annoying or anything. Ayisha taps Josh on the shoulder and is like “That was you, wasn’t it?” and then repeats back his C.S. Lewis quote from two years ago when this movie started, and it kinda looks like LOVE.
And then everyone who is not at the concert, Martin’s Dad, the Revs, and even Professor Sorbo gets a text message saying “GOD’S NOT DEAD” and the two Reverends are like, “GOD IS GOOD” and laugh joyously to one another even though they just saw a man bleed to death in the streets. THE END.