God’s Not Dead 2 (2016)
The creators behind God’s Not Dead 2 won’t admit it but their movie is pure science fiction; it exists in an entirely parallel universe that’s topsy-turvy where atheists want to stamp out the last signs of Christianity and will use their collusion of government and media power to marginalize and eliminate freedom in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity.” It’s another heavy-handed moral parable that feeds into the persecution complex of its target audience, the same people who made 2014’s God’s Not Dead a surprise hit. While the sequel isn’t nearly as mean-spirited and cruel (the godless characters don’t have to die or get stricken with cancer this time), it’s still speaking in code to stoke its audience’s unfounded fears of losing religious liberty. We follow an AP History teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) who gets into trouble from making a purely literary connection with the teachings of Jesus and non-violent revolutionaries Gandhi and MLK. The school board wants to “wash the blood off its hands” and she’s taken to court where her very faith is on trial and where her hunky lawyer has to prove Jesus historically existed. The entire premise is laughably preposterous given the context of her pedagogical reference. A student makes the Jesus connection and asks about it, and the teacher was not endorsing a religion but merely quoting a piece of literature as it pertains to those inspired from it. There’s no time for subtlety in this movie because we have a martyr that needs roasting, and in comes an ACLU lawyer played by Ray Wise (God bless this actor saying yes to everything) who may very well be the devil. Wise is the lone source of entertainment for me. There’s also a nasty TV pundit who says Christians are the real danger in this country (replace “Christian” with “Muslim” and the TV segments start to sound more familiar from our own world). Several characters from the first film pop back up but with very little to do. God’s Not Dead 2 is a pretty lackluster, laughable, and theologically simplistic morality tale but at least it isn’t as risible and offensively insincere as the original film. Like the first film, the credits close on a list of court cases the filmmakers say inspired the movie. Except, upon minimal research, not one of these cases echoes the movie I just watched. All of these cases involve intolerance against accepting gay marriage or fulfilling birth control and/or abortion services, all legal and protected aspects of our culture. I’m reminded of the quote “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” I wonder if this kind of thinking would have lead an enterprising filmmaker telling the “brave story” of the segregationist standing up against government pressure to accept integrated schools. It’s not far off.
Nate’s Grade: C-