What I Learned about Atheists from God’s Not Dead –

4 Nov

I waited almost six months before I watched the film “God’s Not Dead.”   Part of the reason is because I don’t have extra money to go the movie theater.  Another reason is because I am usually 6 months (or more) behind on the latest TV or movies.  However, to be honest, the main reason is because I suspected how I would feel about the movie.

I was right.

I recently came across this article that expressed some of my own struggles with the film.  The article is written by Neil Carter, a former church elder with a seminary education.  Neil writes about the struggles of former evangelicals living in the midst of a highly religious subculture.  While I don’t agree with Neil’s views of faith; however, there are many things that I think we can learn from the article.

1.  Characterizing atheists and people from other religious backgrounds does not benefit the Kingdom of God.

Stereotyping others is unfair, and unhealthy.  It builds walls, and cuts down healthy communication.  Christians are often stereotyped by media in negative ways.  So it seems as if when Christians have a chance to make their own movies, then they view it as a chance to get even.  While it might be fair, is it right?  Regardless of how you answer that question, here are a few of the characterizations of atheists in the movie (according to Neil):

  • Atheists are selfish, self-absorbed, greedy jerks. Atheists are clearly incapable of love.”  Due to my conservative up-bringing, I feared those outside the church, and believed all non-Christians were mean, and incapable of love.  Once leaving the “bubble” of Christian educational institutions, I met many individuals who demonstrated more love than my Christian brothers and sisters.  This realization caused me to wonder about what other things I was taught about the outside world that were not really true.
  • “Atheist professors are predatory, and they are out to convert everyone into ideological clones of themselves.”  The movie portrays college classrooms to be threatening to their students’ faith; however, the rise of postmodernism has made college campuses much more open to diversity and religion.
  • “They disbelieve in God because something bad happened to them.” While pain might cause some to turn away from God, people don’t believe in God for a variety of reasons.  An interesting book about why people have left the faith is Drew Dyck’s book – Generation Ex-Christian.

Unfortunately, the movie did not stop at characterizing atheists, but fulfills the stereotype of the Muslim father who beats his daughter and throws her out of the house when her faith is exposed.  The scene was abrupt and unnecessary to the story and only served to build walls in my opinion.

2.  When movies such as “God’s Not Dead” are viewed by non-Christians, these movies reveal that our purpose is not to show our care for others, but to protect our own personal beliefs and emotional safety.

Neil writes, “The central injustice of this movie is its failure to fairly represent a class of people whom Christians purport to love.  But it’s not loving people well to misrepresent them this badly.” Christian media spends most of its time and attention on trying to prove the truthfulness of its claims.  I believe that Christianity which has nothing to prove to current culture is more engaging and powerful.

I don’t care if you agree with Neil’s perspective of the film.

I don’t care if you agree with my perspective of the film.

I don’t care if you loved the film, or hated it.

I do care if (in Neil’s words) “this movie will provide the only depiction of atheism most evangelical Christians have ever seen.”  It was true about me for too much of my life, but no longer will I allow prejudice and fear to stifle my ability to love others.

If we are to be in the world, then we need to know people.  We need to know our neighbors without fear of those who ascribe to a different faith.

The author goes on to say, “If you are able to make it through this film without cringing at the stereotypes and misrepresentations it presents, I cannot imagine you will be able to see me for who I really am or relate to me in any way that is based in reality.”  If we are guarded or consumed by fear when around non-Christians, then the result is that you will never connect intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually with them.

I think that I would like Neil.  I would enjoy sitting down to coffee with him.  I actually would like to be his neighbor.

Not so Neil could be my next “soul-winning” project. (His soul is not for me to win, but he is someone that I am called to love.)  Not because he is an atheist.  Not because he is a writer (although that is pretty cool.)

Neil, if you read this, feel free to drop me a note.  If you are ever in Minnesota, give me a call.

I hope you will read Neil’s article, and see what you can learn.

Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources – a non-profit designed to encourage emerging adults and their parents.

One Response to “What I Learned about Atheists from God’s Not Dead –”

  1. Melinda K Taylor November 4, 2014 at 09:42 #

    I agree Dave, in some respects I find that Christians unfairly judge other people because of their race and religion. I have heard Christian people say some awful things about Muslim after saying a prayer to God. I at that point think “How can you call yourself a Christian after saying those kind of things.” At one point I told a lady of German descent “How would you like it if because you are a German people called you a Nazi. Needless to say that ended that discussion. My wise grandmother told me when I was little that you can’t judge people on race or religion. If you are judging them, how can you talk to them about being a Christian.

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