God’s Still Not Dead

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The jury is in favor of God.

History – many people find this subject as popular and appealing as Christianity. But as the feature film God’s Not Dead 2 shows, the two go hand in hand. We can’ t explore American or World History without running into the reality of Christianity. Many try to deny this truth, but the more we push Christianity away, the more relevant it becomes.

Melissa Joan Hart was perfectly paired for the role of Grace Wesley, the beloved History teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. High School who makes History not only interesting and fun, but also relevant. Early in the film, we learn that Grace loves her job, her students and her life, because of her faith and dedication to Christ. In an interview about the film, Hart similarly says, “I feel like I have a great life and I want to share that with people, and a lot of that, almost all of that, is my faith.”

In order to find the joy that only faith in Christ can muster, we must understand our relationship with Him. Through this time of discovery, questions about Christ are inevitable. Brooke Thawley, played by Hayley Orrantia, learns of a joy that her late brother had in Christ and she wants to know more. Seeking truth from her esteemed teacher, Brooke asks a question comparing Jesus’ teachings of nonviolence to Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. It’s the answer that Wesley gives that gets her in trouble. From here the film transitions into an epic courtroom battle.

But, we can’ t place all the focus on the teacher. Brooke, along with many other characters in the film, is struggling with making sense of this incident. As the case unfolds, so does Brooke’ s faith. She is placed in a myriad of situations where she has to stand up for her beliefs in Jesus. Brooke’ s faith may not have grown this substantially if it weren’t for the pressure placed upon her through the pending trial. It certainly wouldn’t have developed if it weren’t for the support and backing of friends.

Sadie Robertson plays Marlene, the friend who helps Brooke through this challenging time. “I’ve definitely been challenged in my faith in several different times in my life and to have a friend by my side has really helped me through it. And so, for me to play a friend helping someone through standing up for her faith and being by her side, it’ s good for me because I’ve actually been there in real life. And so, I think it will help a lot of people seeing this in the movie because they’ ll be like, ‘ I went through that,’ ‘ I’ve done that before, and I got through it and now I can go help other people.’ I think it will really mean a lot to a lot of people cause it does to me.”

If we look back through History, it’s comprised of tales of people who stood up for something, fought against the odds and won. So, to take the tagline from the film, “Where will you stand?” we can conclude that a person’ s faith being put on trial is very realistic. It happens every day. We experience it in our own families, the hallways of school, on our sports team, etc. “Faith being placed on trial is very realistic because, sadly, the moment someone stands up for their faith it gets a lot of attention because it’ s kind of rare. It should just be natural; it should just flow off of our tongues. But it doesn’t because people are scared about what others are going to say or think – because people do say and do think very rude things,” says Sadie Robertson.

Putting down Christians is not only acceptable in our society – it’s also trendy. “Christians as a whole are being shoved aside – people sort of roll their eyes and dismiss us, instead of respecting our faith as they do other religions,” says Hart. “A lot of times as a Christian I feel that if I were a different religion there’ d be more respect for the traditions of my faith and my church.”

Sadie pipes up again to say, “In this movie, the message is so relevant to most high school teens that went through having to stand up for their faith. I feel like that’s a ton of people in the world now a days because, honestly, the sad thing is, it’s not the coolest thing, it’s not the number one thing that everyone’s doing, but I think that we can change that.”

When asked her thoughts on playing a character in a faith based film that hits on some pretty solid issues, Hayley Orrantia says she’s happy “we’re finally talking about the elephant in the room and asking, ‘Why can’t we talk about those sorts of things in the classroom?’ As Christians, our goal is to appeal to those who aren’ t a part of the faith and tell about Jesus and the Word of God. So I think it’s a really great thing that we can find a way to put a storyline in there and be entertaining while also inspiring people.”

We should be encouraged to speak up about our faith, because only in doing so are we able to learn from one another, grow in love and understand truth. When we have confidence in our faith, we realize that we don’t have to have all the answers, we don’t need to be arrogant, but we do need to be bold. It’s our assurance that will draw curious hearts toward Jesus.

If we continue on this path of speaking about History as a primary focus of God’s Not Dead 2, then we have to evaluate the Constitution. The movie pinpoints issues regarding Separation of Church and State, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech. Hart proclaims, “We’ve stopped taking into consideration the freedoms this country was founded on.” In various aspects of the film, the audience is asked how far we’re willing to let the pressures of the world push Christianity aside. If we don’t start standing up now, then it’s only going to get worse. Our parents and grandparents can attest to this. The atmosphere toward and the acceptance of Christianity have drastically changed over the last several years, much due to the quietness of previous generations.

Historically, the Bible is older than our Constitution, which is a truth that inspires Hart to say, “We need to remind people of our core values and really hold on to that.” In the film, Hart’s character shares her personal testimony of becoming a Christian. Her coming to know Christ arrives when she senses Him asking her, “Who do you say that I am?” God’s Not Dead 2 analyzes Jesus of Nazareth as a Historical person. The court case calls expert witnesses to testify about Jesus the man, not Jesus the Messiah. One of those to take the stand is J. Warner Wallace, a longtime Los Angeles County cold-case detective who was an atheist when he began looking into the Gospels as “eyewitness accounts” of Jesus. He found the evidence of His life, death and resurrection to be so indisputable that Wallace became a Christian. He explains how he felt stuck with the reality of Jesus, leaving him with two choices: either believe the truth or live in denial. In the film, he proclaims, “I’m a Christian because it’s inevitably true.” Yet, people are being told they can’t speak about Jesus. Even atheist scholars will admit that Jesus absolutely existed. So, if an atheist knows that Jesus prevails, then the difference between them and us is faith. Many claim that Christians cling to Christ as a way to disguise our ignorance, but as God’s Not Dead 2 helps us recognize: faith and intelligence aren’t separable. Our search for an intelligent Creator evolves into an intelligent faith.

There are high costs of having faith in high school, but the Lord is good – all the time. And when the verdict is in, you’ ll find that the jury is in favor of Jesus.

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