Why Do So Many Of Us Want To See the Movie God’s Not Dead?
by Tom Gilson
The Pure Flix film God’s Not Dead opened in 784 jam-packed theaters last night, averaging $10,400 per screen. For comparison, no film showing in more than five hundred theaters the previous weekend took in more than $5730 per screen, and last weekend’s top ten, on average, took in only one-third of God’s Not Dead’s first-night revenues.*
This film taps into something in the Christian psyche. What is it?
While there were reviews that came out before opening night, including mine, the real energy behind these large audiences surely came from its trailer, which was viewed some 5,000,000 times on various web locations in its first 72 hours online.
What’s sparked all this interest?
David vs. Goliath: There is a classic David-Goliath theme expressed here: the freshman takes on the professor. The lines are clearly drawn; the battle is intense. while we can’t tell from the trailer who prevails, we can at least see that he holds his own. Everyone loves it when less powerful people stand up to those who are more powerful. Everyone loves it when the underdog wins, unless its their own team that takes the beating. (No one thinks atheists comprised much of last night’s audience.)
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Who wins in the end? What could winning even look like in that context? The trailer leaves us wondering: we won’t find out without seeing the movie. That’s another reason it’s drawing crowds, and I certainly don’t intend to spoil the effect by saying more.
Confidence Restored: I think there’s something more specifically Christian going on here, though. It has to do with our uncertainty about the way we hold to our own beliefs, and the way we live them out.
Christians aren’t quite sure of themselves; or rather, they’re not quite sure of God. Dallas Willard put it this way in The Divine Conspiracy:
The powerful though vague and unsubstantiated presumption is that something has been found out that renders a spiritual understanding of reality in the manner of Jesus simply foolish to those who are ‘in the know.’”
(See also my article, Has the Faith Been Found Out To Be Foolish?)
Too many churches teach what to believe and how to behave, without looking seriously at why we should believe. Atheists and skeptics say Christians accept the faith based on what they’ve been told to believe. That’s not necessarily the case, it’s certainly not always the case, but it is definitely too often the case.
So when we see a young man standing up to a professor with reasons for his faith, something inside us says, “Yes!” Yes, there are reasons to believe. Yes, our faith has a solid foundation…