Before we view and discuss the most unintentionally hilarious trailer of the year, a preface: I’m not here to disparage anyone’s religious beliefs. Christianity is no more or less worthy of ridicule than Islam or Scientology or atheism or Buddhism or Vulcanology or any other faith. Except the Westboro Baptists. They can climb into an incinerator. Everyone else: believe what you want, and don’t try to impart those beliefs on unwilling participants. Cool? Cool.
All that said, Jesus Floppityfuck Christ have these faith-based films taken a hard right into Kooksburg.
Here’s the trailer for a movie called God’s Not Dead 2. If a sequel to a movie called God’s Not Dead must exist — and it must when the 2014 original rakes in $60 million Creflo Dollars, more than Selma, Horrible Bosses 2, John Wick and Best Picture winner Birdman — you can’t just slap a number on the end and plaster flyers all over the megachurch. God’s Not Dead: Da Rezurrection or God’2 Not Dead are far classier options.
Here are some truefacts about God’s Not Dead 2, presented without comment:
— The film opens on April Fools Day
— It is set in a town called Hope Springs
— The main character is named Grace
— She is a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. high school
— She is played by a former teenage witch
— God may not be dead, but Fred Thompson is. This is his final film.
— This line exists in the synopsis: “With the principal and superintendant joining forces with a zealous civil liberties group…”
— “Superintendent” is spelled wrong. On the film’s official website.
— Ernie Hudson needs a better agent
The plot reads like Sunday school fan fiction: villainous education administrators and the nefarious ACLU join forces to destroy a wholesome small-town born again schoolteacher for daring to mention Jesus while responding to a student’s question. Seems reasonable and not at all divorced from reality. People like Ray Wise’s character frequently walk around courthouses all the time spouting lines like “We’re going to prove once and for all…that God is dead,” and “I hate what people like your client stand for, and what they’re doing to society.”
That second one, set to rousing music and delivered with enough venom to kill a brontosaurus, made me laugh so hard I almost didn’t notice this protester holding his sign upside down.
The ad for this Christian movie closes with the gardener who used to plant seeds inside married suburban moms on Desperate Housewives dropping a ninth-degree burn on Judge Winston McGavelBreaker, who has just charged him with contempt: “I ACCEPT THE CHARGE, BECAUSE I HAVE NOTHING BUT CONTEMPT FOR THESE PROCEEDINGS!”
Sigh…always gotta be Yahweh or the highway, doesn’t it, buddy?
It’s tempting to dismiss these cloying, obtuse faith-based films as harmless alternative programming for religious audiences who feel Hollywood is a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. And in some sense that’s true. Genre pics have been around practically since the invention of celluloid. Why should Christian films be held to a different standard than Lifetime flicks or mindless action movies or comic book franchises? They’re all preaching to the converted.
The problem lies with the message: victimized Christians squaring off against secular America with nothing less than society’s soul at stake. For a religion crafted around cosmic creators, resurrection, and world-ending floods, it’s rather incredible to realize Christianity’s most unrealistic myth is the idea that its followers face pervasive persecution in 2015. All but one (Bernie Sanders) of the 18 candidates running for the highest office in the land practice an offshoot of Christianity. Gay Americans were denied equal rights for centuries in large part because their lifestyle wasn’t compatible with Christian beliefs. Faith influences everything from social issues to economic policy to scientific positions to history textbooks. Religion and reason are locked in an eternal struggle, all right. But team with crosses on their jerseys is up by double digits.
Films like God’s Not Dead and their ilk are nothing more than Trojan Horses built to monetize their target audience’s misguided fears. Convince people that they’re constantly under siege by government bureaucrats and bloodsucking lawyers and godless heathens, create a world to support this divisive fiction, and rake in the dough. The official website prominently advertises group tickets for a reason. Creating faith-based entertainment directed to specific audiences is admirable and necessary. But the resulting product should be more than another thinly veiled way to separate believers from their hard-earned money.