Series: God's Not Dead #2
Published by Tyndale on March 1, 2016
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Novelization
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God's not dead . . . but they're trying to kick him out of the public square! Welcome back to Hope Springs . . . where Christian Grace Wesley teaches high school history. She is on the hot seat with the school district after she answers Brooke Thawley's question about Jesus during a classroom discussion. Suddenly, Brooke becomes a pawn in an epic court case that could cost Grace the career she loves. Tom Endler, a lawyer with the teachers' union, is tapped to reluctantly represent Grace in her fight for her First Amendment rights. He finds himself fighting for a cause he doesn't even believe in. Tom's research leads him to Amy Ryan, a reporter and former skeptic who found faith while battling cancer and watching the classroom battle unfold at Hadleigh University a year ago. Both are soon on a journey to understand what genuine faith really means as they fight to save Grace's job and avoid a court decision that could cripple the free speech rights of all Christians in the marketplace. Based on the highly anticipated movie sequel, this novel tells more about the story behind the new blockbuster film and gives fans an update on favorite characters from the original film.
Not even the writing talents of Travis Thrasher can redeem this fiery dumpster heap of a film/plot. Following the success of God’s Not Dead—a mediocre Christian-feel-good story about a college student whose faith is challenged by an anti-Christian professor—the cheap Christian sequel machine began to churn and the result is this underwhelming caricature of American Christianity’s nightmares.
I sound cynical. I am. God’s Not Dead was at least somewhat palatable. I took my youth group to watch it in theaters. We spent the next week discussing what the movie got right, what it exaggerated, and the influence their teachers had/have on them. It was your typical Christian movie: low budget, mediocre acting, stereotypical characters, a poorly-done come-to-Jesus moment. But I could accept it.
God’s Not Dead 2 (Electric Boogaloo???) is such unoriginal slop that it can’t even be given an original title. Not even an original subtitle. There’s a rotating cast of Christian celebrities and experts that might make a margin of sense inside the movie but come across as weird Christian fan fiction in a book. A few pages are spent on the Duck Dynasty family. The Newsboys (of course) make an appearance. Popular apologists Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace testify in the trial or are interviewed. Fox News is prominently mentioned as the News Source for Christians.
The basic premise is that a schoolteacher answers a question about Jesus in her history lesson. We learn this, not because we’re shown it, but because the teacher in question has a conversation about it with her lawyer. A family is suing the school because Jesus was mentioned and the school wants to fire her.
Subplots include: lawyer who believes in free speech but not in Jesus, lawyer’s Grandma who has dementia to the point she can’t recognize him at the beginning of the book but is evangelizing to him at the end, blogger from the first film who’s rebuilding her brand now that she’s a conservative Christian and not a liberal heathen, and (one that I don’t recall from the book, but is in the movie) a pastor’s sermon scripts being forcibly handed over to the government.
The story follows the court case, which becomes less about free speech and more about God’s existence, and in an ending surprising nobody, Jesus Wins. (Cue Newsboys concert.) It’s obvious that Thrasher was given very little to work with in adapting this film. His writing reads like a descriptive narration of the movie for the blind. The whole structure of the book is wrong and there’s the expectation that you’ll know about (or care about) the former liberal blogger from the first film.
The worst part of this film—and, I guess, book—is the way it inserts good, solid apologetics into a horrible mess of fiction. So when I rightly criticize the story and when non-Christians rightly laugh at its absurdity, it also makes the existence of Christ seem absurd. In the end, God’s Not Dead 2 has the opposite effect of what it should.
Tell me one person that came to Christ as a result of this book or movie. It’s not meant to thoughtfully and gently engage unbelievers with the Gospel. It’s a self-pleasuring Christian fever dream that is supposed to vindicate American Christians from a persecution of their own making.
I’m being harsh on this film/book because I love apologetics (I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the field). This isn’t representative of reality. This isn’t representative of apologetics. And I’m frustrated that it’s becoming the representation of Christianity.