Sep 3, 2014

So I watched some Christian-based films

I am an atheist – I feel like I have been saying that too much lately. But you know what has been popping out even more lately – Christian-based films. And as an atheist, it annoys me, but at the same time, they serve as a challenge. Well, obviously the purpose of these films is to gather new recruits for their religious agenda, but maybe more importantly is to keep their existing followers. They may be doing just fine doing the latter, but how about to those who are like me? What are my thoughts about these movies and will I recommend them to anyone? Warning: Spoilers, duh!

God’s Not Dead

Let’s start off with probably the most obvious movie on our list, “God’s Not Dead.” This movie might be the pinnacle of all Christianity-based films. I see this movie posted over and over again through social media, even I couldn't deny that they had that going for them. #GodsNotDead am I right?

Anyway, in this movie, we have Josh Wheaton, a college student that conveniently had no choice of taking any other philosophy class than of Professor Jeffrey Radisson, who was coincidentally an atheist. Prof. Radisson convinced everyone in his class that "God's dead," but Josh would not agree to that and it all concluded with him defeating his professor on a glorious debate. Immediately so, the professor got killed by a car hitting him and conveniently there were priests nearby who performed a last-minute baptism of some sort to Prof. Radisson so that his soul would be saved for eternity. The movie ended in a Christian-rock concert that everyone attended to by walking, giving the final message of the film that being a Christian is hip and cool.

Uh, okay. I might be bored with a lot with movies in general lately, or my attention span might have gotten smaller as well, but this movie was boring as f*ck. I'm sure religious people might have enjoyed the film, and I get that, because after all -- they spend an hour every week listening to someone talk about the same thing over and over again. But seriously, for an outsider, there's no real connection that I can sympathize to with the characters of the film.

The main character, Josh -- who dumped his girlfriend because of this challenge posted by his professor. For the first half of the film he was easily defeated by his teacher on his presentation. Obviously the film wanted you to think that Josh was struggling, that he can't win against his professor, and everything in his life was falling apart, and wondering if he made a big mistake. But when he finally overcame that, there's absolutely no justification nor a clear understanding nor any satisfaction why he has done so.

He presented the class with his pseudo-science explanations that did not make sense, I was waiting for something to agree with him, but I couldn't find anything. The movie seemed to think that providing some logical scientific findings and opinions would be fully understood by its audience. "Uh... no it doesn't," I murmured when Josh said "Science proves God," as really, there were no actual strong proof or evidence provided to support this sudden claim in the film.

Of course that's the trend nowadays. The Christian agenda tries to provide "scientific fact" to provide evidence of the existence of god. I have said this a million times but I think it's they're way of compensating onto their minds that in order to cling on to their beliefs they had to provide an intelligent study, or a science "fact" to support their faith. Of course evidence and faith are a major contradiction, but somehow that flew right over their heads.

And so, I might be a little bit happier if a giant blob of misty head suddenly appeared on Josh's presentation and claimed that it was god. That would have closed the debate once and for all, at least for the film. For something that's named "God's Not Dead," sure he was nowhere to be found.

"...the film portrays an Islamic father as an outright demonic, dogmatic, and an abusive individual..."

Moving on to the antagonist on the film, Prof. Radisson, who was Josh's philosophy teacher. One may think that if I would have any connection with any characters on this film, it would be him, as he was introduced as an atheist. But that's just the complete opposite, as we discover in the end that he wasn't really an atheist after all -- he just denied the existence of god because he thought that "he took everything away from him."

It's interesting how a lot of religious people believe that there aren't any atheists at all. I witness it all the time. They think that atheists somehow hate god because of how our lives turned out. And just as how the movie portrayed, a Christian conversion before your very last breath would put you in Jesus' arms in heaven. It's the Christian promise -- as long as you tell your "sins" and finally accept Jesus as your one and only savior, you would end up in heaven. They say that all the time it seems like they have religious orgasms whenever they tell that religious agenda.

What strikes me is that an atheist character is the leader figure here -- a scenario that we don't really see in real life. Just as with the urban legend about a Christian student debating against his atheist Professor, it is another orgasmic turn-on for religious folks seeing a defenseless Christian propagandist to defeat this evil authoritarian Goliath. And how only one student, out of maybe a hundred, stood up that he would not sign "God's Dead" on his paper. In real life, majority would actually beg to differ that "God's dead," not to mention the school officials would probably hear complaints about their philosophy teacher.

And what's with that phrase that Prof. Radisson told his student to write? "God's dead?" I know he said that he only chose that as a metaphor, but jeez, what an ineffective way of teaching. Something can't die if it doesn't exist. "There is no god," or "god doesn't exist" might be better choices, but making the students sign that and just accept the fact that there is no god without teaching any reason, proof, or anything that led to that conclusion, was just sloppy. But surely, it is a Christian film, and having a sloppy atheist teacher should not come as a surprise.

I might have been more forgiving about the film if it stood for all religion -- surprise, surprise, it doesn't. There is a sub-plot about this girl Ayisha, who was living with her Islamic father. The film portrays her father as an outright demonic, dogmatic, and an abusive individual who repulses his daughter once he found out that she converted into Christianity. Apparently, a lot of Islamic daughters are hiding their Christian faith and listening to biblical podcasts onto their iPods. Yes, instead of drugs, sex, or any other crime, finding out that your daughter listens to biblical podcasts on their iPods will cause fathers to reject their children in all Islamic communities across America.

And so I think that's it for our first film. It had a lot of potential, specially all those media attention it got, but unfortunately, "God's Not Dead" failed to inspire, it failed to deliver its message, and as I have said, it just bored me to death. It did try to have a brief comic relief with two priests trying to find a working vehicle, but it just was funny for a wrong reason: when they finally were able to start a car, they accidentally see a murder of an atheist, and instead of rushing him to the hospital, they just decided to accept the fact that he's going to die and just give a last minute conversion through the Christian Faith. "God is good.All the time. And all the time? God is good." Euck. If only this movie had better writers. $62 million in total gross the next film from this production company should be something to look forward to.

Moms' Night Out

Next on our list is "Moms' Night Out." What the hell are with these titles? What's with the contractions?"God's Not Dead," and then "Moms' Night Out?" What's next? "Satan's Not Good?" Or "Jesus' Midnight Cookfest?"

Anyway, in this movie we follow Allyson who is a mom of three with her loving husband but somehow she was not happy. She then decided to invite two of her friends to join her on a mom's night out. And of course, a typical comedy film ensues, things go wrong, and there was supposed to be a moral story in the end.

If you haven't seen this movie, I guess you're wondering why this is on the list of Christian-based films. I don't blame you -- I did not realize this was a religious film about more than half way of the movie, where they somehow end up in a police station with Bones, a scary looking guy who works at a tattoo parlor. And when a scary looking guy preaches something about god, I immediately realized how cleverly they sneak it up in there in what supposed to be a comedy film.

"...I don't quite get the point of the entire existence of this film...."

Unfortunately though, it fails to deliver being a comedy film. There were a few laughs, I give them that. Allyson's vision of her kids being monitored badly by their unqualified babysitters were funny, but that's it. All of the disastrous events shown in the film did not give any light-hearted humor nor anything to make it enjoyable to watch -- they were all just a bunch of unnecessary, chaotic, and foolish mishaps. As an audience member, I wanted them to at least have a brief moment of satisfaction on their night out. Instead, I felt stressed all through out the 90 minutes of the film just because of the dumb decisions made by the characters.

The film also forces its viewers to care about a sub-plot about Allyson's younger sister Bridget, who shouldn't have anything to do about the mom's night out. It transitioned to be the main plot of the movie after Bridget lost her son Phoenix, and it is now Allyson's job of finding him. I know it sounds absurd but at this point I just lost all interest about finding someone's child nor felt any sympathy or importance about it. It ended anticlimactically, as the film reveals it early that the baby is just on one of the neighbor's house.

In the end, the film's message was to just be yourself and god would be giving you everything that you need to be you. The message itself maybe good on its own, but unfortunately I don't quite get the point of the entire existence of this film. There's no real justifiable scene in the film how the main character felt so much happier in the morning and calling herself a "beautiful mess" and a "masterpiece" on her blog, while last night her minivan got swapped, she almost got arrested, and just ended as a stressful torment to all its characters and its audience. I felt like the forced inclusion of god and it being a Christian film is all way too forced and should not have brought together.

Heaven Is For Real

If only the title got contracted and we got "Heaven's For Real," this movie would also jump onto our Christian films title bandwagon. But for now, it's just the last movie on our list.

In this movie we follow Todd Burpo, a pastor that got injured in his foot during a baseball game and collapsed on one of his preaching due to an excruciating back pain.  We don't ever revisit these occurrences for the most part of the film though, it's the film portrayal that the Burpo family was suffering.

His son Colton, had to undergo surgery because of a ruptured appendix. In spite of not dying on that said surgery, Colton claimed to have had visited heaven and talked with Jesus, his unborn sister, and his late great-grandfather, who Colton claimed had became younger. Todd had a hard time believing all of the things that Colton experienced, but later he changed his mind and wrote a book about it, and thus we have this movie.

Okay, this movie might be the biggest budgeted movie on our list today, and it shows all through out the film. Some scenes do provide good choices of cinematography, but that may just be all that's going for it. The overall pacing of the film was very slow, I actually fell asleep watching the film midway through.

For one, after Colton's surgery, a lot of things he claimed he have seen in heaven are things we already know -- angels, Jesus, dead relatives, and a whole lot of clouds. He claimed that angels do not look like what we portray them in sculptures and images, but the movie shows angels exactly how we portray them. For an hour and a half film, having all these elements shown to the audience who I'm pretty confident would have had already known them from the portrayals of the Christian faith, it doesn't make it more interesting.

Some nitpicky details though maybe brand new to its audience -- Colton claims that Jesus has a horse, and when he was asked what color it is, he said that it contained all of the colors known to the universe but brighter. He also claimed that Jesus has a bluish greenish eye color. At the end of the film, Colton confirmed that what he saw from a girl's painting of Jesus was indeed Jesus. So, I just wonder why the picture that we see on the right does not change the way how Christianity portray Jesus?

I mean, that painting might be an actual concrete evidence of how Jesus looks like based on two accounts of these children, but why aren't Christians all over this? Maybe they did not imagine Jesus to look like this. I certainly didn't. He might just well be a child molester who captured these two kids and his image stayed onto their sub-conscious. But whoever he is, one thing's for sure -- he needs some shaving.

But unlike "God's Not Dead," the film did it right as there's an actual divine intervention. However, Colton's visit to heaven was not actually explained nor any justification of it. The lack of justification is the trend on these films, I have realized. This film in particular, posts a lot of questions but leave them hanging, which makes the whole title all so unjustified. "Heaven Might Be Real" would be an excellent alternate title.

Seriously, why did Jesus invite Colton into heaven? I can't find any strong reason here. There were no urgent messages of his unborn sister nor his great grandfather to be relayed back to his parents in the real world. The only reason I can think of, is that Jesus wanted to show Colton that heaven exists. But why would he choose someone who's conveniently a son of a pastor? Why not choose someone from other religions or better yet, an atheist, so that he can show that heaven exists. That's the entire point of the film, right? To give us proof that heaven is real?

There was another question on the film asked by Nancy, a member of Todd's congregation. She asked why did God take her son but not Todd's son. It's an interesting question, but only got answered by another question by Todd, "Do you think Jesus loves my son more than he loves yours?" In my interpretation, it's a classic "God has a plan" answer if someone dies without any apparent reason. As an atheist, I tend to just accept that people die all the time without any justifiable reason of some sort, because that's just how the world works. There is no god's plan for someone dying because of rape, murder, genocide, nor any natural catastrophe.

"...I maybe accusing the Burpo family of fabricating a story here,..."

I maybe accusing the Burpo family of fabricating a story here, but it really seems like that's the case. I mean, all of those publicity, the book, the money, they have every reason in the world to fake a story that a lot of people would be believing in.

I might be a biased atheist, but this movie also failed to capture any sympathy nor a connection to the characters. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a rock, I have cried more than what I am willing to admit watching TV shows and films, and I'm sure the Burpo family experienced a lot of struggles throughout their lives, but I felt like the film's depiction of these struggles are forced -- Todd got injured on a baseball game, he couldn't preach because of a back pain, Colton needs surgery, and then they owe a lot of money to the hospital. All happened too suddenly and seem to have been resolved all too easily.

This film had a bold title -- but did it live up to it? Absolutely not. The climax of the film where Colton claimed  he saw his unborn sister that finally made Todd to accept his son's visit to heaven just seemed so shallow towards the end of the film. It was the first scene on their trailer and so it just ruined the reveal for me.

It concluded with Todd being able to be back to his church claiming that love is the proof of heaven, and everyone suddenly had the urge to stand up and hug Todd. Colton looked up at the cross and saw the angels in the clouds with a blinding light that set the film's cheesy ending.

* * *

So, I guess that's it! I would not lie but these three films were a disappointment. Yes I'm biased, but so will a lot of people whom they're trying to convert and/or keep. If I had to pick the best out of the three, it would be "Moms' Night Out," as it at least provided some laughs here and there. I would have enjoyed it if it wasn't a Christian film and recreated as a full blown comedy film like "The Hangover." Otherwise the films were overall dull.

tl:dr The three films I have watched lacked an emotional connection with me and there were a lot of elements on these films that felt like were forced to the viewers. "God's Not Dead" needs better writers, "Moms' Night Out" doesn't have a point, and "Heaven Is For Real" does not prove its bold claim.

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