I watched the movie God’s Not Dead 2 with a group of atheist friends last night. Now, I am awake at 4 in the morning with a hangover headache and a compulsion to write.
Here is a bit of background.
A few weeks ago, my mom tagged me and my husband and my brother and his wife in a shared post from her church. They were going to have a showing of God’s Not Dead 2 on a Sunday afternoon and she wanted to let us know in case we wanted to buy tickets and go see it. At her church.
I was already aware of the movie, and while I briefly thought of going out of curiosity I decided against it. I had a lot of anxiety around that building when I was starting to doubt my faith, and the thought of going there and sitting in the sanctuary for the length of a movie makes me feel a bit ill in my stomach. So instead, I started a discussion about the whole invitation on the Louisville Atheists & Freethinkers group on Facebook which ended up with me scheduling a meetup for a viewing at my house. (It is silly, but religious propaganda films can be good fun for a group of atheists.) That is what happened last night.
What I have found out is that while I found certain parts of the movie funny, overall I found it to be just deeply upsetting. I was lying awake this morning thinking about it, and wondering why I can’t just laugh it off like just any ridiculous movie. I think I have figured out the reasons why now, and here they are.
1) Someone at my mom’s church apparently thought this film was great and would be a great witness to Christian and non-Christian friends and family.
2) Members of my mother’s church — including my mother maybe — think that this movie accurately portrays something about the real world. But what? That a mention of Jesus in a class discussion of non-violence movements would be considered enough of a violation of the separation of church and state to prompt a lawsuit? That atheists have a great deal of power in an Arkansas school — enough to persecute and suspend a teacher because she dared speak the name of Jesus? That atheist parents just get over the fact that one of their children has fucking died, and command their other child to just get over it too so she can get into prodigious Stanford and not a common state school? That the true goal of the ACLU and their lawyers is to prove that God is dead? (Seriously?) Something else?
3) I grew up in this environment, and I actually used to believe that these fictional portrayals of the persecution of Christians was realistic. When I was growing up, it was the book This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, and though it goes even farther into the fantasy world — portraying actual angels and demons in battle influencing human interactions — it has all the same elements of the “evil ACLU” and of atheists really being “Satanists” (the fictional ones that actually worship the personification of evil) and really very horrible people. Thinking that the world (everything outside the church) was evil and out to get me did not help prepare me for life — and that is putting it very mildly.
So, far from being entertained by this movie, I mostly just found it deeply upsetting. I am thankful I had a group of atheist friends to watch and laugh and commiserate with me. Maybe this whole experience has been a healthy thing for me, in the end, since it has helped me flush out just why I find these sort of things to be so upsetting in the first place.
So maybe I am glad I watched it. Maybe.